Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year

 Here's a video of our song 'I Fly My Balloon' hot off the press for the New Year. Thanks to Damian Cosmas for making the video!

Pity Me, The Cat Got Me

Our beautiful Siamese cats had unfortunate hunting habits, no matter that they were fed and loved. it's just their way.

I used to bury the carcasses, and occasionally dig them up to see...

I've been doing this embroidery since 2001 and never felt that I had the time to finish it. The skull, I sewed freehand so it is entirely anatomically incorrect, but it is done from life (or perhaps death).

The cats, of course, are also no more. One by one, they became ill. I always felt that they were such shock-absorbers within our family that eventually they wore out. They were so loved, and every so often we talk about them still and the silly things that they did: like one of them coming through the cat flap with a huge clattering because they had caught a mouse: a dead one, complete with the mousetrap that had done the first and lethal catching.

And now, I've got to finish my book. Amazing how far one will go in order to avoid a difficult task!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020


A pair of robins, feathers fluffed up against the cold, peered into the bathroom window as I was brushing my teeth at the sink this morning. Birds must find humans an endless source of entertainment!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Oblique Day

Well, I was going to mend the vacuum cleaner, post a present to my friend Laura and do a bit of housework. I tried to go to the Post Office three times but the queues were horrendous- about 15 people every time, and I gave up and decided to go tomorrow instead.

Fixing the vacuum cleaner simply didn't appeal, and instead I wrote to Steve Beresford to ask if he might be willing to put some electronics on one of my new songs. He phoned immediately and we had a great catch up. As always, he was full of information about different things people do with music and sound, and said 'yes', too. I do so miss sharing an office with him!

So I fired up the computer and started recording. I need a new sound and it was great fun playing around, although I realised that I'd recorded the whole thing 10 BPMs too slow. I went to the pond after checking out the Post Office again (still queues), and scared the seagulls away from their Seagull Takeover. There were men fishing at the other pond, illegally, but they were too stupid to bother with.

Back again, I started the track again at 140 BPM. I don't think the sound is really quite as good as the first version, but it's just a demo and I've just bounced it for Steve. I do so love recording, and home is just as much fun as anywhere else.

Meanwhile in real life, the useless Government is becoming yet more useless. I have decided that Eton is filled with Martians who have infiltrated British politics from as far back as anyone can remember, and the current Government is the epitome of this phenomenon. Stay home, stay safe, and eventually they will self-destruct and humans will have to pick up the pieces. 

Cruelty to Christmas Decorations

The dog with the missing ear was all due to have a reprieve. I opened the basket to put it in, and its leg fell off. Suddenly I was struck cruel, and I threw it away.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Frost, Fog, Mud


Early on, a thick layer of frost was larded onto the roofs of the sheds in the back gardens I look out on to, and this was the scene as I walked to the station this morning. Every so often, a jogger materialised out of the grey fog, or a couple of early morning dog walkers milled about on the pavement, more lost than their dogs. It was a nightmare getting to Hampstead, and the Heath was teeming with bored people, all signing the mud with their footprints. 

Bathers, so cold that their flesh shone orange through the mist, held back from dipping into the pewter-coloured pond water.

We sat on a bench and ate raspberry cake with cream. The birthday candles wouldn't light and the smell of hand sanitiser was in the air, but it was a memorable birthday, that's for sure.

After the cold won, they turned south and I turned north. I am so glad to be their Mum.

It was a seven mile day, and cold seven miles to (muddy) boot!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Nice Surprise on Birthday Eve, Thanks Tom Robinson!


Not Doing The Housework

'What are you going to do tomorrow?', asked Offsprog Two.

'Housework', I truthfully lied because I thought I was, but I didn't. I went for a mud wrestle (that's what they call walking now around these parts, or at least they do now). Tiny winter birds were out in force, tweetling away with gusto, call and response, conversation, territory-patrolling, whatever it is they do with those little piping voice boxes of theirs. It wasn't such a long walk as yesterday's, although it felt longer because of the amount of time it took to move one foot out of one flooded mud rut and place it in another. The exercise prompted a flood of fatigue, which was only countered by watching a couple of hours of Brexit telly, fortified by chocolate and nougat. I suppose I put out the rubbish, which probably counts as housework. 

The insurmountable problem is that the vacuum cleaner is blocked and all I can think about is forcing Richard Dyson to come and use one of his bloody vacuum cleaners himself to show him how useless they are. They should re-knight him 'Sir Fluff', the man who invented a jolly plastic machine that picks up grey tumbleweed from one part of the house and deposits it in another. We could ask the man who accidentally invented post-it notes (he invented a glue that wouldn't dry) for suggestions about what to do with Dyson's potential landfill devices. Some sort of wildflower seed distributor, perhaps?

No, no, don't think about it. Be positive! It's post-Boxing Day, pre-birthday. I think its going to snow tomorrow so I'll make a snow birthday cake and melt it with candles. Ha ha! The best present this year (apart from Christmas Day, which was lovely) has been sleep. I have stopped worrying about the students and how they are managing (or not), and started counting sheep. There are millions of them, and they all smile, or maybe that's just their natural expressions. 

I have got a song particle ready to send to Robert on New Year's day. At midnight on NYE we will be 'dropping' a new video. Before then, I'll record the first couple of demos for a 2021 solo album. I might even finish the embroidery I started 19 years ago (!). And during all this, I'll be rampaging through a box of Rose and Violent Creams that the Offsprog gave me for Christmas. 

