Thursday, April 30, 2009


On the way to meet Diana and her dogs for coffee and walkies, I passed through Finchleys East, West and Central, and the usual 'driving to get across the road' type traffic.
Today, it was like being on an ice skating rink; cars slowly circled, went backwards, wove around each other gracefully, interrupted each other's flow, stopped at the sides blocking progress, halted abruptly without warning in the middle and, I swear, figure-8-ed too. This is typical suburban traffic flow; everyone does everything apart from driving forwards in a straight line!

Hirpity Birpity

I have been worrying a lot about Humpty Dumpty recently. What if the egg hatched halfway down to the ground and the bird flew out?

All System's Go! re-recorded with Jim Hoyland is now on Myspace.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Red Wax and Petals

What a lovely sunny day! Last night after an accidental spill of huge quantities of melted red crayon wax (art project of Offsprog-1) on my best rug from Ikea bought two weeks ago to stop the house looking so shabby, I cried. But this morning, I set to work with the iron and a roll of paper towels and managed to make it 75% paler. I'll do the same this evening and then try some stain remover. Martin had made a lovely ambient version of Once in a Blue Moon which he emailed to cheer me up (bless!) and everything doesn't look so bad this morning. I sent him picture number 5, which is here, and I am spending the day organising things. We have booked a gig together at the Perseverance in June- it's such a nice little venue (come to that one Chimesey if you're feeling jaded!).
I took Offsprog-1 to Brighton on Monday for an interview at the Art College, crawling round the M25 at 10 mph in the slashing rain and buffeting wind and only just getting there in time. While she was enduring the searching questions, I plundered the junk shops and came back wit two vases, one hideous and the other twee, and a peach silk robe which I have tried in vain to rinse the 'vintage' smell out of this morning. It is still a beauty, guaranteed to bestow glamour on the plainest of models, and I shall be wearing it on my ugly days to swan about the house with a pretzel and a glass of Schloer.
Hey-ho, coffee time and then perhaps I'll mow the lawn although it's looking so pretty with its coating of apple blossom petals I might just leave it for another couple of days.

P.s. I've written a jazz song about dinosaurs

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Early Helen and the Horns Gigs

The Spandau/Duran/BoyGeorge 80s largely passed me by on an alien track, as I belonged to a group of further-out bands and musicians who played the Universities and small-scale weird venues about Britain (and especially in Scotland).

The first gig Helen and the Horns did was the basement bar at Imperial College, where a mob of drunken mining students did a rowdy conga in front of us. They only went past us once, though, because as each drunken mining student passed me I booted him smartly up the bum while carrying on playing, and as the frontrunner approached for a second time I could see him computing that it wasn't a good idea to pass by me again!
We did an interview for the college radio that someone later sent to me (I was rather rude and arrogant), and were allowed to help ourselves from a shopping trolley packed with a massive quantity of Country and Western LPs.

We played a street party at a pub in West London with a dreadful P.A. system, all sunshine, excited children and hippy food.

We played for for Richard 'Stranger than Steve' Strange, in a basement in Mayfair, an after-hours sortuva gig. Yvette the Conqueror, a well-known transexual, appeared singing a Boystown track over a backing tape, dressed in figure-hugging flesh coloured lycra. A straight-looking man in a pale blue bri-nylon shirt sliced his chest to pieces with a razor blade to music. When it was our turn I realised we weren't quite burlesque enough for Richard and he stood with his back to us throughout our short set, talking loudly to a member of the audience.
I walked home to Kilburn that night with my guitar, past the prostitutes in Park Lane who smiled and nodded (I wasn't competition, not a person with a guitar), past the drunks in Maida Vale and on the Kilburn High Road, arriving back home at my bedsit in Willesden exhausted but buzzing with the idea of the different worlds music brings you into.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weekend Gigs

