Friday, August 30, 2019

Beaten By Big Edits

That's it for today. I think I might have to print out the last bit on Tuesday and look at it on paper, to work out if everything is in the right place and the research gaps I'm going to have to fill in.
I've got through 145 pages of it so far and the 'done' pile is bigger than the 'not done' pile, although the 'not done' pile is the bit that needs to be added to.
My head hurts.

Slow Day With Big Edits

I'm looking at page 100: it is festooned with red biro lines and scribbles and it doesn't look like fun. After so much writing yesterday, I might have a 'lite' day today and spend a bit of time on playing and writing songs instead.
Yes.
Here is a Newellism to start the day off:

'I saw John Cooper Clarke coming up the hill.
It was misty.
I thought it was him, and he thought it was me.
We got up close, and it was neither of us'.

Start Your September With A Twang!

Come to the Spice of Life in Soho this coming Sunday for this musical extravaganza!
It starts early (just after seven), they do nice food, it's a great atmosphere, and it's my last gig for a while because I've been so busy that I haven't organised anything in the months to come- got to work on that!
I'm on at ten past eight. It costs roughy £7 to get in.
I'm really looking forward to it- I go to this night for fun sometimes without even knowing the bands and it's never disappointing.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

A Day, Backwards



A few weeks ago I saw an ad for the documentary Upstairs Planet about Martin Newell being shown at The Regent Street Cinema so I bought a ticket. I read Giles Smith's book Lost in Music years ago, lent it to a friend, and had to buy it again because it was so funny.
I like that little cinema and I've never seen a bad film there so I decided to go.
The documentary maker Graham Bendel was there and the film was so lo-fi it made Stories from the She Punks look like a Hollywood movie, but it was utterly charming. I loved the bloke from the original Cleaners from Venus pretending to talk to Martin using a brick in place of a mobile, threatening to throw it though his window and then accidentally dropping it on his acoustic guitar and smashing it. Although that might have been faked.
And any film with such a long list of people who refused to appear in it has to be good!
I can't describe how brilliant Martin Newell is.
I've never listened to any of the songs in much depth before but I am now a complete fan.
He sang some songs live at the end, then my heart sank when he slid pages of poetry out of a brown paper envelope, but the one above made me yell with laugher and blub too, which would have been embarrassing because I went on my own, but by then I felt I'd recognised a complete kindred musical spirit and something inside me said 'Hooray! Mad people stalk the earth and write music, and that's where I belong!'

John Cooper Clarke was there and so was the artist Peter Blake. And Stuart Moxham was in the film; it was almost impossible to decipher what he was saying though.
I loved the wife who doesn't like his music at all. Now that's proper love.
This isn't the last you'll be hearing about it. I took notes!

Nearly missed it, innit. I woke up at six a.m. and was writing by 7.30. I wrote for three hours, rehearsed for Sunday's gig at The Spice of Life, did the ironing (a once yearly event: there was a lot of it), watched Bargain Hunt, then wrote for another two hours. I went for a little siesta and accidentally slept for three hours, so I only just got to the West End in time.

Backwards day: I hope tomorrow is more normal.


Birdscape

There's an exceptional birdscape out there this morning. There's a new bird. I don't know what it is, but it's got a loud, bossy and rather beautiful call.

Oh What A Beautiful Morning!

It's an early start today; it could have been even earlier but I became fascinated by Jacob Rees-Mogg's twisted way of talking on the BBC Breakfast show.
I have known people like him all my life- I think we all have- who resort to quoting irrelevant historical platitudes, Latin catchphrases, technical terminology or whatever they think will derail the critical process of the person they are speaking to and allow them to avoid answering a question.
Coming from an educational perspective- I'd get sacked if I (a) refused to answer their question and (b) deliberately tried to confuse someone that I was teaching by one-upmanship and obscurity.
No wonder dictatorships try to destroy education.
Sometimes I imagine the ways this period of Tory confusion and destruction will be written about in history.
The lack of ethics, accountability and social and economic responsibility will be pilloried, won't it?

I've got to page 15 out of God-only-knows-how-many in the revised manuscript. I'd thought I'd be researching the gaps now but the hot weather slowed my blood to a sludge. The nice thing has been the afternoon walks when the day's writing has reached it's conclusion (brains can only do this for a few hours before folding up their chairs and saying they've had enough).