Same problem as pink and white marshmallows. 

Do they taste different from each other? 

Let me try just one more to see.

Where Are The Cheese Footballs This Year?

Christmas Eve Delivery


I'll Never Stop Being European


Saturday, December 26, 2020

Frosty Leaf Art from Christmas Day: a Quill and a Fishbone


Boxing Day Walk

More dogs on the planet means more dog poo on the planet, and every new dog on the planet was out this morning, doing what dogs do naturally and best. Gagging in the distance, I began to regret my enthusiasm for an early walk. Offsprog Two says it's the Christmas Feasting, but the fumes were astonishingly persistent and I hope all the dinner scraps have been eaten now. I don't think I could stomach another walk like that.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Hot Water Bottle Comes In Useful

Ah, normally at this time of year I'm in Barnet Church, singing carols with everyone else's strange family while the Offsprogs hang out at my house watching crap TV. This year it's me watching crap TV along with the rest of the population as we wait for the Coronavirus to go away wondering if we will survive if we succumb to it. And no Offsprogs. Not a terribly cheery thought really, and unsurprisingly I've eaten most of a blackberry cake (made with foraged blackberries), to compensate for the misery.

TV programmers think we all love Victoria Wood, Father Ted, Coronation Street, Eastenders and lots and lots and LOTS of quiz shows. I don't like any of those shows, so I'm channel-hopping and wishing I'd bought some crisps, but I forgot. 

Tomorrow is going to be an outdoor lunch with hot water bottles stuffed up our coats, socially distanced at a garden table with individual portions in recycled Indian Takeaway containers. It's going to be very, very cold and a flask of coffee is going to be in order. The urban foxes will watch from their eyrie on top of the dilapidated shed, and wonder what the strange humans are doing. I have Christmas Crackers packed so it all goes off with a bang!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Young Santa

In an alternative universe, Santa went rogue. Instead of giving gifts to children, he gave gifts of children to 'receiving women'. 

He still had the white fluffy hair, the portly girth, and the booming voice, though.

He hadn't grown a beard yet.

Instead of being jolly and nice, he was jolly and horrible.

His name was Boris Johnson.


Part of this morning was spent filming a missing few seconds sequence for a video of I Fly My Balloon. It's the first time there has been a clear sky for days and days. It is ferociously muddy, but at least the rain has stopped (until tomorrow).

The vinyl records are suppose to be showing up tomorrow. Robert has had notification, but we're not sure whether they will; they could be coming in by air, or they could be caught up in a gigantic lorry in an eleven mile queue in Kent, or a ten mile one in Calais. I have never felt less like a pop star, but the Punk Girl Diaries send an email saying 'Dear Pop Star..', with an invitation to their Twitter party, so maybe I am- at least to them, and that's pretty fabulous!

Over on that there Face-ache, academic colleagues are posting coded messages about what it's been like this term. It certainly has, it certainly has. There are a few weeks break from the eight-hour online days, which I'll spend working on my book, burrowing through piles of photocopied articles making sure my referencing is just right: I've fixed half of the sub-editor's corrections but there are some specific ones that are a little more tricky. Somewhat ironically, the book that necessitated a visit to the library that took several hours the week before last, was actually not needed in the reference section because the publisher uses a different referencing system to Harvard, which I'd been using. I think it is all worth it though. I became so detached from the book at one point that it felt as though someone else had written it, but now if feels just as heartfelt as The Lost Women of Rock Music, and even more necessary (thinks coded thought about students at work).

The tiny and scrawny Christmas tree is in from the back yard, weighed down by enormous baubles. It hasn't got a clue what's happening, but at least it makes things seem a little bit more Christmassy around here. Negotiations with the Offsprogs have worked out a doorstep visit with hot water bottles and a promise of pretend-Christmas next year (if there is ever an end to this: when are you going to take responsibility, anti-maskers?). The tiny and scrawny Christmas tree will come back into the house, probably slightly confused by then. I've lost the tinsel somewhere in the loft, so there might be a chance to find it in time for Christmas, the sequel.

Normally me and Champagne Friend go to Southwark Cathedral to bellow out some carols on this night, and tuck a tenner into an envelope for Crisis: next, year, next year. And I always go to the carols at St Johns Church in Barnet on Christmas Eve, where me and a friend once stood in front of a group of teenage girls who finished every carol a line earlier than everyone else, and then sang O Little Town Of Bethlehem to an entirely different tune to the rest of the congregation all the way through- without even noticing. That was a very typical 'Barnet Normal' experience, a bit like the bowling green scarecrows. How dare you laugh!

So no carols on Christmas Eve: I'm tempted to do a kitchen disco on Facebook, or something like that. We'll see.

I have loaded up on books, and most of the time will be lazing about reading trashy detective stories without even the TV on, eating leftover Lindt chocolate Santas. I might manage a bit of radio, a bit of Gideon Coe, Gary Crowley and Lauren Laverne, perhaps. And some recording- all this year's songs, a new album. How will I ice the cake?

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Bowling Green Scarecrows. Barnet 'Normal'.

Yeah, that's what I thought, too. But here they are!



I went for a quiet walk.

On my way home, I heard a hullabaloo.

A man, his wife, and a dog.


