Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sorry about that rant.
I am feeling that England is a very hostile place at the moment. This morning, a man who lives down the road was walking his dog. I was standing on the wall, cutting the hedge, and although the dog was on a lead, he allowed it to leap up and bite my leg. I have got scratches and a bruise. I see the man almost every day, and I feel that he must know his dog is aggressive, and should muzzle it. What if that had been a child's face?
I am an odd person out in this street because I am not dressed in beige with beige thoughts and a Daily Mail under my arm. Was he expressing his own hostility through his pet?

Songwriting Workshop, 26th June to 28th June

Here are the details of the Songwriting Workshop
Venue: Friar's Carse Hotel, Dumfries
Tutors: Martin Stephenson, Scott MacDonald, Helen McCookerybook
Cost: £260.00 including accomodation, meals and all tuition
Call Andrew Bailey 07778 558015 to book, or go to


I drove through Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire on Friday, through some of the most beautiful countryside I have seen, green and tufty and lush. On the borders of the two counties were huge billboards, put up by farmers, I suspect, exhorting passing trade to 'Vote UKIP'. I didn't pay much attention to the first few, as it is a party definitely not for me so it's a waste of time reading them.
Then one really did catch my eye- 'Say no to immigration between European States'. Eh? It was almost as though whoever has put up the boards decided to slip that one in, thinking nobody would notice.
Isn't that rather BNP of UKIP? Is it the posh people's National Front?
I thought about my oldest offsprog's Maths Tutor, a proudly Jewish man whose slightly 1970s-ish photograph appeared on a pamphlet put through the door at the last General Election, declaring him to be our local UKIP candidate. If these slogans were to be believed, the Jewish people persecuted by Hitler would have had to stay put and be massacred in even greater numbers.

Come on, human race!
Just because an unacceptable number of our elected politicians have been gorging at the trough, that doesn't mean we can all let rip with the most disgusting and dirty politics possible. Is is not the time for a little personal morality? I mean, right from the politicians, who seemed to think that 'just because nobody said they shouldn't' and because 'everyone else was doing it'
(and that means you too, sanctimonious Cameron), they could exploit us, the electorate, and steal our taxes for their moats, kid's residences and other expenses that most of us can only imagine; to us, the voters, who need to remember that we are adults and not spiteful children who despise anyone who is not like us.
Conservatives? Greedy hypocrites, feathering their own nests as always. Labour? Stalled, stuck, exhausted. Liberals? trying to jump on to a bandwagon with inappropriate political baggage. I will vote at the election, but will have to think long and hard about where I pencil my grey cross.
Rant over.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Harumphing and wheezing, the bin lorry inches down the road, its cluster of fluorescent men calling to each other in bin-language as they trundle the bins back and forth.
I've already been sitting on a stone in the garden with my toes in the grass, eating a bowl of cereal in the sunshine. I mowed the grass last night and it's soft and scratchy at the same time like a crew cut, with lots of bits of chopped up leaf and daisy scattered about. I raked the clippings into two huge piles but I must have missed some.
Alas, today is housework day and the sun will be shining to itself this morning while I mop the floors and roar round with the hoover. It's dastardly beams will illuminate all the dust I'm missing and all the circles of sticky cup-traces, and drifts of cat fur on the wooden floor (how come she can lose so much fur and still be so furry?).
This house is like a living being that excretes massive quantities of dust.
What does it eat to make this happen?
I've been checking my extremities and I'm still complete.
I can only think that a dust-spreader comes in through the cat flap at night and scatters handfuls of stodgy grey stuff in the corners, flinging handfuls of the tiny glittery stuff into the air at dawn.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Blue Violin

A visit to TK Maxx did wonders for my toothache today. I shall spend the evening drawing, and listening to the birds singing in the garden, before another onslaught of marking tomorrow. Even though there is double the amount that I had to do last year, it is somehow simpler as my home life is simpler.
It is a bit like suddenly wearing a very clear pair of reading glasses after peering through fog and being surrounded by wasps!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Island Records 50th Birthday Party

