Saturday, December 29, 2018

Paris Anniversaire

 Lights at night; exhibition of spider web work by Tomas Saraceno at Le Palais de Tokyo; visitors playing music at the exhibition by tougching the giant web; Tour D'Eiffel at midnight, across the Seine; Christmas tree and decorations at Galeries Lafayette; birch bark graffiti along the banks of the river; 1920s and 1700s tapestries at Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins; moi devant un arbre.

The Other Thing Is

He told me he'd thought I had put diesel in the car instead of petrol. Without displaying any anger, I told him the amount of miles I'd driven since I passed my test 25 years ago.
He had threatened to drive off and just leave the car there, you see.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Boxing Day Breakdown

What a disaster, but what a lucky escape at the same time. After dropping the Offsprogs off at their Nan's house, I drove back via the Blackwall Tunnel and the North Circular. On the way through the tunnel, I thought about how terrifying it would be to break down under the River Thames in such busy and impatient traffic, with so many drivers still drunk from last night. The car was running really well and I was on the home straight passing Wood Green, when the traffic suddenly slowed down and I could see a huge queue ahead from the flyover that I was driving over.
At that moment, the car suddenly expired.
The foot brake jammed, the power vanished from the steering wheel, and there was just enough momentum to hoist it up on to the hard shoulder, although the back of it was still poking out into the heavy traffic coming over the top of the flyover. Basically, it had conked out in the middle of five lanes of traffic.
I climbed out of the passenger door and phoned the breakdown company. In a nutshell (I've edited this to remove more dangerous things) they turned up after an hour and towed the car to a quiet street, where the grumpiest Breakdown Chap In The Entire Universe started to test the electrics. Everything looked very doomy at one point, but I did pipe up that I thought a coil might have blown, even though he was so grumpy that it was frightening talking to him.
After an hour of tests, stinking smoke came out of the engine and I got out of the car in case it exploded. Eventually, I saw smoke pouring out of one of the coils as he turned the engine over, and hey presto! that was where the problem had been.
He changed the coil and the car started running perfectly.
It was a massive relief to get back home. I was bloody starving and ate half a fridgeful of food.
That's the first time that I have not tipped a breakdown man.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Bass Player from Pellethead's Joke

Two tortoises were scrapping, watched by a snail.
The police finally came, but by then the fight had finished.
They asked the snail what happened.
'I don't know, it was all over in an instant', he said.

Hippo Christmas!

Finishing Songs

I have started to finish songs for a new album in 2019.
One of them has kept me awake for days; it started about a week ago. I did what I suggested to students that they do: moved the second verse to the top, change the structure, etc. etc. etc.
It ended up back where it started.
It is a song about politics since 2016, where liars insist it is they who are the truthful ones, and it's everyone else who's lying. Or is it?
This is Trump's trick, and he's not the only one at it. It's the 21st Century way (and there's the title!).

Friday, December 21, 2018

Dennis Bovell's Joke

I offered Dennis a Fisherman's Friend last night.
He declined, but said,
"What's the name of the fisherman's friend?

Thursday, December 20, 2018

I Found My Favourite Hat!

The Bikini Beach Band at What's Cookin'