I was quite a long way away but he had one of those carrying sorts of voices.

I could hear the faint voice of his wife, either agreeing or disagreeing.

A hard rubber ball hit the ground with a ferocious impact behind me. He had one of those 'throwing a ball for a dog' plastic things, and it's long-distance function was working just fine.

Across the shallow valley, his voice reverberated.


I could still hear him when he was far in the distance.


I tried to take a photo of him, but he was so far away you couldn't even see him in the picture.

What an amazingly useful man. Whenever I need anyone to say anything's a load of bollocks at a massive volume, I'll make sure to find him and put him to good purpose.


Four huge piles of files: in one folder in one of them (there are around 20 folders), are lyrics to songs from two years ago.

I can't face it. I pick up the first folder. It's the right one!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

That Time of Year

One year, I got flu and left my house keys at work. I thought I'd left them in my car, opened the car up to look for them and forgot to lock it again. Thieves stole my Satnav and my vintage light-up iPod.

Another year, I also locked myself out of the house. I put the shopping in the front door and the keys on the side, realised that I'd forgotten something and slammed the door shut. That time, I drove to Brighton, took Offsprog One and Offsprog Two to breakfast, borrowed a set of keys from one of them and drove back in time to put the food away in the fridge.

This year's disaster was narrowly averted. I went to the bank to pay the newspaper delivery bill, and also to check whether Stampit had taken money out of the account. I bought a rubber stamp from them for Pea Soup that was supposed to stamp 1000 images. I'd decided to stamp up some of the remaining copies descending from number 100 and do a limited edition of red and green Christmas covers. Alas, the rubber had a dent through it that meant I couldn't use it- it had deteriorated. I spent ages persuading them that there was a problem, and finally managed to get a tiny reduction in price for a replacement- which hasn't arrived in time. I wondered if I'd forgotten to pay for it, but I hadn't. It's just lost in the post somewhere. O the trials!

These things were too much for the annual brain-of-sponge fest caused by teaching intensely in the first semester. Brain-of-sponge is a regular occurrence at this time of year, and I try not to do anything too taxing most of the time. I thought painting red and green peas on a record cover might be a nice peaceful activity. Then I took on some extra marking work, then realised that I was 100 miles behind with Christmas shopping for a Christmas that might not happen, got the sub-edited proofs back from the sub editor that have to be looked at before she signs off for Christmas on Friday, the vacuum cleaner decided to blow instead of suck, the broken extractor fan in the bathroom is going to stay broken because I can't find an electrician to fix it (they've all gone back to central Europe because anywhere is better than here at the moment), I thought I'd forgotten to write the address on the envelope of the letter I sent to my friend in the USA (I hadn't forgotten), the curtains have started falling down, I accidentally smashed my favourite mug and one of Offsprog Two's flatmates has suspected Coronavirus so I'm worried all the time. And a lot of students are very upset because they have been isolated for such a long time, and they know I'll listen because I feel so sorry for their situation. So I can't sleep.

That might be why I walked away form the bank machine and left my card poking out of it.

Luckily, I know about brain-of-sponge fest. It happens every year, so I check for my keys. I even check that I'm dressed, it's that bad. So I checked for my bank card and... oh SHIT! You should have seen me run. The length of the High Street, like a flapping goose. There it was, a smirk on its little plastic face.

Ha ha, bank card. You didn't get me this time.

I hope feel really really guilty now. I have no festive Pea Soups to put on Bandcamp, and checking to see that I'd paid their invoice (I had) almost lost me my bank card. In January, I will have the annual celebration, 'I Survived Brain Of Sponge'. 

You can join me if you wish, all two of you!

Wood Wide Web

I have written quite a few songs this year, more than I could do kitchen videos of, especially because lecturing has been so full-on. There's enough for an album, which I'll start to record during the Christmas holidays. There will be nothing else to do.

This is quite a recent one, which I'm only just learning to play. I've completely fallen in love with trees since the pandemic struck. I love them. I used to feel like this when I was about fifteen, and I'm glad to feel it again.

Monday, December 14, 2020


It's been another long and very intense online teaching day. By the end of these days, my shoulders have seized up, I've got tinnitus and the muscles around my eyes are aching. In spite of that, I feel that by lecturing, and by caring about education, I might be helping a bit. These are tough times for all of us.

Last week, Shanne came for a visit and we went for a very plodgy, muddy walk through the edge of the woods (we got completely bogged down in the middle). When we came into the edge of the town, we stopped off for an alfresco coffee and sandwich. I haven't really been in a proper coffee shop since March. The smell was heavenly! I had forgotten that smell: proper Italian coffee, cakes, olive oil, chopped fresh salad vegetables for the sandwiches. What a pleasure to inhale the aroma of normality just for ten minutes!

This is daily peace time. After teaching, I close the computer down and just sit. I've done as much as is humanly possible. There is a lot about working through the pandemic that I can't even engage with, and I'm not. It will all have to wait until next year. You know what I mean.

I went out briefly to get some food but there's no way I have the energy to (a) prepare it or (b) eat it. 

I will just sit here and think about it. 

Yes.... that's nice.

My friends will get their Christmas cards in early 2021, and my family's parcels of presents will probably arrive around then too. I've seen the Post Office queues, and they're not a pretty sight. I've panic-bought Yorkshire Puddings for Christmas dinner, and filled a box with potatoes as insurance against a No-Deal Brexit. Standing on my head might be just as useful.

