Thursday, January 31, 2013

Concentration

I trod on my glasses this morning and broke them: but that's why God invented sellotape, isn't it!
They are now returned to fully-functional form with the minor drawback that they can't be folded up any more, but who cares about that?
After a pathetic swim, I came home and started re-recording guitars (third time).
I suddenly got absorbed in one song, I Love You Still, Stuart Morgan.
I do still love him- he was my tutor at art college and he was a scamp, writing little love letters on the end of the pretty boys' essays.
He was very sweet to me, so I want to make his track beautiful.
Some of the guitars... was it that they sounded organic, or did they simply sound crap? My fingers are numb. I lost a whole guitar overdub and couldn't remember what I'd played and had to invent it again. Then I started mixing parts of it and it started to sound good, and then I thought, again, are those guitars organic or simply crap?
That's the point at which, symbolised also by the hopeless entanglement of the headphone cable in my guitar strap, I have to stop for the day.
Here are the lyrics. Maybe they don't mean anything to anyone but myself and Stuart, and possibly Roger the terrifying sculpture student with a beard that used to make Stuart tremble with fear.

Shoplifting books by the ton
Piling them up in his room
We sat on the toppling towers
He kept us amused for hours.
Loving a laddie or two
Got him in trouble, it's true
Taking us all by surprise
Wooed by his sparkling eyes.

Danse macabre, danse macabre.

Darkness came in with a cloak
Ten thousand books up in smoke
But holding my baby he smiled
Joyful to see my child.

Danse macabre, danse macabre.

Falling like spent autumn leaves
Everyone brought to their knees
Keeping a positive smile
Life in a different style;
Once your romantic conceit
Now it consumes the sweet
Stolen away from your friends...

Everything has to end.

So that's what a cooker's for.

Monsters in Trent Park

In my imagined garden (oh, say, an acre is enough...) I grow a grove of birch trees for the blue-tits and woodpeckers to pick at; in between the foxgloves in the shade, wooden carvings loom and try to scare unwary intruders.
Of course, they don't scare me; I am their friend and I secretly teach them to sing songs at dusk, the sound of their thin, grating woody voices merging with the waving sussuration of the leafy canopy above.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Helen and the Horns Paraphernalia

Well, I've been diggin' in me own crates and I've unearthed lots of old stuff yet again: this was a press pack that was sent out by RCA in the mid-1980s with photocopies articles, a biog and a 7" vinyl record of Footsteps at my Door. They did a quite a good job of all the design work and nicked the tinted-photo retro idea for a group called Modern Romance which annoyed me at the time because I'd asked them to do it. But they took the idea further themselves and used a retro RCA single-label from the Elvis era so I didn't fume for long!
I loved being in this band. We did a lot of gigs and they were fun- they were a cheerful bunch onstage and good fun off it too; very odd by some people's measures (two scientists in the Horn section, a female live-sound engineer, no bass and no drums...).
We toured up and down the country and supported all sorts of groups- Mud, Mary Wilson and the Wilsations, The Orson Family (actually I think they supported us) and even Roger McGuinn at the Town and Country Club. John Peel and John Walters liked us enough to give us three sessions and a live ICA gig too (you can hear a track at www.myspace.com/helenandthehorns).
I also found an original Chefs t-shirt which is very crumpled. It's back in it's box but I'll photograph it at some point and post it here. As I remember, they sold out in moments, but mainly because they were yellow, I think!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Re-recording

Just been re-recording all of yesterday's guitar parts- well four of them, as one of my fingers is telling me it's going to get a blister and I have now stopped for the day.
I was off to do Jamie McDermot's singing course this morning and it looked from the web as though the tubes up my line were running fine- till I got to the tube station and discovered that I would have to get a tube, two buses and another tube to get to Queen's Park.
That sounded like a two hour journey to me.
Exiled once more in High Barnet, I went for a very long walk and came back to listen to the tracks I'd recorded yesterday. The guitars were quiet and weedy and I decided to unweed them which I've just done.
It's all an exercise in patience as I can't wait to get started on the vocals, especially the harmonies... that's what the singing lessons were for, to reawaken my singing voice. I will have to just do as much as I can at home.
Being in music mode, I am physically clumsy in all other walks of life and I dropped a red cabbage on my toe. Ouch!
Time for tea and a little croon....

