Tuesday, September 22, 2020

On Janice Long's BBC Wales Show, Tomorrow Night

Three cheers for Janice Long! She plays great music and she's a really warm-hearted interviewer. I recorded three songs at the kitchen table for her show tomorrow, and will also be interviewed on air. Suzanne Vega too! I love her stuff. What an honour to 'share a stage' with her!


Not 100% Pop Star

Well, I've spent the morning doing copious housework tasks: vacuuming, washing the bedding, cleaning the cooker, putting papers away (some of them: the imminent crashing to the floor of the academic book pile meant that some of them are waiting until I can balance the books -ha ha!- in a less precarious manner). In between, I'm booking guest lecturers for my classes, preparing teaching materials, and writing an academic article.

The bits of the day where I get to do music, those are my favourite bits. Lots of my artist friends seem to be acquiring studios, and it seems like such a wonderful thing to do. In my imagination, I've got a big airy studio with white walls and space to not only have all my guitars out and smiling at me (they do!) but also art materials lying about waiting for ideas.

At least I can find corners in my house to do these things, and snippets of time. My Spanish guitar travels from room to room with me, and is picked up as I wait for slow internet connections to come through. 

It has always been like this. 

I used to cook spaghetti for my kids with the Green Goddess guitar slung over my shoulder as I stirred the pans, and wrote songs while I was slaving over a hot stove. Most of my PhD was done in between dropping Offspring Two off at primary school and leaving for work in the mornings, with an hour on Fridays while the double edition of The Simpsons was on TV. 

I wonder what it would have been like if I'd been able to do what I wanted all my life? Not many people get to do that, do they?

I would probably have been absolutely miserable.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020


 I think the definition of stress must be missing the turning and ending up being unable to cross Vauxhall Bridge to Sarf London, and it taking two and a half hours to get to Camberwell by car from High Barnet (probably about 12 miles) in the second hottest day in a hot September. I'm still petrified of public transport, and so, it seems, are a lot of other people.

It was worth it in the end, to sit with the Offsprogs and eat round a table in the garden, with a baby fox crunching something sinister on the roof of the dilapidated garden shed under the eagle eye of Offsprog Two's cat, who seems to have fallen in love with me.

Tranquil, with the night breeze blowing next door's weed smoke and conversation over the wall, a dog barking in the distance and the background hum of traffic: Camberwell tranquil. 

On the way back, I mused on the SUV vehicles that seems specifically designed for bullying road-users to bully in. 'Im bigger than you!' cars, for people who want to drive really fast down small streets lined with parked cars on each side, and when they can't, they aggressive tailgate you to get their own back on... everyone.

That's enough for now!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020


In my head, I've re-branded 'Brexit' as 'Toxit'. The whole idea of it seems specifically designed to divide people and sow seeds of hatred amongst us. Originally a ploy by the odious David Cameron (remember him?) to keep his ailing political party in power, it became weaponised by protesting people who felt left behind and who wanted to stop immigration (ironically, in the areas of the UK with the least immigrants), and now has made Britain a grim place to live in. Everyone hates everyone else, and thinks they are stupid. It has become trendy to be extremely angry about something: it almost doesn't matter what. 

Reasonable requests like those made by the Black Lives Matter campaign get lost in a nasty morass of snarling righteousness from people at both extremities of politics. Polarising people is an excellent way of preventing social and cultural progress. Back in the day we called it 'divide and rule'. You're so busy shouting at your neighbour for an imagined slight, that you pay no attention to your rights being taken away by the 'up-theres' who want to reduce you to a servile beggar.

I have been reading Wild Swans (when I can bear it) and the current drifts into thought control by both sides of the political divide that are echoed by the strictures of communism are really alarming. It sometimes appears that lived experience is starting to be of less value than doctrine.

It's probably stupid to be misty-eyed about Rock Against Racism, but the ability of punks (including some feminist ones) and the Rastafarian community to stand together on stage and play gigs for a common cause that they both believed in, despite some really fundamental differences in beliefs and behaviour, was  a hugely effective political movement. It was a statement of values by a generation of young people, a belief in an equal society that I felt for many years made a massive difference to policy.

Now all that seems to have been pulled to pieces. Where anger once translated into positive activity, it now fizzes through people like sulphuric acid, destroying them as it goes.

Thursday, September 10, 2020


 Sometimes I wonder if I'm a hoarder, but a friend once told me that I was an archivist, so I'm going with that! I've spent a lot of time today going through newspaper cuttings on song writing and music production, weeding out the ones I don't need, and going through those pieces of paper that I have scribbled ideas on for months, and doing the same thing.

I have filled three quarters of a recycling bin, so I guess that makes me not a hoarder. I've found some great stuff: when I'm in the full flow of working, I rarely have time to look at things in great detail unless they are directly connected to something I'm lecturing on at the time. I've also found some old song drafts and oddly, the receipt for my engagement ring from many moons ago. I remember that time- I was working as a youth worker in Southwark. I was frumpy, clumsy and definitely not cool. It was bought from Caledonian Market in Bermondsey on a frosty Friday morning, very early, from a wonderfully glamorous and sweet lady. Marriage came and went- and I've still got that receipt. 

Oh life, the cards it deals us!

I'm trying to decide whether to go out for a walk before booking the lecturers for this coming University term, who will be delivering online lectures. What a shame they can't do it in the flesh! Last year's lecture series was the best ever. At least it's something that will work well as an extended online session. Group songwriting is a bit more challenging, but I think I've worked it out. Doing so much online music since March has shown me what can be done and what can't.

To walk or not to walk... Offsprog Two mentioned yesterday that she'd had a Magnum Classic, or one of their ice creams anyway. That idea makes a walk extremely tempting. I need something to blow the dust from my ears anyway so a bit of fresh air might do the trick, washed down with an ice cream.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Up At The Pond Today

 It was sweet, up at the Brewery pond today. I went up to see the white geese, and they were snoozing together on the bank of the pond, heads under wings, picked out bright against the green grass. Next to them, on a wooden bench sat an old man, just passing the time of day. 

They were keeping him company, and he was keeping them company.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Silly Things

One of the silly things that has happened in my professional life because (I assume) people where I worked thought that I was a silly thing myself, was a prestigious research centre not being built on a campus where I worked.

