Sunday, December 31, 2006

Meanderings


I was wandering round town yesterday and I came upon a little-old-man jazz band who were actually really good. I stood and listened to them for ages, until the Accordion Busker Who Can Only Play One Tune turned up and unpacked his accordion, proceding to play his one tune, without any swing at all, so it didn't mean a thing (jazz in-joke). It got me to thinking about my fruitless search for a song called the London Derriere, which I thought must be a bawdy old music-hall song, for a bagpiper friend. Eventually, I realised its real name was the Londonderry Air, and hoped nobody realised what a fool I was. It's the sort of thing that makes you blush with shame at the memory...
Christmas Joke, a long time a-comin':
What do you call a festive rodent?
Christmouse.
Urgh. Where's the Champagne?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Z

I slept for eleven hours last night, so there are no thoughts in my head this morning to blog with. Sorry!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Gallimaufry

Roll on next year!! I had a humdinger of a party yesterday, better than I used to have when I was a child. Even though I'd made stripey jelly and we forgot to eat it, the conversation rhubarbed, a Hungarian guest managed to fix 3 sets of broken fairy lights in 5 minutes using aluminium foil, the wine and beer flowed, the veggie chili got gobbled up, and many faces from the past popped up on the doorstep with guitars, trumpets, flowers (thank you Treacle!), small children in suits, and as usual, I found an oven full of forgotten jacket potatoes this morning. McSis and Big and Little Bruvs had clubbed together to purchase a pink fluffy sporran for me, a most extraordinary gift of terrifying accuracy. Who came? the McFamily Massive full of roaring good cheer, Mike and Em full of merry energy, Little Claire's lovely mum, a brace of Sarf London youths, Lucy O'Brien, looking very well mid-way through her book on Madonna, and her partner; half the contents of our old house in Camberwell Grove, Ari, her son and niece, Nadya of the fascinating PHD, Rowen looking very stylish, and some other very special friends; it helps to live en route to and from everybody's relatives Up North and in the Black Country! We had music- two ginger-tops duetted on guitar, I played a song with Paul (who used to play sax in Helen and the Horns), my nephew sang Away in a Manger, two ex-members of King Kurt gave a rendition of Lonesome Train and the 3-hour iTunes party playlist played through three times before I noticed and iTuned out. The floor was satisfyingly sticky after everyone had gone, my sporran was full of telephone numbers of long-lost friends, there was a half-eaten mince pie tucked behind the radio and a lipgloss had been posted into a full beer bottle. Anyone lost a gold-coloured kilt pin or found Kate's pink scarf?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Kirk Brandon's Ears

Just been down the sales- got a western shirt and some guitar earrings to replace some that got nicked from the dressing room in Preston 20 years ago! They matched a bootlace tie with a little gold guitar on it that someone gave me at a gig- the tie got nicked at ULU at another gig. It was probably the devil, and he's wearing the lot as we speak. Bastard.
I saw loads of people I knew- Mr Smith, ex-head of the primary school where we do Song Club. Mykaell botching a 3-point turn in Soho, in his jeep: weird, 'cos I was just about to send him an MP3 of the Young@heart guy singing, only this morning. And then Paul Morley on the platform at Euston (he got off at Archway, in case you're interested- no North London Suborebs for him!). Ages ago, I met Paul down a groovy club and told him off for writing a review of Theatre of Hate that consisted entirely of a detailed description of Kirk Brandon's ears. My point was this- if you lived in the Outer Hebrides and relied entirely on journalists in the NME to keep you abreast of the faraway London music scene, what use is a review like that to you?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sooty and Sweep

Sooty was one of the gruesome Lads in the 6th form at Walbottle Comprehensive School. He was called Sooty because when he was 10, him and his friend both got Sooty and Sweep Magic Sets for Christmas. His friend got called Sweep, but wasn't around any more. The lads had various talents; Tony would burp a bacon-and-egg flavoured burp in your face first thing in the morning; the Gleebs, who studied scientific subjects, gathered in a flock by the lads' lockers and smelled of unwashed adolescent male; Andy wrestled me to the ground, sat on me and stuffed grass in my mouth in front of the lad I had a crush on; most of them pencilled 'double darts' into their timetables at free-study time, and forged 'PD's signature into the timetable space when they were supposed to be in the library (I never did find out what the teacher who used such a forgeable signature was actually called); all of them were good at lifting the table-football machine and turning it upside down so they could shake the ball out of it, and not have to pay.
Sooty's particular talent was awesomely revolting: he could gob a greeny up in the air, and casually pull open the top pocket of his blazer to catch it in.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Fake New Years Party

My friend Marek Kohn worked for Channel 4 sometimes and one Christmas he was asked to do a party for New Year, which had to be filmed in advance. He arranged some filming with MPs in the House of Commons, in front of a Christmas tree, and it was edited in later. The party was great- it was in what is now The Fridge in Brixton, and all sorts of people went- Vi Subversa and her daughter, David Rappaport (RIP) who fancied my friend Ruth, David Grant, who was really friendly and chatted to me and Little Claire, Boy George being unfriendly, Alana Pellay with his/her CV printed out to make sure that he/she could capitalise on the occasion. David Grant was quite famous back then for his band Lynx. We all drank loads cos it was free, and had slurred conversations with each other. When it was broadcast, I realised I'd made fangs out of Twiglets and was talking to people through them as though it was a perfectly normal thing to do.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Goner and the tinsel

When I was 22 I went to Chicago to spend Christmas with a friend who was staying at the house of a veterinary nurse. She had a dog called Goner, because if you let it out of the door it ran away as fast as it possibly could. I took it for a walk one evening ; it was minus 27 and it was so icy I fell over as soon as I walked out of the door and couldn't stand up to go back inside again. Goner was so excited he pulled me over every time I tried to stand up and I ended up just lying there laughing until I managed to inch my way towards the door to get inside. We all went out on Christmas eve to the Grandma and Grandpa's, and when we got back, all of the decorations were missing from the Christmas tree- not only the stripy peppermint candy-canes, but all the baubles, everything. There was a massive dog poo in the middle of the figure-of-8 electric train track, and just one strand of tinsel hanging from Goner's bum.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Waiting for Frank Sidebottom to take off his head

Just as I was leaving Offline last night, Emerald was arriving fresh from an Actionettes gig supporting Frank Sidebottom, and I remembered a rock'n'roll conversation in which the person I was speaking to waited ages for Frank Sidebottom to take off his head, and eventually, thirst got the better of him and there he was, in the bar, with his head beside him on the chair... or was it really him?
Emerald looked utterly beautiful- she had a black feather in her hair, which was done in a very glamourous style, and she had a very becoming dark green dress. Wow!
It was a typical Offline night- noisy, friendly, with Mike rushing around organising everybody, and lots of good stuff to see and hear. I got there in time for Tom Robinson's soundcheck- it's easy to forget how many good songs he had. He has a mega-powerful voice and that knack of looking like a star! Vic had some good acts- first, Spinmaster Plantpot, who I have decided is an urban blues singer. I always imagine music behind his declamations. I just love raw stuff like this. Bang! Power! Then a very odd fake punk who didn't charm at all, till he put a sock on his hand and did a demonstration of his 'school-suitable' workshop. The sock was a heroin-addicted creature who manage to trick him, by pretending he was going for a job interview, into tying a tie round it's neck (his wrist) and tighten it, steadily... Yes, it was funny by the end, especially as it was done so badly! Then there was a more serious woman poet with a feisty line in put-downs, which I preferred to her poetry- more spontaneous. And then, the Naked Poet. Oh dear! Sort of reminded me of talking with my many gay friends in Brighton, only with no clothes on. Certainly filled the room up as he removed his clothing, bit by bit, and Allan Cello said, 'Just don't ask me to do that!'. Oh Dear.
After we'd played, which was OK but not as good as the night before, we watched the Hightown Crows, who I thought were great; their stuff is rockabilly/skiffle, and it was an added bonus to see the kit (bass drum is a suitcase, crash cymbal a tin tray) gently collapse during one of the songs, eventually being held together by the drummer's knees. Amazing double bass playing (O to be a double bass player!) and a great guitar sound- some sort of toyshop guitar with a pickup and a bit of nifty playing, a totally unique guitar sound. I like what people do with guitars- I remember Belt Motel and his Spanish guitar with steel strings. The Hightown Crows are good; they have style- go to see them if you can. By then I was tired, and had to miss the rest. Moreton Valance did an interesting soundcheck, played a song that sounded like an electro verion of Roadrunner by Jonathan Richman, but they were taking a long time to set up and I've done five gigs in seven days: howzat!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A dead rat and a good gig

Poor Ratso. The radiator in the hallway wasn't working and I noticed a nasty smell when I went to switch it on. There was a pile of clothes there and I hung a jacket on the stairs to air and heard a gentle 'plop' on the carpet. He's been dead up the sleeve for several days. Ahhh. I miss him.
Songbird was great last night- I hadn't been to the new venue, Passing Clouds, but it's a bit like an alchemist's parlour- lots of things lying around; a small warehouse space with a really good atmosphere. Allan came along to play cello and we dressed formally for the occasion. The sound was really good, thanks to James, and it was just one of those gigs, for me... sometimes you don't know whether you're singing the audience's feelings or the audience is feeling your singing. Those gigs are worth all the horrors of the ones when you play to two people and one of them is so drunk they wouldn't notice if you exploded in front of them. Last night, the audience was totally silent and it meant I could listen to what Allan played and listen to what I was singing, and feel that I was finding feelings that I had never felt before in the songs. Other things happen when it's like that- one song, Colour My Day, I have never really felt the audience liked as much as me, and I was on the verge of abandoning it forever: but last night it was unnerving because I could tell people liked it and I got flustered and forgot the chords of one bit. And Allan's written a really good part to Memento Mori. I'd uploaded it to Myspace so he could see if he wanted to write his own part (normally I do it), and it was brilliant!
Of course, anything to do with Diana has its elements of madness. Her new friend, Merlin, was languishing on the landing as he'd had lot of injections to go to a faraway country. By mid-evening, he'd become a sort of feature, a stopping off point for various lustful people walking past; a very camp gentleman tousled his black curly head and snuggled up to him for a while before instructing me to kiss him! Oh yes, and Serafina was great as always; her songs are so poetic and the harp sounds like a million instruments instead of just one; I'll never tire of listening to her. We swapped my CD for her vinyl single which has the most beautifuly-drawn cover of the year and I'm looking forward to listening to it, on listening day tomorrow. The best thing is, there is room in the world for all of us, and we can inspire each other and drive each other on to better things. Mikhail Karikis sang some abstract songs in his very beautiful voice- and I felt as I always feel when people sing backing tracks- you want more of the real and the now, especially when it's as powerful as that: do an acoustic or acapella set Mikhail!!! And then I spilled half a bottle of beer into my bag- I had it clasped in my hand, and tried to open my bag with the same hand to put my purse away. So now my bag smells of gigs. How rock'n'roll is that? It's the best sort of evening, when you get to see and hear really great music and you get to play too!
DJay Buddha has asked for a couple of tracks for his podcast and I'm dead pleased about that. Roll on tonight, Offline at Jamm, more good music, Allan will be there again, might even try another new song. Looking forward to seeing Mike and Em, and big up to them both for being quality designers of 2007!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Conkers and peaches

