Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Whitaker Museum, Rossendale

I'm heading up to Rossendale today and hoping that the car I bought on Friday can get me there and back.
(Yesterday can only be described as gruelling; I started data-inputting at 9.30 and finished at 3.30 with only a break to fetch a cup of tea to drink my desk. Then I did an hour's work with a talented song writer I'm working with, then back home for more marking and data inputting which I finally finished at 8 p.m.)
It will be a delight to get into the car and head north to sing, and I am so looking forward to meeting up with some old friends there, too. The gig is free to get in and starts at 8 p.m.
I will have copies of the new CD and also the colouring book version of the illustrated lyrics book, which is printed on recycled paper.
Tally ho!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Bank Holiday

Oh yes, Bank Holidays are when academics do their work. Three hours of preparing work for External Examiners this morning, and tomorrow I shall be up at the call of the cockerel to spend a day data-inputting.
Oh, I remember in Italy!
You could hear the first cockerel wake up and crow in the valley; one by one, the others woke up and followed it.
That woke up the first dog, who barked; and then one by one, the others woke and barked.
The dogs woke the church bells and first one, and then all of them, started chiming.
It was a perfect place to be an insomniac, because you witnessed the glorious sounds of dawn, spaced out across the landscape so that you almost draw a map of where everything was.
I used to lie there and try to work out if the order of awakening was the same every morning.
Was it the same cockerel who started each day, or did they take it in turns?
This afternoon, after the grafting part of the day, I cut a melon in half and went out to sit in the rain, eating it with a spoon straight from the shell. I pretended that I lived in a tropical country- Borneo, or somewhere like that, where a bit of rain simply didn't matter. It was warm, and because it's damp out there, my Celtic hair thought I was in Scotland and fluffed out to a huge Celtfro which makes me look like I'm wearing a wig.
Now, it's the evening and I'm all out of energy for grafting.
It's tea and toast and listening to the clock I bought for upstairs ticking in the kitchen.
It kept me awake one night; I bought it so it would help me to sleep (concentrating on the ticking sometimes helps). But no; I started fixating on the different ticks and wondering whether the hands made different sounds on the way down between twelve and six than they did on the way up, between six and twelve.
Insomnia is full of tricks, and most of the time I just go with it. The worst thing is when you finally get to sleep at 4 a.m. then wake up with such a brilliant idea at six, that you have to wake up and write it down in case you forget it.
However, I feel like an ideas millionaire, and that's loads better than being a money one.

Summer Days

For those summer days in your life. Dedicated to my Gran and also to Ingrid and Cam, who both did such a lot to support marginal musicians in London and who are all sadly missed.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


Photo by Ruth Tidmarsh


It's been a week of chaos. Scrap a car, wandering round Wembley in searing heat deciding not to buy an old banger, still marking student work (I've just found yet another unmarked bit of work but there are 104 pieces of marking for that Module so it's not surprising), trying to work out how to do a proper mail-out, managing to get another car, tax it, insure it, and sort out a parking permit for it yesterday. The salesman bought me a bunch of flowers, but I'm worried that's because the car is only going to work for six weeks. Or not even that.
On Thursday Ruth Tidmarsh came round to take some photos. It is taking all day to download them, so unfortunately I've had to spend much of the time marking and organising stuff for the External Examiners, instead of pratting about about pretending to be a pop star, which is much more fun.
Ruth is a seriously good photographer and I don't look at all like the sweaty little squirt that I've been feeling like all week (too many baking hot concrete car lots, and too much worrying about getting something wrong- it's 17 years since I last bought a car).
Some time later tonight maybe I'll be able to post one up here. Here is the latest poster, although I have demoted Asbo Derek's release to a single rather than an album. I am so sorry. It is an album, it is an album, it is an album!

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Disgrace Of Fleas4U

It's no good, Fleas4U. You're trying not to meet my eye because you went upstairs and shed fleas all over everything up there, and then the door blew shut and you were stuck with your guilt.
Trying to sneak off, aren't you.
Cats tricks: not allowed upstairs and not allowed to jump on the side in the kitchen: the two things he wants to do most because he's not allowed to.
Fleas4U, you need to mind your manners round mine.

New Poster Design

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mad Bicycle Song On Gideon Coe Tonight!