My Champagne Friend was coming to tea so I'd loaded up on Millionaire's Shortbread and scones, but I'd got wind of some tickets to the ISland Birthday Concert in the Shepherd's Bush Empire, and sure enough they were there when I picked up my next load of marking from the University of the West.
We tubed it down there, being confidently directed to the new West somethingorother shopping centre by the tube assistant who didn't listen and assumed we were going shopping, and hung around as the crowds gathered, having got there massively early as we're not used to going to Big Things. A nice girl gave us tags to hang round our necks to get in to the after-party, and told me my ear-rings were Tanzanian. Adrian Sherwood was playing some interesting music, surrounded at the front of the stage by a clutch of Sherwood-a-likes.
we knew that Kid Creole was playing, and Sly and Robbie, and much later on, Grace Jones. We also knew there was no way we would be able to stay till then, so we would take whatever came and see what it was.
An MC with an uncanny resemblance to Mr Burns strode on and whipped up the crowd, and on bounced Kid Creole and the Coconuts, colourful, happy and busy. August Darnell is a consummate entertainer (although I've never liked his songs, which are not a patch on those by his brother Stoney Browder Junior who ran Dr Buzzard's Original Savannah Band). Kid Creole and the Coconuts released a clutch of duff singles in the 1980s, with thin, hard production that did nothing for the fantastic variety of instruments and musicians in the group, with not even Darnell himself sounding any good.
Live, though, they are great, almost like a holiday camp band with an emphasis on the camp, and a bit too smutty for the children! The jokes about cocnuts wore thin, but Darnell was wearing a fantastic bright purple Zoot Suit and flirted with the audience, all dimples and smiles, and showed what an influence on Prince he had been. The Coconuts were dour and tarty, never smiling, looking like a bunch of shop asissistants from Manchester; that's probably what they were supposed to look like, I think. There was a great horn section, and the energy coming from the stage was powerful, positive and dancey.
they came back for an encore, with a cute girl singing My Boy Lollipop, and then vanished back to Sweden in a puff of charisma.
Mykaell Riley, who had got us the tickets, turned up fresh from a rehearsal with Steel Pulse, who are playing there tonight. He was buzzing and excited, zooming about to see all the people he'd got tickets for.
The Rasta grandpappys started gathering, huge, huge hats with a lifetime's dreadlocks tucked into them, and serious grey beards. The smell of ganja permeated the area, though no smoke was visible. It was time for Sly and Robbie!
What they lacked in visual impact they more than made up for with the power of their music- it was crisp, deep, even, you name it, the bassiest bass, the clickiest snare, and with a guest trombone player with the richest, fattest tone, you've ever heard. I love Sly and Robbie and they didn't disappoint. None of their grooves were self indulgent, which is what makes them so great- economy and musical wisdom. What a fantastic thing to get to hear!
It was time to go home. And it's time for me to go to the dentist as I have the most appalling tooth ache.
One last thing that made me very happy. My Champagne Friend told me her teenage kids think Lily Allen sounds like me!
(in that order!)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Queen's Park Festival

Phew! I've just flown back from Glasgow and feel like a veritable jet-setter!
I got up stupidly early yesterday morning and was out of the house and on the road to Stansted within 20 minutes- I normally get up early and hang around for ages when I'm journeying but but decided to just get up and go.
I marvelled at how cheap it was to get from Prestwick to Glasgow and from Glasgow to Queen's Park where the festival was. It was hot in London and cold in Glasgow- and deserted too, because both Celtic and Rangers were playing.
The streets resounded to the cacophony of the day's busking bagpipers tuning up- one on every corner!
So audience at the festival was few and far between. Mary Kathleen Burke played first- she has a lovely strong country voice and a set of country flavoured songs. She's a big Richard Thompson fan, and managed to attract a crowd by inviting everyone in who peered in the flaps of the tent. There were pushchairs and dogs (I've decided to write some songs specifically to attract dogs to empty festival tents in the hope that their owners will follow!).
I was interested to watch the way she picked her guitar- this is how I learn, by watching other people; she is very versatile as a guitarist. At the end of her set she rushed off to do her radio show and it was my turn.
I was nervous because my guitar wasn't there, but it materialised just before I had to borrow Lorna's (kindly brokered by Tam Balloch, the organiser) and I too played to dogs, pushchairs, two little girls and a man in a kilt who told me he was a hippy. Actually, I loved it- I could see out through the door from the stage and I sang to a child in the distance doing cartwheels (how free, free, free!) and a few birds too. far away, the people with drums down the hill were attracting the sparse crowds; uphill (yes, that was another factor) us ladies in the acoustic tent only had our melodies and our smiles to entertain with.
We did our best; Lorna Brooks has beautiful melodies and a voice that reminds me of Rita Coolidge. She played some songs that made me wish it was me that had written them! They were like sculptures of chords and melodies, and very fluidly put together. Her mum was there, smiling along.
Martin came (he'd been minding the guitar) and we went for a cut-price curry from the Shimla Pink stall in the Glass House, a wonderful building full of plants, reptiles, amphibians and birds. I saw a mynah bird. 'That sort of bird can talk', I told Martin. A little girl over heard me, and asked her mother if the frogs could talk too. We left just as a flock of belly dancers appeared in gold-pleated costumes, bellies wobbling in anticipation.
The evening streets were flooded with Rangers fans celebrating their triumph with large flags and loud voices who had attracted a stern and bustling following of the Glasgae Polis.
This morning, I flew back from Glasgow Airport, surely the only airport in the world with a Greggs in the departure lounge!
I was browsing the underwear in La Senza, and a creepy man was bellowing to his mate in the entrance on his mobile.
'Ah sed to 'er, you can't stop all the girls from looking at me!'.
I think I was supposed to look at him at that point but I went to Greggs and bought a pasty instead.
(I didn't really, but you get the idea!)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Southside Festival, Glasgow