Friday, January 25, 2013

Synchronicity: an Elephant

For about two weeks, I have been puzzling about upside down elephants, and how to draw one. This is where my pathetic joke 'Do Magpipes play bagpies?' came from (ignored by Offsprog Two; Offsprog One texted me for the punchline)
I was so excited when I saw this in yesterday's paper that I tore it out and actually spoke to a stranger about it on the tube.
I was on my way to an exhibition of Communications student work at the RCA, which is well worth seeing if you get a chance. It's open to the public. I particularly liked a small patchwork quilt with  images of a bear looking at a heart, and a little guitar, and other things, all perfectly inlaid and stitched; a fascinating sketchbook with line drawings of robins raining down and all sorts of little adventures happening all the way through it (plus some chefs which Offsprog One said reminded her of my own work); and a bench with delicate ceramic bowls, some forming sequences of images, and some subverted with squiggly porcelain rims and delicate paintings of reclining people inside one of them and on the outer surface of another, that was so beautifully executed I felt like crying. As I said, well worth seeing- just beside the Royal Albert Hall.

Listening

Just before preparing to record, I'm listening to an EP called Hatch by Guy Harries. Guy is an electronica artist/flautist and this is a small collection of beautifully-crafted songs that manage to combine a sense of threatening with theatrical, almost musical-like melodies. Minor keys are stretched to discordant boundaries; ambient sounds try to interrupt and distract but Guy's powerful vocal weaves a strong thread throughout each song, supported in places by his flute-playing, sometimes layered and sometimes playing arpeggios.
I have always had a horror of tootling instruments (an angry little sister repeated overblowing her recorder in fury and frustration is responsible for this) but Guy's flute playing is fluid, subtle and gentle.
I like all of the songs here, but Cradle My Heart is my fave, blending as it does deep electronic sounds and an emotional vocal performance that would have Sinatra sobbing into his Martini!
Take a listen:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

MeMeMe

I went swimming... two solid weeks of marking and my back felt like an old man's coat with the coat-hanger still in it. Now I feel like a floppy doll, but that's infinitely better.
And today, I recorded two guitar tracks for new songs, using the Green Goddess (a semi-acoustic Gretsch single anniversary) and tried to do a third, but either I haven't got The Funk or I need to practice it more, or both.
But I've been longing to start recording again and now I have. I have a list of songs, some of which are silly and some of which are moody, and some of which are somewhere in between.
Inspired, I shall do more tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Action Man Is Here

These are the lyrics, lovingly transcribed by our lead singer Joby, from the ActionMan flexi-single song that we did a cover version of in Joby and the Hooligans, around 1977.

Trolling is Not a New Phenomenon

I was sent this by an irate address-free (possibly elderly, looking at the handwriting) person in around 2000 when I was beginning my PhD.
If I'd been able to respond, I could have pointed out that I was actually working and paying taxes; possibly, I was contributing to their own NHS treatments or some such.
If they'd have put a forwarding address, I could even have sent them a book, perhaps!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

More CD Reviews

Peter Blegvad and Andy Partridge: Gonwards

I am really enjoying this! This collection is a strange mixture of sounds, textures and words that really defies definition. Blegvad sounds as authoritative as Ivor Cutler as he declaims oblique sense (as opposed to nonsense) although his material is much more accessible: perhaps a scallop to Cutler's oyster.
A shambling, almost swamp-rock attitude to strictness of tempo is an illusion; what we have here is 'feel' extraordinaire, for Blegvad and Partridge have assembled a group of musicians who effortlessly swim through the arrangements and the production is little short of delicious. Sacred Objects has a mystique that makes me feel woeful for no reason; St Augustine Says is a hangover song par excellence. What a Car You Are... well, I've just registered a complaint with the BBC about its ad for Top Gear. This car-love song shoves misogynistic bluster out of the way and replaces it with perviness, which is a much more palatable dish.
Here and there, there are shades of Kurt Weill, but not in Tom Waits way although Tom Waits fans will love this (I have tried to like him but he sounds SO like an actor, and Blegvad sounds real, especially since he never chops his prose to suit a musical phrase).
There is a puzzle in this music, and I'll have to listen to it until I have solved it.
As far as I can work out, it's on a New York label called Ape House. I'll try to find out how you can get hold of a copy.

