Friday, July 31, 2009

Fine Sand

There's a small drift of sand on the rug at my feet, which is reapplying itself to their soles as I write; I washed off a large quantity, but this lot came from my socks. It's even scratching my wrists as I type.

West Wittering Beach is beautiful, that's why I brought some of it back with me, even if it was an inadvertent souvenir.
I escaped with Offsprog One from under the lid of grey cloud that stifled London, and patiently forbore the traffic jams to get there.
Funny, though- the beach was relatively deserted. The sand is fine, fine, fine, perfect for ploughing with hot toes, and the sea is shallow and warm, paddling temperature today rather than swimming temperature, but still, space and air and a light breeze to blow away any lingering London troubles.
We had strawberries and raspberries and... mini poppadums, of course.
McSis has a splendid tan, having carefully baked herself for a week while we were suffering drizzle in town. She had foldy chairs and a windbreak, and a pair of handy clip-on visors to keep the sun out of our eyes.
In the distance large blobs of grey materialised into ships and ferries, turning aimlessly and slowly wending their way over the horizon. Slow motion time, holiday time.

How nice it would be on a sunny winter's day to stretch out my arms an run from one end of the beach to the other- miles and miles of running on sand, busy doing nothing and going nowhere!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Essence of Yellow Fluorescence

My summer hols this year have consisted of ceiling-bathing so far. It's not bad, when the phone doesn't ring and the housework's done.

I saw a funny thing today. I was driving past a shop that sells workwear- fluorescent vests, chefs aprons, donkey jackets and so on.
Across the dual carriageway were about 15 policepersons, all in yellow fluorescent vests ('Police').
A small squad of under-tens were wobbling round the street corner on their bicycles, indicating left with timidly semi-outstretched arms, all dressed in yellow fluorescent vests ('Harrow Safety School').
And on the other side of the road was the refuse squad, in yellow fluorescent vests ('Refuse').
It was as though they'd all just popped to the shop in at the same time, put their vests on at once, and left to get on with the job.

Finally, I took this photo months ago at Barnet Police Station's Open Day. It was right in the middle of one of the Met's many race rows.


I had cracked even before dawn this morning, awaking to the sound of a vomiting cat on my bed. Never has a human sprung into action so quickly! Within a nanosecond I'd changed her location to the bedroom floor, but then of course I had to get up and clean it, in case I accidentally plodged through it when I got up.
If it's not clattering builder-next-door's radio at sunup, it's teenagers catching early buses at unfeasibly small hours, or the 'You stupid bugger pigeons'. Howyer supposed to get any sleep around here?
At least I played the chords and picking of Heaven Avenue on to my mobile, bluetoothed it to my computer and sent it to Martin this morning. He knows a man called Duncan who does tablature sheets and I may be able to make some sheet music for the song which I will do a nice vintage-style illustrated cover for. So I started the day creatively well.
I have about three songs on the go, none of which are much good but at least it's a tasty challenge. I'd hoped to be recording last week but the engineer's gone AWOL so the songs will have to stay in their box for a while longer.

How strange to have a Scottish summer in Greater London! Very good for the complexion, I find: No need for any 'Because I'm Worth It' stuff in exotic bottles. Just stick nose out of door and inhale deeply, then make yourself a nice mug of cocoa!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Also, Mr and Mme Friend told me that their brother was in Africa and ants started living in the screen of his computer!
Dell were so fascinated that they sent him a new screen for nothing!


I took Offsprogs One and Two to Whitstable yesterday afternoon, where some Friends are house-sitting. We had a lovely windy walk along the beach, each finding something of interest amongst the stones. There were lots of little crabs, some dark green, some beige and some pearly white, some grossly mis-shapen oyster shells and of course, lots of flintstones, which suddenly appeared as strange letters from a stone alphabet. Once I started looking, however, there didn't seem many; but walking away from the beach, there were hundreds. Just like buses, in fact.
I made two words- vocal and guitars. Everyone helped me find more letters, but we all had different ideas about what looked like a letter and what didn't.
Joan was finding stone seals, but some looked like slugs and some like chickens, depending on whose eyes were doing the looking. We did all agree on a finger-rest that everyone's pinky fitted into very neatly.
The beach was lovely, covered in wild sea-flowers and rimmed with precarious-looking clapboard houses. We sat outside a pub, the Neptune, and the wind blew beer and lemonade all over the place; under the table, their dog Millie burrowed down to find cold sand under the pebbles.
Later, we walked down Harbour Street. I went in a lovely shop called Pearl and Hemingway Vintage where they had some great hats, but not in the size I wanted unforchly. And a shop over the way had replica vintage ladies swimsuits in a frilly modest Fifties style.
The poor fish and chip man was having trouble remembering the orders; his assistant had an eye on the TV and didn't find it easy to wrap chips in paper at the same time. They couldn't hear the deafeningly loud body language of Mr Friend, who was building pressure by the minute to exploding point. After more than 30 minutes we finally emerged with warm soft bags of booty and went back to scoff them before home time, when we were blessed with a picturesque lazy glowing gold and red sunset to accompany us as Australian Satnav Man guided our journey.

