Monday, July 30, 2012

Unromantic Association

I was admiring Zara Phillips' beautiful horse, until I got to its veiny nose and was reminded of varicose veins. It must be that I use up the romance in my soul on other things, I think.

Hot Wheels

Bet you didn't know this! Wheelie suitcase wheels get really, really hot ( must be the friction).
I thought I had spilt coffee on my clothes as I lifted my case on to the luggage rack the other day, then found out that the heat came from the wheels of my case: almost burned my fingers.
Science: doncha just love it?

Just As I Was About To...

... cancel my subscription to Mojo in a fit of pique as they have still not reviewed The Chefs' CD they went and reviewed The Lost Women of Rock Music and gave it four stars! Oddly enough, this is the second review in Mojo, who reviewed the hardback three years ago and gave it only three. Shows what a bunch of photographs and a funky cover does for a book (although seriously, it is quite a different book with all the new interviews and so on). 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Durham is full...

...of Morris dancers, clog dancers, sword dancers; bells a-jingle, clogs a-clumping, swords a-weaving. The sun's a-shining and the blogger McCookerybook's a-irritating.

Buried in Newcastle

We might not hear this on the national news: people wanting to watch the Olympic football match in Newcastle upon Tyne missed the match because of ticketing problems.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


After receiving a bill for nearly £1,500 from EDF this morning and waiting for almost ten minutes to get through to them on the phone to query the bill, it transpired that the meter-reader had misread my electricity meter.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review for the Lost Women on the Gonzo Blog

Thank you to Jonathan for this- it's a very lively blog! Check it out.

On the Pavement

What a poignant discovery on the pavement opposite a minicab office in High Barnet. It seems to sum up exactly what we do to our talented artists; we chew them up and spit them out and forget that they are human beings being swirled round in a maelstrom of moneymaking, booze, drugs and hungry crowds.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yesterday: the Story of a Day

To the graduation of Offsprog One, who has graduated from the University of Brighton.
I caught the train from London Bridge where I was treated to an exciting audio mash-up of Boris Johnson's Olympic Tannoy Message (the vanity of the man!) blended with the Left Luggage Tannoy Message:
'Hi folks! This is the Mayor of London... and please don't leave your luggage unattended'.
The train sped through the early morning sunshine which would have been a beautiful experience but for one of the toilets not being in service and the other having no water with which to wash one's hands, a fact one didn't realise until one had generously soaped the hands post-activity.
It was a rather sticky journey.

Offsprog One and her friend had made their own gowns and mortar boards out of McCallum and Black Watch tartans and a pale green spotted bedsheet, respectively.
Later Offsprog One told her tutors the tale of the confiscated tartan bagpipes accessory, a story they only started to doubt when she told them with innocent eyes of the bagpipes being unceremoniously burst as a punishment.

At the ceremony, a succession of glamorous, silken-haired women in tottering porno-heels crossed the stage to shake hands with the Vice Chancellor. We had earlier been told that the University experience would provide them with friendships that would last them the vest of their life.
Yes, a life vest would come in handy these economic times.

However, I am now the proud mother of a graduate daughter; in the Pavilion Gardens the graduates flung their mortar boards into the air with abandon before we wandered off for a pizza.
Offsprog One's friend's father (O the complexities of anonymity!) realised that the sole of his shoe was parting from its upper; luckily, art students think laterally and soon his daughter was chewing a large wad of gum to use as an adhesive.
This was a successful solution and only those of us in the know could see the white gum squelching out between layers of shoe as we headed to our lunching destination.

We sat at a long table, various parents interspersed with various Offspring and their various partners. I was entranced by the story telling. The chap opposite told me about his 90 year old grandfather's birthday party that featured a cake with a really tacky-looking rotating artificial flower on top of it, that suddenly opened to reveal spectacular fireworks and then a ring of candles.
I asked where his mum had got it from, because I Want One.
'Mum's really useless with computers, actually', he said. I imagined naive internet ordering, a bit like naive art, where you diddle about with the computer buttons and just see what gets delivered.
I may try this.

On the way home I skidded on a pool of seagull guano that had just been deposited on the station floor but successfully regained my balance if not my composure.

