Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Have you seen this cottage?

Prize offered for anyone who knows where in Newcastle Upon Tyne this lovely thatched cottage is!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dreaming Songs

Quite often, I dream songs. Dreaming of You was one, and so was Songbird. Lots of the others were too but I've forgotten which ones now. Last night, I dreamed another one and here it is.
I had to wash some clothes, and the washing machine was in the middles of a grassy area, outside in a playing field, in some sort of institution. As I was cramming the clothes into the machine, I noticed a shallow zinc tray full of coarse and dirty sand on the ground in front of the machine. I tried not to let the clothes dangle into the sand, which I supposed must be there to catch water or something. Then I noticed a tiny little ivory-coloured plastic cat in the sand- a cracker toy, it looked like. Although the sand was full of bits of charcoal and dust, I scooped it out and wiped the sand off it- and I noticed there were more- little squirrels, dogs, and other animals. As I scraped away the sand I noticed there were black ones too, and wondered if they were game pieces from a sort of chess set. They were made of something much nicer than plastic, and I decided to clean them and keep them. There was a tap used for watering plants in the quadrangle, and I took them there- Ikept dropping them because there were so many. As I was rinsing the sand off them, I could hear what I thought was a rehearsal for a classcal concert through the windows of the hall next to me; it sounded like mature women's voices, singing a song, so I peered through the glass to see what was going on. Three girls were standing there- they looked like some students- and they were singing a gospel song, which went like this.......
Well, you'll have to wait till I've finished it before you can hear it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Failure, Fursday

Well last night was a bit of a failure, really. I dropped off at Dubulah's to pick something up, and managed to miss the bus to Charing Cross Road, but I was only 20 minutes late at Ray's Jazz Shop in Foyle's, and still just made it for the last three chords of the French guitarist's set! Pring, pring, pring.... Steve Beresford's brother was playing at the Electric Proms so he had to go off- so I went to Denmark Street and played a nice Hofner acoustic for about half an hour before going down to Brixton to Offline. Of course I got there far too early but managed to catch Lisa Dee's hip hop soundcheck- she's a white Irish rapper with a trumpet player- she sounded very good but I thought too much of her backing-track was pre-recorded. The trumpet playing was great- a really unusual touch. She had an acoustic guitarist as well. I like it when rap is almost classifiable as performance poetry.Speaking of which, Vic Lambrusco was on, very loud and witty. He was leaning on the bar writing one of his poems about 5 minutes before he went on, which I thought was great! There was another bloke caled Courtly Lover who did a lot of poem cover versions- Ian Dury, John Cooper Clarke, Tom Waits, John Donne- but his own stuff was perfectly adequate. The more I think of it, the more I think cover versons are a bad idea. I know I used to do them, but you've got to be a complete hypocrite sometimes, haven't you? Anyway, although I had a nice chat with Mike, I missed the rest of it.
So tonight, I'm playing it safe and going to see The Queen. I don't like the royal family but I liked Princess Diana because she silenced the tabloids by heading down to St Mary's and holding hands with AIDS patients, then campaigned against the most disgusting method of blowing limbs off children in developing countries that us Brits have ever sold to mad dictators. So I liked her. How the awful Charles must be chortling as all those lovely flowers that covered the Mall after she died, rot in his royal compost-heaps!!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

New Song for Sursday

I've just uploaded Screaming! and moved Heaven Avenue into the stratosphere; had to hold my breath as it was the first track I ever uploaded on to myspace- I was counting the plays but now I've forgotten how many there were anyway! Just been talking to a friend who's going on tour, and suggested she uses each town as an inspiration for a song- think I might do that too, when I get going. I was going to do a Ten Towns Tour once upon a time, writing a song in ten towns around GB and then going back and performing them in the ten towns when I'd finished. When I win the lottery (!) that's what I'll do. Actually, a documentary maker was interested in following and making a film of it, but you have to get funding, and we couldn't and didn't.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Evenin' All!

