Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Good Things

The University of the East has awarded me a mini sabbatical to finish the book and the documentary! This is a tremendous boost; the accident knocked everything back by 3 weeks but once I've organised the replacement lecturers, I can get me head down and work.
Yesterday, I interviewed a woman who is the penultimate engineer that I'll be talking to: a grime music producer who was brimming over with imaginative ideas that she actually puts into practice. I can't wait to transcribe her interview.
Today, fingers on both hands are crossed: this evening I'm hoping to record the backing track for a song writer that I've been working with. It's a house of cards situation because of having to cancel the previous sessions, but this morning I'm going to write out the scores and hope to nab a few student musicians to play on the track. It could actually be done electronically ad somewhere in the paperfest on the kitchen table there's a list of possible Apple Loops, but they do actually all resemble drum kit being pushed downstairs. Always good to have an emergency backup.
O the joys of creativity! i haven't slept thru the night for three weeks because my rm hurts so much and i'm still typing with one finger most of the time, preserving energy for guitar playing, but the musicians and artists that I meet, teach or work with are just incredible; it's not a case of glass half full, more a case of the cup runneth over.
Pip Pip!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Commuting With A Broken Elbow

I've been avoiding the rush hours but today there was no alternative.
Well, nobody gives up their seat to a person with a sling. And I never realised before how many enormous men suddenly start to walk backwards very quickly without looking, in ticket halls!
Crouched over in a corner of the train, I wedge my arm into a crevice where nobody can lose their balance and crash into me. I'm so worried about breaking it again.
Strangely, it was the man who kicked my foot who almost made me snap.
What a relief to be back home; I know everybody always says this, but permanently disabled people must have a completely shit time.

Cat Story

"Hello puss, and what's your name?"
"I think you'll find that's what most cats say they're called".

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Yamaha Twins

Scaledown was great fun last high, as always. The Yamaha Twins were particularly good. Like two fighting cocks, they strutted around each other with their identical guitars, challenging, riffing, guitarguing. They both got stuck on the same note for a while. The funniest bit was the detuning section. Just like The Chefs when the guitarists tuned to the bass, and then realised one of its strings was out of tune, so they tuned to each other and realised each other was out of tune, and so on, and so on. Pitch pipes were for poncy folk guitarists and we couldn't afford a guitar tuner at first; I ended up buying a tuning fork.
Andrew and Mark got a lot of funny noises out of those guitars last night: nice solid-body sounds. They traded licks, half-started one groove before ending on another, and generally had lots of sonic frolics. After 15 funny and stimulating minutes, they crossed guitar necks in a truce.

Algia Mae Hilton


When I went back to the fracture clinic, I was told not to lift anything or push anything in order not to damage the sewn-up elbow: not even lifting up a cup of tea. It was a bit late. I wanted to take sure that my arm still worked as soon as possible, but once you receive an instruction you have to obey it.
All sorts of things catch you out: I got an onion from the fridge and The World's Sharpest Knife to chop it with to make pasta sauce. Into the middle of the onion I plunged the knife, and then couldn't get it out again.
Automatically, I started to push the onion with the left hand and pull the knife with the right, before realising that this was forbidden.
I tried whacking the onion on the chopping board to try to dislodge the knife, then wedging it on the side of the board and yanking it.
I tried to wiggle the knife (it wouldn't wiggle).
I tried waving the onion around in the air, hoping that the momentum would loosen it. Nope.
Finally, I called on Almighty God of Pasta Sauces for superhuman strength in the right hand.
With the whole of the weight of my body, I charged a the onion/knife combo and managed to make a tiny bit of leeway.
Finally and under great protest, the onion caved in enough to be sawed into sections by The World's Sharpest Knife. Stupid thing to feel a sense of triumph about, but there you go.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Stories from the She-Punks: Update

The finishing post is within sight.
In order to purchase music rights, we will be posting two tracks on Bandcamp on International Women's Day: Women of the World, the full track with choir, Zoe Howe on drums, Andy Diagram on trumpet and more metadata to follow, and Gina's track I Play My Bass, which will feature bass playing from women in the film. Shanne is there recording today. We'll make a dedicated Bandcamp page and all proceeds will go towards finishing off the documentary.
More news soon.