I  was asked by a powerful colleague if the University might be interested, and his interest wasn't passed up the chain of command until it was too late- and bloody embarrassing for me. Things like this have never ceased to be annoying. That's my gripe for the morning.

Monday, September 07, 2020


Facebook and Google have gone Baby tech: big, clear writing, lots of space so you can read them on a phone, lots more clicks to find anything so the first sight of the interface is baby, and so on.

This must be a new fashion. The new Volkswagen Beetles are baby tech too; they look like kiddy cars that have grown up still looking like kiddies. We all know adults like that!

Friday, September 04, 2020

Bandcamp Friday

Aaargh! I overslept! It's another Bandcamp Friday today, where artists don't have to pay sales commission to Bandcamp. 

Here's a link to my page:


Tuesday, September 01, 2020

A Two-Posting Day

Normally, two-posting days happen when I'm avoiding something (usually writing an academic article) but actually today I'm feeling really relaxed, for some unfathomable reason. All sorts of stressful things have happened: having to put off my vacation because of Covid, the PRS site crashing twice when I was trying to register mine and Robert's songs, it being the day for washing the sheets and duvet cover, updating my website, rushing to the shops in between deliveries of things that I should not have bought...
It's this: writing a song inspired by this wonderful artist, whose work we saw at the Baltic Art Gallery in Newcastle. Just writing it is taking me to another place, an imagined rainforest full of rustling creatures and bountiful leaves.
I don't even care if I'm the only person in the universe who likes my song. It is serving it's purpose, just by making me feel good today.


Lockdown Productivity

The London set have all been very busy in various ways: The Bitter Springs have released back catalogue, their new project The Oldfield Youth Club has released tracks, Lee McFadden has been releasing lots of stuff, Asbo Derek have been playing online, it's been go-go-go.
But I miss the silly things.
This is for them plus Vic, Mandy, Ruth, Dave, Caryne, Dave, Johny, Inge, Beth, Robert, Ian, and all of the rest of the London Set (including, of course, the Monochrome Set, who inspired this song).

Monday, August 31, 2020

These Streets

Sometimes you have a dawning realisation, something that should have been obvious to you, but you have misread it. When I walk around Brighton, stories of my previous life there swirl around my head, my late teens and early twenties hiding around corners and peeping out at me; I walk around Newcastle thinking about my Dad working in the Toon and my job in the X-ray department as a technician; I walk around Camberwell thinking about the perils of trying to raise two children there on a tiny income. Last week, we went to the village where I was brought up. I can remember where everybody lived, what the shops used to be, and where I hid from the lightning during a massive thunderstorm. Once I went on holiday with someone, and realised I had gone on holiday with their memories of other times they had been there with someone else.
All of those things are rolled into this song: the past has demons as well as angels, and both characters are likely to make an appearance unbidden when you tread old ground. I am very grateful for the present and the future.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Smart Phones

Not so smart, are they? They can't make a cup of tea and bring it to you in bed on a Sunday morning.
Or maybe they are smart- they have kidded us into believing that their version of smart is smart.
Essays on my desk, Friday morning 9 a.m. please.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Whitley Bay

Naturally, after months with the narrow horizon of High Barnet and the occasional trip to the deep south, once we got out of London it was going to rain, wasn't it?
The Toon was OK yesterday for wandering round, but today the water cascaded down in buckets. A trip to the coast was in order and so was a trip to the fish'n'chip shop.
We ate outside in the rain.
A passing woman laughed so much she crashed into a bin: ha ha, woman, ha ha!
My fish finger sandwich was so gigantic that I gave half of the fish to Carol's dog. Almost a whole fish hand, in fact.
This is me and Carol, on the wet bench table.
It was still great to see the sea, even though the beach laughed too.

Friday, August 21, 2020


Unfortunately, some days you just can't avoid it any longer.
When procrastination becomes writing the academic article that you've been procrastinating about, you know you're sunk.
I put on a CD of French music and pretended that I was in Paris, scrubbing away like Cinderella.
I didn't even notice it was on repeat for about 3 songs into the rewind.
Something about today is half-hearted.
I tried spraying my parka with waterproofing spray, because it's more like a sponge than a parka, and you don't want that from wet weather wear. Alas, the can of spray ran out halfway through, so I'll have one waterproof shoulder and one absorbent one.
C'est la vie! (see what I did there?)
I thought I'd cleaned the cooker and then I put my specs on and realised that I hadn't.
My normal specs are broken: they did that to themselves yesterday with no help from me, but I can't go out to get them fixed because I'm waiting in for the postie.
Nor can I do the hoovering (same reason), so the dustballs get a reprieve for a few hours at least.
I have discovered that Doritos, though very tasty, so not constitute lunch, but believe me if you saw those bananas over there in the bowl you would find it very easy to resist them. They may become more appealing to the gaze later this afternoon, if I have to wait in much longer.

Days like this, I look for minor things to celebrate.

I found the phone charger charging lead!!! Wahey!
The ugly enormous vintage blouse that I bought in Armstrong's in Edinburgh about five years ago doesn't look too bad when you're bored with your other clothes.
I have written an Americana song from the viewpoint of a protesting eighty-year-old.
There are 8 small boxes of wild blackberries in the freezer.
I'm going to Newcastle next week.
I am a mother (that's a big thing!)
It's quite nice not being able to do the hoovering.
I put the huge bubble wrap mountain away in the loft.
There are hardly any moths (actually, there could be hundreds of them, hiding. Scrub that one).
I had  a blister on my heel, and it's almost healed.
I like it when it's windy because it's exciting.

That's enough.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

In Brighton, 22

Photo by Claire Barratt.

