Monday, October 29, 2018

A Quirky Night On Sunday

Wafts of sizzling Irish fiddles drifted down the stairs; we were in the womb-like basement of The Harrison, wooden folding chairs lined up, sound check done, Gabriella and Mike had arrived and one or two other people drifted in as we began our set; here was Peter, with his camera, Jessica, Romany with her baby in her tum... it was one of those gigs where everyone chatted in between songs and we kind of got to know each other.
Halfway through, Shanne came in with Eucalypta and a bunch of friends. It was Shanne's birthday and they had been upstairs with the fiddles; everything became lively and youthful for the middle set.
We sang Happy Birthday to Shanne.
The poet Steve Mick stayed on after Eucalypta had contributed some lovely freestyle singing to the night, accompanied by Kath. Steve sat and smiled. 'I like the vibe', he said.
Tonje arrived late: she had been preparing work for Monday.
Sarah did a selfie of us to send to Jamie in Manchester.
It was never quite clear who was in the audience and who was on show, but that was what was nice about it. People piped up with ideas and jokes and questions.
Kath played some new songs, and I didn't (I ran through them yesterday afternoon and decided the words needed to be better).
Jude sang with a guitar, which was a first; I loved the second song she played, and she sang some Mozart too; she was in very good voice, in spite of being ill.
Kath's song about the Old Ladies on the bus made my eyes fill with tears, even though it was funny too; lots of her songs have that poignant and bittersweet feel to them.
I was feeling sad anyway because of the Pittsburgh shooting; that's the synagogue where my very dear friend Laura got married, and where her baby naming ceremonies were held; our daughters are almost the same ages as each other. We met up in May: we hadn't seen each other since she was 12 and I was 14. The world has so many sweet and wonderful people in it and it is deeply, deeply upsetting to see cruel and destructive people becoming powerful and influential. Every tiny thing we can do to resist it we must do, even when it seems hopeless and when we feel we no longer have the energy to fight back. I am so sorry about what happened to those gracious elderly people who deserved to have a peaceful and happy life.

Back to Sunday night...
It almost felt as though we should have done the gig in our pyjamas with cups of hot chocolate, but I think that's what happens when the clocks go back and everyone's twenty four hour clock is slightly off kilter. Our small alternative universe in the middle of King's Cross flowed into unusual shapes and we all went along with it; it was gentle and the evening floated by in an eccentric and timeless way.


Pic nicked from Michael's Facebook page.

Babbies

I sang this last night for Romany's baby who she brought along inside her. She was so excited! I don't normally do this song live. It is, of course, about my own Offsprogs who have never ceased to light up my life.
Last night was a little treasure of an evening that I'll try to write about later today. Just off to do a workshop about Rockabilly.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Sunday Night At The Harrison


It's Saturday

And tonight is Saturday night! Available as a digital download too. Yer actual 7" vinyl will be on sale at the Desperado Housewives gig at The Harrison Bar in King's Cross tomorrow. It's a lovely venue and it will be brilliant to play with Kath Tait and Jude Cowan again. Songsmiths extraordinaire.

https://helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com/album/saturday-night-with-the-london-set




Friday, October 26, 2018

Bass Culture Expo/Sarah Vista

Sometimes the opportunity for a great experience is so overwhelming that it beats sitting at home moping with a cold, hands down.
Both of the events that I went to last night were brilliant examples of how empowered individuals drive original and feisty ideas into the public sphere: and in really different ways.
Mykaell Riley has been developing the Bass Culture project for years; over that time he has forged many relationships with important protagonists in Black British music, and the level of research and trust that he has built up between different music communities across the UK is evident here at this comprehensive exhibition. Many of the women attending were drawn straight away to the photographs and research on women Sound System operators and DJs (DJ Cameo standing in front of her photo). This is such a good exhibition: go if you can. It's at 35 Marylebone Road in the huge basement area, which is dramatic enough in itself. I had a brief chat with Mykaell, and caught up with Jacqueline Springer and Jasmine Taylor too.
Afterwards I headed on to The Black Heart in Camden for Sarah Vista's album launch. What a gal! I met her and her band at Drew Morrison's album launch. London has so many layers and so many scenes, it's quite incredible.
Sarah is a feisty cowgirl, supported by a band that includes Jeff Meads on guitar and pedal steel, and Emma Goss on stand-up bass. The room was packed, and a very appreciative-looking Alan Davies was standing close to the front. The music was amazing: sadly I took only one not very good photograph as I couldn't get close enough. Brilliant gig you lot, and the most stylish audience that I've seen for a long time. The Harlem Cowgirl with a cowboy shirt, hoop earrings and a big Afro won the audience prize hands down, but actually the band themselves won the prize for the best attire in the room.