Where's that peace I was talking about? Somewhere around the corner, maybe.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020


 I wonder if I like pelicans because I like pecans, or pecans because I like pelicans, or neither of the two.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020


Well, it's 8.30 p.m. and I've just decided to stop marking for the day. I started at 7.30, stopped at 8.30 and rushed to Stratford to the University library to check some page ranges for my book bibliography (today was the last day they could keep them reserved), came back and started marking again. Rushing to Stratford involved charging nearly two miles across the common in the fog to the station so I could avoid the Underground, and doing the same back again in the other direction, so I've taken the day's exercise.

It now seems too late to watch TV and the book I finished last night went straight into the bin because it was so miserable. Ha ha, miserable book! Serves you right!

I was thinking about pecan nuts. I remember the first time I saw them as child in the village delicatessen that had just stopped being the worst fruit shop in the world. There was a pile of them and I asked McMum what they were. McMum was American, in spite of her name, so she knew exactly what they were. I remember tasting one for the first time. Bliss! To this day, they are my favourite nut. Walnuts under a steamroller!

That's it for tonight. I'm tired.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Deep breath And Dive In

It's gonna be a wall-to-wall-work-week this coming week. I have taken a deep breath in today; every second of every day is spoken for. I am grateful to have work, even though it's a very intense time, a very intense term. The copy editor has also made loads of progress with the book; I have a scheduled trip to the University library one day to fill in some gaps in the bibliography. By Friday I will look like a compost heap, because there won't be time to look nice. I already have lockdown hair. If I hadn't relented and chopped off a few centimetres a couple of months ago, it would be down to my bum: a tangled mess. 

I'm looking forward to Christmas, although it won't be a proper one. No carol nights with friends, only limited family time. I will repair the broken bits of the house, read books, record songs, walk, have a proper break from lecturing. Sew on some buttons. Eat chocolate.

Friday, December 04, 2020

Out Today: 'Equal Parts'

 Here you are! Digital version available now, and you can reserve a vinyl 10" copy (which includes digital tracks) to be sent out later in December

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Margate Radio Plays 'D-Spair'

First time that this particular track from our EP has been played. Ben Eshmade ran Daylight Music at the Union Chapel pre-Rona, and that's where me and Robert first got talking about music. Robert was playing guitar with Judy Dyble and was hanging out with Ian Button. It was easy to get talking and when he suggested a collaboration at the end of last year, I was bound to say 'yes'.

Life can be absolute crap at times, but these collaborations are worth more than being a millionaire to me (although that doesn't stop me from doing the Lottery from time to time). It's such an adventure; it's so stimulating and exciting. Life doesn't pass me by- the hurt and fear and anger that everyone feels belong to me too, because I'm part of everyone as well a being part of music. 

Getting over the painful fingers years ago- that was so worth it! It's like having some sort of machine within you that converts bad stuff to good stuff. You can sit there with an emptied out head and an emptied out heart, and then a glimmer of light appears somewhere in the recesses of your brain, or rather a glimmer of sound.... and off you go on a new song, travels in your imagination.

I have a new song to work on for Friday's Song Circle. On Monday, we were talking in class about music being out of date and so on. One of the students talked about some 2020 artists they were listening to, and of course afterwards I raced to Youtube to listen. One, I didn't like: Melodyne vocals have had their time and should be thrown into the dustbin with ADT (automated double tracking: the vintage Kylie sound). I hate the murdering of women's voices so much that I wrote a book about it (out February!). The other, though, was intriguing: shades of D'Angelo via Frank Ocean. I looked up the chords online, and lo and behold! They were familiar friends, deliberately crushed together with no breathing space so that they created an emotional punch. I'd got my melody from the dream I had on Sunday night, sung on to my phone. I woke in the night and was too tired to record it, but I think I got it right when I woke up properly. The rest came from yesterday's five-miler. The eight hour online work day on Monday resulted in a seized- up body and it needed a lot of unwinding; more song came as I was walking. Last night I stretched and pulled the melody like a baker kneading dough and all night long it played in my head, stabs and stops, working itself out as I slept. Difficult chords to play, new things for old fingers!

Back to Ben Eshmade and his show on Margate Radio- here's the link. He has a very wide taste in music, and is truly a curator of new stuff in the best sense of the word. Big thanks for this, Ben:

Tuesday, December 01, 2020


I am hugely proud of both of my children. The oldest has just passed her MA with a distinction, and the youngest has been working throughout the entire pandemic for a fashion magazine, every single day without fail. We had chocolate cake on Sunday in the park.

More Airplay, and a Cancellation

Thanks to Colin's Cuts for this, today:

Alas, the gig at the Country Soul Sessions- our EP launch- has been cancelled. And there's me finally twisting my fingers around Robert's chords and even learning the German bits to sing! We will definitely be raring to go at The Lexington on June the 12th 2021, however!


I've just returned from a five-miler, necessary to recover from an eight-hour online slog yesterday, the most delightful part of which featured a talk by the singer and song writer Katy Carr. I have to say it couldn't have happened without the help of the fantastic Katrina Townsend who manages to get the huge and hulking sulky rocket of Microsoft Teams off the ground and into space, time after time. 

