Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy Old Year

Who ever happies the old year?
Poor old year, all used up, been a bad boy as usual, never recycled, always thrown in the bin with the crumpled Christmas paper.
Well, old year, I forgive you your badnesses, praise you for your goodnesses, feel happy for the passage of time, the loyalty of good old friends and the excitement of good new ones.
You weren't such a bad old stick.
Happy Old Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007


The miserable Morrissey has always reminded me of John Major, wearing his underpants on the outside.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

With the Daintees at The Clunie

Up the M1 with a flask of coffee in true nerd style, I went up to play at the Clunie in Byker, supporting the Daintees at their annual Christmas show.
It was packed out, just like last year; it's very strange to play the same venue exactly a year later, after all the changes a year brings to your life. I was much more confident, this time around for a start. As a venue, it has a weird acoustic and onstage you can sometimes hear the audience more loudly than you can hear yourself. But I had the excellent Finn McCardle on percussion with me this time around, looking very smart in a black suit and tie, and Martin Stephenson came and joined me for the last three songs, so it was almost like playing with a mini-band. And then I got to watch the Daintees, a pared-down version this year with no Andrea on backing vox, no John Steel on keyboards and no Kate on drums, but Anth and Gary on bass and guitar, and Shayne Fonteyn on drums: the rock Daintees rather than the festival Daintees, punchy and tight rather than rambling and relaxed. Martin's daughter Phoebe, who is 16, got up to play two songs; she had been really nervous but I was watching from the wings and she looked great once she got out there and she played really well; the nerves seemed to disappear and she just got on withit like a pro. The crowd seemed hard to warm up, but about halfway through, something clicked and the joint was a-rockin'. They played 24 Hours for me to sing- this time I forgot some of the words and Anth forgot some of the changes but I don't think the audience minded.
The Daintees have great songs and the audience was roaring along with them, putting the delicate London Jazz-Cafe singalong audience to shame. It's those beer-fuelled Geordie lungs, that's what it is!
Mike and June were there, Martin's most loyal fans, and Daisy was there in her top-hat, selling CDs like hot cakes. I met Joe Guillan, the red-hot rockabilly guitarist and we bored his wife to tears talking about Gretsch guitars.
What a gig to play- perfect at this time of year!

Then I drove back yesterday for my birthday, just family this year as it's been a tough year in a lot of ways, but we still managed to play- Rowen played a song, and Paul and McSis, and we yakked and ate. My friend Joan stayed the night on the settee, reading and drinking bourbon and hanging out with me today.

Roll on 2008 and the New Year revolutions!

Monday, December 24, 2007


Merry Christmas to all those who read this blog!
Both of you!

Finch and Mince

I do believe Santa has brought me an eye infection for Christmas. Hey-ho for the salt-water eye baths.
On a happier note, I had a wonderful realisation this morning as I went to the Post Office Special Deliveries place unfeasibly early to pick up a parcel.
I really wanted to photograph the lady there, who has pinned felt santa badges and tinsel and holly decals all over her navy blue uniform jacket, but I was far to sleepy.
What I realised is that when my hair grows grey, I can fulfil my dream of looking like a zebra finch. I had one when I was 23, which I gave to Paul McGann and his girlfriend (I know I wrote about it ages ago, Mrs Finch kept having babies and eating them).
My finch, Peter Finch, had a squeaky, cackly chirrup that sounded like Bo Diddley or something- 'Diddly-daddly, diddly daddly'.
It was grey, with brown wings with white spots, a black and white striped tail and a red beak.
I always wanted to go the whole way, and dye my hair grey, brown with white spots at the sides and black and white stripes at the back, with a red fringe to set it off.
Soon there will be no need to dye my hair grey!
I can do it!

By the way, the best mince pies come from the Co-Op.
Take one letter away, and it's mice pies.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I've just got back from Mike and Em's Christmas Party, where they had made wassail (a mixture of beer, spices and apples which polarised drinkers' opinions) and mulled wine (nice).
They live in the Barrier Block in Brixton, a forbidding place from the outside but it has fantastic views over Sarf London and it's great inside. The party was full of new parents and their anxieties, and also quite a few Actionettes eating gingerbread. Em had a lovely tacky plastic light-up 'Merry Christmas' sign from Brixton Market. I went through it on the way there and saw loads of light-up Jesus-Joseph-Mary pictures too, amongst the piles of dried fish and cool hats. The hats were very tempting, but not today, thank you.
Mike supports Cardiff and told me they always lose to Barnet, which is very clever of them, because Barnet are normally the losers, so I was quite impressed.

You know, I read through this page of postings and I felt embarrassed by my writing style. I am not trying to be a writer, just writing things down every so often to explain them to myself. I don't keep a diary, and this was supposed to be just to write about forthcoming gigs, until I got carried away and now I can't stop.
The cats love it, because they can sit on me for ten minutes every morning and sometimes I even stroke them.
I can't stop.
Is that not a sign of addiction?

With The Band of Holy Joy at the 12 Bar

Out through the freezing fog, wrapped in layers of tartan and kapok, down to the 12 Bar to meet up with cousins, brother, brother-in-law and cousin's partner. We sat in the chilly coffee bar before going in to watch the Society of Imaginary Friends. They are a band that I'll definitely go to see again; they are very funny but very dark at the same time, and they have this air of knowing exactly what they are doing in their own weird world. Their singer, Louise, has a beautiful voice which she uses without being posey or annoying, just blending into the music and sometimes soaring out of it. It's also a really unusual line-up, singer, accordion and violin, with samples that never intrude unless they're meant to. I loved it.

I really enjoyed playing myself, despite messing up some chords in the first song- I'd taken the Hofner acoustic out of it's case so I could carry the Gretsch in it easily on the tube through the crowds, and couldn't resist a play, and of course it plays entirely differently to the Gretsch and it stuck in my muscle-memory. Just one song, though, and then I was away in fantasy land living the songs as they were written, and that's the best sort of gig to have. Actually, it was really good fun, one of those gigs you just feel bloody amazing to be able to do. Gina had a gig last night too and I was thinking how lucky it is to be able to go out and play gigs when you are ancient and have commitments that threaten to strangle you at every step!

The Band of Holy Joy were brilliant- I'd forgotten what good songs they had and Johny is a charming performer. I think the same thing has happened to them as happened to the Horns when we got back to play together- in the intervening time everyone has become much better musicians, and learned to play their instruments; the band were really tight and very exuberant. They are definitely carrying something on from punk but in a much more funny and sophisticated way; the audience was grinning from ear to ear (they were satisfyingly nerdy, bit like The Chefs' audience who really did wear anoraks!). The stage at the 12 Bar is tiny and the band were crammed into all its crevices and spilling off it into the audience, which all helped to give it a great atmosphere.
I have some of their music on vinyl and I will excavate it and play it immediately. I had to leave early to catch the tube but it's another band I'm going to go to see again soon, because it was very difficult to tear myself away. I wanted to keep on grinning and my bodily dancing mechanisms were straining at the leash.
Like the photo?

P.S. Eddie Tenpole was there. I'm sure he's got smaller- maybe it's something to do with his hair not sticking up any more. I always thought he was the best of the swashbucklers.
P.P.S. I have twice seen a green woodpecker pulling up worms on the lawn. I would give it some bread, but the rats would come, wouldn't they? It's a very fancy-dressed bird and it's an honour to have it drilling for food through the frosty grass.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Tube

I was thinking about Muriel Gray when I drove down to Kwik-Fit (should be re-named Slo-Fit) to wait for two hours for them to look at my car and then send me away for an hour-and-a-half while they fixed it.
I met her when we auditioned for the Tube in Newcastle- her and a bloke called Nick who had a hit with a song called Northern Town which really annoyed me because it was a moany song and I thought he had a cheek, being a Southerner; and a younger girl too. All of the others got the job, but I didn't, which I really didn't mind because at the time I was very shy and absolutely could not have walked backwards holding a microphone interviewing someone famous.
Part of the audition was to interview Jools Holland, which I enjoyed. I did notice they nicked loads of people's ideas- I told them about Tony Fletcher and his fanzine Jamming and that was one of their first features, alonside a piece about air-guitar competitions which they'd nicked off a young woman who came to the first heat of the interviews.
Anyway, Muriel was great fun and I really liked her a lot. Later, she turned up at a Helen and the Horns gig in Edinburgh and stood her round afterwards- we sat about for ages with the other band drinking vodkas and oranges, and had a right laugh. We met again when the Horns did a Saturday Live broadcast one Saturday afternoon at Radio One, and she was just as much fun and just as friendly.
I don't know why I told you this, I just did. It's probably because when you are very busy with a band, a lot of the people you come into contact with are temporarily nice, because they think they can get something from you in some way. Like the receptionist at RCA Records who was all smiley and lovely until suddenly she became totally offhand, and I realised it was time for me to get out.
Muriel was just always nice, and that was so rare that I raise my imaginary glass to her this Christmas to salute her!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Upping the Ante

The problem is, I was as good a singer as Tom's old microphone was a microphone. Now he has a new mic, which is better at being a microphone than I am at being a singer: all my flaws are there for the ear to feast on and it's gonna be Hard Work upping the ante and getting to the next level. Roll on the new year, when I hope to finish the vocals. I have decided to do the cover photo in the piano warehouse in Tottenham, if they'll let me, wearing one of Debbi Little's new recycled tablecloth dresses which she's already said she'll lend me.
Last night's gig was a weirdo- in the Bar Latina, perilously difficult to get to; it's a great place though with super staff; the barman came over and gave me 50p after I'd made a fuss about paying 2 quid for a glass of coke. I think he must have thought about it for a while and then decided he agreed it was too expensive- he came over 15 minutes later with a smile.
The acts were different to the normal- I might review them tomorrow but the potatoes are boiling over and I'd better go and tell them off.
Sorry, that should have been turn them off.

Monday, December 17, 2007


An exercise bicycle attached to a computer, to power the computer while the user is exercising while they are using it.