This is the last music event I'm going to write about this year, but I sort of have to because it was such fun. It was a Works Outing; we met in the street, and most of us were lost.
Luckily, our Local Guide is an expert at knowing where gigs are and verily, we were glad.
The Ex-Serviceman's Club (wot, no women?) was warm, welcoming, had carpets, and a shopping trolley downstairs full of raffle prizes. Disorientated by losing my favourite hat, I almost followed Sound Engineer into the Gents but made the correction just in time.
We sat in front of the stage and were excited like children at Christmas time; soon afterwards, the announcement was made and four extraordinary creatures strode to the stage. They all appeared to be taller than average but that could have been crafty costume construction: their magnificent matching attire shouted out to Heatwave and Barry Manilow with ruffled orange sleeves, flared nylon-looking trousers and horrid frightening white patent shoes (don't look! don't look!). Each of their heads was adorned with a fez sporting a nod to the festive season in the form of tinsel wound around the rim.
They had super duper guitars that made the guitar fetishists at our table (yes, I'm one of them) green with envy, and they blasted us with a set of scorching envy-inducing medleys to boot.
They reminded me of a set of lovebirds I saw once in Palmer's Pets in Camden before it became an expensive tearoom: the birds elegantly followed each other in slow motion claw-over-claw up the sides of the cage, and then hanging upside down turned their heads simultaneously in perfect formation, looking at me and my pal as though they were completely taking the p*ss out of us.
Whoever wasn't playing a busy bit of an instrumental (no vocals here, hence perfect and crystal clear sound) was posing in instagram-friendly p*sstakery, absolutely seriously, and rehearsed within an inch of their lives.
We were blown away by their musicianship. Talk about tight! The two guitarists swap lead parts and their guitar sounds are to die for. Standing in the centre, the bass player seemed to be lead poser, but never missed a note. And the drummer is brilliant. There was much consulting of phones in our company to work out what the songs were: many of them were cunningly disguised by the fact that their intros sounded like other songs. The Omen was in there.... Emerson Lake and Palmer, and even a bit of Kraftwerk. The buggers! It was very funny. Half the time you were laughing, the rest listening in astonishment to their musical jiggery-pokery.
The majority of the audience sat there po-faced with their arms folded, despite Stephen's exhortations to them to get up and dance. It was only at the very end, when they exploded into massive applause and the band had to come back for an encore, that they (and we) finally made it to the dance floor and danced like loons, led by the bass player whose headstock narrowly missed several of the dancers, but Health and Safety weren't looking.
It had taken tequila shots for the Works Outing to pluck up courage to dance. The only teetotaller would have got up right at the start if anyone would have joined her. Next time, everybody, remember how good it felt to dance! Ha ha!
That's my Christmas moralising over and done with (one member of the Works Outing is excused as she went swimming beforehand and she bought the crisps).
Thoroughly, thoroughly recommended. You will never be miserable with a show by this lot in your calendar!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


Someone has to do it, sometime.
Crumpled checked shirts: collar, facings, sleeves, front, back, shoulders, put it on a hanger.
Over and over again, with the hissing steam iron.
I'm seeing plaid, instead of stars.
The perils of being a cowgirl!

Musical Musing

Writing melodies and chords is easy. It's the words that are difficult. You have to sing them to bring them to life; lyrics are different from poetry.
Sometimes its great to leave them to lie for a while, and then go back to them with a fresh mind; you can see what needs to change as clearly as day, and the song feels complete.
The latest one, I've got so many extra lyrics that I'm thinking of giving them away as Christmas presents.
I keep waking up early in the morning singing new words to the same melody.
Maybe they are poems? Who knows?
Not me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Songwriting Circle

The Washing Machine Repair Man came and went; I made a vegetarian chilli.
Katy came to the door.
There is something really life-affirming about playing new songs to a trusted friend.
Katy played her songs on the piano, and I played mine on the guitar. We are both going to start recording albums in the New Year.
We late chilli and roared with laughter at the general stupidness of things and we talked about holidays, recording engineers, kindness and food.
It's nearly time to bring the scrawny little Christmas tree in from the garden and see how many baubles I can cram on to it's branches. The collection of tree decorations is a bit like a history of our family that only appears once a year; it belongs to the growing-up years of the Offsprogs and I feel a bit guilty for not bothering with a tree last year.
This year, I am bothering.
And for some reason, getting Christmas cards this year is particularly uplifting: I think it is the fact that despite being really fed up and hard up, people like contacting each other offline: "Eff off, Internet, with your money-grubbing ways and your spying on us and data-selling shenanigans".
Resistance through Christmas cards!

Circles Round the Sun

When you are growing up you look everywhere for information to help you to become an adult. This is why it's so sinister that so many lyrics about female relationships sung by women artists are written by men (which is largely what my next book is about).
When I was a teenager, I thought James Taylor was the most beautiful man I'd ever seen, and I also loved his guitar playing. Now I realise how much of his picking style I absorbed in all those nights of late night angsty misery-listening. He can be a whole band if he needs to be. His first album, which I didn't get to hear till years later, has fantastic arrangements by Peter Asher with the unusual use of instruments like French Horns that sound remarkably delicate.
I didn't realise that Taylor hadn't written this song; although it's a beautiful song, it's the song of a complete narcissist. Just listen to the lyrics.

