Friday, February 29, 2008


We mixed Dreaming of Narcissus today, and sorted out a couple of tracks for Jim to mix; Tom will be emigrating to New York and I want to try out new things. We also did a secret track.
I'm going to put one of the Ross-shire tracks up on Myspace this weekend to replace the Christmas Queen, now it's March.

I didn't do my gig last night; sorry if you went along; I had no voice. I had been crying too much. I can not tell you why.

Today I am happier, and my kindly brain prepared nonsensical memories to entertain itself, something it does frequently; this morning it reminded me that when I was seven, I promised to marry Jonathan Ritchie because he had a policeman suit, and also the Spriggs twins, David and Michael, because they had a fantastic train set with a train that puffed real steam if you put methylated spirit down it's funnel.

I did not marry any of them, especially not all at once, as I had greedily planned.

A three-year-old of my acquaintance decided to marry her grandmother's cat, George, as she was completely in love with him.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Seriously though

Sorry, made myself laugh again with that posting and clean forgot what I was supposed to be saying.
I am playing some songs tonight at the Constitutiion pub, please come along if you can because I am tired and I need your energy to cheer me along.
And Stu, sorry I forgot to send those tracks yesterday, it's a little difficult sorting anything out at home at present but I will try to send them to you later this morning, or tomorrow morning.

Old Lady chic fest

Oops- a couple of postings ago, I'd abandoned old-lady chic; then what did I do? I was handing some stuff in to the North London Hospice shop and the man had a brand new pair of black suede fleece-lined old lady zip-up black bootees in my size, so of course, I had to have 'em.
What a hypocrite!

In Crete on holiday with Joan and the kids, her eldest daughter was very taken by the attractive stray dogs that trotted around looking at her appealingly.
Oh! look at the lovely doggy-woggy-poggies! She cooed from time to time.
We were out driving up a steep mountain and it started to become a little wearing.
Joan and myself had had a hearty drink of Cretan red wine and we spotted a very ancient, very sweet old lady in a headscarf, tottering along beside a field.
Oh! look at the lovely little old lady-pady-wady! We snorted, and laughed so much we could not stop, the tears pouring down our faces and flooding the van.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Strange Little Gig

Tomorrow night (the 28th) I will be playing a few (new) songs at Folk in Cellar, in the Constitution pub, St Pancras Way, in Camden.
It's a mega-friendly venue; come along if you can.

Oh, it's an earthquake

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it woke me up; my bed rattled, the walls creaked.
'Oh, it's an earthquake', I thought, and went back to sleep.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Crouch End Cavalier

He was in Budgens, wrestling with a petit-pain that refused to slip into a cellophane bag, no matter how hard he tried. We joked with him, but he looked up with a thunderous expression, his costume quivering with fury, before he stomped off down the aisle in his doublet and hose.
Beaten by a petit-pain; that must be hard to take!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Driblings (not the same as dribblings; it's a new word I've just invented)

I made toad-in-the-hole today, with real toads.
No I didn't.
My French manager used to say 'hole and below' instead of lo and behold.
She did press for Depeche Mode and called them Depressed Mood.
She gave me a kitten because I was ill after drinking too mach alcohol and living off cup-a-soup and Weetabix with Primula Cheese from a tube squirted on top of it, and she knew that having a kitten would force me to look after myself, because I'd have to look after the kitten.
She was great.

Yesterday, I got the six tracks I recorded in Scotland, one after the other with no fuss on a little Bossa-Nova guitar.
Dubulah told me that little guitars with stars and sickles on them were made in the First World War by Turkish instrument-builders, because so many of the British ones died in the war, and that's why you see the guitars with inlaid mother-of-pearl stars on them.
This one had mermaids too, so maybe it was made by a Turkish seafarer.
Did you know that Northern Soul sprung up in Liverpool because all those obscure 7" singles were used as ballast on the merchant ships from the USA and were just dumped on the quayside in Liverpool?
Back to the six tracks- I am quite pleased with some of them, and might put one on Myspace in the next couple of days.
I'm going to start recording again, to complete the album I'm doing with Martin, and some other stuff as well; Tom has almost finished the mixes for Polyhymnia and they sound lovely; I have to decide what to do about the cover, whether to draw something or use a photo; drawing is fun and it's very tempting to just let the imagination run riot and see what happens. Then I see CDs with really nice photos... but I think a drawing might be best this time around.

