Tuesday, December 31, 2019

On New Year's Eve

I can only share this one day a year; I had meant to do a new mix for 2019, but was too busy carousing this year. Plus the kitchen studio is still swathed in plastic to protect it from cooking injuries.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Pheasant Pluckers and Phighting Back

Greedily, and somewhat like the Queen, I stretched my birthday celebrations over several days this year, culminating in a visit to Brighton to take in a a night that simply couldn't be missed: Asbo Derek and The Band of Holy Joy at the Prince Albert.
Rather like Michael Clunkie in Newcastle, the mysteriously named Jane Barnes has a knack of putting together a good bill, and with Steve at the mixing desk (every band's extra member), things kicked off well from the start.
Asbo Derek's lead singer Jem genially filled the gaps between songs with merry innuendo, and the group ran through their hits, eliciting a yelp of delight from my mouth when they announced Buddhist Lost Property, and also later on by playing another one of my faves, Watch What You Drink, a song which is superb in its silliness. Yes, I love the grubby humour and rude repartee too, but nobody does f*ck-it-all pointlessness like Asbo Derek, and the sheer thrill of hearing a carefully arranged, rehearsed and delivered song that consists of lists of idiotic things received in an email, or dreamed up with a pint around a pub table, is utter bliss for a person with a cracker-joke mentality like me. 'Ha ha ha!!',I guffawed loudly and with total abandonment. And of course, that's why I love them so much! And all delivered over a rifftastic backing: Darcy was on fire. The band are able to hit you with solid political comment too, and I loved the new song Nails that tightened the thread between slave labour in Vietnamese nail bars and the recent tragedy of  container-load of people dying of suffocation. What the bloody hell is going on in the 21st century?
This led us perfectly into The Band of Holy Joy's angry and fierce set. No holds barred, Johny tore into Ian Duncan Smith and roared through the set. The band sounded on top form, with James riffing gloriously, a new bass player who put in a fine show, Daryl drumming with aplomb, Pete playing great keyboards that added a psychedelic flavour to it all, and a new powerful set of images from Inge, whose colours even looked angry as they melted into and out of the screen. In front of it all strode Johny, almost in the audience at times, making damn sure we got the idea behind it all. These are powerful songs: So Sad was a standout song of the night, but my favourite one is The Devil Has a Hold of the Land which is an absolute anthem for this horrible political maelstrom that we find ourselves in. This was a completely inspirational set, and they were joined by Vic Godard for the well-deserved encore (yes, all the stars were out two nights ago!). I am looking forward to working with Johny in 2020, which I reckon is going to be the year the artists and musicians fight back.
Yes, it is.
(p.s. Brian, I hope your thumb gets better soon)
Photos by me and a mysterious stranger.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Excavating Songs

I've spent the afternoon excavating old songs.
One, called Waltzing Away from Winter, I'm sure I recorded about ten years ago but I can't find the recording. I think I did it on Garageband, and the computer that I used died a long time ago. Frustratingly, I can remember the whole thing apart from little run down from the middle 8 to the last verse. The words were in the first place I looked, which is the first time that has happened, ever.
The little run may come back in a dream.
Another, Beachwalk, was recorded as a collaboration and somehow lost its words in the process, becoming an instrumental.
I found the words, but forgot the melody of the middle 8; a new one showed up straight away, and now I'm tinkering away with the words, like a mechanic does with a car, to make it singable.
There has been nothing better to do, and this has been the best thing to do.
Indigestion is knocking at the door, but a diet of cheese straws has kept it at bay. It's a homeopathic trick: eat the thing that gave you indigestion in the first place and it will either get better or worse. In this case, it's been the former, although I'm just about to go out with the Offsprogs and it might get worse again later.
Oh, and I spent the morning writing a new song. It's reached the tantalising stage that if I work on it too much, I'll ruin it. I'm waiting a bit for the best words to come, and a middle 8, I hope.
It sort of wrote itself today, which feels a bit like being given a fabulous present. I have no idea whether it's any good or not, but I will enjoy singing it anyway.