This morning I took the foul beast Blogger out for his morning constitutional. He puffed and panted so much he got long strings of foamy saliva hanging from his jowls and when he ran across the playing field they wrapped round his muzzle like icing on a chocolate roll- nouvelle cuisine extraordinaire!
Went to the studio this P.M. to tidy up the Screaming song to send to the Mad Professor- did lots of editing, it's much neater now; and recorded demos of two new ones for the next CD!* It was nice to be back, great therapy, although I didn't sing very well which was probably due to complete lack of sleep. As with most insomniacs, I know the night hours all too well and play an imaginary iPodsworth of songs in my head each night to keep myself entertained. I'm getting better at playing guitar though, mainly because I know what's bad about what I do, but also partly because I want to be like those ole Blues mamas and still be playing when I'm an ancient crustacean on a creaky old rocking chair (it's the knees that creak, you know, not the chair).
I think it's high time Heaven Avenue vanished from Myspace, so I'll replace it with Screaming, which has Gina Birch playing bass and Dubulah playing guitar, and of course, yours truly on scream.
I sent off for a Box Number today (no, suburbians, that's not a type of dwarf hedge) so the CD can be sold from here.
*probably be called Polyhymnia

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Drawing Day

Today is a drawing day- I did a poster for the next Songbird (it's moving to Wednesdays and the venue has changed)and I'll do one for the December one today- it's raining and unless I feel like going ice-skating, it's a drawing day. Tomorrow, going to the studio to edit the Screaming song to send to the Mad Professor (I was really chuffed, he left a comment about 'Dreaming of You' on Myspace, brilliant he took the time to listen, and it's the first track on the new CD.I needed that vote of confidence!). Thursday, Steve Beresford invites musicians to play in Ray's Jazz store at Foyle's and I think I'll go to that- last person I saw there was BJ Cole and when I saw the chords he played that's when I decided to ask him to play on some of the stuff I'd written. This time, it's a guitarist whose name escapes me, but if I find out, I'll tell you. Then later that night, it's Offline at Jamm- haven't been for ages because it's been such a mammoth task getting the CD ready all mixed in with starting a new job- but I'm really looking forward to it!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Cross your fingers for me!

I told you, I do everything I say I'll do. I have contacted the Mad Professor, and he has written back! I have to edit the track and then I'll send it to him- please cross your fingers! Exciting!!!!
Little Claire has written to me asking if I know any tracks that feature jewellery- can anyone help? She's going to have an exhibition and wants to make up a soundtrack. Ghoulish tracks welcome; it's about funeral jewellery.Maybe I should write her one specially- that would be a good project!
And Joby... well, I am worried about Joby and his self-medication with the demon drink. I pointed out how unfair it is for me to worry about him in Brighton when I live in London; he told me this is called tele-worrying, and perhaps it is, but it doesn't make it any more bearable. How can the revolution possibly happen if everyone's down the pub?
Well, I have to go up the road to see if Kall-Kwik do scanning- I've done the poster for the next Songbird but smashed the scanner by tangling wires and dropping a lamp on it, and the computer that connects with it has crashed and is at the techno-docs.
See ya tomorrow!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Finches, Willesden, Tour

I am planning a tour now, and hope to go to Cardiff and Bristol in January- I might ask Annie if there are any good venues in Bath- I think Moles might still be going. Perhaps I could support Joe McGann if he has finished doing his musical. I used to share a house in Willesden with Annie and Paul McGann and Steve McGann, and of course Treacle, Charlotte, little Claire, Glenn, Ruth, Marek Kohn and some strange blokes upstairs that only our cats knew. Lots of us used to just climb up the front or back of the house when we were (frequently) locked out; I don't think we all realised we all did this until ages afterwards. And we had the most fantastic parties! I'm sure I've mentioned them before on this blog. Mad. It's where Justin melted his boots.
When I went on tour with Helen and the Horns, I gave my finches to Annie and Paul. Mrs Finch had loads of babies while I was away, and ate them before I got back! For some reason I still feel incredibly guilty about that.
So here are the dates I'm playing so far- the link I tried to do last posting didn't work:
Saturday 18th November- The Bull Theatre, Barnet
Monday 27th November- The Telegraph, Brixton
Saturday 2nd December- The Cafe Royale, Edinburgh
Thursday 14th December- Newcastle, supporting the Daintees
Friday 15th December- Newcastle, supporting the Daintees
I'm going to try to add some more in when I have found good venues to play...
Everything will be on www.myspace.com/helenmccookerybook
...and I'm going to start recording new stuff again soon, I'll post here when it's there. The old songs have been on there for a long time; there are lots of tracks that are not on the album, and new ones too.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Brighton Gig

