Wednesday, January 31, 2007

All dressed up fancy

I'm all dressed up fancy because I'm going for breakfast (breakfast- it's the new black! Or is black the new breakfast?) with my Champagne Friend. She's a very good friend who sat in casualty with me all night once when I was ill, and almost the next day she won a miner's lamp in a Labour Party raffle, closest you could get to a Florence Nightingale lamp, I thought. We used to dress up and go off to drink champagne in posh bars, and we always met somebody mad. Once, some Finnish students interviewed us for a documentary on recycling.
She is living proof that blondes have more fun!
I wrote a song about her, which was the first song I wrote for a friend. I don't play it often, but I recorded it for her and gave her a copy.
Speaking of which I'm recording Sara's song tomorrow morning. I had an idea, too, about all the songs I have written which are less than a minute long. I want to record a vinyl EP with four or five one-minute tracks, called Helen McCookerybook's Saturday Night Assortment. So now I have to find the money, and there's a stack of stuff on the floor upstairs to put on eBay on Friday!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Basil Brush

I really, really hated Basil Brush, so it was a blow one Christmas when McMum triumphantly announced that she'd acquired tickets for Basil Brush in Pantomime at the Sunderland Empire for the whole family to celebrate my birthday. I stretched my lips over my teeth in a painful grin, put on my party clothes and off we went.
Actually, it was one of the most hilariously funny experiences of my life, from being plastered flat against an almost vertical wall of seats in the Gods and feeling that if you leaned forward to cough you'd somersault down into the unwary audience seated in the Upper Circle, to Basil's piece-de-resistance joke:
'Everybody turn to the person on your left and say "How do you do"'. (everyone groans and does as they are told.)
'Now turn to the person on your right and say "Mind your own business"'.
Ha ha, I spend my life trying to find audiences I can use that one on!
Another odd thing is that Little Bruv used to work night shifts at Walkers Crisps in Leicester, and he said one night he was sittingin the cafe chatting loudly about the Basil Brush in Pantomime experience, and someone at the next table said 'Oh yes, I went to that too'. Gradually, a chorus chimed in from other tables, and actually, that panto had been a formative experience for many of the night staff at the Leicester Walkers Crisp factory. Extraordinary. What's more, when Smeg was round the other night he told me that the girlfriend that wore Rod (the first Chefs drummer) out with her libido, and her twin sister, were the daughters of the original Basil Brush voiceover artist. Double extraordinary!
Larstly (you see, I can talk southern!) if you live in Scotland, go to the Perth Theatre pantomime. It has got to be the best in the world. the same cast, endlessly recycled.. the fairy gets older and ends up being the witch, the leading man gets older and fatter and becomes the comedy baddie, audience full of terrifyingly energetic elderly ladies guffawing away and roaring along in all the choruses, Principal 'Boy' with unfeasibly large thighs trembling in white tights, children from local schools got stars in their eyes, Oh no he didn't oh yes he did, can this side of the Theatre sing louder than that side, digs at the local football team, bouncy panto piano music with musical director practically shrugging his jacket off his shoulders with enthusiasm, sponsor mentioned a little too often, it's brilliant!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Night Bus

Yesterday, Paul, Robert, John and Smeg from King Kurt had a meeting at our house about releasing a CD of old stuff. I haven't seen Smeg for ages and it was really nice to see him again. He got stressed at one point in the discussions, left the room, and volunteered to do the ironing for me; the only thing is, I don't really iron, so I couldn't help him out there. So we sat and chatted instead and he tried to swap his original Gretsch Double Anniversary for my repro one plus my Hofner acoustic. I can only assume the vast quantities of Bourbon he had swallowed made him think that this was a remote possibility.
His ironing offer reminds me of when a friend was going out with a tram conductor from Melbourne, who knew Nick Cave at the time of his dabblings with strong drugs. Nick went round their house once, when they were changing the bedlinen, and showed my friend how to do hospital corners.
Last night I was remembering the night bus I used to get home after clubbing (the going out sort, not the kill-the-baby-seals type). It used to drive down the Kilburn High Road, with the driver yelling out 'Anyone for Dyne Road?' and so on, so we all got dropped off at the end of our street. He also used to stop outside the Kentucky Fried Chicken so hungry passengers could rush off, buy some food and climb back on again to continue their journey. Bless!
The wonderful Caroline Coon has contacted me again about the book, and suggested we have a big dinner party with all the interviewees invited, all under one powerpacked roof. What a brilliant idea! I'm sure the roof will burst off and go into orbit!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Burns Night