Jill Hepburn: The Lantern Has Fallen

I had the pleasure of playing a gig with Jill last summer at Stirling Tollbooth, both of us supporting Martin Stephenson and the Daintees. She has a wonderfully clear and high voice, and accompanies herself with lively banjo playing; this was produced by Jill and Martin, and includes contributions by ex-Fall fiddle player Kenny Brady, and Martin Stephenson and Jill's partner, Mark Lough on guitar (amongst others).
The first track, Footprints, is my favourite of the bunch because it showcases Jill's voice so well and it's got a great hook which I wish I'd invented! It bowls along with a polka rhythm that would melt the most frozen of hearts.The minimalism of Fire in a Flame has a subtle power. Farewell My Friend is a pensive and lovely song, and the CD finishes with a spirited song called No Rhyme No Reason that left me feeling uplifted in spite of the gloomy post-snowfall night outside, with Kenny providing subtle fiddle and vocal accompaniment. Lovely, all of it.
www.jillhepburn.com



Luckily...

Luckily, you don't have to suffer a blog posting called 'The Mysterious Disappearance of the Ideologically Unsound Cowboy Boot', because I've found it.

Attaboy, Moths!!!

Thwarted by the snow, the idea of going somewhere by car soon faded away. It wasn't the wiper mechanism that was frozen, but the wipersthemselves and the snow is falling so fast that I can't clear ii=t from the windscreen.

A rarely-used hat emerged from its bag two weeks ago peppered with moth-holes so I branded today 'eradicate moths' day.
The boot of the car is frozen shut so the plan to bung a couple of bin-bags full of clothes into sub-zero temperatures for a few days also failed, or so I thought.
There are now three black bags of woollies (these moths seem to be wool-chompers) on the bench in the yard, turning into lumpen snow drifts as we speak.
I've used the spray (sparingly, as I don't want to eradicate myself), spread out the rest of the clothes in the wardrobe and spent the rest of the morning bagging the shoes that I wear in summer and lining up the shoes I wear in winter.
My room is always tidy, but chiefly because all the rubbish is haunting the space under the bed. No longer! I now have a bag of shoes to sell on eBay in the Spring, and a bag to recycle.

Freezing usually works to kill the moth grubs. I was thinking about the consequent period of woollie-less cold, but rationalised this by thinking that jumpers full of holes won't keep me warm anyway.
I have almost stopped buying clothes in charity shops and vintage shops because of this problem. Offsprog Two sprayed her cupboard one year and was literally sweeping up silvery-grey dead moths from the floor. I usually put second hand clothes in the freezer compartement of the fridge for 24 hours. I don't know where this lot came from; possibly from new clothes bought in the sales and not stored properly.

I am now watching out for you, grubs: beware!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Keeping HMV Afloat All By Myself

Well, I felt sorry for Nipper, always sitting and listening to his master's voice so patiently. So after lunch with Dave Laing, who supervised my PHD and whom I occasionally meet for lunch and gossip, I went to HMV to search the racks for music to pep up my collecsh.
£30 later, I has a couple of sopper-dooper Northern Soul compilations (I'm listening to one now, King Northern Soul Volume 3). This isn't the best Northern Soul compilation in the world but it's beating the January Marking Blues.
I'd hoped the young chap at the desk would be grateful for my contribution to his continued employment, but he wasn't, and I realised how naive I'd been to imagine that he had anything else but redundancy on his mind.
Poor HMV.
I've been marking pretty much all day; the conveyor belt keeps rolling and like the Henry Ford of academia, I fit the nuts and bolts of correct grammar and scholarly quotations to their essays before they trundle off into the distance to contribute to their owners' academic journeys.
I made bread this evening, punching the dough like a seasoned boxer. That helped a little, as at this time of year I get zilch exercise and was having trouble with 'there' and 'their', if you know what I mean. The bread was not impressed and emerged from the oven as solid as a leather boxing glove as if to mock my efforts to thump some life into it.
This is a  great track! Popcorn Charlie by Charles Spurling; it'll go on to my playlist labelled 'uplifiting'. The Northern Soulsters always sound so lonely; the songs are usually plaintive and the singers struggle for freedom, embedded as they are in strict bashy beats and trumpeted at from all sides by blasting brass; at least they have the harmonies charging in to the rescue from time to time!
I like loneliness in music. I used to like that in a lot of the tracks that John Peel played. A lonely bloke or girl, singing deadpan about something quite miserable, broadcast in the late evening when people who could afford it and who had friends were in the pub being jolly.
Most of the time, I lived alone in a bedsit in Willesden with only my reflection in the window pane for company and all my worldly possessions stuffed into a cardboard box under the bed. I probably had this in common with Peel listeners all over the country!
I think this Northern Soul is making me glum...