The final leg of my journey featured one of the World's Most Controlling Men. Just before my stop, I gathered together my belongings and said, 'Excuse me, please'.
'I'm getting off at the next stop', he said, and stayed put until the last minute, headphones clamped to his head and nose in the newspaper.
Next time, I shall travel with a water-pistol full of seagull poo.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Those Two Olympic Fur Toys

Are you supposed to buy both, so you get two eyes? The eyes are horrible, it won't work, I'm afraid. Ugh.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


I saw these beautiful paper carrots in the window of the local bakers and I marvelled at their new-found taste for surrealism.
Then I realised that they were Olympic torches.

John Peel Night in Brighton: October

There is Bear in the Air

After seeing Fred's amazing show last night, I dug out the print of my daughter and her bear. What a co-incidence!
The bear print below in A1 size, signed on request and printed on good quality paper is for sale for £100, from

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Rich and Varied Day

There is a pile of post-it notes on the table that I managed to ignore all day; they are still there, sticky, curled and pink, trying to nag me, but I'm not in the mood. This morning I went over to Gina's. She's sorting out a short film of The Raincoats and I am helping her to structure and edit it, which is fascinating, tiring and exciting all at the same time. Punk survivors, from the people in the bands to the people who wrote about them, are a colourful and interesting bunch of people. After a short turnaround at home I headed back out, this time to Rich Mix in Shoreditch to see my friend Fred Gehrig perform. My route took me through some characteful streets, the like of which I have not seen before. There was a square that was more of a circle with a little park full of teenagers and hollyhocks; the iPhone satnav had adventures in mind. I'd never been to Rich Mix before. It was thronging with people, most of them young and unfeasibly trendy, going to see films, dance, theatre, the whole lot. Close-cropped dodocephalic heads with tufts of bleached hair at the front and mismatched little beards we the order of the day, worn with knee-length shorts and suit jackets and rich man's teeth. I was scared stiff, in a different world; a young woman gave us all badges (this was something to do with a world record attempt) and a woman smiled at me; I felt better. When we got into the auditorium, we watched a film of Fred dressed in Lycra, his face almost completely covered, and he told us some very funny stories about appropriate clothing for appropriate places. His work is about contrasting the strict working practices of Merce Cunningham with the much more extrovert work of PiƱa Bausch; in the film his face was close to us and we concentrated on his eyes. When the film ended, Fred appeared in person, clad all in black Lycra, and danced himself into projected slides of neon lights in deep yellow and blue, making complicated geometric shapes with his limbs, sometimes yoga-like, sometimes looking like photographs of Balanchine's choreography. I don't go to see many dance shows and was knocked out by the athletic prowess of Fred's dancing; I sat there feeling like a marshmallow. Note to self: must do a bit of exercise! He disappeared, to return, panting, in a grey suit; he spoke of meeting Merce Cunningham. 'Do you just make it up as you go along?', he had asked. The audience laughed. 'And what about the arms?' The audience laughed again. He mimicked the elderly and stiff Merce Cunningham, before walking forward to a projector which projected an image of a polar bear on to his suit.... Gradually he moved backwards and the bear appeared on the back wall. Fred started to dance with it and stroke it, until he appeared before us in a fur beard! It was very funny, especially when, at the question and answer session afterwards, he was pulling strands of false beard from his mouth. Anyway, I have pictures which I shall upload tomorrow.

The Tact of McDad

McDad was tactful. A guest arrived from Germany after a year's absence, during which time he had out on a considerable amount of weight. 'Hugo's really blossomed out since the last time we saw him', remarked McDad, tactfully.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sunday Afternoon at The Lexington

I will be playing a rare London date at the Hangover Lounge at the Lexington in Pentonville Road on Sunday at roughly 3.45 p.m.
Maybe a Chefs song or two...

CD Reviews Galore!

Well, here we are: a once-yearly occurrence. Why? Because although I love listening to music, my job involves listening to huge amounts of songs and writing feedback (very similar to being an A&R or a reviewer) and it feel like work. But these four releases are worth putting that to one side for; reasons explained as I go along!