This Sunday I'm returning to the land of my forebears and playing in the acoustic tent at the Southside Festival. I am really looking forward to this. The performance time will be 2.15 to 3.00 and I think it is going to be sunny and lovely.

I am hoping that many members of the McCookerybook clan turn up. We are a rare breed, seldom spotted in polite company, but surely they will turn out to support one of their own?


What's this? National Marmite Museum? I imagined vats of black gloop, ponging of seaweed and salt.
Alas, I was mistaken.
The ad read 'National Maritime Museum'
O poo.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Two Little Girls and Me

What a shock to find that I was
Just a woman like my Mum
Nothing special, nothing magic
Cells dividing in my tum

Les deux fillettes et moi
Les deux fillettes et moi

Deep within
The animal in me made a baby once and twice
Into daylight
Monkey faces, paper skin and tiny cries

Les deux fillettes et moi
Les deux fillettes et moi

Taller now than me
They tell me
'Never me, oh no not me!'
Will they ever take the step to make a chain through history?

Les deux fillettes et moi
I wonder if they will?
Les deux fillettes et moi
Les deux fillettes et moi

Music/song at

Sweet Saviour Drawing

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Songwriting Weekend in Dumfries

There are one or two spaces still available on the Songwriting Weekend at the Friar's Carse Hotel in Dumfries on 26/27/28 June this year. It is a beautiful place, where the Guitar weekends are held. The tutors are Martin Stephenson, Scott MacDonald and myself and last year's one was huge fun.
You don't have to know anything about songwriting or singing but it does help if you have a guitar and some basic chords.
To find out more, message Andrew Bailey at

A Moment of Sadness

For some strange reason this morning I remembered the moment at which I realised as a pre-teenager that I no longer wanted to play with my toys.
It was a strange, almost physical sensation matched with a feeling of loss and a feeling of confusion.
What was going to replace the centre of my life?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Blue and Pink

It's been one of those slightly blue days but there's been enough of a pink blush around the edges to prevent a trip down misery alley. I sent off a design for Hamilton Square badges- square of course!- for the launch on the 19th June. It's my drawing, treated by Kieran who did the cover design.
We have sold some advance tickets already, which is good. It's a tiny intimate venue, very sweet, and I am looking forward to that gig.
I finished another illustration yesterday too, for Martin's lyrics (above).
This evening I've been delving into a dusty basket of videos as Gina wanted the copy of the film she made for Voxpop Puella. i found it, and also a video of me and Paul in Berlin which I will get digitised. it's from 1991 when we went over to play for the celebration of Berlin's City of Culture status. i also found a funny little film made by some school children about ginger-haired people that I did music for, Actually, the whole sound track as the film maker just didn't turn up. I had to pretend to be Cilla Black- or at least make Cilla-type noises, and Michael Jackson too I think. Ha Ha! I used to like doing film soundtracks.
Roll on tomorrow, roll on sunshine!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Boring little stories like that are called Bories.

