Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Walk

We went for a walk and found a hidden graveyard through a lych gate. The first part of it was shrouded by drooping dark trees with dead soil beneath them, threatening even though it was a beautiful sunny day beyond the trees. Further on we walked, where the sun shone on the tousled grass and the thick stones leaned and tumbled, their inscriptions filled with moss or eroded into shadows. The earliest grave was 1915; some had dried flowers, and only one had neat rows of begonias struggling against the heat.
We left, and it fell into peace again.

Girls in the Garage: Kitty Finer Song, Gina Birch Film


Monday, June 29, 2015

Chapter Delivered

Away it flew by email last night and the next taxi drew up at the rank, this time a very condensed version of a conference paper to be created in Powerpoint by Friday. That's the musical element out the window; I'll have to rethink this one during the week.
It's been busy but chaos can be very useful; I had a bit of a lightbulb thought five minutes ago which made me quite glad that some of my research is plodding along rather than whooshing by. Sometimes it can take months or even years before something seemingly obvious can switch on in your brain; often these things come about when you're thinking about something else, in this case a book that I lent that I don't think I'm going to get back. The thought appeared when I mentally revisited the content of the book to summarise what it was about, which happened in a very useful sentence which arrived at the same time as a thought about a student I'd worked with once. Nonsense, huh?
With that, I'll take my metaphors off and have a cup of tea.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

No Junk Mail

They will probably get sacked for doing it, but it was very funny to see the pizza leaflet carefully spread out flat and wedged neatly under the flap of the letterbox just under the engraved metal sign.
Much easier to read like that.

Pic of the Poseurs

Back through the misty glades of time, the streets of London were paved with punk and in our outposts around the country, we participated in it all in our own way. Wherever you were, the meanest accusation you could make to someone was that they were a poseur- or a poser, as we called it. You'd fling this at rich punks who bought their clothes from Vivienne and Malcolm rather than being given them or stealing them, or at people who bought their clothes from Boy rather than making them themselves. It was silly, but quite a lot about punk was silly; the self-policing wasn't anything to be proud of when we should have been dealing with the violence. The thing is that we were all really young and something had been created that was beyond anyone's control. This was our magazine, printed at the trusty Resource Centre in Brighton. We knew that some of the London punks laughed at us, and this was us laughing back. The young woman on the cover, Darla Jane Gilroy, later went on to be a famous fashion designer and is now a University lecturer; here she's tearing up a copy of Sniffing' Glue. In terms of content our mag was pretty cruddy but it was a lot of fun to do it and it was part of that 'we can do anything' feeling that permeated the whole of the latter part of the 1970s and that got stronger the harder people tried to stop us. 'Punk is over now in London', advised a friend down from London for the weekend. He didn't understand how little that mattered to us; we were far to busy to pay any attention, and anyway he wasn't in a band or anything like that: he was a watcher. Joby, our lead singer, was really into printing and made loads of posters that he slapped on hoardings all over Brighton until the council stopped him. We were nuisance and in many ways we were fearless because we had absolutely nothing to lose.

Drat and Double Drat

The plan was a bracing walk to oxygenate my sluggish weekend brain cells, then an hour or so at the computer to finish the writing in time for the deadline.
I'm not the sitsy-downsy type but I do know how to concentrate, so once I'm on the chair I'm there for hours.
However, as soon as I put my foot over the threshold a large blob of rain landed on the doorstep, so the computery bit of the day happened earlier than I'd anticipated. There is still a lot to be done but I'm having a Mahalia Jackson break and listening to a wonderful voice that doesn't even sound like a voice sometimes, and realising just what Elvis Presley's producers stole from gospel backing vocals: that clipped open/shut style of open-throated singing from groups of guys clustered round a microphone singing as one so a big block of tight, thick harmony surrounds the lead vocalist.
It looks as though the rain as set in for the day, which means that the list of rather glum instructions I made two days ago should shorten considerably. Most of the things on the list are those 'nuisance' tasks that involve searching for passwords and multiple keystrokes before further rummaging in files; either that or awkward emails that need to be worded exactly right and can't be dashed off in a flurry of enthusiastic typos.
You may have guessed by the number of postings about practically nothing that I've written this week, that the postings themselves are an elaborate prevarication exercise.
Maybe I should create a new slogan to reflect this.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Offsprog Two's Art Show