Well, of course with a name like McCookerybook, what do you expect? Sis cooked a giant Haggis, factory-farmed in the Scottish Borders, we had neeps and tatties, McMum and McDad flew down from Edinburgh on a dragon's wing, and we ate and drank ourselves very silly. Good job I was wearing red- we were just telling Paul (plays sax and clarinet for me and used to be a Horn) what a charming Italian waiter he was, and he tipped a glass of red wine on my kilt, sporran and shirt. The pink fur sporran repelled the stain, the red shirt soaked it up invisibly and I don't know what the kilt did- I got it from the Cancer Care shop for £3.00, it's red and green and clashes beautifully with the sporran. It's going back there because I think it's a children's kilt and it started giving me major problems about the midriff as soon as I ate a morsel of food. It also has some elaborate holes that can only have been created by starving moth grubs, so off it goes, tomorrow. I could swear my stomach hissed with joy when I undid it.
All sorts of starry little things are happening- I have just written a small article for Nude Magazine for their 'Bands that Bombed' section about the Chefs (it's great, you should get hold of a copy), which I hope they will print. And King Kurt are coming for lunch to discuss a reissue. We're all doing it, aren't we?
And life... Gina and myself are going to go skating together, I'm going to record Sara's song for her on Thursday morning (wake up, voice!) and, I hope, play it for her at her party on Saturday. I think the Mad Professor has forgotten me, though. It's all ups and downs and ups and downs; but level and even would be so terribly boring!

Saturday, January 27, 2007


On the radio a long time ago, there was a woman who had been born without eyesight. She was given an operation that allowed her to see for the first time ever. When she got home, her helper-dog leapt up at her: it realised she could see, because they are not allow to do that with an unsighted person.
The interviewer asked her what the best thing was that she had ever seen. 'Grass', she replied. 'I had no idea that there was so much green and that it was such a beautiful colour. How can anybody be unhappy when there is so much green in the world to look at?'.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Fag Club at Cardiff's Buffalo Bar

I drove down from London, into the sunset, always so romantic;that strange ballet of traffic, weaving forwards, same old music tape getting worn out and developing odd EQs.
The first support band was an improv band called I-S-G, a guitarist, cellist and double bass player, who used all sorts of objects like wooden spoons and chopsticks to alter their instruments- the double bass playing was particularly fascinating, because you don't see anyone being that aggressive with the precious instrument very often. He was actually a really good player and a creditable percussionist too.
Next were the fantastic Stillettos.
In the beginning, there was punk; it's a learning genre. There is something completely joyful about all that noise and ramshackle structure, all that just doing it.
Crash crash bash thump yell! Stuff everyone, you can go to hell! They sang songs about dentists, they roared, they had attitude. And all this from 2 girls and a guy, all under 18, all having a great adventure. I loved them. They reminded me of Girlschool, actually, which is a compliment because Girlschool are great.
I'd had such a good night and I enjoyed my bit too- I enoyed singing, playing, and the crowd listening and smiling at the funny bits in my lyrics. The sound was really good and the crowd was really warm. Afterwards, I had some nice conversations with one or two of them about the things the songs are about, the less happy ones that they could relate to. Charlotte Grieg came with her two guitarists, one of whom is a sprite (you know, a young guy in it for learning and the experience; Diana has Merlin the accordionist, and the Nightingales have the Lloydlet)
Thank you Debi, for inviting me to play, and for putting me up too. It's a great night. Go along if you can-
I noticed I-S-G had left a wooden spoon behind. It's on a chair, guys, if you read this.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Silly, isn't it. Phew, what a scorcher.
I was myspacechatting to a guy from Glasgow and remembering this gig Helen and the Horns did in Henry Afrikas there. There was a smoke machine that went into overdrive just before we hit the stage, and the fog so thick Chris the Trumpet player couldn't see his music. In fact, none of us could see each other and nor could we see the audience. I spent the entire gig earnestly singing to what I thought was a person only to discover towards the end when the smoke cleared that I had been singing to a pillar, and the audience was over to my left somewhere completely different!
Ah, happy days, happy days... they gave us two crates of Red Stripe on the rider and we drank one of them and took the other to Edinburgh and put it in the fridge where we were staying for after the gig that night. They guys all went out after we had played to get a drink, but me and Sally, our sound engineer, decided to stay in and chat because we were tired. When they got back, we said 'There's a few beers in the fridge'. There weren't. Sally and me had drunk the whole crate while we were chatting. Weird.
So I'm off to Cardiff today, driving over after work, to play the Buffalo Bar in Windsor Place. Looks like a nice venue, and I'm looking forward to it. The other band is the Stillettoes- they look good. Charlotte Grieg's coming along with heer guitarists after her rehearsal. I have callouses on my fingers from practising for it.
And Bobby Moore is thinking of writing a book about the Slits. Bout time someone did- I hope they all agree to being interviewed for it! Also, I'm going to do an interview with Martin Stephenson on Resonance at 7 p.m. on 22nd February.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Stomp and the Plastic Bag Lady