What else can I tell you? That I've abandoned old-lady chic in favour of artisan-chic, after thinking that perhaps old-lady chic is now a little too close to the bone for comfort; that I am reviving an old Girl Guide song for the children's concert next Saturday (wishy washy wishy washy hanging out the smalls, that one); that I have aching legs after dancing around with dusters on my feet to polish the floor a couple of days ago; that I could really do with a holiday somewhere warm and sunny where you can laze about and stop looking like a white marshmallowface with a hunted-cur aura; that I wish cars didn't damage the environment because I like driving around in mine and pretending I'm flying a plane particularly at night when the dashboard lights up; that I wish I had a nice juicy London gig where I could play for 40 minutes and get into my gig; oh more, more, more, a whole Christmas stocking full of nonsense.
That's a point. Why didn't it snow this year? It will probably snow in April, just when ladies are getting out their prim flowery summer dresses and men are getting out their horrid khaki shorts.

Friday, February 22, 2008

After Ladyfest

Just got back- Jill Halstead was talking, and so was Gina, and we went for tea afterwards. It was really interesting and I made friends with an art student and a lesbian doctor with a shaved head. I also heard both Gina and Jill say things about themselves that I didn't know (which is what Jane did the other day too).
It took hours to get there, and hours to get back, but on the way back me and Gina went to Borough Market and did a quick circuit- she bought some cheese from a very pretty woman who had just brought it back from Italy, and i bought some bread from two young men with beards (hang on a minute.. have beards come into fashion?) and some primulas, because they remind me of dollymixtures.
I met my cat down the end of our road as I headed home; he was looking very busy, heading off in the opposite direction. I persuaded him to come home with me, although he quite obviously couldn't see the point of it, once we got here.
Jane likes Helen and the Horns so much she has found me a trombone player!

Ladyfest Goldsmiths

I'm going to Ladyfest Goldsmiths today- Gina Birch is talking (or playing, not sure which) and Angela McRobbie's doing a talk.
I arranged to meet her there a few years ago to talk to her for my book (she knew the Au Pairs really well and she also offered to contact Lesley Woods for me), and I waited for an hour outside her office but she never arrived.
Later, after I'd emailed her to ask where she's been, she emailed back to say I should have waited.
Should I have? I don't know. I never got to talk to her and never got to interview Lesley, alas.

I've already polished the hall floor, in the fun way which is just as knackering as the not-fun way, but it's more fun.
You put the polish on the floor and then you get the dusters and put them on your feet and do the twist and then walk like a cartoon dog that doesn't take it's feet off the floor until the floor is shiny.

I am going to play some childrens' songs on the first of March at St Peter's Church in West London. I am a little peeved as everybody cutting-edge on the bill (the Raincoats, Pete Astor, some cool DJs etc etc) have been advertised but I have not. To repair my self-respect I am going to get dressed up to the nines. I might even wear mascara and put my seriously allergic eyes at risk. Bah!
I have also ordered a Burl Ives CD so that I can play the campest 50s-est set in the universe.
If you want to singalonga Three Little Fishies, come along, also dressed up to the nines, and be my Fan. I will make camp faces at you, wink knowingly, and bellow a chorus just for you.

Hey, I've moaned in this posting! Promise not to do that tomorrow.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


1. A lady comes to wake you up on the Last Tube when it arrives at High Barnet (the end of the line).
'Time to go home now!', she says pleasantly but firmly
2. An old lady told me that when you are old, you can't jump. She showed me.
Ever since then, I have been jumping to see if I am an old lady yet.

