Monday, May 31, 2010


Anyone know how to contact Chrissie Hynde? I would love to include her in the book in real live form rather than created by stuff I have read and stuff people have said.


Does anyone know the dates of The Chefs' Peel sessions?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Evening, Thinking

Grave voices: but in spite of them, David Laws MP, you have stolen 40 grand from the British taxpayer. That is almost twice as much as I earn in a year, especially now I have been unceremoniously bumped from my job at the University of the West.
Grrr all round!

I am slowly finding people to interview from the paperback version.
Bethan Peters from Delta 5 has been in touch and I will meet Lucy Toothpaste, who wrote the fanzine Jolt, in two weeks time. I'd still really like to talk to Chrissie Hynde, Kate Korris, the Marine Girls and one or two others; my interview deadline is the end of July so I'm gong to rev up the research a little when I've finished marking at the end of this week.
I have just finished reading John Robb's book, Punk Rock: an oral history. There are one or two small interviews from Poly Styrene and Ari, for instance, but it has been most useful as a way to get my head back to that time; it's quite weird how it has done that and I feel disorientated this evening.
I suppose writing about Brighton when I first started the research took me back to that time and place, but we all knew a lot about what was happening in London even though a lot of us didn't go to the gigs up there (although I did see Television and Blondie at their first British gig in Hammersmith).
So reading detailed interviews about the London scene shines a light on a different aspect of it all, the rivalry, support, energy and dedication that everyone put into it all, and the constant accusations of fakery.
I looked for Rockin' Rina's site, The Women of 1970s Punk, and it seems to have gone.

I've probably told you about going to see The Damned at Sussex University; Rat Scabies' father extended a leather-gloved hand to shake hands and I found myself being gripped tightly by a set of metal fingers.
Surreal, and very punk in retrospect!

Generally, I'm feeling quite inspired to do-it-myself again, with ideas for fanzines and a possible self-publish if the paperback deal falls through.
Losing one job has made me anxious about losing the other and I have been making lists about what I could do to earn a crust should the unthinkable happen. It's amazing how little respect anyone seems to have for academics; if I wasn't a gigging musician I think I'd feel really low and miserable.
I wonder if people realise how much we care about the students we teach, and how much we hope that they will do well in the 'outside world'?
That's enough morose talk. Cup of tea, I think.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Eurovision 2010

Here we go! Graham Norton's Terry impersonation begins, and off goes the first song, last year's winner whose flawless complexion and neat hair seem to have been manufactured in a Euro-factory; the audience sing the chorus, a Euro-congregation at the Church of Pop.
Is the audience ready?
The lines are now open... which country can afford to win?
First up, Azerbaijan present us with a song called 'Drip Drop', which is a big football-terrace anthem that has probably already been market tested at matches in Baku. 'Drip Drop, Drip Drop!' taunt the home team to the away team.
'Bakooo, Bakooo forever!', the home team sways, scarves held aloft.

I have already eaten all the mini-poppadums.

Spain gives us the reincarnation of Leo Sayer, lumbering through key changes as a set of  clowns tries to waltz around behind him occasionally colliding with each other (they get another chance to play later because of a stage invasion, a first for Eurovision).
Norway gives us key changes again; their song is Lloydwebberish and the singer looks like the type of TV gardening presenter chosen for their looks and not their green fingers. There's a definite Camaregg/Cleggaron look about him too. It's probably the suit. You could imagine him with his own lectern on the greensward at number 10 between the two coalition chaps, that fateful morn...

