Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Winter Pansy

Unbelievably, this beautiful little flower has kept growing strong through rain, snow, ice and days of sub-zero temperatures. It sees all, and knows all.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Re-posted Because Of Trump

But Is It?


Black Sabbath At The 02

Stupidly, I bought a ticket for the wrong day. I used to do this all the time with train travel, and I think that I simply don't have the brain for internet shopping.
I was sulking. The joys of watching the new series of Endeavour on ITV couldn't remotely match the excitement of seeing Black Sabbath. At school I had always wanted to be 'one of the lads'- or even, 'in with the lads'. In the 1970s, teenage music-boys had knapsacks made of thick rough khaki cotton, upon which they painted intricate logos of their fave bands in bright enamel paint: Deep Purple ('the Purple'), Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ugh), Led Zep, Mott (the Hoople), Genesis (no thanks).
No, I didn't like those bands- but I did like Black Sabbath, music thugs that they were. It was only later that I became more ruffty-tuffty than all the lads rolled up together by playing in a punk band; at the time Black Sabbath were mysteriously aggressive and frightening and had great riffs and bawlingly morose songs, especially Paranoid.
Yes, I was sulking.
Kind friends on social media gave me advice and in the end, I was directed to a resale website where I swallowed hard and simply bought another ticket- more cheaply and a far better one. Off I went, sharing the tube down there with a man with some frozen meatballs between his legs (don't even ask). At North Greenwich, an improbably-coiffed heavy metal guitarist had set up shop and grinned boyishly through his bright grey moustache at the Sabbath fans, who seemed to be sporting black North Face fleeces to a man. There was a sprinkling of wives, girlfriends and daughters of Sabbath fans there, too. Offsprog Two and her Beau were waiting in one of the bars of the mega-02 building (it's like a bloody airport!) for their resale tickets that were stuck in a traffic jam in the car of a friendly Brummie.
Oh, this was exciting! I walked miles to entrance 'H' and browsed the merch. You could get a black t-shirt, or a black one; or you could spend a ton on aluminium drumsticks. I was a bit disappointed; I think I'd been expecting spells and wands, but you can't have everything.
Inside the auditorium, I was gobsmacked by the sheer size of it. I've never been to a stadium gig before. A big 'Black Sabbath' curtain fluttered in front of the stage and you could hear people testing the microphones in Brummie accents: "One Two, one two".
Suddenly there they were, on a stage decorated with dramatic flaming things, and sixteen speaker cabinets, and a drum kit that looked like a whole music-shops-worth of drums (I actually don't think he could have reached the farthest-flung floor toms). Ear-splitting riffs roared from the stage and Ozzy bellowed full-throttle while screens showed us close-ups of Tony Iommi's fingers (plus at least four spare plectrums stuck on his guitar ) and Geezer Butler's head. Wow! This was even better than Spinal Tap! Out came the songs: Iron Man, War Pigs, a song with a distorted bass solo, one with a very long and dramatic drum solo that sent the crowd wild. There was an extensive peppering of mobile phone screens, and a lot of very polite headbanging (even me, I'm afraid to admit). I stuffed torn up tissues into my ears as my head began to split. Ozzy was grinning. "Oi love yow", he kept telling us. We love you too Ozzy, and how come everyone in the band still has hair? Nobody in the audience does, unless they are a mum, a sister or a son. Ozzy's hair didn't answer, it simply rippled in the wind.
Some time around this point, I realised that the fire was fake; it was post-truth fire, and there was I worrying about them all getting hot and sweaty. Pah!
Looking up, I saw nets of balloons lurking in the heights of the dome. Surely not! The set finished, with no Paranoid. Goodbye and eff off, I thought, sulking again. But no! Here they are back again, the song begins, we stand up to a man (and woman), down tumble massive purple and black balloons, we roar along, we bang our heads, lights flash, the sound cranks up to even more deafening levels and OFF WE GO!
Oh, what fun it all was!
Afterwards we shuffled off to the tube station, all polite and satisfied. And there at London Bridge was either the same busker, or an exact replica of him: same cheesy grin and moustache, fake tan gleaming under the fluorescent lights, same riffs and set of pedals. Welcome to the land of heavy metal!






