Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Circles Round the Sun

When you are growing up you look everywhere for information to help you to become an adult. This is why it's so sinister that so many lyrics about female relationships sung by women artists are written by men (which is largely what my next book is about).
When I was a teenager, I thought James Taylor was the most beautiful man I'd ever seen, and I also loved his guitar playing. Now I realise how much of his picking style I absorbed in all those nights of late night angsty misery-listening. He can be a whole band if he needs to be. His first album, which I didn't get to hear till years later, has fantastic arrangements by Peter Asher with the unusual use of instruments like French Horns that sound remarkably delicate.
I didn't realise that Taylor hadn't written this song; although it's a beautiful song, it's the song of a complete narcissist. Just listen to the lyrics.

Monday, December 17, 2018


1. My car still has three flat tyres.
2. I have finished writing a song that made me feel sad yesterday, but less sad today.
3. I bought eight pairs of socks for street people.
4. I ate a pie.

Disappearing Drawing

The pencil sketch I'd done to illustrate one of Stuart Moxham's poems had completely disappeared. Sometimes things accidentally get recycled in the big blue bin, so that was that.
Then shuffling some papers, I saw a faint outline that looked like an indentation of the drawing on a plain white sheet of A4. The paper is on the radiator now: it was a sheet of 'invisible writing' paper that had belonged to an Offsprog many moons ago. Trying not to throw recyclable things away, it had ended up in a pile of plain paper ready to be used for... sketching. The drawing is gradually reappearing as the paper heats up. Time bomb trick!

Bootlace Tie, Fixed

I have many stories about bootlace ties, but first I have to draw the illustrations.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sunday Off

This is the first Sunday for as long as I can remember when I haven't had to sit and write lectures, finish research, or anything else work related. It has been unbelievably relaxing, and I almost feel like a human being.
This house has been a stranger, stuffed with books and research papers, which are all going into the loft tomorrow. After excavating a box I found a lost address book, but even Christmas cards will have to wait till tomorrow. I found a scrapbook full of Helen and the Horns press cuttings that hadn't seen the light of day for years, and a scrapbook from my school days with a photo of my pal Andy. I don't even know if he's still around; it was so great to have a surrealist at school amongst all the aggressive conformity. I loved him.
Best thing of today is realising that I can almost completely move my left arm again, after four months of physiotherapy. This last bit of exercise hurts like hell but I know if I keep it up then it will get completely better.
That's what happens, apparently, when you get all macho and start shifting large pieces of furniture around to fix damp patches on the walls, after having a severely busted elbow. The physiotherapist said it is really common for people to overestimate what they can do after an injury. It was a relief to hear that, because feeling like a fool as well as being temporarily disabled made it even worse.
Because I started playing uke and guitar two days after the accident, the muscles in my forearm didn't waste, but my biceps had turned to cotton wool and two months later my shoulder completely seized up.
The problem has always been that breaking your funny-bone on an NHS march sounds like it's a joke.
I suppose it is; I never blamed anyone for bursting out laughing when I told them what had happened.
Yesterday, I carried a bag in my left hand, and today I reached up to get something off a shelf in the supermarket. This is the best Christmas present that I could possibly have had!

The Christmas Disaster Night

Every year there is one. I won't describe the earlier part, which was partly rescued simply by deciding to go completely acoustic (thank you to the guy who lent me his guitar!). I bagged an early slot so I could go to a party that I really wanted to go to, sorted out the route, and then discovered that all the trains were either cancelled or not stopping where the party was at, and I went home with my party tail between my legs.
I have watched very little TV this year because of finishing off so much research, but last night had to resort to watching re-runs of Glaswegian cop-shows that I had already seen in the 1990s, and listen to drunken Hooray Henries out on their Christmas boozefest bellowing on their way down the street outside.
The Carpetright ad gets really wearing on multiple hearings.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

In Which Cowgirl Superglues Her Fingers To Bootlace Tie

The string crumbled because it was so old (it's a vintage enamel Jackrabbit with Deer antlers for some reason: irresistible), and I sent off for a new string which I then had to glue into the metal tips.
The string didn't glue into the metal tips, but my fingers glued to both the metal tips and the string.
Now I look like I have a flaking skin condition at the tips of my fingers, and I daren't pull the glue off in case the skin comes off with it.
O, the trials of fashion!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Ramblings and Music-ings

Thank you to everyone who watched the Stageit show last night. The decision not to use the Facebook platform was deliberate; we seem to be channeling everything through that, and there's a sense of being gobbled up by an application that's refusing to be accountable. It doesn't seem like a good idea to belong too uncritically to an organisation that misuses data. That being said, it's almost certain the other global tech corporations are going to find themselves similarly called to account (!).
The problem with Blockchain tech seems to be that it will only work for people who have established their reputations already- and how will they do that?
That's enough uninformed speculation.
It has been a morning of musing and music-ing. It's nice to be writing a song that appears to be flowing smoothly, after going through that weird creative thing of being jealous of one of my own songs. After writing that particular song, a nice piece of music with rubbish words came along, and then some good words with no music (and they didn't fit together). Then one morning last week, I woke up and words and music both arrived at the same time. Just what I needed.
Today, first a family thing then more lecturing and tutorials. I still can't believe that the philosophy lecture last Tuesday was so boisterous and such fun; it's an absolute joy to work with people who love learning!

