Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gigs this Weekend

Tomorrow I am supporting Martin at the bijou Eyre Chapel in 'leaning spire' Chesterfield. It is a lovely little venue and the gig as been organised as usual by David Lelievre, and is one of the best regular gigs of the year.
Next night we are at The Keys in Huddersfield, another really special venue run by Andrew and Tina where part of the deal is a pie and pea supper (yum yum, just try to keep me away!). I will be barging my way through All Systems Go! regardless of mistakes. Just thought I'd warn you!
The Barbaraville badges will be on sale, just one spondulick each, and Spanish Paul has had special t-shirts printed up for the gig at The Keys, two of which are going to be raffled for charity.
Got to pick the PA up from Camel Humpstead, then the Martin from Luton then M1 here we come!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Yoko Ono, The Serpentine Gallery

It is a short walk from Hyde Park Corner, through a fabulously scented rose garden (nose-to-the-rose experience only marred by a fat and confident rat sauntering across the footpath).
Caroline was waiting for me and together we looked at comments left on fluttering white labels tied to the wishing tree.
'I wish for an end to Yoko Ono', said one. We were told that the labels were to be sent to Yoko. I know she wouldn't wish for an end to the person that wrote that (and those who wrote similar churlish comments) but I must confess the thought fleeted through my own mind.

As soon as you enter the gallery, you sense the presence of the artist. It is very rarely that this happens and this had quite an emotional hit.
Yoko Ono's message has not changed; it is a message of peace, embeded in a sense that the world is a living organism and its people are its lifeblood. Tiny details are simultaneously important and not so. It was a pleasure to walk around with Caroline who interviewed Yoko years ago.

At the top of a white-painted ladder written on the ceiling was a tiny word. Lennon  had climbed the ladder in the age of 60s cynicism, seen the word 'Yes' and decided that he wanted to be with Yoko.
There was a terribly poignant piece of film in which the power of the love between the two of them was almost overwhelming. Imagine feeling like that and then having your partner shot! It was so moving, I found it difficult not to cry.
The exhibition has its own pace: Yoko describes her birth and her death and there is footage of the performance piece in which the audience is invited to cut pieces of her clothing and remove them. In the sixties footage, the pieces are dropped to the ground; in the 2000s footage, they are taken away as souvenirs (this is what Caroline noticed).
It is a lovely, graceful exhibition.
Afterwards we sat by the Serpentine and chatted about music: reggae, mostly; and writers: Vivien Goldman, mostly.

Later, I met Offsprog One and we went to the Animation Debut at the Royal College of Art. As always, the films were full of variety and experimentation. Sometimes, the simplest of ideas worked best; the quality was high and the experience was riveting. We had interesting and genial conversations with a number of people, inclduing Joan Ashworth, the course director, and Peter Blegvad, a wordsmith and artsmith whom I have been to see playing recently at the Cafe Oto.

You could say I felt arted out as I fell asleep last night but it was a good day full of inspiration both from art and from conversation.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Barbaraville Badges

Hot off the press, or the badge machine anyway- will be on sale at gigs this weekend.
A quid each, or nine for a tenner (supermarket value!!!)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Energy

Where did it come from? Up at 7.30, cleaned kitchen windows inside and out, vacuumed front room and stairs, hung new net curtain instead of grimy grey one in window, washed clothes and put on line x 2, went to market and bought bread and tomatoes, cooked lunch, took portable PA system to Hemel Hempstead to get repaired, edited a bit of music, advised friend on phone about work bullies, and its still only 3.30, helped Offsprog Two on CV.
If only I could copy and paste this amount of energy into every day!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bright Yellow Jacket

Relegated to the depths of the cupboard after reflecting unkindly onto my face in a photograph two years ago, the Bright Yellow Jacket has sulked for almost two years.
I got it out yesterday to put on eBay; it languished on the floor in disgrace under a pile of rejected clothing.
I woke this morning to yet another grey day with rain in the air.
The yellow jacket glinted at me charmingly.
I relented, hoisted it on and went on to have the happiest day I've had all week!
Bright Yellow Jacket, you are forgiven, and will be my companion until the sun comes out again.