Sunday, January 29, 2017

Snuff

I understand snuff is the new... nouvelle cuisine? Black? Flavour of the month? Soup du jour?
I dunno!
I was invited to sniff some snuff on Friday in the company of Paul Cook (but not by him, please note) and advised that it was a big help on smelly tube journeys because it blotted out the aroma of fellow-humans; that it would probably make me sneeze; and that it might stain my upper lip yellow.
Once I had the reassurance that it wouldn't turn me into a smoker, I had a little pinch of the stuff.
It smelled of menthol and was a bit like sniffing white pepper although that actually did make me sneeze, and the snuff just made me feel like it.
I'd love to have a sweet little snuff-box, but the snuff itself? No, not really.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Another Taste Of New Album

For one week only:

Vic Godard and A.M. Leka

Leka Mladenovic has an exhibition in Whitechapel of his prints inspired by the lyrics of Vic Godard's songs. It was a glum and dreich Friday evening but I was curious and went along.
I am so glad that I did.
I was expecting readings of the lyrics, perhaps for half an hour or so, then people trooping home for cocoa and cinnamon toast, the only true way to spend Friday nights in January. Instead, a small drum kit and a collection of amplifiers stood in the middle of a white-painted room surrounded by Leka's beautiful multi-layered silkscreen prints with copies of handwritten lyrics beside them.
A colourful, friendly and un-posey crowd began to assemble and so did the band.
But where was Vic?
Time passed, people chatted, and a rumour spread that Vic was having a cup of tea in McDonald's.
He appeared with a carrier bag, a sandwich and a packed of Hobnobs and the gig began. The microphone lead was moody and sometimes the sound was awful- but good-awful, not bad-awful: like 1970s PA systems. If you'd been there you would have recognised it.
The set was the songs from the walls; in Music of a Werewolf with its great grooving bass line, Vic swivelled his hips like a veritable Elvis the Pelvis. A half-eaten hobnob rested on the keyboard for later. Midway through, Vic went downstairs to fetch a t-shirt (printed with the set-list), and draped his jacket and checky shirt on the guitar, which sported a curly lead of indeterminate vintage. Today's young bucks have fabric-covered leads that never crackle, but for some genres of music the crackle is essential to the song and the risk of the sound cutting out altogether (as it did last night from time to time and instrument to instrument) is all part of the fun. Periodically, Vic blew his nose in an enormous hanky. 'Just carry on without me', he instructed the band.
He told us about thinking up tweets on the way to the gig, and about his late-night tweeting and baking sessions with a bit of hoovering on the way between the kitchen and the room with the computer in it. I did wonder whether those tweets might have been song lyrics in hiding before Twitter was invented, but I kept my counsel, because the banter was swift and sharp.
A brilliant and moving version of Beginning to See the Light was followed by the room singing Happy Birthday to Lee, who handed out CDs to us all. The band were all wearing badges with his face on them to celebrate his birthday. Lee picked up the bass, declaring 'This will either be great, or it will grate', and they launched into Ambition, which sadly was the last song of a very entertaining and convivial evening.
Tinnitus refreshed, I went home with a smile on my face.
Vicleka Exhibition for one more week at 48 Ashfield Street, Whitechapel







Friday, January 27, 2017

The Other Glove Is In Strathpeffer

At the bottom of the drawer, I found this lonely glove. It lost it's pal about five years ago in Strathpeffer. If you find it, please let me know. It seems such a waste to throw this one away.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Thinking About Writing, And Really Singing

I am thinking about writing another book, not because I like writing academic books, but because the things that I will be writing about seem to be important. This time, I think I will go somewhere nice to write (if I do it).
This evening, I sang. I have become hypercritical; listening in detail in the studio, nothing seems good enough. Listening at home just now, it sounds good. Trumpet in ten days!
By mid-February everything will be finished and ready to be designed, pressed, printed. I am glad it has been slow because things have got better and good stuff has stuck to the projects as they have rolled along. I have become a better singer, a better guitarist and a better illustrator, because there has been nothing else to do.