Here come Moldova, with a fiddle player and a terrifying swivel-hipped sax player, and a lot of leaping in futuristic silver costumes. I felt Wogan would have been a little more hilariously disgusted than Graham Norton, who possibly enjoyed the twinkly camp a little too much!
Cyprus gave us a proper song, sung by a Welshman they had found on the internet. The guy playing the fretless bass had a rather unfortunate habit of making love to the camera. Will the Welsh people vote for this en masse? With personnel from five countries in the backing band, could this be a crafty ploy from Cyprus to garner votes from all over Europe?
Bosnia Herzegovina (or Bosnier Hertsagovinier as Norton called 'em) gave us a mega-song with a very long wind-down at the end; Belgium gave us no frills with 'Me and My Guitar', sung by him on his guitar. Charming, actually.
Serbia? Mad! Mad! A man with flat helmet-like hair sings out of tune to an oompah track with a Spanish trumpet solo. Utterly weird. Belarus-man had flat hair too, only brown, not blond. 'Shahst imageen, shahst imageeen!' went the song, and suddenly as the last chorus swelled dramatically, twang! out sprung butterfly wings from the sparkly ladies' gowns. Dramatic!
Ireland's song segued from Belarus with the same b-p-ms and possibly the same chords, almost as though both countries had been given the same MOR template to work from. Oh God! An awful Irish whistle starts to tootle halfway through; old-fashioned, old-fashioned, old-fashioned! Plunk plunk plunk on the baby grand...
Greece's long-in-the-tooth love god dressed from head to toe in white made me laugh out loud. He had what appeared to be a medallion suspended on pearls round his neck and his song was punctuated by sporadic 'OOF's from extras from Lord of the Rings. Three quarters of the way through, an inappropriate Kool Herc-style scratch suddenly popped up, only to vanish again as quickly as it appeared.
And of course, the UK presented another Camaregg/Cleggaron, with a pinch of baby Milliband for good measure.Tthe song is pure Watermania circa 1987, constructed from snippets of previous hits and the result of a brainstorming session with a focus group. Ugh, unfortunately.
Georgia- poor woman! The dancers are stretching her this way and that, picking her up and transporting her to the side of the stage, folding her up, spinning her: what a challenge! Finally, she struggles free and belts out the last bit, moth so wide open I can see all her teeth and the roof of her mouth!
'Clep your hens!', commands the singer of the Turkish effort. Is that someone burping? Is Stephen Hawking doing backing vocals? No, it's a robot, wiggling it's cute robot ass and spraying the stage with sparks from a mini angle-grinder (Argos, £39.99). At the end of the song the robot transforms into a flag-waving woman with a sinister and knowing smile.
Albania gives us Soft Cell sung by a lady who looks like she could be from the Philadelphia Cream Cheese ad. Iceland's dance track is sung by a Rheinmaiden. 'Je ne sais pas poirquoi'; wasn't that a Pete Waterman title? The wheel has come full circle! And this lady is surely Ireland's twin sister!
Ukraine's earnest contribution is sung by a woman who looks rather Sun-page-3-ish, an environmentalist we hear, who starts off wearing a black hood. She sings to the sweet people, 'big-arse, big-arse, big-arse'; the show is full of backfiring Euro-English. Shall I vote for the one I feel sorry for?

We get proper bippity-boppity Euro-pop from France, son of Sunny (Boney M). I tapped my feet and thought it was the best song so far.
Graham Norton mentions a group of people who are drinking a shot every time they see a mullet or a violin: rather a lot!
Romania: Cheryl Cole, is that you moonlighting? The other singer is a creepy David Guest lookalike and they sit playing keyboards together at a transparent perspex piano. 'Joo and meee, carncha see we play wid fy-ah!' She hits a couple of very high notes in a song that's another jigsaw of other peoples hit-snippets.
Russia's song swirls in fake snow, and a man in a scarf sings about sweet emblaces with a tragic expression. 'I'm looking at your photo', he lies as he holds a scribbled drawing of a woman's face aloft. The wind machine starts off in the chorus and he tosses the picture into the false breeze (or should that be bleeze?) with a final pathos-filled flourish.
Armenia's singer is the most beautiful woman I have even seen, accompanied by an 87-year-old-man. Her long black hair reaches almost to the back of her knees. Shame about the song!
Germany- I liked this song, sung by a happy-looking girl full of youthful energy, everygirl with an ordinary voice, no special dress and no special hairdo and a natural teenagerish way of dancing.

And I have just found out she has won!
Congratulations Lena!
Who isn't watching Eurovision? Someone has played All Systems Go!
Is the Serbian song really so bad?

Music of Every Sort

I gazed through the glass at the station. Was that Bruce Forsyth advertising Walker's Crisps on a poster?
No, it was Gary Lineker! Oh do be careful with that cheesy grin Gary!

