Friday, September 30, 2016

Sunday Night at The Spice of Life

I will be playing on Sunday night at The Spice of Life, Moor Street in Soho at The Country Soul Sessions, supporting the Gem Andrews Band.
Gem is from Newcastle upon Tyne but lives in Berlin, and she is an ace Americana artist. Also playing will be drew Morrison and the Darkwood and Caroline Mary.
Starts just before 7 p.m. and costs a mere fiver to get in!

Girl About Town

I girled-about-town yesterday, taking in two launches (coulda been three if I had the ability to fly).
It's not every day that you listen to Linton Kwesi Johnson read his poetry (Bass Culture) and chat to Dennis Bovell at the bar and Daniel Rachel at a cocktail table, then go on to hear Zoe Howe reading from her new book and talk to Wilko Johnson about Phil Lynott.
More tomorrow...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Furniture Removal Lady

Tomorrow it's donning the dungarees and check shirt, and a drive to Brighton in my trusty and ever-more-bashed car to do yet another Offsprog removal.
Leeds and back, several times; to and from different student (and afte0r lodgings in Brighton; Portsmouth; Brighton and back, several times.
I have the muscles of a navvy. Sometimes, my arms say 'No', but my head says 'Yes', and off I go again. Sure keeps me fit and grounded. I can't have painted nails, stilettos or floaty garms.
There is space in the loft (a bit) and constant clearing out helps although I could have done more to make space this time around. Never mind; lecturing is such a cerebral profession that a good dose of practicality helps to keep the balance in life.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Country Soul Sessions at The Spice of Life, Moor Street, Soho on Sunday

Please Londoners and others within striking distance- come along to the Country Soul Sessions at The Spice of Life in Soho on Sunday 2nd October!
The Gem Andrews Band will be playing, over from Berlin and playing the last date of their UK tour, Caroline Mary and Drew Morrison and the Darkwood; I'll be on somewhere in the middle and playing a good length set.
Entrance is a mere fiver and there are more details here:

The Primary School Picnic Nightmare

Oh Em Gee, I could have done without this bad dream last night.
I was scrabbling about in the kitchen- the kitchen in my childhood house in Wylam, actually. The Offsprogs had returned to primary school age, and had suddenly informed me that it was the school picnic later that day, and they had to bring food to share.
I could not order my thoughts. There was no food in the house, and what should I put it in if I found any?
My son (where did he come from?) rummaged about under the cooker and pulled out a batch of plastic boxes with lids. But none of the lids fitted the boxes! Time was running short.
That problem would have to wait.
I know! Berries!
I looked in the fridge and brought out a box of raspberries, but they were tiny and shrivelled. I got the Offsprogs to stuff the tiniest ones inside larger ones but they did it so slowly that it was excruciating, and there were so few raspberries. Were they eating them as they went along?
Aha! I remembered the prawns in rice left over from last night's dinner. Phew!
I pulled the plastic container from the fridge, took off the top, and all that was in there was a few shreds of grated orange cheddar, so dry they were transparent.
I would have to go to the supermarket and buy cheese triangles. I turned around in despair. It was nearly time to leave for school, and the Offsprogs weren't even dressed yet.
Thankfully I woke up at this point, but the whole experience was so knackering that I felt like I needed another night's sleep to recover from it.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Loft Diggings

In between planning the schedule for the students for next year, I had to go up into the loft so that Offsprog Two could weed out her belongings. It was very sad; I've thrown away quite a lot of stuff myself in doing that but I did find these little jumpers that I knitted for the Offsprogs when they were babies. Some are quite well-worn and stained. The Elvis one went to Gina's second child for a while and ha music notes on the front and an attempt at a mini shawl collar. I used to   map out the patterns on grab paper first but often got annoyed and just went free-form.
The skull and crossbones are inspired by The Bash Street Kids' Danny, and the blue jumper has an accidental frill around the bottom because I started it too large. I might frame these, but might not because there's no space on my walls. Having two arty Offsprogs plus being arty myself means that the walls are very busy.
I also found a tartan top and tam o' shanter that I made for the very first Music Hall variety that I ran with Lester Square at The London Musician's Collective, which you used to be able to hire for a fiver and a lightbulb (they'd always been stolen). I sang a song about ducks inspired by a Chinese Takeaway menu, playing banjo and accompanied by a Roland TR606 drum machine. Always to the forefront of electronica, eh?
The tartan had been very useful; when I lived in a very cold bedsit in Willesden Green in the 1980s that I thought I would live in till the end of my days, I used it as bed sheets because it kept me warm. In them days, we used to wear hats in bed too, because we didn't have central heating. Yuk.