It was Martin's birthday yesterday- Happy Birthday Martin!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Two Small Thoughts

1. Luncheon today was a bar of chocolate and some cherries
2. Two days ago a man opposite was lifting a bag of gravel from his car and he made a noise just like McDad with the effort of lifting, and I realised how much I miss hearing McDad's voice.


This is the guitar I bought while in a state of delirium last week and bidding away on eBay!
It needs a bit of love and attention, but it's certainly very pretty.
This afternoon after getting drenched in a sudden thunderstorm, I sat patiently with Garageband and worked out how to edit the soundwaves. I recorded a song called The Song of the Unsung Heroine and put it on Myspace. I think you can hear the edit points, which is annoying as I pressed 'conrol j' and stuck the regions together. Could just be that my computer is bursting with stuff and can't handle processing the track properly when it plays.
The sun's out now, all innocent.
Bah! I'm not going to get tricked again!

John Hegley and the Sybilline Sisters in Tottenham

It was another one of those quirky evenings: Tottenham Chances has an air of the Youth Club about it, or perhaps a little urban French bar venue. Razz and his partner were welcoming and Ingrid was already there, smiling serenely in her hat. The windows had been flung wide open to the intermittent rainstorms, and there was an air of infectious informality about the whole thing. There were a lot of familiar faces around: some I had seen at Boat Ting, others at various odd events around the place. Razz played a couple of songs to start with (the sound was appalling: not to self to take own microphone to gigs in future) followed by a gentleman who did a scary version of They're Coming To Take Me Away, Haha, a song I remember being played on Radio Luxembourg when I was a teenager, and I remember being scared out of my wits by it. He was a bit like a punkhead in a tweed jacket as he played some angry songs afterwards.
Whilst he was playing, a little rock drama was being played out in a brightly-lit doorway behind him: two self-important rock roadies, one with long blonde curls and jangly dangly keys in his pockets and the other bearded in a grubby boiler suit, loaded in a succession of rock instruments: bass drum; keyboard in flight case, bit by bit, from stage left to stage right, never seeming to go back again in the other direction. Perhaps there was a succession of lookalikes?
The panto effect was added to by the massive red rubber gloves jangly keysman was sporting.
I sang Three Maple Men, Heaven Avenue and almost all of Temptation before I blew the PA and felt like a punk rocker again!
There was a poet from Aberdeen called Alan English, who did rhythmical rhyming poems, one particularly good one about domineering men who choose partners that they can control (!), a powerful poem about powerful men.
I really enjoyed the Sybilline Sisters, Cybille from Boat Ting, backed by Kay and the woman who plays bass in The Children.
Cybille's poems are like mean, short little ads; the Sister's backing vocals are sometimes percussive, sometimes mewing, sometimes mooing, glissing and gliding behind her gutsy delivery. She snarls her poetry with a stuttering gothic tension that is like experiencing a LeFanu novel in front of your eyes and ears.
There was more, it was a delightful evening. John Hegley slipped in quietly and rummaged in his bag, emerging with a wad of dog-eared sheets. He wisely chose to perform off-mike, and started with a series of riddles that hooked everyone, no matter how world-weary or cynical they thought they were (yes, there are some haughty characters that end of Tottenham!). He performed quite a lot of French poetry, telling us his mother is French, and the highlight was a small play that he performed with a girl in the audience who was Swiss. He ran through the English translation first so we knew what it was all about (a pile of stones that could have been potatoes or even dog biscuits). A man in the audience got to be the dog at the end.

On the way home by car I got lost as usual. This time, however, I had a satellite navigation system in my bag, which I bought accidentally while looking for cheap computers on the internet.
I pressed 'Home', and indeed I got there.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Songs 2nite 4u

Chances, 299 Tottenham High Road
Poetry, songs...
John Hegley Headlining, me and others Underlining, free 2 get in

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Burn Rules Not Bras

I was at Gina's today, making a banner. She's doing a banner project and asking lots of female friends to make one for her. I started mine, embroidered on an old bra, which is going to hang from a cardboard Venus de Milo. We drank coffee and ate pasta and cherries, and I worked out the chords of a children's song for her daughter, who is learning guitar. It was lovely to hear all her news- there are lots of exciting things on her horizon- and to sit peacefully sewing as her white cat and her black cat wandered by.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Recording, Or Not As The Case May Be

On the baby's bottom on the baby's knee
Where will the David Dimbleby?
On the baby's bottom on the baby's knee
Just ask the BBC

What a relief, I can feel that I'm getting better.
The library books in their cloudy PVC covers have gone back to their mates on the 'Crime' shelves, secretly solving each other's cases when the world is asleep.

