Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ah, Saturday

It was so tense yesterday afternoon: if contracts on the houses weren't exchanged by 3.30 we'd have to wait  until Monday.
The central heating broke down.
At 3.25 my solicitor called to tell me it had been done.
I hung up, burst into tears and then phoned the removal company as soon as I'd composed myself again.

I sat yesterday evening, dazed, with the fan heater purring away and the cats trying unsuccessfully to find the warm bit in the room.
Poirot solved mysteries silently in the background; Nadya called and told me she'd recorded a Russian dub song with Adrian Sherwood.
I can't wait to hear that! Nadya's music has an early Bowie/early Kinks sound with a very gritty grip on lyrics.

Just before midnight I got a text from Sherika, the songwriter who has entered the song competition. She got through to the final, and I'm absolutely delighted. Wouldn't it be nice if she won?

So, Saturday.

I wait for the plumber, the delivery of boxes to pack in, the ex-husband who hasn't told me what time he's coming to pick up the rest of his stuff.
I will roll up the rugs in a sheet later, and I've already vacuumed Offsprog One's room. She's coming to take more stuff tomorrow morning, which she will probably lose out of a hole in her bag, like her phone yesterday and her keys a month ago. Different bags, different holes.
I have suggested that she gets a bag without holes in it.

The washing machine is on its second wash of the morning before it gets taken away, the clothes dryer is stuck at £32 on eBay but has to go for more if I'm to get a decent washer/dryer, and this is a very domestic post indeed!

Oddly, although I woke at 4 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep again, the relief is making me contented. There have been two years of tension, more than 50 people shown round the house, countless housework-blighted Fridays and a fear of being stuck here forever.
This is a beautiful, beautiful house, with stained glass and old fireplaces, but it has always felt like someone else's house.
Often when I've been alone here I have felt like the real owners have popped out for an hour and left me to look after it, and they'll be back soon and I'll be on my way.

Will I feel like I belong in the tiny new house?
I hope so, for a while at least.

Friday, October 30, 2009



'You see, we all have to do it when we get old', I tell Old Ladycat as I pop an Evening Primrose.
I have just chucked the very poisonous tablet down her throat (she's disturbingly passive about it).
I wondered last night: does this make her breath poisonous?
As her purrs thunder out of her nostrils, is she gassing me gradually, evening by evening?
Will her fur become toxic as it builds up in little airy piles on the wooden floors, and will I find upended spiders next to the skirting boards, their twiggy legs clutched to their chests in pain?
The vet told me her poo will be poisonous, but that's outside, in the middle of the lawn... probably poisoning the last of the sparrows.
Oh dear!
So much to worry about!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


A mildly racist electrician came round to change the light pendants, taking down ours and putting plain ones up.
Every so often, he baited a line and held it over me to see if I took a bite.
'Of course, I lost my job to three Polish men...'
'Now, of course, in Kent, well, it's getting very full, with people moving in from Europe...'
'The Indian people, of course...'

Of course.... he's not the only work person I have come across who thinks these fishings are part of a value-added service.
I am constantly shocked by the way that these nasty views are seen as respectability.
The woman across the road mentions 'asylum seekers' (formerly known as refugees) in every second sentence, so regularly that I've developed a knack of keeping conversations short so we don't even get there.
The oddest thing is that they all have a friend who is working in Canada, or Dubai, or France: something isn't computing, somewhere.
Of course.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


What a bizarre day!
I have fallen asleep and woken in the land of the mad with March Hares bounding all over normality and Martians peeking into the windows and sniggering at me through snaggly teeth.

The morning started with feeding oldcat a poisonous tablet, so heinous that I had to use specially-purchased non-latex gloves from Boots to do so.
Soon afterwards, the date-of-moving panic began, which throbbed throughout the day like a sore tooth and is still here now.
The removal company weren't sure whether they could do the new date and I had to find another removal company, who are coming round tomorrow. Meanwhile, the original removal company discovered that they could do the new date after all. But it's not a definite new date yet anyway...

Ex-partner went sailing past the house in a huge van at 10.30 and didn't reappear till an hour later. How mysterious! Was it him? Yes, it was!

Diana came round with a pair of opal earrings and  a broccoli quiche for me, Offsprog Two screamed as the fridge disappeared along with frozen contents for Ex-partner's sister whose son was there to help, and we get on so he had coffee and Ex-partner didn't.