Where was I?
Reviewing the Perseverance gig, that's where.
Acton Bell, her friend Steve and myself sat around chatting; she had entered the Holloway Women's Songwriting Competition and we speculated about why she might not have won and came to the conclusion that there is actually a genre of music called 'singer/songwriter', played by melancholy long-haired 28-year-olds (both male and female) with acoustic guitars and sadness.
If you don't fit into that genre, you're out on a limb, and proud to be there if you're us.
She's thinking of dressing up smart and taking her guitar along to the final, where she'll stand and look cross. Sounds good!
Yes, there are a few bands out there with young men with greedy faces too; they are usually in about five bands so they can spread the likelihood of getting somewhere, and they will ruthlessly band-jump whenever a more likely offer comes along.

Where was I?
Oh yes... Nadya Ostroff and Katy Carr came along, dressed to the nines; Nadya was gypsy-sixties and Katy was thirties-forties with a stern feathered hat. They had been at a book launch and had a tipple or two.
Jude Cowan arrived next, in a very stylish lustre dress and tweed hat.
The gig began with Acton Bell's set of Searchers songs; halfway through Katy suddenly appeared from downstairs with a group of elderly gentlemen in tweed jackets and striped ties, refugees from the cricket at Lord's, whom she had lured upstairs with the promise of forties songs in exchange for paper money to pay the sound guy.
She took to the microphone (rather to Amy's surprise) and played The Sunny Side of the Street and some other wartime songs on her ukelele until they had sat down and begun to look settled, then Amy returned and played some more Searchers and Beatles songs which everyone sang along to.
Then Nadya did her urban rap song, with the mic pointed at her feet to pick up the tramping-on-pavements sound.
Oh dear- it was my turn next and I was playing my own songs (the evening was supposed to partly showcase the Ramble My Rose songwriters group and our new songs).
I played the ones I knew best as I could not bear to mess things up with the tweedy set looking on, and Jude played next, with songs like Doodlebug Alley making a subversive contrast to the Vera Lynn set that Katy played earlier.
We took a break and the tweedy set disappeared; the evening finished with Jude, Katy, Nadya and me sitting in a row and playing two songs each, taking turns.
I completely cocked up All Systems Go! which I'd played perfectly in the soundcheck, so I'm going to put it on Myspace to save face and show that I can really play it (Steve said that he realised why I called myself the posh lady Chuck Berry when he heard it). Jude sang a lovely Indonesian song that lasted nanoseconds, about getting the husks off the rice. She told us she used to sing it with an Indonesian folk band in Indonesia.
You learn a lot of interesting things about people doing this out on a limb stuff!

I spent last night watching Martin play an outstanding set at DeBees in Winsford, Cheshire. I sat with Mike and June and we watched Rob's support band (very good- I'll find out their name) and got up to join Martin for Hamilton Square. Afterwards, a guy camee up to me and told me his brother worked for Mojo and said they should do an article on Martin. Bloody right they should- he is a fantastic songwriter and one of the best guitarists I have ever heard. Not many people know this but he can play a mean rockabilly riff and rock as hard as the real Chuck Berry when the mood takes him!

Anyway- the mini poppadums are a-cracklin' and it's time to make a bucket of tea: it's EUROVISION TIME!!!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Line-up at the Perseverance

It's going to be a good night- Acton Bell, Katy Carr, Jude Cowan,, Nadya Ostroff and myself, and all for the lovely low entry fee of
£5 (and £3 unwaged)
or £100 for millionaires
Upstairs at the Perseverance
11 Shroton Street (off Lisson Grove), Marylebone, NW1
5 minutes from Marylebone or Edgeware Road tube stations

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Toot Toot

Arty Musicy Things

It's often the artists and musicians whose lives alter most quickly after a change in Government.
Back in the 1980s, I would start a community music job, do it for about three weeks, and then the funding would be cut and I'd be back on the dole again.
Half Moon Young People's Theatre, Cambridge House Youth Project, you name it, I did half of it!
The sensation of walking across quicksand is always with me, and the sand is slurping and sucking away again; the tide is turning and anyone artsy is going to have to run for their lives.
Prepare for lift-off!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