Oh Bondage! Up Yours: Working On A Chapter

Today I am cutting down a chapter that I've written for a book called One Track Minds. My contribution is on this track by X-ray Spex, and I have to 'lose' a thousand words by dusk.
For any cowgirl this is difficult, but I do know that what is being chopped out is probably extraneous stuff. It's just that I was so appalled to see how hostile and cruel the press had been to Poly when I went to Liverpool to look at Falcon Stuart's archive. They treated her as an object of ridicule.
The misogyny and racism disgusted me. Patronising, belittling: and some of these journalists are still writing today, having reinvented themselves as jolly middle-aged raconteurs.
It's hard to detach emotionally from it the reviews of the day but I'm mainly focusing on descriptive content, including the stings-in-the-tail of each article, in the hope that the build-up of insulting crap will tell its own story.
The record itself. How brave of a young dual heritage woman to come out with that in the 1970s!
I will always be really grateful to her for documenting the contemporary female experience of punk, which just like in academia, is still in the hands of white male historians.
They 'don't even know they're doing it'. Ahem.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

From At The Edge Of The Sofa

The Porter Rose At Dawn

Subscribe to Gina Arnold's website for a whole series of Chandler-inspired stories, poems and songs, as they roll hot off the press. Maybe contribute yourself, too!


Wrecking A Generation

I was driven to tears this morning by the plight of these poor children whose 'A' level results have been manipulated, and those who are still waiting for GCSE and BTec results.
What a terrible level of extra stress they have been handed on a plate, completely underserved, on top of all the rest of the life-changing disasters that they have had to put up with.
You know: not just lockdown, but fears for their relatives, no holidays.... what a burden they are already carrying.
On the BBC news, a young girl read out part of a story she had written months ago that predicted the whole shebang. She was a star pupil (at least she had that), but her story concerned the sorting of children according to their social class by an algorithm.
She has had to campaign to get the results reconsidered, to get a letter from the head of her school to the University she hadn't managed to get in to in order to ask for her place, and was still waiting for UCAS to update with the new information. She was calm, articulate and just so much more grown up than any of the sorry clowns that are pretending to be in charge of our lives at the current time.
That's the sort of experience whole generation are going through.
It is time we had a new government, before they destroy anything else.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

At The Edge Of The Sofa, Again

On Youtube!

Equal Parts

Yesterday was very busy. Robert completed the artwork for our 10" vinyl e.p. and I completed the lettering. We have six brand new co-written songs, mixes almost complete, artwork under way.
I think you can hear the fun we had recording them in the songs themselves; there was lots of energy and spontaneity in the studio.
'Shall I do this?'... 'Yes! That's a great idea!'.
You can hear lots of different influences in there: a bit of Aztec Camera, a bit of Northern Soul, a bit of Orange Juice, a country lick here and there; Jacques Brel, Francois Hardy, even The Doors. But it has it's own sound too, made from the contrasting and complementing sounds of Robert's steel-strung Martin and the Green Goddess, or Pea Souper as he calls it. We also have distinctive voices.
Speaking of voices I've also been working with Kenji, who has one of the most gorgeous voices of anyone on Planet Earth, and this files turned up yesterday in my mailbox. That's another exciting collaboration.
Meanwhile a blast from the past. Cherry Red's release Make More Noise features The Chefs' song Food, and is being played by Colin Spencer today on his show:

Ahem: where's my copy, Cherry Red?

Rose Hips

It's rose hip season! At primary school we used to go out picking huge quantities of these and have weigh-ins, being paid a pittance by the pound by a company called Delrosa who used to manufacture Rose Hip Syrup.
I posted this on social media and discovered that  my friends all over the north east of England also used to do this, sometimes organised by the Women's Institute, rather than schools.
Delrosa was based in Wallsend which was fairly close by, and all of us used to drink the syrupy beverage, encouraged by the fact that it was allegedly very high in vitamin C, which of course would have been boiled out of the berries in the manufacturing process. I think you could even get it at the clinic in the village. It was absolutely delicious despite its dubious nutritional value (also by general agreement). What an odd thing to have done: it's exploitative child labour, isn't it? It was fun, but always ultimately a disappointment when what you thought was a gigantic haul was weighed and you took home a mere few coins in payment.
The north east was such an odd place to be brought up. They tested all sorts of things on us- the original GCSE qualifications based on coursework (called 'Certificate of Extended Education': I've got one in General Studies), which we did in the 6th form alongside our 'A' Levels; weird crisp flavours like mint sauce and tomato ketchup years before they cropped up anywhere else; floating breakfast cereals that had been developed for astronauts. I think it was regarded as an odd enclave that people never entered or left, a bit like Mars on Earth. But some of us escaped, and I was one of them, and now I've told you!

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Starts Soon: At The Edge Of The Sofa


Segment 3 [from 5-30PM]
MILES HUNT [Wonder Stuff], THE CATENARY WIRES [featuring Amelia Fletcher], SUCH SMALL HANDS [featuring Melanie Howard], UMUT ADAN [from Turkey], WITCHING WAVES, and CINERAMA [acoustic and live].
Segment 4 [from 7-15PM]
THE UKRAINIANS [featuring former Wedding Present guitarist Peter Solowka], VINNY PECULIAR, HELEN MCCOOKERYBOOK [The Chefs], DARREN HAYMAN [Hefner], and MELYS.
Segment 5 [from 8-30PM]
BADLY DRAWN BOY, SYNDROMET [from Sweden], CHORUSGIRL [from Germany], JETSTREAM PONY [featuring former Wedding Present drummer Shaun Charman], and, of course, DAVID’S LEGENDARY MEMORABILIA RAFFLE DRAW.
In order to raise the funds to produce At The Edge Of The Sofa as well as pay some of the artists and technical staff who have found themselves in need of financial support during the COVID-19 pandemic, David has plundered his personal memorabilia collection and come up with a fantastic selection of bits and pieces to raffle.
The items have been grouped into six bundles and, accordingly, six prize-winners will be randomly drawn during ‘At The Edge Of The Sofa’ on Saturday 15 August. The winners will then be contacted and asked to list their three favourite bundles in order. The idea is that we can match the bundle to the person who most desires its contents. In the case of people wanting the same bundle, that bundle will be randomly allocated. Simple! Right?
To enter the raffle, please make a payment to us via PayPal using this link: paypal.me/TheWeddingPresent (If it says Cinerama, you're in the right place!)
You will be allocated one raffle ticket for every £1 you send.
For those of you in the UK, please use the 'sending to a friend or family' option (since it saves us money in Paypal fees)!
We have looked at other payment options, but PayPal seems to be the best option for us at the moment.
The raffle will close at 12 Midnight BST on the 14th of August.
Good luck!
For information on what the prize bundles are in full detail, please click here: https://bit.ly/WeddingPresentNewsATEOTSofa

Wednesday, August 12, 2020


I've just remembered that I meant to get up at six to go to the Wednesday market.
I didn't get up at six, and I forgot it was Wednesday.
Hashtag hot.
It's even too hot to log into Hotmail.