I have the same birthday as Sienna Miller you know. I thought all Capricorns were conkers like me, but Sienna's definitely a peach. Funny, that.
In January I'm going to rename this blog blarg, in honour of my American granny. I would rename the dog Blargger, but he wouldn't notice. Do you know, he would rather go to anyone calling any dog's name in the park, than come to me when I call out his name? I thought it was such a good doggy name, a bit like Roger in My Family and Other Animals, wich is one of my favourite books.
Anyway, I'm off to meet my Champagne Friend down Canary Wharf to buy socks for an aunt. I've got Champagne Friend a painted wooden Christmas decoration from Russia that unscrews to reveal a teensy wooden person, that could be Santa Claus or it could be Hairy Neddy; I know not which.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Couscous, sparkly red paper and The Clash

Last night I went out with Chris, Kienda, Steve and Mykaell for my old-work-goodbye dinner. They are all very funny and it was a great night. I was touched by the fact they gave me a Rock the Casbah picture disc which will have pride of place on the kitchen wall (that's the room where I write my songs). And it was wrapped in sparkly red paper which Mykaell took a real shine to (ha ha!). I made him a hat out of it and took a pic on my phone which he thought wouldn't come out, but it did, Mykaell, and it's very funny. He went home with the paper as a trophy, his clothes and face covered in red glitter. Mykaell used to play percussion and sing in Steel Pulse, very cool, so it was rather sweet to see him enjoying a couple of sheets of wrapping paper so much! Could have been something to do with the rough Lebanese wine, I think, or maybe he just got the festive bug. I also have a bottle of posh champagne which I'm gonna save for a rainy day.
Just got back buzzing from Viva Viva, which was packed out. Helena and Kate from new work came along, and so did Monty; it was nice to see them. It was a foggy drive back but I think fog is wildly exciting, I love the way it drifts about like cold smoke and diffuses the streetlights. Every little townlet on the way back had different sorts of Christmas lights twinkling though the grey and even though I knew where I was, I felt lost, and I liked that too. Tomorrow, it's Songbird, with Allan playing cello and he's coming to Jamm too. Rachel and the others can't make it so I'll do a gig with harmony singers some time in the New Year; but if I'm feeling brave I'll do a new song. My tea's getting cold.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bagpiper

Tonight I'm off out with the people from Old Work; they are fun and I'm really looking forward to it as I miss them a lot. I think they have bought me a Hairy Scottish Bagpiper as a leaving present and I just haven't the heart to tell them I don't want one. I thought at first I could plant him in the garden in a sheltered spot and just bring him in next Christmas, but now I think I'll pop him in at the Oxfam shop after a tactful length of time. I'm sure a Silver Swan could have a little fun peering up the kilt. I don't need to, you see, having a Scottish father. I know what's there already, and will tell anyone who will donate a fiver to War on Want!
Thinking about past Christmases.. once there were 18 people for Christmas at McMum and McDad's, sleeping all over the place, bumping into each other like rush-hour at dishwashing time, all permanently on the move- who do you talk to, and how much, what do you say? And an African doctor, Shima, lived with us for a year and went out for a walk one Christmas day in his Tiv robes with McDad in his kilt, and the donkey McDad had bought to eat the grass on our smallholding (it's illegal to let the grass grow over a certain height and he worked out that after the initial £30 outlay, all a donkey would cost would be £10 a year in hay and a bit for having it's toenails shaved by the vet, whereas a lawnmower would be very much more expensive). Jack used to get icicles on his ears, this time of year.
Anyway, I'm going to dress Ratso up in a Santa suit and little white beard to surprise everyone on Christmas day. Perhaps I can get him to serve cocktails.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Lots of little brothers

It was funny, you know- about 15 blokes in the sudience looked like my little brother Andy- short hair or shaved heads, cute little noses, intense expressions, sitting back in their chair holding a pint on the table, thinking. I kept seeing them out of the corner of my eye and thinking 'I thought Andy couldn't come!'.
Maybe there were lots of Mes there too and I just didn't notice.
Been listening to the songs that Martin recorded a couple of months ago, that I did some singing on. BJ Cole played on some of them too; they are just the thing for a Sunday, pensive and gentle. (but some nifty digs at horrors like Cilla. I mimicked her voice once when I wrote some music for a children's film about the revenge of redheaded people on those who mocked them)
Suddenly, part of me is feeling really optimistic again. I know good musical adventures are going to happen next year!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Daintees; two best days of 2006 and 22 pens

I've just got back from Newcastle.
Oh, I've had such a good time! I drove up the A1
(LittleChefLittleChefLittleCheflotsofroundaboutsmoreLittleChefs and you're there)
on Thursday. Martin came to meet me at the hotel and we went to the Cluny; the Daintees have got to be the friendliest band in the Universe, and it turned out that John Steele, one of the guitarists, is the brother of a little girl who I used to go to play with when I was a child. I think I last saw him when he was 3! The crowd was really warm (altho' talking while I played; was their night out, innit?) but I still enjoyed it, there was a really good atmosphere. The I got to watch the Daintees, who I'd never seen. They were just the best band I have seen for ages- they radiated bonhomie from the stage. When you've been in bands you check out the way that the people in the band feel about each other, and this lot REALLY like being in a band together. They had a different drummer from their original one, called Kate, who drummed like Johnny Cash's drummer. I felt really embarrassed afterwards to tell her how good she is- you always feel like you are saying 'Very good for a female' in a patronising cheesey way, but bloody hell, she is a good drummer, full stop. And Martin is hilariously funny, lots of audience banter-'How much do you like the changes that's happened on the quayside then?'
'39%'
'You don't get that response in Hamburg'.
'This song's for all the girlfriends on the planet who've had to put up with singer/songwriter boyfriends'.
What an amazing band; the second night I realised that they reminded me of an African band in the way they get on with each other onstage- they have this feeling of all being equal to each other in some way. First night, I even got off my high horse and danced to 'Boat to Bolivia', after chatting to a friendly chap from Corbridge. Second night, I enjoyed playing again; my friend Carol turned up, we caught up with each other and then watched the Daintees set together. Martin's a very good fingerpickerer and I had to listen to try to figure it all out- he's gonna email me the chords of the Round Robin. It was just such fun, the whole thing, being home (where the heart is), yakking away to everybody, people in the audience came up and said they liked my songs, the promoter Shippy's a Chefs fan of old (there were lots of 'em there) and I signed a couple of vintage Chefs singles, talking to Martin about All Things, making new friends, watching mad Newcastle buskers, sleeping in the lovely comfortable Shaftesbury Hotel, giving the Daintees' perccussionist ancient midget gems from the bottom of my bag, watching a great band two nights running.... definitely the two best days of miserable 2006. Talk about feeling good! Big up Martin, Shippy and the Daintees for being the best hosts in town!
Oh yes... the pens. Well, on Friday morning I got the Metro up the toon to do a bit of Christmas shopping, but before I left, I decided to empty out my bag because it was a little bit heavy. There were 22 pens in there, two lipsticks and a Swiss Army Knife. After I'd taken them out, the bag was as light as a feather and I floated through Fenwicks like a puff of thistledown.

More tomorrow, perhaps.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New tracks



Very rough demos, but I had to be brief, as recording 'It was a Bad Day' made me cry. But I've put the very rough demo of 'Memento Mori' to which I owe Claire the title, up on Myspace, www.myspace.com/helenmccookerybook
Because it's a very rough demo there's a funny glitch in the middle. It will have a cello on it eventually, and I'll play it with Allan Bradbury on cello at Songbird on Wednesday next week: the poster is here.
Tomorrow, I'm off up to Byker to play with the Daintees!

Rubbish joke and other thorts

Here goes:
Knock knock
Who's there?
Little old lady
Little old lady who?
I didn't know you could yodel!
I know, I know, you've heard it before, but it doesn't do any harm to be reminded, does it?
I'm chuffed today cos a DJ from Thailand, DJ Sonny, sent off for the CD and he mailed to say he really likes it and might review it for Esquire (which I've never read but it sounds good anyway). I'm going over to the studio this morning to record a couple of new songs, the one about Granny's snake bracelet that isn't a rockabilly song, and the tango, which is called 'It was a bad day'.
After a few conversations recently, I've realised that it's my downfall to be driven by curiosity rather than ambition. It means that you feel very unthreatened by competitive people and their tricks and attempts to manipulate you, but it also means (unfortunately) that you are forever doomed to be an outsider. Somewhere along the line I thought I would find a slot that fitted, but if it hasn't happened by now it never will. I suppose there's a lot of freedom in that thought.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ferrets

It's that rat... can't stop thinking about small animals. Have you ever been to a ferret race? It's so funny- they squirm down plastic tubes in a 'race' that you bet 4 pence on. Of course, they are not at all interested in racing; the race I watched, the one that got most quickly to the end of the tube, that everybody thought was going to win, paused just short of the exit and then backed all the way out of it again, faster than it had gone forward! Another one got halfway down and just sat there; it was at a join in the tubes and its fur was poking out all round it in a sort of ginger ruff. The one that finally won emerged looking a little bit dazed, and not at all interested in its victory; if anything it looked disappointed that it hadn't arrived anywhere interesting after its journey. 'Oh, it's bloody Trent Park at THIS end of the plastic tube, too'.
By the way, the rat is still there, scrabbling away at night.
I think I've fallen in love with it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Edith Sitwell