On the way to Northwick Park to pick up yet more marking, I noticed the road sign


Aha, said my distracted brain, 'Harold Pinter'.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Yes, I have to SHOUT about this one, at the Perseverance, because clever Myspace has revamped themselves to make themselves yet more user-unfriendly (see rant a few posts ago) and if you're not selling tickets online, you can't tell people about your gigs.
It used to be a site for the small fry, but not any longer.
So THIS THURSDAY the Ramble My Rose songwriters are playing with Acton Bell at the Perseverance.
We will be playing the songs we have written over the past year and a half, many of which I have recorded for my next album.
JCC Don & Helen poster


I've just got back from Barbaraville, where I was helping Martin to finish his album dedicated to Buck Easley, the fiddler who played with Charlie Poole. I have done lots of illustrations for the songs and did a couple of backing vocals for it.
We also recorded some songs for our next together-album, The Cafe of Tiny Kindnesses, and managed to do quite a lot of that, in between visiting some of Ross-shire's and Sutherland's beautiful beaches.
North-east Scotland is beautiful at the moment: there are huge, huge fields of fragrant and bright yellow rape flowers, bordered by massive craggy mounds of deep yellow gorse. The roads are lined with larch trees dripping with fresh green foliage and dandelions peppering the grass verges.
The lochs are still and flat and the sky is huge. Enormous lorries charge down the A9, bound for south from north, and busy vans overtake people like me who have been done for speeding recently and are now very careful. I was overtaken by the same white van three times in different locations on Friday.
It is quiet and full of birdsong; every so often, a fiendish army jet roars through the sky practicing martial exercises.
That reminds me of a story about Perthshire, where the McParents used to live. A shepherd called Gideon who wrote Mills and Boon novels under a pseudonym, had the roof of his house taken off by a low-flying aircraft.
 Naturally, he was furious but he was placated by a new roof and the offer of a ride in a high-speed army jet one day.
Deep Scotland is full of surprising people and odd stories. I suppose London is too, but nowhere is boring.

So now I am back, plunged back into the business of life. Fifty pieces of work to mark this week and various other things to sort out, many of them seeming like steep climbs up slippery mountains for a pointless view.
Offsprog 2 is revising in the tiny kitchen, listening to Beach Party (great band). There are other things too, and photos, but they will have to wait for later.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I have always loved dummies- in the 1970s I used to go round photographing those sinister collecting-boxes shaped like children.

The man on the plane is from Hendon Aircraft Museum, and the beautiful lady is from a shop at the bottom of Muswell Hill called Audio Gold which has a fantastic collection of vintage audio equipment. And her.

A Serious Moan About Myspace

When I first started using Myspace Music about four years ago, it was user-friendly for artists like myself, not fiendishly ambitious, but wanting to tell people about gigs and releases in a simple and direct way.
It has now become increasingly corporate- six games which I haven't asked for have been put on my site, 'friends' are accepted without me checking them out, it is assumed that I want to post from twitter to market myself, the song counter is totally erratic (one play one, day, three hundred the next), and what is prompting this rant is my attempt to upload a gig I have next week, and the fact that I can't do it unless I'm selling tickets online! It has also lost the records of all the gigs I have done since being on Myspace- or lost the location of them so I can't find them.
Signed artists who employ people to market them on social networking sites probably don't give a stuff about this, but I do.
I manage my own self, promote my own self, and need something quick and easy to let people know what I am doing.
Strangely enough, I have no desire to spend hours and hours interfacing with my computer and trillions of social networking sites to make me and my music ubiquitous.
Funnily enough, I would rather be writing, recording and performing my songs.
Am I the only Myspace user to feel like this or does everyone else want games, widgets, blogs, and all those Facebookbebolinkedinsoundcloudcdbaby things?
O for a simple life!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Listening to Songs

I have been listening to student songs from the University of the West since 8.30 this morning.
It's one of my favourite parts of my job, helping songwriters to make their work better.
Ears-rest now, and a cup of tea.
Katy Carr's coming round with the dog she babysits for.
Don't forget the Desperado Housewives gig tomorrow at the Perseverance in MArylebone- it starts at 8 p.m. and we will all be doing some new songs!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cleggaron and Cameregg, Dum and Dee: Dum-Dee-Dum!