I picked Martin up at Luton and we whizzed up to the Rose and Crown in Chesterfield, which was a mistake, as that wasn't where we were playing. The Rose and Crown in Chesterfield is a pub straight out of the Wild West, full of grumpy sheriffs and with defiant smokers lining the bar, peeling cream-painted walls finishing the despondent scene.
A series of panic-stricken phone calls and texts later found us at the Rose and Crown in Barlborough, a friendly pub in an old building with a genial, smiling manager and Pete Shields anxiously pacing up and down outside, waiting for us. After a nanosecond, we were in full flow. I really enjoyed this gig; the sadness has left my voice and I could enjoy playing again. Mike and June were there, with their daughter Laura; it was a listening audience, and Martin did a fantastic gig for them which was a mixture of new songs (he forgot the words for some of them but it didn't matter), some very deft fingerpicking, and his more poignant Daintees songs at the request of one of the barmen and several audience members.
He did a very funny version of All I Do the Whole Night Through is Dream of You that involved his impersonation of a gentleman who hasn't used the hand-drier after going to the bathroom drying their hands on their jeans, punctuating the song at regular intervals.
We stayed at Pete's and told ghost stories until the small hours, and visited his mum's charity shop the next morning, which is a hub of the village social scene run by two Geordie twin sisters making cups of tea for anyone popping in looking for baby clothes or lampshades. I was much taken by a Ken doll, but it's hair was a bit too punky so I left it there for another punter.
We left Chesterfield with a box of rhubarb, chard, parsley, lettuce seedlings and honey, brought along by Adrian, who has arranged a gig in his allotment later this year.
Last night's gig-ette was at the Perseverance, Spring Voices, arranged by Ingrid Andrew and featuring poets, music, drama. It was another one I really enjoyed playing: I played a smiley-face set and people seemed to really like it; Martin accompanied me on guitar. My favourite act of the night was Amy, otherwise known as Acton Belle, who played simplified versions of 1970s mainstream pop hits by artists like Herman's Hermits. We went to the Sea Shell for fish'n'chips and took her with us for some onion rings. She spoonerised: Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Sh*t, which I misheard as Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Fish and Chips.
Luckily, she got the name right in her set (with a quick glance over at me and Martin!). She sings in a Bolton accent. Her first song was There's a Kind of Hush, and I thought of the first sheet music I ever bought, Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes, and how I hadn't really realised at the age of 14 that so much of what I liked about the record was the extras in the arrangement.
But Amy had picked her songs wisely and they cam across really well. Later, she showed me the verses written on her hand in biro and told me she had dreamed she was listening to a Beatles song on the radio and woke up and realised that it was an original Amy-song. I told her about dreaming Dreaming of You and having to wake up and write it down before I forgot it.
There was an exceptionally dark and dry poet from Liverpool whose name escapes me but he was very funny in bite-size bursts, the way poetry works best live I think. He didn't crack a smile the whole evening!
Foolish Girl came all the way from Stevenage on her immaculate yellow motorbike; the rotters at Westminster Parking Control gave her a parking ticket. Never have wanted to stuff a parking ticket where the sun don't shine so much before in my life!

Anyway, that's it for now. I have a cup of tea here at perfect drinking temperature and I don't want it to drop even half a degree further.
Toodle Pip!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gigs This Weekend

Tonight, I'm playing at the Rose and Crown, High Street. Barlborough, Chesterfield, Midlands S41 8L supporting Martin Stephenson; and tomorrow at the Perseverance, 11 Shroton Street, North Marylebone, London; that will be a 15 minute set some time between 8 and 9. It's a mixed night organised by Ingrid Andrew with poets too.

I've just been out to the Co-Op. It's snowing blossom!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Old Mountain Home

I haven't quite finished this one yet but I will tomorrow

McSis Loved Jelly

McSis loved jelly: yum yum, as much as she could get her little hands on.
At the beach in Scotland we were all playing happily on the cold pebbles and stones and splashing in the cold grey sea.
Further up the beach, McSis was uncharacteristically quiet but we didn't care- there was dried black seaweed to pop, crab's claws to collect and little squirting holes in the sand to dig into and investigate.
In the distance McSis swished a large jellyfish around in her bright tin bucket, mashing it and slicing it enthusiastically with her red spade.
I glanced round.
Oh no!
The little red spade was just about to shovel a large helping of chopped rancid jellyfish into MsSis's hungry little mouth!
Never has an older sister raced up a beach as fast as I did that day, closely followed by Big Bruv, all concern and confusion.
We got there in the nick of time.
McSis smiled beatifically, just glad to be the centre of attention and not sure why.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Today's Drawing

Well, today I did 2 hours drawing and 0 hours housework.
Rather nice.
This drawing is one of a series I will be doing for an old-timey album Martin's recording of songs he's written about Buck Easley.
The song's called Buck Made Clocks
You can't see the feet part because my computer program tries to save it sideways if I show the feet!