Today, I've concluded that the app works between PCs, and between Macs and PCs, but not between Mac computers. Next time I'm round Bill Gates's for a cup of tea and a slice of Battenburg cake, I think I'll have a word with him about this. Taking an hour to get access to a Teams meeting doesn't involve the right to pat oneself on the back, you know. It really doesn't.

Back to the five miler... the body said 'not' this morning, but once me and the body were on our way everything was fine, and as usual I nipped into the shops for a bun to eat on the return journey. Nuts, goo, flaky pastry... then AAARGH!! 

The whole of the middle bit was stuffed with marzipan!!! 

They know I don't like marzipan!!!

No!!! NO!!!!

It sounds like such a nice idea ('just almond essence and sugar') but it tastes like cyanide and it has a texture like sandy butter. 


I had to just eat the edge bits and chuck the rest in the bin. The resulting sulk was energising, and I got home before I left. No I didn't. Never believe anything you read online 😉

Friday, November 27, 2020

More Airplay!

This time, Gideon Coe played 'I Fly My Balloon' from our EP.

We are planning a socially-distanced gig at The Spice of Life, organised by The Country Soul Sessions, on 20th December, which means learning the songs. Which means learning to sing the German lyrics and simultaneously playing chords that were fine to play in the studio, but which will be hand-manglers to play live. I'm not even good at learning English lyric so I've got my work cut out for me.

Luckily, I've learned a lot this year, even from the things that haven't happened. I learned guitar parts for an entire set of Johny Brown's songs for The Lexington gig that was cancelled, so that I could accompany him. 

When you learn someone's songs it's a bit like learning part of their brain: every songwriter puts together different chord voicings and sequences behind their melodies. We all write different moods according to our respective personalities. 

Co-writing is even more detailed: finishing each other's sentences, a relay race handing over a baton, whatever way you could describe it. It requires a certain amount of empathy, played out on a neutral pitch: a no-man's land, in fact. As I gradually learn the parts of the songs that Robert wrote, I can actually feel my hands beginning to understand what Robert's hands play automatically. 'Aha', they signal,'The next chord is a bar chord on the third fret'. Then there are the lyrics. It's been amazing working with someone who is such a poet, especially because I have been writing a lot of solo songs this year and I'm bored with myself. Give Robert a part of a song, and he takes it somewhere lyrically that I would never imagine travelling to. I hope the same in return. He seemed intrigued by the lyrics of D-ream.

All this while teaching is going on- emotionally intense teaching, often one to one with students who frequently find things difficult. I'm exhausted- and I feel for them so much! Where is the young, empathetic, green, socialist saviour who shuns corruption and smugness and reflects how they feel? This is the politician that I want to support. And a woman, please. The pandemic has shown up some of the men who I had thought were enlightened to be just as greedy, sexist and prejudiced as the ones who wear wolf's clothing. 

It's disappointing- and yet again, I'm ashamed... of them.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Remembering McMum

I woke up last night at 3 a.m. having had a dream in which some impostors had erected a wooden tombstone in her memory in the cemetery, with their own messages and instructions scribbled on it in blue felt pen. They owned her place of rest, and they owned the memories.

In my dream, I had been searching all day for the gravestone and the dream woke me up. There is no gravestone or cemetery; McMum's ashes were scattered at Loch Tummel in Perthshire a few years ago.

I had this dream because yesterday would have been her birthday. I can't remember the exact dates of either of our parents' deaths, but I remember them on their birthdays. After your parents die, you feel rootless for a while. You realise how much your family has been bound together by shared parents, upbringing and family stories, and how your relationship with your siblings has been constructed by your respective relationships with your parents, too. I have reflected on this a lot since McMum died, and on the complexities of my own relationship with her. In this respect, losing parents replaces their physical presence with a type of wisdom that is at the same time enlightening and incredibly sad.

McMum and McDad were particularly good at being grandparents, and I am glad that my Offsprogs had that unconditional love from them.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Gideon Coe Plays 'No Man's Land' Again

I was just feeling a trifle glum after a very hard day's work. I was going to give up on the day, and head to bed with a detective novel, and then Gideon Coe played our record again. It's a big deal to me, for such a lot of reasons, to have a record out and have it played on the radio. It never loses its thrill.

I remember listening to John Peel back in the day and doing a double take every time he played 24 Hours by The Chefs. I did a lot of double takes, because he played it a lot.

I think I have a permanent case of imposter syndrome!

Steve McQueen's 'Lovers Rock'

The BBC did itself proud last night with Steve McQueen's film, one of five commissioned from the director and artist and broadcast on Sunday evenings.

It was just like being there: so absorbing!

An entire section of the film is dedicated to the partygoers singing Silly Games a capella after the track has been played on the decks, not just part of the song but almost the whole thing. That high note! One woman gets it spot-on every time, and towards the end the crowd splits into perfect harmonies. Wow.

Now, of course, people are wondering whether there's going to be an upsurge in the genre. The usual thing is happening; the man-thing, especially from white men, is rearing it's head. How dare there be reggae that is soft and (ahem) feminine? (even though there are loads of male Lover's Rock artists too). 

A Facebook thread praising the music and McQueen's film suddenly swerves into the more macho section of the film as more chaps start posting their comments on it. And a review of the film in The Guardian by Lanre Bakare slides into their own interest in blues house parties by the end of the article, leaving the powerful impact of the Lovers Rock section of the film behind.

