Saturday, November 28, 2009

Library Internet Catchup at High Speed!!!!

Through a fog of tiredness, I hopped on the tube to The Perseverance, that warm and friendly pub. Acton Bell was there already. and so was Steve, the guitar virtuoso, and a motley collection of open and friendly musicians. Steve started the evening off with a short but sweet psychedelic instrumental guitar adventure, and I played next as Martin had offered to give me a lift home (after his 10 hour drive from Inverness in his unheated car, bless him) to keep an eye on Old Lady Cat. SOmething has suddenly clicked with my live perfromances- I have got back to the ease that I had with Helen and the Horns where I am no longer fearful of forgetting words; my head and body have joined together and I'm at one with the Gretsch, so it's a joy to play and sing, as natural as breathing. The audience was smiley and friendly and they seemed to like the Daisies song a lot. I saw a bit of Portia Winters' set as she sound checked but not much else this time around unfortunately but I'll try to catch more next time on the 15th December at Acton Bell's next night.

Rick, who was Joby and the Hooligans' drummer, was there and it was great to see him again.

Later, I got a wonderful text from Kienda Hoji, head of the music course at the University of the West. Our entrant to the Peter Whittingham Songwriting Competition, Sherika Sherard, had won first prize and I am absolutely delighted for her. She's brilliant, a natural of urban folk. Check out her myspace at

Next morning, Old Lady Cat came to the vets with me. Overcome with sadness, I could not help blubbing which was really embarrassing. They have kept her there to feed her steroids and fluids, and all my Christmas present budget has now vanished into the vets' coffers. I can't believe she has become so ill so quickly and we are all missing her at home, even Whippersnapper, who is normally so selfish.

Feeling as though I was wearing a heavy coat whose pockets were stuffed with unpleasantly sharp objects, I scraped up the M1 to Milton Keynes, where I met Martin and we went on to the gig in the barn.

What a beautiful venue! The Cruck Barn is painted white inside, with exposed wooden beams. Someone had arrived in a fantastic 2-tone pastel vintage Chevrolet with wraparound screen, and after soundchecking we sat and chatted to one of the founder members of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, a guy called Ray who used to play tuba and drums. He told us a very funny story about being asked to drive a van from Tunbridge Wells to Newcastle upon Tyne and realising he hadn't got enough petrol and he had no money. So he picked up a series of hitchhikers, asking them to buy petrol. Poor things thought they had a free ride and discovered that they had to finance him instead!

The promoters had done a really good job- there were projected backdrops made from our images that they had downloaded and the sound was crystal clear. The audience was quite well-to-do, but they were open minded listeners and gave both of us a reallty good reception, and we were invited to join them at their tables for dinner. I think that the gig will appear on Youtube and I'll write the details down when it does.

Hi to Wilkie from St Albans- I hope you enjoyed it!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stop Press!

Martin may not get there tonight, as his car is playing him up...
There's a late addition to it all, a private gig gone public, tomorrow the 27th, with both of us playing at


The Cruck Barn

Located in the grounds of Bradwell Abbey

City Discovery Centre

Alston Drive

Milton Keynes

MK13 9AP

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Old Lady Cat has a hyperactive thyroid and had chemotherapy twice a day (that's me chucking poisonous pink tablets down her throat); she is now really ill, sitting in her basket looking glum and thin, and taking antibiotics too.
Meanwhile, Whippersnapper Man Cat ran away for two hours on a dark rainy night after opening the catflap by hooking it inwards with his paws. Out in the garden with ham and a torch, I could hear him fighting with the neighbourhood Tom and feared the worst. He returned with a fat bushed-up tail, excited by the conflict.
Meanwhile, Chuck Warner has been in touch from the U.S. about a 'South Coast' compilation.
Does anyone know where Dave MacDonald is? He'd like to get in touch with him or Pete Smith to ask for permission to use their Fan Club music on the CD.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Sorry to anyone who has received multiple emails about Thursday's gig.
Yahoo has been updating and modernising and has neglected to delete one contact list before starting another. It memorised the people I'd already emailed and added them to the ones I was emailing for the first time.
I have given up, before I got to the letter 'M'!
Myspace does this sort of thing as well, trumpeting its exciting new services (trying to copy Facebook) while making itself ever less user-friendly.
How to make one's potential audience extremely annoyed.
I think I'll have to reinvent myself like Ponce did, and just have a collection of letters and numbers for a name, which I can change at will to escape the trail of destruction left in my wake!
It's quite addictive, working in the library: the public and staff moo and baa gently in the background and there's a comforting smell of damp coat.
I might move in and dine on buns and dandelion and burdock for the rest of my life.