Shimmy Rivers and and Canal at Corsica Studios

I went to see them yesterday night- last time I saw them was almost two years ago, I think, at the Klinker in Stoke Newington, and a fight broke out (it wasn't their fault)
There was a strong aroma of garlic and armpits from the audience and a very high brown-beard'n'glasses quotient, which was quite London-Musicians-Collective for a gig organised by PlanBmag, but it was strangely reassuring to know that this subculture survived the ravages of punk and the upitsownarseness of New Romance, drifted obliviously through Rave, and looked the other way while Hip Hop told us all off and said it was going to kill us.
The first band (which I liked) matched the audience perfectly (as I am told Elvis did) but I'd really come to see Shimmy Rivers, and was delighted as the band assembled on stage, looking happy, playing pat-a-cake, and cheering 'Yay!' as the last member arrived on stage panting and still holding his cycle-helmet, fresh from work and still wearing his stripy tie.
Puff! went the dry ice and I made a mental note to be holding my mobile phone at all times, just had mine nicked and you know how much robbers like the fog.
Ben the drummer had a My Little Pony on his kit; Mu was throwing handfuls of yellow plush Easter chicks into the audience from a box on her keyboard.
'This is the biggest audience we've ever played to', said Rod, and they started.
Tall men came and stood in front of me (the b*stards!) but I slid to the side, stuck my head in the speaker, and watched the Spirit of Punk live on!
Rod flung his fringe around, Ben was standing up behind his kit, Mu was miking up an Olivia Spread box..
Whack whack wallop twang!
By the second song they are in their stride (Rod has announced it as the last song)
What's that cymbal doing on the end of a washing line?
The third song (Wink, according to the abbreviated one-word setlist but probably a longer title) should be a Song For Europe- starting with a catchy riff, then ho ho ho in the canyons go the voices....
Jane looked like Nico from the Velvet Underground as she played her harmonium mysteriously in the background.
Then there was the wavy-arms song, Portrait (in a word) with drums like White Riot that could show those camp Scottish pipe band snare drummers a thing or 2.
Mu's chicken shop was a little depleted by now...
'If you can all pretend to gallop for the next song, something good might happen', said Rod.
Nobody did, which is a shame because I was hoping the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus would appear and pirouette on top of the speakers.
The kit started to collapse and Rod started to look like a Ramone brother, screwing up his eyes and yelling with a passion.
Richard moved from bass to guitar and they played the closest song they had to a ballad- Pink Skies, but it was a Shimmy ballad, so it was extraordinary.
'The next song is called something', said Rod, and snarled like a Glaswegian navvy over the thundering drum rhythm; I could imagine dancing the Dashing White Sergeant with a crusty in creepers. The sax coughed and wailed like a sea-lion on speed; Jane switched to clarinet....
At this point I decided to stop scribbling and start listening, to enjoy the music.
At the end they left the stage one by one, Jane last of all with a little wave to the audience of beardies.
Go and see them!

By the way, they wrote their set list in red, and I I advise against this, having had the problem of writing road directions in orange felt pen a few weeks ago. You can't read those colours in the dark!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Probably not worth reading if you were expecting an exciting posting

My friend Jane came to talk to the students at the University of the East today. She A&Rs for 4AD records and had a fascinating story to tell, all about working as a volunteer for a Ghanaian radio station and driving round the Wild West in the USA in a car with 5 people plus instruments, doing gigs all over the place.
I think the students loved it.
I have some interesting CDs to listen to now, and I made her a copy of old Chefs songs. She likes Helen and the Horns and keeps trying to persuade me to do more H and H gigs. I've given her 5 of the vinyl albums. We co-raved about music we liked while we ate our tea, then she went off to a gig in Camden.
She's playing harmonium and clarinet with Shimmy Rivers and and Canal and I think I will go to see them play tomorrow evening.
I feel happy in a sort of chaotic way, thinking about songs and songwriting, scribbling notes and advice on envelopes, drinking three cups of tea in quick succession, wearing a new dress (you should see it, it's very weird. It has tailor's dummies and hospital beds printed on it), scribbling incomprehensible things on my hand and avoiding phoning the Trainline who have sent me two sets of tickets to get to Glasgow in March.
O why does reality always have to kick in?
Better do it.
See you tomorrow.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Jumbled Ramblings (rambled jumblings)

I've decided to officially rename my car Prangmagnet, for yet again it has attracted a major prang and has to go to the car doctors to be fixed.
Today? Three creme eggs (3 for a quid, so of course you have to eat the lot), and a bowl of raspberries and custard (rather sour)
The Carolina Chocolate Drops are coming to Britain, and you must see them if you can. I will try to review them, because they are just the coolest and most stylish jug band in the entire world.
No music to report, although I may yet waft fragrantly up to my room and deign to bless my guitar with my elegant presence.
Yes, you guessed it, i didn't do the housework today, just ate chocolate and raspberries as above, and graciously received telephone calls from polite young whippersnappers about a courtesy car. I am not fooled, you see, for I know as soon as they've hung up they pick their noses and gob in the wastepaper basket before taking a swig of Pepsi and burping.
Got to go as I promised to lend the Mary J Blige Greatest Hits to someone.
Not as good as that Laura woman who does the songs about ghosts.