About twelve years ago, I drew a picture of the Dada poet Edith Sitwell (what style! Helen-and-the-Horns-era hairdo inspired by her!) crunching her way through several handfuls of canaries, for an exhibition called 'Famous Women Eating Breakfast'. 'Woman's Hour' did a feature on the exhibition, and the interviewer mentioned sevral drawings, one of which was the Sitwell one. I was contacted by Alannah Curry of the Thompson Twins, because she was also a mad Edith fan. She'd made some backing tracks and had got rappers to recite Sitwell's poetry over them- and she had one by Debbie Harry, too! It was completely brilliant. She asked me to do one, but asking me to rap is like asking a turkey to ice-skate: I was a dismal failure at it. But I did get to go to a fantastic party at their house with Duggie Fields there and all that.
The reason I said this is that I was sure I had a copy of the Debbie Harry/Edith Sitwell rap poem, but I can't find it. I have to do a talk tomorrow about Dada and I thought it would be perfect. I've tried to seek Alannah out on the internet but can't find her;I knew she'd gone to New Zealand, and I even managed to find her school, but not her! One thing I have got, though, is Akiko Hada's 'Art Moderna Cha Cha Cha', which I think is just about the funniest musical short I've ever seen. Actually it IS the funniest; it's such a slow build, and there sits Steve Beresford all po-faced with a very fancy guitar... It's one of those things that can make you burst out laughing in the street just thinking about it, like my cousin Rod's letter about sitting on a hyacinth at my party, or P G Wodehouse's story about the dog barking at the purple dressing gown with yellow frogs on it. I was reading that one on the tube and had to close the book, it was making me laugh so loudly! It got to the point where I couldn't even look down at the book on my lap without exploding, and when I got home I collapsed in hysterics and had to gasp for air.
Oh and CONGRATULATIONS to Pete and Lisa on their everlasting bonding experience in New York, two stylish and very sweet people! XXX

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Unfriendly Thoughts about New Romantics

I was walking past Stephen Jones's hat shop this afternoon and I suddenly realised why I'd never been a New Romantic in spite of Mrs Graduate Records' attempts to take me shopping to buy velvet knee britches and so on. Apart from the fact that being in a punk band was anything but a fashion for me, so moving on to a new fad was out of the question, it was the fact that New Romantics, male and female, reminded me on Large Mums. You know, big and wide, huge frills over ample bosoms, stumping along, and those red, red lips with thick matte lipstick, smiling like the Blue Meanies in Yellow Submarine. All it would have taken would have been a change in fabrics from Evans the Outsize, swapping beige crimplene for black silk, and the fashions were identical; the music was gruesome, too, a thick grey aural plod.
Bunch of Pantomum Dames, the lotovem.

Scissors (R?)

I don't know if this is a repeat but all the stations are up to it, this time of year; sorry if it is, but I was thinking about it just now. When we were little, McMum and McDad went away on holiday for two weeks leaving us with Granny. For some reason, they gave us each a little pair of scissors, with strict instructions that we weren't to cut each others hair. We had to promise. Imagine our cat's delight when we pruned off not only both sets of magnificent whiskers, but also random lumps of fur from her pelt!
Granny was not so pleased.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Magic Numbers at Pebble Mill

How's this for a dream? I was watching the Magic Numbers film a performance at the Pebble Mill Studios in Birmingham. They were on a tiny stage, made all the more tiny by the fact that they had dancers in Snow White costumes (except in orange and green nylon, not white and blue) crushed up there with them, trying to go through their moves. Some of the dancers were men,; one had a beard like the Magic Numbers man. One woman had a super-suntan-orange face and looked a bit like Zoe Wanamaker, but not quite her. Every time I looked, there were more dancers,and the poor Magic Numbers bassplayer girl was having trouble finding a space. Their song was really good; I don't really like their stuff much, but this one was great. When I woke up I sang it into my Mobile but I haven't listened yet because I'm afraid I'll be disappointed!
I wonder if it's because when I went to buy that acoustic guitar a couple of weeks ago, the man in the shop told me that the Magic Numbers' bass player had been in the other day to buy a Hofner semi-acoustic bass?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Martin's record

Martin Stephenson texted me today, and he's been mixing the songs he recorded that he asked me to do vocals on. I'm really looking forward to hearing them: so much has happened since then, what with finishing the CD, trouble at work (don't even ask!) and old Ratso upstairs, I can hardly remember the tunes. I just remember having a really nice afternoon in a studio in Crouch Hill, so high up you could look over at Alexandra Palace. Martin had a Geordie mate who was putting some extra guitar on them, and Jim who used to play fiddle for the Blubbery Hellbellies. I wonder what happened to Arthur? Big Bad Baldy Billy who played bass used to come to my parties. Once, children were scribbling on his bald head, and he just sat there patiently. I asked him if he liked it, and he said 'No', so I went out and got the children some chips and they stopped.
I've been writing a song which I think is a tango rhythm called 'It Was a Bad Day'. I thought it was really catchy and was feeling dead smug about it, then there was a horrible dance track on TV that out-catchied it- I was walking down the road to get an inhumane rat trap, and the dance theme thundered through my head with its nasty keyboard line the same as the vocal, and wouldn't go away. I only wish I could attach Ratso to the catchy dance theme and send them both off packing to a desert island where they wouldn't bother anyone except backpackers with a credit card; Ratso could dance himself into tiny pieces, and the dance track could play away to itself with nobody listening at all, after the backpackers had gone home.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Lost Women of Rock Music

I got a leaflet from Ashgate Press, the publishers of the forthcoming book, the other day. It will be out in June next year although I still haven't had the proofs to read. It will be too expensive to buy- I think they are aiming it at libraries. I didn't realise it would be so pricey (£55). I know Ashgate make paperbacks too and they charge about £16 for those, but I suppose they estimate the demand and have decided it's not worth doing a paperback just now. Sometimes I wish I'd just gone for the coffee-table option but then I wouldn't have been able to diss Thatcher at great length, which I do, or talk about the aftermath of punk, which I do, or include such feisty non-stereotyped quotations (which I do). Or perhaps even include massive chunks of verbatim John Peel and Geoff Travis quotations, either. But there aren't any pictures except for the one on the cover which was very kindly donated by Caroline Coon, who is my Girl Of The Moment. So maybe it's for purists anyway!
Kate Korris, if you read this again, I'd like your contact details, could you email me helen_mccookerybook@yahoo.co.uk
(by the way, I still haven't caught the rat)

Rat

When I lived in Camberwell, rats used to be regular visitors, entering the house via the toilet and sometimes sitting in the airlock on the U-bend, with their tails visible in the pan.
At the moment, there is a rat in the bedroom, here in middle clas suburban Barnet. I can't find it anywhere; I went to B&Q yesterday and bought a humane trap which I've baited with fudge (they say Galaxy chocolate is best so I'll try that if the fudge doesn't work). It's been there for two days; every so often I can hear it rustling. the cats and the dog are not interested; so long as food is in their bowls and they have a radiator to snore next to, they're not bothered. I chased it round the kitchen two days ago trying to catch it in a bowl, but it's a bit unnerving. A rat bit me on the finger once when I was rescuing it from a cat, and I had to go to get a tetanus jab. The bite bloody hurt, and I've got a few gigs coming up and guitarists don't need gnawed fingers.
I'm going out this morning, it's horrible being indoors fighting a battle of wills with a tiny and unhygienic rodent.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Silence

When I was in the 6th form at school, they all assumed that I was a French exchange student, because I never spoke.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Edinburgh


It's a great city, and was at its best on Saturday. There was a German market in full swing under a ferris wheel, with the Scott Monument lit up with tacky deep red floodlights, and the castle looming as magnificent as ever in the background. I'd been to the Cafe Royale a few years ago with the cast from the horror-panto version of Titus Andronicus (it was actually a musical and a Chinese nun was in the audience one night, but that's another story). Back then, it was posh, as befits its name; this time around the glory had faded and gents had to use the ladies, as all the lavatories were out of order, and everything was sticky. But the little venue upstairs had a great sound and the sound person was very good. I can't remember the names of the other bands (sorry) but they played that sort of melodic Scottish pop, influenced by the Byrds and the Beach Boys with a bit of country thrown in. The band straight after me was a bit too Monkees-ish, but very good musicians. They were all very gentlemanly and watched my set; McMum and McDad came too, but left as soon as the drums started! I then got chatting to the mum of a guitarist in the second band on and she told me about a festival in Inverness which sounds like fun so I'm going to check it out. I gave her a CD to listen to. I was pleased cos I managed to play quite well-a couple of times recently I have been disappointed by either not singing as well as I wanted to or not playing as well as I wanted to; this time, all bits worked. I photographed the gorgeous stained glass windows at the venue to put here but instead, I'll put an exciting mystery photograph up which essentially explains why Scottish people are all mad (I'm allowed to say that because I am one).
By the way- on the train there and the way back, there were groups of Geordie women (not quite as fat as the Fat Slags) utterly pissed on Cava, all done up to the nines, hilariously funny and VERY LOUD, going away for girly weekends. Scary.
Also last week I was sent a book called The Guerilla Guide to Music Business; they interviewed me, and it is in there along with lots more.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Blogshop

I have found 2 boxes of unplayed vinyl Helen and the Horns albums- I've played one and the top-end of the sound is a little distorted (loft fatigue) but if anyone wants one, they can sent £12.00 to the address below (say what it's for!)
And I have a limited number of 'Women Out of Line' books (they are comic strip books with stories by woman artists including me!) which are also £12.00
And I have a very limited number of black vinyl Freight Train singles, which are £10.00
All these include p & p; if you send off for more than one, I'll use the excess postage to do a next-day delivery in the UK.
Don't forget if you order 'Suburban Pastoral' from my P.O. below for £10.99, first orders get a Chefs badge, till they run out.

Helen and the Horns
P.O. Box 3427
Barnet
EN5 9EX

.... and if you live in or near Edinburgh, do come to see me play at the Cafe Royale on Saturday, I'm on at 9 p.m.
Would be nice to see you!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hidden Treasures

I played in Brixton on Monday at Hidden Treasures. It was a real singers night- lots of lovely voices- Ilana Lorraine, Rachel Huggins (who organises the gig), Katie Leech. The harmonies were gorgeous and I've asked Rachel and another one of the vocalists to accompany me at the Christmas Offline, where I'll do some songs I've never played live before, just to be festive!
The pub where it happens, the Telegraph, is halfway through being converted into a zingy venue, and it was a bit like being on a film set, half one thing, half another, and it all added to the atmosphere, with raggedy comfortable sofas and dark corners, and lots of people eating chips from paper (they had closed the restaurant down during the renovations). I shared my banana with Rachel when I got there, and she had lots of mini-Twixes to share. Lots of people I hadn't seen for ages were there, the brothers came and one of the guitarists was so good I felt obliged to get my guitar out of it's case when he was soundchecking, and work out one of the chords he was playing. Nerdy, or what?
And Mike has redesigned the front page of my website, hasn't he, and doesn't it look good?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Telegraph

Just off to the Telegraph; I'm on at 9 p.m. and lookin' forward to it!