Remembering Billy, What A Voice

Album News

It's taking time; one songs climbs a mountain and gets better, so the other have to get there too. That's the way it goes.
I am delighted that Stuart Moxham (formerly of Young Marble Giants) is going to do a mix of one of the tracks. This is exceptionally exciting!
I still have to think of a title. I think it might be 'The Sea' because there's a theme of waves, waterfalls and other watery ideas. And no, it's not going to be called 'Wet'.

Monday, January 23, 2017

DIY Tour

I am working on a DIY tour this summer. It is going to take me weeks to organise, if not months, but I have made a start, a skeleton of gigs. Then I will  'join the dots' between them.
It will be an adventure; the little ole car will be loaded up with guitars, changes of clothes and bags of marshmallows.
Do the pink ones taste the same as the white ones?
Try a pink one to see.
Now try a white one.
I've forgotten what the pink ones taste like now.
I'd better have a white one after that.
And
so
on.

Thank You, Sister Rosetta; I Needed That

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sun Lion In Progress


Gig at Mascara Bar Sunday Evening

I'll be playing at The Mascara Bar in Stoke Newington tomorrow night. It's an early show (on some time between 6.30 and 9.30). It's promoted by Fran Isherwood who is a bundle of fun and always chooses interesting acts so expect to enjoy yourself!
The address is 72 Stamford Hill, N16 6XS.
https://www.reverbnation.com/show/20045158

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Monday, January 09, 2017

In Progress

More illustration work in progress. I used to go away in January for a few days; now I just have to do that in my head. This song was written seven years ago and I've tried to record it several times, but only just got a version I'm happy with. Recording's on hold till I get my lost voice back.
I know I left it somewhere....

Remembering Sunshine

Lemmings

I grew these on a little lemon tree but when winter came I picked them and put them on the windowsill, and they didn't get eaten. They do look beautiful in a rugged way.

Café

After getting stuck at East Finchley station with no trains and a ten-mile-long bus queue, plus a report from Offsprog One that her journey to work took two hours today (meaning mine would be three there and three back), I've decided to work in a café like hipsters do.
I think they must work in a different sort of caff because this one is full of yelling babies and their Mums, plus the occasional sinister-looking man probably plotting a murder.
I sent the writing off last night and it has arrived; now I have to wait to see if they will publish it or not. If not, well I suppose that was 30 hours of therapy.
Academics lead topsy-turvey lives. I used to work three part-time jobs when I was financially compromised about three years ago, and I spent whole weekends writing lectures for the different Universities and not speaking to an actual human being at all except by phone. This was very isolating but I had no alternative at the time. One year I spent New Year's Day marking 45 essays which had to be handed back to the students two days later, and last January I spent 50 hours writing a chapter for a book to a deadline. On New Year's Eve I marked six dissertations while the rest of the world celebrated.
Writing songs and playing them is a great way to balance this complete brain-draining life. It's like having a different room in your house where different things happen that make life sparkle. It has its own pitfalls, yes, because musicians are complicated buggers, but so long as the songs turn up on my doorstep I'm not going to turn them away.
Hurl them into outer space, sing them to the sky; songwriters make a protective cloud around themselves that is perceived as creativity, but is actually a sort of armour that repels the pain of life.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Finished, I Think


I'm Writing

Back to the academic article; I spent five hours on it yesterday and now I'm working on the conclusion. Like writing songs and drawing, getting into the zone takes you to a timeless place. You look at the clock and it's three hours later and your feet are cold.
I had a massive hit to my confidence last year. I felt like a no-person, a discarded tissue that was simple to replace and of no value. Gradually I have realised that I have friends and family who are supportive and loving, and becoming absorbed in making music and art and writing has a huge therapeutic effect. Like many people I am impatient to feel the effects of repair; you have to accept that some days are going to feel especially tough and that you're going to feel the damage as though it only happened yesterday.
Creativity has always been my personal medicine.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

I'm Drawing


Tree


Panto Cow

I never made it to watch the panto horse race in South London this year (I didn't last year either, but at that time I was constantly ill with a hospital super bug so everything went haywire). This cow is quite scary enough, so maybe I was better off staying at home. A whole swarm of such creatures might have tipped me over the edge.
http://www.pantohorserace.org


A Wren!