I tried to record a song on Garageband today but I'm not better enough for that yet- it's the patience you need, because it's so difficult to edit the soundwaves in comparison to Logic Audio. I did two versions of the song, one with a mirror-image guitar on another track and the two tracks panned left and right, which worked really well to swell out the guitar sound, but when I tried to apply the track-tune to them both, they went out of synch and phased horribly, and I just couldn't be fagged to sort it out.
So I ate an apple instead and conserved my energy for tomorrow, when I hope to go over to Gina's and spend a gentle morning sewing banners and catching up on her news.
On Thursday evening, I hope to go along to play some songs at a poetry evening in Tottenham. I think John Hegley will be reading some poetry, and I hope there will be lots of oddball musicians and poets there.

I'm looking forward to the weekend too, as I know I will be healthy as a Spring Chicken by then and will be bouncing and cheeping like nobody's business!

Monday, July 20, 2009


The day has been cheered by Anthony sending me this picture of a t-shirt he made in 1984 to come to a Helen and the Horns gig in North London. He came with some friends from school, all in home made t-shirts
I remember a guy called Alan making one another time- he gave me a book of bird illustrations that I've still got to this day.
And the Helen and the Horns fan club in Amsterdam, who made their own headed note-paper and wrote to John Peel on it.
And Pippa from Hampshire who used to write hilarious letters to me every week about things like her headmistress banning Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory because the Oompa Loompas were a racist concept.

There's a builder next door with his radio perma-tuned to Heart FM. What an awful station! Endless Lighthouse Family and other similar bands who think that singing droning melodies that consist of one note is fun.
He has a Nokia phone that punctuates the aural tedium with the well-known ringtone
Not even the 'You styoopid bugga' pigeons can beat that!

Someone's whacking a snare drum really hard in a house down the road. The wind's whispering in the trees and planes scrape across the sky every few minutes. Have I got the energy to go and get another library book?

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Bit of New Year's Resolution-type schadenfreude in that last posting (or could it just be greed?)
I logged off, logged on to eBay and made a 'closest offer' for a parlour guitar, and won it.
Really, I didn't spend much money but I don't need another guitar and I've actually been trying to sell my Epiphone Acoustic for a while.
Oh well...
I have been trying to give away my Victorian harmonium-with-a-limp too, unsuccessfully. Only one of the bellows works and I put it on Freecycle, receiving a massive resonse from people who mistook it for one of those nifty little Indian harmoniums that they could pop on the back seat of their car. Alas, this one is a bit of an elephant, albeit a beautiful one, and it's getting one last chance. I have offered it to Goldtop Studios, who have a line in vintage instruments (they have a Lesllie and a Wurlitzer and Ringo Starr's original drum kit). I swapped an accordion I bought in a charity shop (really expensive, actually, more than it wa sactually worth) for some studio time there a while back.
I am still waiting to hear from them.
Meanwhile, eBay is out of bounds, even for selling!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Inspired by the BA in Leisure and Tourism and the Dip. in Live Entertainment (and, some would say, the courses I teach on too), the McCookerybook University of Barnet is offering a special degree for those who are newly unemployed- the BA in Boredom Alleviation, or BABA for short.
Having spent many months, nay years, unemployed under the past Tory Administration, and having started many jobs only to have the funding rug pulled out from under my (their) feet, I feel I have real expertise to offer in this area.
Modules will cover such subjects as Crosswords and Sudoku, Getting the Most Out Of Your Library Book, Not Spending Money On eBay, Making Three Meals Out of One Tin of Beans, Noticing New Things on the Same Old Walk, and Looking Out Of The Window.
The course is validated by the local Jobcentre, which unfortunately closed down yesterday as the workers were laid off to save money. However, applications are already being taken for 2010 after a rush on places for September 2009.

Change the Subject

Virus, I'm ignoring you from now on-OK?

I was looking... I have more than enough songs for another album. But what sort of collection of songs? There are a bunch of cheerfully mindless ones (or should that be mindlessly cheerful?) or some darker songs. The trick is to pick'n'mix, but which, which, which?

A beautiful bunch of get-well flowers arrived yesterday afternoon, delivered by a woman who clearly loved her delivery job- she was terribly excited and smiling all over her face. I thought that was sweet, and I thought having flowers sent was sweet too! They are here beside me making me feel treasured and posh. I will put a dress on and waft about the house. I wonder if there is any Earl grey tea in the cupboard?

The four surfing teenage boys pas through again tomorrow. Offsprog One will have to deal with it all, and has been told that they must not be noisy at night (actually they weren't too bad at all). This time I have to do a check before they leave, as they were all set to go off having locked the toilet window open and lost the key.
I had to be military in my insistence that the key was found; you never leave the security-consciousness behind after living somewhere like break-in-a-minute Camberwell. Eventually, one of them found it behind the bins; it had tumbled out and hidden itself. What was the point of being cross? I was just relieved it had turned up because a new window would have cost a fortune that I don't have. It is modern and plastic, and most stuff like that, you can't get hold of just one part for, you have to replace the whole lot.