Punky Times: Delving

I have spent the morning with Gina, who is making a documentary about The Raincoats.
She has some absolutely riveting footage, and I have promised to dig out the original audio interview that I did with her ten years ago because she said such interesting things.
Amongst her footage there is a ringing endorsement from John Lydon. I can't believe that the whole Punk Britannia series on BBC4 completely brushed The Raincoats, the Slits, The Mo-Dettes, the Au Pairs, Delta 5... all of them, under the carpet yet again.
So let's lift up that carpet and see what's underneath!
I'm scheduled to talk about some of it at the European Popular Culture Conference on 11th July- more about that another time.
Meanwhile, here is part two of the Gonzo interview, along with lots of other really interesting stuff:
http://gonzo-multimedia.blogspot.co.uk/

Thursday, June 21, 2012

'CSEs Were Easier Than 'O' Levels'

I can't believe the guff this Government comes out with, and I actually heard a senior member of staff at my last University perpetuate this myth.
I am living proof by experience that CSEs  (or maths, at least) were every bit as difficult as 'O' Levels, and actually more difficult in the case of mathematics.
The main difference between the two in the marking system; to get a CSE equivalent to an 'O'Level, you had to get a grade one; the coursework, however, was just as challenging.
CSEs meant that people who were unlikely to pass an 'O' Level could gain a qualification in that particular subject that showed they had done a course of study.
When I were a nipper, McMum and McDad were told by my school that I was too thick to pass 'O' Level maths, so they paid for private tuition so that I could do CSE maths as well. It was a different course focused on a different style of maths, so I had to do two different syllabi.
I preferred the 'O' Level one because I liked geometry (0% in the mock exam) and algebra (8%), though I hated triganometry because nobody would tell me what it was for.
CSE maths had all sorts of other types of maths (slide rules etc) which I found even harder than the 'O' Level course although my teacher was much, much better.
I ended up passing both, but I can state categorically that CSEs were difficult exams.
I also do not believe that exams have been dumbed down, having seen what both daughters had to learn for both GCSE and 'A' Level exams.
Know what? I believe the unsayable: state education is better than it has ever been. Young people are better informed, better taught and generally much more able than they used to be.
So there!

First Part of Gonzo Blog Interview

I had a chat to a very genial gentleman yesterday afternoon and part of the interview appears here: maybe it was because it was a teatime interview but it ended up being a bit of a ramble: interesting I hope!
http://gonzo-multimedia.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/exclusive-helen-mccookerybook-interview.html

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Birds and Humans

As I sat with Laura in the billiards room working on her song with her, we heard a cackling sound from outside the window. There, on the stone balustrade, was perched a line of guinea fowl, watching us intently with their beady eyes. They slunk off when we noticed them.

I sat in the yard this morning in a spot of sunshine, drinking coffee. Peals of birdsong started up, and a robin sitting on a chimney pot sang his heart out. His tiny eyes sparkled and his tawny breast glowed; what a perfect one-man show. I shall be there again tomorrow at 8.30 for part two, rain or shine...

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Songwriting Weekend

The Songwriting Weekend at the Friar's Carse had the biggest ever turnout this year, which looked pretty terrifying on Friday night, but the group of participants were lovely, and by Saturday afternoon every nook and cranny of the eccentric hotel hosted a busy songwriter, guitar on their lap, pencil in hand, papers scattered, or sharing ideas on the big Chesterfield sofas, smiling and strumming. After stuffing our faces once more on hearty Scottish fare, we rolled into the lounge, repositioned the sofas and embarked on the evening concert; Scott, Martin and myself started the ball rolling and then one by one, people showcased their songs. liz broke the ice with a very funny set, and the novice song writers presented for the first time songs they had created that very afternoon. For a lot of them this was not only the first song they had ever written, but also the first time they had ever played and sung to an audience; but there could not have been a more supportive crowd to listen and applaud. It was a very entertaining evening with some poignant songs. Alan's song, The Firing Man, described his horrible task in HR, having to lay people off because of the recession in the construction industry, including one of his best friends (who we missed hugely, it must be said). Hats off the the bravery of the newbies, and also to John for his song 'Please Don't Grow a Hitler Moustache' which had everyone in stitches and me in tears of laughter. As always, it was more than just songwriting; it was about friendship and camaraderie, and I don't think anyone even noticed the rain. Roll on next year and thanks to Andrew and Martin for putting into place one of the happiest and most productive events of the year!
Class of 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Leveson Enquiry