Percy Pig Cakes

One of my songwriting students told me his Grandmother sends him Percy Pig cakes in a box every so often.
I wondered about this.
Does she put the Percy Pigs on afterwards or does she bake the cakes with the Percy pigs on them so they melt?
At his final lesson, I had to ask him, as I did not want to carry this unresolved question with me throughout the summer.
'Ahem', I said at the end of the lesson as the others were stacking the red plastic chairs, 'How does your Grandmother put the Percy Pigs on top of the cakes? Does she do this before or after she has cooked them?'
He looked stunned.
'How did you know my Grandmother sends me Percy Pig cakes?'
"You told me a few weeks ago'.
He looked incredibly relieved.
Kindly, he explained that the Pigs were put on afterwards, on top of the icing.
'She sent me some yesterday, in fact. Delicious. I have eaten them all already'.

An Excellent Way of Avoiding the Housework

Unfold laptop. Boot up Garageband. Plug in guitar. Record song.
Two new songs on Myspace this avo, no housework done.

I Heart Eurovision!

What fun! Eurovision! I even bought the CD one year, but this year was specially good because a lot of the songs were actually good.

Moscow had spared no expense- extraordinary suspended swimming pools descended from the ceiling (whose strange fetish was that?) and Graham Norton was lost for words (a rare event) for quite a while as the excesses of the Russians out-camped even his scalding wit.

First on was Lithuania, a trembling, fey young wisp of a lad in a hat with a forgettable wisp of a song; they came thick and fast after that.
France, with the microphone switched to 'guttural' (I wouldn't like to have gone on after that one, phlegm central!).
Sweden, nodding in the general direction of Donna Summer's I Love You, complete with out of tune singing bit, but actually I loved that one.
Armenia, with a shimmering and throbbing backing track, inventing a new time signature specially for the night and with sporadic hits of disco chordery (was that the dark spangled sisters with flat hats? I forget, I forget).
The Russian billionaire's daughter came on with a first: standing still while singing! Again, there were more Boney M references here too.
The Moldovan woman tried to swallow the microphone as sampled trumpets skedaddled about in the background and four men in braces and skirts skipped in synchronised splendour around her.
Irritating, Irritating! The beat, beat, beat and the screech, screech, screech of string arrangements, over and over again...
Here's Germany, a song with too many different bits, trying to be Louis Jordan, featuring Dita Von Teese doing nothing much and a bunch of ejaculating fireworks at the end, the anxiety and desperation on the backing musicians' faces giving the game away!
Everyone bellows 'ThankYOOOOOO!' at the end, ever-louder and more protracted.
Here's Norway, a proper song sung by a young lad who looks like he means it, and showing up the artificiality of everything that has come before, full of joie de vivre! Later I discovered that he wrote this song, and although he's mocked for the lyrics, he knows what he means, and so obviously do the punters who voted him into the number one place. I almost voted this time, and for this song.
Our turn comes: the slurpelicious Lloyd Webber is there behind the piano, vibeing away at Jay, who sings well, knocking one of the violinist's elbows as she descends the panto stairs in unfeasibly high heels. She is pretty and fresh, but singing a middle-aged song. How silly! I do hope Sir Andrew behaved himself with this one, if you know what I mean.

What's this? The Russian cosmonauts in outer space! 'We are telling you what to do for a change', observes one of them, wryly.
They are on-air to open the phone lines for voting. This is something that surely can not be out-done by anyone, anywhere, ever again! Wow! Eurovision becomes Space-o-vision!!!
Well and truly Eurovizzed for another year, i didn't bother to watch the voting for long. The best man definitely won, and showed the other countries that though they are fielding contestants who layer on the spangles, the theatre, the trained voices, the special effects, the 'best' songwriters, in the end simple enthusiasm and youth win hands-down with the public, which is exactly how Eurovision should be!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Assorted Items

Last night's gig at Viva Viva was an oddball one. There was hardly anyone there- the venue has been taken over and hence the last minute nature of things. The new promoter is really nice and bought us all drinks (a first for Viva Viva I think).
Rowen was in her element- her voice is sounding great. She has a huge voice in her tiny frame and sings spot-in-tune all the time which is incredible. Not being a piano-player, I am full of admiration for the way people can play and sing at the same time- a bit like complicated driving or something. Rowen also has a way with words- 'champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends' was a phrase that particularly caught my ear!
Her songs are like short, dark stories, full of rhythmic changes and little details in musical punctuation that make them stand far above the crowd. It was a real pleasure to hear her play a full set.
I wasn't so impressed with me. After a week of injuries (eye op on Monday followed by a horrible tummy bug that meant I had to retreat home from work on Tuesday and go back in today to catch up), I played a below-par performance. It was still good to have done it though, as the sound in Viva Viva is great and it's always good to be able to hear what's going on.
Diana turned up for the last song, bless her little cotton socks!
I was hoping to go to the Rodchenko and Popova exhibition today (it ends tomorrow) but I'm feeling too feeble. I was going to go to Borough Market too. Instead, I will sit at the table and listen to some of the 52 songs I have to grade. If it's nice tomorrow I might go to the V&A in my best clothes and pose. If not, I will sit in the kitchen in my dungarees and com-pose. Much the same thing, in some people's books!