Acton Bell's Gig

Acton Bell is putting on a night at the Perseverance in Shroton Street, Marylebone, this Thursday 26th November and I am playing there too.
I did a flyer but I didn't bring it with me to the library- It's here a few pages ago I think!

Normality is gradually returning... I  bought a pair of loafers in the charity shop this morning (o dear, I'll have to curb this habit!)

It's time to revive friendships and do all those things that have been waiting in the wings for the upheavals to subside.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


In order to make space to walk across the floor, I decided to take about 40 LPs to the Oxfam shop. They are heavy and slippery but I got them into my car, and I'd already found out from the PDSA shop that you can leave your car on a double yellow line with the lights flashing if you're dropping stuff off at a charity shop. I parked, I flashed, a kind motorist stopped as I negotiated the sliding vnyl tower out of the car and across the road, balancing and tottering. I got through the heavy glass door successfully; the charity shop man was approaching, a condescending smile on his face...
I caught my bag strap on the door handle and the whole lot collapsed and cascaded all over the floor in a many-hued display of redundant albums that nobody in their right mind would want to purchase in a million years
How embarrassing!
I smiled a ghastly smile and my teeth dried up and I couldn't get my upper lip down again.
A woman took pity on me and helped me gather them up again.

I have been dropping off my embarrassing unwanted items in a rota to different charity shops so that they don't twig that actually I am having trouble throwing my precious rubbish away and I need them to do it for me!
I have finally been found out, my wares spreading themselves out in full unwantable view of a whole shopful of customers. No more leaving black bin bags full of old stained tupperware at the back of the British Heart Foundation shop! No more piles of cream polyester pillowcases crammed into fancy baskets dumped in the North London Hospice!
Writing this post has made me blush with embarrassment.

I feel as though I have been found out

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Half Moon in Putney

It's a bit of a schlep from Barnet but we put on our patience costumes and stop-started round the North Circular, arriving just in time to treat ourselves to some Italian food at a lovely little Italian restaurant diagonally opposite the venue, sitting in a tent thing that sprouted from the front of the restaurant at a little table with a green-and-white checkered oilcloth over it.
Jimmy Cole the banjo player was waiting for us; Liza P was poorly and couldn't come along which was a shame as I'd been looking forward to seeing her and hearing her.
Soundcheckman was young and agreeable and as Martin and Jimmy checked the guitar and banjo I realised that the P.A. system was fabulous and that Soundcheckman has really good ears- he pulled all the characterful sounds out of the little Martin guitar and did the same with the banjo, and then got Martin's vocal sounding mellow and strong at the same time. This made me feel that it was going to be a very good evening.
I went on first, and like the Leicester gig, although I had felt at the end of my last drop of energy before I went on, once I got up there I was happy as a lark and really enjoyed it- my guitar just seemed to play itself and I felt comfortable and as though all the experiences of the past three years had made me stronger, and not weaker (as I feel sometimes).
It felt as though I knew so much what I wanted to say in my songs that I was saying it for other people as well and therefore deserved to be heard! And it felt as though the people in the audience were really listening and understanding, and that feeling is better than winning the lottery, I can tell you.
There was a chap there who was a dedicated Chefs fan and who told me he had got all my music since then, which was music to my ears (ha ha), and a couple who had really enjoyed the Helen and the Horns set at the Borderline.
Martin's set was brilliant: he started off as a comedian, making people practically fall off their seats with laughter, and once their guard was down he set off on a musical journey that took him through favourites like Rain, through Charlie Poole, to a section that sounded Celtic as Jimmy joined him onstage.
Jimmy is not a flashy showoff banjo player, but a steady presence on stage and the banjo sat very well inside Martin's songs, never overpowering them, just complementing the music. He'd come up to play Loverman with me, joining Martin on the Martin guitar, and making us into a little string band. It was interesting, musically.
Martin finished solo, and afterwards a guy came up from the audience and told him that he'd had an awful day at work but Martin had completely cheered him up and made him feel better about life.
What better compliment could an artist have than that?

I missed the launch of Katy Carr's album but I hope to hear from her this weekend how that all went.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Interesting Few Days

Sprinkled amongst the practicalities of electricians, phone queues, removal of vinyl albums to Oxfam and other house-related things (not forgetting very LOUD very ANGRY cats trying to exit every crack in the house while they are on house-arrest until they realise they live somewhere new), some interesting things have been going on.