Traffic Jam

I was behind a mobility bus which was festooned inside with utterly trashy Christmas decorations. Bless!
Then I tried to get back from a conference at Stratford (the wonderful Chris Bannerman was speaking, a man who could make any clod love dance). How the biggery boggery buggery did I end up in Epping Forest?

Rock Buns

On Saturday night I drove down through the frost'n'motorways to Brother Tobias's 3-in-1 cottages, where his partner cooked a wonderful supper for a motley bunch of us, with a particularly delicious apple pie. She's a very good cook and it was a really nice evening, sitting along a table with candles and very funny conversation that melted the ice outside around the cottages for at least six metres.
That day, I'd had a culinary disaster. I'd been reminiscing in my head about my art-college lunches of a massive plate of cottage pie and cabbage, followed by a huge rock bun and a cup of tea, every day, rain or shine.
So I decided to make rock buns, but I had the wrong sort of flour and no lemon zest. I thought optimism would make up for the lack of ingredients, but alas, what came out of the oven was flat and smooth and spongey, not craggy and mountainous as I had hoped.
They did taste nice, however, with that reassuring hint of onion that every cook knows who doesn't clean their chopping-board properly.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


All the McCookerybook clan were raised in the Northumbrian countryside. We were fed rough cider with our Sunday lunch every week after Church (Jesmond Presbyterian), had an argument with McMum and McDad, and got sent round the allotments with the dog every Sunday afternoon to calm down.
McDad decided when I was about twelve that there must be other ways to wear down our adolescent energy and hit upon the idea of going beagling. Beagling is when a group of people follow a pack of hounds on foot, behind a little red-faced man in a green jacket and white jodphurs with a tootly brass horn.
It was sort of nice being out in the cold January air, stamping across the frozen furrows hidden under the snow, puffing steam out of our mouths and yelling.
What it really was about, though, was the hounds chasing a hare to exhaustion and then tearing it to pieces in front of your eyes.
Lots of times, groups of us had stood silently and let the hare run past us, watching the pack of yelping beagles far away at the end of another field, chasing nothing.
The day I was handed a bloody dead hare's paw in a plastic bag, I realised what I had really been doing, and refused to go ever again.

I thought about this today because I went to see Joan's film about the girl and the hare. I last saw it about two months ago, and she has done more to it since then. It is so interesting being able to see someone develop a film over a period of time. It reminds me of Albrecht Durer prints in it's high-definition detail; bits of it, bobble-ended weeds on delicate stalks, remind me of Seurat paintings, a sort of shimmering impressionism. There is every sort of green in the film, trembling trees, all sorts of grass, sharp slanting blades all over the screen, and tiny little cow-parsley blossoms on their umbrella stalks jiggle about in the shade. It's a really sexy film and I can't wait to see the next incarnation of it!

It's been a lovely day, which I spent wandering round the West End, Christmas shopping; I went to strange places like Ray's Jazz Shop upstairs at Foyles, where you can listen to CDs before you buy them while nerdy people drink coffee. I bought a decoration for the Christmas tree, a fragile glass puppy in a stocking from Paperchase.

Best bit of the day was crossing Waterloo Bridge on the 176 bus and looking at the pale blue and white winter version of the River Thames, a view which was utterly lovely.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The UEL Carafe Set

Here for your admiration and enjoyment is a picture of the UEL Carafe Set. It looks pretty expensive when you see the workmanship. I expect Senior Management use them for their dry sherries (dry, not sweet- sweet is for softies).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

In which a six-year-old hears a very big choir for the first time

If you live in the north-east of England, your closest 'abroad' country is not France or Belgium; it is Norway, and that is the first foreign country I ever visited. Shops in Newcastle used to have 'We speak Norwegian' in their windows (something like 'Norsk Sprakken', I think).
You have to get an overnight ferry to Bergen, and my family set off for the port all ready to travel and all excited.
However, we were kept waiting for hours on the quayside with hundreds of other passengers. Eventually, a section of the travellers started singing 'Why Are We Waiting' (to the melody of 'O Come All Ye Faithful'), and gradually, the whole massive shipload of people joined in, all in very good spirits, standing there next to the ship with their luggage in the sunshine, singing for what seemed like hours:

'Why are we waiting?
Why-ee are we waiting?
Why are we way-ay-ayting?
Why? Why? Why?'

(I never did find out why we were waiting, but we did get to Norway, and I loved it)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Story of the 'I Am A Wanker' T-shirts

I lived in a house for a while that belonged to a feisty female mature student at Sussex University. She had two chums who shared her dislike for the young student whippersnappers who also attended the University, so they hatched a plan; she bought a consignment of white t-shirts, printed the words 'I Am A Wanker' on them, and they rented a stall at the weekly market held in the Mandela Hall, rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of all those silly students buying their shirts and walking round in them.
Unfortunately, the students were not silly enough and they returned home with the full consignment of printed shirts, having sold none.
For the next several months, she and her chums wore the shirts around the house, and also as jogging apparel in the mornings, puffing through the streets of Brighton.
I refused the offer of a free shirt.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Soundcheck at St John's Church

We Have So Much To Learn From The Natural World

Once, I went to the Derby at Epsom.
My betting-partner and I were trying to decide which horse to bet on; we knew nothing at all about racing. A honey-brown earwig walked across the programme we were looking at; it was excreting a yellowish fluid. So we bet on the brown'n'yellow jockey, and our horse won.

On another (very very gossipy) note, I was standing outside the post-office today, ready to post the CDs to the people who'd ordered them; there was a huge queue, and the lady behind me was talking in a very loud voice. She was the sister-in-law of the Canoe Man (been watching the news?). She was telling her friend all about it- how her husband said her didn't blame his brother, it must be the wife's fault, how she'd told her husband 'It takes two to tango'; how the Police had thought the guy was hiding behind their front door because they keep loads of shoes in the hallway and the front door wouldn't open properly when they came round, all sorts of stuff.
'At least we know where to send the Christmas card', she said.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I was thrilled to have received some orders for the Christmas EP- please note that there is some swearing on one of the tracks so don't buy it for babies or the impressionable!
On another note, all is doom and gloom in the charity shops in Barnet.
Oxfam, take a look at who you are employing. One of your volunteers is a foul racist who ought to be ashamed of herself and definitely should not be working for any sort of charity with views like hers. She was only outdone by the views of a male customer conversing with her- between them they dissed Poles, Somalis, you name it. I almost dropped my Christmas cards and rushed out of the shop in disgust but I always buy them in there as it's the best charity at Christmas, and I shut my ears and exchanged glances with another customer there who could also not believe her ears.
On to the North London Hospice, where one of the volunteers was telling another (very patient) volunteer as he riffled through the racks of clothing that he hoped he died soon because the world was in such a terrible state it will all be over in 40 years!
That might be an interesting Christmas audio project- a tour round the Charity Shops recording snippets of moaning to hang on the virtual Christmas tree.
I thought I'd been a bit of a miseryguts recently till I heard that lot!
Tirade over, I'm looking forward to Jamie coming round tomorrow to brush up my singing so I can finish the album. I've been racking my brains about a photo but I might ask Jacob, Jamie's boyfriend who did the photo on the Myspace page, to do a studio one, and try to look glamorous, perhaps folding a few wrinkles round the back of my head and securing them with sellotape like Joan Crawford did.
I've also really enjoyed writing a lecture I'm doing at the University of the West tomorrow, on women and pop; I've downloaded a lovely picture of the Daisy Rock guitar to lighten up some wonderfully perceptive feminist theory, and now I'm going to find some ace tracks, from Poly Styrene to baby Spice and beyond, to play alongside the serious stuff.
Before that, however, I have some blueberries to scoff to counteract the effects of the two walnut whips I demolished a while ago.
O the joy of being a greedy piggie!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

St John's Church in Farncombe

It started off as a day of stress, a layer-cake of problems with oblique solutions, talking to angry students, getting angry myself because I could see their point of view, then driving round the M25 to Surrey; I picked up Martin Stephenson on the way, and we rolled up at Farncombe to find ourselves in a unique place- they had food ready for us, and the PA all set up for the soundchecks. The gig is in a church which has the most beautiful natural reverb, a cool and clear sound that puts Barnet Church to shame; you could tell at the soundcheck that it was going to be a real pleasure to play there.
Then the audience drifted in- a real mixture of people from Daintees fans to local residents in their old red coats; there was the occasional baby but I'd actually put the average age at 60! The all settled in their pews and looked as though they were ready to enjoy themselves immediately- there wasn't going to be any London-type snooty evaluation going on- this was Friday night, in a special place, and they trusted the promoter, Julian Lewry, to provide them with something they would like.
Honestly, the difference between this and the sort of places I play in London, battling against drunk people yakking (often other songwriters on the same bill, I'm sorry to say) was completely amazing. Little old ladies rocked in their seats, they laughed at my crap jokes and clapped at the end. What more could a singersongwriter want?
The sound was crystal clear and I felt so relaxed i really enjoyed playing, even tho' I cut the set a little short because I still have a cold and it started to kick in a few songs down the line.
They absolutely loved Martin and by the end they were sprawled in the pews roaring with laughter at his quirky sense of humour and some of them (I could spot the hobby-guitarists) were watching his flying fingerpicking like hawks.
We did a couple of songs together- Hamilton Square and Loverman- before Martin finished his set and they all went home for cocoa.
The sound engineer made a recording of the night; we had a bit of a listen and it sounded really good, so maybe we will do something with it. He was great. Probably one of my favourite places I've ever played, I think.

Friday, December 07, 2007


I was telling Joby about my friend Alan who went to sea in a pram in Seaham Harbour (he sank, of course) and Joby bigged me up in his e-blog- so here's his site for you to look at:
You will see, whereas I have many stories, he has many adventures through the legal system and delightful suburban neighbours to wind up by simply Not Being Like Them.
At some point, Joby will write his memoirs; as soon as he does, I shall write mine, as he seems to be vaguely threatened by my yarning abilities, and it will be fun to wind you up Joby!!
Off to Farncombe tonight for a gig in a Church.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Extra extra readallaboutit

Well, if you would like a CD version of Helen McCookerybook's Christmas Assortment, send a cheque or postal order for £7.50 made out to Helen and the Horns, PO box 3427, Barnet, EN5 9EX and I will post it and pack it and also send you a Suburban Pastoral badge to boot.