Time, and Fan Club

When I worked in a greetings card and picture framing shop in Brighton called Gallery 57 (see how they mixed Gallery 5 and Heinz 57!), I did a sort of 'audit' of how I spent my waking hours. I was horrified to find that I spent an hour more at work than I had to myself, and furious that they could buy my precious time so cheaply.
So every morning I started to rise an hour earlier, dawdling along the Brighton seafront at seven o'clock in the morning, looking at the sky, the pebbles and the passers-by just so i got more on my day to myself.
In the evenings I drew gigantic pictures, spreading the paper out flat on my floor and watching a little portable black and white TV with the sound turned down.
Or I scribbled songs into a battered lined red book with a blotchy biro.
I had no phone and ate half a loaf of MOther's Pride a day, brought to me early by Dave MacDonald who was working in a bed'n'breakfast down the road. He brought a hand full of teabags, sometimes some eggs and milk, and even once or twice some hot bacon wrapped in foil.
Dave was the lead singer and co-songwriter of Fan Club, a truly anarchic Brighton band who wrote the most magical songs. Dave used to snarl them in his Scottish accent while Pete dodged about the stage, tossing his long fringe from his eyes, wringing the neck of his Vox guitar to produce the most amazing and catchy guitar riffs and lines. He was a little ball of pent-up energy, mocking himself as he posed and strutted, and laughing silently at Dave's outrageous antics. Sticky buns would fly across the Alhambra, lodging in the barman's hair; Dave would slag off all the other Brighton bands with a massive pantomime wink. Of course, this would be reported back to the other bands, minus the wink, so lots of people hated them. But actually, they rivalled Smeggy and the Cheesey Bits (who they pre-dated) for the title of the Best Band in Brighton.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Small and Self-Indulgent Moan

The problem with working in an academic institution for a person like me is that you never feel that you ought to be there in the first place.
You never feel good enough.
There is always somebody doing something much cleverer than you, with a smirk.
I have battled with feelings of inadequacy for the entire time that I have been lecturing, not so much with the students, who when I first started appreciated my honesty as I read the complicated books that I knew nothing about alongside them, but with my colleagues, who seemed to set about mystifying the obvious with relish.
I know they are brilliant in their worlds, I know they are.
But I feel like a silly child who tries to join in adult conversations without understanding the rules of engagement.
Sometimes people I know tell me that this is because the other academics,too, are insecure, and that their cool demeanour is a veneer to hide their own insecurities.
I used to like working in a shop. I worked with friends (who I still know even 30 years later).
We made tea, sold things and counted up the money at the end of the day.
We talked about proper things and didn't try to steal each other's jobs or spoil each other's day. At least, not too much!
I am looking forward to the day when what I do to earn my living is simpler, and I don't trip over other people's ambition on the way to the loo!

Last Mineeet Gig

Viva Viva restaurant, Hornsey High Street, N8, Thursday 14th May (tomorrow)
I'm on at 9 p.m. for 45 minutes
Nice food, good sound, more acts on too.

Beaten at Own Game

I opened the letter to Ms Cakebread, thinking it to be a joke from a pal.
It was a real letter for a girl down the road, delivered to me in error.
Mirror mirror......

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hamilton Square

Martin has been working away in Scotland to sort out the CD
We will be doing a launch at the Perseverance in Shroton Street, Nprth Marylebone
It's tiny so if you want to come along please get tickets now
We'll be playing our own sets plus music from the CD
Hope you can come along!


For years, years, years I have looked on my computer keyboard for the symbol for a half. I have wondered what clever combination of keys will conjure up the fractions. I have worried and pondered.
this morning, it came to me, first thought of the day:
Ha ha!

Monday, May 11, 2009


When dinos drummed the earth
And dactyls skimmed the sky
Their stone eggs, they gave birth to bones for you and I
To dream about the past
To dream about the past
A steam-soaked landscape, murky marshes, roaring waterfalls
Ancient forests, crashing trees and distant creature calls
Dream about the past
Dream about the past
To dream

I from distant safety see
I fly, oh I fly
With the landscape under me.