Assortment

Odd one, last night- it was a bit like this Parisian wine bar I went to a couple of years ago, with a French jazz band in the corner; I suppose you'd call it a cabaret bar. I almost died with shock when I got a glass of red wine from the bar after I'd played and it cost £4.50.
On the way home, I saw something straight out of and Edward Hopper painting- in an upstairs room in a block of modern flats, the curled stalk of a double bass was waving about, held by a chap who was deeeeep in conversation with another man, who was seated at what must have been a piano, all in silhouette in a plain yellow rectangle of light. Beautiful.
I've just heard from a DJ in Thailand who has bought the CD!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Padded coat hanger

One Christmas, when I was a little girl, McMum was given a pink satin padded coathanger as a present. That was the point at which I decided I was never going to grow up.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Conditioner on toast

Boots henna and horsechestnut, yummy winter snack!
Humm, lyrics. I was trying to write a rockabilly track inspired by Claire's search for songs about jewellery and ended up writing a weird scary non-rockabilly song about my grandmother, who was my Special Person before she died. It frightens me when I sing it...
And I was thinking about the first time I ever wrote a song with my guitar. I told my music teacher at school, and she asked me to sing it and play it. It was totally cheesy- 'Haunted Castle', but it had good chords and melody. After I'd sung it she said 'YOU DIDN'T WRITE THAT SONG!' and slammed the piano lid down. Mrs Fitton, if you are reading this, I did write that song! And I did write more! And I encourage everybody I meet to write songs! SO THERE!

Gigs this weekend

Tomorrow I'm playimng at Viva Viva in Hornsey- I'll be doing a few there, apparently it's a little restaurant. Lots of people play there and I'm curious to know what it's like. Monday night it's the Telegraph on Brixton Hill, and I'm onstage at 9 p.m.
Might air some new material on one or both of those nights- 'pends how I feel....
Glad to say Allan Bradbury will be playing cello on the 20th December gig in Dalston, and Serafina's playing too. We're all gonna dress up posh for that one.
Back to stuffing envelopes with CDs; I'm sending out to radio shows today, inlcuding Steve Lamacq and, if I can find the address, the DJ guy in Argentina who wrote to me about a year ago.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

First Cd Orders

The first orders came in today; I found a little packet of original Chefs badges, so the first 25 orders will each get a free one. If you don't care, pass it on to someone who does!

Old People's Choir, young@heart

Did you see that programme last night? It was so wonderful, this choir of people who were really ancient, going off to sing rock cover versions to prisoners and making these hard guys weep with emotion. The high point was this little old lady and little old man singing 'I Feel Good' to a packed theatre. And they were enjoying themselves so much! Two of the old fellas died during the rehearsals, but the band carried on in their memory; there was one very poignant scene where the best friend of one of them sang a solo, his last ever with the choir, and you could hear his little air pump thing (he'd had a heart attack) whooshing gently in the background. It was brilliant, and their musical director was amazing; they were all a bit scared of him because he got so annoyed when they forgot the words. All the way through I was thinking, 'I WANT TO DO THAT!'. I'd always wanted to do songwriting with elders, and the closest I got was recording a demo with an old-people's singing group who wanted to get gigs in retirement homes; they had a mad Hindu priest accompanying them on electric piano, with a smiley smile that was so smiley it was scary, and I had to do a lot of takes because they kept booting the mike stands and rustling their sheet music mid-song. We got there in the end though; I still have the tapes somewhere!
It got me to thinking about what singing does for people, and I thought back to my frightening primary school, whose teachers beat us and shook us , and where our toilets were outside and housed the largest and slimiest snails you've ever seen. But every morning, before we went into our classrooms and shook with fear in case it was our turn, the school got together and sang a hymn. It was the most fantastic freedom, in spite of the fact that the rollickin' piano was being played by the nastiest teacher of all, Mrs Herdman (she had a 'female friend' called Mrs Oddie living in her loft, believe it or not!). But we, the schoolchildren, with our snotty noses, bad breath and dirty fingernails, became a sort of music mob and our voices escaped through the roof into outer space, even though we were physically imprisoned all day with all that violence. Sometimes I think that singing is manufactured out of anger, somehow converted from a destructive emotion, from something ugly into a free and lovely expression of self.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hip Hop

A lot of rap music seems like jigsaws put together by arrogant young men living at home whose mums have bought them lots of jammy equipment out of their savings; every jigsaw has the same picture on the front.
(I heard a great track called The Booth the other day that was anything but that)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

As Played by London Cabbies

My friend told me last night that her partner, who drives a Black Cab, has taken Suburban Pastoral with him to play as he drives round London! Wahey!
She and I were once going to run a pirate radio station from the back of a clapped-out mini. I had written Voxpop Puella and the idea was we'd drive round the suburbs, interrupting Radio One or whatever mindless station the home-maker was listening to, with feminist pop! Ha ha! She volunteered to build and broadcast, as she'd been in the Signals Corps as grammar school; I had a book that Alistair, the guy who was accused of biting a policeman in the Poll Tax Riots with somebody else's teeth (another story, another time), gave me, called 'Radio is My Bomb'. It was supposed to tell you how to build a radio transmitter, but he told me recently the instructions didn't work. It would have been a laugh, though, wouldn't it, like playing a trick on a teacher at school. Perhaps I should be thinking of ways to become a millionaire instead of daydreaming anarchy!

Monday, November 20, 2006

£50

Yes, that's what I found on the pavement a month ago. But I'd been having a horrendous run of bad luck and I decided I didn't want to be part of someone else's bad day (could have been someone's disability benefit or something) so I handed it in at the Police Station and immediately regretted it (£90 of parking fines...). However, no-one claimed it and today I went to pick it up; it had been sent away so I had to travel miles, and when I got there I waited 2 hours along with a bunch of people ( who were so dispirited they didn't even fidget), a broken 'It's your turn now' machine and a very, very stupid PC who took delight in doing everything immensely slowly on the other side of his glass panel. It was like watching the tropical fish bumble about their business: he even managed to blink slowly, and I know the clock on That Side Of The Glass was going at wind-up time, because on our side, we sure as heck were getting wound up. I almost gave up, but didn't want them to be spending someone's lost money, and my found money, on a Christmas bumper fun party they didn't deserve.
I was lucky; most people there were being kept waiting so they could report a theft. So I'm going to stop feeling miserable, dent my debts, and look forward to festivities to come. I think I will allow myself a huge bar of chocolate to celebrate!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Last call for Britannia Great

If you want to listen to, or download this track, hurry! I'm taking it off the Songbird site to replace it with new MP3s from artists performing at future nights.
www.myspace.com/songbirdclub

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A terrific night!


The weird ones are always the best! (remind me to tell you about those nights in Hampstead). Tonight I played a benefit for East Barnet Festival at the Bull Theatre. First on was the Yag Dag Spro Ba Band, who played Tibetan-flavoured music; they had a really good double bass player who I plan to steal when the rest of the band aren't lookin'. Then a belly dancer writhed about on stage, much the joy of the male audience members (you could try denying it, guys, but I was in the wings watching the audience watching, and I saw what I saw), and then I went on with my trusty Gretsch; the D.I. box was picking up FM radio and I did at least half of the set not being able to hear my guitar at all but being able to hear an inane radio DJ blabbing away in DJ-tones.. extraordinaire! And then all down to the bar to hear the BMJ band, a big-band collective of elders playing banjos, mandolins and guitars, all grey and serious, 'Those Were the Days My Friend' and 'Paris Skies' sans swing, but with gravitas a-go-go!! Three cheers for the local!!! I even got to draw the raffle tickets, but when I drew my own numbers I generously foregoed (forwent? foregoo?) the pale blue skinny candles 12-pack and they went to someone else...
And Diana came and so did you, Monty, and The BMJ Band are playing the next Songbird with their customised music stands and embroidered sashes. What-ho Bertie, life is fun in the most peculiar way, and in the most peculiar places! (and I sold some CDs to boot!)
Oh yes, and big up the MCs, younger and older,in bow ties and suits,and their jokes so extraordinarily corny!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Birdbaby

My nephew, who is autistic, picked up an egg one day and said 'Birdbaby'. What beautiful poetry, all in one word.
At the dinner table, I asked him to please pass the tomato ketchup.
'NO', he bellowed, 'NOT BY THE HAIR ON MY CHINNY-CHIN-CHIN!
I can't remember who had hair on their chinny-chin-chin or which fairy tale it came from, but we almost choked on our chips!
Below is a link to Bobby Moore's article on The Slits- I'll try to html it later but sometimes the software on Blogger can't cope with more than one line, so it might just nbe better to paste it into your address bar if you want to have a look:
http://www.thewestgeorgian.com/media/storage/paper523/news/2006
/11/15/ArtsAndEntertainment/the-
Slits-2459140.shtml?norewrite200611150049&sourcedomain
=www.thewestgeorgian.com

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fossils, Fleas, and fpending money on shirts

Just got back from my one-woman distribution run; Rough Trade now has Suburban Pastoral mail order and also some more Helen and the Horns CDs. Before that I went round to see Gina for coffee; she was making seven sand-dance costumes for children at the kitchen table out of some very posh fabrics parents had donated to the school; at least one Liberty's silk scarf there, and possibly a wisp of Chanel... snip snip snip, all cut up for 5-year-olds to crash about in!
I told her about Joan as Policewoman and we listened; she gave me her spare Jarvis Cocker new CD (Gina makes pop videos for Rough Trade) and she told me off for not having paypal somewhere here to sell the CD. Oh, that will take me hours to sort out... I'll see if I can work out how to do it. And then on the way to Rough Trade I sneaked into the Oxfam Shop on Westbourne Grove and broke my spending embargo by buying a Western shirt to wear at the gig on Saturday night. Shame on me for my profligacy!!
Yesterday Dan came round and I helped him to write a song about fossils (no, nothing rhymes with fossils) for the Song Club massive. We are going to make huge cardboard magnifying glasses for them, which will look hilarious. I'm supposed to have stopped doing Song Club but it's too much fun to give up and a very good antidote to some of the aggressive adults I have to teach sometimes.
The cats have fleas. Excuse me, got to go and buy some of those neck-drops that kill the blighters on their way up the cats' bodies to park in their whisker-follicles.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Setting up a tour

That's what's going on..
Here are the dates so far:

Saturday 18th November: The Bull Theatre, 68 High Street Barnet. Benefit for East Barnet Festival. £7/£5. Headline gig with the Yang Dag Spro Ba Band and dancer Deborah Rosenberg. Call 0208 441 5010 for tickets
CSunday 26th November, Viva la Diva, at Viva Viva, 18 Hornsey High Street, London N8
Email me for tickets for reduced-price meal and drinks
Monday 27th November, Hidden Treasure at the Telegraph. Brixton Hill, £5
Saturday 2nd December, The Cafe Royal, Edinburgh
Thursday 14th December, The Clunie, Newcastle Upon Tyne, with the Daintees
Friday 25th December, The Clune, Newcastle Upon Tyne, with the Daintees
Wednesday 20th December, Songbird, Dalston
Thursday 21st December, Offline, Jamm, Brixton
Thursday 25th January, Buffalo Bar, Windsor Place, Cardiff
Also TBC Bristol, Canterbury and others.
More details of other gigs close to the time! Please come to the gig in Barnet if you can, It's for a good cause!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sheep