Can't believe it... was up at 6.30 making a pancake power breakfast for remaining home sproglet who has an art exam today, mixing batter and swirling it in a pan, sprinkle of sugar, lemon juice and hey presto! Grade A!
If only it was so simple...

I nervously raked the lawn at 7 and watched in disgust as the cat weed on the pile of grass clippings. I realise what a nuisance I had been as a child, jumping into piles of grass clippings, autumn leaves, anything that McDad was trying to pile up and dispose of, scattering the pile everywhere with loud vocal sound effects at the same time.

My new regime means an hours housework, an hours gardening, an hours singing, and an hours drawing, whenever possible.
Now I have to stop blogging and type an Adrian Henri poem into the Ramble My Rose songwriting circle blog- we are all working on it as an experiment to see what it's like writing music to poetry.
We are getting into the swing of it now- we wear our best dresses and make small and perfectly formed plans that may or may not come to fruition.
Bless you!
Hay Fever.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ladies' Handbags: Tips'n'Tricks

1. Put a boiled sweet in the bottom of your handbag to collect stray bits of fluff.
2. Put some fluff in the bottom of your handbag to stop stray boiled sweets from making everything sticky.


I've just been sitting on the dock of the bay in the sunshine at the University of the East, eating a fruit salad and watching London City Airport.
It's very quiet today; the planes are lined up waiting: sunbathing, perhaps.
Every time a little plane took off, I had to resist the urge to applaud, to clap my hands at the spectacle of a distant shiny silver and white birdmachine racing along the tarmac and then gliding into the air to disappear into the bright blue beyond.
What a spectacle!

Surreal Nights

The last couple of nights have been nights from another planet.
On Sunday, a flowery-shorted thug threw next door's massive plant-pot full of pansies into my car's back window, stoving it in and leaving it there like a decorative industrial feature from a down-to-earth Chelsea Flower Show exhibit.
The police helped me tape the hole up and a kind neighbour appeared with a description of flowery-shorts.
I will be ready with my camera next time, big boy.

Then last night, I heard rustling downstairs, and went down to find one of my cats ripping hungrily through the carrier bag I'd put all my car stuff in to get at my Marks and Spencer's Red and Blacks. I was amazed that the cat liked sweets as well as melon and cauliflower cheese, until I looked at the ingredients. 'Beef gelatine and apple sauce'. No mention of raspberry and blackcurrant, the flavours I had assumed were there. No wonder he wanted to scoff them!
Don't think I'll be buying them again.

Did you read about the Milky Way containing a raspberry-flavoured chemical?
I expected it to be flavoured with white chocolate, somehow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Guitar Weekend

The guitar weekend happens at Friar's Carse just outside Dumfries, a beautiful and tranquil old building with pictures of Rabbie Burns on every wall, sometimes looking rather effete. It looks over a quiet part of the river Nith and has lots of different trees, thick mossy lawns and thousands of rabbits that all ran away when I tried to take their photo. The trees are full of bullfinches and other birds, and an osprey wheeled overhead one afternoon. There were chattering swallows nesting in the eaves of the entrance.
It's the third time I've been and it's huge fun and hard work in equal measures; you get to try out different chords and to understand the way different sorts of guitar music work (and if you are me, forget the whole lot when you get home), and then in the evenings there are informal concerts.
This year there were three banjo players, who each played totally differently and that was a real treat, to hear them all together. Martin, Gary and Brian did a set to start off with, playing I Pray at Richard's request, then we all got up and did turns, starting with Ragtime Steve, who keeps bees in Tain and has more honey than he knows what to do with. Tim joined me for Freight Train and the other Tim (three Tims and three Alans!) and Martin for Heaven Avenue.
The last person turned in at four a.m.
I loved it- the guys are really good company (there must have been about 20 chaps and only one me this year) and it was well worth the more-than-three-hundred-mile-drive to get there. The sun shone and so did the music!
Well done to Andrew Bailey for organising it!