O if I lived in prehistoric times, well I would die
Masticated, torn to shreds in the twinkling of an eye
I wouldn't last a day
I wouldn't last a day
The scent of human blood would tantalise the hungry crew
And when they' polished me off, well they'd surely start on you
You wouldn't last a day
You wouldn't last a day
No way, no way.

We should thank our lucky stars
To be alive in this century of ours

A relatively safe time
No dinosaurs.

Song circle this morning, possibly outside drinking lemonade left over from yesterday when the family came round. We sat in the sun on foldy wooden chairs and some chairs from the kitchen and ate salad and cakes (I ate four).
Sarah brought stickers that said '50' to go on the wheelie bin in case anyone pinches it again. Thank you Sarah!
Andy brought round a green Gnasher t-shirt, perfect for gardening in and scaring away the black and white cat that sneaks in and sprays on my guitar cases when I'm not looking. And the orange cat that comes frog-hunting at the sad little pond a foot square at the back of the garden, still big enough for frogs, and once a newt (how'd dat get there?)
If only it would work on the pesky little grey moths that flutter past in my peripheral vision, heading for my dear green duffel coat that I have had for a million years. If you clap your hands beside them, they become stunned and flutter to the floor.
Cruel perhaps, but I do make tasty little pies out of them and nosh them in the evenings with a pint of spider-leg beer.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


When I was about eight I went to Brownies in Ovingham. My friend's Dad used to drive us there from Wylam in his old, old Rolls Royce, an ancient car that he was doing up from scratch: he would work on it at weekends and bank holidays. It was a veteran car, really, and often didn't work but it managed to get us there and back on Tuesdays.
One balmy summer evening I was sitting next to him in the front seat as he drove us there and the window-winding handle beside me started revolving all by itself, and wound the window down right to the bottom.
I sat and watched it, assuming that this was a normal sort of thing in an old car like that.
'How did you do that?' gasped Mr Valentine, 'That handle's been stuck fast ever since I got this car and I haven't been able to move it at all!'.
I hadn't touched it.
Do you think it was a ghost?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Good Day

That wasn't such a bad day was it? After approximately two hours sleep last night following a lovely dinner with Lucy O'Brien (I think it was all the stuff we were talking about, mulling it over in my head), I was dreading today's songwriting final session. They each have to play two songs and it always blows me away. It's just the variety- and the dedication too.
Once or twice, I have cried at these things.
A Russian girl, singing in Russian about missing her mum in Moscow; a girl singing about a death in the family just a few days after my father in law died; and one year, a song about the sea by a tough-looking hip hop chappie that was just so powerfully and poetically beautiful it seemed to fill the room with underwater light as though we were sitting in an aquarium, listening in the dappled gloom.
One delighted student today had visited L.A. Strings, absolutely The Best guitar repair and care place in all London run by two mega-enthusiastic guitar-builders, one tall, one small, who mend guitars with skill and love and who are full of stories. They should have their own ten-minute TV show every Saturday evening at tea-time. Within days, every household would have bought a guitar, their enthusiasm is so infectious!
So this afternoon was fun; a few shaking fingers on guitar strings, a few nervously quavery voices, a few technical hitches, but some lovely songs, and one which I couldn't get out of my head on the way home, it was so beautiful.
As we said goodbye, I thought how much I will miss them. They stacked the orange chairs for the last time, caught their guitar necks in their gig-bags in the self-closing doors on the way out as they have done every week since January, and that was it for another year.
On the way out, Jim offered to record more songs with me this summer.
I sense a third album on the horizon!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Stuff stuff