Bess Korey's E-Article on the Lost Women of Rock Music

http://boxxmagazine.com/2013/01/interview-author-helen-reddington-talks-about-the-lost-women-of-the-punk-era/

Marking and the Metaphysical

There's something about all those words, all that pressure... at night I lie awake for hours thinking about outer space, infinity, religion, spirituality... and politics.
Why aren't the cabinet labelled the Eton Mess? It's actually a delicious pudding made of smashed up meringue and jam and cream, but it's formless, and in the emergency colours of red and white; it is mixed-up, irreparable and although it tastes nice at first, it leaves one with a sense of being overpowered by bad calories. Most important of all, it is insufferably rich!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

CD Reviews: a Contrasting Pair....

Miranda Quammie: Tempest

I meet Miranda 'on the circuit' sometimes and I have always liked her voice; I asked her to give me a copy of her CD so that I could take a listen and encourage you to listen to her music.
Miranda is a keyboard player and on this album she is joined by a selection of well-chosen musicians who add colour to the songs. My absolute favourite track on the album is the beautiful urban reverie Undertow which has a lovely melody and shifting textures of instrumentation beneath it. Other notable tracks are Tempest Interlude with its shades of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love, Distance, the tracks RAMS Interlude, and the strong simplicity of Latin Song which features a 'speaking' cello in conversation with the vocal line (something about this track reminds me of the artist Joan as Policewoman). Elsewhere I hear the influences of Siouxsie; there are equal measures of doom and charm in these songs. If  I have a criticism it's the sheer volume of tracks; maybe that's more of a reviewer's problem, because for a fan of Miranda's music the seventeen tracks here provide exceptionally good value for money!
I am looking forward to hearing her next step...
www.facebook.com/mirandaquammie

Shipcote and Friends: Me and My Buddies

Shipcote is a promoter from Gateshead who has always remained a musician, which means that he has never crossed that cynical divide that puts 'us' on one side and 'them' on the other. His music has a relaxed and smiling vibe and the reason I have chosen to review his CD is that I really like his song writing. The music falls firmly into the acoustic field and a lot of his music seems as though it has always been there (Sweet Bye and Bye has a definite old-timey classic feel). He is a great chorus- writer with a sweet'n'sour approach to lyric writing (Best Wishes, Find Myself). I was interested to see that Brian Younger,  one of the unsung guitar heroes of the north-east, has contributed to this with his magic touch! Shippy has a love of Americana and there is a nod in the direction of cajun here especially in the fiddle and accordion interplay that happens in some of the songs. He is also brave enough to include waltz-time and tango songs (hear that, Frank Ocean?). I think my fave track is My Buddy and Me which is a definite porch-and-rockin' chair track, although it's a tie with Your Kind of People which has the most lovely ethereal backing vocals.
Bring me my non-alcoholic Jack Daniels and my croc-burger!
www.shipcote.com

Two more reviews later today, or tomorrow: then that's it for this month!