Car packed up suddenly and I had to sell it for scrap.
Had spent the car savings on making the CD.
Went to look at crappy cheap car yesterday that was so dodgy I didn't buy it, even though I walked five miles to an industrial estate in the middle of nowhere to look at it.
Went to look at another car today and crossed my fingers...
Gideon Coe played The Mad Bicycle Song tonight on BBC Radio 6!
I am so happy!
Have been grafting at this ever since last summer, and I haven't got a record label and I haven't got a plugger or any of those things and I have had to start again with everything. It has been a real DIY everything project. What an amazing thing to happen!
Next gig on Wednesday at The Whitaker Museum, Rossendale. I hope I will have a car by then...

The Odd Glove And The Even Glove

I threw away the odd glove that had been hanging out in my car for years, when I cleared it out yesterday morning before the scrap merchant towed it away.
I threw it in the council bin.
I found the even glove in a drawer this afternoon.

Fleas4U Shadebathing

Tough for a very fluffy cat who can't take his fur coat off.
I could splash him with cold water, but he might not like that.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Zoe Howe and Wilko Johnson at Rough Trade East

I'm an early riser and I rose early to go into work to do more marking. Just as you think you're finished, you find more to do: and the whole thing is greatly hindered by Microsoft's 'intelligent' Word program that re-numbers things in what it thinks is a logical order but in fact, creates chaos and disorder (see Tory party for clarification).
After an afternoon at Gina's I went home, made tea for Offsprog One, and bounced out again to Rough Trade East to Zoe Howe's book launch for her new Lee Brilleaux biography, Rock'n'Roll Gentleman.
Zoe, Wilko Johnson who was also there to speak, and Daryl Easlea (who wrote a brilliant book on disco, Everybody Dance: the politics of disco) all live on the Essex coast and there was something about this deep familiarity with the Thames Delta area that made the panel's discussions particularly evocative. A short clip from Julien Temple's film, Oil City Confidential, sealed the deal.
There were some charming moments: Wilko offering to be Zoe's mic stand as she read from the book, and Darryl's bonhomie.
Back home again late that night, I looked through more student work. Never ends.
I'm now waiting for the scrappage firm to come and take my car away. It's incredibly sad.
I think this might be one of the nicest photographs I've ever taken.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Pipettes at The Premises

Happy Birthday to The Premises Studios yesterday. This is The Pipettes performing at what was a very busy and bustling party with lots of great music- and great food! The Pipettes performed an arrangement of Anarchy in the UK, perhaps carrying on a trend after Glenn Matlock's forthcoming opera versions of Sex Pistols and other punk songs, which must surely have been created as part of a revenge package after being dumped by the band all those years ago. Hell hath no fury like a musician scorned.
The Pipettes were on form and called The Premises their second home; there is something about the place that makes you feel like that.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Cavern, Liverpool

Things boded well as soon as I got there; my hotel room overlooked the Mersey and it was such a gorgeously sunny day that I spent a lot of time glued to the window, watching for boats and gazing at the deep blue sky. Oh yes, and the city bike scheme belonged to the council and not to a greedy bank like they do in London, so that lifted my spirits, too; a Proper Place.
I went to The Cavern early to scout out the scene. Yes, there were tourists, and a very loud tribute-act bar, but there was an air of excitement about too. This whole event (IPO: International Pop Overthrow) is organised by David Bash, who puts one on in Los Angeles and in Stockholm as well. He had listened to Femme Fatale on Bandcamp and thought that we were a band called Helen McCookerybook and The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy, which I suppose we were for that single. Anyway, I wrote to explain that we were really two separate acts and asked if we could both play- so that's how come they drove up from Bristol, and I trained it up from London.