Ouch. I fell down the stairs at Luton Parkway on the way back from Scotland; I'd been waiting on the wrong platform for the train into London, and made a mad dash for the correct one when the train arrived, but missed it and skinned my knees and bashed my fingers at the same time. Could have been a lot worse, so I am grateful I didn't land on my head or break a bone. The chase was thrilling, though!
I had a lovely weekend, north of Inverness; I sang a bit on Shippy's track (he's a promoter form the north-east who runs the Jumpin' Hot Club, who has made an album) and recorded six of my own, just guitar and vocals, in a studio in the middle of a field with a three-piece flowery suite and a beautiful little bossa-nova guitar with a perfect tone and inlaid mother-of-pearl stars. Honestly, you should have heard the sustain on the bottom E! You could sing looking out of the window at the harsh February fields, with the sun shining and the gulls flying overhead, drinking cold coffee. The engineer, Pete, has really good ears and has the air of a scientist about him. His mum lives there too, who is 90 and dresses immaculately in elderly-lady chic, and a frantic little spaniel who wiggles and quivers and rushes about in excitement.
There were some striped pipecleaners in the bathroom and I made a tiger.
Also, I did some songwriting with Martin Stephenson for our album, which, believe it or not, only has about three songs to go before it is finished; just two songs to be re-recorded and one to finish the chorus of.
I am tired today, but very pleased by the weekend. I even managed to get a walk on Dornoch beach and see where silly old Madonna got married. She didn't leave any riches lying around in Ross-shire, no traces of stardom or glamour. It's a tough-looking place, especially in winter, with oil rigs and factories and big grey threatening-looking sheds. The sea and the sky and the hills are spectacular, though, and seem completely timeless and primitive. Which, of course, they are.
Meanwhile, Tom's finishing the mixes of Polyhymnia on Wednesday.
Today is a day of rest, which really means a ton of housework and a ton of shopping. But first, a coffee to boost my vim, and then perhaps a little guitar pickin' just to make sure my damaged fingers still function.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Musical Christmas Sponge

Never get one, if you are a musician. Simon wore himself out at bathtime with the challenge of coming up with a different harmony every time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Damage does disco

I've just been listening to TSDS by Dick Damage and the Punkdaddy, both of whom were out there playing those stages in the Brighton punkworld of 1977 and beyond.
Damage's singing hasn't changed one bit- still that humorous, slightly nasal voice, sounding a little bit like Jona Lewie. This is a real mixture of musical styles- sometimes it sounds a bit like The Stranglers, sometimes I could dance around my handbag to it; other tracks feature almost-spoken poetry over Blockheads-style funk, more like Punkdaddy's solo stuff. Here and there, Punkdaddy bursts in on guitar, obviously having the time of his life. There's a dog barking tunefully and timefully along with a trance track, too. I imagine it got bored in the studio and decided to join in.
(I wonder if Pundaddy was at that live Radio Sussex broadcast when Joby and the Hooligans did a cover version of 'We Were Guilty And Ashamed Of It But Now We're Rather Proud Of It, No Longer Do we Have To Live A Lie, Oh Me, Oh My, That Lie Can Lie Itself Right Down And Die', the Gay Pride anthem sung to the melody of 'Leaning On A Lamp-post', which featured Steve on Ukelele and a mad dog barking at the top of its voice?)
It's an oddly enjoyable listen, I think, even if you don't know Dick and Punkdaddy (but we all do, don't we?); true-to-form, Dick is still racing the musicians to the finale of each track. A true anarchist to the end, he sometimes wins, which is a triumph I well remember from the old days!
***** that's 5 stars, guys!

