Thursday, March 05, 2015

#1 Deejay

Little Girl by the Heptics: My Disc of the Day


Funny how you remember things at random moments. I suddenly remembered being a badge-tester for the Girl Guides. I examined clarinet players so they could get a new embroidered badge to sew on the sleeve of their shirt. I know practically nothing about clarinet but so long as it didn't squeak, they could pass. I tried to play my daughter's clarinet once but the fizzy vibrating on my lips made me laugh and I couldn't do it. I will be trying to have trumpet lessons soon though, and I'm hoping that playing a brass instrument isn't beyond my capabilities.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015


When I am Queen, I will re-brand 'throws'.
I will call them half-blankets, because that's what they are.

Benefit Street

I didn't watch the TV show Benefit Street because I suspected that it might just add to the narrative that people on benefits of any sort are scroungers, wasters and altogether belong to a lower rung of society than the smug people who watch that type of programme in order to despise the participants.
The Tories have succeeded in demonising benefit claimants to such an extent that people who are entitled to them are afraid to claim them, because of the way it will make them feel.
Shame is an extremely powerful emotion.
However, those who are in work and who pay taxes depend in some way on there being people who are out of work. Those benefits ensure that we who work get paid a decent wage. Most people who are working are doing two people's jobs, effectively. We are pressurised to the max; people leave and are not replaced. Extra duties land on our desks and we dare not protest in case we are made redundant.
Our jobs depend on us being able to hang on in there, and on people who could contribute to those jobs being put on a  shelf until the economy recovers (and when will that be?)
I pay tax and I want my taxes to be used to support people who are out of work (and all the other things like the NHS, free legal advice and so on).
How can it be good that this rich country allows people to die because their benefits are taken away from them for tiny 'misdemeanours' that a semi-starved, depressed out-of-work person can not avoid? Where is our national conscience?
There is also a whole generation of young people in their twenties who are unemployed and not claiming benefits because of the shame attached to that, and therefore not being counted in the unemployment figures. They are being supported by their parents, often. They get the occasional day's work; they live on hope and crisps.
I hope those parents think carefully at the polling booth.
Being out of work has become stigmatised, yet again, just as it was in the Thatcher era. Unemployment is the responsibility of the state; there are not enough jobs to go round and it's not a case of individual laziness.
Zero hours contracts should be made illegal. I have actually never met the fantasy student or mother with kids or whatever person is invented, who purports to like 'working flexibly'.
What a shameful way to run an economy.
Rant over!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015


I've just received a battered second-hand copy of Rotten's No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs in the post. It's my second copy because the first one probably got lent to someone, and didn't come home. I remember it as a spiffing read, and I'm looking forward to getting my teeth into it tomorrow.
It's been great fun writing this article; there are so many things about the 1970s that I had forgotten, and different authors insist on different versions of history with different protagonists being the key player. Some write entirely from a white perspective, some entirely from a black perspective.
All of the authors are male, so I suppose I'm looking at it all from a different perspective again; there are varying degrees of interest in Lover's Rock although it tends to get left behind because there's such a one-upmanship with some of them about liking the deepest dub, and trying to completely understand Rastafarianism. I was brought up a Presbyterian and I still don't understand that.

Sunday, March 01, 2015


It's a competitive world in music shops
I went into one with a male music friend not so long ago and he made an enquiry about a 400-watt amp, light as a feather, easy to carry and with a great valve sound.
The shop guy looked embarrassed and competitive in equal measure.
'Never heard of it! Are you sure?', he tried.
[you must be imagining it, you twat]
'Yes; they are made in Wales', said my male music friend.
[and don't call me a twat in your head, you twat]
'I'll look it up on the internet!' challenged the shop guy.
[and then we'll see that they don't exist, you twat]
Tippity-tap-tap went the fingers on the computer keyboard.
As the shop guy watched the company website materialise in front of his eyes, and he realised that the 400-watt amp, light as a feather and with a great valve sound made in Wales actually existed, his ego shrank to 200 watts.
He was standing next to a 400-watt customer.
Silently, two other shop guys appeared at his side, 200 watts each, to peer at the company website with him.
600 watts of shop guy versus 400 watts of customer.
But I don't think the victory was theirs, do you?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Duffel Coats For You, Girls

Once, on a visit to Newcastle, I saw the standard winter Saturday-night carousing by young women dressed in very short skirts with bare arms and legs, tottering along on skyscraper heels, bodies folded against the bitterly cold winds.
A kind thought crossed my mind, and I resolved to fill a white van with cosy duffel coats, and take them on a mercy-mission to keep those poor young women warm.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Is

Friday is
Pieday is
My day.