Musicians Against Homelessness, Bristol

Hats off to Charlie Tipper for organising this event of artists, poets and bands in aid of Musicians Against Homelessness. I had to do it as a day trip and therefore only saw the artist before me, the poet and the band after me. Unfortunately I missed Charlie's band, the Charlie Tipper Conspiracy, but I have a CD to listen to which I will report on next listening day (the pile is getting large).
The gig was organised at The Exchange, which has a great sound engineer, and I really enjoyed playing. After six months of being strangled by unhappiness, my singing voice has finally returned. Oh thank you audience for sounding like a million people when you clapped: this was so confidence-boosting!
I really liked the poet- I'll find out his name and let you know.
Thank you for inviting me Charlie, I hope the evening was busy and bustling!
Bristol is mad. On the way to look for a cup of tea which I never found, I walked past a junk shop where this punk guy with a mohican was playing fabulous neo-disoc music at top volume (fie on you Shazam for now being a complicated service) and who leapt out into the street with a harmonica and played along and danced to the music, without a care in the world and with no audience or pavement-placed hat: just sheer joy. Wonderful! By the time I took a picture his friend had turned up and he stopped.
This evening I'm playing a last-minute gig at The Water Rats with Amy, as a warm-up for next Sunday's gig at The Spice of Life with Gem Andrews and her band.


The Co-op launches its funeral home in Barnet. What this has to do with a Scottish bagpiper I have yet to discover. There were balloons too. Yay.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bristol Exchange Today

I am heading to Bristol this afternoon to contribute my singing pipes and frailing fingers to the Musicians Against Homelessness gig at The Exchange. Please come along if you live in the area; the gig begins at 2.30 and goes on into the evening. I'll be playing at 6 p.m., and also playing are The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy, The Catenary Wires and many other good people.
This benefits Crisis, who are wonderful charity that I have supported whenever I can.
The whole initiative was set up by Alan McGee (formerly of Creation Records) and I am delighted to be able to participate and very much looking forward to it.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

And Screen, And Soundwaves, And Song...
The stems of this song have gone to the deep south (of England) to be mixed by Stuart Moxham of the Young Marble Giants. In time, in time....

Thursday, September 22, 2016

New Album

I have just finished mastering my new album, which was recorded over the summer. There are 11 tracks, some acoustic, some electric; I'm still waiting on a title, a sleeve design and a label to release it on!
Massive thanks to Jono Bell who patiently engineered and mastered it. I was a wreck when I started it in May, and it must have been a pain in the bum working with me.
I am proud of the finished songs, especially of the Whitby dream one where I dreamt that I was recording a song in a studio in spite of not knowing either the song or the band I was recording it with, then woke up and realised that I'd actually written a new song in my sleep, and sang it into my phone before breakfast.
It's not about Whitby, I'm afraid.

In The British Library Bookshop

It took a bit of time to get them there, but here are copies of The Lost Women of Rock Music in the British Library bookshop, surrounded by Viv Albertine's and Chrissie Hynde's autobiographies. What great company to be in.
As a young punk musician, I would never have imagined that life would have turned out this way. I like to think that McMum and McDad would have been proud; I have discovered that they spent a lot longer telling other people what I was up to, than letting me know they were even interested!
Such is Presbyterian parenting....