Parked guitar cases, at rest. Sometimes, flocks of cases swept across the floor; at others, they nestled in huddles under the piano. There seemed to be hundreds of them, and definitely not as many guitars!

Guitarists concentrating and listening to each other.

Martin demonstrates the impossible photo-opportunity chord as practised by showoffs the world over!

Backs: on the first night we all took a turn flanked by Gary and Brian to see what it feels like to play guitar with experts.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cowboys, Cowgirls, Umbrellas

Well it was a disaster at first. My orange umbrella (one quid at Ikea) and I went up the High Street, jabbing everyone in sight until I realised it had stopped raining ten minutes ago. Then I spilt the whole pot of coffee on the worktop and had to move everything because it all seeped underneath.
But later, I went over the the University of the West to record some songs with Jim. He mixed Blue's Song and has a particular style which I really like and I have been trying to persuade him to record with me for some time. So this was a nice thing to do.
To start off with, I played acoustic guitar, the Martin, and just sang and recorded a few songs- 3 Maple Men, The Song of the Landsman's Soul, a new one called The Man in the Moon, and When a Cowboy met a Cowgirl. Martin has already put some really sparkly guitar parts and a harmony on the version I did on Garageband but I'll send him this new one cos it's better. He was recording in Ross-shire this afternoon too!
Then I recorded All Systems Go! and Jim is going to mix that one and play around with it a bit. I put a space choir in the middle. Students kept popping in with anxious questions but it was remarkably relaxed and relaxing. I have been missing going into the studio.
I came home starving and ate a lot of little chocolate Easter eggs that I found on the table.
I think there are some left.
I must go down and investigate!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Girls! Girls! Girls! Boyfrendz-4-u!

O Deary, Deary, Me!!!

A Hundred Problems

The cats stabbed my sleep with their sharp little feet and I rumbled a few things over in my head.
I chickened out of a social engagement last night; I got all the way there, and came all the way back.
I didn't know why, and then I realised; of late, my calling card has become my misfortunes, my problems like costume jewellery, each one sparkling with a different malevolent hue.
These awful things take on a competitive quality (all names fictional apart from my own):
"What's your name? "
"Hi Hundred-Problem-Helen, I'm Thousand-Problem-Theodore"
Meanwhile, Ten-Problem-Tessa and Five-Problem-Fiona look on, disconcerted; you mean , it can get worse?
So it's time to pull up my socks like the Girl Guide I was, polish my teeth with the discounted electric toothbrush I bought in Tescos a few days ago (don't know why I shop there- the horrible image of Lady Porter in her greedy yellow suit flashes into sight every time), eat strawberrie,s get over myself and get on with things!

Monday, April 13, 2009


It goes to deep levels, sometimes.
I've done everything possible to avoid writing the proposal for the Barnet Football Club project, that I really, really want to do. It's just that I know the wording is so important and there are so many easier things to do- even the most difficult things that I normally prevaricate about!
So I've done all sorts of things- recorded a new song- just a simple one- and put it on Myspace.
Tried to make a film on Youtube, but there isn't enough memory in this computer.
Installed more programs on the computer.
Cleaned the bathroom.
Took the above picture, displaying teeth cleaned with new electric toothbrush (see tomorrow's posting)
restrained myself from murdering the cats, who nudged my hands with their noses when I was recording the guitar parts, meowed when I was singing, walked across the keyboard and played chasey while I was trying to concentrate.
So much! And now I'm writing this.
there's nothing left to do now.
Oh no!

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Today... some singing; some cleaning (stairs covered in mud), some mending (emotions), some cooking (mmm roast parsnips! Never had 'em as a child and was scared to eat my first one at the age of 25). Drove back from Mansfield this morning in the rain, dodging HGVs in case they pulled into the middle lane without warning as they are wont to do...

Last night I was in Belper, The Queen's Head, playing a short set at Martin's gig. It was a welcoming audience, and main support was the very funny singer'songwriter Eliza P who sings about charity shops and internet dating. She has recorded an album with the DJay Buddha, which is one to look out for!
Martin was on form and held the audience in the palm of his hand as usual; Mike and June were there too (thank you for the chocs!).