A wren in the back yard!
My fave little bird, picking amongst the plant pots!
I'm-a-little-teapot-shape, oblivious to my lurking by the kitchen window watching it chuck dried-up leaves around in its search for insects.
It's young, with smooth brown-on-brown feathers and a perky little tail.
Busy little thing, welcome to January and I hope you bring me some good luck in your wake!

Love

A partner who gives you unconditional love should be cherished through bad times as well as good. Big up all you couples who put this into practice.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Editing

Not words; that's going to happen on Saturday.
Today's editing was music: the Women of the World track.
It took almost all day. It's a ProTools project where we used the Decca setting on the drums, and replaced the bass guitar track with a more fluid and 'performed' one that has a nice, warm sound. The guitar needed to be edited in a couple of places; I'd been thinking of replacing the Spanish with a steel-stringed but actually it sounded great the way it was (ambience recorded in a huge room with a wooden floor can't be beaten). Even the guide vocal's not bad, but I will try to do better.
The icing on the cake was the choir. We flew in some tracks that had been sent from afar, spread the 'wind' harmonies hard left and right with a nice plate reverb, and moved the chorus harmonies slightly closer to the centre with a subtle reverb that means you can hear the characters of people's voices really distinctly. Oh choir, you really sound so lovely!
The trumpet's going to have to be added later but I'm contented, tired and looking forward to more editing, and singing, tomorrow.

Two Dogs Life

Travelling to the studio with two guitars is a bit like taking two dogs with you. They both want to head in different directions, and it makes you into a bloody nuisance for other passengers.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Sea

Green, green sea that kisses the horizon,
The crescent and the cross walk hand in hand.
Blue, blue skies to feast your eyes on
The wonders of the world are sketched in sand.

Lie down, lie; let the sun caress you,
People of the world in the heart of the beast.
Holiday to calm and rest you
What could ever drown your sleep in peace?

The sea, the sea, the sea, the sea.

Green, green sea that kisses the horizon,
The crescent and the cross walk hand in hand.
Blue, blue skies to feast your eyes on
The wonders of the world are sketched in sand.

The sea, the sea, the sea, the sea.

The crescent and the cross walk hand in hand
Hand in hand and hand.
Take a souvenir from the contraband
Of this promised land;

The sea, the sea, the sea, the sea.

Fight man fight to get to the shore
The crashing of the waves, the battling swell;
Bursting boats can't take any more
While the monsters in the deckchairs curse you to hell.

“Go home! Go home!
Go home to your war zone!”

Green, green sea that kisses the horizon,
The crescent and the cross walk hand in hand.
Blue, blue skies to feast your eyes on

The wonders of the world are built on sand.

Mad Bicycle Song

I've been listening to the tracks from my forthcoming album after a month's ears-rest.
I'm not sure about this track... I might let the drawing decide.
If the drawing behaves itself (they don't always), maybe the track gets a reprieve.

Cabbages

Just look at these lovely podgy cabbages! Just look!

Supermarket Humour

You might have heard this saying before, but I haven't; usually I'm on another planet from everyone else.
I went out to stock up on groceries and to breathe some fresh air before I start singing today.
There was a two-for-one offer on bog paper and I asked the checkout guy if you can put toilet rolls in the food bank box.
'Yes', he said.
'No job is complete without the paperwork'.

Bird

'Fly!', he said
And broke it's wings
And threw it off a cliff.

Monday, January 02, 2017

More Sunday Walkographs




At The End Of The Day

Actually, in the afternoon. It was so gorgeous outside that I couldn't resist going to Camden and taking a walk along the canal. I photographed some interesting graffiti but it won't send to the computer at the moment, but here are some bicycles at rest, a strange bird chimney on a barge and a lovely, lovely vista down the canal towards King's Cross.
It was cold, but beautiful.
When I got back I spent four hours double checking the referencing for this article. I've still got loads more to do: finding out some page numbers, working out the way to cite web sources in-text using the Chicago referencing system (or a similar type, anyway), and then reading it through a couple of times and doing some final editing and fine tuning. That will probably take four hours. Then I have to hope that it gets accepted in its amended form- I've almost completely rewritten it. I've tried to find out where to source sales figures percentages for pop music consumption by age and gender but all I can find is pay sites. Grr. That's a mini-project in itself which can also tax my brain tomorrow, and the next day I will finish a song that I've been working on with Lester Square and do a bit more recording, which will be a much-appreciated luxury.
Plus some drawing- I'm looking forward very much to that day.