Lover's Rock prioritises the voices of women in the Black community, and puts their music right the centre of British reggae. That's where their voices belong, and that's why McQueen's film has such meaning. Maybe you don't get to wear the badge, but for its fans whether from the community or not, it is not only just gorgeous music, but also a unique sub-genre that deserves a whole lot more than simply  'hear I am' recognition: it needs 'I am fantastic music' recognition too. 

Rant finis.

Loud Women Home Concert

 Loud Women have just posted this concert on Youtube- thank you for inviting me to do my first online concert of the pandemic year!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Miracles of Lockdown

In the last lockdown, High Barnet High Street was miraculously resurfaced at night when nobody was around to see them. Wenzel's Bakery materialised out of thin air (behind paper screens) just in time to open when lockup was announced (is that the opposite of lockdown?), and so did several beauty shops. There are at least two new shops miraculously appearing this time around, with non-masked, non-socially-distanced workers hard at it. It's not them that I blame, but their greedy employers who must have pressurised them on the pain of losing their jobs into working when it's not safe. 

I wonder how many people have died in the construction industry because of unsafe practices this year?

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Up Early For Work

Funny, if we weren't locked down I'd be up at 6 a.m. to get to work, and something in my body-clock wakes me at 6 on work days just like normal. Although I know that lots of people are up and working already (good morning, cleaners and shift workers!), it still feels a bit like having the world to yourself.

Years ago I used to walk through central London really early, looking at all those magnificent old buildings that were worth millions of pounds to whoever owned them. Most of those buildings were there before their current owners were born, and would be there when they died. It made me ponder on the nature of wealth and ownership. Our idea that we own things isn't as straightforward as we think. Things own us, don't they? 

I was originally going to write about how boycotting Amazon (because they don't pay taxes honestly and because they mistreat their workforce to an abysmal degree) has undoubtedly saved me a small fortune during lockdown. The little things bought from online shopping own us just as much as big unshiftable buildings do. Transient things like kindness and compassion totally bypass ownership- you can't force someone to love you, even if you pay for them to care for you. I look at the huge houses on the walking routes that I take, and think about the staff that the owners need to keep them functioning. Imagine owning one of those massive properties and it containing loads of people who don't like you, under your roof. No thanks!

Morning musings, wandering all over the place. Just what I need to do, before the working day catches up with me. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


 There's the TV over there, watching with its big vacant eye. 'Turn me on!'

Not tonight, darling.

I can hear the wind rushing in the chimney and the clock ticking, tinnitus in my ears, my clothing rustling quietly, the occasional car hissing by my window (thanks Jim!) and the gentle clopping of the computer keys.

It's so lovely and quiet. Life at the moment seems like a jigsaw puzzle that I'm compelled to assemble but it's actually cobbled together from about 15 different jigsaw puzzles, and no matter how hard I try, the picture won't make any sense.

The lamps in the room glow patiently, just dim enough to prevent activity and anxiety. It's wet and drizzly out there, so there are no people hustling past the front door, no noisy lockdown-busting drinkers, no beaten-down leafletters to stuff pizza, curry and gardening services leaflets through the door.

The TV can manage without me. Jolly TV shows where everyone tries a bit too hard, dark cop shows where people with guns stand around corners under the streetlights waiting to shoot, the news with more lies and obfuscation from the government. None of that tonight. I know what they are all doing, you see: it's what they always do night after night. 

One viewer less won't do any harm.

Here's Our Video!


McCookerybook and Rotifer Video

We have a video for our song 'No Man's Land' which is going to be made public at 3 p.m. today.

It's a total Lockdown video, shot on our phones and iPads and edited together by Ian Button, who has performed a task akin to knitting with string, wire and cotton thread because none of our devices shoot at the same quality.

It was still fun to do it. 

Such terrible things have happened this year. Just as I start to feel normal again after hearing of the death of a friend, another friend tells me of their own grieving and loss. It's like some terrible relay race of sadness, with illness and sorrow haunting us all. This makes it seem all the more important to create things: there is nothing like the consciousness of a mayfly to force you to realise you have to do all this stuff right now and not wait until you're no longer walking the earth.

Lots of people I know have been pushed to finally do things they have only ever dreamed about- Laura Whitfield, who used to sell CDs for the singer songwriter Martin Stephenson alongside her parents, Mick and June, is now a fully fledged recording artist in her own right. This is wonderful to see!

I'm not going to dwell on the downside, the snakes and rats who are showing their true colours just because they can: I'm looking at you, Government, corporations, institutions and corrupt big business deals, and immoral and ferocious behaviour.

All we can do is fight back in our own way, making positive and powerful interventions whenever our voices are heard. Singing is shouting in tune, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Art Wall



The one thing that completely does my head in is gaslighting. I didn't even know there was a word for it until about six or seven years ago and as soon as I heard the definition of the word, I had something to explain several relationships that I've had in my life. Crystal clear.

Whenever you come across something in a person that you don't understand, you normally try to think yourself into their situation, see things from their perspective, and get some sort of idea about how they feel and why they behave in a certain way. Gaslighting, I can't understand at all: does the person know they are doing it, and they simply don't care? Is it deliberate? Or are they fooling themselves, as much as they are trying to convince other people?