This is a quick posting as I'm at work and want a cup of tea before I start- but I did think about this yeaterday and wanted to write about it before I forgot!
In Brighton in the 1980s there was an elderly lady in an old green coat who trundled around the streets whipping an empty plastic carrier bag and making it snap with a loud report, while she muttered angrily at anyone who passed her. She was a real feature of the personscape, and it was most interesting to see a small item in Stomp's repertoire that involved just such a percussive sequence. I wonder if they paid her royalties?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

February Songbird Flyer

Passing Clouds is a wizzo place. Come along to this friendly night, and enjoy yourself this cold wet winter!

Almost Grown

When I lift the lid of this laptop after it's been sleeping, it plays the intro to 'Almost Grown' by Chuck Berry. It doesn't really, it just sounds that way. Being a complete nerd, I had to go and play through a few tracks to find out what it wasit reminded me of. Sometimes I have to switch off my iPod if the DLR is going past the North Circular, or sometimes on the tube too, because the track is out of tune with the traffic noise or the sound of the tube whooshing through the tunnel. It took me ages to work out why I could't stand to listen sometimes. There's always a lot of external noise because those little ear things won't fit in my ears and I have to wear giant headphones that make the ticket collector at my local station roar with laughter every time he sees me. I am too kind to laugh at his silly shoes.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Fool on the Hill

I wrote Hill of Fools as a birthday present for Gina.
We'd been in Scotland, on the West Coast, in a big house with McMum and McDad, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews. And those huge hills just seemd to dwarf my stupid little human problems, with their thousands of years of solidity.
I started thinking about how I thought the song Fool on the Hill by the Beatles described my feelings of being 'outside' when I was a little girl and how much I used to identify with it; and now, it's the other way round; it seems to me that all the people who have tried to make me feel like the Fool, are the Fools themselves. The only problem is, they are still in control of everything, aren't they?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Vivienne Westwood

Even at half price in the sale, the clothes were too expensive. But it's always nice to walk round and look at them all, especially the shoes. The shop assistant asked me where I got my earrings. 'Top Shop'. "Top Shop rocks' she said. 'That's where I buy my clothes'. So now I'm feeling officially funky.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Folk in Cellar