Another day of reading detective novels beckons. Was it me, was it you, was it him, was it her? I don't even care, frankly; it just passes the time until I'm better.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Virus Limbo

I've wrestled myself free from the triumphant cats who had me stapled to the bed. What bullies! I had to clean off their fluff with parcel tape a couple of days ago...
I haven't even got the energy to go and forage for snails in the holey hosta outside the kitchen door. Accidentally, I became an organic gardener and was removing the snails one by one, chucking the toffee-tinted cornucopias of splodge into the recycling bin with the brown lettuce leaves and burnt toast. So the hosta leaves, when I look out of the window, are getting ever more lacy....

Introverted things take up the days at the moment. Listening through the song seeds I'd planted in my mobile phone, I found some interesting ideas. A song from the point of view of an African woman, which I rejected as a patronising colonialist insult to Africans. I made it up line by line and there are four recordings; I can't make out what the chords are and I'd no idea I knew chords like that. Mysterious! It's a shame I can't use it like Billy Childish did with that song he write line by line in his kitchen, that features the sound f the cassette recorder being switched off at the end of each line.

There were recordings of the song the clients at Headway East wrote with me one morning- incredible, one hour last winter and a bunch f people in a little room overlooking the canal. Maybe I will look on the Internet to find out how to convert amr files into mp3s- they won't drop into Garageband unforchly.

I took myself off to Crete on holiday in my head, remembering the little fishes in the shallows of the Mediterranean, all colours, mixed and wriggling. And almond tart that I couldn't stop eating, and splashing about in cold water on a hot sunny day...

I've read two more Rebus novels; I must have read nearly all of them. I have an uneasy feeling that reading time should be spent with academic books but I left the two I checked out at the library of the University of the West in their library ( I hope, otherwise I've lost them and will have to cough up for them). But I could not get my head around anything complex at the moment, even though the suburban silence provides the sort of smooth space that's perfect for other people's words.

Today, I have to start cancelling next week's activities, starting with Monday. I don't seem to be getting any better yet. After writing this, I will go back to sleep, rocked by the lullabies of occasional cars and trucks humming past the window.

Good (day) night!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I was greeted by a huge bright yellow Jackson Pollock streak of cat vomit on the landing this morning, crowned with a tumbleweed of semi-digested grass: last thing I felt like cleaning up.
I have no energy! I went down to get the Vanish, opened the kitchen cupboard and a large jam jar and marble pestle and mortar that I found in the garden fell out and smashed to powder and mean-looking shards on the floor.
So that was two lots of clearing up, using tomorrow's low energy count as well as today's.

I have retired with my fourth John Rebus novel of the week, having read an interesting US West Coast private detective story and got halfway through a Bond novel and rejected it as being too bitty and boring, let alone the sexism, which is funny on screen but tedious in print.

Martin, the genius of Invergordon, has scored out the beginning chords of Heaven Avenue using Finale, the classical musician's software, and I am hugely grateful. It arrived this morning and has rescued the day.
Thank you Martin!

Back to the book and sleep. I am bored with being ill, especially being in a room with guitars.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Flock of Barbies

This flock of Barbies was resting in the Cancer Care shop before flying off to be rehomed somewhere.
I think the pink bookmark doll is looking after them; one or two of them look a bit embarrassed.

I've got flu, but not the swine sort. I have read three and a half detective novels since Monday and have run out. I'm trying to decide if I've got enough energy to go to the library; I did go out down to the school to pick up a big photo of me and Dan dojng the Rubbish Rockers Song Club, with the Mayor there in his big chunky gold neckwear. This is because I am planning a Big Project and I'm collecting all the photos and so on, so I can show how it all works. The Deputy Head told me the children have been singing the Change Change song that Martin and myself wrote with them, in assembly.
It's sad, the little school is closing down and they are throwing a lot of stuff away in skips- big wooden panda bookshelves, plastic boxes. There's a beautiful applique on the wall in the hallthat the children have done with an applique football team and applique children sitting in a circle in a hessian classroom.

Doing this posting has exhausted me. I am going to sit for a while lumbered by a cat. They love it when I am ill because they can sit on me and be extra heavy so I don't move. I am stuck indefinitely, until I've collected the strength to tumble them off and stand up, so they can't lock me to a seat any more!

Ferret and Vole: Promoters!

It looked a like a forbidding place from its picture on the Internet, but it was a lovely sunny day; I set off, and sat in a traffic jam for a while on the M25 as usual, and another one on the A?, getting there just before Martin, who was about 10 minutes behind, having travelled all day from Northtown.
Littletown was actually a picturesque village full of antique cottages and pretty gardens.
A Ferret greeted me at the door of the venue.
'You must be Helen', he said. 'Where's Martin?"
I told him Martin was following behind.
'This is Vole', said Ferret, 'and this is Nice Man'.
'There's a great artist on the bill tonight: Craig… I saw him play in Bigtown last night, he was brilliant! There are all these teenage girls who love him, they have seen him on Youtube, and they're all turning up to see him here later on. Craig's in the dressing-room already.'
I went to get my guitar, and took it into the dressing room to meet Craig.
'I've just got back from New York' said Craig.
I thought about my drive over from Suburbnorth-Bigcity.
"Where do you come from?', I asked, recognising a northern accent.
'Nowhere', said Craig, 'I am intentionally homeless'
Martin arrived. Ferret started rubbing his hands and sidled up to me.
'How long do you normally play for, Helen?' he asked. 'It's just that we thought we'd put Craig on before Martin, between you and Martin.'
What a clever way of telling me I had been bumped to the bottom of the bill!