Somewhat like Sherlock and his three-pipe problems, I try to sort things out in my head but by walking rather than smoking pipes. Since September there have been a number of five mile problems, at least one six-miler, and quite a lot of three-milers as I try to work it all out. I still can't fathom why people do it, although I have tried to stretch my mind to the sky and beyond. I had therapy once, and felt that I'd been taught to tidy difficult things on to shelves in my head. The most recent gaslighting episode is going to have to go into one of those cupboards, although it's monstrously large and it will be difficult to shut the cupboard door on it. I'm trying, though.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020


Many years ago through the dark mists of time, I got engaged. The engagement ring was a little Georgian ring with random diamonds set into silver foil to make them sparkle. It was bought one misty dawn from a nice lady at a stall in Caledonian Market in Bermondsey; it was delicate and discreet and looked fine on my bony fingers.

A few months later I was working as a cleaner for an agency, and one of my jobs was to clean a house where elders with learning difficulties lived. It was a gentle house, and comical in its way. When I vacuumed the living room, the line of old people on the sofa lifted their legs in the air in perfect synchronisation so that I could clean under their feet. They had their own chef and I was allowed to eat lunch with the staff around a formica table in the kitchen. It was curry, since you ask. It was nice.

It was a whole day's cleaning, and alas when I got home three or four of the tiny diamonds were missing from the engagement ring. They were replaced by a jeweller, but they were set without foil behind them so they look different to the others: they shine yellowish and the others shine silver. The thing is, it's all the more beautiful for being imperfect.

The marriage came and went and the ring is in a box waiting to be given to one of my daughters at some time in the future. It has it's own honourable history now, added to the life it had before it became mine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

'Underland' by Robert McFarlane

Unexpectedly I fell ill last week, and I'm drugged up with antibiotics and don't feel like singing or playing, which is unusual for me at the moment.

I have been reading this book sporadically for a few weeks and it's been a godsend during today's inertia. There are some irritating things: the friends all have very posh names and unlimited sources of money (ho hum) and there's a tendency to over-use the word 'glittering', but who am I to criticise when the general drift of the book is so intriguing? The author exposes all things underground- deep underground- encountering extensive mining networks, space exploration stations (yes!), cave paintings, human debris (abandoned boats and so on), makeshift prisons, and most importantly, atmospheres. He describes the feeling of underground air, the sensitivity of deep airflow, and spiritual changes that happen when you are at the mercy of the realisation that our time on earth is a mere nano-tangent in the greater scheme of things.

I hate being underground so I'm delighted that Robert McFarlane has explored this part of planet Earth on my behalf. With explorer's gusto, he approaches every subterranean adventure with fresh eyes and the occasional aside and acknowledgement of other explorers in the field, both past and present. He does not ignore women explorers, though his in-person bonding is usually with men (I know such men, and I'm glad it's McFarlane who engages with them and not me).

You could say that explorers do as much to endanger our fragile environment as those liner-loads of cruising tourists, and I couldn't disagree with you. I wanted to visit some of these places just because they are hidden; not the tunnels and caves, but the wonderful parts of the world that are described so beautifully in all their natural glory. Scrubby mountains, dwarf trees, hovering birds, insects and more all casually acknowledge and then ignore the trespassing human and his backpack. The weather, too, is a complete star, sandwiching this overland trekking chap between rough terrains with sometimes merciless beatings.

Imprisoned by a combination of Lockdown Two, drug-fuelled sleepiness and drizzle outside the window, this book is a fantastic escape for the head, not least for its putting of contemporary toxic politics exactly into its small-minded place. Mountains, caves, plateaux: rock on!

Sunday, November 08, 2020

'Moths' from the 'Miniatures' Album

 This album will be released next year and features more than 100 musicians.

This has just been released today:

Punks and Friends

 This book will be out shortly, proceeds to NHS.

There Be Witches

 On yesterday's walk, through the witches' woods (conifers, yews and soundless leaf mould), there were twisted paths of a new sort of fungus trailing away into the distance: big jumbled clumps of pale-brown saucer-sized discs leading the babes in the woods deeper into the gloom. Where the deciduous trees had lost leaves and let sunlight into the copses, the darkness still pervaded in the scary columnar turns of the evergreens.

A tipped up trunk drew us over, roots scrabbling the still air like devil's horns. A tiny gate had been made, and on the lees-de of two of the surrounding trees, little bad-fairy houses had been constructed,  probably 'drops' for evil spells and incantations.

Friday, November 06, 2020

Bandcamp Friday

 It's Bandcamp Friday today, and here's my page URL which has some releases that are now digital only and not available from my website. Click on the link below for more details:

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Voting For Scarecrows

Sitting watching the USA election results being reported, I was astonished by the fact that the Latino population in Florida came out to support the man who half-built a wall to keep Mexicans out of the USA. A privileged old white man has set people against each other as a form of sport, and they have voted for more of it.

Then I thought about us. We (if we are a society of interlinked people and not a fractured bunch of self-seeking idiots) voted for a known liar, an opportunist, a racist, and a man who has brought six children into the world, betrayed their mothers and then deserted both the children and their mothers. All wrapped up in one disgusting package. He has squandered our money (if we pay tax, which I do) by giving it away to incompetent friends of his to set up companies form scratch to test for a deadly pandemic, after the pandemic has already taken hold, and when the expertise was already there in the public sector. And yet he has refused to give public money to feed children who by the end of the year will be not only physically malnourished but also educationally and spiritually so.

