Tuesday, December 06, 2016

A Morning At The University Of the West

And this morning I did a songwriting workshop at the University of the West. Although we wrote a song, it seemed that we worked on the idea of creativity itself, and on not stopping yourself from having ideas by making up rules about what you are allowed to do and what you aren't.
Songs aren't statues that are chipped painstakingly from marble over weeks and weeks; they are in the air, and can be changed endlessly every time you revisit them. We watched and listened to ourselves making decisions, rolling back on them, adapting and shaping, drumming on a box to change rhythms and papering the floor with ideas.
That was good way to spend a morning.

Monday, December 05, 2016

An Afternoon At The University Of The East

It was cold outside. It was cold inside. We couldn't switch off the air conditioning, but our hearts were warmed by our visitor this afternoon.
Katy Carr told us about Polish resistance fighters, about the escape from Auschwitz in The Kommandant's Car, about Polish slaves in Siberia, about the Mexicans welcoming Polish refugees with flowers and cheers after their experience in US transit camps, and sang lovely songs with the uke, including the Polish Boy Scout's song that they sang quietly whenever it was safe in the forest where they were hiding. We listened to tracks from her albums; it was an afternoon of storytelling and songs and an emotional connection with other people seeking asylum in another era. We lost the walls around out feelings, and we shared yesterday's sorrow alongside today's music and lyrics.
What a year you've been, 2016.
I don't like you one bit and I am looking forward to you going away.


Edward Hopper In Copenhagen Train Station


Saturday, December 03, 2016

The 7.47 From Aalborg

I watch the flat land turn towards the dawn,
Pickled in grey frost.
Black bird shapes write frantic messages across the sky,
And skeletons of trees reach out their fingers for help.

Struggling and screaming
A new day is born.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Wet

I've arrived but I couldn't work out the tap arrangement in the bathroom cubicle thing. I've just accidentally showered myself with my clothes on. I tried to stop it, but it squirted out even more water; the problem is that you turn the shower on with the sink taps. I'm sure it seemed like a great idea at the time to the architect.
I also feel really embarrassed because I realised that I only tipped the taxi driver 50 pence. I don't know the money here yet, and I was so busy apologising for the British invasion of Somalia that I didn't think it through. I will try to find him tomorrow (his taxi is more like a van so I might be able to) and give him more of a tip.
Not much of a travel adventure diary is it?
Aalborg does have beautiful Christmas lights though- just really, really simple but really, really twinkly.
Goodnight.

Travelling Girl

I have been travelling since 8.15 this morning: walk, bus, train, bus, plane, walk, train, train....
In an hour and a half I will be in Aalborg in Denmark (I hope) ready for tomorrow's Art of Record Production Conference.
In the morning there will be a panel, with Katia Isakoff, Susan Schmidt Horning, Paula Woolf and me. In my bit I'll be showing a short and early version of Stories from the She-Punks and talking about recording and the women punk bands of the 1970s. In the afternoon, I will be presenting a paper on entrepreneurship and female producers, and listening to some very interesting people talking about their enthusiasms in great depth.
I'm not going to be at the whole conference and I'll miss Valgeir Sigurosson's keynote (he worked with Bjork), and also some other really interesting papers. I'd arranged to come home early to play a gig which I'm not playing now, but even part of the ARP conference is better than none at all and I'm bloody pleased to be going there. Thanks to the University of the East for paying for part of it, and to me for paying for the rest of it, and to my colleague Steve for covering my lecture today.
For now, I'm sitting in a good-natured scrum of noisy older Danish ladies who seem to have been shopping in Copenhagen, some rushing girls with plaits who hurry up and down the train carriage at regular intervals, and some serious gentlemen with all manner of trendy-looking backpacks.
Why am I blogging? Because I am too tired to do the work-on-the-train that I meant to do (how do people manage to do that?); I've read today's paper from cover to cover, read too much of the new Ian Rankin book (nearly 15 quid! I bought the giant version by accident); read the free copy of the Independent that I got at the airport; eaten a big fat cinnamon bun and drunk a cup of coffee; and I'm too afraid to go to sleep in case I  end up back in Copenhagen again after a four hour train journey in the other direction.
Danish people don't sound quite so like Geordies as Norwegians do, but they still have that twang.