More About Writing

I've been writing since just after eight, because today's the deadline. Once you get started, the problem is that you want to write about everything in the entire Universe and it's really difficult to focus on just the thing that you are supposed to be writing about. Today's work has been like topiary: clipping the edge to a good shape that makes sense. A whole two paragraphs have been thrown away (gulp!) but that was the right thing to do, because losing them hasn't made any difference to the narrative. I'm still a bit worried about repetition, but I think the editors will help with that.
It is time to stop, I know that. I'll send it off later.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Sniff

In spite of having a sniftering nose and a wheezy cough if I try to speak, I managed to do these things this evening (though came home early). Will write more tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Next Gig! Sunday


Horse and Stables

The Horse and Stables is a gem of a place. I think I could quite happily live there; it's a combination of it's stylishness, cleanliness and a traditional look. This is a short review as I'm so tired- I took a group of students to the Houses of Parliament yesterday afternoon, did the gig last night and had to get up really early for physiotherapy this morn.
Upstairs is where Mike O'Bui runs his club, which has a regular and appreciative clientele.
Mike and his pal started the evening off with some catchy and memorable songs that would have sounded completely at home in a 1990s Indie band, played on keyboards and guitar. They were followed by John Arthur, an unashamed 1960s chap; "I'm an old man", he told us. His songs are direct and definitely have a flower power charm. I loved the one about rhubarb being beautiful at sunset, just so much better than weapons. Quite agree.
Dan Raza has been travelling in America and Germany, and his Americana-flavoured songs were delivered with some fabulous guitar picking that sounded like two people playing, on a fabulous-sounding guitar. The last person was Rafa Russo, who had travelled from Spain and who sang despite suffering from bronchitis. He was very good- and his last song was amazing, a dynamic and memorable one.
I can thoroughly recommend this night- and Kath Tait is playing the next one. Nice to see you, Lester and Jo.
Oh yes, and I played too. Thanks for singing the Bathing Pond song, everyone!
Here's a couple of pics of the single in action. Have you got your copy yet?
https://helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com/album/saturday-night-with-the-london-set





Sunday, October 21, 2018

Good Grief


Upcoming Gigs

I have a few gigs in London coming up: Tuesday at the Horse and Stables in Lambeth (which is the first gig at which there will be singles for sale), the following Sunday at the Harrison with the Desperado Housewives, where I will be playing new songs and songs from the crusty old archive, and this one in November too, where I might even dust off a cowboy or a skiffle song.

I decided to take a bit of time out from travelling because we have the film to promote for the rest of this year too, but there will be a tour next year which I am just in the process of setting up.
Being a DIY-er, these things take a lot of time and energy, but sunny days like this one are a big help, and so is the brilliant community of promoters, musicians and people who come to gigs at the level which I am playing.
It's great being in the audience too as a punter, and seeing the wealth of different bands and artists out there.
I just love this life.
Photo on poster by Suzi Corker


7" Single Now Available on Bandcamp and as Digital Download

Vinyl single here:
https://helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com/album/saturday-night-with-the-london-set
Digital download only here:
https://helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com/album/saturday-night-with-the-london-set-2

All proper DIY stuff too. What a journey this was! Thanks to Isobel Reddington for doing a great job with the layout and stuff.



Friday, October 19, 2018

Hooray!

I hope to get these and the tracks on Bandcamp this weekend and watch this space for launch details!


Loud


Toosday

Aha! A gig on Tuesday!
How nice after all this academicking!
Three days of pure slog ahead though- and even then it may possibly not be finished. Still waiting for the singles.
They haven't ripened on their tree yet, obviously.



Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Word Soup

Three hours of writing... where did I see that article about skinheads at a Mo-Dettes gig? All the cuttings in the file are tidy, but certain things still seem to have escaped.
I am slightly dyslexic (you may have noticed) and words tend to disappear and reappear which can be rather unnerving, so I have to search and search again for 'lost' material.
It is actually quite interesting to go right back to the sources for a piece of writing; this feels much more like being a historian than being an academic because there is a lot of primary-sourced stuff that has come to light in battered box files and frayed folders.
It is well and truly time for a break. My eyes are stinging from staring at the screen. More writing this afternoon, and then an interview with Gina for Cazz.
Looking forward to that!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