Eating, the Best Form of Prevarication

Hum... well I wrote for three hours this morning, took a break for an hour and a half to do the laundry, did another hour's writing and then went for a short walk, and I've just done another two hours.
It's not even 8000 words long and it's a rewrite, not a start-from-scratch; I think that possibly makes it even more complicated, though.
It's amazing how easy it is to eat almost a whole bag of Doritos to extend your break-time. It's a bit like Sherlock Holmes's two-pipe problem, but without the classiness.
The flies have buzzed off to a cowpat somewhere; they have left a few teeny fruitfly cousins who are  slowly spiralling around in confusion in the kitchen. That's all right. They can stay.
Anyway: regardless of the graft, I'm happy; I am now the proud mother of two graduate daughters!

Distractions

Where did all these bluebottles come from?
Hundreds of them in the house.
They sound like racing cars and road drills.
They are as big as flying mice.
Go away and leave me alone!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Writing Chops

OK, it's going to be a writing weekend.
I've sharpened my pencils and my brain and I'm catching the dregs of those detectives on 5USA, before I retire early to bed so I can early to rise and make a start.
I've washed all the mugs for the tea supply, and I've got bread for the toast supply.
My writing trousers are washed and pressed (if you believe that, you'll believe anything), and the teetering pile of books is teetering excitedly, knowing it's going to be put to work very soon.
I have practised the 'sitting down shape' posture that I will bend into for the day and the chair is positioned diagonally next to the table, ready to be pulled out and sat upon.
Actually I don't like this 5USA programme. Excuse me while I switch it off.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Intelligence, Bovine Style: a True Story

There was going to be a storm. The air was heavy with moisture and the clouds were bearing down on the fields and woods.
The cows ambled across the field in an orderly line and collected under the branches of a large tree to shelter from the impending rain. 
But the spread of its branches wasn't wide enough for all of them to fit underneath, so a line of cows sensibly crossed the field to another tree.
All of them.
They huddled underneath its branches, but the tree wasn't large enough to shelter the whole herd, so a line of them crossed back to the original tree.
All of them.
But the spread of its branches...

Lipstick and Dynamite Film on 18th July

This is Offsprog One's curated event at The Doomed Gallery in Dalston, and here's where you get tickets:
wegottickets.com/event/324842

https://www.facebook.com/events/630533410379998/

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Fenwick's in Newcastle

Ah! That most glamorous of shops. Stores, sorry.
Who's this? It's the butcher, striding confidently through Menswear (Calvin Klein, Paul Smith, etc.) in his crumpled white cotton butcher's coat, bloody handprint wipe-smears all down the front, in the button area.
Only in Newcastle; only in Newcastle.

Bouncing

I have been bouncing about like Tigger today. Driven to distraction at 12 a.m.  by the need to send out student feedback by email, I burned the midnight oil and sent out almost 100 emails. It worked- I slept like a baby and woke early this morning to head to the Research Conference at the University of the East in Docklands to present a paper. I enjoyed the papers by my colleagues Christopher Dalladay and Guy Harries, and it was worth going for that alone. Although I didn't manage to fit the whole talk in (none of us did), my paper made more sense in the telling than I thought it would. In the garrett, everything seems skewed and awkward, so it's a good thing to present research at conferences to iron out the kinks.
Then I went to The Vortex in Dalston; what a different environment to the University! In Gillett Square people hang out on benches and wander across to the cafes, busy doing nothing (or rather, something you can't understand unless you are one of their number). It is the land of the dreadlocked pensioner, the young white woman with stylish clothes, the tattooed older gent, the white-haired octogenarian couples in pale blue mackintoshes whatever the weather, and the occasional bearded lumbersexual.
I had gone to interview someone; I had never been there before and I was blown away by the lovely room where the music happens. It has a loyal clientele and you can see why.
Interviewing is really inspiring, but you also have to be really careful not to exhaust your... well... victim. I remember being interviewed for a German radio station about seven years ago, and after two hours I was practically on the floor with knackeredness, my mouth dry and my head empty. It's a bit like letting blood, but sometimes I think people tell themselves things while being interviewed that they hadn't realised themselves, so it does work both ways. I hope.
Last journey of the day was to Stratford to do some tutorials. It has been a muggy day and by 5.30 we were all swimming through the air like goldfish, in slow motion and uncharacteristically benign. We smiled graciously, made gentle bargains, and felt reasonably happy.
I bounced home and I've just eaten two pies. It's been that sort of day.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Week in the Day Of