A fellow detainee from the Speed Awareness Course sped past me breaking the speed limit on my way home.
C'est la vie!

What news?
Chuck Warner is putting the finishing touches on two CDs on the Messthetics label, a label that specialises in releasing DIY stuff.
One is Let's Talk about Prams (named after a brilliant track by Norwich's Vital Disorders), and the other is a Bournemouth-to-Brighton 1978-82 compilation.
I have got the paperback rights to the Lost Women of Rock Music, and I am hoping to sign a contract for a revised edition soon.
I have just finished drawing a CD cover for Roberto Cassani and I'll be sending him the drawing tomorrow: I hope he likes it!
Martin has sent me some notes on the songs I recorded on Monday and I'm going to blend them with mine and send them off for a bit of fine-tuning (quite liderally)
My iPhone has broken, so if I normally phone you and haven't, that's why. A new one is coming on Monday, meaning I have to stay in and mark assignments all day.
Huff Puff.

It's sorely tempting to write a cheesy duet for Cleggaron (Cameregg?).
They are the boy-band of politics, bashfully smiling at each other and flicking dust (or could it be dandruff?
Where's the Head and Shoulders?) off each other's lapels with a coy grin.
At any moment I expect a massive orchestra swell, and they will turn to the cameras and sing a sincere ballad called This Thing Is Bigger Than Both Of Us.
The assembled hacks and lackeys will join in a rousing chorus, and life will be declared a joke as the credits roll.

I Was Naughty

I'm off for speed awareness training this morning; I was caught just outside Gateshead about six months ago.
My head is bowed, I am ashamed, I will never do it again (until the next time).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Slits at the Islington Academy

The support band was loud and the lead singer/guitarist looked as though he had been practicing looking wrecked in front of a full length mirror. Maybe I was just a mite impatient, after yesterday's long drive. The music wasn't bad, it was just that the drummer had the grace and agility of an elephant's foot...

On bounced The Slits, with Ari in yellow and green, her dreads bunched above her head in an Ancient Greek style (too much Medea in my life!).
The bass started up and started making my jaw shake immediately: Tessa was looking very happy; Anna looked stern at first but soon relaxed into the vibe. The new guitarist Honey Chile concentrated hard on her playing and Holly stood behind the keyboard.
They started off with some of their earlier songs- including Shoplifting and Typical Girls. It's amazing how sophisticated those songs sound now! Their first new song, Reject was very punky and they gave it the full energy treatment. It was most definitely a Slits song even though it was new.
Ari got the audience participating with jungle noises and told us all about seeing an interview about the Runaways being the 'first all-female punk rock band'; she was annoyed by the continuing myth-making about it all.
Another new song was a lover's rock song that featured Holly on lead vocals, Tessa on Keyboards and Ari on bass. It was lovely, actually- I really like lover's rock and their boisterous take on it works really well. They definitely have the voices for it.
Ari was on saucy form and was also having huge fun- she accidentally did a little dance and made it into a little sketch with Anna and Tessa where she was a bull charging into an imaginary cloak, with Anna making the drum rolls and the crash as Ari hit her target.
They did Grapevine with Andrea Oliver and Tessa's daughter Phoebe (except their version is Bassline).
At one point Ari asked the crowd what they were doing in '76 and misheard the answer from a punter.
'You shot your puppy?' She was horrified.
'No, I shit my nappy', said the horrid audience member.
Ari sang an acapella song called Bashment (that's a Jamaican party) while Holly went to relieve herself (she threw a glass of water over the audience afterwards that left everyone wondering what was actually in there).
The next song, Trapped Animal, featured Honey Chile on vocals, Ari on drums, and Anna on guitar.
At the end, Ari sent the set lists winging into the crowd and picked up her huge array of clothing (from the Bronx: she had been dressing and undressing all the ay through, and she's in bloody good shape!), and the band bounced off as energetically as they had appeared.
I have seen a lot of contemporary pretenders to the Slits' crown. There isn't anyone like them: so many of the younger bands have manufactured themselves in their image and make copies of their music without understanding what generated it in the first place. I am very much in favour of all-woman bands, obviously, but most especially when they have their own voice, something that the Slits discovered many years ago.