No More Mrs Nice Guy ®

Life's a rich tapestry with a lot of scruffy stitching on the back where you can't see it.
Could it be the strong but mild October winds, or sunspot activity?
Is it just the passage of time and blocked things suddenly being moved, like a dam bursting?
I don't know. Easyjet are lying in their Small Claims Court defence and saying that I haven't submitted the receipts that I submitted three times.
Such a waste of time, all this! But it all slots in, between teaching, writing, guitarring, doodling, trying to stop the squirrel nicking the peanuts meant for the birds (second bird feeder destroyed today).
Over the past year I have learned the meaning of the terms 'coercive control', 'gaslighting', and 'shutting people down'. I remember being told in a geography lesson that Chairman Mao had abolished certain Chinese symbols from their script system to prevent people from thinking seditious thoughts, and I didn't really believe the teacher.
But now I see that it's possible for this phenomenon to happen in reverse: situations can be described so clearly to you through phrases that you weren't familiar with that you realise that what has happened to you is actually real, and it has happened to other people too, and it is not actually your fault as you have been told, but is part of a person's toolkit for making sure that you remain powerless.
I feel as though I have grown six inches in height.

Back to the scruffy stitching: my friend at school always used to turn over the embroidery that I did to look at the back. Oh dear! What a mess. Threads all over the place, and the knotted tangles where the silk had caught on another one and refused to be poked back through by the needle, and I'd just given up and re-threaded and started again. Lumps, bumps, blisters and twisters.
You can't get through life without coming across conflict, no matter how unpleasant it is. You have to learn to look at the beautiful picture on one side, and understand that behind it there may be ugliness, but it's your own choice which side of it you decide to concentrate on.

Northwich Next Year


Monday, October 15, 2018

Singles on their way....

It seem like ages ago that I ordered the singles, but an email came today to say that they will be here on Wednesday! I will have to set up a Bandcamp page for them and do all that stuff. I wonder how much space they will take up? The house is still full of newspaper cuttings because the article is still being written; still, a few boxes will get lost in the general drift.
Oh, I hope they sound good- and I hope they look good. This is a real gamble!

I Haven't Gone Out

I was supposed to be out this evening, but I'm not because I am so very tired. But it has been a good day; the best part was listening to students playing songs that were inspiring to them, and/or that reflected their cultural background. I was surprised to recognise some frank swear words in a Norwegian hip-hop song.
This is a very interesting job.
The track that really stood out was actually from last week's session; it reminds me a bit of Erykah Badu's early recordings but it has an awful and powerful lyrical relevance.
This is Ghetts:




CoHousing in Barnet

There is nothing like a large group of people moving simultaneously into a small neighbourhood to make you realise just how insignificant your feelings are in the greater scheme of things.
When this group of people chose this street to move into, their clever strategies worked out just how much collateral and social damage the project would do.
With natural wastage, the people who lived around the monstrous building would gradually disappear and the incoming culture would be able to settle indefinitely, aided by a battery of press officers and international interest in their social experiment. Those who remained would gradually come to accept the newcomers, one of the neighbours was told rathe patronisingly, because psychologists had worked this out in previous cases. Gradually, people in the small terraces have indeed sold up and gone away. This started during the hellish building works, six days a week and once even on a Sunday because they were 'behind schedule'.
The builders were rude, and involved in dangerous practices, despite their badges saying how fantastic they are (how very 2000s: the century of the fake). They regularly drove diggers the wrong way down this one-way street, often without a lookout. The lookout appeared after I'd witnessed an almost-accident and tweeted as much in exasperation; the response was to tweet that I am a 'scaremonger' (cheers!) and then to block me on Twitter. And the dangerous practices continued. Huge lorries parked on the pavement so that people with pushchairs and wheelchairs were forced to walk on the road, which is often unfortunately used as a rat-run. Of course, individuals with pushchairs and disabled people in wheelchairs don't count, because they are not part of a large community who feel their needs are more important than anyone else's.
As a person who lives opposite the gigantic windows, the scale of the architecture (while looking inoffensive from the street) appears from inside my house as though the development is actually about to march straight into my home, into my front bedroom. So I've stopped using that room.
Lastly: the architects built an entrance arch into the development that is too low for ambulances, fire engines and delivery vehicles. The former is a desperately important safety issue, and the latter, too, but for a different reason. Grocery delivery vehicles are unable to enter the settlement, so they park on the pavement of the houses opposite, often leaving their engines running. This street is too narrow to have vehicles parked on both sides, which is why they park on the pavements. But many of us have doors that open straight on to the street. So as well as pedestrians being unable to pass and sometimes almost being knocked over, as happened last week, it's sometimes impossible to get out of the house because a van is parked so close to the front door.
Is it pleasant having the exhaust from these vehicles pumping into the living room? No.
Is it pleasant hearing people's reactions after almost being knocked over? No.