It's been a full-on week; after a mad dash from the Songwriting Weekend in Dumfries (wonderful as always and some fantastic songs- yes, Laura and Rachel!), there was a gig in aid of the Macmillan charity in Congleton, Going Up the Country on Sunday afternoon. It was part of a yearly festival and I enjoyed meeting The Sunbathers, who gave me their single to listen to (not yet!). There were some lovely people there, and the whole event was organised by Kevin Birchall, who seemed remarkably sane considering that it was the last few hours of a weekend festival. I thoroughly enjoyed it actually; after a weekend helping people to write their own songs it was nice to get up and sing mine!
After a week of mega-meetings at work, I then became Martin's roadie for a couple of gigs, both of which were great- Winchester with Jimmy Cole on banjo and high-strung guitar, and Twickenham with Jim the Fiddle. I had to work today too and kept up with the Austerity March via Twitter and bits of BBC News 24. Charlotte Church is my new wannabe BF; probably everybody's, I think!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How Mermaids Breed: a Film and a Song

video
Film maker Joan Ashworth made this film in 2002 and we wrote a song to go with it.
The two have led separate lives- but here they are together. The film won many prizes; the song won many hearts (well, in Cardiff it did, for some reason!)
The song, Blue's Song, is here:
https://soundcloud.com/mccookerybook/blues-song

Monday, June 15, 2015

Motorway Coffee

Welcome Break is the worst. Homeopathic coffee; the baristas fill the cup with hot water while thinking about a coffee bean- the more bitter, the better.
Voila!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Peggy Seeger at The Stables, Milton Keynes