David has a phenomenal amount of energy and is  really on the ball. I tweeted that I didn't come from Bristol (as the poster on the left said) and by the time I got on stage, he introduced me as coming from Newcastle and for once in its life, Newcastle General Hospital (where I was born) wasn't weeping salty tears onto the River Tyne. The guy deserves an embroidered badge for that, Boy Scout-style.
The whole event was quirky. It's not the original Cavern but a fun facsimile; you go down loads of stairs and it would have been a claustrophobic experience but for the fact that it's huge down there- there are two stages and a bar, and room for a merch stall too. There were lots of people clearly having lots of fun: some tourists, some audience people and some bands sussing out the scene.
There was a family with three kids dancing about. Tiny Kid was the best dancer and made us laugh a lot- and was also a self-nappying baby. He got his nappy out and spread it flat ready for the Mum to change him. I was most impressed.
A man walked past with an open Apple Powerbook, light gleaming in the gloaming, and appeared to go to the Gents. It was only later that I discovered that this was the way to the dressing room, too.
It added to the atmosphere. Mysterious.
I was also impressed by the guy on stage who, exhorting us to praise his harmonica player, urged us to 'Put our legs together for Mike on harmonica'. He changed it to 'hands' rapidly but by then the damage was done; I had embarked on peculiar imaginings that were impossible to reverse out of.
Everyone was clearly delighted to be playing at the Cavern, and so was I.
The sound guy was amazing, the air conditioning was powerful (my set list blew across the stage) and I loved it. The audience wandered from stage to stage; I thought it was like an American venue, but actually one of the Charlie Tippers said it was like a holiday camp, which might have been more accurate. David somehow managed to be on time to introduce everyone, and hats off to The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy for managing to sound check all seven of them in fifteen minutes. It was great to get to know their songs a bit better, and I sang Femme Fatale at the end of their set again.
I hope we sold some CDs for Refugee Action. David confessed to having a little weep during the song (I hope the emotion wasn't horror) and I could see people singing along in the audience. All praise to you Lou: you were a dude!
The merch chap was a hard worker and I sold some of my own CDs (ring-a-ding-ding!). There was just time to charge over to The Cavern Pub and see that dark horse John Murray and his glam punk band, the Gentle Scars. Well, John Murray, you kept that quiet! All those songwriting weekends playing your titchy little acoustic guitar and peering out from under the peak of your baseball cap, serenading us with songs about the conjuror who sawed your wife in half! I didn't know you were  a rock god, playing lead guitar riffs at max volume through a mega-amp with a bunch of pirates!
The band looked fabulous, camp swashbucklers with grey baker-boy hats (all apart from the drummer who had obviously agreed reluctantly to wear one, and then tossed it overboard as soon as the band turned their backs on him and started to play). But what entertainment! Brilliant songs, loudly played: the lead singer was a proper rock star with eyeliner on, and a foot atop the monitor.
And great lyrics: 'I want to go where the monsters go'.
So do I! So do I!
That was a perfect ending to the evening and I was so glad that I saw them. Big grin on my face, so wide that I couldn't get to sleep till about 4 a.m. and then the fire alarm went off at 6.30.
Oh Liverpool, I love you so much! I hope I get to do this again next year!
Big thanks to David for inviting us along, and the sound guy too who was amazing. And the bloke who videoed it and managed to reduce the cost by a tenner by the end of the set!

These photographs are completely in the wrong order but it's nightmare to rearrange them.
The Gentle Scars;a decorated pub near Lime Street Station;  a stall selling Liverpool regalia on one side and Everton regalia on the other; the Radio City Tower which I didn't have time to go up, unforchly; David Bash introduces the band; me; me again; some graffiti from the Ladies bogs: poor Jo was grounded, so she didn't get to go out!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Song Marking Almost Done

Almost all the song marking is done: 33 songs listened to and fed back on.
At the University of the West I used to do 160 songs which took days. 'Poor Mummy', said the Offsprogs as they passed through the kitchen.
These songs have been great to listen to and I've been in a really good mood because of that.
Funny; I have a mood gear called 'neutral', which is quite enjoyable because it's grey space between mental meltdown (not pleasant at all) and wildly happy (exhausting).
Good mood is nice, too; a bit like cruising in a plane with no turbulence.
I have started to send the CD out to reviewers. This is a monumental task and will probably take a couple of weeks. I haven't got a clue who to send it to, so I've got to research that first.

I'm sorry if you are a person who has emailed me recently. I am very behind with communicating because of marking happening at the same time as finishing the CD. I don't even have time to watch TV any more but I don't think that I'm missing much and if I am, people describe what they've been watching and that's enough.

What else was I going to say?
This! Last Kitchen Video before Liverpool Cavern on Thursday, I'm on at 8 p.m. and The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy are on straight afterwards.

B-r-r-r-illy Stewart

Who B-r-r-r-d first? Billy or the Chairmen of the Board?
I don't know, but I'm practicing my own personal doorbell as we speak.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Interesting! Everybody else did big wide arms embracing the world and its cornucopia of spangles and glitz, and Portugal did El Greco with begging hands and won. I wonder if Europe feels guilty about walking past homeless people who have to beg for money every morning on the way to work?
I thought it was a lovely song, but was utterly put off by the person's creepy delivery and was haunted by his facial expression in a nightmare last night.
However, it could have been so much worse...