Lighter thoughts

Well, today, life turned itself around a bit; I've been in the studio, doing a bit of editing, backing vocals and guitar a la Merseybeat sound on my album; meanwhile, Martin Stephenson has been recording a guitar part in Scotland for one of the songs and that's being posted down to me later this week, o modern technology you dear of dears; Paul Davey's going to come and put the sax parts on to a couple of songs on Monday, and I just have to do the vocals, which I'll do when this cold has cleared up.
I might even treat myself to a singing lesson with Jamie McDermott, who I haven't seen for centuries.
Although I am infinitely happier than I was yesterday, I have just eaten a truly disgusting blueberry muffin from Waitrose that had a nasty surprise in the middle- a round blob of cold wobbly flavourless blueberry jam that you could not negotiate your way around. I had to eat a banana afterwards to take the flavour away, which was not the idea at all; I wanted a one-item snack experience and instead had a mini-picnic. Terribly disappointing.

I have some CDs of the Christmas song that I got from the USA; I don't know if anyone would like to buy one. Monty said he did so I'll decide how much they should be and post that information this weekend.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Dark Thought

Sorry about this, as I so rarely let a dark thought through the glory-gates of blogdom, but it slipped through.
McDad has posted this year's advent calendar, in a mongrel envelope and with a second-class stamp (no sense of urgency, these Seniors).
Idly musing on life, I invented a sort of cardboard calendar with little daily paper doors for those awaiting the Decree Absolut, with episodes of descending ghastliness as the big day approaches.
I don't know why this sprung to mind, but were I still an Artist, I would create such an object.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

I Didn't

No, I didn't go to the knitting party, which looked like a long walk on the A-Z; instead, I went to Covent Garden, did a little vintage browsing (that's both me and the clothes, since you ask); I saw a lovely giraffe dress, wished I'd bought it too late. Radar directed me to Topshop as usual, which was a complete scrum; I can't remember if I mentioned my invention that I invented on my one and only ever trip to Primark. I approached the till with my bargains- everything was only six quid, as cheap as a charity shop- took one look at the huge queues and dumped the lot on the nearest table. It was obvious that hundreds of people had done exactly the same thing. So I invented the Roving Till, assistants with debit card terminals on a holster-type thing, with a bag slung across their shoulders filled with carrier bags, so people could pick up clothes on a whim, pay for them on a whim, and Primark doubled their takings.
Primark thought this was such a good idea that they paid me 25% of the increased takings, making me a millionaire overnight and allowing me to purchase a rambling castle in Scotland, thus solving all my accommodation problems in one fell swoop (one swell foop? Can't remember which way round it is) and I lived happily ever after.

Meanwhile, back in reality, I've made an almond cake, stopped the cat from eating the top of it (he scalped a lovely quiche once, which wasn't funny at all), and I have a lecture to write on the 1960s for Tuesday evening at the University of the West. I've become obsessed with Telstar, a track I hate, and which I've left at the University of the East after a lecture on record production I did there. Shall I download it from iTunes? Shall I buy a cheesey 60s compilation tomorrow? I do need it....
I can tell you for a fact that Anthony Newley is vastly over-rated. I'm listening to him now and will replace him with Antony and the Johnsons in a minute and see if he is too, now the fuss has died down.
Alternatively. it could be a Lover's Rock and almond cake moment, washed down with a cup of fresh coffee.
Oh yes.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

What bursting palette of activities are at my disposal today? Well, a trip to the massomarket, without doubt; there is no catfood left and I've been scraping the tin convincingly for 24 hours and pretending that the old dried up lumps in the bowl are new, but the little fur fellas won't fall for that any longer; I also have to buy a million tins of plum tomatoes, the foundation of the cheapo Western diet. They hold our cupboards up.
I could go to the East End- there, a party is happening in a knitting shop to celebrate a competition that has involved knitting walking-stick covers. It's very tempting, because the woman who organises it organises things like taking over carriages on the Circle Line and knitting all day. Problem is that I don't know where the heck my wool is, nor the knitting needles that Eddie found in a drawer when he worked in the Auction Rooms in Brighton- all different colours of Bakelite, beautiful, but where?
There are all sorts of funky parties at the moment: a Ukelele one next week, Songbird with the Band of Holy Joy, animation at the Royal College of Art. Should I attend them, or just imagine them?

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I'm playing at the Star in Tufnell Park tonight, onstage at 9.45.
I've still got a fiendish cold but reckon I can manage my set and then slope off for a Lemsip or two...
The Unicorn gig has been cancelled but I'm still playing the 12 Bar on the 21st with the Band of Holy Joy and the Bar Latina too.
And, of course, nightly in my front room, the two cats and the dog lined up in front of me looking sheepish, tapping their little paws on the floor and humming along in their animal tones, shaking their heads so their ears whack together at the ends of songs instead of clapping, because of course fur is soundless.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Richard and Judy

A couple of years ago, I was sitting chatting to a student in January, outside. She was very upset and we sat there for ages in the cold yakking away. And then I got 'flu- the proper sort where your bones ache for two weeks and you are capable of nothing but flopping around moaning through a raging sore throat. That's when I started watching Richard and Judy, every afternoon; I later discovered that I shared this taste with the Head of Fashion at the University of Westminster. I even saw the film Team America, because they were laughing so much when they described it, I had to find out what it was like.
Last December, I really wanted to write a song for their Christmas Song competition but I didn't because I was having teething problems in my new job- the teething problems of a hippo, actually, or some other animal with very large teeth (or a lot of 'em!).
Anyway, today I sent them my songs, just in case they have another competition, so I can be the first entrant.
It's partly because while I was doing Jury Service I did a wordsearch and tried to win a yellow Spongebob Squarepants Ukelele. I found all the words, but my eyesight is so bad i couldn't read the teensy weensy address printed at the bottom of the page and I gave up and threw the competition form away.
It's time to get some new glasses; perhaps in January, so I can spend the rest of the winter reading enlightening literature and emerge into Spring as a fresh new bespectacled and clever cover-version of the previous me.
And it can be my one-competition-entry-a-year; I did that last year and won this computer, so you never know!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Louise Bourgeois

I met up with Caroline Coon today- she looked beautiful, long straight white-blonde hair, fitted black coat, slender legs and boy's shoes, what style the woman has!- at the Tate Modern, to see the Louise Bourgeois exhibition. We investigated the crack (apparently 14 people have fallen down it so far), then went and lunched with a view at the restaurant upstairs, admiring St Paul's and also the giant cranes; Caroline says she saw a documentary about them once. I told her about the embroidery I'd started of the cranes at Wembley- i got as far as doing the embroidered frame round the outside, then left it too long and in the meantime, they finished the stadium and took the cranes away.
If I was a trillionaire I'd get 'em to put the cranes back just so I could finish the embroidery! It was going to be in black and white, because that seemed like a good idea, what with all those choices of embroidery thread colours. I had several different blacks and several different whites. Alas, my pretentiousness has been thwarted by the passing of time and the completion of the Wembley building project on time, near as dammit!
Louise Bourgeois is completely inspiring- there was one particular marble sculpture, of a seated animal with paws'n'claws and six globes hanging from its chest; its skin was stretched tautly over its spine and you could see the vertebrae just at the most curved part. The marble was polished to such a smooth finish, you wanted to stroke it. There were some drawings and models of housewives, women whose heads had been consumed by square and solid houses leaving their bodies helplessly dangling below them, that defined a feeling almost impossible to articulate in words but all too clear in her expression of it. She'd made little pink sewn model people with two heads, one head, eyelids, almost dolls but a little too scary. Oh do go and see it!
Afterwards we crossed the Millennium Bridge in search of coffee; unfortunately, I became too coughy myself (har har) and decided to tube it home.
Strange to have a cold- I don't get them very often. I hope it clears up by Wednesday because I'm supposed to be re-doing the vocals for the next album. I'll know tomorrow if I'm gonna be better in time. At the moment, I sneeze every time I sniff a strong smell, cough when my lungs hit the cold air, and walk like a 70-year-old man because my legs and arms are so stiff.
My nose is red and sore, my eyes are watering, and my head has settled somewhere between here and Mars.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Playing guitar

The great thing about playing guitars is that you can play them like this...

Or like this....

Or this....


Or even this!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Unicorn Theatre Gig

I have a very special gig coming up close to Christmas, close to London Bridge.
It's a totally acoustic, unplugged gig supporting Martin Stephenson at the Unicorn Theatre on Friday 14th December, and if you would like to come, it would be really good if you get your tickets in advance from:


If you want to check the venue out the website is

I might even sing the Christmas Queen song.
Learn the backing vocals and join in!!!!
Free download from
I'll have a very limited number of CDEPs which I'll do mail order when they arrive, about 10th December- watch this space for details!