It was actually a heartfelt review in the Guardian that made me decide to go to this gig. Sometimes The Guardian, probably pressurised by hectoring press officers, writes downbeat reviews yet still gives the artists three stars, and I'm not always trusting of their opinions.
In this particular review, however, the writer was clearly affected by Seeger's show. Maybe because it's almost a year since McMum died, maybe because I was affected by Sheila's departure, maybe just because I wanted to be absorbed in someone's musical life, I took the plunge and swished up the M1 in the crapsocar to the Stables at MK.
Straight away I liked the slow time there. Old fashioned volunteers (not the poor souls forced by the Government into 'work experience') were lined up in the approach road in hi-vis jackets waving us gently into parking spaces.
I hovered in the foyer noting the high incidence of grey hair (many grey beards), sandals and affluence. But that's par for the course at this venue, I think, and music does after all belong to everyone. I also noted that even at the highest level the CD stall is there, with its bypass of a music industry that's not interested in anything that deviates from the mainstream, with Peggy set to stand there after the show signing CDs.
In the auditorium, Peggy was in the stalls chatting to audience members and breaking down the artist/audience barrier right from the start. This became almost a full house as people drifted in, until finally her two sons took to their seats and the show began.
She picked up the autoharp and nestling into it, encouraged us to sing along from the first note. I'm not sure of song titles but I think this was Sing About the Hard Times which had an unresolved melody in the chorus that set the tone for the evening. To start off with, her sometimes frail voice was supported in a touching manner by harmonies from the lads; later, as her voice warmed up, strength flowed into it and their three part harmonies were a joy to listen to.
Peggy is a fantastic guitar player- her fingers are nimble and the guitar parts to the songs are beautifully worked out; her touch is feather-light and so rapid that at times her fingers are a blur. This skill was shown off to perfection on The Progress Train, a cynical song that tells it like it is and it ever was. Always we were included: 'If you can't sing it, hum it- we'll hear you', she told us.
Next she picked up an oblong guitar/banjo which was probably a gigantic cigar box guitar.
They had one of many conversations between them on stage, about there being more chickens that humans on the planet, or was it rats?
'Conservatives', said one of the sons.
The audience wasn't sure they found that funny.
Cluck Old Hen, played on (what I thought was) the  cigar box guitar was amazing, very bluesy and swampy and of a sound that I infinitely preferred to the instrumentals that they played next, which were Elizabethan and based, I think, on a book of songs by John Playford. These were lovely, but I preferred the scratchy timbre of the hen song, which came from a series of recordings called Animal Songs for Children.
Between songs, Peggy read from her book Fact and Fantasy, which is collection of newspaper cuttings, jokes and so on that she has collected over the past 20 years. Her comments were wry and hilarious: 'This is the problem that I want to have.... I need to find the right wrong person'.
There were calls and challenges to the grim reaper. She spoke a touching poem dedicated to her mum,  Ruth Porter Crawford, who died at the age of 53 and who therefore missed a whole chunk of her lifetime, and then sang a song that brought me to tears: 'Mama, it's late, please call me home...'.
One of the sons then sang a song, Black Dog and Sheep Crook, that continued the dark thread of the evening; while he sang Peggy mouthed the words along with him, deep in thought.
There were, of course, many jolly songs that made us laugh, but even these had a pepper twist to them that refused to let the listener settle into complacency.
I just sat and experienced the second half, which included the mesmerising Wasteland Lullaby and a song written by Ewan McColl when he was approaching the end of his life, sung again by one of the sons, that described the beauty of life and the simple joy of breathing fresh air. The highlight, though, was the First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, which is a perfect love song and which was written for Peggy by Ewan. Clearly and confidently, she stood at the microphone and took us all back to the time when her lover was still alive and singing to her. By this time her voice had completely warmed up and she sang as clearly as a bell; the audience was spellbound and held in the moment with her. This was another big lump in the throat moment.
Throughout the show, Peggy's feisty, elfin presence drew the audience in to her family, her songs, her life and her willingness to share a positive approach to left-wing politics with audiences through music and song. Peggy might perhaps say that the importance of her performance is as a storyteller, which is undoubtedly true, but it's the subtlety of lyric writing not only of her own songs but those she chooses to cover, that gave this evening a really special feeling. Not only that, but as an instrumentalist she has an extraordinary talent. Chrissie Hynde needs to go to see her play; never again would she be able to say that in terms of skill there is no female equivalent of Jimi Hendrix. Inside Peggy's head is a store of chords and technique that is so well-crafted and apparently effortless that it's practically invisible unless you look for it.
Finally and after a standing ovation, we all joined together to sing Happy Birthday to her. She stood at the front of the stage with a delighted smile before heading off to sign CDs after a two-hour show that would put many a younger artist to shame.
'I'm always the last person to leave the building', she told us.
I was inspired: completely inspired.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

At Lunch

At lunch we were talking about football. Barcelona, Barnet and Arsenal; we discussed them in detail. Then inadvertently I tripped over my tongue, and invented a new team: Barsenal.

Hens

I washed the pillows. The house smells of hens.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Illustration at Brighton Art College

I went to see Offsprog Two's degree show at Brighton Art College. There's the very funny film she made of the Life Drawing Class with Eugene in a paper nude suit being drawn by a whole roomful of straight faced students, and the best bit, the interviews with nuns (and Lucy, who was taught by nuns) bound into a little prayer-book sized booklet. She does a lot of embroidery, and in her exhibition is an embroidered cross-stitch cassock with an exclamation mark in black, blue and white (nun colours), and a banner with an excerpt from a nun's prayer. She has previously sewn embroidered patches with bodybuilders on them, and Nick Cave, and she's promised me a Poirot. I must remind her of that.
I love Art College and it's a privilege to be able to hang out in one again. The big white rooms were full of young people's wonder and questioning of everything, all articulated in interesting and beautiful art: print, sewing, painting, drawing, films, photography. I got a lump in my throat; it was partly the smell (why doesn't music smell that good?) and partly pride (this is the second daughter to exhibit art at a degree show; both different artists, both very good). Ideas are so important; the imagination is what makes us human, not money, business, banking, and dark blue suits from Tyrwhitt. Hear that, Osborne?
It was also really odd to be back in the same building where I studied all those years ago. We went upstairs to the print department, and the little room where I used to coat etching plates in photosensitive liquid was still there although the machines had been moved around. Fine Art was still in the same corridor! We wandered from room to room and I think probably all wished we could have had a go too.
 Joan rather liked a fetching painting of a duck smoking a fag; and there was a film of students getting drunk, a theme I'd seen at another University show recently. This lot looked just as embarrassed and guilty as the others; I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time (meow!). Eugene had a bicycle with a Mercedes grille on the front and Merc hubcaps on the wheels. I was rather taken by the photo of him riding down the country road with it, and thought how nice it would be if everyone customised their bicycles instead of thinking of them as branded status symbols. Like Eugene's, I suppose, actually.
Afterwards we flopped on sofas, exhausted by all that looking. Joan said she had the ailment Gallery Foot. The cure was Mr Whippies on the seafront next to the merry-go-round, which serenaded us with Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree and other cheesy songs, some of them Scottish. The little tambourines trembled, the xylophones zinged and trilled, and large seagulls floated about menacingly in mid-air waiting for chips (with delicious expanded polystyrene container on the side). Two babies outshrieked the seagulls by being totally unafraid and charging them, but they soon sailed back into position to dive-bomb the remains of people's dinners. Offsprog One told us that they don't like ice cream, so we were safe.
I want to go to Art College again. I wonder if they'd let me in?