You know those big posters you get free with daily newspapers? Last night me and a couple of pals spent the evening customising the sheep one: one sheep is a Sloane sheep with a tartan ribbon abd twinkly brooch round its neck; another has natty dreads; one has a fleece made of old buttons from old shirts. Lots of them have scary beady eyes made from.... beads (not scary until they are eyes). One has a cotton wool beard and a unicorn horn made of a shell, and one has the word heterosexu- on it's body, and -al on its head, made of alphabetti sequins. There are piggy rings through noses, earrings, and sequinned trotters, you name it, those sheep have it. Just the pastime for a damp dark autumn evening. When it's finished I'll put it on a the kitchen wall, and all the bits will fall off it and be really annoying.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Suburban Pastoral Virtual Launch


Well, here at last is Suburban Pastoral- the new CD; if you'd like your very own copy, just send a cheque/postal order/international money order for £10.99 made out to Helen and the Horns, to
Helen and the Horns
PO Box 3427
Barnet
EN5 9EX

Allow a couple of weeks for delivery; I'm a one-person DIY girl!
Here's last night's playlist from the Albert in Brixton. It was fun and very friendly!
Hillbilly/Jump Jive listening:
Maddox Bros and Rose: Stop Whistling Wolf
Dessie Faulkner: I Dare You to Love Me
Wanda Jackson: I Gotta Know
Elvis Presley: Blue Moon (Sun session)
Pee Wee King: Chew Tobacco Rag
Ginnie Wright: I Love You, Yes
Louis Jordan: Chartreuse
Hank Spurling: Frog Pond Boogie
The Miller Sisters: Ten Cats Down
The SToltz Brothers: Rock'n'Roll Riot
Bobby Sykes: Diesel Smoke and Dangerous Curves
Barbie Gaye: My Boy Lollipop
Etta James: Good Rockin' Daddy
Patsy Cline: Gotta Lotta Rhythm in my Soul
Johnny Carroll: Wild Wild Women
Elvis Presley: Blue Moon of Kentucky

I know I played more than this- but these tracks are so short, you have to be lightnin' fast and I hadn't planned for that- every few tracks was a panic attrack- throw something on the turntable to keep it all going while you juggle sleeves, inner sleeves, vinyl, CDs, half a lager, a pair of glasses and a conversation in which you are trying to give the impression of being too cool for words. Oh boy, talk about adrenaline! I fell asleep on the train home.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Not doodling; playing

It was a strange day, seen through the mists of this odd virus I've picked up. I went to the first meeting ever that I haven't doodled pages of doodles at. I just sat and listened and talked when it was my turn; I thought something had gone wrong with my brain until I realised the reason: I hadn't brought any paper with me. So that was why.
Later, I'd been going to meet Jamie to eat chocolate cake in Deptford, and Chris to give him some CDs, but Jamie had to work and so did Chris, so instead I went and translated the money I got for my Viz comic into an old acoustic guitar, which obliged me by producing a new song out of it's f-holes as soon as I got it home. So if you'll excuse me, blog, my old chum-buddy-pal, I'll get on with that the noo.
Hoots!!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Revisiting Song Club

The children's Song Club I used to run with my friend Dan has been to the Natural History Museum exhibition about dinosaurs, to get inspiration for song lyrics. Dan invited me along to help out with one of the songs and we did a great call-and-response song with dino-facts! The children are so energetic, it's like working with a box of explosions, they can't sit still at all and slither all over the floor, bounce up to the lyric sheets to point things out, stare at each other's faces, but still manage to sing at the tops of their voices. I miss it a lot but I've had to Get Serious about things in order to finish the CD; no haircuts, cosmetics, gigs, good times, or socialising (well a bit of that, if it's cheap!). On Friday, it's a social night out at the Albert in Brixton, where I'm DJing at Mike's 40s and 50s music night from 9 p.m. Out comes all that old dusty vinyl, Frog Pond Boogie, Stop Whistlin' Wolf and all those old hillbilly favourites. Best of all, Wanda Jackson's 'I Gotta Know'. Its gonna be fun! See
www.urban75.com

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Najma's journey

Yesterday Najma phoned and told me how she'd been on holiday in Islamabad when the earthquake hit Pakistan. Instead of coming home, she decided to stay there and help, and she spent seven months travelling round the mountains trying to do what she could, because the Pakistani mountain people are generally poor and not well-equipped to deal with disasters like this. She sent emails back to England and gradually people began to contribute towards the rehabilitation of the victims of the quake. I've always known Najma as a delicate, beautiful woman singer and harmonium player with a lovely voice and a very gentle personality. I can't believe how brave she has been, just to leave everything behind and enter such a rough and potentially dangerous situation. It's completely humbling.
If you have spare money, she says Oxfam is a good charity to give it to, as they are experienced and quick to get the money to where it's needed.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ooh Aah Fireworks!

Floods of people swept up the hill to Blackheath last night to see the fireworks- it was satisfyingly cold and dark; our posse had my Champagne friend, her partner and seven teenage boys, whose energy propelled us through the steep streets (HURRY UP HURRY UP WE'LL MISS THEM!).
Bright yellow fur tails spiralling through the sky,sparkling lion's manes,fizzing dreadlocks, glitter pens, looking up inside a National Geographic Magazine photograph of a jellyfish with spines of light,sparkling umbrellas opening, just everything was there.. and bursting coloured circles of dots, red, blue, yellow, green: how did those ones work so we all saw circles? And some of them scribbled all over the sky with red smoke before they burst. How did they work out who lit which firework when? The must have practised for ages...And the sound! The explosions echoed off that wall round Greenwich Park, a fantastic slapback sound- boom...WHACK boom..WHACK. I tried to record it on my phone, I've been collecting echoes (the Brunel Bridge at Maidenhead, a steel pan band in Docklands etc) but I'm sure I couldn't capture the threedimensionalness (?) of the sound. Oh it was great!I love fireworks!!!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Miscellany

I took at look at Claire's blog today,
themummysbracelet.blogspot.com, full of horrid but truly fascinating facts. She is full of inspiration, and used to make hand-tinted photos of The Chefs; she's the person who took the picture for the original e.p. So take a look and see what she's posted today!
It reminded me: last week I bought full-arm semi-transparent sleeve things with tattoos all over them, which are great. I bought two packs, just in case one wears out. Rather like the time when I was making a horned fitted fake viking helmet, ("what on earth are you making that for?"), I have encountered puzzlement that I should want to wear such things. Well, I do, I do, I do, so THERE!
My last remaining Viz comic is on eBay- it's the very first issue. I hope to make enough to put towards an acoustic guitar to practise and write songs with, but it's not doing too well at the moment, and nobody wants my Bow Wow Wow flip-top cassette! Ebay's weird.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Clicks for Autumn!!!

That's what they'd say on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, anyway. That sniff in the air of frost and damp leaves...mmmm!
1000 CDs turned up yesterday- I'm really pleased with how they look and how they sound and all the things you should be pleased by.
I have a P.O. Box number starting on the 13th November so I'll put all the details up on the 11th, and that will be the release day. I will have a virtual party, with virtual champagne and virtual balloons, and invite you who read this, to join me in cyberspace, to meet the Queer guys from Queer Eye (virtual), all sorts of imaginary artists and musicians, Noggin the Nog and Graculus, all my dead friends (virtual) especially my fantastic Granny who me and Bruv thought was related to a sheep because she called us 'Lamby' and had snow-white hair and quite a baa-ing voice... please virtually invite whom you choose, and maybe leave a comment so I can toast them with invisible champagne!
I will post them out to the people who listened to tracks and helped to choose on that day, too.
I had three hours sleep last night, which is probably why I've been struck surreal. Or it could be that stack of exciting boxes in the back room!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Songbird

It was a very peculiar Songbird last night; there was a last-minute venue change due to Hackney Council's fire regs, so we all went to the Vision Banqueting Suite under an Oxfam shop in Dalston- low ceilings, vinyl floor, hatch bar, balloons left over from 3 weeks ago, low lighting, and more bouncers than candles on a 90-year-old's birthday cake (exaggerate? moi?) There wasn't a very large audience but in some ways that added to the ambience. The DJ played lots of old-skool dub reggae, and then there was a fantastic bloke who played a massive shiny sheet of buckled steel with a cello bow- it really was incredible; I've seen sawblade players in Wylam Folk Club in the last century, a surprisingly haunting sound, and this was similar- a very beautiful and emotive experience! At the end he rattled and boomed the steel and it sounded like a loud explosion- one of the bouncers came dashing in with a '999' expression on his face READY TO SORT IT OUT. He looked a little sheepish and slipped out of the door again; good job only I noticed, so I'm the only person that knows (!). Then came Bilkis, which was essentially Sophie with her lovely voice and picked Spanish guitar riffs, and a violin player, Wei Wei. I was trying to think last night what Sophie's songs reminded me of. When I was a little girl I used to sometimes see those pale blue willow pattern plates at people's houses and wonder what was behind the droopy trees and little bridges- some sort of imaginary magical land that was hidden in the misty background: and that was it. It's as though she can peep through a hole in reality and see something different, that only she can find. I liked the sound of the amplified Spanish guitar too; you just don't hear that sound very often.
By the way, Punkdaddy's been in touch to say this CD is a solo one; the next one will be a collaboration with Damage.
Well, I'm sitting here waiting for the CDs to arrive......

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Links

Thank you Claire- for some reason those links don't work.
... now I think they work except the email. I'll try to get that one going. Thanks Lazy Lama!