It's been an odd summer. All the tumbled and scattered chess pieces inside me have realigned, and I'm not sure why; possibly a couple of years of solitude have resulted in some sort of emotional tidying up. I feel like now I've got a strong skeleton rather than floppy rubber bones: there is someone there inside me, instead of just reflections of other people that invade my being.
Now I have to work out what this person thinks, wants and believes and instead of being daunting, that is exciting.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Happy End: Resolution

Compiling

I know this is boring. It bores me too!
Today's job is to reassemble, rename and the compile the chapters of the book before shifting the text about to restructure it.

How I wish my life was just the music bits! I've written a song that even I think is a very good one and I can't wait to record it, but I've got to do this first.

And the programming set-up that Jono from work came and sorted out a few weeks ago- I haven't even touched it, although I did buy a Realistic PZM microphone (the ones that Tandy used to sell) so I can play about with contact surfaces and sounds, once the book is finished.

Does that bore you too?

Green Review from Rocking Magpie

This one made me laugh out loud, at the end!
Thank you.

https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/helen-mccookerybook-green/

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Slowing Down!

I've only done an hour on the book today. Maybe it's the heat, but my attention started drifting very quickly.
I'll have to put in a long day tomorrow to make up for it.

The next bit of writing is going to be quite difficult- integrating an academic article I had published in January and part of a book chapter. I think the interview section are more or less sorted.
And I've found a place to press up my next record, thanks to Ian Damaged.

Slow things.....

Monday, August 26, 2019

Gary Crowley's Track of the Week

Played by Robert Elms this morning on BBC London:



Happy Bank Holiday Monday!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Lisa Lisa

Books and Bass

What a stupid thing to decide to do- go into work and collect ten weighty academic books to bring home so I can work this weekend on a hot hot Friday, with the crowds buzzing about like iron filings in one of those make-a beard-with-a-magnet toys.
Sort of stupid: at least I printed out a draft of the book while I was there (double sided, of course).
Up the hill... oh how awful!
Delirious, and heaving the monstrous bag from arm to arm (it was just as heavy for the left arm as it was for the right one) I misheard the tube announcement as Drum'n'Bass (it's Charing Cross), because I've been thinking so hard about music genres and production.
On the flat, I spied a lady with a pushchair and seriously considered asking her for it. Just leave the baby on the pavement!
Heat-induced cruelty: this is not like me at all.
Thinking about Drum'n'Bass though, for some reason, reminded me that I'd played two bass lines on this song because I was worried about it sounding tinny and insubstantial. Thankfully, the producer (the late Terry Newberry), went along with the idea.
Two different sounds: one light and fiddly, one heavy and simple.



Tune!!

I'm so in love with this song, and specifically this version of it, that I am going to marry it as soon as such things become legal.
After three hours of writing the massive re-write today, I'm going to print it out. There are 'issues' that I can't possibly solve through looking at it on a screen.
Old-fashioned red pen for the weekend.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Humding

I had just stopped writing (only two hours today) because of a humdinger of a headache, when I got an email asking for A Good Life With A Bad Apple because it's going to be Gary Crowley's track of the week, I think next week. I'm so excited, and I've thrown my headache out of the window.

Puzzling Over Writing

It's like a Rubik's Cube: you change one bit so you need too change another bit so you need to change another bit.....
And end up just where you started!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Lovely Album Review from Greenfield Cygnus Blog

https://gcygnus.blogspot.com/2019/08/review-helen-mccookerybook-green.html?spref=fb&fbclid=IwAR347JoUGfD2n6YQF0veGK9W3Btolx1rajnucT5stB-D24o9c3vQkFGxJAA