This is Fleas4U, the neighbourhood cat who has made friends with us all in the hope that we will feed him, cuddle him and call him nicer names than that.
He shows up at the kitchen window on chilly days and says 'Meep' in a sad voice, but he blotted his copybook a few weeks ago by copiously spraying on the window-cleaner's waxed Barbour jacket.
Up until that point, we'd been wondering if he was a male or a female cat, but he found the most powerful way of telling us. Pity he aimed for the internal pocket, too.
The window cleaner was very reasonable about it, but hasn't been back.

From the Kitchen: Gotta Have a Heart

Saturday, May 13, 2017

At Jamboree Last Night

Neil Jones runs a night called Des Was A Bowie Fan at Jamboree in Cable Street; I've mentioned what an amazing venue it is in earlier postings (just like Baron Munchausen, which I've just watched again this avo with Offsprog One).
I arrived at the same time as The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy who had driven up from Bristol, and the man behind the bar very kindly made us a row of cups of tea, lined up on the bar like cowboys' whisky.
The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy have been friends with each other for a long time and are a great advertisement for being in a band. They have hilarious bantz and an elegantly choreographed way of setting up their gear that morphed into a sound check with seemingly no effort at all.
There was a high family turnout in the audience (thanks everybodee) and after getting used to my fingers, I really enjoyed playing songs from the new album mixed in with some older songs (actually, there's something wrong with my guitar neck, as I discovered when I played the other electric guitar today, so I'm taking that one to Liverpool on Thursday instead).
I saw the band at the Indietracks  Festival last year but there was so much to listen to there, that this felt like the first time I'd seen them. They are a songs band (absolutely the best sort of band) and they have a really positive vibe although not all of their songs are nicey-nicey. There are a lot of personnel in the band (six, although their cornet player wasn't there last night) and they make full use of harmonies and two guitars, backed up by keyboards and a grooving rhythm section. How to describe their music? Maybe Jefferson Airplane without the hippy sh*t? Me and my fam thought they were great, that's all! I'm so looking forward to seeing them next Thursday when we're playing at The Cavern in Liverpool.
At the end I got up to sing Femme Fatale with them; it's the first time we've done it live, and it was such a great feeling to sing with a band again.
Afterwards Neil took to the decks and plied to room with a series of smashing tracks.
It was no good... for the first time in five years I leapt on to the dance floor with Offsprog One and danced my feet off. The music was a mix of Northern Soul (that's what got me up), Thirties tracks, The Cure, you name it: if you could dance to it, it was there. Then I recognised a drum intro, and Neil was playing Sweetie by The Chefs.
What a strange thing to see a roomful of people dancing to a track we recorded in 1979!
If you'd told me back then that I'd be sitting in a room having just played a gig, next to one of two grown-up daughters, I would not have believed you.
The dance floor was incredible friendly. There was a mix of ages, genders, everything and a lot of smiling and chatting during the dancing. What a great atmosphere!
I bounced home like Tigger. My legs ache today but I don't care. All the worry lines (I've had a lot to worry about) have gone from my face temporarily. I had such a nice time and I think everyone else did too.
Here's another Chefs track you might like too Neil (I was trying to sound like Donna Summer and Ennio Morricone)

And here's some pics: waiting for the venue to open, the band setting up and the band playing. Plus a little puppet hanging out with no particular place to go.

Friday, May 12, 2017

More from The Kitchen

Stage times tonight at Jamboree, Limehouse: I'm on at 9, the Charlie Tipper Conspiracy are on at 10, and I'll join them for Femme Fatale later on. They are a great band and it's going to be a fab evening.
I will have copies of the new CD and the lyrics book and we will also be selling the Femme Fatale EP in aid of Refugee Action. But you don't have to buy anything, just come along and clap!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Buddie: a grandmother package
Hands dancing on the piano keys; 
A tiny electric shock each time her fingers met the ivory
With little smile dancing a duet across her lips.
All the dreams that never came true...
Sandy hair and distant-looking eyes 
With sight only pinhole-sharp;
Magnificent Scottish bust encased in heathery tones,
The scent of discreet soap,
All balanced on teensy Caledonian feet 
Tied up tight with beige laces.