On the way back to the tube, a lone busker played and ear-splitting version of The Wild Rover on a penny whistle.

Two Very Clever Ideas

I had two very clever ideas in the middle of the night.
I was too tired to wake properly and write them down.
'I will remember them', I thought.
I didn't.
Later, I had another very clever idea so I woke up and wrote that down.
This morning, I looked.
It wasn't very clever after all.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Past and the Present

I drove down memory lane yesterday: Martin was producing some tracks by Jill Hepburn in the Cluny studios, so I went over to Hexham in Northumberland, where the family spent Saturday mornings when I was a child (when we weren't watching news reels in the Tatler in the Haymarket in Newcastle).
There was the theatre where I was a rat in The Pied Piper, aged about six; now it's called The Forum, and it's a cinema. 
The Abbey seems smaller: I was one of a series of monks there, clad in a cowl and habit made from a sheet by McMum, along with all the other Girl Guides. We filed through, singing a chant in our hootling teenage voices.
I went to Wylam, and felt sad, sensing the tracks of McDad's life and my childhood echoing there somewhere...
It was cold and rainy, and there weren't many people about. I'd been overtaken on the way there by the Geordie Chapter of the Harley Davidson Appreciation Society, and I sang a mini-song about that in the shadow of the Abbey. I am going to sing a song every Sunday for 31 days (a month of Sundays) as a diary of what I'm doing.
When I got back to Newcastle I thought I should have done my song there instead- it was the Newcastle/Durham Boat Race and the Quayside was packed: an excitable man with a barking voice sang-sung the latest about who was winning, losing, won last year, the year before and the year before that; there were stalls, including a German one blasting out Go West (Village People) sung in German, and selling Bratwurst with about a million different sauces.
I sat on the Millenium Bridge in the chilly sunshine, watching the Kittiwakes bullying each other and reading the Curious Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stephenson (trying to understand marriage passim).
Before me, bridges arc-ed over like Russian nesting dolls: the Swing Bridge, the High Level Bridge and the Tyne Bridge.
It is a very dramatic city.
This morning, it was my turn in the studio: I re-sang Little England and Summer Days and re-did The Song of the Unsung Heroine. I had time to record New Year's Eve and The House on the Hill, so they will go on the album too, in their very simple form.
I like the Cluny Studios and I've enjoyed working there a lot. The engineer, Sean, is great and it's lovely looking out at the Ouse Burn, even when it's sleet you are looking out at! Three cheers for Martin, who has produced it!

I drove home through stripes of different weather, cloud, rain and sun. Rich people's hedges were so dense with spring growth that they looked like slices of green fudge. The Tories had left their roadside posters up, all of them. The A1 was smooth, quick and quiet, so my soundtrack of the blues and Motown helped me home.
And so to bed.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Last Tracks of New Album

It has been a very busy three weeks, what with visiting the students from the University of the East at their work placements, drawing Medea (Persis-Jade is sending me the finished comic to look at: good luck to them in Brazil!), assessing the songs from the students at the University of the West, staring to mark thesis work, various gigs...
Variety is the spice of life, and I am not a bum-on-seat-watch-TV-person (unless it's a really good cop show or the news).
I tried to watch Gareth Malone's sea shanty programme last night  but it was too much Gareth and not enough sea shanty: it felt very lazy, as so much time was given over to what Gareth felt and so little to actual music. If they had researched it properly they could have found some fringe sea shanty music- Admiral's Hard, perhaps.
Or even just given the actual singers more airtime, or gone to the National Sound Archive to give it all a historical perspective.
But no: Gareth wandered in his anorak, pontificating. What a shame!
The choirs programme where he went in to a comprehensive and motivated lots of grumpy shouty teenagers was fabulous, and I suppose I expected a similar amount of energy and charisma.
And here I am, doing an all-about-me blog. I am so hypocritical, I should be a politician!

Shortly, I will be making my way to Newcastle, where I am finishing off the first-take album, just vocal and one guitar, very simple and very scary t do. When I listened to the whole thing, I sounded tired on three songs so I'm going to do those ones again. I hope I don't sound tireder!