Celebrating Colm's Life

The Boogaloo was packed last night. This is Colm's younger sister, with a lot of ex-students and staff looking on; there was music, laughter, talk and tears. What a lad.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

White Roses at the Brit Awards

Oh deary, deary me.
This doesn't stand a snowflake's chance in hell. The music industry is THE site of sexual abuse and coercive control. Rather than tweeting #MeToo, women (and young men) should be tweeting #NotMe in the rare instances when they haven't been propositioned, attacked or enticed into uncomfortable power-balance situations, or maybe #NotMeYet.
The industry is full of 'feminist men' who use the badge to get women to trust them, and then do the Harvey on them. Or procurer-type women working for the Harveys who persuade young women that it's really feminist to take off your clothes to appear in a pop video ostensibly because its a sign of freedom, but in reality because it shifts units and 'everybody is doing it'. Feminism used as a lure is particularly prevalent in the twenty-something generation, rather depressingly.

Years ago, I had a boss who spontaneously yelled at people when he got annoyed. He was quite public about it, and lots of people were terrified of him. He was actually one of the nicest people I've ever worked for or with, because what you saw was what you got. He never yelled at anyone in private; he was so incapable of controlling how he felt that he was also unable to be secretive, involve people in narcissistic plots or cabals, or make women feel sexually uncomfortable. The shouting could be undermining, but he cooled off pretty quickly. You felt that he was totally safe and trustworthy, and I had a lot of honest conversations with him. He was easy to respect, because he had no fake 'wokery' about him. That's not to say every man who shouts is honest, nor is every quiet man a fraud; feminism is a work in progress that everyone can contribute to, and there is no 'we've done it now' about it.

Not all women are the same, and neither are all men; wouldn't it be great in life if there was time out to reassess everything? Not just the abuse of women, but the abuse of little boys by sports coaches, and in boarding schools.

Whenever I've interviewed women in the music industry for research purposes, I get told the most blood-curdling stories. This almost stalled the PhD before its time, and nothing has changed. The women often don't want these stories to be heard, because then all they will be is victims. Jean Seaton, who was one of the supervisors on my PhD, gave good advice: the women are not victims, they are people who have survived despite the attempts to demean and derail them made by men in the music industry. In fact, they are professional people who are thriving.

So the white roses? Leave them in the fields, and let nature take its course with them. Human responsibility is the only solution, and the recognition that even the most charming and plausible people can fool people who think that they themselves are too intelligent to be taken for a ride.
Always believe.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

In Support of Mary Beard

Sending love and support to Mary Beard, a beautiful and learned woman who is an inspirational writer, broadcaster and communicator.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Delilah, Delilah

This new song was inspired by a visit to the hairdresser (it's hard, though not impossible, to wash long hair with only one hand), a chance sighting of the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons in the sweet shop, reading a particularly gory Jo Nesbo book while under the influence of powerful and mind-bending painkillers, and a desperate desire to make my fingers work. Ukulele is difficult to play if you're normally a guitarist- it feels as though you have too many fingers. This is played with two fingers on each hand. Posted yesterday morning, before the fracture clinic; no lifting, pulling or pushing for six weeks, but playing guitar has the green light. The operating surgeon sent a message to say she hoped that I'd managed to play the gig I was worried about. I didn't in the end, but what a nice thing to ask.

Monday, February 12, 2018


I'm thinking of re-branding my super-person alter-ego (didn't have one, but maybe should have), "Terrormadam".
The music shop guy in Brighton the other week called me a "Terror" when I knocked over a huge pile of slippery leaflets all over the floor, while I was in there buying emergency drumsticks for the Asbo Derek gig, even though I tried to pick them up.
The surgeon who fixed the fracture called me "Madam", in general conversation about elbows.
Slot the two together, and you get the sort of name that should be emblazoned across a tightly t-shirted chest in a lightning-flash of primary colours. By somebody else, perhaps.

Waiting for Spring!