Raymond Chandler Project

My academic colleague Gina Arnold (one of the editors of The Oxford Handbook of Punk and a pedigree rock music writer) has initiated a project that is inspired by the discovery of a list of story titles that Raymond Chandler never used. People have written stories already, and you subscribe via email to receive regular stories, songs and so on. I've aways been a big Chandler fan like a lot of others, so this instantly stood out as a brilliant concept.
It was so hot yesterday I browsed through the list... so many of them are song titles begging for a song. Last week's song that I wrote for Song Circle felt like a flop but I liked the chorus, and as soon as I alighted on The Porter Rose At Dawn from the list, the song rewrote itself and I recorded it in the simmering heat of late afternoon. It's rough (the edits scream out at you, the vocal takes are at wildly different volumes) but I sent it off and Gina likes it.
It was a good feeling to rescue and reshape a song and it was a great thing to do as the temperature pushed my head steadily groundwards.
Three drops of rain last night! I am so worried about the geese!
I slept partly on the floor downstairs because it was boiling upstairs, and next door were having an all-night carouse in their garden that involved a lot of loud shrieking laughter and shouting. When I awoke this morning, I could hear sparrows arguing in the back yard. Just now both a blackbird and a wren guiltily fled something close to the back door that they were investigating. I have to stop worrying about the geese. The remaining one with broken wings that can't fly away appears to have got themselves a mate, and none of the water fowl seem to mind that the pond is disappearing in front of their eyes. I suppose they don't have foresight, so they? The trouble with being close to nature is that you have to let it take it's course, wherever that may be. And of course the problem with humans is that they have to interfere, and can't let nature take it's course.
I'm afraid that if anyone else says to me that sociopaths make good leaders ever again in my entire life, I will hit them extremely hard. Almost sociopathically, in fact, except it will be in my head.
Brazil, China, the USA, the UK, Hungary, Russia, Belarus: all of them.
With our schooling in British exceptionalism when I was a child, we used to gasp at the terrible antics of despotic leaders elsewhere in the globe, and now we are elsewhere too. Is this really how it's all going to end, with vain, pompous, selfish, corrupt liars in charge of our delicate ecosystem, our culture, our humanity? For too long, stone age politics has been seen as the ideal. I detest Darwin and the whole idea of survival of the fittest.
When they get to Mars, they will all kill each other anyway, because they are so aggressive and competitive. In fact they will probably even kill each other on the way there, in either Richard Branson or Elon Musk's rocket.

How did I get here from writing about music? Oh yes- a link to Gina's website so you can subscribe and /or contribute.
As for the others: let them eat money.


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Early Walk

Having woken at 5.30 a.m., it seemed churlish to ignore the blue sky and I got up, had a hearty breakfast and went for a walk. This is positively the last time I'll pick blackberries!
There they were in all their shiny, bobbly, sweet and sour black splendour, literally dropping off the bushes.
I fought through thistles, nettles and Rosebay Willowherb, all of which had made a pact with the blackberry bushes to make it difficult to harvest them. "Yah yah yah! Go 'way!"
Nowt like a pair of stout denim trousers on these occasions; their blandishments fell on deaf legs.
Parakeets have found Barnet (screeeech!!!) but they haven't found the blackberries, yet.

Everything smells gorgeous early in the morning. Someone's honeysuckle had escaped from their back garden and twined itself around a lilac tree. What a fantastic scent! Further on, even the simplest of Leylandii hedges smelt tangy and delicious as the breeze wafted past it.
It was already hot and the dog-walkers were in t-shirts and trainers. The sky was enormous this morning (has it grown?) and the fields were different because they have been mown for hay.
You could smell that too.
Like a happy clappy idiot, I showed my tub of blackberries to the woman at the till in the supermarket. She didn't mind. She told me how hard it was to decide between apple pie and apple crumble with the apples from the tree in her garden. You know what, I almost forgot the apples in my bag. People have piled them up at the edge of their gardens and the pavement and say 'Help Yourself', so I did.
Wormy, bruised, but real: a bit like me, I suppose.
I'm armed with new detective novels and the day's paper, resting my voice a bit before more singing and waiting to see what the weather has in store. It's either going to be too hot to go out, or too wet to go out.
The house is a mess with stuff in grumpy piles all over the floor but we don't do tidying up when the temperature is over 30 degrees, do we?

Monday, August 10, 2020

Distanced Recording at Onecat Studio, Brixton

Robert and me have co-written six songs, which we finished yesterday and which are currently being mixed. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, helped out by Ian Button on drums and Jonathan Clayton (who engineered the session) on bass and double bass. It will be a 10" vinyl release, coming soon!

Oxford Handbook of Punk Rock

I wrote about violence, punk and women for this book chapter.


Thursday, August 06, 2020

Big White Bairns Tell Porky Pies

Since everything the Big White Bairn says is a lie, why don't newspapers and other media sources hold off from reporting anything he says until he speaks the truth?
And while we're at it, that might be quite a good idea to apply this to our own home-grown big white bairn, who changes his mind with the wind.
Let's just not listen to him, and make some space for doctors to tell us what to do instead.

