Saturday, February 29, 2020

Buy Pea Soup

Here is the link to the miniature album out today the 29th February, a day that only comes to visit us once every four years!

Friday, February 28, 2020

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Hand Painted Covers

It took the whole day yesterday just to paint 20 of these record sleeves, numbered 1-20. It was a nice peaceful activity and I managed not to spill Windsor and Newton Apple Green (they don't do Pea) all over everything. The other 80 will be monochrome, for the trendy buyers amongst you. It will go with your tubular steel and black leather furniture, won't it?
The doc tells me that I've got viral laryngitis, but I kind of have to go in to work at least tomorrow morning. We're in the middle of a strike at the moment and it's as important to go there on the days when we are not striking, as it is to not go in on the days when we are.
I'm on my fifth trashy detective novel and even though I've learned to avoid Martina Cole, today's book by a similar author is true rubbish. I'm already lost beyond hope in corny characters (there seem to be hundreds of them), sudden location jumps and improbable events.
Meanwhile real life goes on outside my doors, good things and bad things. I've got enough energy to get to the end of the street and back, to lift the remote control and point it at the TV and to put the kettle on.
It's really weird being the world's most hyperactive person and finding myself just wanting to sleep all day. Being a slow DIY vinyl record production plant is just about ideal, really.
Onwards, and not going upwards or downwards.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Helen and the Horns Polaroids from the 1980s

Being inactive can sometimes bear fruitful results. I've been digging through old photographs and I found these polaroids from a photo session we did in the 1980s. I think it was the best session we ever did- a fantastic photographer whose name I'll also dig out (he did the cover for Secret Love).
The best thing was that he had all these old theatrical backcloths that looks like badly-executed Poussin paintings; it was like walking on to a stage set. There was also a make-up artist who was impossibly glamorous; she did a really good job but she was still the most exquisite creature in the building, even when she'd finished. I believe she also had a cardigan and pearls- ironic ones, of course: it was the 1980s, after all.

Monday, February 24, 2020

New Poster for Bolton

Because the fabulous Recordsville Social team will also be there to spin some discs!

Desdemona In My Ears

I tried to stamp some of my Pea Soup sleeves yesterday on the kitchen table, but messed up too many of them and stopped again. You need a lot of brute force to get a clear impression, so much in fact that the rubber stamp handle came off and had to be glued back on again with Gorilla Glue.
I did a few middles, but there are some 'mis-shapes' of those too. I will sell them more cheaply: the records themselves will still be fine.
I haven't been this ill for over five years. The virus, Desdemona, is now rummaging around in my ears and throat to see what havoc she can cause there. It was difficult to get out of bed this morning; I really thought I would be better by now.
I'm now on my fourth detective novel and know all about Jeff Bezos and his minuscule homeless donation that replaced a huge investment by a US council, all in exchange for some corporate Amazon building being built within their jurisdiction. I'm reading the newspaper cover to cover: all about that, and a lot of other news things that might have passed me by. Goodbye Amazon, apart from emergencies (actually, goodbye quite a long time ago (tax evasion). Also ages ago I stopped using Boots (tax evasion), Starbuck (tax evasion), all things Philip Green (tax evasion, sexual bullying). I had a Ted Baker top that I bought in TK Maxx and I've given that away (sexual bullying).
I still lapse a lot though, which is why this posting is a passing thought and not a campaign.
Meanwhile, we are also on strike. But I'm not going to write anything more than that.

I do think it's funny to have a kitchen that is used more for recording, Youtube filming and vinyl record manufacturing than cooking, though.

Friday, February 21, 2020


Sometimes D is just a lovely, lovely chord.

Elusive Voice

I'd forgotten I'd lost my voice until I went out shopping yesterday afternoon and barked at the person on the till. She got a bit of a shock and I felt rather sheepish. Or should that be doggish?
I've read three detective novels since Monday and I'm fed up of them. I tried to read Edward Said's Orientalism yesterday and was OK until it got to the list of philosophers, where there were no female ones whatsoever. I couldn't read any further, because he didn't even notice.
There were raised voices chez moi on Tuesday when we were watching The Brits because I was so upset by Stormzy, who I have so admired, performing in front of a bunch of women wearing those high legged knicker things, not playing an instrument, not singing, not speaking.
I shouldn't have argued, should have just thought thoughts: the next morning there was no voice at all.
Was this Stormzy karma?
Let's ask Miley Cyrus on the wrecking ball.