On our way back from the chip shop we met Ferret having a roll-up outside the venue.
'Two teenage girls have turned up already to see Craig play. They've been waiting since six o'clock', he said. 'He's fantastic. You should have seen him play in Bigtown last night!
We got the sound checks over and Vole came up to me.
'I am MC--ing tonight: could you tell me something about yourself, as I know absolutely nothing about you at all'.
I told him I had started playing again three years ago after a twenty year break, and Martin told him about my punk past.
'OK' he said. 'Two teenage girls have turned up already to see Craig play. We've never know anything like it in Littletown before!'
It was time to start.
'Ladies and Gentlemen,' said Vole, 'I would like to introduce Helen McCookerybook, and I don't know how old she is, she's quite old, she is probably almost as old as me'.
The audience gasped in astonishment.
'Anyway she used to be in punk bands and John Peel used to like her but I hope she's not going to play any punk tonight'. He had started gabbling, embarrassed at the hole he had dug himself into.
I thanked my grandfather for introducing me, and played my set.
Afterwards, Ferret came up.
'You were really good', he admitted through gritted teeth. 'You must come through and watch Craig now, he's great'.
It was Craig's turn: indeed, he played a nice set of well-crafted songs and went down very well, especially with the two teenage girls who had turned up to see him.
'That was amaaaaaazing!', said Ferret to him afterwards in the dressing room, eyes sparkling in admiration.
After Craig had gone out to stand by his CDs and sell them with Ferret fluttering around him like an excited butterfly, Ferret came back into the dressing room.
'He is just such a BRILLIANT songwriter', he said, 'What an amazing guy!'

Martin went on and played a very personal set, interrupted constantly by a woman who clapped loudly and erratically in the middle of his songs and while he was talking. At one point he even left the stage to speak to the woman to ask her to be quiet: it was unclear whether her problem was anything more than absolute drunkenness.
Her partner had a rustling plastic bag that he rummaged in throughout: it didn't seem to occur to Vole, who was sitting close by, to go over and shut them up. Martin played a lovely set and an encore, and the audience sang along with his songs, good natured and appreciative as always.
Afterwards, Ferret was in a tizz.
He'd obviously promised to pay Craig a lot, but the sell-out gig had been advertised as 'Martin Stephenson', and on the website it said 'Martin Stephenson and special guest Helen McCookerybook', with Craig's name underneath.
The audience had all come to see Martin, in spite of the Ferret's predictions about a mob of teenage girls.
What could he do? After all, Craig was obviously a Star. He was staying at Ferret's house and getting pizza for supper there, while Martin and myself had to find accommodation for ourselves and go to get a bag of chips for our tea from the chip shop down the road: unless we wanted Ferret to ask around to see if anyone could put us up that night.
We imagined breakfast the next day with the reluctant victim. 'Sorry, fellas, I've only got one ginger biscuit- could you have half each?'
So we agreed to Martin paying me out of his fee, and the Vole counted out a nice wad of tenners for Craig.

The Lady on the Door was lovely. So was Nice Man, who could genuinely say that he liked our music. So was most of the audience, apart from the Clap and the Rustler. The two teenage girls were sweet, sitting at the front and having a whale of a time. And Craig was nice too, a proper musician, slightly bemused by the fawning attention of our hosts.
The Ferret and the Vole however…

Afterwards we speculated about what their problem might be.
We wondered about their plans for the night… 'The orange juice and apple juice are for Craig, and the Helen and Martin can have the water', mused Martin about the rider; '… the crisps for Martin and Helen, and the pistachio nuts and apples and bananas for Craig'.

Could it be that Ferret and Vole, too, were musicians, and that there was some seething resentment hidden away in their headcupboards that Martin could pull enough people to sell out their venue, and they couldn't?
Or were they so keen to be part of Craig's potential success that they were intent on bigging him up constantly and in the process, smalling-down the act they had booked to sell tickets?

Who knows?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Short Story

The two daughters looked at each other, wondering which of them was the Ugly Sister.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rain Music

I've got a lovely picture of red and white spotty trees that I took down the South Bank this morning, but my Sony Erikson crapophone has refused to bluetooth it to my computer: soon it won't be a phone any more, as it refuses to text, saving the messages in the outbox for two days later when they don't make sense to the recipient; and the signal dips and cuts off too.
It will merely be a small heavyish object with alphabetical buttons. Perhaps I could use it as a doorstop?