Do Not Be Afraid, Little Girl; I Mean You No Harm

It was Bristol, in Trinity Hall with The Chefs. A rabid fan was trying to prise our manager Jonathan out of the doorway so he could get in.
Later, a genial African promoter came in, promising to make me a star. He was terrifying, for the first thing he said was
Do Not Be Afraid, Little Girl; I Mean You No Harm

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sitting About

Oh well, you know, I've just sitted about today. There was no jury service, and I suppose I've done a lot of clearing out and throwing away, stroking Charlie the Bad Cat, looking out of the window....
I've uploaded a different Christmas track on to Myspace, the one with the choir, 'Christmas Queen'.
I know it isn't Christmas yet, but I found a nice little Christmas chef tag so I felt the need to match image to music and Just Do It.
Johny Brown's asked me to play at the 12 Bar with the Band of Holy Joy close to Christmas, and I haven't played there for ages so I'm looking forward to that. All these Geordies... I'm playing with the Daintees in Newcastle Upon Tyne on the 27th December. It'll be Mark Knopfler (yuck) next, or perhaps Sting (double yuck) or possibly, Bryan Ferry (huntin' shootin' fishin'). Or maybe that Dave from the Eurythmics (Durham). Or maybe Laverne from Kenickie... Or perish the thought, that John Miles... "Meoosic was my first love, and meeoosic is my larst... meoosic of the fyoocher...meoosic of the parst..." with that awful bit where the piano gets excited at the end!
Stop, brain, before you send me barmy!
Excuse me.
I'm going back to just sitting about.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Foggy Morn Story

As the bus rounded the corner one damp foggy morn on the way to jury service, I spotted what appeared to be two machine guns on top of a roof in the thick grey gloom.
"Bloody Hell! That's a bit off for the North London suburbs!", I thought.
We pulled up at the bus stop and I realised that what I'd seen was two gigantic papier-mache angels on top of the the garden centre building, their trumpets pointing joyfully at the heavens.
Silly me.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Corbridge was a lovely gig- in a pub called The Angel. The audience was really friendly: Mike and June were there, and Mike-from-Corbridge (well, of course), and my friend Carol, and more.
I'd written the set list on my hand but my eyesight is so awful I couldn't read it. A kindly lady in the audience fished around in her handbag and lent me her reading glasses, so everything was OK.
Hats off to Fin for some brilliant percussion!
I drove home in the grey rain, listening to Aretha's fabulous voice to cheer me up (I miss the northeast so).
It was 299 miles there, and 284 back.
Did my tyres grow or did England shrink overnight?

Friday, November 16, 2007


Wow! Hey hey hey!
Someone from Tbilisi in Georgia checked out my Myspace page (I've got a little map)
The weirdest one so far was Bahrein, but I'm particularly pleased about Georgia, because I go there in my imagination rather a lot, ever since I heard some brilliant Georgian journalists singing in the Cabot Hall in Canary Wharf.
I was the only person there not dressed in stern navy-blue, and what's more I had a yogurt-scoffing baby in tow that loved the music so much it joined in and carried on tootling at the end of each song.
When the show had finished, the Georgian journalists raised their hands to the baby, who got a special round of applause all of it's own.


Nothing to report today, except perhaps Tomorrow, when Bendi of Sweden officially release 'Helen McCookerybook's Christmas Assortment'. Check them out on
The tracks will be free to download at Christmas, but it's such a nice little CD package I think you should buy it unless you haven't got any money.
It's not a charity record, because I think giving to charity is people's own business and not what songwriters ought to be doing to plug their products (although I never refuse to do a charity gig unless it's a foul and objectionable cause).
It's just that somebody drew it to my attention that Bono did a high-profile charitable thing whenever U2 had a new album out, so I'm wary of such things.
Sourpuss, ain't I?

Tomorrow, up with the lark (or up with the bark, actually, if Blogger has anything to do with it) and off to Corbridge, The Angel, which is where, according to McMum, we celebrated McGran's funeral. I remember the day well, as I made freinds with McGran's freind Katie, who sent me a book of Khalil Gibran's poetry, as both of them had really enjoyed it.
I also cried lot that day, as McGran was my Closest Person and a perfect example of someone determined to spread fun and enjoyment no matter what life threw at her. Somewhere, I have a photo of her playing banjo with a big grin on her face. Even when over eighty, she was also prepared to sit firmly and energetically on a poo-poo cushion when she knew it was there, and be the most extraordinally shocked person in the entire universe to discover that she'd let off a massive fart at the dinner table without feeling any sort of gas-induced abdominal pressure whatsoever.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I'm imagining a party at Brother Tobias's cottage-a-trois, in which we hunt-the-food, and loll about on various chairs scoffing what we find, which I hope would be cheese straws. I'll bring them Brother, so long as you hide them!

We got sent home again today but at least I'm sworn in and on a jury.
That means from now on, everything is secret and I'm not telling you anything, even if you buy me a cheese straw every day for the rest of my life.

Soon, I will be moving house, probably to the grubby end of town. I will pack the cats in their carry-boxes, fold the clothes I never wear and that I've moved about six times since I last wore them, put dusty books into cardboard boxes, wrap china in newspapers... actually, it's all pure fantasy at the moment. But the ground is shifting and I'm leaping from tussock to tussock; I've sold a bunch of stuff on eBay, more to go,

Posh no longer, I can hoot at the football, purchase an unsuitable newspaper, dine on fish'n'chips, and. more importantly, remember what it feels like to laugh out loud every day.
That's priceless.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cheese Straws

I found two snapped cheese straws in the cupboard.
Yellowy orange.
Or orangey yellow.
A little chewy.
If you could marry cheese straws, I would do so instantly.

Musings on Mongreldom; Jury Service, 3

As usual, I was retching as I prepared Blogger's disgusting breakfast. That's the downside of owning a dog, or rather, the two downsides: what you put in one end, and what comes out of the other.
Anway, that's enough about that.
I was thinking about identity and who we perceive ourselves to be. I have no identity, as I am not an English Rose, nor am I Jewish, Asian, Scottish, Jamaican, Lithuanian, African, Celtic, Japanese, Chinese, or anything else.
I am bits.
If I was a dog, I would be one of those grey wiry ones you see in Battersea Dogs Home, covered in coarse lumpy fluff that makes them look as though somebody dunked them in glue and then rolled them around a dirty house. Nobody ever owns them as a Statement Dog, but kids luv 'em.
I have a bit of this, a bit of that, nothing pure bred about me at all.
I don't even really know how to bark properly, but I do know how to run around like a fool with my tongue hanging out!

This is the sort of thing you think about, third day into jury service. I haven't spoken to anyone yet, because I'm having a blissful rest from everything except 'North of Watford' on my iPod. I don't know what makes Northern Soul fit so well with sitting with a bunch of people who think grey is a good idea for a winter coat, but there you go. Since Monday, everyone seems to have melted a little. They are slumping good-humouredly instead of sitting with pursed lips and obviously clenched buttocks. Those who have been siting on a jury have bonded with their fellow-jurors and sit in little judgement-communities making small-talk so we don't guess what naughty things their accused has been accused of. Those of us who haven't been into a courtroom yet are exiles, watching the sinister prisoner vehicles with blacked-out windows gliding past the window, delivering secret cargoes of baddies to the back door.

I regret to say that all I'm interested in this time (you see I did jury service a Southwark Crown Court ten years ago, and acually found the experience quite moving) is eating juror's lunch. A gorgeous smell of chips and other greasy delights came wafting out of the kitchen.
'Would the following jurors please go home and come back at ten tomorrow morning....'

(by the way, Brother Tobias, I hooted with laughter at the thought of Bobby worrying about you stapling Guy's posterior. Time you had a party, for I want to sit on a hyacinth and get my own back)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jury Service 2

Well, remarkably little to report; we all watched a hideous video called 'Being a Juror', with little snatches of fake funk music and a grade-b actress telling us in a deep coo not to be afraid while threatening us at the same time with fines for non-attendance; friendly fines, of course.
Was the actor playing the court clerk wearing a wig or was that his real hair? We shall never know.
Everyone there looked so grumpy yesterday, as though they were going to find all defendants guilty, just out of spite.
After six hours of blank time (which I rather liked), they sent us home.
Today, the barristers stood in casual groups watching us come in, pretending they weren't sussing us out. Ahead of me, a middle-aged man in an anorak was stopped and searched. A large rock with a number written on it in black felt pen was taken out of his pocket.
"I'm a scientist', he explained.
The rock was taken away and bagged up to be returned to him later.

I've read two Reader's Digests from cover to cover (ugh), the whole of today's Guardian newspaper, half a P G Wodehouse book, which as usual made me snort with laughter, and finished some song lyrics for a song called Glasgow Train. I've sat and gazed, eaten a banana and an apple, drunk two cups of coffee, and managed to avoid talking to anyone so far.

Meanwhile, I've had a look at the cover of the Christmas EP, which is a masterpiece of colourful retro fun. I still can't believe it managed to happen. I've listened to it and it's really not bad at all.

Rose Hips 2

Because it was syrupy and you drank it, I thought it was called Ro 'sip' syrup.
Bit like Sean 'Puffy' Coombs.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rose Hips

I have just remembered a very odd thing. I talked about it to Diana last night.
At my primary school, we were encouraged to pick wild rose hips. We would take bags of them into school, where they would be weighed and we'd get paid about threepence for every pound- or maybe sixpence.
They were send to a company called Delrosa, who made them into lovely gloopy Rose Hip Syrup, which was a drink made for babies really, but everybody drank it, because it was so lovely and gloopy.

Beirut at the Roundhouse

Zipped round to Diana's, where she was feeding her three doggies, and helped her find her shoes; pootled down to Chalk farm, almost got gazumped by a weeny car for a parking space, and then marched into the Roundhouse, which is an absolutely beautiful building. Somewhere in my distant memory, I recall seeing a Very Serious Play featuring a cast of naked people that included a man with grey hair and a beard. I was about twenty, and thought I had never seen anything so disgusting in my life; the horrors of seeing a starkers old man with baggy skin and grey pubes far outstripped anything the play had to say.
I've never been good at going to the theatre anyway.

Well, this was a real treat. I'd heard Beirut's stuff and was itching to see how it worked live.
At first, the sound guy was having terrible problems. The trumpet blasts blew our wigs off (for verily, we are elderly ourselves now), but even so, this was a group of people who were really interesting to watch, who swopped riffsmanship (and womanship because there's a woman fiddle player who really know how to groove), who changed from following accordion to following the thudding bass drum to following joyful unison trumpet parts.