Photo by Ruth Tidmarsh

Saturday, February 10, 2018


We all looked out for this man in our various ways. Barnet is not famed for its compassion (just look at Cllr Cornelius if you don't believe me) but touchingly, some mornings there was a cup of coffee waiting for him on his sitzplatz on the pavement in the High Street.
He busked sometimes, and got better at it. People stopped and chatted to him. It was better to give him food and drink than money.
He wasn't homeless, as Offsprog One found out. He felt sorry for homeless people, even though he spent every daylight hour outside, rain or shine, summer or winter. Sometimes he appeared to be remarkably ill. The police knew about him and I suppose all the local charities did too; he appeared to be living the life he wanted to. It is very sad that he has died; you always hope that there will be a happy ever after for a chap like this: articulate, funny, sociable, but just somehow not fitting into the shapes cut out for normal human beings. A lot of people will miss you, Anthony.

These Streets, filmed at The Union Chapel in January

Thank you again John Jervis, Daylight Music and Foliage Films

Friday, February 09, 2018

Napoleon@Elbow: Fracture Diary, Only Entry

Offsprog One made a weeks worth of chilli on Monday; what a gem. Offsprog Two went and got easy t-shirts; another gem! Colleagues at work have done a grand job at keeping things going as much as possible. Sorry for not replying to emails and phone calls- anything complex is beyond me at the moment especially if it requires finding physical or virtual information. Next week will be much better and I have read/listened to everything and know what has to be caught up on.
I'm a one-finger typist with short windows of time in which to do stuff- the bit of bone that broke off was the funny bone, and if you've ever hit yourself there, you'll know the feeling. My left hand is blossoming in colour to a fetching shade of purple but has now shrunk from the size of a cricket ball to the size of an orang-utan's paw. I'm uncharacteristically grumpy; a thousand baboons have been screaming in my head most of the week, but they are settling down now.
Yesterday, like a cross Napoleon, I went one-armed bandit shopping and bought Sliced Things to eat.
I'm too impatient for visitors and have been occupying the hours by revisiting, in my head, every fool I've ever met in my life and not suffering them gladly. This has been quite an indulgence, and better than chocolate for the spirits, which currently tastes just of brown paste.
No more for now. Fingers still working: frustrating for this to happen halfway thru working out a new guitar-picking' pattern, but motivating to have that as a target... for next week?

Monday, February 05, 2018

NHS March

We care about you, NHS staff who are so busy that they have no idea how much public support they have- and there is virtually no reporting of these marches.
Ironically, as I was noting on my phone the very funny quip that Offsprog One made about a particularly impassioned chap with a megaphone, I slipped on the road and broke my elbow. I didn't realise what had happened at the time.
This is how I know how little public appreciation gets through to the nurses, doctors, anaesthetists, cleaners, porters and everyone else who works in our hospitals and other National Health facilities.
I have wires in my elbow, and its hugely frustrating not to be able to play my guitars at the moment. But within the space of hours and with the utmost respect and courtesy I've been operated on, patched up and painkilled.
Staff at the hospital said thank you to the 60,000 people who marched in their support on Saturday. The government don't care, do they? It's been a Tory project ever since Thatcher to get rid of the NHS. The whole idea of completely egalitarian treatment for everyone from a street person to a duchess, regardless of status or income, just sticks in the Tory craw. We mustn't let this be taken from us!
It is actually a comical thing to have happened in the end, if a trifle painful and inconvenient!

Friday, February 02, 2018

Working and Sleeping

January was working and sleeping, and the first weekend of February is going to be the same.
It's Scaledown tonight, and that's a big thing to miss!
The editor from Equinox, Dave Laing, was in London today, and we met to have a bookish discussion. He recommended the book Under My Thumb: songs that hate women and the women who love them (edited by Rhian Jones and Eli Davies), so Chomsky is relegated to the waiting pile (bloody depressing, anyway), while I get stuck into reading about (some even more depressing) sexism.
Pots and pans and rock'n'roll: you do the housework, while I sit and write a song about how lovely you look while you're doing the housework, baby.