Song Musings

Earlier in the week, I realised what a good idea it is to write a song every week for Song Circle. It means that you can write a bad song, and it doesn't matter so much as when you only write a song every month. Strangely, one of my bad songs from a couple of months ago turned into someone else's good song at another time.
There is something very revealing about playing a song to the group, and realising halfway through that it's not working. Sometimes it's a matter of simply being too complicated, and sometimes it's a matter of being too simple. I really appreciate the time we spend doing this and what I'm learning from it. Not only that, the privilege of listening to other musicians working on crafting their songs is an amazing experience.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Non-existent Tuesday

Tuesday didn't exist: I was in bed the whole afternoon with a migraine. Normally, I have jazzy auras and sometimes not even a headache. Yesterday's was excruciatingly painful, and the whole afternoon  it made me want to throw up. I didn't realise it was a migraine for a couple of hours because it didn't come with the usual colourful sparkles and zig zags.
Today I caught up with yesterday's missed things, then drove to Battersea Park to meet the Offsprogs. Suddenly I got loads of visual disturbances, but luckily I had medication with me and I caught it before it got me.
It was unnerving driving home though, and it was a relief to get back.
It was so nice to see them. We watched cormorants flying above us. Offsprog One says they sleep in the trees next to the lake. We saw a swan chasing ducks across the water, and a heron just standing there pretending to be a statue of a heron. They do that, you know.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Not Cuba

Somewhere in the back of my mind was this idea of going to Cuba this summer, just for the adventure, and the great music, and the being somewhere entirely different.
Instead, it's been blackberry picking and writing my own music, all within a very small radius indeed.
Scratched arms, nettle-stung legs and broken fingernails.
Glamorous me!
I've heard mp3s of yesterday's songs and they are spirited and fun and very catchy. It was definitely a good day worth doing, a well-spent eight hours. I'm looking forward to next Sunday when we record one more song and do a bit of spit'n'polishing.
Meanwhile, song circle has moved to Wednesday and I'm looking for an impossible rhyme. I do know that when that happens, you have to toss aside the line that won't rhyme and replace it with another one that means the same thing, at which point the perfect rhyme for that will fly in from the wings (sic) and land in your lyrics book with a gentle plop.
I remember once a friend laughing because I like to leave things for a few days (in that case it was a month) to really savour finishing them off.
That's what I'm doing with the rhymeless line.
The other problem?
Dreaming up a killer chorus and forgetting to sing it on to my phone before going out blackberry picking.
Ho hum.


On a blackberry picking expedition up the back fields, we met this little chap. He was inspecting the pool that had accumulated in some BT workings in one of the fields. At first, I couldn't work out what I was looking at and then realised it was this little kestrel.
It didn't fly away: it was protected by the barriers that had been put up.
Maybe it was thirsty and wanted a drink.
What an unexpected treat, and definitely the last thing I expected to see on a hot afternoon in lockdown.

At the Edge of the Sea Lockdown Festival

I'm delighted to have been invited to contribute to David Gedge's At the Edge of the Sea lockdown festival which is going to be streaming on the 14th and 15th of August. It is a unique festival to go to and I've not only made a lot of friends there, but I've also seen some bands that I've stuck with ever since- most notably Jetstream Pony and the Catenary Wires. This is the info from the Scopitones site but there will be more to come:
As we mentioned in our previous newsletter, ‘At The Edge Of The Sea’ [David Gedge’s annual festival in Brighton] has joined the list of events postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This event will now take place on the 13th and 14th of August, 2021.
However, we are very excited to announce that a ‘virtual’ version of the festival will still happen this year!
‘At The Edge Of The Sofa’ - which will be free to watch - will take place during the evenings of 14 & 15 August [the Friday and Saturday that had originally been earmarked for ‘At The Edge Of The Sea XII’].
We are planning to stream this event live on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
We are still working on the exact format but the plan is that David will host the event from his living room in Brighton and introduce a variety of features, including world-wide premieres of nine Wedding Present ‘locked down & stripped back' videos. These will include a brand new Wedding Present song.
David will be on hand to answer questions posted online by viewers and play requests live on his acoustic guitar… as he’s done during his previous streams.
And if that wasn’t enough… you will also be able to see exclusive ‘lockdown’ videos from many of the other fantastic artistes who have appeared at At The Edge Of The Sea over the years [or who were scheduled to appear this year].

So far, we’ve been promised appearances from [in alphabetical order]:
Amelia Coburn / Badly Drawn Boy Chorusgirl CUD
Darren Hayman [Hefner] / French For Cartridge
Helen McCookerybook [The Chefs] / Jake Shillingford [My Life Story]
Jetstream Pony [featuring Shaun Charman (ex Wedding Present drummer)]
Martin from British Sea Power / Melys / Miles Hunt [The Wonder Stuff]
Si,irene [from Japan] / Such Small Hands [featuring Melanie Howard]
Syndromet [from Sweden] / Terry de Castro [ex Wedding Present bassist] 
The Catenary Wires [featuring Amelia Fletcher]
The Popguns / The Primitives
The Sleazoids [featuring Paul Dorrington (ex Wedding Present guitarist)]
The Ukrainians [featuring Peter Solowka (ex Wedding Present guitarist)]
Umut Adan [from Turkey] / Vinny Peculiar
Witching Waves / Young Romance
And, yes, of course, there will be a raffle! Stay tuned for more news about that rest of the festival in our August newsletter.

Sunday, August 02, 2020


That was a sharp leap into semi-normality today!
I drove to Brixton for a socially-distanced recording session at One Cat Studios with Ian and Robert. We recorded three new songs, one just vocal and guitar, one tremendously ambitious one which ended up sounding fabulous, and a very simple one which had a sort of Johnny Cash vibe. We have one more to do and a revisit to the first two we recorded. Eight hours! That's old school.
I have disinfected my computer, my phone and my watch, my clothes are in the washing machine and I had a good scrub when I got home. I used up half a tube of hand sanitiser too.
It was absolutely great to spend a day doing this.
Absolutely great.
We are going to do another day, and then we will have recorded a little six-track record.
Hoo hoo!

Thursday, July 30, 2020


This song travels all over the place, and my passport needs to be renewed!


Sometimes you feel that you are standing in front of a large residential building with a plate of doorbells at the entrance.
You ring at each bell in turn hoping for someone to answer but nobody does, so you retreat in disappointment.
This week has been a week where every door bell I've pressed has rung and someone has answered.
This is remarkably rare, so I'm treasuring the experience.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020


I've just vacuumed my guitars.