Diana said they reminded her of early Nick Cave, but they reminded me of all sorts of things- Herb Alpert (I'd forgotten about him! McDad had an LP of his stuff that he played constantly- maybe that's why I formed Helen and the Horns), Glenn Branca, believe it or not (I think it was the line of three ukes being played out at the audience), Andy Warhol (all those multiples- sometimes three trumpets at once, the three ukes), Sesame Street (the happy feeling, even in sad songs), a toy box, a conversation (the instruments were speaking to each other quite clearly); always something to watch and something to listen to.
They were dressed nerdily ('A Bloke') but were full of open charm; Zach held the trumpet behind his ear or balanced it on his shoulder in between toots; before one song began, one of the uke players shuffled on his feet and tensed up like an amateur athlete at the beginning of a race, waiting for the starting pistol- or even waiting for the head teacher to say 'Ready, steady, GO!!!'
Musically,I desperately wanted to be in the gang! Sometimes, the sound cleared and left Zach to sing, to lead the band, who burst in to punctuate his vocals: at other times the trumpet arrangements were so delicious I was wildly jealous and wanted to be back doing arrangements for Helen and the Horns. They were mesmerising; they could so easily have failed but they know exactly what they are doing; you could feel that this band trust each other as musicians, and the work was shared out so there was constantly something new to watch and to listen to. Zach is not an egotistical front man; it's all obviously his dream and his baby, but he knows that if you're using a collective of people, they have to be able to shine, and this is exactly what they did.

One rather funny thing. Halfway through, a woman behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to stop tilting my head (I was trying to peer round a pillar to see what the other trumpet player was doing).
I laughed all the way through the next song, and missed it.
Which was another thing I really, really liked, and it's something valuable lots of bands and artists forget- short songs!

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Bloody hell, it's Thursday already. Last time I looked it was Sunday!
Did a gig last night at Songbird with MArtin Stephenson who flew all the way down from Inverness for the evening, playing some songs that we've written together mainly via email. Our set was short, as such long-distance collaboration is a little slow-paced. But it was really good fun to play with another guitarist, and we will do more, I am sure.
Stefan from Bendi seems to really like the Christmas music (phew!) so that's great. What else?
I haven't written any songs for a while, cos the Christmas foursome borrowed a little on my creative credit card. Friday's house gig with Mike Wexler has been cancelled but there will be another closer to Christmas.
My next one's in a couple of week's time in Tufnell Park, towards the end of Jury Service.
Gonna have fun selecting a wardrobe for that!

Sunday, November 04, 2007


What a lovely sunny day! I've already been out in the garden, picking up windfalls and sorting them into piles of edible and inedible fruit. I've met some miniscule slugs in the process, who've waved their horns at me quizzically and charmed me with their liquorice skin.
I had an odd day yesterday; soon I'll be moving house, massively downsizing, and I went to look at some tiny houses, one of which was a total slum and the seller should be ashamed to let people into it. It was uninhabited and the old furniture was slung about in it, it was dark and dirty, there were old freebie newspapers all over the floor and it had a horrible atmosphere. I've moved into a house that someone's just died in before and I guessed and I did not mind, but this house was completely ghoulish.
I spent four hours cleaning the old house last week and I reckon I'll be spending another four this week; but I'm definitely having my birthday party here before I go!
I've been putting old sound equipment on eBay and I'm debating whether to sell the Hofner guitar I bought after selling the Viz Comics. Selling guitars is hard- they are like friends, or witches' familiars; they sit there and look at you, and passively indicate 'play me' to you, and you know they are full of songs that they will reveal to you if you only would give them a chance! Dunno; it's a bit of a spoilt brat of a guitar, but one should love all one's family equally, regardless of temperament....
Today, I'm going out for lunch with McSis to celebrate her birthday. I have bought her some cushions and I'll bounce through the crowds to see her. Later, I'm going to Morvern Callar's House (she's called Jane really), and I'm looking forward to that too because I haven't seen her for ages.
I've sent off the Christmas songs to Sweden- I can't stop listening to the one with the choir on it- what a wheeze! Eight people who didn't know each other, had never sung together before, hadn't heard the song, some of them had never been in a recording studio, hadn't learned the lyrics (I was still making them up on the way there), the whole lot was rehearsed and recorded in about 40 minutes!; it's not perfect but it has a great feel to it and I'm using it as therapy to get me through a few difficult things. Stefan, the guy from Bendi Records, has been designing the cover, which is suitably cheesey. He sends versions from Sweden by email, and is obviously really enjoying it. The working title is 'Helen McCookerybook's Christmas Assortment' and it's a real dream come true to make a Christmas recording. I'm thinking of calling the choir the he-mails and the she-mails, 'cos that's how I recruited them; maybe that's a step too far!
I hope Richard and Judy have a Christmas song feature again this year! I desperately wanted to do one last year but it was too busy at work and all I managed was a few scribbled lyrics on a scrap of paper.
Now of course I want to do an EP every month of songs about that month....

In our village, a family used to organise Carol Singers who walked round from house to house; the dad, a massively eccentric man in a deerstalker hat and tweed knickerbockers, rang a handbell and bellowed encouraging instructions, and villagers were collected from each house they visited to swell the ranks. The whole thing ended at their house by the River Tyne, with mulled cider and nice food and good-humoured posh-people's gossip. They had stuffed deer on their walls with oranges pronged on the horns, and holly and ivy about the place.

On Wednesday, it's Songbird at the Cross Kings pub on York Way, in King's Cross. Martin Stephenson is coming down from Scotland and we are going to do some songs together. I've learned to play some of his and he has learned to play some of mine, we'll be doing the Airship Song from his Hi 7 Moon 5 CD and also a song we wrote together, by email.

Come to think of it, email's a bit of a silent friend and helper at the moment!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Hey... hang on a minute!

I'm just taking 5 after doing this morning's lecture. I played '#1 Deejay', a 12" disco single that lasts 6 minutes, and 'Boredom' by the Buzzcocks and talked about sounds and space and purposes and bodies and subcultures and hedonism and anger. In the middle of it all, I became really interested in it all again (like I was when I wrote the lecture last year) and started dreaming around it and getting excited by all the ideas.
Did you know that Rabelais imagined recording in 1532? He imagined a frozen sea, where the sounds of battle froze to silence in winter; when spring came the frozen sounds melted and you could hear them once more, only the battle was over by then.
Isn't that amazing?
And Kurt Weill invented sampling. He used to have record players on stage with the orchestra.

You know, I might actually start reading serious books again.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Life moves like a caterpillar- crushed up in one part and stretched out in another. I was so excited and nervous yesterday about the recording that I used up the whole day's energy in an hour and had to rest when I got home. Later, I went to Housman's Bookshop for a very laid-back chat about the book (they were expecting me to bring copies to sell but I haven't got any) and a laid-back unplugged sing. Dawn Saunders from the Objekts came- such a long time since I've seen her, it was lovely to catch up with her. Peter Knight came, still glowing from the morning's singing. Two people turned up just as I was packing up to go home.There was wine, and police sirens whooping in the background (well, it is in King's Cross).
And so today, even though I've been working at the University of the East, and in spite of the fact that there was a (false) fire alarm and a real fire-engine turned up, I was bored. I wanted exciting studio experiences, I wanted to be writing backing vocals, I wanted to be having ideas about songs, I wanted to be building up layers of sound like sculptures in music.
I ate a sandwich.
I looked at my computer.
I looked at my computer again. I drank coffee.
I drank water.
I looked at papers.
I gently complained about hopeless situations with jobsworthies that will never be resolved.
I drank more coffee, and mused on the emasculating (effeminating?) effect of possessing a red plastic flask. What a nerd I am!
I shared some pink and yellow alphabet sherbets with Julia who I share an office with. They match the pink throw she brought in to disguise the beige chair (who invented that bloody colour? Surely the devil!).
I did enjoy listening to the songwriters, who are getting more confident by the second.
I wanted to be playing gigs in Ireland and Scotland and Wales.
My fingers yearned to be picking the guitar. My voice told my brain, 'I am for singing'.
Music has taken me over.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wizzo bang bang hurray huzzahh!!

It worked! Eight people, standing back from the microphone in a smiling semicircle, man/woman/man/woman etc etc, all singing from the same songsheet (quite liderally), a little embarrassed at first, wondering what possessed them to turn up, then just going for it and sounding fabulous! Lollies all round, then Gareth played a little Rhodes and Tom slapped on the cheesey sleighbells ('Are you sure you want them this loud? They sound horrible!' 'Yes').
Thank you mad choir!
Now he's mixing the tracks, I am a very happy bunny for now, got a cup of tea and catching my breath before this evening.

Oh brother Tobias, thank you for your comment, I am now at peace.
I am sorry I haven't phoned Netty back but I did get the message.
Things a little hectic chez moi at the moment.


No, I haven't evolved into the Childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (almost as scary as the Laughing Policeman- never could stay in a room with that record!), it's just that I bought a huge jar of them to take to the studio this morning. Oh do keep your fingers crossed! I hope everyone turns up!!! I've written the part for the choir. Can I manage the perfect blend of authority, fun and gratitude? Why do I want to do such silly things all the time?

This evening I'm doing a talk about the book and a little unplugged set at Housman's bookshop in Caledonian Road between 7 and 8 p.m.

The real thing is though... who recorded a song with the lyric 'Yeah this is the year to make your decision'? It's driving me mad, I can remember the melody and everything but the Internet is not helping me this morning and I WANT TO KNOW. Can anyone help?

Monday, October 29, 2007

A whole week ago.....