On Monday afternoon, I spoke to a woman called Shehnaz Suterwalla who is doing a PHD at the Royal College of Art about women's dress and resistance. She wanted to talk to me about punky stuff (she has four case study areas, the most contemporary one of which is young Muslim women wearing traditional clothing as a statement even though this is not part of their established home dress code).
Because my research was not about clothing, I found that I was remembering and talking about stuff that I hadn't visited for years- exactly why I wore what I wore, and all the different ways young people, and especially women, around that time wore things that declared them to be punks without spending a fortune that they didn't have (most of us were unemployed) in Seditionaries or Boy on the King's Road.
 I remembered seeing Poly Styrene, before I even knew she had a band, sitting in her little stall at the World's End in Chelsea with her name above it, carved out of that white expended polystyrene stuff that puts people's teeth on edge.
At that time you could buy a toy that consisted of a hot wire stretched between a two-pronged red plastic handle that allowed you to cut very slowly through those white polystyrene tiles that everyone had on their kitchen ceiling, without it snapping or disintegrating into irritating bobbles. She obviously must have had one of those at home and this made me warm to her immediately. The clothes she was selling were all made of bright plastic and she sat amongst them like a serene alternative princess in an alternative world- very different from the aggression that emanated from Malcolm McLaren at the time.
I remembered the clothes that were dumped by the clothes-fairy outside the room I shared with my boyfriend at the squat in Lansdowne Place: I wore them for months.
And I remembered Dave and Pete and their black bin bags full of fantastic attire for the young punk woman: fitted leopardskin jumpers, giant cardies, peculiar dresses. They would delve into their bags on a whim and pull something put for one of us to wear.
I had a fantastic boiler suit. The first drummer in Joby and the Hooligans, Dub Duncan, came from Burgess Hill and his father had been in the Air Force.
He appeared for his first gig with us wearing his Dad's old boiler suit in airforce blue. Joby immediately went to the Army Surplus Store and got himself a green one, closely followed by me (grey) and Steve (also grey). They were great, and since I had discovered the hard way that looking like a sexy punkette got you sexually assaulted, they made you feel safe and comfortably neutral.
I liked talking to Shehnaz and she liked talking to me so we are going to do more of it in a couple of weeks time, and I'll dig out some photos which I will also send to Caroline, who is writing a piece for the F-Word, and who was concentrating more on the music than the look.

Then yesterday was another interesting day. I went to the London Academy of New Music to do a Songwriting workshop. It's in Bow in East London, an area of big skies, big roads and warehouses, a 'Hackney in Waiting'.
The students were lovely but there was only one woman in a group of 15.
People seem to understand multiculturalism but not gender equality. It is almost as though they will look at anything but that! And hey-ho, we have the National Front again, calling itself the BNP this time around, and people will again have to learn to understand the need for tolerance, acceptance and promotion of equal rights for all people, and again will ignore female people's rights and abilities and the need to look at why women might be excluded from so many areas of life.
But I digress...
...but it was an important digression...
The students were great: they jumped on board the ideas I had straight away without that puzzled look of being patronised that you get from some mature students.
 I'd taken in a Daily Mirror and a Metro (ugh to both, but never The Sun, never The Sun, that horrible piece of birdcage liner) and we looked for headlines to base our songs on. Later, they did lightning cover versions of each other's songs to see if they worked- and they did, and I was happy and I hope to go back again sometime.

Tonight, I am guesting with Martin at the Half Moon in Putney.
I'm at work now which is why I can do a longer posting. I came in specially early at a student's request- she cancelled at the last minute and so did the next student. If I get annoyed with them they will cease to turn up altogether and produce bad work. Bit of a chicken and egg situation, or the bad version of that... dead chicken and bad egg perhaps.
But I have tonight to look forward to, and tomorrow not to look forward to (the return of the 50 essays I have been frantically marking in every gap of the day for the past week, and the disappointment of the new first year students as they realise they are not brilliant, as they had previously supposed).