Little mp4 files are scattered across my laptop screen like letters spread out on a doormat: full of information to work on, and engendering the same feelings of anticipation.
First thing, I got up and finished comping the vocal for The Cutty Wren, which meant visually shifting vocal takes into time on the screen, then listening to see if they were in the right place.
What a challenge: parts of it are very high to sing, and some of the words twisted my tongue into the shape of a helter-skelter.
I went for a walk to clear my head, and the place was busy with mothers with pushchairs, all saying good morning to each other. Dog walkers at 9.30, baby walkers at 10.30! All very good natured; then back home, I rehearsed one of the songs for Sunday.
This afternoon I completed words/melody for one of Robert's songs. In my head I was seeing one of those paintings by Vermeer, all dusty sunlight through windows that you can't see through properly.
I hope he likes it; I recorded a very basic version and sent it to him a few minutes ago.
This gap in the proceedings is called 'waiting for feedback'.
I'm going to have some crisps now.
What a luxury!
Then I'm going to carry on writing the song about hotels for Friday's song circle.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020


Singing has been a challenge for the past few days because of the pollen. Sometimes it's best to just go with the flow, so I went out for a walk to rest my voice and found these beauties growing in a dried up stream bed. The weather has been so dry that a lot of this year's blackberries are very small, although they are sweet. These ones are quite juicy: their roots have obviously found the water down below the soil. I'm not sure why the birds haven't had 'em, but there are such a lot this year it seems there are plenty for everybody. I stopped after a thistle attacked me (entirely unprovoked) and I stepped into the stream bed because it was hidden under the bushes. It was quite deep, but I escaped with the blackberries intact.

Beginning Twice

Allow me to share my frustration. I printed out fourteen pages of an article I've been writing on Oh Bondage! Up Yours, and the printer ran out of paper.
After replenishing the paper, I pressed 'Resume' and printing resumed.
Alas, it started from the last page again, and the ink cartridge ran out halfway through.
I've now got two sets of the last fourteen pages of the article.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

White Sky Songwriting Saturday

For most of the day the sky has glowered and sulked, promising rain but delivering only a headache.
Ian Button's done a great mix of the song Michel Wallace and me collaborated on, and that was a sunny thing to receive in the inbox this morning.
By the time the rain finally squeezed itself out of the clouds a repeat of Come Dine With Me was on and I'd bought a pie in the market, so I watched that while flaky pastry fluffed about between me and the plate.
I had spent part of the morning singing The Cutty Wren on to the backing track, and managed to embed the vocal into the track really well (it's bloody fast!) but my pitching wasn't delicate enough, so I left it for another day.
About an hour ago I made the template for another song I'm working on, but this time my guitar playing was sounding stiff so I left that for another day too, although I got the singing done on that one.
I don't know if I'm getting fussier, or worse at playing and singing. I do know that I get so deeply into what I'm listening to that firstly I lose track of the time, and secondly, it's absolutely exhausting. Everything is permanently set up in the kitchen at the moment so if the mood strikes I can just switch on and... well, switch on.
We have a 'distanced' day booked in the studio in Brixton next Sunday, I've ordered some clear protective specs and I'm just waiting for Robert to do the next bits of those songs; meanwhile Jude has worked on the next section of the Desperado Housewives song, and it's Kath's turn to add something.
It's so odd, because at the beginning of this year I thought that I'd like to do a lot more collaborations; I'd already been enjoying working with Robert, and was made up that Johny Brown asked me to play on his songs for the concert-that-never-happened-but-will-in-October-I-hope. Then this virus happened, and the collaboration thing has really come into fruition. It hasn't stopped me from writing songs on my own, but it's like a wonderful added extra that has crystallised out into the vacuum left by the cancellation of all the live gigs.
So interesting to work with, all those different voices, styles, chords, ideas.....

Friday, July 24, 2020

Great Aunt Ina And Her Banjo

Great Aunt Ina used to hang out with the sailors apparently, preferring their company to her genteel Glasgow family. Here she is with her banjo.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Walking and a Heron

Not for the first time, when I saw this huge prehistoric monster I thought it was a statue standing on the grass by the path. I'd gone for a long walk because I knew I'd be recording this afternoon and I wanted a clear head with no anxiety.
As I rounded the corner, there it was, just standing there. An elderly man walked past it with centimetres to spare, but he was deep in thought beneath his baseball cap and didn't even notice. I managed to get within about a metre and a half, although the bird had it's beady eye fixed on me the whole time to make sure I didn't fling a net over it's head. It was looking for insects and worms- it jabbed the ground really hard with it's beak at one point. The water up here is like thick green soup and I don't think there are any fish or insect larvae for any of the birds to eat. The ducks and geese up at the ponds are probably OK for a while because they get fed oats and bread by visitors (and so does a rather impressive giant rat).
Anyway, eventually I got just too close and it took off slowly, flapping its massive wings and landing not much further away. If I had been a bit smaller it would have eaten me, I'm certain.
I'm just taking a break from editing a song that I've been working on with Michel Wallace. I want to export the tracks to send to Ian Button to mix but I can't remember how to do it, so I've had to write and ask. Ricocheting in between academic writing and writing and recording songs is such a blessing but it involves wearing a lot of hats inside the head, kind of thing. You never stop learning though- I think I may become a better guitarist as a result of lockdown, and I've built a better relationship with Logic and its peccadilloes.
Funny using the kitchen as a studio. I'm on stickiness alert and I have to let as much air into the room as possible. There's no space anywhere else, no room in the back yard for a shed, and the kitchen's got the best acoustics anyway because of the hard surfaces.
This is not a problem the heron has to deal with.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Punky's Cut-Out Wardrobe

In the 1970s there was a comic for girls called Bunty which had a cut-out paper doll on the back every week with clothes that you could fold on to her. Bunty and it's sister comic Judy were both terrific. There wasn't a whiff of boyfriend trouble, make-up or anything like that- the stories were adventure stories for little girls to read, and on one of the front-cover Bunty stories she was a footballer.
I think it was Judy who had The Four Marys, a centrefold story with four girls all called 'Mary' (naturally) and two female baddies who looked remarkably punky. I have always wondered if they inspired Siouxsie's look in some way, because she might just as well have read those stories as anyone else of our generation.
Anyway- this is from the back page of Shingles, the comic that I edited in the late 1970s in Brighton. I got contributions from lots of different people and it sold in the record shop in Brighton, Attrix, although most people just read it in the shop and didn't buy it.
I believe I could call that a 'W. H. Smith hit'.