Well, I've been in Scotland, doing the mad Scottish Dancing thing and stuffing my face with food in Crieff with my entire family to celebrate McMum's birthday (which has a fantastic sweetie shop where I bought Floral Gums (ah! the aroma of clean disposable nappies!), sugared almonds, blackjacks, fruit salads, rose and violent creams, and more than I can metion of other things. I went quad biking and didn't fall off, although almost everybody else did; and I actually read a book (by Donna Leon, and it was a pile of poo but at least I read a book).
And I've been in Ireland too, in Dundalk, playing at the wonderful Number 32 Restaurant, unplugged, been driven around by cabdriver Hozein from Algeria with his stories about the Northern Irish Police and the Southern Irish police each saying that it's the others' responsibility when he and his Algerian cabdriver friends are being threatened by violent and drunken passengers, getting a 'flat wheel', learning English from Billy Connolly videos, and the deadly throat-grabbing wolves of Algeria (you have to climb a tree as fast as you can, otherwise they kill you. No trees, and you're a goner). And the poor Italian roadbuilders who made the mistake of killing a baby boar for lunch. only to be slaughtered by mummy boar when she found out what they'd done!
On the way to Stansted to catch the flight to Dublin, the traffic on the M25 drew to a standstill. I peered over the minicab driver's shoulder to see what was going on. An articulated lorry had stopped, and its driver was out on the road with a huge swan- I could see it's wings flapping. A girl got out of the car in front and got a blanket from the boot. Three lines of traffic had stopped for the swan, which had been hit as it tried to descend to the river below the bridge we'd been driving over; alas, we started up again after five minutes, for there was the swan, folded up at the side of the road, where it had died. It was strangely heartening that everybody had stopped to respect such a extraordinary and beautiful creature.

FInally... I have been organising the choir to sing on my Swedish Christmas track. I'm delighted that Lester Square is coming along to do it, and pehaps even Paul the Girl, and various other interesting people... Let's hope they all turn up for their lollipops!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Life's To Short to Stuff a Mushroom

Here I am at the computer, ready for a little rant- a rantlet.
It's about the sexyfying of firstly, Avril Lavine, and secondly, and most unbelievably, K T Tunstall.
Who took their heads off and filled them with silliness, and why and when did this happen?
Who snatched their bodies in the middle of the night and piped icing sugar all over them, turning them from feisty tomboys into Barbies?
Which men, or menwomen, shut them into rooms and blasted them with overpowering stereotype-bombs until they submitted and gave up all their power to the Record Industry and it's vile pigeonholes?
Who turned them into pigeons?
How could they!

That was quite a big rantlet, wasn't it.
And all from a woman who has just stuffed mushrooms for lunch, in spite of what Shirley Conran told us in the 1980s!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

To Kwire or Not To Kwire

I've sent an email to more than 90 people to see if I can get a choir together for one of my Christmas tracks. I wonder if anyone will be brave enough or silly enough to do it?
I also asked Steve Beresford to play on it but that kind of depends if I can get there in the evening after the bookshop gig.
Planz, planz, planz!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Someone was very quick...

... I put one of the Christmas tracks up on Myspace and somebody played it straight away.

Mellotron Demos and Other Audio Treasures

I have a lecture tape from a guy called Mark Cunningham (he wrote a fascinating book on the history of record production called Good Vibrations)and I've been playing it to the students this morning. I had the cassette converted to CD and unfortunately just before we got to the 10-minute out-takes fom the track Good Vibrations (all the mistakes, it's hilarious!) the CD stuck and refused to proceed any further. So we missed the Mellotron demo, even more hilarious, though not as funny as that EQ thing they used to play in studios about Nanawebbas or however you spell it.
The organ-player on Good Vibrations plays a take completely out of time, which I find hugely reassuring, as sometimes my studio sessions consist entirely of cock-ups.

I write on the back of my hand. Before I wash my hands, I either have to do the things written there, or transfer them to a diary. Currently, I have two door-codes for University studio doors; the word 'choir' to remind me to gather a choir from my friends; the word 'header' because I need to find out how much water should be in a central heating header tank, and put more in 'cos our heating is deafeningly noisy (does anyone know? Help!); the word 'amend' because I need to improve what I'm teaching next year by amending it now while I'm doing it; and, faded, the words 'consequences' and 'cover', which are little exercises I want the songwriters I'm working with to do- making songs line-by-line, and also doing instant cover versions of each others songs to see how catchy they are!
There are also faded words from a few days ago, underneath. I don't know what they say now, but they can't be that important, I hope.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Remedy for Joby

Joby's been on the blower; the council's confiscated all his music playing equipment because the neighbours have complained about the noise.
Well, here is the remedy, Joby.
Get an Admiral's megaphone, the sort made of bakelite with a battery in it, that whistles and squeals with uncontrollable feedback.
At six in the morning, open an upstairs window, and sing 'Morning Has Broken' in your sweetest tones, a capella, the Cat Stevens version complete with cheesey keychange.
Stand back and admire.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Christmas Songs

I was so tired yesterday I almost cancelled the studio but I'm bloody glad I didn't.
I asked Tom to call Spencer Brown, who played double bass on Hill of Fools on the Suburban Pastoral album, and ask him to come over and play on the Rockabilly Christmastime track. While he was getting out of bed (I start at eleven and rock'n'roll breakfast time's about twelve), I mixed the Christmas Drinking Song (or the Christmas drunkard song, actually) with a Beth Gibbons-type vocal sound, and sang backing vox on the Christmas Queen song (cheesey!!!) and re-sang the Devil's Christmas Stocking. Spencer arrived, started up his bass and did a fantastic job even if he held back a little when I said 'Make it sound like a turkey!'. He's an ace player, he really is, and the song was finished off nicely.
Oh, Christmas Choir, where are you? The last morning of October, Wednesday 31st, anyone who emails me is welcome to come and sing. I had volunteers a month ago but perhaps they all got cold feet!! The studio is near ALexandra Palace station; you don't have to be able to sing and I will buy you a lollipop.
Of course, I have a plan B in case the Choir doesn't come into existence. It's always good to have a plan B.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


If you live in the Lake District, go to this Knitting thing and tell me what it's like!

And this is interesting- after Ireland, I'm playing in a bookshop in King's Cross. They've got great things on!


Yes, been away in Scotland. I rose early on Saturday (4.30, with the larks) for a seven-hour journey to Glasgae (being a skinflint, doing it this way cost a mere 28 quid!) to support the Daintees at the ABC2. They were a four-piece, and much rockier especially since they had an absolutely ace drummer with them for the evening who was particularly good at Boat to Bolivia. They are lucky with their drummers because Kate is fab too. It's very interesting for a meganerd musician like me to see the same songs performed by different line-ups. This time there was more room for guitar solos, vocals and so on; what was missing in terms of a party feel was more than made up for in tightness and rockiness.

Then on Sunday I took the train to Edinburgh to see McMum and McDad; the piper stood at the end of Princes Street with his testosterone whine. I love being in Scotland; lots of Londoners are sour and pushy (not all, of course). But Scottish people have a mad illogical logic and a nutty air as though they have just been placed on Earth from a planet in a faraway galaxy, and told to find their way home with only a tattered map of the Congo from the 1930s.

I had a busy couple of days and now could sleep on a chicken's lip.

Friday, October 12, 2007


You know, I'm not sure if this band played at all. They were in Barnet Bandstand one Saturday morning; they seemed like a real band because they had musical instruments with them. But all they seemed to do was chat, for hours.
How lovely and peaceful, a gig where you almost play but don't, raising cheery anticipation in the Saturday shoppers without having to disappoint them with your choice of material or dodgy playing.


Well, the songwriters at the University of the East did themselves proud yesterday- they are writing songs about London and there's a budding Frank Sinatra in the pack, albeit one with his tongue in his cheek. And some very interesting trip hop and a mini-rock-band. Made my day- seven hours of lecturing that anyone could have collapsed under but not after laughing like a drain at those jellied-eel lyrics!
Then I went off to the gig at the Scolt Head in Islington; it was very low-key but that was perfect. It's a great room, with really good acoustics, and I think the psomoter Simon will do very well once he gets it off the ground. It reminded me of the venues in the US that I played at. All it needs is an identity!
Tomorrow I'm off to Glasgow to support the Daintees, which I am really looking forward to as they are a grand band.

Incidentally, yesterday about a mile of the North Circular disappeared, and today there was an extra bit. What the heck's going on?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I rushed and I rushed

They ought to rename the North Circular Road the North Circular Accident.
Everyone changes their minds- I saw a lady with a car full of children do a u-turn into oncoming traffic to get back to a roundabout; people zigzag back into traffic from exit lanes. Big lorries bully little lorries who bully cars who bully motorcycles.
Yet still I love it- those pylons traced out against the pale grey sky, like filigree lace carrying black cables into the distance; the gas storage tanks shrinking down from their skeletons, the spiny cranes and the big gloomy concrete buildings. Poetry from the car window with a soundtrack of Emma Bunton and Erykah Badu!
I was rushing to the studio- it took me two hours from Docklands to Wood Green, there were so many accidents. That gave me two hours to record the backing tracks for the Christmas songs before the next client, the rapper, came in to rap. The adrenaline focused everything and I got them done- I hope I still have a chance to put the choir on- please volunteer and I'll organise you!
Tom has a fantastic new vocal microphone and I almost sounded like Beth Gibbons on one of the songs, Doris Day on another. Perhaps it's full of the ghosts of singers past and it's not me singing at all really. Bit like the radio full of miniscule people I was telling you about a while ago. Poor sad McMum, with her stories about radio waves and receivers. Everybody knows there are millions of tiny people inside every radio, shouting at the tops of their voices!

Monday, October 08, 2007

I'm an eBay failure

Yes, I'm an eBay failure, but I've decided to celebrate the fact!
Yesterday I failed to sell my old Portastudio (perfect nick in it's box) and my old Casio CZ101 Syth with a broken key that still plays really well.
This must mean that I have a soundtrack commission in the pipeline somewhere!
I used the synth for all sorts of soundtracks in the 1980s and the portastudio to do one with the dawn chorus mutating into police sirens for a really good film-maker called Rachel Davies. So they have worked hards, mes equipements, and should be treated with respect.

In the middle of the night last night I had an idea for a song which I sang on to my phone. I haven't listened to it yet. Buried treasure or a pile of poo? How exciting, waiting to find out! I'll do that as soon as I've finished blogging.

