Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Sofa Stone

I am a sofa stone, a lump of cloth-covered limbs bundled up in a ball. I move once an hour. I look at things in the room I'm in, that belong to a person who normally dashes around like a bagatelle ball colliding with people and ideas at a furious rate.
Even water tastes disgusting; and what's happened to it's texture? Gloopy and viscous, how can this stuff quench my thirst?
Outside the window, people make detailed and complicated noises, speaking at a rapid and breakneck speed. The hiss of falling rain duets with my tinnitus and pushes out the noise of the 1950s racing cars, red and yellow, that are whining and roaring round their track inside my head.
Unbelievably though, I think I may be getting better.

Monday, October 05, 2015


It appears that I'm one of the lucky few to have picked up an infection from the local hospital. There is nothing to be done but sit and wait for it to go away. Ho hum.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Almost Post-Poorly Posting

The ague has rattled my bones for the past five days and still has not completely left me. What a nightmare. I've experienced the full crapness of the 111 service, which although manned by perfectly nice call-centre personnel, I can imagine could leave an elderly or desperately-ill person to die in their home. Having to call three times to go through push button options every time is not a joke.
The idea is that the more you contact them, the higher need you are assumed to be in. The system doesn't take into account the fact that if you feel worse and worse, you might eventually become so incapacitated that you won't be able to phone them at all, in which case you are abandoned and left to your fate. Luckily Offsprog One came up from Brighton to come to the hospital with me; I'd taken a turn for the worse after Offsprog Two left her part of the relay. Today I ate for the first time since Wednesday last week; what a relief. I am so looking forward to feeling like a normal human being again. The chemical weapons are beginning to work.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Fish Fingers

I have been thinking about grilling two fish fingers since roughly 10 a.m. this morning. Somehow, I think that's not going to happen; it's now 4.10.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mixing Gina's Music

During the summer, we started mixing Gina Birch's music for an installation that she will be working on in November. Most of her album was finished but I co-wrote some songs with her to complete the album, and it seemed to make sense to mix it ourselves. We have spent a few hours on one of the first tracks, To Please Is To Forget Yourself and I've just listened to the mp3 of it.
Oddly, it's a bit like gardening. You put loads of graft in and don't have time to inspect what you've done. The perhaps the next day you go out there and think 'That's really made a difference!'.
For us, it's all about listening rather than being technical exercise. Or rather, it is a technical exercise in service of what we want to hear.
It is intriguing for me to work on music that is so different in genre from that which I record myself; with your usual stuff you default to particular sounds and techniques, but with this it's a big experiment and that is exactly the way Gina likes it. It's liberating for me, as it takes me away from old habits and puts playfulness back on the agenda, and Gina is a natural collaborator so it benefits her too. I am really looking forward to our next mixing session.

Alfie Stephenson

Sending love and condolences to Martin, his sister, daughters and the rest of the family. I am very sorry for your loss; he has so much to be proud of in those he has left behind X

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Daintees at The Sage, Gateshead (And Me)

The Sage has probably got the friendliest staff of any venue that I've ever been to, which is miraculous given the thronging activity backstage. Last night, there were an orchestra, a wedding and us; there were boxes of tagged instruments, full catering for millions (the orchestra), an ever-ready coffee machine and dressing rooms aplenty. A bagpiper wailed away somewhere in the distance and at one point when I came off stage with my electric guitar, I hit a crossroads that consisted of streams of women and men in severe, formal black and white garb, heading towards the other auditorium for their concert after their three-minute warning. Cultures crossed but didn't merge; we all had our own destinations, our own dressing rooms and out own sound, lighting and stage management people.
The sound on stage was crystal clear and that always helps; my set was short and I hope, sweet, but it was a story-song set and the Rickenbacker sounded great. It is so easy to play that it almost plays itself, as well as looking rather snazzy. I have the same thing happening that used to happen with the Gretsch, the Green Goddess. People talk to the guitar instead of me, and once someone insisted on photographing the Green Goddess in her case after a gig. Humph.
Thank you Gateshead audience from the bottom of my heart for getting to your seats at 8 o'clock to watch my set. For a support artist, this is true support!
I found my friend Carol after saying hello to Rupert from El Cid, and we sat and watched a great set from The Daintees. I had heard tell that the Glasgow Oran Mor gig was riotous, with a Hen Party conga-ing and all sorts of stuff like that. In contrast, this was a seated venue, but the warmth was still there; every time Martin mentioned a village, the crew from that village piped up. They shouted for Louis' Cafe in Sunderland in particular; even I remember that place, which was a welcome slice of the warm 1950s in grim 1970s Sunderland by the bus station. The vibe coming from the band on stage was tremendous. The band was augmented by Fin McCardle on percussion, Kate and John's cowboy shirts smiled in the lights and Chris was positively dancing as he played bass. They played a lot of old favourites and a very lovely version of Rain, before Rupert and Niles were invited on stage to play Hobo Train. Shouts to Tim Donkin's brothers and to Christine, all from the Songwriting Weekends.
The tour continues this week, with Danielle Howle supporting; information from:
Photo by Andrew Bailey

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Cold

I have stopped working. My body has turned into a duvet and I have swallowed a hedgehog.
I am conserving energy for the gig at The Sage tomorrow supporting The Daintees.
I can still sing, thankfully. It just hurts.

Annoying Book

I've been reading that annoying book again.
It made me so cross that I ended up typing my notes in CAPITAL LETTERS and almost stomped off to get some chips.
However, I've managed to get the notes done, and found the most annoying page that I needed to look at, and that I couldn't find before even when I tried to sift through it.
The chips can wait- there's a less annoying book to take notes from first.
Hey ho, let's go!


I awoke thinking about philosophy and the way it is used in academic writing.
Philosophy is like physical exercise, stretching the mind into new shapes and increasing the possibilities of thought.
As an academic writer, you should be more like a dancer who takes pleasure from using the potential of these ideas and applying them to forms of writing that are relevant to contemporary and historical culture.
This is not exactly entertainment, more of a bridge between deep philosophy and popular media.
End of thought for the day.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


I'm not posting much at the moment because I'm focus, focus, focusing on work-related things although I did manage to travel for two hours by train and tube, walk for two miles and then give up on the idea of visiting an analogue studio yesterday afternoon, when I was practically outside their door.
I suddenly realised that it had been recommended by some musicians who live in Kingston, and for them Sudbury is just along the road. For me, it's a huge hike and I just turned around and came home. The result is a very sore throat from walking along Lower Sudbury Road. All those bloody Volkswagens churning out diesel particulates! Even the ice cream that I scoffed at Hampton Court station didn't resolve the sandpapery feeling and today I'm well and truly poorly.
I still managed to plan the lecturing for next week, and tomorrow I have a reading and riting day (no rithmetic) to try to iron out the creases in my research on female engineers and producers. After that it's a matter of going through the articles that I've collected and then finishing the editing of the interviews. I have been busting a gut to finish it because I need to start something else soon.
The shiny bit in the grey cloud of Sudbury exhaust was reading Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter on the numerous train and tube journeys home.
What a beautiful book it is! It's prose written with the pen of a poet, a magic realist story with a very human core. Reader, I confess to shedding a discreet tear or two. It's an inspiring book in many ways- not just for anyone who has lost a loved one (for any reason, not only death), but also in terms of written language that conjures up wonderful pictures in the imagination.
It made me feel free, in spite of being trapped in a tube of steel and glass with a lot of hot and tired commuters. I will now become a book-evangelist and bore people silly by talking about it all the time. It belongs with My Family and Other Animals and Lost in Music as a book that I will lend to people, yearn for, and have to buy again because they never give books back, do they?