It's early in the morning, and I'm sure this posting is full of mistakes. I'm on my way to work.
But there is a massive publicity push about this scheme today. This is the only avenue that I have to say how I feel about it- nobody ever considers the fact that there might be people shoved out and made to feel uncomfortable long-term by 'innovative' ideas like this.
I have also noticed that the street view of the estate never appears on the media, probably because it looks like Feltham Young Offender's Institution from our perspective. We don't get the balconies and the nasturtiums: we get the flat beige bricks, the corporate ironwork and the eff-off light-blocking height. Lucky us.


Yesterday

Friday, October 12, 2018

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Vignette

I was telling a bloke at work about how the T K Maxx House of Horrors Facebook postings make me laugh out loud on public transport, much to my great embarrassment, and he showed me a fading scar on his wrist, a T K Maxx injury from trying on an anorak with a zip that viciously injured him (but he didn't need to go to hospital).
Little bits of conversation in passing: these things brighten up the day.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Problem-Solving Comics

This evening the Postgraduate students made comics to solve each other's problems. There is nothing quite like the quiet swish of pencils on cartridge paper and the feeling of concentration in a room.
I had to pilfer the table from next door, and they sat around it with crayons and pencils scattered about. At the end, they passed each other's comics on to each other; they were beautifully drawn and really well-conceived. The solutions were funny- and practical.
We folded up the table and went home.
That was a really nice way to spend an evening.

Low Self-Esteem

I have found that low self-esteem can be a blessing as much as a curse.
If you feel that you are completely at the bottom of the bed of a sea of uselessness, you can become completely fearless because you have absolutely nothing to lose.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Reading

Funny day, and  it has been an intense week of beginning teaching at various places, reading the obligatory crap detective novel-per-week, an uplifting read, The Hidden Life of Trees (tube journey book, which is absolutely amazing), and also No Irish-No Blacks-No Dogs by John Lydon, which has fixed me to the chair for the whole afternoon.
I thought I had lost the copy I had and so I re-ordered it; the new copy turned up halfway through the day. Still, you can never have enough copies, I guess.
Reliving punk's violence has given me nightmares, but it's important that people remember that it wasn't a musical style all on it's own that people were just playing at.
Music was our defence weapon against attack by everybody, not just the Teds and Skinheads, the Casuals and the Straights. The newspapers hated the punks, people in shops hated the punks, people on the bus hated us, people in the pub. It was no fun, but there was no alternative that any of us could see.
I am mostly writing about London but it could be about anywhere. So much is made of today's violent youth, but if young people don't feel cared about, respected or valued, then they become outlaws who make their own rules and run their lives according to those.
If people don't listen to you, you shout; and around the creative people clustered drug dealers, creeps, people who were just into violence for the sake of it and of course, the extreme politicos who wanted pet punks to deliver their messages for them.
Well, that's got that off my chest.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Cuttings Conversation

A pile of press cuttings from the 1970s slithers around as I look for information for the chapter that I am writing. Have just emerged from a three-hour research zone and I'm shaking the dust out of my feathers.
It's so depressing to be reminded of the horrible things that the journalists wrote about bands back then. I'm only looking at stuff on X Ray Spex, The Slits, The Au Pairs,The Raincoats, The Mo-Dettes; but the sheer oldfashionedness of the times has come back and whupped me on the head like a baseball bat.
These guys didn't want anyone to succeed. The descriptions of the music are patronising, negative and apparently entirely aimed at showcasing the vocabularies of the writers. It's a miracle that any female bands managed to even get up on stage and play, let alone make albums and tour.
And there is a lot of stuff about female guitarists saying they don't need feminism because everything is equal now, and stuff like that.
I can remember feeling not that exactly, but that feminism seemed to be another set of rules (it was not uncommon for members of women's groups to tell you what you should/shouldn't be wearing or should/shouldn't be singing about back then in the dark ages).
I did think things needed to change: having a brother 18 months younger who seemed to have an entirely different set of expectations out of life, and wishing I could be a boy instead of me... a difficult one for a heterosexual woman to work out, and I still haven't got there.
Or rather, we still haven't got there. How naive to think that in my lifetime things might become equal! Prejudice has just become easier to hide, and feminism has become more glamorous and less didactic.
Revisiting punk is peculiar.
I am glad it is over; having been one has left a scar, or a tattoo, depending daily on whether it feels like a bad thing, or a good thing. I feel grateful to have been able to write about it, film it and talk about it, but I feel even more grateful for the life I've had after punk. It was a cruel subculture.

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