What's in store this week? Some recording on Tuesday I hope, with Jim who mixed Blue's Song that's on Myspace at the moment. The lyrics for that song were written by the animator Joan Ashworth, as the song was originally meant for the film she made, How Mermaids Breed..
Jim's a trip hop sortuva guy, so that might be ver-r-r-y eenteresting!

It would be nice to gallivant around some galleries, goggling at Goya; perhaps, perhaps not.

The Easter Bunny didn't bring me any Easter eggs; instead, my hens laid some rabbit droppings. What a disappointment!

Off back to write songs. Silly ones at the moment. I'll sing them to you if you're very good.

The crows on Salisbury Crags on the edge of Edinburgh have empty foil crisp packets in their nests, which they have collected because they are shiny, and therefore obviously of great value.

Friday, April 10, 2009


I saw that Morrissey once in Safeway supermarket on Kensington High Street.
He had practically nothing in his wire basket, which made me wonder: if you are famous, perhaps you don't dare buy a six-pack of Mr Kipling's Cherry Bakewells in case a wandering fan thinks you're a prat.
This must become more of a problem for those at the cooler end of the spectrum.
Too effete
To eat.

The Pole

Have I written about this before? I can't remember.
A woman was sitting on the tube holding a large mop with an unfeasibly wide, strong pole.
The tube was crowded, standing room only.
Absolutely every single person that got on lunged towards the pole and clasped it, thinking it was the handrail designed to help them to keep steady as the tube lurched about.
The poor woman had to endure a series of embarrassed mini-conversations for her entire journey as people hopped on and off at different stops.
Wot a larf!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Endless Summertime

After The Chefs split up, i didn't really know what to do.
I was sitting on the step of the house painting a violin case I'd bought at Portobello Road (if you're a nerd look back thru previous postings to see what an adventure the violin case provided!) when an Orange Person lady came over.
'Hi', she said, 'Are you a musician?'. She proceeded to chat away and eventually persuaded me to go for a jam with her and a friend the next day.
I had never been for a jam before and was a bit scared. In my bands we had always written songs and played them until they were ready.
However, I knew I must do Different Things now I no longer had the band.
I went along to the Orange Person guy's house with my bass guitar. She came along with her guitar. The Orange Person guy was a trumpet player. After a bit of discussion we discovered that we were all familiar with the song 'Summertime (and the living is easy)'.
So off we set, standing in a circle, bass, trumpet, guitar, bass trumpet guitar, bass trumpet guitar, all louder than each other.
After about an hour I wondered if any of us knew how to stop. Nobody was looking at each other and I didn't want to be a party pooper and make Fun stop happening. I began to get increasingly nervous, wondering if we might end up playing for ever and ever, never stopping.
On and on we played, through the afternoon and into the evening, Summertime, and the living is easy....
On and on.
I can't remember how we stopped, but we did. Dazed, I stumbled into the twilight with my fingers throbbing, vowing never to jam again.

About two weeks later I met her again. She had left the Orange People. Why? Because she had found out that they had been building a massive Orange People nuclear bunker in Germany, just for Orange People when the bomb dropped and nobody else, and she didn't think that was fair.

The Way Back

I started to make a list of what I saw out of the train window to make a map of the route.
1. Grey stone houses, white windows
2. Cold green hills and cloud puffs
3. Pale stone pointy churches lancing up out of each village
4. Gorse
5. Wires, wires, wires
6. Greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen!
7. Black churned soil striped by ploughs
8. Distance
9. New. Houses. All. Lined. Up
10. Tall spindly hooked-over street lamps
11. Tumbledown outbuildings
12. Tiny moving cars and vans
BASH! train goes past
BASH! again
13. Vapour trails, white scars against the sky....
'Stand Up!', barked the tourist to the hapless man sitting in her reserved seat. It worked! He was up in a shot and off down the corridor, embarrassed and shamed. Wow! That's the last time I bother with apologetic excuse-mes!
14. Hedges, clothed and hedges, naked
15. Little grey game birds in the middle of fields, next to BIG IMPORTANT STATELY HOMES
16. Flat grey station platforms
17. Crows nests studding the silhouettes of leafless trees, their branches delicate black fans against the blue sky
18. A scarecrow! I had forgotten about scarecrows!
19. A spectacular upward-spiralling pink and gold vapour trail at sunset, like a tight corkscrew, bright and shining, glowing solo where all the other clouds were flat, leaden dark grey streaks; a point of light etched it further and further into the lilac sky
20. Flushed children inside the train, fed up after four hours cooped up in a metal tube, kicking their mother in desperation, their eyes dulled and slitted by tiredness and a half-hour delay.