What is wrong with the human race? Is it fear, hatred, spite... a mixture of those things? I honestly could not have invented two such men in my wildest dreams.

I begin to think that there is a form of double gaslighting going on- giving and receiving. These awful scarecrows tell us lies, and we believe them because we want that subservience: it stops us form needing to think for ourselves.

Meanwhile, the stress of my own life has taken it's toll. Like everyone, I have a complex set of problems to manage. I had a completely sleepless night last night because of a major cock-up that should not have happened and that seems impossible to resolve. I am taking some time out today to collect together the pieces of my brain that appear to have scattered themselves all over the place. Till tomorrow!

Monday, November 02, 2020

Empty Head For Drawing

I have been writing so many songs: it has been the year of the song. As well as collaborating with Robert Rotifer and with The Desperado Housewives, I've written with Kenji, Michel (both lovely songs that will remain hidden for a while until the other two collaborators are ready), George Barker (ha! just wait till you hear that one!), Jem Price from Asbo Derek, and Shola has just been in touch to say she is using the song Fog that I helped her to finish in a film pilot she has made in LA. Every week we do song circle: Katy, Rowen, Nadya and me, each of us with a song completed ready for Friday the effort of which is pushing us to the limits of our creativity. 

I've learned to record (almost) radio friendly quality songs on my home computer, and to speak many different song languages, both technical and emotional.

I've been teaching song writing, pulling song writing practice to bits and putting it back together again and hoping the students hiding behind the neutral initialled discs on Microsoft Teams at least have some understanding of what I'm on about. 

My guitar is like a third arm just there with the other two, and ready to be commanded into action.

One day, I'll return to the call of drawing. I have had such a good idea, and I've tried to draw it, but really it's a film, an animation of a macabre children's ritual that will literally last 15 seconds. I can't animate for toffee: I've been doing the same embroidery and photographing it for animation for more than ten years. I know animation's slow, but that's positively glacial. So the poor sad children's nursery rhyme will never see the light of day: or rather, the dark of night.

All of my creativity seems to have poured itself into music. Maybe the type of grief that's around every corner at the moment is assuaged more by music than by visual art. Almost everyone that I know has lost someone this year. Some people want to talk about it, some don't, but the noise of the loss is deafening, regardless of which of those two avenues they choose.

Last Dash To The Charity Shop

While other shoppers were sensibly (or stupidly) fleecing the supermarket shelves of their toilet roll multipacks, my sense of urgency took me to the local charity shops.

I bought three books by the same crime author. I already made a mistake a few weeks ago and sent a pile of too-violent books back from whence they came, so I'm hoping I haven't made the same mistake again. Two nice, colourful, huge old painted plates followed them, four tiny ancient books about ballets and plays (Christmas stockings) and a striped dress, midi length for cold lecture days.

On the way out of the second shop, the handles of the carrier bag gave way and everything went crashing to the floor. Miraculously, the plates are still in one piece. 

I may have made totally impractical shopping choices just pre-lockdown, but it was a damn sight more fun than trawling for a lockdown tissue hoard.

Online Teaching

I lie awake at night trying to devise ways of making online lecturing as interesting as possible for the students.

I'm going to try something out today and I'll let you know if it works!

Sunday, November 01, 2020

The Trainspotters


Two very excited and hectic young men bustled ahead of me at the station, crashing through metal gates on to the non-functioning platform (I'd always assumed that those gates were locked).

At first I though they must be railway employees, but their behaviour was quite volatile. They were so excited! 

A train shot towards us on the middle line. The tallest of the two clenched his fist and moved his elbow rhythmically downwards making a frantic pulling motion, up and down. The train driver duly hooted his horn, and the two young men shouted in delight.

Soon, the tallest of the two was on the phone, where a third person was being treated to a live feed of the excitement. Every train that passed through was greeted by the same gesticulation: frantic, frantic, pulling down of the clenched fist, and then cheers and leaps when the drivers responded by tooting. Closer to the edge of the platform they moved, and their disappointment when they weren't acknowledged flooded across the tracks to us who were waiting for our through train. 

We were with them: the anticipation of the hoot, the thrill, the disappointment. 

'Are you all right?' shouted a fellow traveller across the rails to them. 'We are train spying!' shouted the tall chap back.

'We got three!!!' he yelled into his crackling phone, 'Better than Alexandra Palace and there's no-one here to tell us off!!'.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Wednesday, October 28, 2020


What an odd coincidence. Last week an ex-student came in to talk to the third years about working in vinyl production at a major label and mentioned that one of his pop stars was going to release a vinyl album in a multitude of different formats.

Robert then got an email from the company who are making our EP saying that the production will be delayed by about four weeks.

Hmmm... I wonder if it's the same company?

Monday, October 26, 2020

Dexter Bentley on Saturday

Thanks to Dexter Bentley for playing Balloon by McCookerybook and Rotifer on his show on Saturday!

We were in excellent company, with a session by Big Joanie and also a track from Katy Carr's forthcoming album.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

McCookerybook and Rotifer Equal Parts Bandcamp Pre-order

How silly. As part of their redesign, Google has stopped people from being able to embed Bandcamp players into their pages on Safari. 

Here's a screenshot of the page, and here's the link!

Monday, October 19, 2020