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


I filched this from Facebook, via Paul McGeechan's Mum's scrapbook!
Please excuse the lack of detailed postings, I have been working very hard on other people's music, and I'm working on my own today. Those 9 hour days take a toll, but it's been a really enjoyable experience so I'm not complaining.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sunday, Bristol

I should be on at around the 5-ish mark. I was delighted to be invited to perform at this benefit because I wholeheartedly support the work of Crisis. Please support this gig if you can by coming along- there are some great bands and artists playing.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves

I wanted to be a truckdrivin' girl after seeing a titchy French woman emerge from an 18-wheeler in Lewes to use the public loos. Never did it, in spite of being offered training and a job, because the music (Helen and the Horns) took off. But I did write a truckdrivin' song and I used to love this song, though this is an extra-rough version of it:

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Hofner Tree of Berwick

The beautiful fruit of this tree in The Music Gallery is just about ready to be harvested. I did have a play on one of them, I must confess, although I already have a couple of Hofner guitars. My acoustic Hofner (a President) gave me a great song and then sulked and got grumpy, so I think I might sell it soon. The other is a beaut and will never sail from these shores.
I used to play Hofner basses in The Chefs- I had a violin bass which I hated because the neck was heavier than the body and it used to slip into an irritating diagonal all the time; Martin has the other one, which he has given a good home to because he likes the sound of it, and he has given it a lot of tender loving care. It did it's work for me and the band, and now has a more loving owner who makes much better use of it than I ever will. He gave me a Fender Precision Bass, which I love the sound of and which will be making its debut soon: watch this space (or perhaps listen!).

Thursday, September 15, 2016


60 driving hours, and only one mishap: the glove compartment jammed shut forever with the satnav in it when we were lost in the fog in windey Northumbrian back roads.
The glove compartment now closes with gaffa tape.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Glasgow Proms and More

So we drove to Glasgow and checked into the most plastic hotel in the world, hose-down Ibis.
Luckily we were a mere cough away from one of Glasgow's most convivial and characterful restaurants, Sarti, where I've been before with a friend, a long time ago.
Malcolm McMaster, the legend of pedal steel guitar, and his lovely wife Roseleen, met us there for a coffee and handed over a real treat: two tickets for the Glasgow Proms with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. This was a lovely surprise and gave us something to look forward to.
Before that we headed down to Mono Records for a vinyl record fair; on the way there we passed a large cafe with glass windows behind which sat a full jazz band: double bass, guitar, drums and brass, who were playing for a surprisingly glamorous mid-afternoon Sunday tea-dance, whose dancers looked as through they'd just stepped off a cruise ship. The cafe was packed, and so was the Russian Café a few doors down. A Sunday afternoon subculture, no less.
The record fair was packed too, and was being held in a brewery, but I browsed in the record store next door and couldn't resist some fresh reggae, and a Zombies CD to see me through the winter.
In the evening, we walked down to Glasgow Green and spread out our waterproofs on the grass amongst the foldy nylon chairs. As dusk began to fall and the moon played hide-and-seek with the dark blue clouds, the orchestra started tuning up and were soon powering through Shostakovich's Festive Overture.
Then lo and behold, K T Tunstall popped up and sand Suddenly I See and one of her new songs, backed by the orchestra; she was in fine voice, and held her own magnificently (that's her in the blue dress in the middle). I went to the chip van when Collabro were singing:they sounded just a little too sweet for me, although Offsprog One enjoyed them. Karen Cargill's opera section was fabulous.
Drunk on fresh air and music, we treated ourselves to a taxi back to the plastic palace and conked out to the mellifluous tones of Andy Williams on BBC 4, his fake tan glowing through the gloaming of the Ibis bedside lights.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Rockcliffe Conveniences

'I counted 27 daddy longlegses in there!', exclaimed the elderly man outside the Gents at the Rockcliffe public conveniences.

Friday, September 09, 2016


I have taken an amazing photograph of rock pools studded between grass hummocks, something I've never seen before. The pools are full of whole and crushed cockle shells, seaweed, feathers and small granite stones; when you walk on the grass you can feel the almost-sand that the grass is embedded in crunch slightly underneath it's thick carpet. In todays's damp and windy light, there was a bright, eerie glow to the grass that contrasted with the forbidding grey basalt stone outcrops by the beach.
The rain and wind are relentless; this feels like the back of beyond. Nobody is about. Electronic things don't work, clothes are damp.
I look at the photograph, and the way the dense grass spills right into the salt water; it seems simultaneously to be a throwback to a prehistoric age, and a harbinger of times to come.
I shudder.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Zoe Howe Stands In For Gary Crowley, Soho Radio

Zoe interviews me and Gina, from Tuesday 7th September. Zoe is brilliant.ë-howe-06092016/