All this because I couldn't be bothered to go out and buy some more clementines from the shop across the road.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Poor Christmasser

I'm not a very good Christmasser this year- late or non-existent card-sending, poor present purchase and badly organised social life. Work seems to have ended very late this year,  and even on Friday I was writing a (thoroughly-deserved) reference for someone.
But today I made a loaf of bread. The Offsprogs have eaten half of it already, so it must be OK. I brought the little Christmas tree in from the back yard, and it's got lights on it.
I have lost about three miles of fairy lights somewhere in the house, but can't find them anywhere.
Have you nicked them, readers?
Last night I went with some pals (including my Champagne Friend) to the carol service at Southwark Cathedral, and we managed the 'you don't come to church, so here are some strange carols' part of the service perfectly adequately.
It's nut roast for Christmas dinner if any of us can be bothered to make it; vegetables and Yorkshire pudding if we can't.
We (mostly me) have eaten almost all of the After Eight's in their little record sleeves.
No matter how hard the Offsprogs pretend, I know there are more in there, all for me!
The only downer is the complete lack of Cheese Footballs, apparently on the entire planet.
Or have you got them, Northern Powerhouse?
Maybe Peek Freans (or whoever they are) thinks the Metropolitan Elite don't eat such things. We get Twiglets (pronounced 'Twiglahts') and olives, with hummus and other such slop, and we talk about Jeremy Corbyn in hushed tones while (we are told) the ex-miners celebrate Boris and the Tories.
Oh the joy of stereotypes!
(is that a Stormzy 100% or a Tory 100%?).
I dreamt that McDad died a second time last night: that's how awful things feel. Being the mother of two twenty-somethings who have directly suffered at the hands of the Tories, and lecturing in an institution where the hopelessness engendered by their selfish policies manifests itself in extreme anxiety in many of it's students, I'm not taking kindly to self-righteous editorials in papers that should know better (that's you, The Guardian), who will only be satisfied when actual Jesus takes over the Labour Party.
Don't you realise that the Tory press would slaughter him, too?
Many people that I know are at full pelt holding up the collapsing old building that is post-colonial Britain, a building shored up by narcissistic men (and Katie Hopkins) who are painting over it's guilty cracks with a disgusting shade of racism.
Oh deary me.
I'm exhausted.
Bring on lazy Christmas Day.
I suspect the nut loaf ingredients will still be piled on the side in the kitchen on Boxing Day.

Friday, December 20, 2019


I should be writing, but I'm not.
On Thursday, I witnessed a racist attack in Barnet High Street (not for the first time, but this was the first violent one).
You could say 'unprovoked attack', but apparently for some people, simply belonging to a different culture is a provocation.
A Muslim man had been walking down the street with his son, and his daughter was just crossing the road to meet them.
A young white man punched him in the mouth in front of his children. The man who got punched was shocked and became very angry, and it looked as though it might became a serious fight, so I got out my phone and said I was going to contact the police unless the white man went away.
He walked away, but he carried on gesticulating insults as he walked down the road.
I was trying to describe his expression: it was supercilious.
The victim was really upset. He had blood all over his mouth, and he could not understand why he had been attacked for no reason. His children were shocked too.
I know people from any culture could feel that they can verbally or physically attack a person from another culture.
This is called racism.
No single culture seems to be either immune from being racist, or immune from experiencing racism.
If you experience it or witness it, this is where you report it: http://report-it.org.uk
If you are a racist, you are a coward and a disgrace to humanity.
I can't get this out of my mind.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Tuesday Night (tomorrow) in Tufnell Park

After this, I can get the most humungous cold.
Oh, not really!
I'll be singing the Christmas Queen song.

Music starts at 8 p.m.

Sunday, December 15, 2019


The Daylight Music 100th Birthday celebration at the Union Chapel was lovely on Saturday. It featured artists from the Lost Map record label, which is based on the Isle of Eigg in Scotland.
Calum Easter's accordion songs were marvellous, and Rozi Plain's impassioned speech at the start of her set was an emotionally cathartic moment. Here's to the next 100 gigs and big up Ben Eshmade for putting such a continuous stream of energy into the events. Stamina to be proud of- and the full house on Saturday is testament to the audience's faith in the quality of the music he puts on.
This afternoon was spent at the Betsey Trotwood watching the Dolly Mixture film Take Three Girls. Debsey and Rachel were there hosting the afternoon, which was a lovely relaxed way to spend Sunday. Even though I've seen it before, it still had the same strong emotional impact. It's lovely and should be shown on TV.
I should be working this evening but I'm too tired. It's impossible really to put into words how I feel and there are far too many people putting spontaneous and ill thought-out postings on social media and into the newspapers. The wrong people will always get blamed for what has happened.
I honestly never thought that political gaslighting would take hold to such an extent in Britain. It feels as though the school bullies have won, because nobody wants to admit that they have been cheated and bullied, because admitting to being duped undermines their belief in their own integrity.
Just read Jon Ronson's book The Psychopath Test, and there you will see the whole thing laid out in plain English. Psychopaths ridicule people who think ethics and empathy are important.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for psycopathic minds. Normal people are all weaklings, you see...