I remain riveted by the Leveson Enquiry, and wish I could just watch it all day, instead of just the snippets that I catch on the news.
What are those Tories taking? They are super-animated, eyes a-pop, hands flailing around, drama catching in their throats (was multi-millionaire Hunt close to tears in the House of Commons the other day?).
Below, I have printed the secret Tory instructions that are slipped to them with their arabica coffee and almond croissant half an hour before they swear the oath. You could ask me on oath if I intercepted an email to get hold of these. I would reply: 'To my knowledge, I am not aware of any sort of skulduggery at this precise moment in time: this is a ridiculous allegation.', and you could make of that what you will.


1. Drink 2 cans Red Bull
2. Imagine Peter Jay is the fag you used to bully at Eton: sneaky little worm! Has he got five million in the bank? Of course not! Arriviste!
3. Pretend you're on the winning side at The Debating Society. Raise your eyes to the heavens, frown in distaste; look at the screen beside you with an air of puzzlement. Talk with intense animation, without stopping for breath.  The Upstart Jay will not be able to interrupt you and will eventually forget the question he asked you in the first place.
4. Remember, you're all in the same Lodge anyway, so it'll all square up in the end; just bide your time and everything will be OK. If it goes on long enough, the public will lose interest anyway.
5. They can't get rid of you for three years; there's time to set up a few contracts in the U.S. before then, especially after hosting the Jubilee and the Olympics. That's the perfect USP for any ex-politician wanting to turn their millions into billions!

More About Punk

Tune in to Vivien Goldman's Radio Show this weekend, after watching Punk Britannia Part Three.
And then read my book The Lost Women of Rock Music to fill in any gaps!
Just been looking at Gina Birch's Raincoats documentary, first draft. It's going to be fabulous!
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01jypqm


Episode image for A Punk Tale of Two Cities
Duration: 2 hours
These days, Vivien Goldman teaches about Punk at New York University and they call her The Punk Professor. But back in the times we're speaking about, from about 1976 to 1982, when she was one of approximately two female punk rock journalists in the UK, the whole idea of teaching Punk in a university would have been laughable. Writing for what was then a thriving weekly throng of music papers, Vivien found herself embedded in the Punk community, sharing a flat with Chrissie Hynde, forming the Flying Lizards, being produced by John Lydon. She is an absolute authority on the musical, social & political impact of punk. She has also written extensively on reggae and its relationship with Punk.
As a popular anti-authoritarian mass youth uprising, Punk, was one of the most significant social movements of the late twentieth century, and now kids round the world, from Bahrain to Indonesia to Russia, still naturally turn to the punk genre almost automatically, to express their rage. The yell of our first sort, sharp punk shock is still echoing and at this rate, will never die.

Offsprog Two's Pigeon

Offsprog Two made a pigeon, a dog, a pig, a goat and more from papier mache. They were beautiful, but too huge to get into the car so they went to live with her friends. And we had to leave a dustbin-sized bag of coat-hangers behind as well.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Scarebear

Someone in one of Barnet's many charity and second-hand shops has a macabre sense of humour...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Northern Soul

The perfect antidote to inclement weather: Junior Walker and the Allstars' I Ain't Going Nowhere; Patrice Holloway's For the Love of Mike; Two Can Have a Party by Tammy Tyrell; listened to in the kitchen, a stone's throw from the kettle and tea bags.