Monday, December 17, 2018


1. My car still has three flat tyres.
2. I have finished writing a song that made me feel sad yesterday, but less sad today.
3. I bought eight pairs of socks for street people.
4. I ate a pie.

Disappearing Drawing

The pencil sketch I'd done to illustrate one of Stuart Moxham's poems had completely disappeared. Sometimes things accidentally get recycled in the big blue bin, so that was that.
Then shuffling some papers, I saw a faint outline that looked like an indentation of the drawing on a plain white sheet of A4. The paper is on the radiator now: it was a sheet of 'invisible writing' paper that had belonged to an Offsprog many moons ago. Trying not to throw recyclable things away, it had ended up in a pile of plain paper ready to be used for... sketching. The drawing is gradually reappearing as the paper heats up. Time bomb trick!

Bootlace Tie, Fixed

I have many stories about bootlace ties, but first I have to draw the illustrations.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sunday Off

This is the first Sunday for as long as I can remember when I haven't had to sit and write lectures, finish research, or anything else work related. It has been unbelievably relaxing, and I almost feel like a human being.
This house has been a stranger, stuffed with books and research papers, which are all going into the loft tomorrow. After excavating a box I found a lost address book, but even Christmas cards will have to wait till tomorrow. I found a scrapbook full of Helen and the Horns press cuttings that hadn't seen the light of day for years, and a scrapbook from my school days with a photo of my pal Andy. I don't even know if he's still around; it was so great to have a surrealist at school amongst all the aggressive conformity. I loved him.
Best thing of today is realising that I can almost completely move my left arm again, after four months of physiotherapy. This last bit of exercise hurts like hell but I know if I keep it up then it will get completely better.
That's what happens, apparently, when you get all macho and start shifting large pieces of furniture around to fix damp patches on the walls, after having a severely busted elbow. The physiotherapist said it is really common for people to overestimate what they can do after an injury. It was a relief to hear that, because feeling like a fool as well as being temporarily disabled made it even worse.
Because I started playing uke and guitar two days after the accident, the muscles in my forearm didn't waste, but my biceps had turned to cotton wool and two months later my shoulder completely seized up.
The problem has always been that breaking your funny-bone on an NHS march sounds like it's a joke.
I suppose it is; I never blamed anyone for bursting out laughing when I told them what had happened.
Yesterday, I carried a bag in my left hand, and today I reached up to get something off a shelf in the supermarket. This is the best Christmas present that I could possibly have had!

The Christmas Disaster Night

Every year there is one. I won't describe the earlier part, which was partly rescued simply by deciding to go completely acoustic (thank you to the guy who lent me his guitar!). I bagged an early slot so I could go to a party that I really wanted to go to, sorted out the route, and then discovered that all the trains were either cancelled or not stopping where the party was at, and I went home with my party tail between my legs.
I have watched very little TV this year because of finishing off so much research, but last night had to resort to watching re-runs of Glaswegian cop-shows that I had already seen in the 1990s, and listen to drunken Hooray Henries out on their Christmas boozefest bellowing on their way down the street outside.
The Carpetright ad gets really wearing on multiple hearings.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

In Which Cowgirl Superglues Her Fingers To Bootlace Tie

The string crumbled because it was so old (it's a vintage enamel Jackrabbit with Deer antlers for some reason: irresistible), and I sent off for a new string which I then had to glue into the metal tips.
The string didn't glue into the metal tips, but my fingers glued to both the metal tips and the string.
Now I look like I have a flaking skin condition at the tips of my fingers, and I daren't pull the glue off in case the skin comes off with it.
O, the trials of fashion!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Ramblings and Music-ings

Thank you to everyone who watched the Stageit show last night. The decision not to use the Facebook platform was deliberate; we seem to be channeling everything through that, and there's a sense of being gobbled up by an application that's refusing to be accountable. It doesn't seem like a good idea to belong too uncritically to an organisation that misuses data. That being said, it's almost certain the other global tech corporations are going to find themselves similarly called to account (!).
The problem with Blockchain tech seems to be that it will only work for people who have established their reputations already- and how will they do that?
That's enough uninformed speculation.
It has been a morning of musing and music-ing. It's nice to be writing a song that appears to be flowing smoothly, after going through that weird creative thing of being jealous of one of my own songs. After writing that particular song, a nice piece of music with rubbish words came along, and then some good words with no music (and they didn't fit together). Then one morning last week, I woke up and words and music both arrived at the same time. Just what I needed.
Today, first a family thing then more lecturing and tutorials. I still can't believe that the philosophy lecture last Tuesday was so boisterous and such fun; it's an absolute joy to work with people who love learning!