Builders

I've marked a load of student work this morning and while the computer is charging so I can do a bit of writing, I'll moan about the builders.
It seems to be the nature of living here in the 'burbs that neighbours, who come and go with depressing frequency, move into an already nice house and then gut it completely.
After more than two years of yelling, bashing and general bad builder behaviour over the road while the prize-winning and ultra-certificated OWCH premises were built, I'm now sandwiched between hearty, bashy builders. I've got the ear protectors that I used to have to wear a couple of years ago, but it still means that recording is simply impossible.
Have I written about the interview for BBC Radio Sheffield a few weeks ago where I had to go down the road and ask a builder to stop hacking a pipe out of the wall for half an hour because I was about to do a live broadcast? He was very nice about it, but then knocked on the door ten minutes later, nanoseconds before the interview was due to start, asking when he'd be able to start again!
This lot started off being quite entertaining: you know, the knowledgeable older one telling his apprentice all sorts of guff just to assert his authority and the apprentice patiently listening while noting secretly that it's all a load of rubbish (you see, I'm a mind-reader!).
Now the gaffer has got nasty. He spent most of yesterday morning shouting at people on his mobile while standing on the street outside my door so that no-one could hear him in the house that's being done up. He has  allow opinion of everyone, it appears, and I'm glad he's not there today.
Today's nosies are echoing cockney voices. I think that are painting now, from the length of the silences, although I can't hear the brush strokes. I can hear bits of hectic sandpapering.
I have been listening for so long that I could draw you a floor plan of the house just from the sonic shaping that I've heard. And it's not even next door!
On the other side, the thrill is to start at 9 a.m. on a Sunday, wake me up, and then stop at 11.
The randomness of this all is what makes it impossible to record anything. Everything is set up for programming, but even with the headphones on I can still hear it all going on in the background.
Oddly, it makes less difference when I'm writing the book: it's almost comforting to hear that there is more to life than just me and the laptop in our intense relationship.
OK! Coffee time, then back to (writing) work. At least I'm having this afternoon off!

Mixes

On another note (!) Ian Button sent the mixes of my next project yesterday evening. They are brill. Music has saved my soul, whether I'm making it or listening to it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Chapter Intros and Outros

I've got to Chapter Four, out of ten.
This is slow.
I forgot to go to the dentist this morning.
I'm writing a song as well, in my 'eyes breaks'.
And I've marked some student work.
And I've been out for a walk so the computer doesn't blind me: three miles getting lost in suburbia and finding myself again. It's hot out there, though it's pretending to to be.
I returned with some new lyrics and enough energy to approach Chapter Four.
The only plus out of this is that I've interviewed some amazing female producers and if I can get their stories across, this ought to be a really inspiring book.
What a responsibility.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Five Hours

Five hours today, but I'm not sure if it's made any difference. After tomorrow, I think I'll print it out and read it.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Grafting and Graveyarding

I didn't expect to work today but when I woke up, I felt like it.
So I spent most of the morning taking notes from an academic book that the new editor wanted me to read, went for a short walk, then carried on working in the afternoon. At the moment it feels like I'll never finish writing (and this was a day spent reading before writing), but for some reason I'm quite motivated, even though I'd rather not have come home from being on holiday.
The night I got back I wrote a song which means that I missed playing, too. I sang it until I lost my voice, but I don't need it for a few days so that doesn't matter.

It's strange not hanging out with the Offsprogs. They make me laugh because they are so silly, and that's very relaxing. We seemed to do a lot of hanging out in graveyards, and we know an awful lot about the graveyard in Stirling after being befriended by the Stirling Graveyard Volunteer.
Do ask if you need to know anything about it.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Druridge Bay

Verily, Druridge Bay in Northumberland is the most beautiful beach in the world, rasped as it is by chilly north sea winds, and bathed in its cold grey waters that deposit faint traces of sea coal, spent razor clam shells and denuded sea urchins.
It laughs at the tiny humans that try to put up windbreaks and exercise their dogs along its length (the dogs just run for it: it's very funny!).
The sea keeps a daily diary of its activities inscribed on the sand between tides, and washes it away again at every turn.
You get a natural facial: your skin is blasted and battered by tiny, stinging sand particles. You get a natural hairdo: the wind plaits, weaves and tangles your hair into a nest of salty string.
If you lie down, the gusts blow sand into your ears.
If you lie down for long enough you will turn into a sand dune yourself, seeded by rough seagrass patrolled by cross little birds, and scattered with desperate colonies of ragwort weighed down with fornicating bees.
The sky is huge and blue... oh no it isn't...
It's cloudy and grey, spitting rain... oh no it isn't...
It's huge and blue, constantly changing: gigantic, a cloud-holder, stretching to Scandinavia where the dog commands are in Danish but people still can't put up a windbreak.
Running on compacted sand, limping across the hard rippled traces of the sea, splashing through the long salty puddles, sitting in the shelter of the wartime concrete blocks sinking into the soft buttery landscape... I was there, it was there, it is there, and it will be there: a place to share atomic particles with nature, to disappear, to not matter, not to matter.
Until the next time, paradise!