Water

This morning I will be trying out my handyperson skills. As I rummaged under the sink for the floor cleaning stuff, I discovered that the sink has leaked all over everything.
Off the the ironmonger to look for plumber's tape.
Meanwhile, I am reminded of the primary-school adage that 'Eskimos (Inuits) have a hundred words for snow'.
We have a similar number for the act of precipitation of water from the skies: pouring, drizzling, raining, stottin' (Geordieland), chuckin' it down, p*ssing, piddling, deluge, showering, pelting, coming down in torrents, raining cats and dogs, coming down in sheets, bucketing.
Well, not a hundred (unless you can think of more).
But given the duration of it all, I suggest a new one: crying down with rain. That's what I felt like this morning when I woke up to yet more grey skies and pouring, drizzling, raining, stottin' (Geordieland), chuckin' it down, p*ssing, piddling, deluge, showering, pelting, coming down in torrents, raining cats and dogs, coming down in sheets, bucketing...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Poly Styrene

I missed this week's Punk Britannia but I did get home in time to see the Arena documentary on Poly Styrene. I feel sure that she would have resisted having it broadcast had she still been alive, in particular because of the footage of Falcon Stuart, who went on later to try to destroy her when she would not do what he wanted her to.
Nobody helped her when she got mobbed when she left the stage at Liverpool Eric's. She seemed so alone in the band, even though she said she liked being on her own. There is a difference between the two, of course.
I liked the parts where they were writing songs. X Ray Spex's songs often jolted about from time signature to time signature, much as conversations do, and that is exactly the way they were written; as the thought changes, so does the melody and the rhythm. Truly written in the vernacular, Poly sang the melody and the band followed her, often led, it seems, by the sax player, who was having chord-sequence-assertiveness competitions with the guitarist in the film; I found this very funny, having written songs as a 'non-musician' in bands so often.
Poly was a really intelligent and resourceful young woman and this came across well in the documentary, as did the discrepancy between the serene person who glided down escalators in her long cream-coloured knitted coat, selected brightly coloured packets with mock-seriousness from the supermarket shelves, or sat patiently in the tour bus as the driver got lost; and the military-style siren belting it out at the sweaty crowds in Eric's.
X Ray Spex to my mind had the best punk lyrics, full of sly politics. Poly was enigmatic, at once part of it all and separate from it all.
Long live her memory!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Proud Mother

Every so often a day comes along that redeems everything: gales, rain, work stress, money worries... Pah!
First was a text from Offsprog Two telling me that she has been awarded a distinction for her Foundation Course work at Leeds College of Art. I burst into mummy tears and walked round all morning with a sheet of toilet paper stuck to my face until I looked in the mirror and realised that it was there.

Both daughters went to Leeds and it's an amazing course: they have even managed to crack the impenetrable wall of Edinburgh College of Art and are sending students there this year.

Next, after a blustery trip to Brighton during which the wind caught my coat like sail and practically swept me off the station platform at London Bridge, I went to see Offsprog One's final year show at Brighton Art College.

What  a wonderful antidote to the grey misery of politics and the economy and the Jubilee wash-out! Vibrant art made by young people is alive and well; their brains are generating funny and marvellous ideas and they are buzzing about thinking and doing, and verily they will rescue us and we need to cherish them!
There was lots of great stuff: a series of 3-D prints of tiny buildings that used daylight to illuminate them from the inside, these lovely little clay figurines by Lucy Kirk; and of course, my daughter's work.
She got some examples of her work printed on to white cotton and learned how to make a shirt (she made a practice one first), and hung it alongside this photograph, which is one of a set of animals painted on the wall. I just loved her work and felt massively proud of her. She also makes lovely books and newspapers in which she transposes Dickens quotations with photographs of London now. Magical!