This week... in the studio, Tom's back from New York, hooray! I'll be starting to record the Christmas songs. I don't know if I'll be able to sort out the choir part, I do hope so, but McMum has broken her leg and I am going to spend a bit of time in Scotland after playing with the Daintees on Saturday in Glasgow. This Thursday I'm playing at the Scolt Head in Culford Road in Stoke Newington. It's free and I'm on at 10 p.m. Come and cheer me on- I will have been teaching for seven hours beforehand and will need gallons of imaginary energy drinks and grammes of imaginary whizz in order to play.
I used to be a Girl Guide.
I am sure I will manage, because I know how to tie a reef knot and that will see me through.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

In which I imagine going to see The Band of Holy Joy

Here I am, stuck at home, not going to see The Band of Holy Joy at the Rhythm Factory; Katy will be there and so will lots of other people that I know, and so should I be too; instead I am welded to this chair with a large cup of tea, imprisoned in my home by circumstance. Bitter? Not I. Jaded? A trifle. Bored? You bet!
I imagine... walking to the tube station, listening to Destiny's Child on my iPod, whack the oyster card on to the reader, get on the tube, read the leftover Saturday papers, change to the District and Circle, get off at that station that isn't Whitechapel but should be (you know the one I mean, it's right next to the Whitechapel Art Gallery), along to the Rhythm Factory (further than I imagined), go into the venue, get one of those pale beers with a lime piece squeezed in the top, suss out the FQ (friend quotient), get excited, there's Johny, there's the other bloke I used to know from Geordieland who told me all about his sister using a sunbed (he did, honest). Listen to their songs (I've got lots of their stuff on vinyl), they are even better than they used to be in the old days, yay yay more more clap clap that was GOOD! Walk back to the tube station, whole thing in reverse, feet sticky from beer on floor, a bit deaf from loud music, lots of drunk people on the tube all laughing at each other because they think all the other people are drunker than they are. Usually, someone has thrown up on the floor by the time we get to East Finchley. (Once, that person was me, but it was gastro-enteritis not booze and a kind lady gave me a paper hanky).
Walk back home and write a review of the gig in my blog.....

Friday, October 05, 2007

Blueface at the piano

This man was playing piano at Songbird the other night when a poet was poeming

She's a Punk Rocker

I went to see Zillah's film on Wednesday in the West End and I was very pleasantly surprised. I think I'd been expecting something grey and hard-hitting, but instead she has made a colourful and celebratory documentary, which although it consists almost entirely of talking heads (with tantalising slices of archive footage, in particular of X Ray Spex and Poison Girls), is completely riveting all the way through. Although there are the expected people, Poly's bodyguard Mary is a real find and I was touched to see Vi Subversa, who was such a brilliant supporter of beginner-punk-rockers in Brighton and who got the Poison Girl's bass player to lend me her bass (ex-Buzzcoks!!) and who lent us her son, Danny, to play our first few gigs. It also features Michelle from Brigandage, Eve Libertine from Crass, and lots of others.
The film itself is full of acid-house colours and this really lifts it- it's a very positive film; nobody comes over as being cynical, everyone has just the right degree of madness, and everyone also looks fantastic and very stylish, in particular Poly and Gaye, who look downright beautiful. There's no wastage, no filling, but the whole thing is really well-edited so it's perfectly-paced.
I know nothing about film or film-making and I am very easily bored 'cos I don't like sitting still, but this was great.
Afterwards, we all went off to the pub for a bit; they are a very friendly crowd. I think Zillah and myself will try to get some sort of roadshow or event together sometime soon.

Later, I went to Songbird; Katy Carr was there, who I haven't seen for ages, and also Rob from Temposhark, who I didn't recognise at first as I wasn't expecting to see him! It was really buzzing, with assorted Utrophians and Judith the Mermaid too. The Cross Kings is a brilliant venue for Songbird, as it has a dogeared youthclubbish feel to it. I'm playing duets there with Martin Stephenson next month.

Incidentally, after searching for years, both Stella and Dawn from the Objeks (Brighton band) have been in touch separately, and Kate Korus too. All I need is the Au Pairs and Delta 5, and I will have to go for a re-write!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Curly Hardhairs

This is a big puzzle, because the species ought to have died out in the age of rock'n'roll pensioners, but I saw one again today and I can only think that there's some very clever irony going on.
You know the women I mean- aged about seventy with a neat pink powdered face with eyeliner and a beauty spot, red scary lipstick. A twinset, and tweedy skirt; beige nylons and neat little black patent shoes with kitten heels. Sometimes pearls, sometimes not; all crowned by a very pale grey, very solid-looking set of rococo curls with a feature at the front, a sort of tubular horned arrangement flourishing off to the left and the right that looks like one of those waves surfers dream of but never experience.
Tomorrow I'm off to see Zillah Ashworth's film, 'She's a Punk Rocker', at the Cinescene in Piccadilly, the Songbird later. I've just got back from slurping squash soup (no, not orange squash soup, silly, that pumpkin thing) with Diana in Highgate Woods. We were so busy yakking we got lost and her arthritic dog went on strike briefly until she lied: 'Breakfast time!'. He stumbled back to his feet and she hoisted him into the car.
Now, I have a lecture to write and the Christmas songs to finish! I've done four, a showtune, a rckabilly song, a waltz and a drinking song, and I can't wait to record them.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Vivien Goldman's Punk Professor Site

I give up. Sorry, Paleface!

Paleface the right way up?

Lets hope so.
Blogger has decided that I'm German, which is a bit of a puzzle but I guess I can cope.

While I think of it- did I tell you about our party conversation this summer about One-Big-Slipper injuries? I probably did. We just laughed like drains (unpleasant ones) for ages thinking about the elderly and vulnerable dashing for the doorbell and forgetting that both feel were tightly tucked into one giant sheepskin footnest.
O dear.
How idealogically abhorrent.
I must sack myself immediately from all responsible jobs, cease to imagine myself as a nice person, and start laughing at nasty Jimmy Carr's jokes.
Fact: I used to phone the BBC to complain about Mark Lamarr and his sexist racist TV show on Friday nights.
S'pose I can't do that sort of thing anymore now.

The Scottish Dancing Lady

You don't even have to have been raised Scottish to have suffered the Saturday morning trauma of Scottish dancing lessons.
Me and Bruv had to go to Jesmond to preserve our heritage. There were other embarrassed kids from our schools there, who also had parents able to force them to learn things on their official Day Off.
Our Scottish Dancing Lady had a ruddy face, luxuriant moustache, A-line tweed skirt and short-sleeved crimplene top in an alarming shade of turquoise. She had a dansette and a hooting voice to shout commands at us with. She also had No Sense of Humour so you couldn't fool around to make the time pass more quickly. She barked out instructions, and we moved to pre-assigned spots on the chilly lino floor, dreaming of Beano comics and banana toffee penny-arrows; it was hell.
Naturally, as soon as the lesson was over we forgot every single thing she taught us.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wigga and Mockney

There was a young man called Robert (sounds like a limerick) behind the counter in Robert Dyas today (could his surname possibly be Dyas? A frisson of excitement goes through me at the thought) who spoke perfect Wigga. These new languages are fascinating; as we get our chops around Kate Nash's extraordinary drama-school Mockney, are we preparing ourelves for the new GCSE subject, Greater London Linguistics?
That's enough pompous ranting for an hour, day, week and month.

I was thinking about Two-Things yesterday as I sat in a traffic jam on the North Circular, because I was sitting in a traffic jam, but I was also gazing at four or five of those massive spindly cranes against the skyline, moving at a snail's pace through the dawn, so graceful and yet so industrial at the same time. So the traffic jam became completely insignificant in comparison. And I thought about One-Thing experiences: being petrified by fear at the dentists, or being in love and only focusing on your loved one, with everything else excluded. I have read that autistic people are Hundreds-of-Things people, who just cannot work out what to exclude and what to include, with everything being of equal value and equal confusion to them.

I spoke to Caroline this morning; I'd been worried about whether she liked the book or not, but she gave it a huge thumbs up although she brought up a couple of points, one of which was the fact that I'd thought that wearing a boiler suit would protect me from being assaulted. As she rightly pointed out, even old tweedy ladies get raped and the myth about women wearing sexy clothes being easy targets (and the only targets) is just that- a complete load of rubbish. Another thing she noticed was the fact that I didn't challenge the assumption that guitars were male, phallic symbols. I had just read so much about cock-rock that I'd gone along with this without even thinking. How silly! I play a guitar that I call The Green Goddess!

The pic was taken on Dolph's porch in Concord. I'll tip Paleface up the right way when I've bluetoothed him on to this computer, but I want a cupatea first.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Paleface at the Evening Muse

I liked Paleface- an unusual cast to his songs which probably means he'll be pushed aside by the mainstream. Legend has it that Beck shared a flat with him and nicked all his ideas (but sometimes legend is a liar, I know). There were some great bits in his music that made you want to listen all the way through. His drummer was great too- a slight little woman who was a very skilful player and who sang as well. Is it just me, or are drummers cleverer than they were in the old days? There used to be just Phil Collins blaring solidly away in his ruffty tuffty no-voice, but here she was, playing and singing with the ease of a bird on the wing. They were a really good duo, in tune with each other physically and I wish I'd bought their CD but it was a hectic evening and I didn't get round to it.
Later, I was told by somebody that I look like Susan Sarandon. I remember once at Offline these guys insisting that I was she, and refusing to accept the fact that I'm not. They kept it up all evening. I do think that I would know if I was Susan Sarandon or not. And one of the cleaners at the Universiy of Westminster used to stare at me all the time.
Finally and triumphantly, he shouted, 'It's that Susan Saracen that you remind me of!!'

But of course, Big Bruv told me I reminded me of a fruitgum because of my cleft chin and hamster cheeks. He counted through the lumps on my face as evidence of my resemblance to the Rowntree's Hard Gum. I am completely certain that Susan Saracen did not have this problem with her brother.