Friday, August 16, 2019

Sherwood Forest

Sherwood Forest was a revelation- the Major Oak, 1500 years old, and hundreds of other ancient oaks that resembled totem poles, are all mixed in with sparkling birches.
Around the periphery scores of swifts dart through the air; if you look up they look like swarms of midges.
The scent of the forest is fabulous, so different from pines and spruces in Scotland, but absolutely exquisite and impossible to describe.









Manager

Offsprog One bought me this manager at the Quayside Market in Newcastle on Sunday morning. Apparently his name is JDL and he's a boxing manager from Texas, but I'm sure he'll learn the ropes (aha!) given a bit of time.
I'm not quite ready to unwrap him just yet, but he can nod his head for 'yes' and shake it for 'no', and he also has gripping hands for gripping wads of cash, and (I'm sure you'll agree) rather a natty line in suits!




Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Go, Fortune-teller, Go!

What a great idea, I thought!
A green light in the middle of the back window to let people know when the fortune-teller's previous client has left, and it's time for the next one to enter the caravan!
Then I was told that it was the reflection of the traffic light next to the caravan.
Oh.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Yellow Toadflax Garden

This is my favourite wildflower, and it grows along and between the railway lines and just about everywhere in the north-east of England. This little colony has self-seeded jut outside the Baltic Art Gallery, where it has a perfect view across the Tyne.
Oh, you should have seen the fog on the Tyne last night!
The spindly bridges loomed out of the grey woolly mist; fuzzy pale street lights tried to puncture the thick gloom, and the Tyne was a dark mass below the train as we crossed over to the station. Such drama!
The show in Middlesbrough was lovely, I'll write about that next stop.
It was moved to the Old Fire Station because of the wet and wind so we had a dynamic reverb helping us on our way.



Friday, August 09, 2019

Things Like This Don't Happen To People Like Me

Sunday Afternoon in Middlesbrough

It sounds like the title of an Impressionist painting, by a north-eastern painter in an anorak, perhaps. I am so looking forward to this- every so often I get to see/hear Gem and her band and it's always a pleasure; as well as making great music, they are a really nice bunch of people.
I will be battling through the gales in a titchy car with two Offsprogs and an Offsprog friend tomorrow. I have a steely driving nerve, a pack of chewing gum, and a one track mind to get to the Toon and put two of them on to a Glasgow Train in the afternoon; cross your weather fingers for us, plz.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Empty Pockets!

The lead has fallen out of my pockets- there was so much of it!
Now birds are flying into my lyrics.

Bin

I've even washed out the kitchen bin. I'm sure it's made your day to hear about that.

A Pointless Day

Under the weather, I slept beyond it being possible to do what was supposed to happen today.
No Nile Rogers for me.
It might be called being tired.
Last night I went to Pete Astor's celebration of finishing his album of covers at the Betsey Trotwood, which sounded very good over the Betsey speakers, then upstairs for Darren Hayman, the second time this week (I went on Monday too; I love to see what's on the musical landscape).
It was full last night and I appreciated the songs a lot more. The blend of vintage technology and Telecaster sounds lovely.
I wish I had a better camera, maybe something to think about before I plunge into penury and lentils in September.
Back to pointlessness, which I have to say is rather nice.

Muse, from Sounds of Equinox


The poet and writer Paul Scott Bates has a project called Sounds of Equinox where he sends his poetry to musical collaborators, and this is the video for the one he sent to me. He has worked with a really wide range of different musicians and it was really nice to be asked to do this one.
His whole project is here- take a listen- there is something for everyone.
https://soundsofequinox.bandcamp.com/album/correction
Thank you for inviting me, Paul. This was recorded by Olivia Hale and mixed by Anisha Bowri.