It's a lovely feeling, the day after playing, better than any drug or booze or anything like that. I feel really happy, although I am sick-a-bed. It was such a nice gig last night- the promoter, Grant, was really great, the other band (Popguns) were really good (3 acoustic guitars and female vocalist, Wendy- sort of urban folk), and there were people there that I suppose I never really thought I'd see again. Punkdaddy came along and so did Dick Damage; Johnny Piranha came, and Jon who played bass with Fan Club. Mufti and Sarah came, from No Man's Band (I nicked Mufti's name for 'Swan'). And the Chrisp bros with their bevy of stylish damsels, and Kim, the original eco-terrorist (she used to cycle round London scattering flower seeds on bomb sites). Everett True spun the vinyl and so did Grant. Joby, where were you? I kept a seat for you and Valex. I had brought a thousand diamonds as a present for you, but you can't have them now!
I hadn't done a proper gig for about 4 months, so was a little rusty in places but overall, I just got such a high from singin' and playin'. I realised after talking to a few people that it's not all that common to start off again with a whole bunch of new material, instead of doing retreads. I couldn't do anything else though; there are different things to say now, and the problem with doing Helen and the Horns gigs is that it's like singing your past. Much better to sing the present!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sign Language

Surprises me that a fashion for Makaton or some other sign language hasn't come hand in hand with iPods etc. Could have been a boon for the deaf. I certainly can't untangle my listening equipment in time to respond to anyone who mouths stuff at me when I'm travelling.
Although it's autumn, I found myself thinking about the north-eastern mama's habit of slicing the toes out of the uppers of the summer shoes to make them last, if your shoe size increased during the summer holidays. I heard that in Scotland it was the toes that got cut off....
I went to Old Work yesterday to do an 'exit interview'. Funny looking at my Old Office (the grey box) through its window. My light-switching-on-device was still suspended from the industrial-chic pipery across the ceiling. Some brainy architect installed movement-sensitive lighting in all the offices, which is not remotely sensible in a place of learning where people should be sitting still and studying. You used to have to stand up and wave your arms around every ten minutes to make the lights go back on, which did absolutely nothing for your gravitas. There was a particular student who was extremely strange, and I didn't like being shut in the box with him at dusk and beyond. So I stuck a plastic halloween bat to a length of garden twine with plasticine nicked from an illustration lecturer, looped it over the pipes and stainless-steel struts that crossed the office ceiling and when the lights went off, you could pull on the string from your desk; the bat would jump up and down in front of the movement sensor, switching the lights back on. So there.
I'm looking forward to playing in Brighton tomorrow. Who will be there? Everett True has offered to DJ, which he did last time I played in Brighton. I love the music he plays, so I hope he does.

Monday, October 16, 2006

, but I should have been....

...at the Bedford in Balham, watching loads of bands, including Jamie Woon, whom I haven't seen for ages. But I fell asleep, dreaming about clouds and the sun in the shape of a guitar, and that was that.


Spontaneously, yesterday, I went to see the Irrepressibles play on a bandstand in Leyton. They were dressed in costumes made of hundreds of flip-top bin bags- the thin white ones- and they were playing totally acoustically on the bandstand in Coronation Gardens to a small crowd of people, including a very puzzled-looking elderly Indian woman with a tartan shopping trolley, a tramp or two, and a dog.
Morning; it was a bit cloudy and breezy, but the wind blew the sound backwards and forwards and it all blended in with the sound of the trees waving about in the background. It was so lovely: you had to listen really hard to hear everything. Such a delicate sound. The wind got into their bin-bags and puffed them up so it looked like a bunch of clouds had floated down and become trapped under the roof of the bandstand. Strings, woodwind (what gorgeous sound an oboe makes), double bass , xylophone, sax, guitar, and Jamie's wild voice like the voice of nature mourning the banalities of little towns like Leyton, all that grey traffic, struggling shops and litter. What an utterly moving way to spend a Sunday morning, tucked under the armpit of Leyton Orient Football Ground, where normally you hear a completely different sort of acoustic singing, a completely different expression of manhood!