Tonight's the Night

I was just looking on Google Images for photos of spawning salmon; yesterday in one of those synapse-twitching epiphanies I linked my early memories of an over-made-up Rod Stewart on Top of the Pops with the scary pics of spawning salmon I saw on a documentary once. I couldn't find a photo that matched Rod in all his colourful glory, unforchly.
The next train of thought was Rod's song 'Tonight's the Night'
I do love a lot of Rod's stuff and I love his voice, but I remember the petrifyng thought at the time of being 'tonight's the nighted' by Rod.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Do you remember Bitsa? It was a bit like Scrapheap Challenge without the competition and the alpha males.
It had a great theme tume
Bitsa this, bitsa that, put 'em all togetha and whaddya got? etc etc etc
And two scruufy presenters, scruffman and scrufflady, who pulled a lever and down fell a selection of plastic bottles, cardboard tubes and other waste materials that they looked at for a second in puzzlement before an exaggerated lightbulb moment, after which they selected various items and built things- silly things like puppet shows, grabbing-hand things, and other pointless gadgets.
It was great, it made me feel really happy watching it because it created its own little Bitsa world, somewhere in the same solar system as Sesame Street with its wacky songs and kindly logic.

I'd thought of making a little cardboard or wooden shop to sell CDs at gigs. I'm useless at it. I could never run a business, even though I was a shop assistant in my former life. If it was someone else's CD, I could, but my own... it's a bit like selling my eyelashes or something, very personal.
I mean it, you know. I am just trying to work out what to make the little shop out of. I wonder if you can still get balsa wood?
I think I would really like making it and I could paint it all sorts of colours, a bit like my friend Joan's tiny Indian wooden storyboard, which unfolds with little bits of the story painted under each folding section in bright glossy paint.
It got woodworm, which I thought was marvellous- a living, breathing occupant changing the storyline by nibbling through it, reality meeting fantasy in miniature.

Challenge to Shakespeare, not

The cat
Sat on the chair
I realised
He was there

The chair
Is meant for me

My backside's
Getting sore
I'm sitting on
The floor

How can he look so heavy?
How can I be so lazy?

Too lazy to get up
And oust the cheeky pup.

He's curled up in a ball
Eyes closed in contentment
I'm not comfortable at all
And seething with resentment

'Ho ho you little bugger!',
I chuckle as he snores
'At least I have got hands
Instead of silly paws'.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


They were supposed to be dumplings, but I put plain flour instead of self-raising.

Thank you to Stu Jones for sending Sleeping Dogs Lie by The Chefs. Will have to get our skates on and sort out the greatest hits (ha ha) CD. I know what the cover will look like in my mind's eye, yellow and blue.
And thank you Punkdaddy for sending me the Punkdaddy and Dick Damage CD- haven't listened yet because of all the travelling this week but I will do and will write a little thing about it. Life is like fag-ash- you can blow it away.
I found Baby Don't Bogie and Steven Was A Mod tucked away in my computer files- both by Smeggy and the Cheesey Bits, Smeg's band before he joined King Kurt. There were two Daves in it, one on bass and one on guitar, and Bruv on guitar and Bernie on tartan drums. Bernie was a Ted and an actor (funny, not the only Brighton band to have a Ted drummer), and very moody, as I recall. Smeg (or Gary, as I know him) always wore an orange jumper. His father was a long-distance lorry driver who had agoraphobia and knitted Aran jumpers. He knitted a couple of Aran cardies for Bruv when he married Jenny, one each.
One of their best songs was
Elvis had a heart attack, hip hip hip hoo ray ray ray
Elvis had a heart attack and now he's gone a way way way
He ate too many skinny French fries...