Friday, July 17, 2020


What's that crunching in the back yard? ('patio garden' in estate-agent-ese)
A blackbird!
Rummaging and thrashing a dried leaf to get at a worm inside it or something; I didn't ask.
But how nice!

Imaginary Bread, Chewing Gum and Ben Wilson

I lay in bed this morning and imagined the smell of baking bread that used to waft along early from the bakers. At the time, I had no idea what a luxury that was, and how much I'd miss it when it was gone.
There are still little moments of joy.
Barnet Council ripped up the paving stones that Ben Wilson painted on shortly after he had finished the wonderful community gallery of folk art that was a feature of our High Street. You can't really photograph the experience of walking along and seeing Ben working on a new miniature painting, surrounded by an excited child or two (he did requests), with so many people stopping to say hello and pass the time of day with him.
It was an odd sort of therapy too: just having a pleasant chap around, changing the ugly chewing gum splotches into works of art that materialised in front of your eyes. What a lost treasure, and a lived experience of the trashing of small cultural interventions by a Tory council that wants to steamroller everything that touches real people in its path, as it strives to be an efficient vehicle for capitalism.
On my perambulations yesterday I discovered a lost cache of his paintings, scuffed and muddied (it was so tempting to wipe them, but then the council might find them and eradicate them).
Look carefully at the detail and the world through their little windows, and remember that these are painted on other people's contempt for their environment, matched only by the council's.
These are works of absolute genius, and indeed the concept is absolute genius.
Here they are.

Thursday, July 16, 2020


Yesterday I drove the circuitous route to Sarf London to visit my Offsprogs.
We sat in the park eating chips and yakking for a couple of hours, watching tiny bats flittering across the early evening sky in search of flying insects.
Busy, busy little things.
One of our company found a photograph of a giant bat in the Philippines on their phone and held it up for them to see, but the Sarf London bats weren't frightened at all.
I bought a little box tree in the vegetable shop on the main street to replace one that black and yellow striped caterpillars ate last year. I am going to guard it with my life to protect it against the little buggers- and also make friends with the lady blackbird who has taken to visiting the back yard and rummaging in the undergrowth.
Driving back, the posh brutes were out in force in their bossy cars. Almost the whole way back there is a 20 MPH speed limit, but they weren't having any of it.
I got tooted at all the way home.
The sound of money is rude and bad mannered.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Egg Fingers

It wasn't butterfingers because it was an egg. It made quite a pleasant gentle splat as it landed on the floor.
I was making a cake- a caraway seed cake.
The kitchen filled with smoke because I greased the cake tin with sunflower oil and the oven didn't like it.
It also welded the cake to the 'non-stick' pan.
The cake is delicious, actually.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020


I've walked four miles just now, to exercise away the anxiety cause by trying to organise something simple with a large organisation (and failing as I knew I would, even though I crossed all the 't's and whatever the other bit of that saying is).
When my feet have stopped hurting (unsuitable shoes), I'll start recording again but until then, it's just me and a squadron of flies that has decided to do a fly-past in my living room for no discernible reason. They are all ages, all sizes and all buzzes and they would be driving me bonkers but I haven't got any bonks left to drive.
I should perhaps open the front door and see if they will fly out in formation, or even not.
I don't mind which.

Revamped Website Shop

Thanks to Damian Cosmas for revamping my website shop. There are new postal charges, and 'multi buy' deals. This is cheaper than Bandcamp, as I send the stuff out directly from home. I've had to cancel nine gigs this year and would normally sell my CDs and records on the road, which is why I've now got this. Mrs Nationofshopkeeper, or should that be Dr Nationofshopkeeper?


Monday, July 13, 2020

Blackberry Break

Lovely blackberries. In season, they have an after-kick of Ribena flavour that is absolutely lush. Excuse me for being swanky, but the first time I went to New York two years ago I half-lived off blackberries from the street corner stalls near Central Park. A box or two of those, and I was ready to roll.
In the hedgerows up here they are almost ripe, which means I'll get fat. The wild ones are so sour you have to put them in a blackberry pudding, and that means lots of picking, lots of pudding, lots of eating, lots of fatting.
This is my ears-break of the afternoon. I did some work this morning but I'm a bit stuck now because my computer is filling up with work stuff. I'm trying to arrange to collect the one from work, Big Bad Brenda, so I can stick all the work on to that one and free up this one for music.
I'm going to have to do some audio homework. To my ears, my vocals catch a certain tone at a certain pitch that is a bit like a punch on the eardrum. I can't find the Hz when I'm equalising it to stop it from happening, so I need to do a bit of research because that's not a good thing.
Likewise (or not) I need to be able to take some of the muddiness out of the guitar without it sounding thin and tinny.
Looking on the bright side, I'm finding the SM58 absolutely perfect for vocals; it fixes all sorts of things even before you get the sound on to the hard drive. I think maybe expensive microphones are made so you can mix the voice with a lot of popifying plugins.
Or maybe I'm just a cheap date. Likewise (or not, again) having a guitar with great pickups means that there's a character in the sound of the guitar without me having to add lots of things to it to make it work.
OK! Back to work. Quick tune-up of the guitar, wipe the rust off the strings.
Another 45 minutes before my ears give up and add a tinnitus twang to the song!

Saturday, July 11, 2020


I spent the afternoon recording. I like doing that. My fingers are worn through from playing the guitar, and my ears are shot from listening.
I feel quite happy about my ability to record what I need to record, but mixing is a different matter and that's what I'm trying to do: not the 'getting it technically right' type of mixing, but the 'making it sound good' type. Getting a guitar and a recorded voice to sound just right is really hard. In the headphones they sound one way, over the speakers they sound another way and on the laptop... they sound crap.
It's an interesting puzzle to solve, and I shouldn't wish it would rain so I don't mind being inside doing it. The point is that once you get going, you get so absorbed in it that it's difficult to stop. I had crisps for my tea because I couldn't be bothered to cook because I was recording. That's how much it make you concentrate. I had to make myself stop because there's a certain degree of fatigue beyond which there's no point in carrying on: you have to stop nanoseconds before it stops being fun!
I've recorded two songs, one new one, and one that is so new I haven't even really finished the words and I'll have to change them any way because I mention Amazon and also say 'arsehole', which isn't terrible poetic, is it?