It's in a cosy little orange cellar, and the storms kept almost everyone away, including the headline act, but it was just the place to be on a windy night. Everyone was really friendly, right down to the barman, and Les Coghlan, who runs the club, was really nice. He has a folk band with Emma Scarr, who plays fiddle and sings, and J. Emma sang some great story songs- from 'Neaden to Nashville' was the best. They did some trio stuff, and I've never been able to see or hear a bodhran at such close quarters before- there's a lot more to the sound than I had realised. J did some songs too, one of which I could swear was called 'Whiskers in my Heart' but I must be wrong. I hope I play there again, because I liked the size and the atmosphere. Where else does the barman buy you a drink? To round it off perfectly, I found a Lindt chocolate reindeer in my coat pocket that I'd bought reduced-price at the garage, and I scoffed the lot on the way home.
What else? I realised this morning that the gorgeous smell of orange blossom at Westferry DLR station was in fact tar. And I saw Amy Lame on the tube, wearing a bright red hat and bright red lipstick. Go Girl, Amy Lame! Who wants to lie down and mope in winter!
Anyway it's taken me a week to confess this... but last Tuesday evening my car got clamped in a car park and I had to pay £75 to get free. When the man had gone, I just sat in my car in the darkness by myself and cried. I couldn't stop. I cried for almost half an hour, and suddenly felt better. I drove home with everything looking sparkly, even the dull old northwestern suburbs, and the beginnings of a new song had washed out of my head, with the tears. And I looked in the mirror when I got home because I thought my eyelids would be all fat and podgy and my eyes would be red, but I looked OK. I think the tears were good for me! You see, I never cry at all usually.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

News Books

I think blogs are like adult versions of those News Books we did in Primary School- 'I plaed wit my frends' every day till the teacher told you you had to write something different.
I hope it's friends I play with tonight- the Folk Cellar at the Constitution pub in St Pancras Way, Camden. It's a Folk Club and I was going to go acoustic and take the Hofner, but it's been killing my fingers and I'll have to take the Green Giant. I hope they're not prejudiced.....
Things, things, things... I never got a penny of mechanical royalties for 24 Hours, the track the Chefs did. And there it is, up on iTunes. I know the single sold thousands of copies, but nobody did the decent thing and paid me .But then the Business isn't decent, is it?
People are, though... I've been offered a place on a guitar playing course in Scotland that sounds great. And I'm trying to tempt Elle Osborne to play on one of my tracks: she's an ace fiddle player that makes your heart leap when she plays. I thought she'd sound great on Memento Mori (the demo's on Myspace) so keep your fingers crossed until I tell you to stop! Meanwhile, Plastilina have been in touch again, and I hope that somehow we can sort ot a Chefs release some time soon. But I think that's a bit of a don't-hold-your-breath situation. And another decent person is Dina Hornreich, who's happy for me to post a message on to see if there's a demand for The Lost Women of Rock Music to come out in paperback, so more than just librarians can afford to read it. So I'll do that this weekend.
And my old Hofner semi-acoustic bass has gone to the doctors to be mended. It's gone to a Luthiers called L A Strings who are brilliant- they did some work on the Gretsch I used to play in Helen and the Horns (although it needs new pickups and machine heads but will have to wait for those royalties from 24 Hours for those!) and they fix up the guitars for the Chet Atkins Society.
End of News for today.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Bloody Dove Cream Wash.
Should be called raging fire, burning knives, barbed wire experience, roaring painster!!
I got some in my left eye this morning and at 2.30 this afternoon, both eyes are still smarting, I'm still sniffing, my throat's full of goo and a headache has moved in between my eyebrows.
Mercy me, I'd hate to use Hawk!!!

I'll tell you a secret

On every song on Suburban Pastoral, there is a track devoted to snowfall running along behind the music; silent, quiet, and huge. Can you hear it? I recorded it specially.