News

Well... the Slits seem to be doing really well on their tour of the States- lots of people who subscribe to the typicalgirls website seem to have been enjoying it all- I have to say they are really my favourite live band at the moment.
What else? Punkdaddy's finished his DIY CD that also features 'good old' Damage from days of yore- you can email the Punkdaddy at punkdaddy@punkbrighton.co.uk to find out how to get hold of one. He's reviewed the Brighton gig at www.punkbrighton.co.uk
Meanwhile I'm awaiting delivery of my own CDs- I've got a box number organised. I have to big up the fantastic Emerald who is such a brilliant illustrator/designer and who did the cover. Her site is
www.goldtop.org and it's worth following up her links- she's a goldmine of interesting contacts and ideas.
What else? I'm DJing at Mike's 1940s and 1950s night at the Albert in Brixton on Friday 10th November- go to
www.urban75.com and there are more details there.
What else? I've just bought a Yo La Tengo CD, because I heard some of it in a guitar shop and liked it. I can't lsiten to it yet as I made up a new riff this morning and I'll forget it ti I don't go through it a few times.
The day begins. I must remember to buy a loaf of bread.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dreaming Songs

Quite often, I dream songs. Dreaming of You was one, and so was Songbird. Lots of the others were too but I've forgotten which ones now. Last night, I dreamed another one and here it is.
I had to wash some clothes, and the washing machine was in the middles of a grassy area, outside in a playing field, in some sort of institution. As I was cramming the clothes into the machine, I noticed a shallow zinc tray full of coarse and dirty sand on the ground in front of the machine. I tried not to let the clothes dangle into the sand, which I supposed must be there to catch water or something. Then I noticed a tiny little ivory-coloured plastic cat in the sand- a cracker toy, it looked like. Although the sand was full of bits of charcoal and dust, I scooped it out and wiped the sand off it- and I noticed there were more- little squirrels, dogs, and other animals. As I scraped away the sand I noticed there were black ones too, and wondered if they were game pieces from a sort of chess set. They were made of something much nicer than plastic, and I decided to clean them and keep them. There was a tap used for watering plants in the quadrangle, and I took them there- Ikept dropping them because there were so many. As I was rinsing the sand off them, I could hear what I thought was a rehearsal for a classcal concert through the windows of the hall next to me; it sounded like mature women's voices, singing a song, so I peered through the glass to see what was going on. Three girls were standing there- they looked like some students- and they were singing a gospel song, which went like this.......
Well, you'll have to wait till I've finished it before you can hear it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Failure, Fursday

Well last night was a bit of a failure, really. I dropped off at Dubulah's to pick something up, and managed to miss the bus to Charing Cross Road, but I was only 20 minutes late at Ray's Jazz Shop in Foyle's, and still just made it for the last three chords of the French guitarist's set! Pring, pring, pring.... Steve Beresford's brother was playing at the Electric Proms so he had to go off- so I went to Denmark Street and played a nice Hofner acoustic for about half an hour before going down to Brixton to Offline. Of course I got there far too early but managed to catch Lisa Dee's hip hop soundcheck- she's a white Irish rapper with a trumpet player- she sounded very good but I thought too much of her backing-track was pre-recorded. The trumpet playing was great- a really unusual touch. She had an acoustic guitarist as well. I like it when rap is almost classifiable as performance poetry.Speaking of which, Vic Lambrusco was on, very loud and witty. He was leaning on the bar writing one of his poems about 5 minutes before he went on, which I thought was great! There was another bloke caled Courtly Lover who did a lot of poem cover versions- Ian Dury, John Cooper Clarke, Tom Waits, John Donne- but his own stuff was perfectly adequate. The more I think of it, the more I think cover versons are a bad idea. I know I used to do them, but you've got to be a complete hypocrite sometimes, haven't you? Anyway, although I had a nice chat with Mike, I missed the rest of it.
So tonight, I'm playing it safe and going to see The Queen. I don't like the royal family but I liked Princess Diana because she silenced the tabloids by heading down to St Mary's and holding hands with AIDS patients, then campaigned against the most disgusting method of blowing limbs off children in developing countries that us Brits have ever sold to mad dictators. So I liked her. How the awful Charles must be chortling as all those lovely flowers that covered the Mall after she died, rot in his royal compost-heaps!!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

New Song for Sursday

I've just uploaded Screaming! and moved Heaven Avenue into the stratosphere; had to hold my breath as it was the first track I ever uploaded on to myspace- I was counting the plays but now I've forgotten how many there were anyway! Just been talking to a friend who's going on tour, and suggested she uses each town as an inspiration for a song- think I might do that too, when I get going. I was going to do a Ten Towns Tour once upon a time, writing a song in ten towns around GB and then going back and performing them in the ten towns when I'd finished. When I win the lottery (!) that's what I'll do. Actually, a documentary maker was interested in following and making a film of it, but you have to get funding, and we couldn't and didn't.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Evenin' All!

This morning I took the foul beast Blogger out for his morning constitutional. He puffed and panted so much he got long strings of foamy saliva hanging from his jowls and when he ran across the playing field they wrapped round his muzzle like icing on a chocolate roll- nouvelle cuisine extraordinaire!
Went to the studio this P.M. to tidy up the Screaming song to send to the Mad Professor- did lots of editing, it's much neater now; and recorded demos of two new ones for the next CD!* It was nice to be back, great therapy, although I didn't sing very well which was probably due to complete lack of sleep. As with most insomniacs, I know the night hours all too well and play an imaginary iPodsworth of songs in my head each night to keep myself entertained. I'm getting better at playing guitar though, mainly because I know what's bad about what I do, but also partly because I want to be like those ole Blues mamas and still be playing when I'm an ancient crustacean on a creaky old rocking chair (it's the knees that creak, you know, not the chair).
I think it's high time Heaven Avenue vanished from Myspace, so I'll replace it with Screaming, which has Gina Birch playing bass and Dubulah playing guitar, and of course, yours truly on scream.
I sent off for a Box Number today (no, suburbians, that's not a type of dwarf hedge) so the CD can be sold from here.
*probably be called Polyhymnia

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Drawing Day

Today is a drawing day- I did a poster for the next Songbird (it's moving to Wednesdays and the venue has changed)and I'll do one for the December one today- it's raining and unless I feel like going ice-skating, it's a drawing day. Tomorrow, going to the studio to edit the Screaming song to send to the Mad Professor (I was really chuffed, he left a comment about 'Dreaming of You' on Myspace, brilliant he took the time to listen, and it's the first track on the new CD.I needed that vote of confidence!). Thursday, Steve Beresford invites musicians to play in Ray's Jazz store at Foyle's and I think I'll go to that- last person I saw there was BJ Cole and when I saw the chords he played that's when I decided to ask him to play on some of the stuff I'd written. This time, it's a guitarist whose name escapes me, but if I find out, I'll tell you. Then later that night, it's Offline at Jamm- haven't been for ages because it's been such a mammoth task getting the CD ready all mixed in with starting a new job- but I'm really looking forward to it!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Cross your fingers for me!

I told you, I do everything I say I'll do. I have contacted the Mad Professor, and he has written back! I have to edit the track and then I'll send it to him- please cross your fingers! Exciting!!!!
Little Claire has written to me asking if I know any tracks that feature jewellery- can anyone help? She's going to have an exhibition and wants to make up a soundtrack. Ghoulish tracks welcome; it's about funeral jewellery.Maybe I should write her one specially- that would be a good project!
And Joby... well, I am worried about Joby and his self-medication with the demon drink. I pointed out how unfair it is for me to worry about him in Brighton when I live in London; he told me this is called tele-worrying, and perhaps it is, but it doesn't make it any more bearable. How can the revolution possibly happen if everyone's down the pub?
Well, I have to go up the road to see if Kall-Kwik do scanning- I've done the poster for the next Songbird but smashed the scanner by tangling wires and dropping a lamp on it, and the computer that connects with it has crashed and is at the techno-docs.
See ya tomorrow!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Finches, Willesden, Tour

I am planning a tour now, and hope to go to Cardiff and Bristol in January- I might ask Annie if there are any good venues in Bath- I think Moles might still be going. Perhaps I could support Joe McGann if he has finished doing his musical. I used to share a house in Willesden with Annie and Paul McGann and Steve McGann, and of course Treacle, Charlotte, little Claire, Glenn, Ruth, Marek Kohn and some strange blokes upstairs that only our cats knew. Lots of us used to just climb up the front or back of the house when we were (frequently) locked out; I don't think we all realised we all did this until ages afterwards. And we had the most fantastic parties! I'm sure I've mentioned them before on this blog. Mad. It's where Justin melted his boots.
When I went on tour with Helen and the Horns, I gave my finches to Annie and Paul. Mrs Finch had loads of babies while I was away, and ate them before I got back! For some reason I still feel incredibly guilty about that.
So here are the dates I'm playing so far- the link I tried to do last posting didn't work:
Saturday 18th November- The Bull Theatre, Barnet
Monday 27th November- The Telegraph, Brixton
Saturday 2nd December- The Cafe Royale, Edinburgh
Thursday 14th December- Newcastle, supporting the Daintees
Friday 15th December- Newcastle, supporting the Daintees
I'm going to try to add some more in when I have found good venues to play...
Everything will be on www.myspace.com/helenmccookerybook
...and I'm going to start recording new stuff again soon, I'll post here when it's there. The old songs have been on there for a long time; there are lots of tracks that are not on the album, and new ones too.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Brighton Gig

It's a lovely feeling, the day after playing, better than any drug or booze or anything like that. I feel really happy, although I am sick-a-bed. It was such a nice gig last night- the promoter, Grant, was really great, the other band (Popguns) were really good (3 acoustic guitars and female vocalist, Wendy- sort of urban folk), and there were people there that I suppose I never really thought I'd see again. Punkdaddy came along and so did Dick Damage; Johnny Piranha came, and Jon who played bass with Fan Club. Mufti and Sarah came, from No Man's Band (I nicked Mufti's name for 'Swan'). And the Chrisp bros with their bevy of stylish damsels, and Kim, the original eco-terrorist (she used to cycle round London scattering flower seeds on bomb sites). Everett True spun the vinyl and so did Grant. Joby, where were you? I kept a seat for you and Valex. I had brought a thousand diamonds as a present for you, but you can't have them now!
I hadn't done a proper gig for about 4 months, so was a little rusty in places but overall, I just got such a high from singin' and playin'. I realised after talking to a few people that it's not all that common to start off again with a whole bunch of new material, instead of doing retreads. I couldn't do anything else though; there are different things to say now, and the problem with doing Helen and the Horns gigs is that it's like singing your past. Much better to sing the present!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sign Language

Surprises me that a fashion for Makaton or some other sign language hasn't come hand in hand with iPods etc. Could have been a boon for the deaf. I certainly can't untangle my listening equipment in time to respond to anyone who mouths stuff at me when I'm travelling.
Although it's autumn, I found myself thinking about the north-eastern mama's habit of slicing the toes out of the uppers of the summer shoes to make them last, if your shoe size increased during the summer holidays. I heard that in Scotland it was the toes that got cut off....
I went to Old Work yesterday to do an 'exit interview'. Funny looking at my Old Office (the grey box) through its window. My light-switching-on-device was still suspended from the industrial-chic pipery across the ceiling. Some brainy architect installed movement-sensitive lighting in all the offices, which is not remotely sensible in a place of learning where people should be sitting still and studying. You used to have to stand up and wave your arms around every ten minutes to make the lights go back on, which did absolutely nothing for your gravitas. There was a particular student who was extremely strange, and I didn't like being shut in the box with him at dusk and beyond. So I stuck a plastic halloween bat to a length of garden twine with plasticine nicked from an illustration lecturer, looped it over the pipes and stainless-steel struts that crossed the office ceiling and when the lights went off, you could pull on the string from your desk; the bat would jump up and down in front of the movement sensor, switching the lights back on. So there.
I'm looking forward to playing in Brighton tomorrow. Who will be there? Everett True has offered to DJ, which he did last time I played in Brighton. I love the music he plays, so I hope he does.