The British Heart Foundation phoned: they were to collect a bed from here on Friday to sell in one of their shops.
Diana went upstairs to look at the bed and spent the rest of the afternoon trying to hire a van so that she could have the bed upstairs, and give the British Heart Foundation her old bed instead. She then had to divert them to her house to pick up her bed on a different day, and the woman on the phone couldn't understand her postcode, what was happening, the day of the week to pick up the bed or Diana's name.

Meanwhile I was frantically trying to check my computer for emails to see when we might be moving.

The house insurance people sent the insurance forms to the house I will be moving to instead of to here: except the first time, they got the house number wrong. The second time, they got the house number right, but they should have sent the forms here, shouldn't they?
So I was trying to remedy this too today, when their computer went down and lost all my details.

A large and non-functioning TV sits looking embarrassed in the front room. It has been half dismantled, its outboard video and DVD players packed uncomfortably in a box that is too small for them. A skip will be arriving tomorrow, and a man to dismantle all the light fittings. Lots of the lightbulbs have given up in disgust and the remaining ones are popping at a rate of knots.

There are frantic pencil scribbles on a sheet of paper next to me, totally indecipherable, just like today.


I've just scraped several handfuls of snails out of a plant pot before getting that shuddery thing and having to stop!
Supposedly my ex-partner is arriving today to take away his stuff and I'm running the washing machine frantically to get all that done before he takes it away, and I've cleared paths through the piled up boxes so he can take his furniture and books. He is a linguist as well as a legal practitioner and lots of his books are in ancient French.
I will be so glad when this process is finished for once and for all. I haven't been able to finish any songs for a month (although I have started them) but I have done a bit of drawing.
Diana is coming over today and Gina sent a nice message; there is support from the north of Scotland and the south of London.
Now I just need a moving date...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

That's the Way to Do It!

One day the Offsprogs' childminder turned up with an ominously large gladstone bag stuffed with something lumpy and heavy.
She opened it and turned it upside down: a host of second-hand Barbies tumbled on the the floor.
'They belonged to my daughter,' she told us, 'And they were up in the loft and I thought the Offsprogs would like them'.
The Offsprogs were curious; they had built up a mini-stock themselves that nestled in its pink nylon-ness in a discarded pile on the bedroom floor.
And I was furious, as I felt that I was being used as a skip to throw away unwanted loft contents, but I gradually came round to the generosity of spirit rather than the desire-to-dump of the gesture.

Soon, the Barbies had become punk rockers, with cropped hair coloured green by the felt pen set; they spoke a language called Argety Bargle that only they and the Offsprogs could understand, which was based on parodying the L'Oreal 'Because I'm Worth It' ads.
They acquired facial tattoos and some rather nasty red felt-tip injuries. Gradually, I wafted them towards the bin, one by one, as they became so disfigured that I started to feel physically uncomfortable every time I chanced upon one of them propped against the wall.

One day as I sat drinking tea in the kitchen I heard a steady thump-thump-thump-thump coming from upstairs where Offsprog Two was playing on her own. I went up to investigate, and she was holding a poor Barbie by the trotters and whacking its enhanced plastic breasts flat as pancakes against the bedroom wall; there was a pile of future victims beside her.

Next day, I rescued the lot by throwing them away.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Gig 4 U

X-Factor: My Musical Response

BTW, I wrote a song about/for all the women I know who do great things and never get famous for them.
It's called Unsung Heroine and is at


Ah yes! I'll offer my services to everyone with a no-name office. Operation Doorscream, here I come!

Yesterday evening I did an interview with a woman called Caroline Blase that will be published in an e-zine called the F-Word, which looks g-reat!
She asked some very pertinent questions and had interviewed Gina Birch in the morning, and is interviewing Caroline Coon today. I enjoyed it, even though I was tired after work. She knows the background to it all really well and I think it will be a very interesting article.

And this morning, I woke up with the feeling that I'd swallowed a cactus with large and terrifying spines. So I decided to travel to Scotland by train tomorrow, although I will not be able to get a seat on the train. Perhaps I should carry a flowery cushion like an old lady and wedge myself in a smelly corner for the duration of the journey.
I was supposed to be doing more packing today but have mostly been doing Sitting Staring Into Space instead.

Later, I'm drawing some flyers, for Martin and for Acton Bell, which puts Sitting into a different context: Productive Sitting.
Meanwhile, this Writing Sitting has knackered me.
I'm off to Just Sit.

Friday, October 23, 2009


At the University of the East, they have taken everyone's names of their office door (if they share an office), saying that people change offices a lot and it costs too much to give them individual name labels on their doors.
All the shared offices say 'Academic Office' now.
So students can't find us by looking for our names on the doors, and we feel like neutral objects rather than people.
Me and Julia, who I share an office with, were grumbling about this.
So now our office has a notice next to our door with yellow crowns and pink writing and patterns round the edge.
We are 'Princess Julia and Princess Helen'
That'll teach 'em to force anonymity on us!