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Thinking about that lovely smell of new computer; I wonder if Mackintosh could be persuaded to release a fragrance for nerdy girlies like me. Eau de Mac? i-Pong?


The computer network at home's down, so I'm in the library, sitting next to a man who is humming and looking up bus types at Romford Garage.
Akiko sent me a DVD of Ohi Ho Bang Bang this morning. I absolutely love this film and I've watched it already- it features Holger Hiller destroying things and its a really good dance track too.
Emerald's finished the artwork for the CD, and it looks amazing! I'll be able to send everything off next week and then have to make room in my house for a thousand CDs. I made room last weekend, but have filled the space with guitar cases already. Humm.
Last week I wwent down to Song Club which Dan's running on his own now, to help write a song about dinosaurs- they are going to the Natural History Museum this time. I'd forgotten what fun it is working in a mini-world with a knee-high community. Little children are very serious, as well as silly. They worry about their glasses, and if they are going to get a biscuit this week.
Got to shoot off and do the shopping now, slight hangover always helps!

Friday, October 13, 2006


When I got home, I had a parking ticket.

Happy birthday, blog

I've been blogging for a year now. Just think how healthy I'd be if that word began with a 'j' instead of a 'b'. I strted when I was ill last year and couldn't move- all I could do was sit with the laptop and mess about. And Mike very kindly set it all up; I had no idea I'd use it so much. The only downside is that every time I go to a party, everybody already knows everything about what I've done, and I have had to turn into a good listener instead of a party bore!
It's Friday, and I'm glad I'm staying in tonight. I got up at 6, left for work at 6.30 and didn't get here till 9.30 cos the DLR train I was on couldn't get up the hill from Bank to Shadwell. It kept beeping and slipping down the track at an alarming speed towards the next train. I found myself wondering many seconds it would take for the collision to happen and how smashed up my face would be (I had an accident on a sledge when I was 14 and walked round with a head shaped like a purple and yellow football with holes where my features should be). Eventually we went back to the station, got on another train, left the station, and the same thing happened again. But when I got here I had great stuff to play them- the original Mellotron promo disc, and all the out-takes from Good Vibrations where the organist couldn't play in time, with Brian Wilson's LA twang barking away in the background.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Nightingales, Gina Birch, The Victorian Lucas, Spinmaster Plantpot

Yes, last night is actually worth reviewing. I even went downstairs to look up the Victorian Lucas' name (thought it was Victoria's Secret, but that's an underwear brand).
The Victorian Lucas were a typically tight New York band, with the interesting addition of a trombone, which sounded really good with NY new-wave music- you'd be surprised. Something of the tone of a tenor sax, but added to their wall of sound. Bands like this make venues like this (the Spitz) feel as though they are actually situated in New York. Very strange.
Gina was in excellent voice- she's sounding very 'soul' these days; I would have liked to hear more voice and less track, because she has a seriously unique vocal style and she sings with a real passion that would put a lot of other singers, especially those called Cat Power, to shame. (and me, of course!)
And finally, the Nightingales. I had forgotten how much I loved this band!How did this music arise from the land of heavy metal? Years ago, I met Rob Lloyd in the London Musician's Collective in Camden. I'll swear he looked older then than he does now. How can this be? They started off with Born and Bred in Birmingham, and carried on, exploding with personality... Company Man, Bread (I know I've probably got the titles wrong, I just remember the songs). The bass player reminded me of Andy Warren- something of the night about him; the drummer thwacked the shit out of his snakeskin kit (I was trying to tell Gina how mad he looked (she was behind a pillar)and drew drums and 'DRUMMER MAD'on a piece of paper). And as for the new little (young, not small) guitarist- I wrongly assumed he was Rob's son, and christened him the Lloydlet. He played guitar like a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder frantically scrubbing their nails. Worrying! He looked extraordinary, with hair I was jealous of- a Brum-fro if I've ever seen one! Strange voice, too- a bit like Mr Punch, and a wild guitarist. Rob's voice is even stranger- a sort of baa-ing neigh which vibrated the bit of card I was scribbling the titles on so much that the writing went wobbly, and reassuringly, he still strained at the top notes, which I always found incredibly endearing. Absolutely brilliant, I tell you- this is the energy that Franz Ferdinand tamed (along with a bit of Monochrome Set) and much as I luv 'em, there's NOTHING like the real thing, baby. If John Peel had manufactured blokes for a living, they would be Rob Lloydalikes, I know that for sure.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Will I get there, though?