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Daylight Music with the Catenary Wires

There is so much out there to enjoy: last weekend featured Ian Button at the Country Soul Sessions, the fab club run by Drew Morrison and Alex, his partner.
Robert Rotifer was in Ian's band and it's always great to see him contribute his chord wizardry to people's songs: the year has been dovetailed by watching him with Judy Dyble in January, and Ian in December.

Saturdays are Daylight Music days (although they are taking a break now until January). Yesterday's was impossible to miss: the chance to hear The Catenary Wires' songs through the crystal clear sound system at the Union Chapel was enough to get the laziest Saturday slob out of bed and into the Union Chapel with a cup of tea and a slice of home made cake. Now they are a three-piece, Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey with additional harmonies and keyboards from Fay Hallam, and they flex that sound to its fullest extent.
They started with a song aimed at their local MP Damien Green, through the lens of the #MeToo movement. Was That Love's piercing words managed to make poetry out of shame, to all the better effect:
'I was trying to find a way to say no'.
Many women know that feeling.
I loved their rendition of Dream Town, which effortlessly glided into and out of sections of lovely harmonies. Great song writing! I'm hoping some of it will rub off on me! (I'm just about to immerse myself in an intensive song writing session).
To celebrate the release of their label WIAIWYA's Christmas compilation, they were joined for their Christmas song by Whoa Melodic on tambourine, who had kicked off the event sporting a bright green Christmas suit, an acoustic guitar and some very catchy songs.
And they like Slade.
Next, Liverpool's Jonathan Hering built up a twelve-part early music chant that pulled the mind's ear back to Medieval times of chilly abbeys and monks in hessian garb; we were pulled into his world more and more as his voice headed upwards into cool falsetto, icing the cake of layered harmonies from bass upwards.
 Finally the Ho Ho Horns (a group of eleven French horns: shades of the twelve days) played a lovely warm-hearted set of music, swapping lead roles with each player swaying gently in their own time to make a subtly undulating visual articulation of their complete absorption in the music.
They reminded me of the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra in New York, who did exactly the same thing. You don't see rock bands doing that, ever. Maybe you need to be classically trained in order to completely give up your ego and submit to the music? This was such an original sound: it's a great instrument and to find eleven of them playing in one place at one time more than makes up for the buses that don't turn up then all turn up at once, and the loss of two parents (a HANDBAG?).
Daylight Music is absolutely brilliant.
Hats off to Ben for running it for ten years, and also for the poorest cracker joke (i.e. the best) this year:
What carol do they sing in the desert?
O Camel Ye Faithful.

No More Mr Nice Try

Something about the march of Tommy's Twats has given me the energy of a furious rhinoceros today.

I went to the ICA to the zine fair that Offsprog One has a stall at, and I was getting her some water at the bar when I saw a chap with a brilliant shirt that was made of lots of checked shirts sewn together. He came up to the bar and I plucked up the courage to ask him where he had got it from.
'New York' he said, then sneered unnecessarily, 'Nice try!'.

At home I have three great checked shirts from when I was in The Chefs. One has a crap collar, one has crap sleeves and one has a crap body...
I used to re-sleeve shirts when I was in my 20s: because why not?
That's what I plan to do this evening.
Nice try, Mr Not-Nice Guy.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Santas in Islington

Islington was thronging with posh Santas, many of them with backpacks, this lunchtime.
In the shopping centre, a cry went up:
'Whaddawe want?'