Can't remember the rest.
It was much better than Elvis is Dead by Peter and the Test Tube Babies, which was a dirge by comparison. Peter used to stand at the front of the crowd at Joby and the Hooligans gigs like a disciple wearing a yellow hard-hat like the one Joby wore (except Joby's was white). He really liked Joby a lot.
I just had to delete something there, about what happened when Joby went to the pub and the landlord refused to serve him 'cos he had a safety pin though his nose. I'm sure Joby remembers the punishment he inflicted on the pub.
What a rambling evening I'm having. There's nothing on TV at the moment; I am sulking because I lost so many songs on my mobile and I'm trying to remember them. I like that programme about the choir man and the boys school. It reminds me a lot of what I do sometimes. I keep wanting to join in and then I realise I'm in the kitchen eating a banana and not there in the school hall with the smell of sweaty feet and a hundred yukky sweaty schoolboys.
I haven't got a London gig till May; I think I will ask Les if I can play at Northern Celts. I wonder when Tom gets back from New York? I want to hear the finished mixes of the album and send it off to Rob at Voiceprint. I'm thinking aloud now. I've got a new felt pen that's a nice shade of grey, sort of airforce blue. I wish I had some chocolate, Lindt milk chocolate from the fridge or a Snickers.
You know, if you make Magnum Classics very very cold indeed, the chocolate doesn't fall off when you eat them?

Friday, February 08, 2008


By the way, I found my glasses on Wednesday, on top of a piano.

Roadwarrior returns, triumphant but tired

It was a 500-mile round trip.....
Ah, it was a bit of a slog on the way up there- it took me an hour to do 38 miles and I almost gave up and went home; but just as I got dispirited, along came Aretha on the iPod, and off I went again.
The M1 is a bugger of a road; one-headlight bashed cars belting along in the fast lane at 100, articulated lorries trying in vain to overtake each other in the middle lane, and men in white vans with issues aggressive-tailgating with chronic headlightflash syndrome.
The AA routefinder did me proud and I got there only 20 minutes late, to be greeted by the friendly RPM people. Yo Yo is a massive trendy restaurant with lots of glass surfaces and coloured leather bucket seats; it was a warm crowd and I REALLY enjoyed singing after all that just sitting in the car and driving. There was a chordspotter in the audience, watching my left hand, which was hugely flattering.
The other band was The Girl With The Replaceable Head, whose guitarist used to play with the Geordie band Hurrah. I had to leave halfway through their set to set off for home but I did like their songs- bittersweet lyrics sung by a female guitarist/singer, and thrashy distorted guitar from the Hurrahguy. I hope I get to play with them again because I'd like to see and hear more of what they do.
I had been worried that it was a stupid and mad thing to do, to drive all that way, but I am glad that I did. It was a really unusual place to play; for a performer, it was great because the promoter, Julian, who also DJs, was well-organised and welcoming, and the sound was good, and the crowd was mellow- a bit talky at times but they clapped thunderously enough to make the ego twinkle. Even some of the eaters put down their knives and forks to clap.
I pelted home, fuelled by some of the most disgusting coffee in the universe (shame on you Welcome Break- just because it's after midnight doesn't mean the travellers' tastebuds have all turned to pumpkins). I drew up outside the house (not mine, some berk had pinched my parking space) at 1.45, which was pretty good; it had been just me and a hundred giant lorries plodding along on the way back. And Aretha, of course.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


After work at the University of the East, I shall hop into my car and drive up to Bradford for a gig at Yo Yo restaurant in Shipley.
What an adventure!
I'm driving back afterwards, a proper truckdrivin' girl, and I will probably sleep all day tomorrow.
I have got clementines to eat and a bottle of Day Nurse to drink because I am on the edge of a streaming cold which I'm praying doesn't kick in till the weekend when I can laze and snivel to my heart's content.
It's very exciting to go off on an expedition by myself like this, but I'm trying to slow my excitement motor down a little so I can pace myself until the journey is finished.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008


I put the finished version of Memento Mori with cello and fiddle on it, up on Myspace a second ago.
I am playing in Shipley tomorrow!

Cold Poem by the River

I had a long drive back from Chollerford to Docklands yesterday, almost seven hours, but I was in such a good mood; it was a weekend of animators, teachers and musicians, with facilitators and motivators, all bubbling away. I had to miss the last morning; it was so difficult to tear myself away because they made a film with music and I heard that everybody loved it!
The whole experience was a bit like being part of a ball of gas just about to turn into a planet, or perhaps a planet just about to turn into a ball of gas. Probably, I shouldn't write more about it; I don't want to break any spells.But I do have one strong abiding memory- standing by the river with a chilly bunch of people, singing, looking at the sky in the cold sunshine and one of the people( Robson Green lookalike, you know who you are!) just saying
'Well, I thought,
Quick fish
Silver in the river
Pink on my dish'