I'm hoping to see the Nightingales and Gine Birch tonight at the Spitz.
Will I get there, though?
It's becoming a joke, these attempts to go out. I remember in Brighton, Robert and Rod (the Chefs' first drummer) sitting with the NME, reading through the gigs they couldn't afford to go to.
'Ah yes, the Fall are playing Manchester tonight'. 'Pity we can't go'.
'The Clash are playing Brixton'. 'Pity we can't go'.
I sit here leafing through Time Out, wishing I was out, suffering Trinny and Susannah (I'm sure they are the girls that bullied me at school). Tonight, I'll just have to go for it, I think.
Meanwhile, I'm singin' and playin' getting ready for the gig in Brighton, having the familiar rock'n'roll nightmare that nobody turns up; they are sitting at home with a copy of the NME saying, 'Pity we can't go'.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Saturday, October 07, 2006

False Teeth

You know what, I found some false teeth on the beach on Scotland last summer. I imagined that someone had been laughing on a boat and the wind had whipped up and blown them clean away. Then someone said that they had probably come from a dead person buried at sea, ugh disgusting. But I thought it was good that I had found them, because I am an artist, and I brought them home to draw, so they weren't wasted.


Got all dressed up to go to Songbird last night, excited to be going out at long last, party clothes, all that jazz- and had to divert and come home- I don't know whose body it is that I'm inhabiting at the moment but it is made of lead and it won't co-operate in taking me to places of fun and entertainment, no matter how much these things are needed. Possibly, it's that long journey to Docklands that I just can't get used to, and when I get there I'm carting books, CD player, CDs around all day because I can't get into my office yet. Maybe it's autumn-fatigue, maybe brainache induced by fighting with banks, I don't know. This weekend I propose to stay indoors eating ice-cream in a effort to build up my strength.

Friday, October 06, 2006

It was true

Yesterday afternoon a posh little Macbook turned up, smelling of fresh new computer. I still can't believe my eyes, but it's there in its box, it really is!
The grey lining to the silver cloud yesterday afternoon is that a half-dead pigeon turned up on the doorstep about an hour later, just sitting there looking sick and miserable. But I felt honoured that it had chosen my doorstep to expire on, and allowed it a dignified death. Unfortunately, the cat managed to forage it out of the recycling bin and brought it into the house to play throw-the-pigeon-on-the-stairs with, so I had to re-dispose of it.
This morning, I've been working with some budding producer/songwriters, all together in one group. Bit of a challenge- their genres span grime, acoustic, r'n'b, indie. My trusty past as a punk rocker comes in very handy at these times. I reckon if you can survive that, you can survive just about anything; I have been angrier than a lot of angry young men that I come into contact with. Good dose of Poly Styrene followed by a chaser of Billy Stewart at his most ridiculously florid, the brows furrow in puzzlement, out come the mixtapes and off we go.
(still knackering, though)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ice Skating