Friday, December 07, 2018

I Didn't Meet The Buzzcocks, But I Brushed With Their Aura

It's that guitar solo: it totally took/takes the p*ss out of every single overblown guitar solo that has happened before it or since.
Once Spiral Scratch came out, you knew you were OK because punk had  a sense of humour as well as a sense of disruption and fury.
The first bass guitar that I ever played belonged to the Buzzcocks.
Sue, the raven-haired bass player in Poison Girls was from Manchester and had somehow acquired it and lent it to me for the first few Joby and the Hooligans gigs. It was a deep red semi-acoustic with f-holes, and it was magnificent. It was a bit like being given a magic wand to play; every time I touched it, I glowed. It was hard to give it up for the little Jedson, cream with white scratch plates, that I bought later on and it was the best way to start, honestly.
The washing up job in the French restaurant meant that I missed many of the punk gigs in Brighton but attended by default.
The night of the riot at their Brighton gig, a local drummer turned up at my house at midnight bearing a cymbal that he had nicked from them. I think he felt guilty and needed a witness to what he had done: he looked very sheepish on the doorstep.
Later, I met a chap who had rolled one of their amplifiers into a multi-storey car park with one of his friends, and hid it behind a car until the furore had died down.
I had mixed feelings about this, because Buzzcocks were clearly not prats. Someone said that their roadies had been really heavy, and that's what made things kick off, but I felt it was a bit weird to nick stuff from your own. It would have bene different if it was Led Zeppelin or one of the other poncy dinosaur bands, I thought.
They were like the boys from school, weren't they? Pete Shelley was a good guy.

Photo of Poison Girls below via Pete Fender: and that's the bass. I wonder if it was Sue who invited Buzzcocks to play in the Vault? She knew them quite well I think.

From This Month's Bass Guitar Magazine

Shanne, Emily, Gina and me in Bass Guitar magazine; Jane Woodgate also played on Gina's track, which is available here:
There are two tracks up there which we are selling to raise money for music copyrights- pay as much as you like/can and big thanks to those who have supported us so far!
We may have a screening in Lisbon, in which case we will need to buy the 'foreign' rights. Yipee, more negotiating with rude interns at major publishing houses!

Saturday Night with the London Set

New video by Peter McAdam aka McDada for Saturday Night with the London Set!

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Monday Night 8 p.m.

Last gig of the year, straight from my kitchen. Despite what it says on the page, this begins at 8 p.m. Long time since I've done one of these, but not everyone has Facebook so it seems better to do it this way! The way it works is that you sign up in advance and pay what you want.
Me and the mice, with hopefully no marauding Offsprogs this time around!


There is something very Poe about this morning.
Out the back the trees drip with condensed fog, a few bedraggled yellow leaves hanging sadly from their branches.
Almost hidden, three blackbirds perch silently waiting for nothing.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Women of the World

Thank you to everyone who turned up to sing on the day, and who sent mp3s from far and wide. This was recorded almost two years ago. Still raising funds towards the music copyrights for the documentary. More news coming....

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Car Key

My car has three flat tyres. Having three flats, it is in E flat major but that's not much use in a  car.

Holly Golightly at The Lexington

The Lexington last night was rammed and buzzing; everyone was really excited, dressed up to the nines and ready for the Holly Golightly Christmas gig. Word was that she is really on form, and the word was right.
With a Guild guitar in hand set permanently to tremolo, a double bass player, an ace guitarist and an ace drummer, she led us by hand through dark swampy-textured music with shades of Northern Soul and Bo Diddley; her songs of love and loss were sung in a unique, sweet voice that could ramp up the power whenever she needed it. Boy, can she carry a tune! Languid and charming as a front person, she allowed her band plenty of rope to contribute their own styles to her songs, while still being authoritative and utterly engaging. There was rhythm, there was space, there was emotion, melody: everything to keep you with them through a mesmerising set. One of the best things about Holly is that she hasn't got pop-star-itis. Her between-songs banter is down-to-earth and still definitely English although she now lives in the US. This inspires a huge amount of affection from the audience, who roared along with a lot of of the songs- and Debbie Smith could be seen dancing very enthusiastically at the side of the stage. Fave song of the night was I Can't Stand It.

The support band were fab too; more on that later!
Got her album and can't wait to listen.

Working on a Sunday

Sometimes I wish I could lose this sense of responsibility. I think it is an older sister thing, and I wish it would go away.
Why am I working on a Sunday?

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Drawing Again

Inspired by the first talk at the FM2U event at Rich Mix this morning, I left and tracked down an elusive promoter, then came home to do a bit more of this. More writing and colours to come. More later.