Kirsty Macleod: Winter Sun and Summer Rain

Kirsty is a relative, of the complicated 'nth cousin, so many times removed' variety; I first heard her sing
at one of my birthday parties at the big house we used to live in.
People came along and did a turn; quietly, Kirsty sat in the chair and started singing. What a beautiful voice! Strong and self- assured, and the beginnings of some very interesting song writing. Almost five years later, and I've finally got round to reviewing her CD, which came out about a year ago, during which time she has been regularly gigging around the Kent area.
There is a strong 1960s folk feel to Kirsty's music. She is a competent strummer and also a fine finger-picker, and some of her songs here are supported by some lovely harmony singing.
My favourite song here is Just a Boy, a lyrically poignant song with a beautiful descending chord sequence that is very much after my own heart. The more anti-war songs that are out there the better; this is a heartfelt protest song. I also liked Say It Like You Mean It, whose lyric 'I fell in love with the person you're hiding' is sung with the bitterness of one who has been deeply disappointed in love.
Worth the Ride has a full band arrangement; as a song it is very well-crafted and I can imagine a future where she develops her music along these lines, as many of her songs would work as band songs.
Other stand-out tracks are the opener, Falling, and the closer, Drifting, which has a lovely, sparkly picking arrangement and is a beautiful song.
All in all this is a very listenable debut from a new artist; and do go to see her play!
More details at:

Mir: Secret

Mir's album is released on Martin Stephenson's Barbaraville label; Martin has been developing artists in Ross-shire and beyond for a couple of years now, starting with Ally Macleod (no relation to Kirsty, above!) whose sophisticated repertoire had had many plays on Radio Scotland and who now regularly gigs around the Highlands; and he is currently working with the very funny Eliza P.
Mir is based in Invergordon, and this CD captures the spontanaiety of Martin's discovery of her powerful and positive vocal talents. There is  a real 'Sun Sessions' feel to these recordings, which are augmented by Martin's guitar playing, and harmonica, drums and keyboards from guest musicians including her partner Sheep on bass.
The songs are short and punchy. Soul is a particularly catchy song which had me dancing around the kitchen;Old No 7 has great lyrics which Mir sings with conviction. Bad 4 U has a  traditional country feel (featuring Jim Hornsby on guitar) and should be winging its way over to Nashville, pronto. Made Me is pure rockabilly (is that Jerry Lee I hear in the background?); I loved the gospel feel of Undone. Love on the Wind ( a song by your truly: thanks Mir!) is augmented byAllan Leckie's organ playing (he got me in the end, didn't he Martin?).
The energy of these recordings is great: you feel as though you are sitting in the room with them all and listening!
For more Mir, check out:

Gary Stewart: A Year and a Day E.P

I have seen Gary Stewart play twice at The Keys in Huddersfield, a great venue promoted by Andrew and Tina, and I have always enjoyed his sets. He takes his cue very much from Paul Simon although his Scottish roots are also very much in evidence.
This is an e.p. although I believe he has recently released an album which would be well worth getting hold of. His songs are full of drama and he has a maturity in his playing style that you can only really learn from paying your dues on the live circuit; this e.p.showcases a strong style as an arranger as he dramatises his stories with additional instrumentation that includes the subtle use of pedal steel on the track Thorns. The track Eve is a perfect, sweet and poignant elegy to his niece; Green is a bouncy, mandolin-driven track that has a great live feel to it. The final track of the quartet is Blue which is  a moody, brooding and atmospheric track with a completely uplifting chorus that ought to be the title track of a Clint Eastwood film. I actually think it is brilliant.
Gary's website is:

Martin Stephenson and the Daintees: California Star

Last (and by no means least) is Martin's band release with The Daintees, again on his own label Barbaraville. This album features the playing skills of The Daintees' John Steel (guitars and bass) and Kate Stephenson (drums) and as soon as I hear it I imagine the band on stage playing (with Lou on bass of course), I have enjoyed hearing these tracks played live many times. There are many guest musicians, including the singer/songwriter Jill Hepburn whose album Martin co-produced last year.
It's very interesting to review a CD of songs that I actually heard in their original 'put pen to paper' form, from 'Have you got a piece of paper Helen?', to being played by Tom Robinson, Bob Harris and Gideon Coe on BBC Radio 6!
So let's slot it into the computer and have a listen with an attempt at objectivity...
The Ship has a lovely shuffle groove that features Martin singing at the low end of his vocal range, delicately complemented by Ally Macleod's drifting vocals. The Streets of San Sebastian is a dramatic and Spanish-flavoured song with Kenny Brady (ex-fiddle player for The Fall) singing falsetto in counterpoint to John Steel's lap steel flourishes: this has to be one of the best tracks! I love it.
The title track California Star is a dreamy and catchy track that is the perfect drive-time song: I want to be out there on the open road! Something Special has a gorgeous melody and I'm humming along as I write; I can imagine a top-notch soul singer singing this one! Silver Bird showcases Martin's way with a melody and has me rushing to my guitar to try to steal his chords (shhh!).
Sweet Cherwine has proved a hit with the manufacturers of Cheerwine in the USA (amazing how these songs travel around the world) and the final song I'm In Love for the First Time, well... I wrote it, innit?
This is a lovely collection of songs that shows of Martin's writing skills to a tee: time now for a California Star tour with the band!
The album can be heard and bought at:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Green chatterboxes, I heard them before I saw them. What funny birds! Although non-indigenous, I prefer them to the bossy crows and bullying magpies that keep the other little birds away from the bird feeder in next door's garden. they are funny! I remember in Barcelona they lived in upside down nests under the palm trees, apparently having no regard for gravity at all.
They have cheeky faces and a self-assurance in the way they fly. And they are green, one of my fave colours.
More please.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

From Tweet to Blog

A brilliant review of Martin's Darwen gig has moved from the land of Twitter to a blog
I have been taking Twitter lessons from Andy Cairns; I am still at elementary level, in the kindergarten of the twittersphere, but I see a light at the end of the receiver. I think.

I shall be reviewing California Star, and CDs by Gary Stewart, Kirsty Macleod and Miriam Campbell very shortly an my once-yearly blogreview review thing. That'll be a change in listening from French swing electronica!

Sorry about the short postings: I have spent most of today sitting at the kitchen table thinking about survival, songwriting and shoes (rain or sun: what to wear?) or watching TV (TwentyTwelve: genius, spooky how the writer guessed what was going to happen before it did. Second sight?)

Tomorrow, an excursion: I'll tell you when I get back!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Shakespeare Sheffield

Really good night last night: Martin duetting with the street noise outside the pub, girls laughing, men shouting, cars going past: surreal and very funny! Beautiful version of 'Rain' by candlelight. Lovely audience as always in Sheffield! And now the sun is shining too.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Can this be Yorkshire? It's flat!

Uncut, Unlimited

Youngest Bruv gave me 'Uncut' to read on the train to Sheffield. On the cover, I misread: 'Neil Young: 2012th Interview' Sheffield Shakespeare tonight , supporting Martin Stephenson. Shall I be rock, or shall I be soul?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Brother's Train Late Because of Cow on East Coast Line


Dull day in Edinburgh: spent the morning planting pansies in the little patch of soil outside McMum's door, then went to pick her up from the Hospital. Had an urgent email to reply to and I've walked two miles to a seedy intenet caff in the Royal Mile (sticky keys!).
Silver lining? Bought Martin a fantastic 1950s-style shirt with little guitars all over it.
Don't tell him!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Has Anyone Else Noticed.... similar Keith Richards is to Prince Charles, and vice versa?

The Sun Shines in Edinburgh

At 9.30 this morning, after a bus journey in completely the wrong direction, I was wandering down Princes Street in the sunshine, in and out of the shops which were mostly advertising huge discounts as their sales came to an end. I managed to find some blue suede shoes! It seemed as though I has spent a massive amount of money when what I had really done was a massive amount of looking. I was just heading back to McMums to mae a hearty stew and feed the cat, when a voice called out my name. It was Mary, a former colleague at the University of th East, B-girl extraordinaire and now living in Canada, over for two weeks to work and also go to a friends wedding. We found a cafe in the Grassmarket and had a good yak. Martins playing in Preston tonight; Jim the fiddle is up from London and I know the gig is going to be tremendous! (sorry about posting errors; there are some very strange words in yesterday's post that aren't what I meant at all but this smart-@rse phone is predicting text and not letting me change it afterwards!). Tomorrows Martin gig is at Cockermouth in Cumbria, and the I will join him again in Sheffield on Saturday, hip hip hooray! Tomorrow, I will be planting pansies in McMums garden- I hope it's another sunny day in Edinburgh...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Robin and Cox's Yard