When I was a nipper and lived in the north-east, we used to go ice skating at this massive rink in Tynemouth- it was an old aircraft hangar, really scruffy. For about 15 years, they played Andy William's 'Can't Take my Eyes Off You'every time we went- it got more and more crackly, until I suppose the needle just grooved though to the other side and it completely eroded. I used to love it, although I fell down constantly. There was always at least one very clever three-year-old in a cutesy skating dress trimmed with white fur round the edges, pirouetting, jumping, skating backwards, you know, just being generally irritating. Our foster-cousin Ted was brilliant at it- he only went once, but within seconds was skating on one leg, holding his foot with one hand, falling over, not caring...
Last year I started going skating wth Gina, early on a Thursday morning. The rink was deserted apart from a few older men and ladies, who were good at it but not so good you felt embarrassed falling over. Skating is about as close as you can get to flying without leaving the ground! There was an old man there who had been a skating teacher and he yelled advice at you whether you wanted it or not. Eventually, I realised he was good and I just went with the flow. I couldn't skate backwards, though. I asked a rather lonely looking chap how to do it, as he was skating backwards all the time (analyse that, you psychologists!) but he said,'I don't know'. Which wasn't much use. And of course, the very clever person was there- this time, a young man in very tight trousers who managed to pirouette, jump, skate backwards, all the things that the clever three-year-old could do, while simultaneously sucking in his cheeks so hard that his eyeballs nearly popped out.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I'm writing this because I've had another bad day with banks. If you won't accept being a number, they won't communicate with you. This is how Nazi Germany functioned, making people into numbers and consequently dehumanising people. I can't wait to start playing gigs again because somehow nothing seems to matter much when I'm doing that. I don't care about walking a mile in the dark to a tiny venue in the back of beyond with my guitar, it's an adventure and it makes me laugh because I'm not... working in a bank!
Anyway, I have a store of ridiculous thoughts in my brain for bad days with banks, and this is today's ridiculous thought. I know quite a few twins (hallo Neil and Callum, if you read this!) and have known two lots with a fat twin and a thin twin. This was puzzling. Then I could see that the fat twin looked at the thin twin and thought, 'It's all right, I'm thin. I'll just carry on eating as much as I always have'. And the thin twin looked at the fat twin and thought, 'I'm getting fat. I should eat less'. That's how it happened.
Claire emailed me a while ago to tell me about some jewellery that was cast out of discarded chewing gum. What a nice idea!

Monday, October 02, 2006

The fingernails of the left hand and the fingernails of the right hand

Why is it that the fingernails on my left hand grow so quickly, and they are the ones that need to be short to play guitar, and the fingernails on the right grow so slowly? Those ones need to be long, as any fingerpicker knows. But every time I break one when I'm climbing trees or pulling the wings off wasps, it takes weeks to grow back. Bah!
Meanwhile, Carl is doing a grand job of rescuing some VERY RARE Chefs tracks from cloth-covered oblivion, I've dug out some ancient photographs, and progress is slow but sure on the Chefs release.
I'm going to the library today to photocopy some artwork to send to Emerald for Suburban Pastoral; I smashed the scanner last week and bought a new one but the computer won't accept the software because AVG free viruscan won't switch off (did I hear you call me freeloader?), so off to the library I go, behaving analoguely and not digitally, and then off to Emerald goes the artwork. The master is finished, the launch is in the planning. I don't think the CD will be ready for the Brighton gig at the Albert on the 18th (I have a lovely flyer but can't scan it!) but I will take some of the Helen and the Horns ones down there.
I'm writing a new song, which is a very pleasing puzzle. The problem is, my fingernails are letting me down and I'm not going to feed my body any chocolate for a week as a punishment. That'll show 'em!

Sunday, October 01, 2006


The Newcastle Journal reported an incident in which a man walking home from the pub in an advanced state of inebriation toppled into a pigsty and was partially gobbled up by the pigs. I was rather taken by this example of the perils of the north-east and told a few of my new southern chums about it; they appeared not to believe that such Tom-and-Jerry things could actually happen, and gradually I became convinced that I had imagined the story myself.
I was visiting the McFamily some time later and picked up the Newcastle Journal to get my fix of Geordie life; much to my amusement (in a dark sense, of course) exactly the same thing had happened again- another drunken Geordie had fallen foul of hungry piggies on the way back from the boozer. Don't believe that Novo Castrians live by different rules? Little Bruv's school mate shot his father, who gave him and his brother one pair of trousers between them for Christmas.
Examples of Geordie terminology: bubblin=crying; get wrong=be scolded e.g. 'I got wrong off me mam and started bubblin'