Oh how beautiful! As I rounded a dowdy corner past the industrial estate this morning on my way to work, I came upon a small park that was filled with mist, thick as milk close to the ground and wispy and delicate as it dissolved into the warmer air higher up. A series of small trees punctured it evenly in dark green spikes, just beginning to take colour from the rising red sun. The mist was fenced in severely by the walls around the park and it dribbled slowly over the edges, overflowing its constraints.
It was like a secret that only early risers could see.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


The house has become a sort of soup. I am sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by bananas, a pair of earrings, an Elvis Presley CD, a child's painting of a green witch, a French centime coin, the coffee in a flask I made this morning and forgot to take to work, a toothbrush and three screwdrivers.
Everything has slid about on a slide rule principle: the plastic dinosaurs are still in the bathroom, the rope lights are on the stairs, three empty guitar cases lean lopsidedly on a chair and a pile of duvet covers wait patiently on the landing, where we are trying to ignore them.
If I sneezed forcefully enough, everything would blow into the air and return to a more logical resting place.

Gina called this morning, full of the joys of being in the States with the Raincoats and Viv Albertine. She had a very funny rock'n'roll story about being caught in the hotel lift by the manager with a sofabed that she and Viv were trying to move from one room to another. They pretended that Viv had had a row with her husband and needed to move the sofabed out of his room and into Gina's.
Actually, she'd borrowed the sofabed from some guy they knew so she could sleep in Gina's room because a very born-again Christian Palmolive had come to stay too and it was getting rather crowded in there.
Apparently the hotel manager was really sympathetic to the guy they'd borrowed the sofabed from when he checked out, and told him he hoped they'd get over their quarrel!

There was another funny thing but I'm going to disguise that a bit like the Weasel and the Stoat story, and tell you another time!

I'm supposed to be writing tomorrow's lecture but I am unbelievably tired. I have the powerpoint from last year and I remember it leading to a lot of discussion, so let's hope that happens tomorrow too.

Shouting at Mummy

Come on- everybody knows it but nobody says- Rap music is all about Shouting at Mummy.
All those diamonds, all that bling, the twitchy dancing, the F-F-F-word (yes, Eminem, that's you!).
Why isn't Mummy paying any attention?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blasting Woes to Smithereens

I took a huge pile of 12" singles in to the University of the West for Jim, who collects oddball vinyl. He wasn't there, and the other sound engineers oohed and ahed, making me feel guilty that I hadn't offered them to them first! Jim's a fair chap and I am sure he'll share.

I  parked my ass in the boiling hot little office where the thesis students come for a weekly yak; three were missing, two ill and one on holiday in Boston where he's pretending to do research.
Ho hum, somebody does this every year, turning up at the last minute all excited and writing Not The Right Sort Of Thing. They are usually extremely affronted by the fact that I have identified their 'field trip' as a holiday.
Ho hum.

I had a nice chat with that Steve Beresford, fresh from playing melodica with The Slits on Friday night. He had really enjoyed it and we agreed that Ari is a fantastic live performer.

A young student has won the internal song writing competition and I spent a couple of hours helping her with her application. She had a streaming cold and I had to give her a paper hanky. Bless!

Out to the car park, where a parking ticket awaited me. I had misread the £5.50 fee as £5.00 and now I have to pay £60 fine. The rotters sell parking in three hour lots, the length of our lectures, so you have to pay for a day as you don't have time to get to or from the teaching rooms.
 I thought I'd paid for the whole day, and they are not going to show me any mercy.
This sort of thing often happens at this time of year: it's the sheer stress of the beginning of term. You take your eye off the ball and end up in the poo.

There's a hot curry in the fridge, a ready meal. I don't normally have these things but I'm too tired to cook and I have a lecture to write for Friday. I will heat it up and blast my woes to smithereens!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thoughts, Thoughts, Thoughts

Looks like I may be going away after all, on a tide of requests...
The Araldite is drying on the broken chair leg and the broken lamp.
I can't have boxes to pack until I know the moving date.

I wish I was stronger physically.
I wish cats could go out and buy their own cat food.
I wish cars mended themselves free of charge.
I wis More4 would stop repeating Friends, the sole diet of Offsprog 2.
I wish there wasn't half a tomato putrefying on the side in the kitchen.
I wish the old washing machine would throw itself away.
I wish the Estate Agent wasn't such a bully.