Two lovely gigs this week; The Robin at Bilston, near Wolverhampton, and Cox's Yard in Stratford upon Avon. The Robin is a proper sticky floor venue, so sticky in fact that June walked right out of her slip-on shoes, much to the amusement of the sound man. Martin has left his Yiari guitar at home and is travelling with a little vintage acoustic and a Gibson 335. This is bringing out different songs: he played "I Can See" which is one of my absolute favourites. We layed some songs from our new album "The Cafe of Tiny Kindnesses" as well. The venue has great sound: what a luxury to be crystal clear! Yesterday's gig was at Cox's Yard in Stratford upon Avon, which is a Posen arty bar down by the river, surrounded by meadows and barges. For the first time, we net a sound guy with iPad software that allowed him to change the equalisation remotely and iron out feedback problems as he wandered around the room. It was another lovely gig and Martin played "Nairn Beach" which is another of my all time faves. Travelling is great: it's the people you meet. In Bilston, the breakfast chef came out to chat, and we learned about leather making in the Black Country, and gigantic piebald rats that meant that her mum had to make th close the back door at all times in case the rats paid an unwanted visit! I'm off to the London College of Fashion to present a paper at the Eupop Conference (an early start to catch the cheap train!) then up to Edinburgh to look after McMum before heading back to Sheffield for the gig on Saturday. Eliza P will be supporting Martin until then, and also finishing her album. Phew! iPhone posting is a slow process, but I have to say that the iPhone satnav is a boon for getting around town: it found the music shop yesterday and it found the station this morning. I wish it could deliver the conference paper too!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Existential Crisis

I can't believe that the teenagers  and young people graduating in current times are leaving to the same (or worse) economic mess that I left college into.
I remember McMum sending me envelopes stuffed with press cuttings of jobs that I was hopelessly unqualified for. I was interviewed for a print technician's job at the London College of Printing, one of twenty interviewees from six hundred applicants. I didn't get the job.
A lifetime of surviving meant when the girls were young we lived on milk tokens and later free milk from the milkman (who later got sacked for delivering leftover milk to people that he felt deserved it).
My ex-partner and myself were not able to get a mortgage until we were 38 after multiple redundancies and seemingly endless spells of unemployment.
When he managed to get a proper job, I cried for an hour.
We watched some of our contemporaries sail past us, and others perish miserably. I started work full time when the girls were really really young, as I couldn't trust the working world any more to provide anything for us to survive on as a family.
Really, we survived on Hope. Is there enough of this to go round, this recession?

Red Machine

I though you might like this nice picture of a red machine.

Robin 2, Bilston

Martin Stephenson is playing at The Robin, Bilston, tonight and I'm supporting him, onstage 8.15!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Corruption at the Highest Level?

You may have been wondering about all this rain... well, on a wander around the West End of London yesterday afternoon, I discovered what may well be the reason.
Corruption permeates everything about British society these days: the banks, the media, and now Theatreland. Someone at this theatre has a direct line to the Weathermaker, quite obviously. This production of Singin' in the Rain took over from Les Miserables at roughly the same time as the weather took a turn for the... more fluid.
Since Barclays Bank has been in the news so much because of its illegal practices, I pondered on their sponsorship of the bicycle hire scheme in London, which they originally negotiated with Ken Livingstone. It must have driven them to distraction that Boris Johnson took over as London mayor, for instead of Barclaybikes, we have Borisbikes (Kenbikes wouldn't have really worked, would it?).
Poor silly old Barclays.
I am waiting to see what Lloyds has been up to. Like may people I will move my account if, as I suspect, they have been up to no good just like the others.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Writing a Paper

There are so many books on the table that I have to stretch my arms over them in order to write. I am listening to Northern Soul, uplifting music, as I am foraging for good quotations in books about reverberation, subcultures and gender.
I have just downloaded Tubby the Tuba but can't find the spoken text anywhere, so I guess I'm off bookshopping the afternoon as well as artgallerying.
It's all rather exciting actually; I haven't felt this excited about writing a paper for ages!