Monday, January 15, 2007


My friend Joan phoned last night: we have a plan to go to Whitstable this winter and cycle along the seafront. She suggested velvet dresses and fake eyelashes, but I was a bit worried in case the wind blew our eyelashes away. Then I thought we could take butterfly nets to catch them in. So if you see two madwomen charging along on bikes chasing eyelashes with nets, that's us.
I've found it's a good plan to opt out of scoring systems. I don't like being 2 out of ten, or 3 out of ten. I like being camel out of elephant, and those who like to score other people are ant out of toad. Let them put that in their pipe and smoke it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Little Bruv can play the trumpet, and McMum's tin teapot. When he lived at home, he used to practice the trumpet and the Golden Retriever used to howl along. He found that she could hit a perfect 'G' and hold it for ages. She looked ever so funny- undulating neck outstretched to the full, eyes closed, and doggy lips pursed to a black O shape, helplessly hooting a doggy sine-wave until Little Bruv showed mercy and stopped.
There's another story about G. Round about 1990 I was asked to write some music for a documentary about Millwall Football Club that was to include recordings of the fans chanting. The producers wanted Lester Square to play guitar, but he didn't want to come to the matches. Anyway, I found an old Curved Air track that mentioned the Isle of Dogs, where Millwall first started up, and I transcribed the drum pattern on to a piece of graph paper, which took ages because I had never done anything like that before. I gave the recorded pattern to Lester and he wrote a sequence of chords in G. Then I went to a funny little sound-effects company in Soho and collected sounds of the river- barge-hooters, trains, and then a lion roaring (the Millwall symbol). And I had a recording of Douglas Hird going 'These Hooligans'. I went to about 6 matches to record the chants.Because of the fan's reputation, the producers came with me the first time but they kept saying 'Have you got that?' and in the end I decided to do it myself, because the safest place in the universe for a woman to be is in a crowd of guys at a match. They are only interested in one thing; I got asked once if I was recording the swearing, but apart from that they totally ignored me.
It was incredible- the chants would start down the other end of the ground and sort of rush through the crowd towards me, gathering pace and sweiiling in volume until they arrived where I was recording at the Coldblow Lane End, where the sound would roll around under the tin roof, with the most brilliant natural reverb, before dying away again. Sometimes, they'd spontaneusly start up right next to where I was standing, and the chant would travel in the opposite direction. Honestly, there is no other place where you could hear a male choir of thousands of voices, all singing in unison like that. What an experience! At the end of each match I'd be totally high on the feelings of the crowd alone.
Anway, what was funny was that coincidentally, every sound that I put on to that soundtrack was in G- the barge hooters, the echoing turnstiles, even Douglas Hird's nasal mantra. Best of all, all the chants themselves were all in G, and I started wondering why this could be- at six matches, thousands of men would start up together all in the same key; then I suddenly remembered how noticeable it was that each man had shaved just before the match- so many raw faces! That's when I realised that mains hum (which as any musician knows is so close to concert G that you can tune an instrument to it) via their electric razors, was the last sound they heard before the match, and it must have stayed in their heads until the game!

Private Eye did a small pisstake of the programme, much to my delight. I had always wanted to be on Top of the Pops and never managed to, and having my music lampooned by Private Eye was definitely the next best thing!

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Laughter is a relief, isn't it? I spent a huge amount of time laughing like a child last night at Martin's quick wits and ad libs. There was an amazing singing heckler with a hugely strong voice- the sort of singing voice an imaginary Welshman has. Instead of being put off, Martin did a double-act with him every so often. He could teach Sun Tzu a thing or two.
I got up an did some songs in the intermission, one of which was a new one, and duetted with Martin on 'Once I loved a Sailor' which is from the new album he has just recorded. It's a lovely song, and I've never sung with a proper crooner before. Actually, I haven't sung with a man on stage since the Chefs, at least five million years ago. And such fingerpickin'- there's a song he did in tribute to Etta Baker that just has the most fantastic chords and the most fantastic fingerpicking all knitted together like a Fair Isle jumper, complicated but catchy at the same time.
I took a picture of Martin playing but I've posted this one instead. He's talking to the imaginary Welshman after the gig, and I just thought it was a nice photograph.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Songbird last night, Kalamazoo tomorrow