I hope it stays nice Autumn for another couple of weeks so I can enjoy the sharp sunshine.
I hope my tiny new house is as sweet and warm as it looks.
I hope I can afford a washing machine and a fridge after everyone has taken their fees.
I hope my ex-partner finds happiness.
I hope I have nice visitors and a social life when I've moved.
I hope I don't lose my job!
I hope I get to see my best friend a bit more.
I hope this move is as good for everyone as I think it will be.

I have learned a ton of new stuff this year which I never thought I had the capacity to learn.
That's got to be good, hasn't it?

By the way, if you are a friend who I normally have emailed quite a lot in the past, sorry about my silence for the last couple of months. It has been difficult to do anything apart from blog. I promise to be different from now on!


The cat has a hyperactive thyroid, the car's being serviced two bus journeys away and will probably come back with a thumbs-down of gargantuan proportions, I have just cancelled a few days away with McMum as I find it difficult to believe that we will manage to empty this house by a week on Monday (that's the John Rebus books off to the charity shop then!).
Offsprog Two's poorly and I am terrified that I've missed something out of the calculations and will end up in the new gaff with a ten grand debt somehow (and that's before I've sorted out the damp!)

In my imagination, though, we live there already, sitting round the table (too big for the kitchen, though) drinking coffee and eating cake, with miniscule fuel bills that a gnat could pay. We don't want or need anything because the house is full already. In fact, all we need to do is get on with our lives. There is practically no housework (eight hours on a Friday here every week to make the house nice for more than 50 viewings) and no gardening (a pity not to have a garden, but there are worse things).

My car's been vandalised three times in the last two years, and crushed fag packets posted through the house door, a full plastic coke bottle thrown at the window and myriad other things. Here, we are a stone's throw (literally) from the estate and the houses our street and the shops at the end are a hobby for the bored post-teenagers who can afford to frequent the boozers on the High Street.

I long for the insignificance of the tiny house to come. There is a high price to be paid for ostentatious-looking lifestyles.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

X Factor

Wow- I've just seen one of my best ever ex-students on the X-Factor, being slated by Simon Cowell.
Graziella's from Tottenham and she did some of the most fantastic heartfelt rapping about the violence and cruelty she saw around her. I thought she was so good that I got her a gig at my friend Mike Slocombe's club, Offline in Brixton.
She's got bags more guts that Simon Cowell, who wouldn't survive for one second on the London streets where artists like Graziella come from.
She's too good to be part of a girl group dressed in silly cake-dresses. She's like Miss Dynamite or Lily Allen- an authentic London girl with lots to say in her own voice, not Whitney Houston's.
If I was a record company I would sign her up right now and let her bypass the rest of silly old X Factor. Wouldn't it be great for her to reject Simon Cowell before he rejects her?

The Stables

I picked Martin up at Luton: he was full of cold and we went and did a lightning-speed sound check.
Paul Davey came along to play clarinet and I was glad of his services in Autumn Love. The audience were intent listeners, obviously paying careful attention to the lyrics.
Thankfully it was a night I didn't make mistakes (it's weird, the tireder and more distracted I am, the better I play and sing) and they gave me some goodly applause and even laughed at my feeble jokes. The sound in that place is incredible, and you could have heard a pin drop. It was almost unnerving to be listened to with such concentration but a blessed relief after the cacophony from the audience you get at some London gigs.
Martin was great- even though he was full of cold, he sang beautifully and he chose a really interesting selection of songs to play. He sang a lot of my faves- Lilac Tree, Long Forgotten, Rain, Orange, and Paul joined him for a couple of songs, leaping at the challenge of playing with no dots and thoroughly enjoying playing at The Stables, the jazz version of Top of the Pops! It was a good night- two gooduns in a week, and I am a hippy bunny (that's the same as a happy one, only more psychedelic)
I know I missed The Slits last night. Were they good? I bet they were!

This evening I have just finished listening to about 72 songs, submissions to a song competition. I have whittled it down to 18 and will listen through those tomorrow to get to about ten, before roping in another judge to make the final selection. I have really enjoyed it- especially some of the songs that unfortunately had to be rejected 'cos they were so weird.
I cleaned the cooker and did the washing up while I was going through them, and the knackered old cooker hasn't sparkled so much for months.

Now I've got soft flabby waterlogged washing-up fingernails and shouldn't play the guitar until they've hardened up again. I am too achey to do any more packing (where does all this bloody stuff come from?).
I am totally unable to throw away any of my kids' drawings from when they were little, but curiously able to throw away the pink fired clay stone age woman I made when I was 8, whose feet are in her mixing bowl being stirred, because they fell off about 5 years ago and I didn't want to throw them away, and whose head is so big that it bent right forward under its own weight when the clay was still wet, so now she smiles vacantly and blandly at a spot on the ground roughly three inches away from her pot.