Friday, July 06, 2012

Eupop Conference

Interested in an academic conference on European Popular Culture?
My paper on the sounds of female punk bands will be on Wednesday lunchtime.
Registration here:
(If you write to them you can pay £50 for one day I think)
More details later.
Will be heading speedily back from Tuesday's gig for this!

The Women's Liberation Music Archive

Now What Exhibition

It's a long time  since I saw Acton Bell, but we met up for coffee with a very hung over Offsprog One and went to the exhibition of Brighton Graphics and Illustration students' work this afternoon at Netil House in London Fields. It's in the same building as the New Enlightening Church, which is odd (not only have I played there but I also went to see Dub Colossus there a few weeks ago).
We spent over an hour watching films, looking at the art, picking up postcards, and generally hanging out and enjoying ourselves.
Tomorrow at 7 there is a discussion with artists Evelin Kasikov, Catharine Rossi, Noel Douglas, Morag Myerscough amd others from 7 p.m. onwards, free to get in. The exhibition is on 9-5 tomorrow and Sunday.
Netil House, E8 3RL
(Bus 55 from Old Street Tube to Mare Street).

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Another Yellow Jacket Day

At the crack of dawn, I bade farewell to Martin at Luton, and drove back through Harpenden and St Albans in the rain before picking up Don Letts' book 'Culture Clash' which I'd ordered from Amazon alongside Vivienne Goldman's book 'The Black Chord'. When will I read them? the house is stuffed with students at the moment, eating pizza and chocolate mousse. They are going out tonight, and something tells me that they will be back incredibly late and will sleep most of tomorrow. That's my time gap: a cup of coffee and a pile of toast, feet up on the sofa, glasses on nose and the switch of rain in the street outside. I am trying to knock an academic paper into shape. It's more of a one woman show at the moment, featuring as it does the dulcet tones of Margaret Thatcher and Poly Styrene hand-in-hand, and clips of The Raincoats segueing into Toots and the Maytals. I brought Dick Hebdige's 'Cut and Mix' and Wendy Webster's 'Not A Man To Match Her', which is a fantastic diatribe against the Thatch, very cleverly put together and rather a romp. So I shall spend the rest of the week writing and re-writing, apart from going to see Offsprog One's Art Show (details here tomorrow!).

Monday, July 02, 2012

Weekend Gigs

Two lovely gigs this weekend: Friday's was the Eyre Chapel just outside Chesterfield. In spite of one channel of the PA not working (and I thought I'd got it fixed), I managed OK and Martin did most of his set unplugged. The nice thing about the Eyre Chapel is that it's so tiny that you feel that you are at one with the audience- you can chat to them really easily and it feels informal as well as magical (David always hires lights that light up the old stone and altar in an unusual way which really adds to the atmosphere. The whole audience sang along to Wholly Humble Heart which Martin played from the back of the chapel. (photograph: outside the Eyre Chapel, by Martin Stephenson)
At the end after we left, Mike and June flagged us down with a pizza box, but we had to keep going, pizza-less, as a tailgater was behind us.
Saturday night was the pie and pea gig organised by Andy and Tina; it's a much bigger, busier gig but still really fun to play. Gary Stewart kicked the night off with his folky and melodic set; Steph Stephenson had her partner on mandolin and guitar which really added to her sound. The other Martin (Plock) played a set, and then I played. I felt guilty for going on with a Telecaster but no-one seemed to mind. And Martin had everyone in stitches in between his songs. He played a lot of ragtime, which went down very well, as well as some old favourites.
The Keys is also a very friendly gig: it's so nice to play to a room full of smiles. We finished off with The Airship Song and I hope we'll be back at both places next year! Thank you to DAvid, Andy and Tina for being such welcoming hosts.