Friday, May 07, 2010


I went up the stairs at Leicester Square tube station today, and remembered busking there with Rachel Dollymixture; all we earned was half a sausage, from a tramp.


What an odd time politically: looks like we are going to be governed by upper class twits!
The thing I really, really care about is the National Health Service, which I think is the best thing we have in the UK, and which I would passionately defend for ever and ever and ever.
What will happen?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

A Working Day

After going and performing the momentous cross activity, it's off to work for the Songwriting assessment at the University of the West. The students this year have been great, really working hard at their music and developing it.
Occasionally, someone will write something so beautiful it makes me cry. One year it was a Russian girl who missed her mum and who wrote a whole suite of beautiful piano songs with Russian lyrics.
Next time I saw her play, two years later, she'd turned herself into a sort of Euro-bimbo and that made me want to cry too!

Another year, there were a combination of ruffty-tuffy producers and Bacharach/David sorts of people. I cried three times with that lot- especially at the producer who had never sung before singing softy songs about the sea. They were simply awesome and if I'd ever wanted to preserve a real-life moment for ever it was when I was listening to those songs.
Some of the guys from the rough London estates can write the most poignant and beautiful stuff once they have permission to do it; I have found this at the University of the East too.
It takes a bit of persuasion sometimes but even if they never do it again in their professional career, I know that it is always a good thing for them to do, because they tell me so.

How can you tell it's the end of the academic year?
Emotional teacher-burblings, that's how.
I have ten thesises to mark, then over fifty pieces of work form the University of the East (that's about 150,000 words) and then 80 songs to listen to after that; I think I can be forgiven for enjoying my students' performances, amongst all that.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

This is the Skinny Cat logo I drew for Liz's agency


A pest-control company on the North Circular has a board by the side of the road advertising it's 'pest of the week'; sometimes, its rats.
Other times, it can be cockroaches, or fleas, or mice.
This week, the board announces its pest of the week as 'politicians'.

Yes they are pests, but the suffragettes fought hard all those years ago so we got the vote; Offsprog 1 is coming up from Brighton and we are going to vote together, as she hasn't voted before. I am proud of her for making the effort to have her voice heard.

Jack of Hearts

This is a bit of a jumper I knitted when I was about 20.
I never wore it, so I snipped this bit off and kept it.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


I can't believe it! Literally two days after I have sung under the Brunel Bridge, Susan Philipsz pips me to the post by being a Turner nominee for singing folk songs under bridges amongst other things.
I am reduced to being an echo of someone else.
And I was disappointed because the ducks weren't there to accompany the song.
I will put the song on Myspace, hidden at the bottom where no-one can see. It's not a very brilliant song, because I made it up just before I clambered out of the boat, once I could see there was nobody fishing there.
You can hear the wind, and imagine how cold it was.
Yes, it was cold.

Desp. Ho's

This afternoon, the Desperado Housewives gathered to plot and plan their next excursion, an unplugged night at the Perseverance on the 18th of May.

We have invented a fictitious neighbourhood which we are going to explore in songs, introducing you to our neighbours, all of whom we disapprove of unstintingly. What are the suburbs for, if not meanness?
All that thinking exhausted us and we sat afterwards like used teabags, barely able to raise a smile or a sarcastic quip.
But it was worth it.
I hope you are coming.
It is a Tuesday night and it will cost £5 and £3, and I will remind you again closer to the time.


Two horrid men from 1970s knitting patterns are vying for power...
Intelligence is brutal, and wisdom is graceful.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Some Medea Drawings: Flow