Driving to Atlanta

I had direct experience of the scariness and Deliverance-style aspects of Georgia on the way back from the Atlanta gig, staying in a motel full of invisible truckers with a night-porter straight out of a Hitchcock movie, all hunched skinny shoulders, crocodile smile at inappropriate moments, Grecian 2000 black hair, extreeemly draaawn aaaaht Southern draaawl and an unhealthy passion for Leslie Organs (that's what I thought, too). 'Mah fayvoureet Leslay Organ is the Leslay Organ in mah Church'.
Never has a motel room door been bolted so tightly.
In the morning the invisible truckers had vanished, all but one huge feller with a massive top part of the body and teeny legs that scarcely touched the floor. He had a big white moustache and sideburns and sat scoffing his cereal with an enormous forearm resting on the table. A couple of generations ago he would have been a cowboy, with those little legs wedged into the stirrups and a lasoo in his megahands.
Never seen so many macho guys as I did in Georgia- would hate to be gay or gentle round those parts.

Sketches of North Carolina

I can't believe I've had such a nice time! I'll review the gigs and venues later but there was so much more to it than just that...
Staying with Dolph Ramseur and Dana at their lovely wooden house in the woods, playing guitar on the porch in the sunshine, eating waffles in every single waffle house (pecan with maple syrup, since you ask), visiting Lebos at night and marvelling at all the different cowboy shirts, hanging out at the mall and discovering that T K Maxx is called T J Maxx in the USA, driving a truck to Atlanta and back past the giant peach on a stalk, meeting musicians, shopping for vintage cowboy gear at the Rat's Nest in Charlotte, where a ramshackle band plays Hank Williams covers out the back on Friday evenings, eating huge breakfasts, and just generally being away from it all. Do you know, in Charlotte Douglas airport, they have rows of white wooden rocking chairs for people to sit on instead of nasty plastic seating?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

North Carolina

I bought a revolting pale blue suitcase for 20 quid yesterday because I couldn't stuff my belongings into the one I already had. This one is far too big and everything will be rattling around inside it, but what the heck, you only pack once.
I think I've done everything: dollar bills, e-ticket, booked minicab, done jetlag practice (I didn't sleep a wink last night)
I wonder if there are crocodiles and scorpions in North Carolina?
I went to the US when I was 14 with my Gran, to New England and then to Pittsburgh where McDad and McMum had lived for a while, to stay with some friends of theirs in the Industrial Heartland. I went to a YWCA camp with their daughter, which was huge fun. They used to wake us every morning by blaring '76 Trombones' from speakers in the trees- a very crackly version- and that prompted lots of vile foulmouthery from the girls in the shack. It was a bit like a civilised brat camp actually. I played my first game of death-by-winking there, learned how to canoe, ate all sorts of strange-coloured breakfast cereals and drew portraits of people without looking at the page (try it- it's amazing the likeness you get).
Afterwards, the family took me to a drive-in movie and we saw Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and ate cinnamon donuts. I felt like such a Flintstone!
And then when I was 22 I went to Chicago to visit a boyfriend with a suitcase full of 2000 AD mags that he made me bring back home again. It was minus 27 degrees and every time you stood up, you fell down because the ground was so icy. But I've written all about that before on this blog.
I don't know whether I will be able to get to a computer while I'm away but I will tell you all about it when I get back.
I've listed the U.S. gigs on my Myspace,

P.S. I thought if I said I wanted to go to Paris, Berlin and New York at the beginning of the year, I might get there. I'm going to North Carolina instead. Bit like in the 1980s when I wanted to be on Top of the Pops with Helen and the Horns, and went on Pebble Mill at One instead. I believe it may be a lateral life trajectory.
Something like that.

Friday, September 14, 2007

More about Stuart

Pete Chrisp sent this link,11711,783032,00.html
I obviously wasn't the only one who loved Stuart.
He got a bit cross with me once for knitting a sock in his lecture. It was helping me to concentrate- so many ideas in each sentence, you had to listen very carefully. I am sorry, Stuart, for doing that. I didn't think about whether clicking needles would be a distraction for a lecturer, though of course I know that now!
I had that sock until very recently, when I realised I was never going to get round to knitting the other one.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Talking of coldness

I was so sure it was gonna be a boiling hot summer again that I took this pic in winter to help everybody cool down. Bah! Foiled again.
Here's the picture of these two, a girlfriend and boyfriend, who were having such fun with their snowball last winter. They ended up rolling it down the length of our street, laughing the whole time. I thought they were great!

Swedish Christmas and fond memories

Well, the little Swedish record label have been in touch again, and I'm going to book some studio time in October to record the Christmas songs. I'm still recruiting for the choir- I want lots of people including the groaners in the back row! It will be easy to sing, you just come along and go 'Ahhh' after I've counted to four. Simple! It's me! ABC! Nothing fancy, no operatics, no twiddly notes, just a loud yawn from time to time.
I'm going to be doing a gig and talk in a little bookshop in October too- sounds perfect to me. I wonder if they will let me sit on a pile of books?
My art history tutor, who I loved dearly, was a chronic shoplifter, and his office was a portakabin in the courtyard of the Art College building in Brighton. We did our tutorials perched on different-sized multi-coloured towers of books. One of the tutor group was a terrifying sculptor with a beard called Roger, or rather ROGER!! (he had a LOUD VOICE) and my tutor, a sweet little gay man, was petrified of him as he was so macho, and trembled under Roger's bellow.
He told us that the Victorians would not be able to understand a thing we say, because we talk so much faster than them, and also use terminology that refers to things that had not been invented so long ago. He also told us that cancer is a romantically beautiful thing, because it grows and flourishes even as it destroys its host.
Stuart, I think, has died. I found this terribly upsetting as he was a very kind man. He loved my pictures (even though my personal tutor, Brendan Neiland, recently sacked under a cloud from the Royal Academy of Arts, I'll have you know, hated them), and once he offered to lend me 50 quid when I was skint after I left college. I used to go and visit him sometimes, and once he told me the warehouse where he'd been storing his stolen books had been burned down. He was amazed at the divine justice that had been meted out to him, but also, I think, a little relieved that he didn't have to bother with them any more.
I think I will go and sit on a pile of books this instant, in memoriam of Stuart Morgan, who to me was a model of how a tutor should behave.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Roond at Toms

Been at the studio today, adding some really cool guitar parts to some of the songs, doing a bit of editing, recording the song Sulkworm using the Rhodes (I'm a bit clumsy as a keyboard player but I did a rough version which I might put on Myspace).
I was knackered as I got in at 2 a.m. last night after taking some amps back to Crouch End with a chap who lit up a fag at the Jazz Cafe and got chucked out!
Last nights gig was different to the night before- much chillier audience to start off with (not used to going out perhaps!), and a talky crowd, but the Daintees melted them in the end and had everyone singing and dancing along with them, lauging and smiling and clapping as though they were teenagers at their first festival.
I've met some really nice people in the past couple of days- not just the band themselves but also Daisy, a funky Dickensian sort of girl who was selling their merchandise, Johnny Guitar, who was invited up on stage to play spoons, Tam, who used to promote the Wag club in the 1980s, Rob who runs Voiceprint, and loads more.
I felt like I wanted to do this every night of the week.
Instead, it's back to jacket potatoes, the washing up and the cats, who constantly shout things at me that I don't understand. If I ignore them, they just shout even louder, so I spend a lot of time talking to them and hoping that nobody hears me. Don't want to end up like Prince Charles talking to his reed-bed; that would be a terrible state of affairs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

With The Daintees at the Jazz Cafe

What a tremendous moment, to be standing watching the Daintees play a rip-roaring set, all the songs from Boat to Bolivia, having just finished playing a support set with them!
They have got to have one of the friendliest and most loyal audiences on the planet, who were very respectful to me when I played even though they were so excited to see the Daintees, who play so rarely. As a band, I think they must be the friendliest band on the planet. From the the moment I went into the dressing room, there wasn't a shred of grumpy rockstarness about any of them, and they just radiate fun from the stage. The audience knew all the songs and sang along but they didn't overpower the band. They were just really enjoying it!
I almost died of shock because halfway through they invited me on the the stage and started playing 24 Hours! Bloody good job I could remember the words after all these years; somehow they are etched on to my soul. Imagine that! You get to play, you get to see a great band, and they have learned a song you wrote 25 years ago and invite you to sing it with them.
Does life get better than that for a middle-aged suburban housewife? I think not!
Big up the Daintees, for making not only their crowd, but especially H. McCookerybook, very happy last night

Friday, September 07, 2007

Could this be a miniature pantomime rat costume?

How exciting! Today, the back portion of a rat lay upon the mat when I came downstairs, right in the middle, on display.
Later, the front portion appeared under the washing line, with a horde of wasps buzzily lunching on it.
Do you think it's a costume from a miniature theatre company?
Tonight I shall lay in wait with a torch, wearing my red velvet party dress (haven't got one really), with some ice cream to hand plus a set of opera glasses, to catch them at it, tiny chaps with rat costumes strapped on to their bodies, acting out an earnest suburban drama.
Eat yer heart out, Mike Leigh, we got it all in the gardens of Barnet, sarcastic scripts, awkward pauses, embarassing wives, fake champagne (what's that stuff called?), seventies desserts.
Miniature actors.
Rat costumes.
We got it all.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


The hippy milkman in Camberwell who gave our whole street free milk because we were housing association tenants? Then one day, an official from the depot came round and said 'I'm sorry some of you have not been charged for your milk; your milkman was returning to the depot with the leftover milk from his round and then setting off again delivering it to other people without charging those customers for it. We have sacked him, and we are trying to find out who he was delivering free milk to'.
Naturally, none of us confessed. What a rotten thing to do to a harmless kind man!

Or shall I tell you about the necklace of miniature voice-recording microphones I made for Voxpop Puella, so I could have little bits of ramdom talking in my songs when I pressed 'play'? When I worked on a songwriting project with some foster children in Birmingham, I gave them to the kids, harvesting the necklace as though it was a microphone-vine.

Or what about my character, Jeffrey Thruster, man about town, the business guy, hair gel, signet ring, who zooms into work in his car, nearly scraping off an old lady's bum on the zebra crossing, flashing people in front of him on the road with his headlights, pushing in at the queue to pay for petrol in the garage, cutting people up on the road, and barging into the last parking space in the car park in front of the new girl in the typing pool, barking into his mobile phone all the while.
He gets into the office, and realises he's forgotten to get dressed.