Monday, June 08, 2015

Bluebottle

Every time I open the back door, a huge bluebottle flies into the house, droning like a light aircraft and intermittently crashing into the windows with a sound like crushing cellophane.
Upstairs, downstairs it goes, zigzagging at knee level trying to find the Way Out, panicking visibly.
Is it the same one every time?
Usually, I manage to coax the thing out, but it obviously sneaked back in yesterday evening.
Much to my alarm (quite literally) the huge bluebottle woke me this morning by coming into my room and roaring at maximum wing-volume. Biff, sock, pow against the walls; I cowered under the duvet in terror.
Bzzt bzzt bzzt.....
Bzzzt.....
Eventually, I made a dash for it, and opened the back door.
I think it's gone.
Or has it?

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Race of One


Sheila

I have just found out that Sheila Whiteley has died. She was a wonderfully beautiful woman, and a self-effacing academic and musician, the sort of person you want to just go on forever. She was the writer of the groundbreaking book The Space Between the Notes; when I was a little lost at my first conference away from home, she took me under her wing and we sat and yakked in a student cafe about our kids and normal thing like that. She was an utter sweetheart; rest in peace Sheila.

A Short Poem by the Poet Laurel-leaf, after an Energetic Tussle in the Garden with a Spiny Plant

Juniper juniper, bound in your pot,
I'm going to re-pot you.
'Oh no, you are not'.