Wednesday: Three Kings, Clerkenwell
Friday: The Stables, Wavendon
7th November: The Donkey, Leicester
See wot I mean?

Wednesday was lovely- I'd had a hellish day of two jobs in one day at opposite ends of Large London but all was calm at the Three Kings and Jude, Kath and I stuck stickers on our DIY cds and put them into clear wallets.
I'd left my designs for the covers at work but they had spares.
We set up the honesty box and set off, one song each, following our thread. Just like last time, I was wowed by Jude's delicate elfin singing style and Kath's wry humour. Even the background sounds of someone very stressed washing up a thousand forks bunched together in easy handfuls only added to the atmosphere.
The room was full, cosy and smiley, and after a break we embarked on part two.
A guy was there who used to do the door at the Alhambra in Brighton in the 1970s and halfway through he suddenly recognised me as being Helen from the Chefs; perhaps the wooden spoon I had laced through my hair (just as though an outlaw had shot it through there with a bow) helped him.
It was a lovely evening and I'm really looking forward to February when Kath gets back from New Zealand and we can do some more.
Last night's gig at The Stables was good too, but in a different way. I have to stop momentarily and do a bit of packing but more later....

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


My littleoldlady cat get so excited when I wake up (breakfast, not me) that she almost barks.

Desperado Housewives tonight- and believe me, this housewife is desperado indeedo!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Voices Pic

Here is Lawrence's photo of me playing at Voices on Saturday. Thanks for sending it, Ingrid!
Music is keeping me sane at the moment, that and good friends, God bless 'em.

It Never Rains But It Floods

Well, a man came to change the gas meter today.
'You have a gas leak', he said. 'I may have to turn off the gas supply to the house and you can't have it back until you know where the leak is and get it repaired'.
I have got used to devastation now.
In the end, it is not a mortally terrible gas leak, but the boiler should have a new valve.
It's literally weeks till I move, but just in the last weeks I will have spent almost £1000 on fixing things that have broken at the last minute.

Red and Yellow

Travelling back from Docklands on the Docklands Light Railway, I noticed how McDonalds' red and yellow 'M' sprouts like a triumphantly prolific weed out of the wastelands.
'Ha Ha! We're HERE, TOO!', the vivid acrylic sign declares,
I turned away, thoughts of Japanese Knotweed in my head.

Tea Chest Basses, and Other Things

Martin and Andrew Bailey (who runs the guitar and songwriter weekends for Martin) have got together and they are going to start producing guitars and tea chest basses. Martin's daughter and myself are designing logos at the moment and I sent these to him this morning. They are doing a stall at a musical instrument festival (I think it's in Leeds) at the end of October.
I love drawing so much and in a couple of years time my dream is to give up teaching and become a drawer and a songwriter-singer for the rest of my life. I have a massive amount of drawings at home here that I have been doing since I was about 14 and after I've moved I will start to sell some of them.
I used to do comic strips and every so often I come across one or two of them rolled up in a dusty tube. A lot of people used to buy my pictures but you have to put a lot of energy into selling them, and I don't have that at the moment because I'm using it all up packing and stuff.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Solution (quite liderally)

Can I put all the plastic dinosaurs in the dishwasher?
They are very dusty.

Lofty Thoughts

I'd meant to write up The Perseverance gig yesterday but instead spent almost the whole day moving stuff down from the loft (including bucketloads of dust) and shifting heavy pots about the garden with my nephew, who I employed for the day for his young strength and willingness of spirit.
I found a pile of letters that included a map drawn by John Peel to show me how to get to the place where they broadcast the World Service from; and a set of poems written by my friend Saffie Ashtiany who now spends a lot of time in Iran, finishing her father's animation films. She'd given me the poems to illustrate and I still have some if the drawings somewhere. There was a series of letters from a very funny girl called Pippa who used to write every week when I was in the Chefs, telling me all about her school days (her headmistress banned Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory because the Oompa-Loompas were racist). I can't throw them all away just yet.

The plumber's been this morning; he arrived on his motorbike at dawn, fixed the heating and roared off half an hour later. Heaven will be populated by such people, I know.

So... Saturday afternoon was spent copying Desperado Housewives CDs for Wednesday, in between little houseworklets.
I realised that it wouldn't be a good thing to chop onions for tea, an activity that would have neatly fitted in to the burning-time of a CD, because that particular CD would smell strongly of onions.
Maybe that would have been a good idea- a unique selling point that would add at least a quid in value to the CD.
Anyway, I digress...