Sunday, January 13, 2013



Martin Stephenson at Islington Metalworks

The Kalamazoo Klub has been ejected from its former home under the King's Head in Crouch End. No longer known as 'Squatter's Bottom', Crouch End is becoming increasingly chichi (you thought it was already? think again!) and is changing flavour from being the home of wealthy bohemians, having caught a fatal does of bankeritis.
So here we are at the Islington Metalworks, a slice of 1990s Berlin within sneezing distance of the Angel tube station. In a room-within-a-room, flashing squiggly  red and green lights rotate on the floor, inflatables with projected oil bubbles loom at each side of the stage, and a backdrop of twinkling lights proclaim 'Wedding!' in assertive twinkly-light voices.
The young sound chap, who hails from Philadelphia, is sane and calm and tones down the lighting a little; the guys from Blinking Buzzard, a clutch of old-timey music fans who not only run the club but also act as support band, start moving upholstered ammo-boxes into position at the front of the stage, and soon it actually looks like a gig. The black-clad security fellers turn out to be sweethearts; the loos are clean and the whole place becomes an intriguing and friendly space. Spotlights are turned round to illuminate the stage and very soon the whole room fills (I'd say half as many people again as the King's Head venue pulls, possibly because of the proximity to the tube station).
Lots of Geordie expats are here and the atmosphere is buzzing.
So are the Blinking Buzzards, who have acquired a new member and who almost spill off the stage because there are so many of them. Their sound is mellow and their choice of songs exact: these musicians are total fans and they bring the aural equivalent of a Southern Porch Circa 1925 into the black-clad club. There is one moment of drama as Guy berates the King's Head for evicting them. Is that green smoke I see seeping out from under the stage? Actually, the Buzzards fare better here than at the King's Head- we can see them all clearly and they are now playing to a new, larger audience who are all listening... that can't be bad, can it?
So Martin comes to the stage, accompanied by Jim Morrison on fiddle (Martin knows a lot of Jims: there's Jim the guitar, Jim the banjo, Jim the...  well, Jim probably).
From the start we know it's going to be a good night. The sound is perfect- not too loud, and for a listening audience it's just the right volume. What an antidote to the raucous Christmas gigs!
There are some gorgeous versions here: Lilac Tree, Little Red Bottle (best of the night I think), Wholly Humble Heart, plus lots of old-timey stuff and a lot of humour that has people roaring with laughter.
Jim and Martin have a close musical bond and tonight Jim is playing particularly well- subtle where he needs to be and swooping the solos when he has space to do so. The interplay between the two musicians is a joy to watch and listen to and the audience listen keenly all the way through. There are enough older songs here to satisfy the long-time fans but also a tour through Martin's very interesting and varied musical past.
What else can I say? This is an amazing, well-managed venue, the sound guy was great, the music was perfect for brightening up a bleak January evening: and hats off to the audience for good listening!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

In Which I Attend A Men's Fashion Week Event

Number One Adwych twinkled in the night air; full of anticipation, I slid through the huge glass doors in my glamorous coat and fancy tights (they don't call it Glamuary for nothing, my friends) and slipped down to the basement screening room to see MALE-AW13, a film directed by Dr No (one-time new blood Slits guitarist) and filmed by her partner in crime, Pete Remke.
The film shows the latest range of clothing by a designer called Lee Miller, who has a label called Doctor Robert; it's not just a wispy fashion film though. It's got a story, of a wealthy young man who stages his own kidnapping, looking rather cool in Lee Miller's clothing range while he clumsily clips letters out of a newspaper for his blackmail writing. Meanwhile, the police are outside digging up the garden (they really were, in Tottenham, but that's another story). The music is by Dr No and Pete's amazing band, the Home Office (and I reviewed their New Year's Eve gig about two years ago), and features moog synthesiser swoops and sinister vocals that ideally suit the darkness of the film. The clothes are simple and beautiful (why don't they make women's clothes like this?)- plain and well-cut and for wearing at home just to feel nice in when there's nobody about. I like that idea!
I made friends with a young Irish photographer: who said fashion types are snooty?
I'm off to visit his blog now!
Lee Miller's clothes are at www.doctorrobert.co.uk
(p.s. I've spent all day marking today and so I really enjoyed the night out. I will be reviewing some CDs soon)

Monday, January 07, 2013

Friday, January 04, 2013

Joke

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Ella
Ella who?
Ella Phantsfootumbrellastand.

Sorry. Marking 61x2000-word essays, 45 x1500-word essays and 6 x7000-word theses.
Gets to you, eventually.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Poetry and Rhyme on Bandcamp- Take a Listen!

http://helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com/album/poetry-and-rhyme