There was so much more: the beautiful Northumbrian coastline; the flat fields of Lincolnshire; the huge coloured industrial sheds; the streams and rivers and bridges; more, more, more............

The Way There

I got back from McEdinburgh late last night, after visiting McMum to help out a bit. I have a bushel of bow ties to put on eBay and some of McDad's wonderful stylish tweedy clothes to flop about in, although they are two sizes too big.
It was sad to be clearing out and giving away clothes that belonged to my father. There are big bags for the charity shop full of shoes and some very worn-out clothes that nobody would want apart from McDad.
The strangest thing was finding a half-finished dress that McDad's McMum was making, folded up, part in pieces, part sewn up. It has a scent of her- not exactly lavender, I'm not sure what it was, but it's there, folded up in the delicate patterned layers of cotton.

On the way up by train, a very friendly used car salesman got on at York. He was in full Muslim dress, and he was on the way to McEdinburgh pick up a disabled vehicle he'd bought off eBay. We talked small about many things: the best place in the UK to go on holiday (got to be Northumberland), children, Billy Ocean, apples and, of course, cars.
He had helped a Pakistani tourist with his cases. 'Did he say thank you?', I asked. 'No', he laughed,' but I told him it's not like Pakistan here; your cases won't get nicked'. I told him about my brother and sister-in-law getting all of their Christmas presents stolen in a case on their way up to Perthshire on Christmas from a stuffed train, and he looked bemused.
Later, the Pakistani tourist was getting off the train, behind one of those meringue ladies with a stately bust, powder-pink face, pearl earrings and solid pale grey rococo curls. 'I--HELP--YOU', he barked, and hoisted the lady's case out of the luggage rack and into her surprised arms. So he did a good deed in exchange for being helped, and also, I found out moments later, thanked my travelling companion.

Monday, April 06, 2009

A Long Story; a Short Story

Once upon a time, I went to Golders Green bus garage to interview bus conductors about the retiring of Routemaster buses. I got sent away; I'd wanted to set up a songwriting project based on what the drivers and conductors told me.
So I got a bus to Willeseden; I'm not sure why. I saw this African toaster fabric in a shop window while I was there and always intended to go back and get some.
Later, I got permission to talk to the bus drivers and conductors from their HQ. I went and interviewed them and almost got invited to do a therapeutic songwriting project by the woman who was organising their 'debriefing'. I applied for a grant to make a whole music piece out of it but didn't get the money in the end, which was a shame. I have some great recordings of them talking to me about what it's like driving the buses!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Lots o'Songs

I pt lots of songs on Myspace, some from each album, and I will change them from time to time especially when it stops getting the pictures mixed up!
that photo below was taken by Martin, by the way.

Fruitpickin' Dawg

The dog we had when we were kids learned how to rush ahead when we went blackberry picking, and picked and gobbled up all the best berries before we got to them.