Last night was a night from Mars, my favourite sort. It was raining heavily as I got there a bit early, cos Acton Belle had asked me to sing backing vocals on Runaround Sue and Why Muat I Be (a Teenager in Love). I remembered Joby teaching me the backing vocals to the first one and Acton Belle was impressed. I felt worthwhile and stopped feeling silly that I had eaten some oven-bake haddock about an hour before I did a gig next to the best chip shop in town (well, I was hungry).
I got the Las Vegas rope lights out of my car and we all did soundchecks as the motley audience drifted in. The night was mad, as usual: Lucy's contribution was a dramatised poem that featured the quiet little man who'd been sitting next to me suddenly leaping to his feet and tap dancing. There was a very energetic poet called Razz who did a funny poem about God; Ingrid's band Heartssong was augmented by a bodhran player, Mickey Bleach, who had sung a couple of songs earlier with what looked like a tenor ukelele (they were good songs, actually). I made the mistake of sitting on a slippery giant stool while I played and had trouble anchoring myself the whole way through as I slid this way and that, with my guitar sliding in the opposite direction. At least I didn't dribble, which I have been know to do on occasion.
Acton Belle was delighted that everybody sang along so the backing vocals had several harmonies, more perhaps than the original Belmonts had provided!
Foolish Girl came, and had to keep peeking out of the window to make sure her motorbike wasn't getting a ticket, bless her.
80 quid last time, very mean and greedy of Westminster Council.
As at all of the 'Voices' gigs, it wasn't clear who was the audience and who were the performers, which i thought was rather nice. The last act was a rock act called 'Us' who got a lot of people up dancing, but not me, I'm afraid, as I was enjoting sitting down after my earlier slithering activities.
Acton Belle told me she'd had her birthday party in the Perseverance, and her dad had brought lots of pies down from Bolton, which they had piled in a pyramid on the side.
And afterwards as i drove back home through the rain and red traffic lights with posh men in expensive cars honking their horns at each other as they competed to be first, I thought that it's much better to know how to be happy with a night out than to get your satisfaction from nastiness as you force an oversized car about the place in the metropolitan night.

Fact: on the way back from town this morning, a butterfly flew in through the tube doors, took a look around and flew out again, just before they closed and it started off for the next station.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer Voices at the Perseverance

Come along to the Perseverance for one of those quirky little nights that's as far away from stadium rock as music can take you- it's at 11 Shroton Street, tomorrow night (Saturday) and costs 3 pounds to get in.
My set is a short one at about 9 but the fabulous Acton Belle is on early (and I think I may be doing backing vocals with her), Heartssong are playing, and more, and more.
It is my favourite venue in London at the moment, not least because of the fish and chip shop on the corner of Lisson Grove!
Yum yum!!!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Slits Book Launch

Yesterday I went to the launch of Zoe Street Howe's book on The Slits.
The sound of Toots and the Maytals squashed out of tiny speakers perched high on the wall, and Dick's Bar in Soho was packed with familiar faces. Dennis Bovell was there and I had a chat with him; I used to teach his son Adrian, who is now a Seventh Day Adventist preacher and apparently lives in Copenhagen. He used to play trombone and he was a very polite young man.
I told Dennis about wanting him as my producer for Helen and the Horns when I was signed to RCA and how they refused; he explained that he'd annoyed them by not dropping everything to work with another of their artists one time, as he thought it was wrong to just dump someone when someone bigger was calling. That made sense to me.
I spoke to Vivien Goldman, who is friendly and fun, and who came to my Lost Women party; Gina Birch and Lucy O'Brien were there, as were Nadya Ostroff (who played guitar with the Slits for over a year not long ago and who was reporting back on the evening for Ari, who is in the USA), Steve Beresford, Ana and Shirley, Tessa Pollitt (of course) who was looking happy and excited, Viv Albertine (who I would have loved to have spoken to for the book but it seemed people were trying to hide her from me at the time!), Don Letts (who was looking fabulously funky), Judy Blame, and lots of other people who looked very up-to-the-minute.
Zoe did a reading from the book, which sounds as though it's a great read (I liked the bit about the studio tea-lady helping them with the mix of Heard it Through the Grapevine after Dennis Brown took one look at the mixing desk and panicked).
That's the cake above, by the way.

Earlier this week Offsprog One asked if her boyfriend could come to stay. Then her boyfriend's brother. Then...
So there were four big teenage chaps in the house last night.
How to behave? Well, they are much the same as teenage girls only their faces are higher up and their voices are deeper down. I hit on an idea while they were waiting to go out this morning. I had been dragging my feet about getting the gardener back to cut the hedge.
Within half and hour one chap was cutting the hedge, another was mowing the lawn and another was weeding, ten quid each job, well done and saved me a lot of energy!
Add to that the excitement of finding a poor dead (though probably old, as it was huge) hedgehog floating belly up in the tiny pond under the tree at the back, and it was all very exciting and sure to get those curtains twitching across the road!
They have all gone off to the Natural History Museum, leaving behind a faint scent of Lynx aftershave.