Went to Songbird last night; it was Diana's birthday and she had on a Ronettes-type wig and funky little Sixties dress. Everything was running late but it's not surprising given that it's such a relaxed place. Katy Carr (that's her, above) was great- I haven't seen her play live for ages and it was lovely to hear her voice again. She does what I always try to do- sings each song as though it's the first time she has thought those thoughts, and the first time she has expressed them to anybody. She also has a really strong style; every time I see her I isten to different bits of what she does, and last night I was listening to the chords she played- surprisingly jazzy, for a person who is more often classed as a folk artist. She has some new songs as well, one she wrote last week was excellent. I love stuff that's hot off the press!
There were some fantastic kitsch lights all over the place- it was like a magician's cave. Sadly, I had to leave before the steel cello and just as loads of people were arriving to party, It's just that my chariot turns into a punpkin at midnight, and I turn into a frog. Or was it an owl?
I'm really looking forward to tomorrow, the Kalamazoo at the King's Head on Crouch End Hill. Come if you can- Martin Stephenson's playing and he's brilliant, and I'll be playing a couple of songs there too.
New Year's resolutions:
1. Stop apologising on stage. Diana made me cringe by quoting some of the things I said back to me, verbatim. O, the shame!
2. Play some gigs outside the UK- Paris, Berlin, New York, Dublin. San Francisco would be nice. Always wanted to go there!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I found a great website yesterday, that is all about music censorship all over the world, and that i think everyone should look at when they find themselves taking music for granted. The best thing is that it's quite up-to-date and it's full of fascinating info. I am particularly interested in the situation in Zimbabwe, which is where the battle for freedom of speech in music is, in spite of the very dangerous situation opposition musicians find themselves in, being fought with a degree of humour on both sides that sums up a sophistication in African people that is often overlooked by people who consider their societies to be more developed. For instance, because of the problem with oppositional lyrics, one band has a song about getting old and past it, which they sing with a spotlight on a portrait of Mugabe!
Take a look if you have time. I won't, for today is Housework day, pursuing dustball tumbleweeds from room to room, holding the vacuum cleaner together as it falls to bits while I use it, wondering where in the house the crumb-manufacturing plant is situated, and looking through the wheelie bin because I think somebody has accidentally thrown away the green Christmas stocking with a padded Santa on it that McMum knitted for me when I was a little girl.
Fact: Little Bruv has a brown knitted teddy called Freddy. Why? Because it was made out of freads.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Poisoned Salmon

When I was a little girl living in Wylam, McMum used to send me and Bruv for a walk round the allotments when we got on her nerves. The allotments were situated on the banks of the River Tyne, one of the most beautiful rivers in England. Every so often we'd come across a huge salmon thrown up on the riverbank with its insides completely eaten away by chemical discharges from the Kimberley-Clark paper tissue factory at Prudhoe. We'd get taken round this factory on school trips, to marvel at the giant toilet rools four times our height. Being a tremendously rich multinational, Kinberley-Clark would simply re-stock the river with salmon, until the next time; this seemed to happen regularly.
I'm not a vegetarian (having been brought up in the very down-to-earth countryside) but there was something very distressing about the mindless poisoning of beautiful free creatures just so humans could have disposable tissues to wipe their bums upon.

Monday, January 08, 2007

DJs and mans in suits

It's my lunch hour, and I've got 20 minutes to write this, finish Sara's birthday song (I nearly have), and make some coffee. I gave a copy of the CD to Tom Robinson at Offline but as far as I know, he hasn't played it yet. As I was getting to sleep last night I played a new version of the counting-the-sheep game, where I invented pseudonyms I could use to write in and request that he play a track: Pip Fellowes, Ann Cartwright, Sandy Parker, Tom Beene, that sort of thing. I have sent one to Bernard Lenoir in Paris and also to Guillermo Pez ('Willy the Fish'), a DJ in Argentina who likes my stuff, but I'll never find out if he plays it!
On another note... I was looking for my comic strip of fox hunters hunting rats in towns (sploshers in the sewers instead of beaters in the undergrowth, rat-au-vin for supper and an urban fox gobbling up the remains by the dustbins at the end, laughing) to send off to see if it could get published, as there's been all sorts of stuff about rising rat populations due to recycling etc etc etc, and I remembered my bid for justice, long ago. I used to regularly illustrate a dastardly publication aimed at financial advisers; every two weeks they'd phone and say, 'We'd like a man in a suit...'. Suddenly the work dried up, and I couldn't understand why. I discovered they were re-using my exisitng drawings, and not paying me, as they should have done. So I called them up, and asked if I could come along and photocopy my drawings for my portfolio. And photocopy them I did, leaving them the photocopies (not good enough to re-use) and packing up my originals and taking them home with me. I didn't do any more work for them, but at least I got my drawings back, in case I ever want to have an exhibition called 'A man in a suit'.
I've just got hold of Alex Ogg's book, 'No More Heroes', all about punk bands. There's a hilarious interview with Joby, as well as the story about Jonathan running himself over in the section on The Chefs, and all the Brighton bands are there as well as loads others; it's a very well-researched book. I looked up the Prefects, and he had their Wolverhampton re-union in there. I was impressed, as I was there!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Even later still...