Bugger the endless lists of things to do! Stuff the responsibility! The pressure, the bills, the washing, the emails, the fears, the worries, the lot of it!
I've just spent 2 hours recording a song and it was FUN. I glared at the cats when they looked at me with that challenging look: "I am going to ruin your recording!'.
I left in all the imperfections as there wasn't time to fix 'em.
It is 'Gotta Have a Heart' and it's on Myspace.
It sounds like a love song but what inspired it was being badly let down by someone who thought they were virtuous who was supposed to be working with me and who pulled out for what they claimed were noble reasons. I turned it into a love song because that took the sting out of the situation.
One day I will record a posh version but common will have to do for now.
I put a photo of some red clogs from a charity shop. I have decided to photograph things rather than buy them in future, as it's cheaper and it means I will be able to pay the gas bill!
Now it's time for a sun-break, out to sniff the suburban air and listen to everybody's lawn mowers.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Exhausted by DIY repairs on Saturday and Sunday and a large pile of essay marking, I retired last night only to be kept awake by a song that nagged me to be finished. It may end up as a Helen and the Horns song because it's got an extra bit that doesn't need words. It's a bit of a Dusty Springfield song, except that I have to admit playing it to Burt Bacharach in my imagination and him adjusting it radically with a spanner and a mole-wrench and making it into a proper song, and my face falling with the realisation that I just haven't got what it takes (aha! that sounds like a song title!)
Hamilton Square has taken off and will be released on 19th June- we are doing a launch at the Perseverance in North Marylebone (in the street that has the Sea Shell on the corner) and we'll be selling tickets for that online, I'll let you know when.
Work today- both daytime and evening. Thank God I made some soup yesterday, as when I get in I will be too tired to speak, but not too tired to slurp.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Street Toadstool

Look at this street-toadstool. I saw it in Deptford the other day. I think urban fungi like this will soon be springing up everywhere, and this is probably just the first sighting.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sheds, and the Shapeley

This is Sandie Owen's picture of Martin and myself at the Perseverance- it looks a bit like a Dutch Interior! I really like it.
I've been in the shed again this morning, this time with a face mask on account of the rat droppings.
I found and cleaned up an old wooden bass guitar case, hoeing the rotten foam from inside it. I'll hoover the rest out on a rainy day; I got distracted and started hoeing the weeds instead after a while. Before that I did manage to collect all the paint tins together, tidy up the garden tools so the lawn mower actually fits in, and throw away all sorts of rubbish. None of this stuff even belongs to me, hardly. I am not sure what will happen to it, but at least it's tidier. Another weekend and it will be sorted out.
Next up I'm going to photograph a whole load of clothes to put on eBay. It's no good pretending clothes fit when they don't. I was born without a waist, and vintage clothes were made for woman-shaped women; I can't wait the rest of my life in the vain hope of becoming an hourglass, so off they go to the shapely!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Here's another drawing. I usually upload them and then realise they don't look finished and go back to the drawing board (quite liderally).
I've been clearing out the garden shed. There are masses of everything- about six used paint trays, lots of broken and rusty garden tools, two old fish tanks, loads and loads of half-finished pots of paint, sheets of plastic (thick and thin), two sets of jump-start leads, empty seed packets (carrot, parsnip, tomato), two broken badminton rackets, a skateboard, bin bags with rollerblades in, two broken bicycles, a real cow bell on a leather strap (my manager Claudine nicked it from a poor cow in the Pyrinees who is still probably wandering around lost to this day), rat droppings aplenty, plant pots and lots of bright green plastic containers with spray nozzles and torn-off coloured labels which could be insecticide, fungicide, leaf-shine, fertilizer, sky-perfume, magic rinse, daisy-dinkums, sonic weep, fizz-blattle, good happenings squirt or calming foot lotion.
All or none of those things.

Katy and Nadya Having Fun

Friday, May 01, 2009

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad.

How could I be so stupid? Visiting a student on a work placement in Creekside, Deptford turned into a three-hour journey after my search on Transport for London's journey planner for Creek Road, a long road with no houses on it and hence, no numbers. After a lengthy tube journey, a lengthy bus journey and a mile's walk followed by a trawl through Deptford, so glum that I didn't even plunder the one pound shops in Church Street, I got to my destination, grinned like an ape for ten minutes till my teeth went dry and then went home again.
I broke into a sweat later at the thought of how everything I do happens the long way round, or the wrong way round.

It was Offsprog-2's birthday in the week. Poor Offsprog-2 spent the night before the big day with her head down God's Big White Telephone, throwing up after eating the same raw pineapple upside down cake that caused similar symptoms in Offsprog-1 the night before the interview in Brighton. So I made the cake today, big and chocolate, and opened a packet of writing icing to dribble patterns on the top. I gazed at the box, which said you could win ten pounds, or even £75,000, or some icing. "How stupid', I thought nastily, and opened the little brown packet inside. 'A fake ten pound note', I grumbled as it fell on to the kitchen floor amongst the small spiders. Actually, it was a real one. Isn't life peculiar?