Thursday

Yesterday I was starting to finish, or finishing to finish (?) another recording project.
That sounds a bit w*nky, put like that.
But a while ago I had the idea of making a miniature LP- a 7" vinyl that runs at 33 r.p.m. with lots of miniature tracks on each side, mainly because I write so many short songs.
I started talking about it, and one of my students said 'That's a good idea. I think I'll do that!' which of course means that I had to do it.
Originally I re-recorded a bunch of songs, including some from the CDs that I have released over the years- Butterfly and Rock'n'Romance from Poetry and Rhyme, one from a children's musical for TheatreTrain about famous artists that I wrote songs for with Lester Square back in the day (Degas), and a couple of others that I'd never released. But then I wrote some more, and had to slash'n'burn to get the timings down to less than 7 minutes a side.
Yesterday was arranging day, and I love that. It was recorded with Ian Button again, and he has mellotron samples, so three of them have cello samples on, a bit vibrato-a-gogo but fairly natural sounding. It was fun going to town on the backing vocals too, and the rough mixes do sound good. They just have to be mixed now; there will be 100 of them pressed up and I will probably hand-colour the covers too.
So that's what's next.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Supposed To Be

I am supposed to be finishing writing a book, but instead I am writing songs.
I'm writing a little bit of book in between writing songs (mostly colouring bits of the e-manuscript in red, blue and green and shuffling them around).
It should probably be the other way around.
There is no-one to scold me about this lackadaisickability apart from me, and I'm not angry enough about it.
The Come Dine With Me omnibus was great yesterday, as well.

Roll on a rainy day or two perhaps.

Not Quite As Good As Bleep Bleep Blip

From Paree, a self-funded research trip in which I found out practically nothing but had a lovely time, which is a much better outcome, innit?


Friday, August 02, 2019

Rough Sleepers/Homeless People

'Rough Sleepers' are rough wakers too.
They are homeless 24/7, and all too often the concept of 'rough' applies to the person, rather than their environment, in people's heads. 'Homeless People' are people without a home: people like you and me without a home to belong to, whether their roof is the sky or a bed and breakfast.
At the surgery the other day, a well-spoken young woman was making an appointment for her little daughter. Good-naturedly, she described her itinerant lifestyle to the receptionist. It was awful to listen to. She was being moved around the country with a school-aged child because that is what happens to homeless people, regardless of their age, gender or family circumstances.
I, Daniel Blake needs to be prescribed to everyone constantly until we can change this.
It is a national shame, and a personal shame.
I call on B*llocks Johnson to put a sock in his stupid Euro-posturing and protect UK citizens against... the UK government.
Yes that's you, Tories, who have been pursuing this cruelty to fellow humans ever since the Thatcher project came to fruition; and us voters, who haven't done enough to take care of our brothers and sisters.

I scream inside about this all the time.

Flexibility

Plans keep changing, and everything is beyond my control: go with the flow, and all will be well.

Yesterday was good. Thanks to Jono for coming to set up the JV1080 so I can do a bit of programming; it's fraught with quirks, but it will be fun to make a bit of pop music in my idle hours (ha!). It was nice to see Katy too, passing by for tea and cherries. I love your funny impressions Katy: the builders, your dad, and pompous ladies you meet on your travels in Poland. Ha ha!
Actually, I'm procrastinating. I should be writing my academic swansong, currently running at 70,000 words. It's a book on women engineers (that typo-ed as enginerds, which is rather a nice word I think I will have to copyright in case anyone 'borrows' it), and producers.
It's taken me ten years to write, punctuated by bereavements, other research projects like the She-Punks film and shorter bits of writing, a relationship break-up, making music and having sometimes three jobs to make ends meet. I have to respond to the editor's suggestions for changes, which are quite detailed and seemed daunting, but actually I made a start two days ago.
I aim to be finished the second week in September and ideas of a summer holiday have gone out of the window; August will be spent rewriting, every morning that I possibly can.
After that, there are several articles in the pipeline to be looked at, and then writing will become songwriting. Music pours out of the walls in this tiny house and I want to catch it while I can!
So that's the kettle on for a booster coffee (why can't I bring myself to say turbo-charged?) and then writing until the computer battery gives up!

Thursday, August 01, 2019