Saturday, April 04, 2009


Yesterday I was a butterfly, or something considerably heavier that would have liked to be one, anyway.
After a meeting at work in Docklands, I flew home to meet Nadya (Dr No) for a lovely walk in the sunshine. We talked about selling clothes on eBay, and other light matters.
Next flapdestination was the West End to talk to Chris Carr, who has been a friend and sometimes PR for my music for many years. He is wise and full of good advice and at one particularly difficult part of my life proved himself to be a man of honour to such a degree that I will always respect him more than most Music Industry professionals.
True to form, he gave me some good advice and insisted that I act on it!
On the way there, who should I see on the tube but Dickon Edwards, off to DJ at the London Transport Museum: Judy Garland and Gilbert and Sullivan, he told me, before checking his watch like the White Rabbit and realising he was an hour late. He smiled serenely.
The man who runs Ray's Jazz shop was in the pub, also smiling benignly at the end (or almost) of his working week, and complaining mildly about record companies' pressure on him to allow their acts to perform in his shop, with only two or three people turning up to watch. I'd been to see Willy Mason performing there a couple of years back and he told me what a nice person Willy Mason was.
Finally I went down to Brixton to Mike Slocombe's Big Birthday (50 bumps, Mike!) at Offline in the Prince Albert in Coldharbour Lane. Poor Mike had got caught up in P.A. system issues and then had his family suddenly descend on him, and was only just arriving as I left in disappointment at his not being there! I had a chat to Em, one of the wonderful Actionettes and artist for McCookerybook CD covers. She was wearing a fabulous emerald green dress with gold embroidery all over it, and was accompanied by her cool Mum, who is a comic-strip artist (that's not a funny burlesque act, since you ask!).
Nodding off on the tube was par for the course and I ended the evening with a gigantic cup of tea and an even giganticker slice of toast and marmalade, or probably did; I was so tired I can't remember!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Spruce Gum

When I was in New England with my American Grandmother, I bought a little cardboard box with a lump of hard chewing gum in it, labelled 'Spruce Gum'.
It tasted strongly of resin, a taste as overpowering as menthol that snorted down your nostrils in gusts of pain and challenged you not to gag. It reminded me of the contests we used to have at school to see who could keep a Fisherman's Friend in their mouth the longest.
Gran told me that when she was a child they used to pick the gum off the spruce trees that grew all around her house, and chew it just like that!

Thursday, April 02, 2009


I have had a busy day today. First of all, I pruned the roses. Then I rosed the prunes.

Duvet Covers

When I am Emperor, I shall train my duvets to dive into their covers by themselves, as this is a thankless task.

Broken Things

I went into Robert Dyas's again today. I love poking about in there. My garden shed is full of broken things from the shop- mini-hoovers, paint removers, groovers, you name it, all covered in grass seed and mouse droppings.
But still I go back for more!
I was eyeing the wind-up radios. Is that wind-up as in wind-up, or wind-up as in wind-up?
I thought about how much the broken things from the shop had wound me up over the years, whining, hiccuping and grinding to a halt after only two usings.
Definitely the latter, I decided, and bought a light bulb that worked.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Day So Far

Hot-off-the-ice, I'm sitting at the window musing on the day.
I was thinking about Caroline's paintings of people in the streets of West London, and how she is a documentary artist and should have an exhibition. The ordinariness of the area changes year by year and decade by decade, and Caroline has it there, quietly painting in the sunlight of her studio.
She's a true renaissance woman of the age, who embraces politics, art and life with equal vigour.

Gina and I had fun skating, both making slow progress. Gina's now got a producer for her film, a chap who used to produce Derek Jarman's films who seems exactly the right sort of producer. We had met outside a caff in Queensway, having a brief cup of coffee with Jean Marc who played drums on Saturday night for the Raincoats.
Inside the rink, a gaggle of young men turned up, whirling about like manic pigeons, a vortex of teenage volatility. A calm instructor appeared with stacks of bright green cones, dividing the rink into them and us with a knowing smile. She proceeded to teach them 'skating forwards' (we all watched and copied on the other side) and 'skating backwards' (we all watched and tried to copy on the other side: I failed. Maybe next time!).
It was exhilarating to hiss about on the ice for the morning. I learned a new thing but I'm not sure what it was; probably something that I will discover in its entirety the next time I go. You make slow progress in terms of skill, but the process of skating is never disappointing and feels like a human form of flying.
Bliss. Bless. Whatever!
On the way home, I sensed policing and trouble on the tube. Was that an exploding anarchist disguised as a lippy teenage girl with a brown paper Primark bag?
An unassuming man got on at East Finchley with a bright green ukelele and started strumming to himself, much to the consternation of Suburban Couple and their ordinariness monitor. He got off next stop without serenading them with anything disturbing.
"Marn the dorce', announced the driver, and the dorce closed with a squeal and a thud.