Voices of the Fall was brilliant: small but perfectly formed.
Alec Dunnachie rustled about in the corridor, buckling himself into a huge and beautiful turkey costume that he could not see out of and bumping into tables on the way to the stage. He had a turkey-head hand puppet, and did a piece about two headed turkeys baking potatoes, which was fascinating when you could hear it properly (I don't think there was speak-hole in the turkey head).
Dix points for costume and effort Alec!
There was a fantastic African singer (her Myspace name is 'silence' as she sings acapella) called Henrietta Alele, who was utterly charming as well as having a beautiful strong and powerful voice; Sarah Verrinder made us all laugh with her intelligent irony and poet-punchlines; Kath Tait was sweetly brilliant as always and Ingrid held the whole lot together with her rambling band of musicians (which included Eve, who sang one of her songs solo too).
I sang two newish songs, Waltzing Away from Winter which the audience did backing vocals to, and Daisies which everyone seemed to like, as well as Two Little Girls and Me and Autumn Love for an encore (which I fumbled over in an unprepared and unprofessional way!).
Sandie was there, Foolish Girl to those who don't know her, and she handed me DVDs of the Borderline gig which I haven't managed to watch yet as my computer's overloaded but I will make sure I watch them tomorrow and will ask her if I can put them on Youtube or something.

And then, just like this morning's plumber, Sandie roared off on her motorbike.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Last Perseverance

It's the last 'Voices' tonight at the Perseverance: 'Voices of the Fall.
It will be a great night!

11 Shroton Street, Marylebone, NW1
Kicks off at 8
£3.50 or less


Dagnabbit, the central heating has broken down!

Friday, October 09, 2009


Yesterday I found myself teaching study skills to a gaggle of disorientated urban dance students, while the dance lecturer was bonding with a group of hip-hoppers that should have been mine.
It was all OK in the end; just as last week I sat waiting for the students at one end of the University while they sat waiting for me at the other, these things happen and get ironed out if you say sorry but not in a frightened way.
In the middle of it all, the estate agent phoned. He has now decided he can boss me around, which is silly, because I'm employing him to sell the too-big too-expensive house.
'Phone your solicitor and tell her we want to sign contracts next Friday', he commanded.
I have had enough of him. I am paying the solicitor to help to sell the house, and the estate agent to sell it. They must sort it out between them now; I have a job to do, two Offsprogs to be a mum to, and music to make.
And packing, too.
No more Mrs Nice Guy!

Ths pile of stuff to go into storage grows daily, and the cats think I have made a wonderful cardboard edifice specially for them to sharper their claws upon. Every time they pass the boxes, the smell of cardboard diverts them from their intended destination and they veer over towards a box marked 'Old Musicals Etc' in black felt-tip and claw at it like demented JCBs excavating an urgent building project. Tattered boxes?
What-ho, who cares!

Today was another typically University of the East Day; I had prepared a really interesting lecture, part of which circled around the difference between Eric Clapton's and Bob Marley's versions of I Shot the Sheriff.  I was going to begin by asking the students to make a time-line charting the emotional journey of the vocal in I've Been Lonely For so Long,  and I was going to play them Poly Styrene as an illustration of hollerin' and declamation, and Sinatra as an example of crooning.
Just to be prudent, I went to my teaching room half an hour early.
Hole and below, the DVD player that we use to play CDs was jammed. 'Aha', thought the early bird, 'Plenty of time to phone Technical Support and get it fixed or replaced'.
I went to the phone on the wall and picked it up. it was dead, and its socket had been completely destroyed.
I tried my mobile: no signal.
A student came in and I begged to borrow his. The Technical Helpline number rang... and rang,... and rang.
Heartily, I described the tracks to the students, and led them down to the room for their practical songwriting session.
The room was locked.

You see, a morning like that makes the journey back round the slow and dirty North Circular a journey of perfect bliss.
Every cloud has a silver lining!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Just Because I Can

Larst Night

Well that was a funny night, wannit!
Satnav Man got me lost north of the canal, making a neat box with its green arrows and telling me I was at Ladbroke Grove when I was in the middle of a small estate. I panicked and phoned my friend for the street number, and Satnav Man gave in and got me there eventually. I have it set to 'Australian' because the English voice is so obnoxiously realistically bossy.
The other Housewives were there in their hats, sitting with Jessica and watching a series of singer songwriters and small bands hit the stage.
The venue itself reminds me of a shopping centre, or a tube station concourse, or perhaps the foyer of a very large Tescos.
It has that sort of ambience- people passing through and buying cheap things (the cocktails are only £2.50) or not as the case may be. It ran more than 30 minutes late, so we were all rather sleepy when we got up to play, following a guitar-hero band who were as long in the tooth as us but didn't realise. Actually the drummer was a bit younger and seemed like a good drummer until about the third song, when he did the same thing that he'd done in the first two songs again, and resembled more a baby sitting in a high chair whacking the tray with a couple of bananas.