Monday, October 16, 2006

, but I should have been....

...at the Bedford in Balham, watching loads of bands, including Jamie Woon, whom I haven't seen for ages. But I fell asleep, dreaming about clouds and the sun in the shape of a guitar, and that was that.

Bandstand

Spontaneously, yesterday, I went to see the Irrepressibles play on a bandstand in Leyton. They were dressed in costumes made of hundreds of flip-top bin bags- the thin white ones- and they were playing totally acoustically on the bandstand in Coronation Gardens to a small crowd of people, including a very puzzled-looking elderly Indian woman with a tartan shopping trolley, a tramp or two, and a dog.
Morning; it was a bit cloudy and breezy, but the wind blew the sound backwards and forwards and it all blended in with the sound of the trees waving about in the background. It was so lovely: you had to listen really hard to hear everything. Such a delicate sound. The wind got into their bin-bags and puffed them up so it looked like a bunch of clouds had floated down and become trapped under the roof of the bandstand. Strings, woodwind (what gorgeous sound an oboe makes), double bass , xylophone, sax, guitar, and Jamie's wild voice like the voice of nature mourning the banalities of little towns like Leyton, all that grey traffic, struggling shops and litter. What an utterly moving way to spend a Sunday morning, tucked under the armpit of Leyton Orient Football Ground, where normally you hear a completely different sort of acoustic singing, a completely different expression of manhood!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Smell

Thinking about that lovely smell of new computer; I wonder if Mackintosh could be persuaded to release a fragrance for nerdy girlies like me. Eau de Mac? i-Pong?

Library

The computer network at home's down, so I'm in the library, sitting next to a man who is humming and looking up bus types at Romford Garage.
Akiko sent me a DVD of Ohi Ho Bang Bang this morning. I absolutely love this film and I've watched it already- it features Holger Hiller destroying things and its a really good dance track too.
Emerald's finished the artwork for the CD, and it looks amazing! I'll be able to send everything off next week and then have to make room in my house for a thousand CDs. I made room last weekend, but have filled the space with guitar cases already. Humm.
Last week I wwent down to Song Club which Dan's running on his own now, to help write a song about dinosaurs- they are going to the Natural History Museum this time. I'd forgotten what fun it is working in a mini-world with a knee-high community. Little children are very serious, as well as silly. They worry about their glasses, and if they are going to get a biscuit this week.
Got to shoot off and do the shopping now, slight hangover always helps!

Friday, October 13, 2006

And

When I got home, I had a parking ticket.

Happy birthday, blog

I've been blogging for a year now. Just think how healthy I'd be if that word began with a 'j' instead of a 'b'. I strted when I was ill last year and couldn't move- all I could do was sit with the laptop and mess about. And Mike very kindly set it all up; I had no idea I'd use it so much. The only downside is that every time I go to a party, everybody already knows everything about what I've done, and I have had to turn into a good listener instead of a party bore!
It's Friday, and I'm glad I'm staying in tonight. I got up at 6, left for work at 6.30 and didn't get here till 9.30 cos the DLR train I was on couldn't get up the hill from Bank to Shadwell. It kept beeping and slipping down the track at an alarming speed towards the next train. I found myself wondering many seconds it would take for the collision to happen and how smashed up my face would be (I had an accident on a sledge when I was 14 and walked round with a head shaped like a purple and yellow football with holes where my features should be). Eventually we went back to the station, got on another train, left the station, and the same thing happened again. But when I got here I had great stuff to play them- the original Mellotron promo disc, and all the out-takes from Good Vibrations where the organist couldn't play in time, with Brian Wilson's LA twang barking away in the background.
Bless!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Nightingales, Gina Birch, The Victorian Lucas, Spinmaster Plantpot

Yes, last night is actually worth reviewing. I even went downstairs to look up the Victorian Lucas' name (thought it was Victoria's Secret, but that's an underwear brand).
The Victorian Lucas were a typically tight New York band, with the interesting addition of a trombone, which sounded really good with NY new-wave music- you'd be surprised. Something of the tone of a tenor sax, but added to their wall of sound. Bands like this make venues like this (the Spitz) feel as though they are actually situated in New York. Very strange.
Gina was in excellent voice- she's sounding very 'soul' these days; I would have liked to hear more voice and less track, because she has a seriously unique vocal style and she sings with a real passion that would put a lot of other singers, especially those called Cat Power, to shame. (and me, of course!)
And finally, the Nightingales. I had forgotten how much I loved this band!How did this music arise from the land of heavy metal? Years ago, I met Rob Lloyd in the London Musician's Collective in Camden. I'll swear he looked older then than he does now. How can this be? They started off with Born and Bred in Birmingham, and carried on, exploding with personality... Company Man, Bread (I know I've probably got the titles wrong, I just remember the songs). The bass player reminded me of Andy Warren- something of the night about him; the drummer thwacked the shit out of his snakeskin kit (I was trying to tell Gina how mad he looked (she was behind a pillar)and drew drums and 'DRUMMER MAD'on a piece of paper). And as for the new little (young, not small) guitarist- I wrongly assumed he was Rob's son, and christened him the Lloydlet. He played guitar like a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder frantically scrubbing their nails. Worrying! He looked extraordinary, with hair I was jealous of- a Brum-fro if I've ever seen one! Strange voice, too- a bit like Mr Punch, and a wild guitarist. Rob's voice is even stranger- a sort of baa-ing neigh which vibrated the bit of card I was scribbling the titles on so much that the writing went wobbly, and reassuringly, he still strained at the top notes, which I always found incredibly endearing. Absolutely brilliant, I tell you- this is the energy that Franz Ferdinand tamed (along with a bit of Monochrome Set) and much as I luv 'em, there's NOTHING like the real thing, baby. If John Peel had manufactured blokes for a living, they would be Rob Lloydalikes, I know that for sure.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Will I get there, though?

I'm hoping to see the Nightingales and Gine Birch tonight at the Spitz.
Will I get there, though?
It's becoming a joke, these attempts to go out. I remember in Brighton, Robert and Rod (the Chefs' first drummer) sitting with the NME, reading through the gigs they couldn't afford to go to.
'Ah yes, the Fall are playing Manchester tonight'. 'Pity we can't go'.
'The Clash are playing Brixton'. 'Pity we can't go'.
I sit here leafing through Time Out, wishing I was out, suffering Trinny and Susannah (I'm sure they are the girls that bullied me at school). Tonight, I'll just have to go for it, I think.
Meanwhile, I'm singin' and playin' getting ready for the gig in Brighton, having the familiar rock'n'roll nightmare that nobody turns up; they are sitting at home with a copy of the NME saying, 'Pity we can't go'.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

False Teeth

You know what, I found some false teeth on the beach on Scotland last summer. I imagined that someone had been laughing on a boat and the wind had whipped up and blown them clean away. Then someone said that they had probably come from a dead person buried at sea, ugh disgusting. But I thought it was good that I had found them, because I am an artist, and I brought them home to draw, so they weren't wasted.

Tired

Got all dressed up to go to Songbird last night, excited to be going out at long last, party clothes, all that jazz- and had to divert and come home- I don't know whose body it is that I'm inhabiting at the moment but it is made of lead and it won't co-operate in taking me to places of fun and entertainment, no matter how much these things are needed. Possibly, it's that long journey to Docklands that I just can't get used to, and when I get there I'm carting books, CD player, CDs around all day because I can't get into my office yet. Maybe it's autumn-fatigue, maybe brainache induced by fighting with banks, I don't know. This weekend I propose to stay indoors eating ice-cream in a effort to build up my strength.

Friday, October 06, 2006

It was true

Yesterday afternoon a posh little Macbook turned up, smelling of fresh new computer. I still can't believe my eyes, but it's there in its box, it really is!
The grey lining to the silver cloud yesterday afternoon is that a half-dead pigeon turned up on the doorstep about an hour later, just sitting there looking sick and miserable. But I felt honoured that it had chosen my doorstep to expire on, and allowed it a dignified death. Unfortunately, the cat managed to forage it out of the recycling bin and brought it into the house to play throw-the-pigeon-on-the-stairs with, so I had to re-dispose of it.
This morning, I've been working with some budding producer/songwriters, all together in one group. Bit of a challenge- their genres span grime, acoustic, r'n'b, indie. My trusty past as a punk rocker comes in very handy at these times. I reckon if you can survive that, you can survive just about anything; I have been angrier than a lot of angry young men that I come into contact with. Good dose of Poly Styrene followed by a chaser of Billy Stewart at his most ridiculously florid, the brows furrow in puzzlement, out come the mixtapes and off we go.
(still knackering, though)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ice Skating

When I was a nipper and lived in the north-east, we used to go ice skating at this massive rink in Tynemouth- it was an old aircraft hangar, really scruffy. For about 15 years, they played Andy William's 'Can't Take my Eyes Off You'every time we went- it got more and more crackly, until I suppose the needle just grooved though to the other side and it completely eroded. I used to love it, although I fell down constantly. There was always at least one very clever three-year-old in a cutesy skating dress trimmed with white fur round the edges, pirouetting, jumping, skating backwards, you know, just being generally irritating. Our foster-cousin Ted was brilliant at it- he only went once, but within seconds was skating on one leg, holding his foot with one hand, falling over, not caring...
Last year I started going skating wth Gina, early on a Thursday morning. The rink was deserted apart from a few older men and ladies, who were good at it but not so good you felt embarrassed falling over. Skating is about as close as you can get to flying without leaving the ground! There was an old man there who had been a skating teacher and he yelled advice at you whether you wanted it or not. Eventually, I realised he was good and I just went with the flow. I couldn't skate backwards, though. I asked a rather lonely looking chap how to do it, as he was skating backwards all the time (analyse that, you psychologists!) but he said,'I don't know'. Which wasn't much use. And of course, the very clever person was there- this time, a young man in very tight trousers who managed to pirouette, jump, skate backwards, all the things that the clever three-year-old could do, while simultaneously sucking in his cheeks so hard that his eyeballs nearly popped out.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Twins

I'm writing this because I've had another bad day with banks. If you won't accept being a number, they won't communicate with you. This is how Nazi Germany functioned, making people into numbers and consequently dehumanising people. I can't wait to start playing gigs again because somehow nothing seems to matter much when I'm doing that. I don't care about walking a mile in the dark to a tiny venue in the back of beyond with my guitar, it's an adventure and it makes me laugh because I'm not... working in a bank!
Anyway, I have a store of ridiculous thoughts in my brain for bad days with banks, and this is today's ridiculous thought. I know quite a few twins (hallo Neil and Callum, if you read this!) and have known two lots with a fat twin and a thin twin. This was puzzling. Then I could see that the fat twin looked at the thin twin and thought, 'It's all right, I'm thin. I'll just carry on eating as much as I always have'. And the thin twin looked at the fat twin and thought, 'I'm getting fat. I should eat less'. That's how it happened.
Claire emailed me a while ago to tell me about some jewellery that was cast out of discarded chewing gum. What a nice idea!