Tour So Far

Helen McCookerybook DIY 2017 Tour.

Helen’s new album ‘The Sea’ is just out now on Bandcamp:

Friday 12th May: Des Was a Bowie Fan, Jamboree, Cable Street, with The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy. Tickets:

Thursday 18th May: Cavern Club, Matthew Street, Liverpool, with The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy

Wednesday May 31st: The Whitaker Museum, Rossendale, Lancashire (free entry)

Friday June 9th: Furley and Co., Hull, Tickets:

Saturday June 10th: the Argyle Rooms, Newbiggin by the Sea, Northumberland.

Sunday June 11th: Going Up the Country, Congleton, Church House Inn

Saturday June 17th Live in Barnsley Festival, The White Bear pub

Sunday June 25th Surf Cafe, Tynemouth

Friday 30th June, Scaledown, The King and Queen, Cleveland Street, London

Thursday 7th September The Musician, Leicester with Vic Godard with Bitter Springs. Tickets:

Friday 15th September Little Theatre, Ramsgate with Vic Godard with Bitter Springs. Tickets TBC

Monday, May 08, 2017

Big Brother Is Watching You

'The Sea' Now Available On Bandcamp

At last, the CDs have been delivered! I spent the morning uploading the digital versions of the tracks and everything is now there on Bandcamp. It's a DIY project; the embroidered portrait didn't get finished in time, the remixes haven't appeared (yet), the book has so many typos on the back dover that I've done a photocopied additional sheet to go with it; somehow through life's bumpy ride and distractions it's all here. Now to record the next one....

Friday, May 05, 2017

Joby and the Hooligans at the Buccaneer, Brighton

I looked through some old photographs and here are some pix of Joby and the Hooligans at the Buccaneer in Brighton in 1977. I wonder what happened to Dub Duncan, our drummer? He was really great reggae drummer, and we did a cover of Dennis Brown's How Can I Leave amidst our punk thrash; and a cover version of the Action Man Flexidisk. I think I can even remember the words:
Action Man is here! Action Man is here!
On land and sea and in the air
In action everywhere!
Tough and fearless, he's a fighter
Not assignment ever troubles him
On high ground
He's there
Or flying through the air
(can't remember this bit)
Give him a rousing cheer
It's Action Man!
I know it looks like Joby put his coat on hallway through but it's difficult to change the order of photos on Blogger, so I didn't. Someone at college back then was sitting in the canteen telling me about this great band he'd seen with a female bass player, and I thought he was pulling my leg- he didn't realise it was me, because I looked so ferocious in the winged sunglasses. I took them off at this particular gig. Don't know why; It was a long time ago.
Actually, no, it looks like I put them ON halfway through.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The Old Person And The Donkey

And you have heard the story before...
The old person was very poor and could barely feed themselves, let alone their donkey.
So they fed the donkey less: and the donkey seemed fine.
So they fed the donkey less still, and the donkey still seemed OK.
Eventually, they were feeding the donkey very little, and the donkey still survived.
So they decided that the donkey could live on nothing.
So the donkey died.

Little May Day Celebration Thing Stuck In Flower Planter

Little things count too.

Necklace Style

I lost my balance on the tube, taking this photograph of the stylish gentleman, and ended up in the lap of a startled commuter. What doesn't come across is his aura- and the enormous reach of his powerful perfume.
One in the eye for uniformity! You go, stylish gentleman, you go!

Monday, May 01, 2017

Friday 12th May, Jamboree, London

Blimey, that's coming round fast! I went to Jamboree on Saturday to see Karen Yarnell's band Oysland, who were launching their album- great to see Karen playing spoons in a Kletzmer band. It's an amazing venue, like something out of Terry Gilliam's Baron Munchausen film, which I think is one of my favourite films ever especially because of the bits where he ran out of money and you can tell he had to use his ingenuity to be able to finish it.
Anyway- I will be playing a set, and so will The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy, who invited me to sing a version of the Velvet Underground's Femme Fatale just before Christmas, to raise money for Refugee Aid. We will be selling copies on the night, and playing it of course which we have never done live. That will be a challenge. I will also have my new album and lyric book to sell to people who buy the Femme Fatale single (ahem). Londoners, or near-Londoners, come along! You know it makes sense!
Here is the ticket link; I'm sorry I no longer look so young, but you know.... time marches on.


I suppose it's a bit unrealistic to just want to have fun all the time.