Life is bittersweet, sweet and sour, hot and cold.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cigarette Break

I was pushed into the road on the way to the library by the large group of people smoking outside a local church.
I'd been thinking... why not replace the fag break with a something-else-break instead?
A ten-minute foot massage... an opportunity to win £1000... a mini-manicure... a session in which the smoker (by now ex) is allowed to moan for ten solid minutes to a moan-receiving-person without any interruptions or attempts at giving helpful advice... a guilt-free daydreaming session in a chair with a fantastic view out  of the window...
Any suggestions?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Am A Fool

Because I bought a clothes rail from a Big Shop, took it home, tried to construct it, found no scews and allen key, took it back, they were out of stock, I have to go back and pick it up next week (urgh I hate shopping) came home to throw away the wrapping and found the screws and allen key.
And someone crashed their car into me on the way there.
I am a fool.

Luckiny, I am also a musician with a lovely muscial partner and we are playing at the Half Moon in Putney this Wednesday.
If I don't destroy everything in my path on the way there.
Get well soon, Liza P!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


On the way to the library to use the internet, I spied a funny piece of graffiti on a boarded up window that made me laugh.
'Picture this as a window', it instructed.

The house is tinier than I imagined and I blunder around it as a clumsy oaf, breaking things left right and centre. This morning, it was a captain's lantern that used to hang in our kitchen in Wylam. I was trying to put the clock up on the wall, and I knocked it over by accident.
While I was sweeping up the glass, I knocked the clock off the fridge and smashed that too.

I am supposed to be at the Art of Record Production Conference in Cardiff, but Offsprog Two is really poorly and I have stayed at home to administer Lemsips and healthy food. She would rather I had gone so she could visit her friends and spread her germs, but this would be antisocial in the extreme, so she's parked on the only comfortable chair, reading a book.
While I was cooking lunch, the food caught fire under the grill and set off a duet of smoke alarms, one indigenous to the new house and another still semi-packed. In a panic of deafening noise, we had to locate them and remove the batteries, stumbling and bumbling and spilling food all over the place in the process.

The chest of drawers I keep my clothes in was too big to get upstairs, so that will have to go into storage, as soon as I can find a man-with-a-van. This is not the posh end of town so we don't get a free newsaper any more, which slows the process down. At the moment, it's standing in the kitchen, preventing the kitchen table from being there; the kitchen table is in front of the front door, so we've been walking sideways like crabs ever since we moved in.

Mentally, I practice new guitar parts. The guitar I normally use is wedged under the bed, blocked in by boxes of things that seemed vitally important in the big old house but seem totally superfluous now. I am throwing things away like mad, but I can't get to the bin because the removal men put a huge lemon tree in front of it, which soaks me with rainwater every time I try to get past it.
It's too heavy for me to move and I'd like it to fly off into the sunset, flapping its leaves like a demented many-feathered bird. Perhaps next summer will be the year it manages to produce full size lemons instead of dolls-house ones!

And I wake up every morning not worrying. I feel safe for the first time for ages, and will get used to living small. There will be a different way of looking at life and already I feel I am walking taller than before. This has been an intense and emotional year that has reminded me that it is better to struggle against what is wrong than to ride along with it to a destination that is destructive and negative.

A different sort of people live at this end of  town: not so well off, louder, and more direct. This is an adventure and a new beginning.
Bring it on!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


What a strange sensation... to wake up early, as usual, but to wake up with nothing to worry about!
The move went very well- exhasuting up to the last minute, but what a blessed relief to lock the house of horrors for the last time.
Offsprog Two and myself floated round in the car for a couple of hours; we couldn't leave it as it was full of guitars. But we gobbled up a massive pizza each before driving round to the new gaff for a couple of hours more waiting. The removal guys turned up and the old owners were just finishing off their loading. They just handed us the keys and said, 'Move in, let's not bother waiting for the lawyers, everything's going to be all right'.
And it was.
Hat's off to Rogers Removals, they were brilliant and made it all stress-free and calm.

So on Saturday, Martin came down from Luton and we drove to Leicester, to a venue called the Donkey.
It has a great atmosphere and I'd had an email from a Chefs fan, saying he was coming along with a bunch of his friends.
That seemed much more important than fatigue and actually, it was great to play after two weeks of solid boxing-up and carrying. The sound was crystal-clear, and Gary who runs it, is a great host (he plays sax for The New Beautiful South too). The Chefs fans were great, all smiles and applause.

Halfway through Martin's set he started playing 24 Hours and I went up to sing it but I forgot half the words. The Chefs fans didn't and they put me to shame but at least I had brought loads of old badges to give them.
I don't think I have met so many since we were actually playing all those years ago. In fact I didn't know we had so many even back then!
Martin played brilliantly well, getting sounds out of the Martin guitar that I didn't know were in there.
Perfect gig, really, and I am so glad not to have bottled out with tiredness.