Well you know what it's like when you have to tidy your room....
Two things- one, this year is 007!!!
Two, I have to mention Arnauld, who is my number one helper in France, and who I feel is going to MAKE the French radio stations play my music, just by sheer willpower! Thank you, Arnauld!

Later that day (well, not much later)

I've already posted about this but I've been emailing a band called 'Never the Bride', because I think they sound a little bit like the Monochrome Set, and I remembered when we borrowed the choir uniforms from Fulham Parish (Lester's bagpipe-playing dad was the Vicar there) ad did that gig at the Venue in Victoria, when I'd been given the violin for Christmas that so upset the 7 cats in our house, and all you can hear on the pirate recording of the show is my rendition of 'Oh Susanna'. Bid sang the Bible. There were loads of us onstage- all of the Monochrome Set, myself and more, we'd had no rehearsal and, naturally, sounded like a slow explosion in a sausage factory. It was such good fun though. Sometimes I think about ambitious wannabe popstars with their business plans tucked under their arms, and feel eternally grateful for the fact that I'm the sort of person that blunders through life in blissful ignorance of anything sensible or normal; for every dangerous and nasty adventure I've had, there's been an episode of surreal and ridiculous brilliance to make up for it!

Bottles of Wine

Well I never- the Indian Takeaway delivery man brought round a bottle of Sherry last night: it's almost embarrassing to be such a regular customer that you get rewarded with a bottle for the New Year, but it's very touching too! And I've just been out to the postbox and stuck another note on it, because I've put a bottle of wine behind the plant pots for the kind postman who rescued my letter.
DJ Sonny, from Thailand, contacted me and said that Suburban Pastoral is in his top CDs of 2006 and I'm over the moon about that! Sometimes it has been so difficult to do everything- from recording, which has nearly all been done in three hour slots in the morning because of working and all that, to the financial thing of doing extra work to pay for it all- of the most boring sort, too. Thank you DJ Sonny!
Also, yesterday, Martin texted me and asked me to do a few songs at his gig at the Hobgoblin next Friday, and also suggested we might do a Zoom album together- what a great idea! Micro technology, spontanaiety, a bit of co-writing- what a project for 2007! I know our singing voices sound good together because I've heard the mixes of the songs of his that I sang on in the autumn.
Meanwhile, a very good friend of mine has a birthday in early Feb and I'm trying to write a song for her- very difficult, as our friendship started in a tough part of both of our lives, and it needs to have particularly good lyrics. Can I do it? Watch this space.

Friday, January 05, 2007

False Man Leaning Forward with Real Stuffed Dog

This man leaning forward at an angle of 40 degrees can be found at the RAF museum in Colidale. I went there yesterday because we might take Song Club there if we can get funding for some more workshops. There are some very sinister planes, but also some charming bi-planes and some great helicopters, which I have always liked. And of course, lots of half-hearted models of people like this. I did a very stupid thing though, this morning. The funding man lives down our road, and I had the application form in an envelope with his name on it, no address, to post through his door. 'I mustn't absent-mindedly post it in the post box by accident', I thought, as I absent-mindedly walked straight past his house and posted it into the post box. So I went home and put a little nore on the post box to the postman: "If you find a letter without an address please post it though my door'. And do you know, he actually did!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Is this a way of coping with Nigellousy?