River Thames

'F*CK OFF !!!!'
Oh yes! the jolly teenage alarm has gone off, it's 10 a.m. teenage dawn, and Offsprog 1 is up for the weekend to celebrate Offsprog 2's birthday.
Yesterday, I got up, looked at the cold grey rain and phoned to cancel our boat trip up the Thames.
As soon as I had, I changed my mind, bellowed at the girls to get them out of bed, rammed a few picnic things into a basket (plus a flask of tepid soup) and off we went to Datchet and a little electric boat, max speed 20 mph, for a chilly and wet pootle upriver.
We were rewarded straight away by the sighting of a kingfisher, iridescent blue on its way down and iridescent bronze on its way back up to its branch, a silver fish drooping from its beak.
There was little traffic on the river, meaning that there were hundreds of birds and very friendly lock-keepers.
A pleasure-boat took great pleasure in the girls; leering teeth glowed in the gloom behind the plastic rain-cover as they swirled round for another look.
We couldn't accelerate away, so we slowed down to a creeping pace to avoid them, and watched the cormorants posing stiffly with their wide wings, herons perched like statues on rotten posts that emerged from the currents, a crowd of swans mexican waving in an odd rhythm as they vied to be first in line for crumbs thrown by an elderly couple, ducks of all colours flying, up-tailing, swimming straight towards us and then darting away again.
We swapped gloves as the cold sodden rope made our hands red and chapped; we snapped French bread into scrumptious sections and ate sinful amounts of chocolate.
One lock-keeper, amused by Offsprog 1's photography project of signs and symbols, went off and found her a laminated poster he'd been removing regularly from fence-posts-
Nobody was sure if it was a pervy site or one for romantic liasons between pet-owners!
We got as far as the Brunel Bridge at Maidenhead, where I disembarked and yelled a song at the magic brickwork, which yelled it back to me again.
On the way back to Datchet, we inspected the velvety green lawns and topiary of the seriously-rich, whose Agatha-Christie houses back on to the Thames. We passed narrowboats with serious captains, fancy little cruisers with posh chaps at the helm, and a big steel boat that the lock keeper advised us to follow into the lock in case it smashed us to smithereens.
Although it was bloody cold, it was a fantastically relaxing way to spend the day- we were out for five and a half hours, and it's taken me till this morning to feel warm again!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

A kind Mr Usman Abudu has offered to put thousands of pounds into my bank account! This is my lucky day! Watch this space!

I went to the quilts exhibition again today with Offsprog One.
It is such a good exhibition; I think my favourite is the one made by inmates at Wandsworth prison: each little section depicts a different attitude to incarceration, some positive and some negative, and of course they are all separated by lines of stitching, a poignant reminder that its creators exist in separate cells just like the painstakingly-embroidered sections of material that make up the whole quilt.

When I got back I did some more work on the Medea pictures. They have to be finished by Monday and I'll post the whole 12-page sequence when they are done. I think each page has taken a day, although I have been working of three or four at once sometimes so the ink can dry properly. They have been done of special paper called CS10 which you can't get any more, according to Mr Art Shop Man. If you make a mistake, you can scrape it away even though it is done in pen, and the paper is white again, ready for you to make another mistake.

Was that Dennis Bovell we saw in Digital Village yesterday? We couldn't decide; he was involved for a while with the Daintees, almost producing the track Boat to Bolivia.
I have moaned about the shop assistants there (yes, guys, thats what you are, although you clearly believe you are the Kings of Digital Music Equipment and Far Too Important to talk to mortals who walk in with tedious questions about microphones) and true to form, they were completely uninterested in anything except themselves, indulging in a form of collective onanism that almost warrants a TV documentary to investigate the phenomenon.
I know I am a meanie about things like this; it comes from doing lots of menial jobs in my time, and trying to do them well.
I have cleaned guest houses (horrible things stuffed down the back of the dressing tables), worked in shops (adventures with awkward customers), washed dishes in a French restaurant (garlic butter all up my arms), cleaned old people's homes (lift your feet up while I hoover underneath them), worked in pubs (you get your bum pinched), collected glasses in night clubs (look at the floor next to the bar: you find money), developed x-rays (the chemicals stink), worked in a press office (Tim Lott the journalist and now author asked me on the phone if he could speak to someone intelligent, please!) and various other selected occupations.
I have tried never to be snotty to the public in any of these jobs and it does get on my wick when people are snotty to customers in shops.
 I could be Prince Charles in disguise!
I could be Britney Spears in oldface make-up!
I could be the secret millionaire, thinking about taking them away from their daily routine with a cheque for £25,000!
I could be a genii, offering them anything their hearts desired!
What would they wish for?
'I wish the customers would go away.'