Back at the Boudoir

Apparently the last two times they've been there, Gilbert and George have been there too, eating their tea. So Shirley, Ana, Gina and myself tucked into delicious meze and baklava in an anonymous Turkish restaurant, next to an empty place setting; three strikes and you're out, I thought, because they didn't turn up.
I imagined them peeking round the corner and thinking 'It's them again', and scuttling down the road to another cafe to wait till later!
Back at the Boudoir, a voice called out to me. Worried that it was one of my very own stalkers, I peered into the gloom- it was old friend Stephen Mahoney, looking absolutely splendid in a pair of fabulous green pleated trousers and sporting a very natty little fitted tweed hat. His style was 'oblique country gentleman', executed with a similar sense of humorous style to that of McDad. I was delighted to see him and to meet his accomplice, the typewriiter artist Keira, a neat and petite young woman dressed in fifties garb (as I was too last night) with a tiny portable orange typewriter, on which she was typing pictures throughout the evening.

Well, the first act had been deported so i was first on. The sound man got a wonderful clear sound and I was in a terrifically good mood, partly because I hadn't seen Stephen for such a long time, and partly because I was looking forward to seeing Christy and Emily play, and also Gina. I'd chosen all positive songs (well almost all) and songs that people had told me they liked in the past. Once I'd got rid of my stupidly-uncomfortable-but aesthetically-beautiful shoes, I was away and I really sang and played my heart out. The promoter did what all promoters everywhere ought to do for their warm up act- she shouted, 'Come on everyone, come and watch Helen play', and of course, everyone did. I finished with Loverman whci I intruduced as a rockabetty song (that's rockabilly with no drums or double bass).
The audience was a real mixture of people, very interesting, and it seemed as though they enjoyed my set.

Then Christy and Emily took to the stage and played fantastically well.
Live, they are much heavier than their recordings (a little too loud at times I thought) but they move gracefully between instruments to create catchy soundscapes (yes, it can be done!) with an unusual electronica feel. Sometimes they sounded a little bit like A Bird and a Bee, but they have a more direct and gutsy sound, and that Wurlitzer is to die for. The interaction between guitar and Wurlitzer is amazingly successful and the vocal arrangements slip from being icing on the cake to vital components of the overall sound, which means the songs develop in a really interesting way, like listening to a sound-version of a Grimms fairy tale in which you can not ever guess the ending. They use drums wisely and sparsely, never cluttering the sound. They also have humour- their game with the glitterball was a real icebraker and took some of the cooler members of the audience by surprise. And you know what else? the songs are not too long, they are not self indulgent, thus throwing them into the welcome arena of pop (although they did a very successful and well-received Eels cover).
What's more they had good manners- thanking the promoter and the other acts was a good thing to do!
(and they liked my guitar playing- wahey!)
This morning I have been listening to their CDs and they are now on my rotating home jukebox: the songwriting is lovely and I have a lot to learn from them, I think.

Gina had been worried about headlining, but her material is so different she had no need to. Last time I saw her it was with Robert Lloyd (who sadly wasn't there last night) and it was a bit raggedy and unrehearsed although her voice sounded good; tonight, she had new songs and films and perhaps had upped her ante, following Christy and Emily's brilliant show. She had a new air of passion and commitment and tore through her set, whacking sounds out of her guitar and linking in with her films in a way I haven't seen her do since we went on tour together. I wish she did more gigs! At the end, Ana got on stage and they did a version of Lola that got Keira out from behind her typewriter and into the audience to smile and tap her feet along with everyone else.

What a night! It had been worth trailing the world's slowest learner driver down the Holloway Road (bless!) and zigzagging across Kingsland High Street several times trying to turn right... and then left... and then right...
I never stop counting my blessing about this late chance to revive my career as a musician, never.
And I sold some CDs to boot!

I wish Christy and Emily lots of luck on their 20-date tour of Germany (Akiko, if you still read this, do go and see them in Berlin!) and I'm looking forward to seeing Gina play again. It was a truly enjoyable night, for lots of reasons.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Heaven Avenue on Youtube

... an unplugged version

Playing tonight, Barden's Boudoir, 38 Stoke Newington Road, onstage 8.30 p.m. (one of the other support acts has been deported)


Humans collect in angry little groups to throw stones, paint and obscenities at poor, old or ugly (or all three) paedophiles.
For the rich, famous and talented however, they congregate in thousands and celebrate with tears and flowers the passing of their idol.
Why is nobody brave enough to tell the truth?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

An Interesting Fact about iPod Shuffle

My iPod shuffle thinks Jacques Brel singing Je Ne Regrette R-r-rien sounds similar enough to the Sesame Street CD to sandwich the two together.
Shall we tell Jacques or non?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Barden's Boudoir

Next gig is Wednesday, 8th July at Barden's Boudoir at 36-44 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 7XJ
I'm supporting the fabulous Gina Birch and the fabulous-fabulous New York duo, Christy and Emily
Tickets are £6 in advance from
or £8.00 on the door.