We lined up our tall stools, and set off, one song from each of us at a time, and believe it or not, it worked! We even pulled some punters down from upstairs, which was a relief as the place had emptied out as it got later and later. It was nice to sit next to Jude and Kath in that way, almost as though we were having a musical conversation. We had planned a thread going through it, starting in the country and ending in the city. We have that and another one planned for Wednesday.
Next Wednesday will be much nicer as it's our own gig.
Shockingly, as I sang the last song, Banana Whacker got up on stage behind me and started taking bits of his gear to pack up. Rarely do I call a chap a w*nker on this blog, but he thoroughly deserves the moniker.
Verdict: I thought we played a classy set in a venue that has a very odd atmosphere and a transient audience, there for the cheap booze rather than the music.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Desperado Housewives First Gig

Tonight, at Liquid Nation, opposite Ladbroke Grove tube station
We're the last act

Katy Carr: Coquette

Greg Kurstin and Inara George (otherwise known as Bird and a Bee) must be weeping into their mirror-mirror-on-the-wall!
Here is Katy, challenging them for their pop-electronica crown, but with some of the most beautifully-recorded string arrangements I've ever heard- not so much lush and blossoming but twiggy and just resonant enough to remind you that there are real people there playing real wood with real horsehair; meanwhile, her voice sparkles with joie-de-vivre, confident, pure, flexible, controlling the complex arrangements that have more hooks than Can't Get You Out Of My Head but still manage to sound left-field.
This is an absolutely beautiful album. I have heard lots of these songs in their simple live form and they absolutely flower in the studio.
Katy has been fond of 'mad' women performers like Tori Amos and Kate Bush for a long time.
But with this album, she shows us that it is the rest of us that are mad and it is Katy that is sane. There is a special place for women performers with a vision, and Katy has reserved herself a worthy position there. this is about the fifth time I have listened to this collection of songs, and I'm still hearing new and inspiring details in it every time.
I used to be Katy's teacher years ago: the pupil has far outstripped the teacher, which is exactly as it should be.
Katy, I am proud of you!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sunday Evening Song

I started as soon as I woke, rummaging in the dusty loft and bringing down 125 Helen and the Horns albums, two big boxes of Duplo (baby Lego, to the uninitiated) a heavy box of old letters and diaries, and a big bag of ancient baby clothes (now there's a concept: ancient babies!)
No matter how much I remove from the loft, it never looks any emptier!
I thought if I piled everything up in the hallway I would be able to guess roughly how much storage space I'll have to rent, so I brought through some boxes full of old music projects and made a depressingly large heap.
I am beginning to develop a body like Mr Universe, which is exciting in an exotic sort of way. I defy bar chords, as I'm now unnaturally strong and could arm-wrestle an Orang-Utan quite successfully, probably.
With the familiar scratch of dust in my eyes, I sat sown in front of Poirot. It amazes me how many episodes they have made, and how many I have not seen. I identify with him now, those little grey cells and that little black moustache. Absently, I wonder if I should grow one this winter, before remembering that I have a little way to go before I am able to do that. I don't watch TV too much, just the news and an occasional music programme, and the nice thing about Poirot is that it's so gentle you feel it's OK to fall asleep: you know he will solve the murder so really, you don't need to watch it at all.
But I like the clothes.
I spent about an hour trying to video a song on Myspace, gazing out at the ghosts in the darkened garden as I sang. Finally, I got a perfect performance, but found that Myspace had only recorded a few seconds of it. I looked gruesome anyway, tired and pale and anxious, although it didn't sound too bad. Some other time, perhaps.

Martin performed a fantastic trick on me earlier this week. I'd had plans to somehow come by humungous amounts of money and record my next album in a tremendously up-market studio, hallowed and slinky. I would polish my songs to perfection, and be a diva: 'Oh no, not today, my voice is playing up! Let me spend a day in Brighton to take the sea air and refresh my vocal chords! Let me do six weeks of complex singing exercises! Make some beef tea! Bring the smelling salts!'
He opened up his computer one day and recorded it all on Garageband in the twinkling of an eye, and he's going to master it when he gets home after his next few gigs. I can't remember what it sounds like!