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty at Sadler's Wells

The Offsprogs, myself and McSis went off to Sadler's Wells yesterday evening to see this wonderful ballet. I do like Bourne's ballets but I also agree with the occasional critic who says that there's not enough dancing in them.
This one was a perfect antidote to that: after a charming start that included a lovely puppet rendition of the young princess and a projected precis of the story so far, a clutch of stylishly scruffy gothic fairies blew on to the stage and we watched a section of the show that had me dying for a rewind button; it was fabulous.
I particularly liked the little female fairy who bounced around the stage with a manic grin on her face, twitching and whisking her limbs around as though she were made of animated feathers; her part was over in the twinkling of an eye and there was no time to give her the applause she so richly deserved. Offsprog Two preferred pointy-man, who punctured a whole clutch of invisible balloons with his sharp pointy fingers, toes and even nose.
The costumes were to die for and emphasised the fact that Bourne's dancers appear to be in the air for an unfeasible 60% of the time.
From that point on the story came thick and fast; we had met the gigantic red Bad Fairy at the begining and (s)he reappeared in her born gender as The Bad Fairy's Son ready to seek vengeance. The very cute couple of the Princess and the Handyman did a lovely dance sequence on a garden bench that was reminiscent of the scene in the Sound of Music where Lisl and Franz (?) romance each other in the summer house.
Then of course, the The Bad Fairy's Son handed her a purple Bad Rose which pricked her finger and she fell asleep.
Events unfolded and we found ourselves in a red and black nightclub with The Bad Fairy's Son ready to marry the princess before sacrificing her. There was more beautiful ensemble dancing in this venue which resembled Cha Cha circa 1983, and another chance to see the dancer who played the Princess, Hannah Vasallo, show us just how lithe and graceful she was.
Hats off also to Ben Bunce as last night's Bad Fairy's Son: tall, scary, grimacing and a powerful presence on the stage.
Even the footlights had been made gothic with small brass wings upon them.
This ballet is stylish, well-choregraphed, beautifully performed (such fluid and well-rehearsed dancing!) and absolutely riveting to watch because of the costumes and overall design. I felt full of happiness as I watched it; I felt as though I too was floating through this world of mischief and magic with my bloated Christmas body left far below me on a velvet theatre seat!
What's more it even has a happy ending.
You must go to see it if you can: it's perfect.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Suburban Pastoral Now On Bandcamp

Thank you Martin, you are a treasure! For putting the whole of Suburban Pastoral on Bandcamp. Blood, sweat and tears for an afternoon... I'll put the rest of my stuff up there this weekend; you can listen, buy individual tracks or the whole lot here: http://helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com/album/suburban-pastoral

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Michael Gove Is Too Stupid To Be Education Minister: New Year's Rant

About ten years ago I applied to take part in some interesting research about school buildings.
The ad was for artists to imagine how to make school buildings better; the main focus was the fact that contemporary teenagers were getting too large for secondary school corridors, which were becoming congested with a consequent increase in bullying.

I have been reading today about the importance of 'flow' in schools and how it helps teachers to keep an eye on vulnerable pupils, and the pupils themselves to keep an eye on their own concept of learning.
Of course, The Idiot Gove wants clip-together schools with narrow corridors, concealed stairs and square rooms. This type of building will be cheaper to build and require less 'architecture' to create.

I couldn't participate in the research although I really enjoyed pitching for a chance to do it; I was teaching on the afternoons that they wanted us to meet, unforchly. But I could see how important it was to design, for want of a better word, gentle buildings. Brutal architecture may seem practical but I don't think people that are put in boxes to work or learn can be expected to work to their best abilities. And crammed corridors will lead to lateness, aggression and alienation. In ten years time the prefab buildings will have to be demolished and more practical buildings constructed in their place.

Perhaps Gove has read of the Russian Government's panic about its over-educated workforce who don't want to do the crappy jobs that were traditionally given to the less-educated people in society, so he wants to deliberately design uncomfortable buildings that make it difficult for pupils to study.

Do I sound like a communist if I suggest that these awful jobs- cleaners, dustmen and the like- ought to be better paid to compensate those who have to clear up after those who have more comfortable and status-led jobs?

Business-heads often seem to say that they have worked very hard for their money and therefore don't want to pay huge taxes on it. This implies that those who do the sh*t jobs in our society don't work hard! I have watched the cleaners at work and heard them talk about the number of jobs they have to do to earn a decent wage, and how they want to study to better themselves- when and if they ever have time have time.

I hereby support the London Transport cleaners in their campaign for a decent wage.
Remember this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-aRNW-Rst4

And Gove, use your heart as well as your head; don't embark on a scheme of building follies! Surely you are not such a fool?

Happy New Year!

Yes to Paloma Faith and The Hives, no to Roland Gift. Yes to Ruby Turner, no to Emilie Sande. No to The Dubliners after hearing Whiskey in the Jar every Friday for two years, sometimes performed twice by two artists with limited repertoire, at the Wylam Folk Club.
Jools Holland's show is there to be grumbled at, isn't it?
Looking forward to another great year of music and creativity!
Christmas albums to listen to: Tuneyards, Grimes, Merle Travis and more!