Respected Doctor

Friday, July 10, 2020

Songwriting Circle

This afternoon, it's songwriting circle. Katy Carr set this up years ago, and we've been doing it intermittently ever since. It started at her flat in Marylebone on Mondays, which meant a scrabble to write a song on a Sunday night. Then it rested for a while and now it's back, this time on Zoom, with two of the other 'originals', Rowen Bridler and Nadya Ostroff, joining in last week. One year, almost a whole album came out of it (this one: https://helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com/album/take-one-download-only), and I think k that happened for Katy too. Sometimes it's just about a creative exercise, flexing your song writing muscles and perhaps writing something that just passes the time fo day in a creative way.
Whatever, it's great to have something to look forward to: a mini project every week that stimulates that part for the brain that other things can't reach. The cabbage soup Katy made isn't there, but the humour and encouragement are, and that's much more important.
Katy has just completed Chris Difford's song writing mentor course so I'm sure she will be really fired up by that.
Got to go now and practice this week's song, and then this weekend I'm going to do some recording and remind myself of ways of working in sound. I have another project in the offing.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Songs from the Kitchen: Set in Stone

Last Night's Dream

Last night's lockdown dream was every bit as complex as the one the night before, but it slithered away swiftly like a snake as I tried to grasp it and remember what happened. I
 just saw its tail disappearing into the distance and couldn't hang on to it.
Maybe that was a dream as well.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Lockdown Dreams and Frozen Fridges

I don't normally remember my dreams but during lockdown that have been vivid, exhausting and sometimes alarming. I wake up in the morning with what feels like a headful of panicking pigeons. A couple of nights ago I had to get a coach load of tourists out of a French chateau and back into the coach with half an hour to go before their ferry left. When I went to find them the stair carpet, which was made of cloth, came undone and I had to try to fix it back again on to slippy wooden stairs, all under the watchful eye of duchess Thandie Newton. I did manage to collect up the tourists but then had to convince the tour operator that we were in a hurry, and she didn't seem that bothered.
What a relief to wake up!
Meanwhile, there's a gap in my working life where my book was. I am going to write a book chapter on Oh Bondage! Up Yours but I know I need a couple of weeks of not exactly rest, but catching up on University work stuff. Online courses, you know.
Double meanwhile after a year I have finally admitted that it's time to defrost the lump of ice that my fridge has become. It has taken more than 24 hours to not melt and people have been recommending that I get the hairdryer out.
Sounds good. I think I will, but that might mean the kitchen smells of melted and pre-rotting food.
I have scrubbed away at the top bit with bicarbonate of soda. Some dill went mouldy in there and it's been very hard to get rid of the smell. That, and half-onions.
I think this is called 'domestic bliss'. I'm looking for the bliss bit: it's probably embedded in that huge lump of ice in the freezer compartment, I think.
Postscript: I got bored with the hairdryer hint pretty quickly. It's better to just wait.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Interview in PunkGirlDiaries Zine

This is a top-quality zine, lovely paper and ink (how can you tell I used to be a printer?). I was delighted to do an interview with them.
Issue 2 available now! https://punkgirldiaries.com
Also featuring an interview with Alison Statton from the Young Marble Giants and Weekend.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Bandcamp Friday 3rd July

Bandcamp are doing a fee-free day tomorrow. This track will be up for 36 hours only. It's a song I will re-record for my next album, but this version will generate 100% of its sales income for Crisis, the homelessness charity, if you buy it this time around.
Please do listen to the rest of my music too, if you're visiting!


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Dreamings and Ramblings

I dreamt a song about pigs last night, and awoke to news of a new swine virus in China. It's hard to work out if we'd find things like this anywhere if we looked hard enough. I still remember our British infected chickens, the phenomenon that Edwina Currie drowned in, eventually.
Go to work on an egg, they said.
Meanwhile, I'm drowning in Mick Herron. Rather craftily, he doesn't give you enough information about his spies to allow you to visualise them completely: just bits and pieces. This means that when it's made into a TV series, the actors chosen to play the parts will 'become' the characters unimagined in the mind's eye of the existing fans. Brilliant strategy. The man should be a spy!

I thought today was tomorrow, and I thought that yesterday too. This means I have an extra day this week, which is a nice feeling given the way that the entire year has imploded.
I have a task to do, one of those nice/nasty ones. The editor has finished and I'm ready to go, but she has recommended that I read through the book to check once more for typos before I send it to the publishers. Yes, I must. I think that will be a job for the rest of the week, because I have now become remarkably anxious and protective over the women that I interviewed. I know I have shown them in the best light they can be presented in. Would I read the whole thing, if I was one of the people interviewed? I hope so. There is strength not only in their sisterhood, which maybe not everyone was aware of, but also in the technical skills and the strategic thinking. Strategic thinking is a craft as much as any other sort of creativity: it's the imagination that makes us survive, and is also a threat to the status quo.

What else?
I did an interview for a podcast called Red Jumpsuit on Sunday evening. I was put in touch with them by Jerry Thackray a.k.a. Everett True, and big luv to Jerry for that. It was really good fun, and they say the podcast will be available in July so I'll post it here there and everywhere else when it's ready.
Last night, another nice thing happened, completely unexpectedly: David Gedge emailed with an invitation to contribute a song to the virtual Edge of the Sea Festival on the 15th and 16th of August. The Wedding Present host these festivals every year and I played a solo one in 2017, and one with Helen and the Horns in 2018, all down at Concorde 2 in Brighton. They have a devoted audience, who follow the bands alternately from one room to the other, and who were incredibly welcoming to me both times. First time, I have to say thank you to Rocker, who put my name forward for it. I had been having a difficult few months and it was one of the events that made me feel life was worth living again; I seem to have started from scratch more times than anyone else in the business, but being able to play to a room full of people at the festival who didn't know my stuff and just feel a wave of support and affection meant masses to me.
Apart from that, I am writing songs and they are pouring out like water from a tap. The pig one has a home (aaah!). I have still to finish editing and mixing the song Michel and me have written. I need to contact Robert and revive our collaboration. There's are other collaborations in the pipeline too (shh!).
Postscript: the pig song has new lyrics, not about a pig any more.