Andy Diagram at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival

Stoke Newington is one of the most difficult places in the Universe to get to- unless you live there, of course. But that's why it has managed to reserve it's sense of being an enclave of leftiness, quirkiness, and 'we invented the coffee house several centuries ago'-ness. I have been to the literary festival before and I know how special it is. Too late, today, I'm looking at the programme. Tasting fonts-typography and food- now that would have been right up my street! There's so much going on, and I'm too late because it takes a million years to get there from here. But I'm glad I didn't miss yesterday, for sure.
I walked up from Dalston. There, just ahead of me, was student Anthony (not his real name) crossing the road rapidly as he spotted my approach. He hadn't handed in his work, you see; it reminded me of my kids putting their hands over their eyes to hide from me.
Don't worry, Anthony, I didn't see you.
Up Stoke Newington High Street, nothing is what it seems, in that very urban London way.
Shops multitask: a jewellers doubles as a travel agents, for instance. What looked like a huge and beautiful tiled mosque from a distance turned out to be a Turkish restaurant, and a bit further down the road, sandwiched in between chicken shops, an African Church unassumingly occupied a shop.
Firstly, I went for coffee and cake at the top of Church Street. I think Banksy may have popped to the lavvy in this particular caff but it could have been a copycat graffiti (see what I did just there?). Ahem. Then I headed down to the tent in the grounds of the William Patten School.
A breeze had blown up from nowhere, enough to blow a 7" single clean off the turntable in rather a spectacular fashion. You wouldn't get that with an mp3, would you? Small dramas like that make life worth living, and indeed I think I found a spiritual home in Stoke Newington yesterday afternoon; it was packed with people who were refusing to grow old and boring, instead sporting sculpted beards that made lumbersexuals look as conservative as bankers, or sporting their same-sex elderly and nattily-dressed partners on their arms, and generally comporting themselves as free spirits and unfettered human beings.
This leads me to Andy Diagram's half hour set of psychedelic trumpet playing. His trumpet is made of red plastic, although he has a metal mouthpiece which is probably a favourite friend. According to Richard Boon, these plastic brass instruments (plastic sections instead of brass sections? possibly...) were actually invented in Hackney.
Andy's partner Karina (who played sax in the Mike Flowers Orchestra) told me that the first plastic instrument was actually a trombone. I was fascinated; I can't even play my metal one!
Mental note to find a trumpet teacher patient enough to teach a General from another genre.
Played through a Digitech Whammy and controlled via an iPhone attached to the front of the trumpet, the sound travelled through genres, continents and instruments, looping and evolving: I heard the Mad Professor segue into bagpipes; moods of New York underpasses packed with traffic turned into percussive freight trains, before a didgeridoo emerged from the ground and swopped places with a grunting tuba with Fred Wesley playing over the top. It was foot-tapping stuff: here came a 1980s Crusaders-style bass line with a soprano sax sound weaving Turkishly over the top, here came an electric fuzz guitar with the rhythm chopping the sound up into funky chicken nuggets.
The sound engineer, who was sporting a fine blue felt ladies hat, literally sat with his mouth open, enthralled.
I scribbled notes as I listened. Here came 2001: A Space Odyssey, from the future to the past imagined future; the BPMs slithered about and Delia Darbyshire shivered in her grave. Ian Carr bumped into Byron Lee's Allstars and Herb Alpert flew about on the breeze that teased our hair.
In the end, I stopped writing and just enjoyed it all. It was the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon.
Fifty years ago we might have been watching the Salvation Army with their metal cornets, a three-pronged music-holder clipped at the noise-end, holding fluttering sheet music inscribed with hymn tunes that were held down with static dots. Here and now, music was set free and played through a plastic trumpet with an iPhone that shifted shapes and blended the sound with the wind.
Blimey- how things have changed!
http://www.ptrumpet.com

Sticky Fingers

Can't post at the moment- I've got Araldite on my fingers from repairing a garden lamp.
Mends aeroplanes, you know.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Suitable Socks for Stoke Newington

For the Stoke Newington Literary Festival today, I chose Che Guevara socks. This is because of the area's reputation as a lefty stronghold, with independent-minded people discussing The Revolution over a latte and a slice of baklava (or a double chocolate brownie) in cafes with wooden floorboards and lavender in galvanised tin pails.
Unfortunately nobody asked to see my socks today (actually, they never do), so my secret was safe with me.
I bought some rambling Rosemary (I didn't know such a thing existed either!) and a short review of Andy Diagram's set will follow tomorrow.

A Weed


Blog Interruptions

I keep wanting to post photographs but my phone is busy conking out which makes it rather difficult. When it does agree to take photos (which it's moody about, having bunched up so many Apple updates that they spill out into my handbag), it won't send them anywhere, in spite of making that encouraging 'whooshing' noise. It grinds into action so slowly that I've got time to put the kettle on and make a cup of tea before it opens it eyes and starts twinkling.
In addition, day to day life has been ruled by the computer programmes at work whose subtle attempts to disrupt my normally efficient working habits by relentlessly forgetting the marks its supposed to be saving have given me a new stripe of grey hair in my fringe. I am exhausted by it all and I've promised myself a week of music and art, kicked off by three drawings last night that I can't post here for the above reason.
Add to that the hellish fact that  all of the programmes/apps that I use, from Blogger through Word to texting, have become so enthusiastic at auto-correcting that much of what I type translates as rubbish. If I don't have time to proof-read what I've typed, I send out garbled missives that look as though they've been constructed by a pigeon. 'Computer knows best', nods the machine sagely and smugly.
No you don't, you blasted machine.
If you don't respect me I'll snip off your ears with my pinking shears!
What's the technological word for anthropomorphism?