Number 35 in the Louder in War Albums of the Year Chart

Many thanks to Cazz Blase and Paul Scott-Bates for fantastic support, always!

Thursday, December 12, 2019


Saturday Night on Wednesday Night

Big thanks to Gideon Coe for playing my song again last night.
Bloody hell, I needed cheering up.
The world seems to have gone mad in the nastiest way possible.
What I really can't understand is people who vote Conservative yet who use, and have used, the National Health service to it's fullest extent for themselves and their children, all their lives.
Maybe it's just me, because (a) I don't believe in private medicine and (b) now, I definitely could not afford it.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

I Vote Labour

Propaganda by the Tory press has been remarkably successful at this election.
Their cynicism disgusts me; the Daily Mail has a history of supporting fascists, notably in the Second World War, yet people still read it and believe what it says.
This is the first year that I have actually campaigned directly since I worked at the Labour Party Headquarters in the 1990s.

The driving force as been the deliberate dismantling of the NHS, who cared for my parents when they were sick and dying, who helped me to bring my daughters into the world and who have looked after the health of me and my loved ones for our entire lives this far.

The way they treated and mended my badly broken elbow last year was incredible, and the dignity that they afforded to every patient that first night in A&E was incredibly moving.

It didn't matter whether you were old, young, rich, poor, male, female, black, white, brown or whatever: the scruffiest young man, the most vulnerable baby, the poshest elderly lady, all got the same respect and gentleness from a team of staff who would utterly shame some of the rich and powerful people who strut about our planet as though it is they who own the place.

The kindest gesture was from the nurse who checked me in first of all; I was convinced that I'd only dislocated it, and got a horrible shock when I saw on the x-ray that the bone had almost completely sheared off. After he put the plaster on, I had to go for more x-rays and he said 'Come and say goodbye when you're finished here'. That was so sweet. I was on my own, and worried and frightened. And I did, and he smiled and wished me luck and a speedy recovery.

Actually, it could have been the theatre team, who were so reassuring when I was a scaredy cat just before the operation to fix it (they sewed it back on, a new procedure that meant I only had to have one operation instead of metal pins that had to be removed later).

Or the chap who was patrolling the recovery room sitting down next to us all, one by one, and reminding us to breathe!

Or perhaps, when they finally signed me off three months later, the message from the surgeon:
'Did she get to her gig?' (I had been raving and ranting: 'I'm a guitarist! I'm a guitarist! I'm a GUITARIST!').

So even if it wasn't the heartbreaking sight of homeless people in tent cities in the bitterly cold wind, food banks (FOOD BANKS!!) in this country in peacetime, or the horrible racism of the Prime Minister, or the deliberately divisive tactics of his government, the NHS alone is enough to have got me out on the streets with leaflets and persuasion.
And my Offsprogs too (I am so proud of them), and so many of my friends.

Lies and Liars

Monday, December 09, 2019

Re-learning Christmas Queen

I have to re-learn this song for next Tuesday's last minute gig at the Aces and Eights in Tufnell Park.
Ding dong!

Friday Night at The Cumberland Arms with The Noise and the Naive, GG Allan Partridge, Vic Godard and Subway Sect (and Me)

It was a sell-out gig, stuffed to the gills right from the start.
All the best gigs have bands that you don't want to miss even when you are playing too, and this one was no exception.
The Noise and the Naive are emigrating to Canada (lucky them!) and this was their last gig before leaving. In a similar way to the Deux Furieuses (but sounding notably different) their line up consists of two women, one playing guitar and one playing drums. Deux Furieuses sound angry and energetic, but Noise and Naive sound full of enjoyment and vitality. Their songs sound like they were fun to make up: they are playful as well as being played with great expertise and tight musicianship. The two voices shout-sing in tandem and in harmony, almost taking the piss out of their own format at times. They are brave enough to use a kazoo; they are rifftastic, drumtastic and they really know know their way around their instruments. I particularly liked Hawaiian Blues (or was that Howway-an Blues?) and Canada's gain is definitely Britain's loss.
Good luck- you bloody deserve it!
This was a brilliant start to the evening.