I was struck suddenly by the oddness of the fact that more than thirty years ago, I walked down these same corridors, and up the same stairs; there was the room where I had my final year show! Stuart Morgan, the art critic and a lecturer at the time, liked my work although none of the other lecturers did. I used to meet him coming out of my room. I will always be thankful for his support, he was a wonderful man and I still miss him.
Offsprog One has had similar support from an illustration lecturer who used to be a punk rocker, and I am grateful to him too.
The Brighton lecturers back then were also rather nasty to Judy Littman, who went on to start the famous fashion company English Eccentrics, whose clothing regularly appeared in Vogue magazine; Judy made knitted rooms and hats with knitted brides on them. The lecturers were painters, mostly, and only understood concepts if they appeared through the lens of a video camera.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Buckingham Palace Says...

All weekend... 'Buckingham Palace says...'.
I had no idea that buildings could talk, and I shall get down there forthwith to witness this phenomenon myself.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Bus

The bus driver stopped at the petrol station next to the roundabout on the A1 very early one Saturday morning because he needed to go to the loo.
'Sorry!' he apologised to his passengers, and dashed across the road.
The hazard lights clicked on, off, on, off... we waited at the bus stop in a rather unsafe place.
From the back of the bus, hip hop spilled from somebody's cranked-up headphones, playing in perfect clickety time with the hazard lights.
Click-t-t-pss-t-t-click-t-t-pss-t-t-click-t-t-pss-t-t-click-t-t-pss-t-t....
Amazing.

Gritty Fingers

I am spending the evening having a paper purge: everything seems too important to throw away, but I have to make space for Offsprog Two and all her stuff, for she is coming home to roost for the summer.
The first instalment of stuff is unloaded and stacked in their bedroom and on the chest of drawers in the living room.
If I don't get rid of at least half of my 'important papers', the house will be unbearable.
I had thought the house was clean and dust-free but there are sneaky drifts of the grey stuff under the kitchen table and tucked under a pile of receipts waiting to be filed (next job).
My hands are sticky and gritty and itchy but the house looks a lot better and I have another hour's ruthlessness to go.
I'm tidying along to  the music of A Bird and a Bee, whose mysterious harmonies are lifting my spirits, which have been feeling distinctly post-viral.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Installation at The Baltic (by Nature). And a Camel.

And I saw a camel as I drove across country of the A66 today. I thought it was a headless life-size model of a camel until it raised its head. It was in the middle of a field and it was very, very scruffy. You could have knocked me down with a seagull's quill.
Poor thing: a desert beast in the cold rain of an English summer!

CD For The Morning Star

This CD has been made to support The Morning Star newspaper. It has tracks by Martin Stephenson, Pete Molinari, Eddi Reader, Paul Heaton, James Yorkston and Elle Osborne (yay- she's played on some of my stuff), and many more. And guess who did the cover illustration?

The Daintees Look Like They Are Having Fun!


Couple of great gigs this weekend. Fin joined the group at Beamish (thanks for the book Fin, reading it already!) which was a little on the chilly side but that was remedied by a lot of dancing, and there was a blistering gig at Carlisle last night. They get better and better! Martin is solo in York tonight, the band have gone home but here are some lovely pics of them looking very, very happy!

Monday, June 04, 2012

The Sun is in Newcastle

The sun is in Newcastle, shining on young festival goers with fluorescent stripes painted on their faces and legs, waxed paper cups of coca cola in their hands that they are slurping through straws. The jubilee is nowhere to be seen; it's happening on another planet called London, where poor people flock in droves to the River Thames to watch one of the richest women on the planet sail past in a gilded boat through the icy rain. Martin played a gig in a very quirky pub called The Ship in Newton by the Sea, at the top of a block of white-painted cottages just off the beach. The punters were in their cups, waltzing, jiving, twisting and singing along. Next morning, we walked along the breezy beach looking at the big eastern sky and the miles of yellow sand. Dogs bounced in the distance and swifts zipped diagonally across the distance, living their shortt lives at a hectic pace. The Ship is a one-off stortuva place, bringing life to a corner of Northumberland that is increasingly populated by weekenders. But everywhere Martin goes, his loyal listeners turn up to support him. Apparently Bob Harris played a track from California Star the other day as well. The Daintees are descending this evening: tonight's gig is at Beamish and is sure to be a humdinger!