The first Desperado Housewives gig is on Tuesday at Liquid Nation on Ladbroke Grove.
The lilac nylon dress is getting excited!

The Internet

I discourage my students from using the Internet, and specifically Wikipedia, which is simply wrong, more often than not.
I know this because their entry about me, yes, ME, the bigheaded artistmusicianacademic, is wrong.
Being a Blogger, I understand the need to fill space with nonsense in order to validate life and communicate with unseen people.
Sometimes it all reminds me of Dr Seuss' story of Horton the Elephant, who finds a tiny world floating in the air one day.
The people in the tiny world have all got together and are shouting 'We're HERE, We're HERE!' through a giant megaphone attached to the top of their tallest building.
Our writings gain an authority (an unauthorised authority) by being posted electronically to be searched and seen.
The students still use it for serious research in spite of exhortations to use the library books where established theorists and philosophers argue against history, so I've decided to re-christen it various names that should pop into their heads at those lax moments when they can't be bothered to open a book.
I'd thought about 'Loner's Lies', but ended up deciding on 'Cranks Rants'.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


The plumber is here, changing the innards of the dribbly loo.
People say I'm mad spending money at this late stage when we might have moved out in a few weeks, but they don't live with the dribbly loo and its potential waterfall capabilities!
There has been drama; it's an East-European designer mini-loo with no compatible parts.
Maybe this won't fit, maybe it will, it doesn't, it does, where is the stopcock, I can't find it, yes I can...
I'm beyond drama, because I'm wondering if the mortgage company who promised me a mortgage are going to pull out. Suddenly they have asked for more documents, and more, and more.
They are a corporation, and don't care about the human being at the end of their decision line.

I can't bear to talk to anyone; there are great good things in my life, but a big bundle of badness threatening it all like a heavy thundercloud, potentially disrupting everything, and I never know if or when that's going to happen.
I knew it would be like this, with slow progress at a snail's pace. I have had to learn to contain my anger and frustration and think about the future and not the past.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Tired and bored, I did a vanity search.
Can this be true? A 'Sulkworm' ringtone?

The Stripling Nephew and the Wardrobe

Wardrobe Man came back yesterday evening with his Stripling Nephew. They removed some more bits from the wardrobe's body, and braved my eagle glare as they inched it towards the door without scratching the floorboards.
The exciting bit was the stairs, and I had to join in to prevent them smashing the window on the landing.
I noticed that every time I held on to a bit of wardrobe, the Stripling Nephew let go.
At one point I was sitting on the stairs muttering between gritted teeth:'The wardrobe is resting on my knees. If you let go, my legs will break'.
At another: 'The wardrobe is resting on the banisters. If you let go, the banisters will break'.
The Stripling Nephew did not listen to women. He completely ignored me and did not make any eye contact.
Occasionally he listened to his Uncle, but mostly he tried not to lift anything, merely resting his hand gently on the wardrobe as if to pat it for being a good piece of furniture.
The Uncle was convinced that I had built the wardrobe upstairs, but I assured him that it had moved house with me several times.
On several occasions, the three of us stood there on the stairs, stuck and panting.
Finally, it stood in the hallway laughing to itself at our exertions.
They struggled it to the white van and drove off, after a dignified pause to collect themselves.
I don't think the Stripling Nephew has a future in furniture removals, somehow.

BTW, Richard Cundill sent me this link to a Chefs feature on his friend's blog
I might tell you the story of the non-appearance of The Chefs CD this weekend.


I set off at seven this morning for the University of the East, where a new academic day is dawning with its consequent troubled waters to negotiate. I got to work just after 7.30 after circling a deserted North Circular, and the receptionist at Security was so bleary he forgot how to articulate his unpleasantness and just gave off an unpleasant vibe instead, so slowly that the woman sitting next to him was able to interject and be really nice and helpful!
So now it's 8.30, an hour and a half to go before teaching starts, and enough time to buckle on my armour, build a couple of bridges and take the day from myself before anyone snatches it and runs off with it.
Three hours teaching... only three hours, I tell myself; three days pre-teaching stress, three months organisation to try to prevent anything going wrong.
With incompatible machinery, bewildered students and a certain ratio of 'support' staff whose job seems to be not losing their job rather than helping to run a University, the word 'challenging' is re-defined every year. But it's not just here- these things happen in every organisation, I know. I'm wearing a bright red cowboy shirt in defiance of anyone who tries to trowel misery on to my day, and to make a statement of positivity to my students.