(more coming)
(back again)
GG Allan Partridge are a power surge of punk music that features screaming, tribal drumming, references to TV  themes, early French electronica, and all sorts of other influences, topped by a skeletal electric violin (legacy of Darryl Way?) and vocals that sound like crushed cellophane: alternately delicate, spooky, shouty and assertive. There was a darkness about their sound that was compounded by their cover of a Pellethead song (Oh how I love that band!) and they left the audience energised, roaring and bloody sweaty! I couldn't get close enough to film them, or even photograph them because the room was packed with people, which is testament to the following they have in Newcastle.
Following two such dynamic bands was really difficult. I had to tell myself that as musicians we all say things in different voices, and I was lucky (and relieved) to play to a listening room! Thank you and big luv to Pauline and Rob for coming along to give moral support!
The headline band was, of course, Vic Godard and Subway Sect (by way of the JoBoxers and back again), with Johnny Britton on guitar. They were really well-rehearsed, completely on form, and with the Northern Soul part of the punky beaty mix very much to the forefront, particularly in the backing vocals, which added a whole new layer to the songs. Vic is an exceptionally accomplished song writer, made all the better by the humour in the delivery. The cover version of Orange Juice's Falling and Laughing was really touching. There was so much to listen to in the sound: some fabulous guitar playing from both Vic and Johnny, some great fuzzy bass and a jolly good thwack on the skins (kindly lent by the drummer from the Noise and the Naive).
Between the acts, Johny Brown played some great tunes, one of which I was desperate to find out the name of, but there wasn't room to get across the room to ask him. And thanks to Ian Evans for excellent live sound services!
That's it folks, apart from the fact I still haven't recovered from eating the most gigantic jacket potato in the world lunch on Friday, that would have fed 15 horses.
(I know horses don't eat jacket potatoes, but I needed to exaggerate).
And of course to say hats off to Michael Clunkie, who put the night together with confidence that it would all work. Thank you Michael, it was an honour to play the night!

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Ironing On The Patch

After a bit of writing and a bit of lunch and a bit of a walk I did this, all ready for Friday's gig.
It's not going to be 2019 for much longer, but I am always a little bit behind the times.
Time for a 2020 patch, probably, but other things are in the pipeline before that.
It might just get done in a year's time! Big thanks to Ian Button for design assistance.

The Key

I woke up too early, but in my hand I had the key to making the writing work.
I think the editor is right, but I'm soliciting a second opinion from a writing friend.
I'll print out the constipated chapters tomorrow and read them on the train to Newcastle as well, to see what I can edit out myself.
Actually, I'm beginning to be quite excited. I have been writing this book for ten years; it takes a long time to write a book anyway, but being a Mum, a lecturer in up to three different Universities at a time, and a practicing musician has meant  a lot of squeezing of time, getting up ridiculously early and forfeiting of other things (mostly watching TV actually).
I have also spent much of the past ten years rather hard up.
It's amazing what you can do when you have to make your own entertainment (that's a joke, BTW!).

Tuesday, December 03, 2019


I am stuck with my writing. There is a part of the book that is mimicking the blocked sink drain that has taken all morning to sort out. I need mental soda crystals to clear a way through the thicket of words. Three chapters are interfering with each other and I want all the information to be there in the book but I can't work out how to disentangle it all and make a clear pathway through it all.
I've only done an hour's work on it today and already I have come to a halt. Boo.

Sunday, December 01, 2019


How exhausting!
Thursday was the Evening Class night, Friday ATV at The Dublin Castle with Ruth Tidmarsh and Cos Chapman cutting their teeth as co-members Mark Perry's band, possibly temporarily while the previous incumbents have a sabbatical, but who knows?
Last night was the Wheelandcomeagain singalong reggae night at the Shaw Theatre with the Reggae Choir. Hats off once more to Fola Philip- that was a really good night!

Of course, I have videos of each night, but I'll have to wait to upload those until next week.
Alas, I don't think I have the energy for Sarah Vista at the Country Soul Sessions tonight, and I'd dearly love to go, firstly because they are one of the best live bands on the circuit at the moment, and secondly because I love that night in general. Drew Morrison and his wife Alex are amazing hosts and it's always worth going down even if you don't know the acts who are playing- there is always a nice surprise in store. So in my head, in my head.... my imagination will have to do!

I'm sung out and wrung out (yes, I got the high note in Silly Games and so did everyone else in the audience) but have to finish the punk article this avo, because the producers and engineers book has come back from it's second edit, and I have to start on that next.
And then there's the gig next Friday at the Cumberland Arms, more on that later too, but I really must rehearse dahling!
Pip pip!