Today, well, the house is stuffed with stuff.
Between us we have emptied 35 boxes and that's it. Later I'll get into the loft and just put the rest up there for now. My chest of drawers wouldn't go up the teensy stairs so it's in the kitchen looking smug; little does it know it's going into storage in a couple of week's time so the kitchen table stops blocking the front door.
A mountain of books blocks the window, and an island of chairs and pans with no place to go has colonised the middle of the kitchen floor.
I have no washing machine yet so I went to the laundrette yesterday, where three thirty-something men folded their clean laundry into big bags, absent-mindedly sniffing their clean t-shirts as they did so.
It's a bit damp and I will have to get Men In to see to that that some time soon.
But Offsprog One came up on moving day to make a raspberry cake, and Offsprog Two's friends all walked in and said 'What a lovely house!', which I could have hugged them for as it's so hard for a teenager to move house.
I feel like I've borrowed the body of a hundred-year-old farm labourer and I look demented, but I don't care: it's done, I'm gone, I'm there.

The future starts now!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Pre-programmed By Their Computer

Q. What is your favourite colour?
A. Sausages.

And so at 8 a.m. I sat at Big Yellow Storage in Finchley, faced by two pleasant young assistants who were hopeless at maths and had to phone someone else who didn't answer their phone to find out how to calculate how much to charge me because their computer couldn't do it.
You see, I had left the rails of normality, and I hadn't ticked a box they'd learned at their training day.
I tried not to faint with anxiety and frustration as they gradually worked it out after the phantom phone was answered.
It took 45 minutes.

Here I am at work, having received what looks like a standard email from Barnet Council after I'd tried twice by phone and twice by email to suspend the parking bays so the removal lorry can park outside my house.
It looks like a standard email because they haven't answered my question- an easy one. I have got visitors parking permits: can't I use those?
Instead, most of the email tells me how awkward I am to leave it so late and they are not sure if they will be able to do this within five working days.
Four working days ago, I phoned them and emailed them, and I'm moving in two working days.
That makes six, I think.

I do hate so much to moan, patient readers.

However, I have spent two years sailing in unfamiliar territory and I live in eternal hope that people who answer the phone at the different organisations I have to contact might feel confident about what they do for a living, and also listen to the questions they are being asked and answer them.

At the  moment I'm savouring half an hour of guilty bliss; my student has not turned up for his tutorial and I should be upset that he has not contacted me.
Instead, I am delighted!
I spent from 7.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. packing yesterday and there is more to do this afternoon.
This peaceful moment is wonderful.

I have a gig in Leicester with Martin on Saturday, at the Donkey.
I am REALLY looking forward to it.
Something normal, something fun, nothing to do with moving house, nobody will want me to pay them hundreds of pounds and then get whatever it was I paid them for wrong.



Monday, November 02, 2009


They were out there rummaging for metal and I had a semi-knackered washing machine to get rid of, and I had got from number 11 to number 1 in the telephone queue for parking permits...
Talk about multi tasking!
I muttered into the phone from one side of my mouth and muttered to the skip-hounds from the other, trying to prevent them from doing damage as they ripped the washing machine from the belly of the kitchen.
Off to the charity shop again with unfeasibly large bag of toys and books!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

More from Big Ben University

BTW, a new student has enrolled at Big Ben University: Timothy Arsely.
He doesn't like being called Tim, and he answers so many questions correctly that the Lecturers can't bear him (could it be that he's cleverer than them? He's certainly cleverer than the rest of the students)
Recently, he inherited a beautiful cottage on the Gower Peninsula from his deceased grandfather, and can't wait to tell all his friends about it at any opportunity.
He has a loud voice and a slightly Cliff-Richardish lisp, and he has an enormous motorbike in the garden of his flat, which he sometimes shows his girlfriends when they come round.
Especially the ones who are really someone else's girlfriend.


Just had a lovely pizza in Waterloo with all the family to celebrate McSis's twenty-first twenty-first birthday, which was a tonic for the soul. 
Had fun riffing with Big Bruv and Sarah about activity clubs for 'hobblers', the equivalent of 'toddlers' but at the other end of life, dreaming up names for their exercise classes and music classes and so on.
There was a toddler there, Samuel, whose mum, my cousin Anna, told him we were Grandma's children.
Samuel looked baffled, for of course we are not children at all: we are old children.
Indeed, we are almost hobblers.