Thank You, Librarian

The book I needed is £400 on Amazon (not that I use it any more anyway... well, not much).
I managed to find one copy in a library, but it wasn't possible to borrow it.
16 pages into my notebook of scribbles, I realise that the best thing would be to photocopy the whole lot.
(When I did my MA, one of the students did the calculations and discovered that this was cheaper than buying some books).
I went to ask the librarian where the photocopier was situated and explained what I needed to do.
'Oh well: how long do you think you'd need it for?'
'A week'.
'Nobody borrows it any more. I can let you borrow it for that long'.
He even came downstairs and waved it in front of the security bleeper to make sure the alarms didn't go off.
Now that is a kind librarian. Bless your cotton socks, sir.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Stuck Zips In A Fishing Village Shop

It was cold.
It was time to get a jacket to keep the biting wind at bay.
The large size was enormous. As he took the khaki weatherproof jacket off, the zip stuck and he had to wriggle out of it to remove it. We put it back on the hanger.
The medium size was huge. How strange to be a 'small', we thought; as he tried to get the zip undone, it stuck.
We pulled it over his head and put it back on the hanger.
The small size was perfect; he decided that was the One. He unzipped it, halfway; the zip stuck.
It was a wrench to get the jacket off, over his head, again. We put it back on the hanger.
We left.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Zine Fair in Brighton

With a huge painty shelf wedged into the car and a box crammed with Caroline Lucas cupcakes, we pulled up to the neat little Unitarian Church Hall in Brighton's New Road to be met by a crowd of Offsprog One's friends who had come to help. They were really excited and some of the zine sellers were already there to help set up. It went really well: some people sold out really quickly. There was a bread-seller and some visitors even tried to buy the nursery children's paintings of igloos from the wall display. It was a successful day and there was a great atmosphere: well done to Offsprog One for setting it up and to Offsprog Two for making some superb Simpsons t-shirts.
Me and Joan gobbled up a couple of Caroline Lucas cupcakes: mmm lemony! Then it was a nightmare drive back home through lashing rain and strange, drifting orange fog made of mega water droplets from hell, the M25 peppered with crashed and broken down vehicles. My car may be a complete wreck itself, but the good old rust-bucket got me back home safely in the end.
Somewhere along the way I've picked up a virus; I know I'm ill because I had to cancel a day out with Gina after locking myself out of the house, and I can't stop sleeping.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lee Thompson in Barnet

The Black Bull was so packed that the best strategy was to squeeze in and then try to hold your ground. The crowd was good natured, bordering on rowdy, and at least half of them looked far too young to remember Madness. Lee was in fine voice, dedicating the song Honey to his wife and playing a new song which I think was called You Don't Own Me, whose words were on the ground. 'Im not admiring my shoes', he promised. A tall man sporting one strut of a pair of specs over his ear conducted along happily; everyone was wearing their finest, even the grown-up skinheads, still wearing pristine Harringtons, who were on their best behaviour.
When the band launched into Too Much Too Young, there was a  surge to the front and people started bouncing; a cover of a Jam song (don't know the title, it was a hit but I'm not fan enough to know it) went down a storm. It got so crowded I tried out the courtyard where a sax player was lurking, but you couldn't hear a thing so I came home. This was a spirited gig that obviously pulled the punters in from miles around. There was much mobile-phonery as people phoned their mates, but alas I think they'll get there too late.
Pretty good having a proper gig in my manor. The guy round the corner in the antiques market used to drive pop stars around and he told us one day that Madness, Sade and Spandau Ballet all used to play regularly in a pub in Barnet which was demolished a few years ago: they cut their musical teeth out here in the sticks. On the sticks, possibly.
We all get older, fatter, wrinklier. I wish I hadn't opened that bottle with my teeth to show off; there is a gap where it once grew.
I was left wondering about skinheads. Was it a good rehearsal for going bald in middle age?


Crockery Design

This is the design for the mug for the last Guitar Weekend, which was a smasher. The weekend, not the mug.
I actually learned quite a lot this time around, probably because there was an atmosphere of enjoyable industry about it although there were still plenty of laughs. It was great to hear Tim Donkin's fab voice on the group version of Hold Me which you can hear here:
We did a fair bit of group recording as well as the learning sessions; and of, course, listening to Martin, Jim and Brian playing in their distinctive styles is always a pleasure.