Hot in Hartlepool

I hurtled up the A1 to Hartlepool yesterday, arriving at the Marina in record time. Where could the MV Ella be? I wondered, as I drew up alongside the Ella Bar. Yes, I was right there and what I wanted most was a cup of tea. I wandered along to the shops. They were almost all bars. It was deafeningly noisy, as a funfair was in full swing beside the boats. Everyone was dressed up to the nines, tanned to soreness and holding pints of lager and trays of chips. I looked in a shop, where the smell of scented candles blended uncomfortably with the smell of chips. A huge pale blue square plate said 'Welcome Little Prince' as it tilted on the floor. The smell was unbearably weird and I bought a mag and sat in a quiet caff to rest.
A while later I wandered amongst the rides, and saw a very strange one where kids got into gigantic polythene bubbles which were blown full of air and floated on the water so they could roll about all over the place.
Daintees80 were due to rehearse at 5 and I went over to the boat- Shane and Chris and Martin were there, setting up a tiny drum kit and a tiny PA. The boat was amazing, looking like a set from Jonathan Creek. There were wooden tables held up partly by ropes, and a miniature ship dangling from the ceiling. A bar stretched along part of one side and there was a small stage area. I brought the red rope light in from the car to make it look more 'L.A.' and settled down to listen to some of the songs. They are almost like Chefs songs in a way, especially Roll on Summertime, and I could really relate to the way Chris plays bass. Very strange-there must have been something in the air post-punk!
The audience started to arrive, some of them looking quite big and tough with tattoos and singlets, but actually they were as sweet as anything. I got up to play my set and they listened and clapped, and Martin joined me for the end part before his solo set; then the guys got up and launched into a bouncy, poppy set of early eighties Daintees songs, all lasting under three minutes, I would guess. Apples and Down was particularly good but there was a version of Colleen with a different bassline, which I found intriguing.
Martin left the planned set list route, and Chris and Shane found themselves playing Charlie Poole songs, which they did with aplomb. The audience was singing along in unison with Martin (especially to Rain, whch got everybody going), sinking more than a few pints, and one member, after standing at the bar in his shorts and wiggling his bum in time to the music for a while, meandered on to the stage, making sure he was inside the rope-lighted area with the band, and danced like mad, waving is arms in the air and getting the crowd to join him. It was a bit like being at a miniature version of a stadium rock concert, only the music was pop and it was on a boat. The barman added percussion unintentionally, clutching handfuls of forks and putting away clinking bottles and glasses, blissfully unaware of Martin's praise of his percussive talents from the stage. In the distance, the scary fairground rides pumped out their music with the caller booming instructions and pleas over his P.A.

Strange? It was perfect, and the boiling heat only enhanced the experience. Mike and June were there, smart and smiling and looking after the CDs (and us at times).

At the end, they all tumbled happily off the boat; one guy hung around afterwards, wanting to photograph my green Gretsch guitar (!) which he seemed to have fallen in love with.
It was a mad little gig, like no other, and a perfect introduction to the peculiar delights of Hartlepool!

Friday, July 03, 2009


On MV Ella in Hartlepool Marina tomorrow night, supporting Daintees80!

News Book

I had a nice night at the Icarus Club in Hither Green last night- there is a good PA, a listening audience and a very dedicated promoter there, Andy. All this overrides the fact that it is the world's ugliest pub; it has a loyal audience who even came out in last night's sweltering heat. To ice the cake, Claudine MArtinet Riley came, who used to be my manager. It must be 15 years since we've seen each other- she used to manage Terence Trent D'Arby and did press for the Stray Cats. the Associates, Depeche Mode (or Depressed Mood as she called them), Siouxsie and the BAnshees and lots of other cool bands. She was looking great and still has the same impish sense of humour and big heart. I was chuffed to bits that she came.
Musically, I enjoyed Eddie John's set the best. He is a really good songwriter and I spent the evening wondering whether his guitar playing ought to be a bit simpler, and in the end decided that it shouldn't. Or maybe it should? I don't know, sometimes ears need breathing space.
And I'm enjoying listening to Lorna Broooks's CD, which I picked up in Edinburgh last week. What a voice3! Power without abrasion, and I wish I could work out her chords!
There's a version of Heaven Avenue with Martin on youtube, if you search 'Friar's Carse'. It's very different to the Lester Square version!
Finally, Gina and myself are playing at Barden's Boudoir in Stoke Newington, a gig organised by Robert Lloyd of the Nightingales, to promote Christy and Emily, a wonderful duo from New York. They are ABSOULTELY brilliant so do come along if you can!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Stopp Ppress!

Playing the Icarus Club tonite, Station Hotel, not far from Hither Green Statio
Also- a link for the Dumfries and Galloway song!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


I bought some pillows from Waring and Gillows
I bought some shoeises from John Lewises
I bought some pasta from Asda
I bought a desk-o from Tesco
A book on myths from WH Smiths
Some deep fat fryers from Robert Dyas
A brand new dress from BHS
An old LP from HMV
A book on phones, from Waterstones
Fried eggs from Greggs
A fiddle from Lidl (well, they were selling trumpets last Christmas!)
Six forks with dates on, from Fortnum and Mason
Earrings my size fro Accessorise
Plain cherries from Sainsbury's
A beach ball blow-up from the Co-op
And some horrible jerkins from Dorothy Perkins

Now my shopping bag is full.