We invented a horrible game. You know how Nigella is always slurping, licking spoons and lipsmackin' to turn the guys on while trying to flog her recipes to the gals? Our game was called 'Nigella's Cleavage' and involved us imagining (not fantasising: that's what the chaps do), all the stuff that's fallen down her chest during her slurpings- chestnuts (ha, ha), stuffing bits, morsels of glace cherry, Christmas cake crumbs, sherry, maple syrup (ugh!). Add a few hairs,some grey fluff (I don't know what it is, but I've been vacuuming loads of it up since Christmas), a cracker toy or two, and some Christmas tree needles and you have a rather disgusting melange between them. Well, she has been rather over-exposed recently, hasn't she?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Skate wings, and Rose's new gloves

It was such fun- we went skating yesterday at the Natural History Museum; the internet told me there were no tickets left but I know the internet is a compulsive liar and I used my wind-up field telephone instead. The ice was wet and slippy (why is that always such a surprise?) and we whizzed about, eventually having to play tag as the rink was so crowded. But I think the word exhilarating was invented for skating's proximity to flying! Ari came, and there were assorted teenagers too. It grew dark while we were there and the trees were lit up with twinkling fairy lights, with a massive pale blue moon behind them. At the end, I couldn't get the left skating boot off my foot and was resigning myself to the fact that for the rest of my life I was going to have to accept the nickname 'Giantblueplasticskatingbootfoot', when a kindly gentleman executed some deft digital moves and whisked it off my foot at lightning speed.
And I've just got back from Barnet High Street, where Rose sells the Big Issue. Look at these beautiful gloves she knitted! I think it took her quite a long time. I had some like this once, and the fingers reminded me of x-rays of fishbones, which of course made me like them even more. Hello to you, Rose, if you Google it and find it- it's always nice to chat to you!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Toad, and sometimes it's right to be paranoid

That was a very pleasantly childlike version of Toad of Toad Hall yesterday. Seeing intelligent people like Matt Lucas being 'offensive' in Little Britain has been annoying; how easy to make oneself lots of money by appealing to an audience who think they are being naughty by laughing at things their kids wind up their teachers with. But he was really good as Mr Toad. The snoring sequence reminded me of the Helen and the Horns tour manager, Rag, who we shared with King Kurt. Rag was Welsh,loud,large and fearless, that is, until we got to Pontypridd and boarded with Mrs Williams, a terrifying Methodist whose guest-house was two 1960s houses knocked together. After our drive of 250 miles she insisted that Rag should move the van to the other side of the road before he could have a cup of tea. She made me and Sally, who was our live sound engineer, sleep in one house, and the guys, including Rag with his monstrous snore, sleep in the other. After the gig, we all did more than our usual share of obnoxious imbibing, and were taken aback to find she'd waited up for us! She sat there in the living room of one house, while we sat in the other (they were joined but still separate, sort of) until we went to bed, just to make sure no rock'n'roll activities happened. When me and Sally went to our room, we made ourselves increasingly paranoid; what if she was outside our room blowing anthrax dust under the door? We started laughing uncontrollably and I decided to lock the door, just in case. So I tiptoed across the bedroom and barked my shin on my guitar case, which was in the middle of the floor. 'OW!', I yelled. 'Aha!', Said a voice from just outside the door,'I think you young ladies have been mixing with too many students! It's time you went to sleep, and I'll see you in the morning!. SHE ACTUALLY HAD BEEN LISTENING OUTSIDE OUR DOOR!!!
Fact: I played Toad in the school play. Deirdre had wanted to play the part, because she wanted to be an actress when she grew up, and I didn't. So she added lots of extra lines to her part, the Judge. It didn't matter though- I had a whale of a time. I made a Toad hat out of McMum's old green hat with two halves of table tennis balls for googly eyes. 'I am Toad, the terror of the highways!'. That's what I think to myself as I drive down the motorway to my gigs! No hip proto-Germanic autobahn thoughts for me, oh no!

Monday, January 01, 2007


Happy New Year to you who read this blog. And, of course, to the millions who don't. They don't know what little irrelevancies they're missing, do they?