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Daylight Music with the Catenary Wires

There is so much out there to enjoy: last weekend featured Ian Button at the Country Soul Sessions, the fab club run by Drew Morrison and Alex, his partner.
Robert Rotifer was in Ian's band and it's always great to see him contribute his chord wizardry to people's songs: the year has been dovetailed by watching him with Judy Dyble in January, and Ian in December.

Saturdays are Daylight Music days (although they are taking a break now until January). Yesterday's was impossible to miss: the chance to hear The Catenary Wires' songs through the crystal clear sound system at the Union Chapel was enough to get the laziest Saturday slob out of bed and into the Union Chapel with a cup of tea and a slice of home made cake. Now they are a three-piece, Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey with additional harmonies and keyboards from Fay Hallam, and they flex that sound to its fullest extent.
They started with a song aimed at their local MP Damien Green, through the lens of the #MeToo movement. Was That Love's piercing words managed to make poetry out of shame, to all the better effect:
'I was trying to find a way to say no'.
Many women know that feeling.
I loved their rendition of Dream Town, which effortlessly glided into and out of sections of lovely harmonies. Great song writing! I'm hoping some of it will rub off on me! (I'm just about to immerse myself in an intensive song writing session).
To celebrate the release of their label WIAIWYA's Christmas compilation, they were joined for their Christmas song by Whoa Melodic on tambourine, who had kicked off the event sporting a bright green Christmas suit, an acoustic guitar and some very catchy songs.
And they like Slade.
Next, Liverpool's Jonathan Hering built up a twelve-part early music chant that pulled the mind's ear back to Medieval times of chilly abbeys and monks in hessian garb; we were pulled into his world more and more as his voice headed upwards into cool falsetto, icing the cake of layered harmonies from bass upwards.
 Finally the Ho Ho Horns (a group of eleven French horns: shades of the twelve days) played a lovely warm-hearted set of music, swapping lead roles with each player swaying gently in their own time to make a subtly undulating visual articulation of their complete absorption in the music.
They reminded me of the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra in New York, who did exactly the same thing. You don't see rock bands doing that, ever. Maybe you need to be classically trained in order to completely give up your ego and submit to the music? This was such an original sound: it's a great instrument and to find eleven of them playing in one place at one time more than makes up for the buses that don't turn up then all turn up at once, and the loss of two parents (a HANDBAG?).
Daylight Music is absolutely brilliant.
Hats off to Ben for running it for ten years, and also for the poorest cracker joke (i.e. the best) this year:
What carol do they sing in the desert?
O Camel Ye Faithful.

No More Mr Nice Try

Something about the march of Tommy's Twats has given me the energy of a furious rhinoceros today.

I went to the ICA to the zine fair that Offsprog One has a stall at, and I was getting her some water at the bar when I saw a chap with a brilliant shirt that was made of lots of checked shirts sewn together. He came up to the bar and I plucked up the courage to ask him where he had got it from.
'New York' he said, then sneered unnecessarily, 'Nice try!'.

At home I have three great checked shirts from when I was in The Chefs. One has a crap collar, one has crap sleeves and one has a crap body...
I used to re-sleeve shirts when I was in my 20s: because why not?
That's what I plan to do this evening.
Nice try, Mr Not-Nice Guy.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Santas in Islington

Islington was thronging with posh Santas, many of them with backpacks, this lunchtime.
In the shopping centre, a cry went up:
'Whaddawe want?'

Friday, December 07, 2018

I Didn't Meet The Buzzcocks, But I Brushed With Their Aura

It's that guitar solo: it totally took/takes the p*ss out of every single overblown guitar solo that has happened before it or since.
Once Spiral Scratch came out, you knew you were OK because punk had  a sense of humour as well as a sense of disruption and fury.
The first bass guitar that I ever played belonged to the Buzzcocks.
Sue, the raven-haired bass player in Poison Girls was from Manchester and had somehow acquired it and lent it to me for the first few Joby and the Hooligans gigs. It was a deep red semi-acoustic with f-holes, and it was magnificent. It was a bit like being given a magic wand to play; every time I touched it, I glowed. It was hard to give it up for the little Jedson, cream with white scratch plates, that I bought later on and it was the best way to start, honestly.
The washing up job in the French restaurant meant that I missed many of the punk gigs in Brighton but attended by default.
The night of the riot at their Brighton gig, a local drummer turned up at my house at midnight bearing a cymbal that he had nicked from them. I think he felt guilty and needed a witness to what he had done: he looked very sheepish on the doorstep.
Later, I met a chap who had rolled one of their amplifiers into a multi-storey car park with one of his friends, and hid it behind a car until the furore had died down.
I had mixed feelings about this, because Buzzcocks were clearly not prats. Someone said that their roadies had been really heavy, and that's what made things kick off, but I felt it was a bit weird to nick stuff from your own. It would have bene different if it was Led Zeppelin or one of the other poncy dinosaur bands, I thought.
They were like the boys from school, weren't they? Pete Shelley was a good guy.

Photo of Poison Girls below via Pete Fender: and that's the bass. I wonder if it was Sue who invited Buzzcocks to play in the Vault? She knew them quite well I think.