Toots and the Maytals, The Dome, Brighton, Last Friday

The Maytals took their positions; two very senior gentlemen on bass and guitar respectively, a younger guitarist and keyboard player, then in bounced Toots' daughter to sing a couple of songs. The first one, Our Day Will Come, is a favourite of mine, but I became anxious when she started a second song in case this was a revue instead of a concert. She had a lovely voice, but it was the old geezer I'd come to hear.
There he was! In fine voice, in fine fettle. From time to time, he picked up an acoustic guitar and thrashed out what sounded like it was going to become a Stones-type rock song, and which would then miraculously evolve into one of their hits.
They were out of synch for a couple of songs, and then got into their groove.
Where the enormous support band had had fabulous sound, the Maytals were marvellously tinny. At first, I was cross and then I realised that they sounded exactly like their records. It was deliberate. They had brought Jamaica with them to this big venue full of white people, and set it up on stage with them.
Toots was a naughty chap- he frequently held the microphone level with his navel, probably giving the sound engineer a series of heart attacks; there was the occasional keening hoot as the engineer pushed the fader up to catch his vocal, but he didn't need to: the volume was there, coming from the belly with great timbral power and tunefulness.
The bass player and older guitarist remained immobile most of the time. Two female singers joined his daughter to sing BVs and occasionally the older guitarist was tempted into a smile.
This was a lovely, lovely place to be on a Friday night. The only thing I could criticise was the fact that eventually each song ended with a bounce-along festival-type speeded up bit, which was wildly bounced along to by the crowd, but I wanted the groove to last till the end of the songs.
Toots is just an amazing trouper, with a strong, sonorous voice, and mischievous glint in his eyes, a God-Fearing' point to the rafters from time to time, and a humble ease of delivery that brought me to tears in Funky Kingston.
I wasn't going to write about them because I've been at a bit of a low ebb recently, but I was talking to someone about them today. I bought their CD three times; Offsprog One went to art college with one, so I had to buy it again. Then Offsprog Two did the same.
Look, if you've never listened to Toots and the Maytals before, please do it now. They are the hit-musicest, most positive-sounding, life-affirming set of musicians you could ever hope to listen to; they really are.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Soho Radio Tomorrow

Gina and me will be appearing on Gary Crowley's Soho Radio show tomorrow (Tuesday) which will be hosted by the wonderful Zoe Howe, in Gary's place. We should be on at about 5 p.m. although the show, which also features Pete Astor, will be on between 4 and 6.
Follow the link below:

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Rupert Murdoch

One down, three to go. I'm having a big clear-out and found this poster from the print dispute.
Don't forget, Sky TV is his as well. I'm constantly amazed by the number of so-called lefty actors who work for Sky Arts. What's going on there?

Saturday, September 03, 2016

On Adult Orphanhood

When one parent dies, time stands still. Part of the frame of your life has gone, and it feels as though the security of the definition of the person that you are starts to leak away.
You watch the surviving parent adjust; you see them look into the distance, look into their own future. The shape of your family, who once seemed to have been so permanent and never-ending, with its history, its jokes, it’s horrors and its certainty, has been shaken terribly.
What’s left? Some photographs, some clothes, maybe some furniture, maybe some money. 
Memory: but that’s isolating, because everyone in the family remembers a different relationship, and a different family, from a different viewpoint and set of feelings.

When the next parent dies, it feels as though you have lost your feet and no longer have a grip on the same earth that everyone else is walking on.
You are exposed to everything; there is no safety, no past, present or future.
The whole edifice of what was built around you and your siblings has collapsed; you can see yourself in that future, vulnerable, uncomprehending, spent.
You are free from the trappings of your family definition, but simultaneously unable to redefine yourself, wandering in the fog of bereavement; you no longer know who you are, because you carved out your life in relief both against and within the construct of your family.
You float without rules, giddy with freedom and tortured by loss. You have watched, with a combination of compassion and fear, the people who brought you into the world struggle and fade out of it. Your past has gone with them; who are you?

A year after McDad died, I found a plastic carrier bag in a cupboard that McMum had given me, with some of his clothes and his gardening hat in it.

The unmistakable fragrance of my father had been trapped in that bag for twelve months and floated past me as I pulled the handles apart. It was excruciatingly sad.