Another Hour Later

I'm at 7739 words and ready to work on the conclusion; then I have to go back to the criticisms of the academic referee and make sure I've addressed everything, point by point.
It's time for the last bit of Bargain Hunt, naturally, with Solange's album playing in the background.

One Hour Later

Up to 4421 words, still revising the writing before formalising the format. Why do I do this? It's interesting but also incredibly depressing. No wonder I make music and art as a release!
It has to be said though, that working at a University has allowed me to have some space to be creative in the nooks and crannies between work and the responsibilities of parenthood. Where the little gaps of freedom happen, songs and illustrations burst out like steam from a pressure-cooker.
It's time for a break.
I'm going to listen to the CD that Mick Whitfield gave me for Christmas: No More by Ballas D'Afrique.

A Writing Day

Oh well- at least it's not last January, when I spent 50 hours writing a chapter for an academic book (all unpaid work for us poor scholarly souls, who do these activities purely to contribute to the research profiles of our universities).
I'm precisely 1220 words into an article that's been severely criticised (with some justification) by an academic referee. I spent seven hours on this in November and the deadline is fast approaching. It's much better now, but I'm still in trepidation wondering if I can meet the standards required.
Why am I blogging? Because it's time for a coffee break. Expect more drivel later this morning...

Sunday, January 01, 2017

A Day

Today. There were a few people wheeling suitcases about, and a lot of remains from last night on the pavements but the city hadn't really woken up yet. Central London was divided up by crash barriers after the fireworks, and before the Mayor's Show; it was silent and pensive.
I hear we are going to have armed police on the tubes. I don't want them; I will feel much more threatened by aggressive-looking uniformed men travelling with their clicking guns and stamping boots that I would by a 'potential threat'. Everything about major cities is a threat, and has been for several years. There was a gap for a while, but before that it was the IRA bombing people; you'd leave your children in one part of London, travel to work in another and not know whether you'd see them again that night.
We heard the IRA bus bomb in The Strand from our house back then, and knew what it was straight away; even before that, a neighbour in Camberwell had lost her husband in the Victoria Station bomb incident. Life carried on being cruel to her; the bailiffs came and even took her little girls' colouring pencils away so she used to come to our house and draw at the kitchen table sometimes.
It's so terrible that arms manufacture is still one of Britain's major surviving industries. I remember when in the late 1980s when we all found out that EMI (Thorn EMI) and RCA were arms manufacturing cakes with an icing made of music industry; what a terrible shock that was, like a ghastly adult version of discovering that Santa Claus doesn't exist.
At least with our little self-releases we can bypass corporate darknesses and try to keep our art and music 'clean'.
I didn't mean to be so gloomy. Here is a picture of a squirrel to cheer you up, and a link to Cazz's blog where she very kindly mentions Femme Fatale, which you can still buy (hint, hint) if you want to add to our contribution to Refugee Action:
http://cazzblase.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/helen-mccookerybook-and-charlie-tipper.html



A Night

New Year's Eve. What a strange night; it belongs to other people, not me.
All afternoon, I marked dissertations; after each one I took a break and strolled around the grounds, all seventeen feet of them. There were six to do, and after almost as many hours I had finished.
At the start I felt like a horse refusing jumps on a racecourse; my head went into reverse. 'No, no!', my inner voice screamed. I plodded through them in turn, and actually enjoyed reading some of them; when I finally finished I could sigh with relief. There is more academic work to do, possibly starting very early tomorrow morning if I can drag my lazy bones out of bed.
I almost set the microwave on fire with a mince pie. Smoke billowed out of the machine until I managed to switch it off and retrieve a blackened, sizzling, bubbling, rock-hard thing-on-a-plate that was completely inedible, especially because its aroma floated through the house like a sickly smog.
A potential tragedy in Brighton stopped the evening dead. I had to call the police and after that, spent the night wondering if everything was OK. I don't know if I'll ever find out.