Monday, October 02, 2006

The fingernails of the left hand and the fingernails of the right hand

Why is it that the fingernails on my left hand grow so quickly, and they are the ones that need to be short to play guitar, and the fingernails on the right grow so slowly? Those ones need to be long, as any fingerpicker knows. But every time I break one when I'm climbing trees or pulling the wings off wasps, it takes weeks to grow back. Bah!
Meanwhile, Carl is doing a grand job of rescuing some VERY RARE Chefs tracks from cloth-covered oblivion, I've dug out some ancient photographs, and progress is slow but sure on the Chefs release.
I'm going to the library today to photocopy some artwork to send to Emerald for Suburban Pastoral; I smashed the scanner last week and bought a new one but the computer won't accept the software because AVG free viruscan won't switch off (did I hear you call me freeloader?), so off to the library I go, behaving analoguely and not digitally, and then off to Emerald goes the artwork. The master is finished, the launch is in the planning. I don't think the CD will be ready for the Brighton gig at the Albert on the 18th (I have a lovely flyer but can't scan it!) but I will take some of the Helen and the Horns ones down there.
I'm writing a new song, which is a very pleasing puzzle. The problem is, my fingernails are letting me down and I'm not going to feed my body any chocolate for a week as a punishment. That'll show 'em!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pigs

The Newcastle Journal reported an incident in which a man walking home from the pub in an advanced state of inebriation toppled into a pigsty and was partially gobbled up by the pigs. I was rather taken by this example of the perils of the north-east and told a few of my new southern chums about it; they appeared not to believe that such Tom-and-Jerry things could actually happen, and gradually I became convinced that I had imagined the story myself.
I was visiting the McFamily some time later and picked up the Newcastle Journal to get my fix of Geordie life; much to my amusement (in a dark sense, of course) exactly the same thing had happened again- another drunken Geordie had fallen foul of hungry piggies on the way back from the boozer. Don't believe that Novo Castrians live by different rules? Little Bruv's school mate shot his father, who gave him and his brother one pair of trousers between them for Christmas.
Examples of Geordie terminology: bubblin=crying; get wrong=be scolded e.g. 'I got wrong off me mam and started bubblin'

Friday, September 29, 2006

Wasps and Worms

Apologies for bad spelling this morning- I got up at 6 because there was no equipment at work to uas and I had to drive here this morning to bring my own.But I'm watching the planes- they are going in the other direction today. How does this work? Why don't they crash into each other at changeover time?
Anyway- about P.E. and being thin. You're just crap at it, aren't you, if you don't have a standard body size? And I used to get terrible earache in the cold northeasterly winds! But I did like trampolining (otherwise known as bouncing around on a giant elastic sheet) and badminton, because you didn't have to be strong to do it. Not many people know that badminton was invented by fairies, with rackets made of wasp's wings and a shuttlecock made of a piece of thistledown. You may think that's twee, but it's not- have you ever seen a blood-soaked fairy wrench off a wasp's wing, with the wasp madly and desperately trying to disembowel it by stinging it in the stomach with its fiendish sabre? The blood! the gore!!
That reminds me, I used to collect sets of worms in empty Basildon Bond boxes when McDad was digging in the garden. I put soil in so they felt at home, but they are quite boring creatures, really, and I can't recommend it as a pastime.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

That Ian Wright Programme

What an interesting series that was; it struck a lot of chords with me because of the after-school songwriting workshops I was doing with Dan- all about self-esteem. Those things really work, you know, although it's so difficult to get funding for them (mean old Sony, and even Microsoft who gave a paltry sum!)And of course it's in Barnet and I know Jerome Trim because I used to work in his old school in Barnet. It was a really affecting episode last night and I shed a quiet tear or two when nobody was looking. I was a miserably thin child, not a miserably fat one, and those feelings of being excluded because of physical appearance were very familiar. Shouts for Ian Wright, you are an example of kindness and patience that very obviously went beyond the showbiz fee.
It's Offline tonight, at Jamm in Brixton. Mike took some lovely photos of me yesterday (one of them is on www.myspace.com/helenmccookerybook)and Em, his girlfriend, is going to design the cover for Suburban Pastoral
Offline is free and is a great club just to go and have a laugh with what have got to be the friendliest group of people in the universe. There are always good bands on.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Dan Dare with a grey face

Don't worry, it wasn't their faces, just their bodies and paws. They sat on the machine.
Speaking of faces, I'm wearing Dan Dare socks today. A terrble shame; I put them in the washing machine with some dark t-shirts and his face came out grey, as well as the stars and the saturns. I only wear them on special occasions. Today Mike's going to do a photo for the cd cover. I'm going to pick some ivy from the back fence to put in my hair (very suburban; if you haven't been to the suburbs before, let me tell you, ivy in the hair is de rigeur for the middle classes this fall!) and then bomb up to the market to but some stickers with musical instruments on them. I asked all the guest musicians to send me self-portraits and three of them haven't so I'm going to represent them with stickers. I think that's fair.
So that's the day. I love Brixton. I might buy a tin of Chinese biscuits. See you tomorrow.
By the way, Jon and Jill, if you rummage through the archive of this blog you will find the story of the van running Jon over in full detail, from the observer's point of view.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Gently Cruel?

This evening (protecting their eyes from the UV, of course) I photocopied the cats.
They liked it because of being stroked. One of them got hiccups afterwards, though.
Don't try this at home!

Skipping

I have started doing 50 skips each morning, out in the foggy dew with the spiders and their beaded webs, with Blogger looking on, puzzled.
Trouble is, I am no good at it and was about to blame the skipping rope when I remembered taking a metronome back to Blank's Music Store on Kilburn High Road because it didn't keep time! (think about it)
Worthing Paul, you may be pleased to know that you made me laugh out loud this morning! (see comments, 2 days ago)

Monday, September 25, 2006

I can't believe what has just happened

I can't. I have had a stupidly difficult two weeks during which I discovered I have accidentally been plundering my own savings and now have none left (so it better not be a rainy day), have been defrauded by a fake eBay and had to cancel the cheque which cost me a tenner, old work has decided not to pay me the holiday pay they owe me (thank you, old work, you are a disgrace)a Good Friend has decided they are not a Good Friend any more (why?, have been working like a mad demon to manage new work, finishing CD, cat throwing up on stairs, empty fridge all-the-time,need to get tooth filled but have to wait two weeks. You know, all that stuff.
Then
I got a telephone call from the promotions company at a newspaper, telling me I have won a computer!
Is it true?
I entered a newspaper competition in a paper I found on the Tube on Friday about 15 minutes before the lines closed, one of those competitions where you don't have to do anything clever at all, just send a text. I was so knackered I had to have a few goes but managed to do it in the end.
What do you think? Do you think it was a hoax?

Jokes for Guitarists

Look away now please if you are not a guitarist.
What do you call a guitar-playing horse?
Trotty Moore.
What do you call a guitar-playing chicken?
Cluck Berry.
What do you call a guitar-playing sheep?
Baa Diddley.
Sorry.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bruv's Party

If this computer crashes one more time I will change my name to Celia Crashfingers by deed poll.
Yesterday was Bruv's annual party and Jonathan was there who used to manage the Chefs when we moved to London. He hasn't changed at all apart from looking more like a gardener than a manager, but that of course is a positive change. He was sporting a particularly funky Hawaiian shirt.Peter, if you are reading this, I am playing at the Albert in Brighton on the 18th of October, would be lovely to see you both and please drag that Jonathan and Jill along too.
I got an idea for my next book while I was talking to Jon. Industrial Hazards Encountered by Being A Rock Star- the usual ones, drug-, tobacco- and alchohol addiction and STDs, of course- but what about RSI from repeated instrumental playing, night after night, month after month, year after year? Back problems from carrying unfeasibly heavy amps? Increased likelihood of injury or death from driving about endlessly in vans driven by unsavoury people? Food poisoning from dry mouldy rider sandwiches? Mental anguish from believing yourself to be the Emperor or Empress of the world for many years but then discovering that you are a mere mortal that eats,sleeps and goes to the loo like everyone else in the world?
The list is endless. Don't bother, guys! Stay at home and watch Spinal Tap instead!
Ah yes- thank you to the people who responded to the request for the Slits interview and posted links. Look up the Typical Girls website if you're interested, I'll put a link when I have dug out Mike's book to remind myself of how to do the HTML.
Little Bruv had a brown knitted teddy when he was little.'What are you going to call it?' asked McMum. 'Freddy', replied Little Bruv. 'Why?', asked McMum. 'Because it's made out of freads'.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The On Song Festival

I have been working as a tutor for a student songwriting festival organised by Mykaell Riley (used to be percussionist for Steel Pulse, and started the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra), and last night was the finale of their course, at the Academy in Islington; some of them had been working with a band called Eleven, from Devon, and some of them had been working solo.One or two of the songwriters pulled it off really well- rapper called Chasney did his song, 'Hip-hop Makes the World Go Round', just with a piano backing, really powerful, and Eva Eden rocked out with the band. There was also a bloke called Vincent Vincent who had come along to talk at the seminar, and he was really good; he was dead nervous about playing after the students because they are very competent musicians, but he didn't have to worry- he's an absoultely brilliant guitarist. He plays a vintage Hofner that looks like the guitar version of the Hofner semi-acoustic bass I used to play in the Chefs; it's got a rough, lively sound and his hands fly about all over the fretboard, billions of chords but not sounding like a naff jazzer at all- more like King Bo or Chuck B. Lots of energy there too. Sometimes I want to steal people's style (is this a form of jealousy?) and I definitely want to nick his creative chordery.
Talking of the Chefs, I've found a couple of old rare Chefs tracks which I must send to Carl to listen to. I found the demo of the album that we recorded for Graduate and it is truly awful so I guess We Won't Be Releasing That.
Someone sent me a recorded radio interview I did many years ago and I sound like a complete cheeky brat. Ugh.