Just got the fright of my life- the train is going back in the direction we came in, but the Danish ladies have explained that it goes in a circle. That doesn't quite make sense but I'm going to have to go with the flow- what else can I do?

Waiting For A Plane

I am at our airport, and you know how I feel.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bird Talk By The Waterfall

Another drawing in progress for the new album artwork. Excuse the pencil scribblings and little bits of rubber; I'm so knackered after work today that I lack the strength to sweep them off the page!

Written in 2005


And the remix:

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Barnet to Portsmouth to Hackney Wick To Barnet

I deserved that Crunchie. Set off at 2 p.m. and arrived home at 9 p.m.
Met a Jug (Pug crossed with a Jack Russell) that humped cushions even though he hadn't got the correct equipment; knocked the same wing mirror (another embarrassing trip to the garage); watched a surly man fall over in the street, then suddenly he changed and became helpful and he carried Offsprog Two's box of books up the metal stairs. It felt good to be useful, and care for my daughter.
And yesterday made me feel nice.
I haven't felt like that for nine months.

Cultural Day

Off to Stratford with my guitar on my back yesterday morning, I stopped for a coffee.
'Play me a song and I'll give you a free coffee', said the barista. I laughed; but he gave me a free coffee anyway and reduced me to tears with that act of kindness. Coincidentally, when Jono got to the studio, he'd been given a free bottle of water at a pop-up caff on the way.
It must have been something in the air.
We collected singers in Gerry's cafe after setting up the microphones, and the session went like a dream. What amazing singers you all are, and thank you so much for your goodwill. It was easy, and it sounded beautiful and I'm sorry the studio got so hot. I felt like you turned my life-dial to a more positive setting, and the after-session craic in Gerry's was great too. It's fantastic that musicians and artists refuse to be daunted by negative world events and just carry on burrowing into new venues, working out new ways to share their ideas, owning their past, and accepting and celebrating music in all its diverse and fantastic forms. I will write more about this another time.
Afterwards, I went to The Royal Festival Hall to see The Last Poets. I remember inviting Linton Kwesi Johnson to speak to students once, and him citing their influence on his own way of being creative. It was a really interesting evening, hosted by Anthony Anaxagorou; they performed some of their very powerful material and were also interviewed by Anthony, and the audience. Ashley Walters was supposed to appear, but a young north London poet appeared instead and had some wise things to say about Gangsta Rap, comparing the mentality behind the lyrics to The Cat in the Hat as opposed to Tolkien. There was a bit of side-stepping around homosexuality, and too much circling round 'the n-word' although it was used to great effect to describe Trump, which I thought was the best description I've heard of him so far. Overall, the whole discussion was centred on self-respect, becoming a male role model, and the importance of remembering that it's the message that counts in political poetry, not the person delivering it. Wise words indeed.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Crisis

I have just donated the proceeds of some online music sales to Crisis, the homelessness charity, because they deserve the money.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Feathers

Here's tonight's drawing, for the song Feathers.
It's not finished; I started it at 5 and it's now 8.30 and I want some soup. The good thing about not finishing the drawings is that I can really savour doing the final touches on another day.
It's the same with songs, sometimes.
This is an anti-bullying song, inspired by someone who managed to bully an entire department in one go a few years ago.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Don't Be Silly, He Said

This is the next drawing in the sequence, complete with pencil scribble lines that I haven't rubbed out yet. The thumb print on this one is out of shot; the other drawing has a thumb print on it too. I just get inky fingers when I do these things.
There are at least ten tracks on the album, so that's lots more drawings to do. After a stressful day at work (but I did manage to get an ultra-serious student to smile the other day) getting into a drawing trance is a perfect way to spend an evening, with a pen gliding over the surface of perfect, smooth paper. This photograph looks tinted. The actual drawing is black on white.
I used to think the drawing was already in the paper and you pulled it out with the pen, and some sorts of drawing still feel like that. But these feel as though I'm skating, sweeping across frozen, hard white ice, the first skater of the day to slice marks into its surface. I feel confident on paper in ways that I don't in life; the characters are like friends who populate my imagination. I recognise them, as though they have always been here.