Friday, June 05, 2015

Chef

I made these trousers from some cheap acrylic tartan that I bought in a fabric shop in Brighton.
I laid it on the floor doubled over, sat on it, drew round my legs and cut it out and sewed it up.
Some guys whose surname was Anderson said it was their tartan: turquoise with coloured checks. I've still got that t-shirt somewhere, I think.
The guitar came from a guitar shop in Worthing. I ate  nothing but sardines for weeks so I could save up to buy it. Later, after a fracas at a gig at Sussex University, some Hells Angels stole it when I leaned it up against Carl's mini (also turquoise) to go to sort out the fight. But I knew they had it and I went and stood outside their pub every night and stared at them as they stood outside with their beers.
One day when I had borrowed my brother's bass to play, I was sitting in the pub waiting to do our gig after the sound check, and my brother walked in with this guitar in his hands. He'd been walking home to get changed and a woman had been carrying it into the Police Station because she had found it when she was sunbathing in the park. He persuaded her to give it straight to him and rushed into the pub with it. I couldn't believe my eyes- I never thought I'd see it again. I think the Hells Angels must have (a) felt guilty and (b) realised that it's so distinctive (it's a Hofner President) that they would never be able to sell it. Later, its neck got snapped off in the Piranhas van on the way back from a gig and I took it to Jimi Hendrix's guitar mender to have it glued and baked back on again. Now it lives in Scotland; it has been re-homed, revived and revved up to play on many local recordings, most recently by the artist Dave Fleming.
It's a survivor, and that's a true story.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Don't Buy! Don't Buy!

I have to put my hands over my eyes when I walk past the charity shops in Barnet.
First it was a mint-condition vintage wind-up record player complete with enormous brass horn; then a beautiful autoharp, painted with lords and ladies and decorated with gold leaf.
A couple of weeks ago an ancient Indian harmonium stood beckoning in a shop window, and today it's a perfect little Bontempi organ.
Oh
Oh
Oh!
My mini-house is full: there is no room for these things, but I do lust after them so.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Saturday Night at the Union Chapel

I'm up with the lark for work, but I thought I'd indulge in a  few moments thought about the Union Chapel on Saturday.
Islington was packed to the gills with Arsenal supporters, cramming the pubs and singing at the tops of their voices. We repaired to a Colombian cafe after the soundcheck where The Daintees ate tortillas and drank coffee and we listened to little bit of salsa music (underpinned by manly chanting).
Even at 7.30 when The Blinking' Buzzards played there were about 100 people already there in the Union Chapel, spread out in the pews and smiling in anticipation.
The cupola up above was still collecting beams of sunshine from the setting sun and the stained glass windows were still glowing with colour. Mike and June and Laura had set up the CD stall at the back of the chapel, and there was even a sweetie shop off to one side.
Earlier, I'd listened as the sound guys scooped the booming, echoing soundcheck from the myriad nooks and crannies of the building and centred it all on the area where the audience was going to be sitting, carving it into music rather than noise. It must be a difficult building to engineer, sound-wise but they did an amazing job.
I got up to play and was greeted by swirling fog as the smoke machine kicked in; I could just about see the audience and I spotted a few friends out there- Katy Carr, Lester Square and his missus, Johny Brown and Inge, Foolish Girl and Wilky, Steve and his missus and Jen. The Daintee's audience is really friendly anyway and always a joy to play to. The added feature of the Union Chapel, of course, is the amount of reverb on the applause, which quadruples to stadium proportions. I like very much.
On came Martin and the crew, with Kate resplendent in her new bright blue cowboy shirt.
Negotiating a set list from the bottom up, they started off with Neon Skies and charged through a set of favourites:  Little Red Bottle, Me and Matthew, Left Us To Burn (brilliant), Lilac Tree (groovin') and many more including a perfect version of Rain which sounded just as good on a Stratocaster as it does on the Yiari. Steve did a bit of classy trumpeting from the stalls and Jim-the-fiddle joined the band for the last two numbers. The band was tight, energetic and positive; Martin was on exceptionally funny form and everyone left with a huge grin o their faces when the curfew came along far to soon.
Thanks to me buddies for coming along- wasn't it fun?
Pic: with Kate, The Daintees' drummer, at soundcheck time