Of course, on reflection, this is so like back in the punk days when we were making a lot of noise about things we wanted to change. It seemed like every organisation wanted a pet punk band. A feminist group from the University of Sussex had a chat with me in the toilets at the Resource Centre after a Joby and the Hooligans gig about the lyrics I was singing in unison with Joby. They thought I was silly and I didn't realise that I was singing sexist lyrics. On my side, I thought they were silly to misunderstand the irony of a young woman singing along merrily with Joby. So I wrote Thrush, just to make it clear that I was fully aware of my gender. It wasn't just them, though: there were myriad organisations who wanted to implant ideas in our dumb little heads and have us act as mouthpieces for them.

That's why when Rock against Racism started up, it was such a blessing. Yet there was misogyny from some of the bands who were involved in that, too.
It really seems as though prejudice against women is the final taboo: so visible, it's invisible. It's the ultimate elephant in the room, and now I'm going to write that song.

Thursday, February 20, 2020


I have called this virus 'Desdemona' because it blew in with Storm Dennis.
Still immobile, I've become an expert in spotting racism in crime novels.
I stopped reading Lynda la Plante ages ago, and Peter Robinson is next on the scrapheap.
It's so carefully nuanced, sometimes: yes, there will be cops from different cultural backgrounds, but the sneery references to shops with 'foreign names' and mosques at the end of the street are a dead giveaway. What a surprise to find that one of the key protagonists reads the Mail on Sunday and The Express, and yearns for the days of the News of the World!
This is really irritating, because I enjoy good plotting and good writing. Maybe I've been doing too much writing myself recently; you have to be so self-critical as an academic writer, and it makes you pull things to pieces as you write.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020


I have contracted a nasty bug. Viruses adventure around your body, poking at different parts of it by the hour. On Monday it made my teeth hurt, muddled my brain, collapsed time into tiny segments and then expanded it into years, and attacked my digestive system. Yesterday, it nagged at the broken elbow from a couple of years ago, pinched my face, fizzed in my head and made my legs ache. Today, it's grabbed me by the throat in barbed-wire pincers, stolen my voice and made my mind drift into peculiar swirls. Get lost!
It was impossible to see it coming, unless the boring dream in which I tidied up the desktop of my computer by putting files into folders was a precursor. It was so boring that I woke up to get away from it, and promptly fell back to sleep and dreamed exactly the same thing again.
I've had to cancel absolutely everything this week, and I'm trying not to think about how on earth everything is going to get done when I'm better.
Only sitting-down things are manageable (that's how come I got the poster done), and not complicated things on the computer like sorting out my research for work, or even writing complicated emails that require more that 'Dear...., best wishes, Helen'.
Thank you to my pals and family for coming round and watching crap telly, shopping, and making food.
I have two extremely boring detective novels to read and despite being fed good food and lemon, ginger and honey, instinct told me that chips were the thing. I am feeling on the mend already.


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Helen and the Horns on Gideon Coe Right Now

Drawing a Poster for Gig in Bolton

Sitting still, still.
But at least drawing today.
No brain... I hope it returns soon.

Gigs and Events 2020: Poster Pending

6th March (not a gig) Talk in Brighton Library, evening, details to follow.

7th March- Nottingham
International Women’s Day: film screening and gig 
The Angel Microbrewery

8th March Resonance FM show for International Women’s Day, 4-5 p.m.

21st March- London, Lexington with Vic Godard, Johny Brown and Simon Rivers

9th April- London, Paper Dress Vintage supporting The Flatmates

12th April- Leicester supporting the Flatmates

18th April- Monks, Beverley

23rd April- Bolton with Amy Corcoran
The Beer School, 88 Market St, Westhoughton, Bolton, BL5 3AZ

28th May-Bristol, Thunderbolt supporting Johny Brown and Pauline Murray

29th May- Brighton supporting Johny Brown and Pauline Murray

30th May- London, Betsey Trotwood supporting Johny Brown and Pauline Murray

19th June- Glasgow Nice’n’Sleazy’s supporting Johny Brown and Pauline Murray

20th Sunderland Paradise supporting Johny Brown and Pauline Murray

Monday, February 10, 2020

Caroline Coon

Caroline is fantastic not just as a painter but as a political activist. I am thankful to her for her support when I needed it most. Without going into details of the painful past, she lifted a book you will see in passing in this film up to a respectable height in the best way possible: putting on an amazing party and inviting the women interviewed in the book to it.
Some of them hadn't even met each other before, and they forged friendships of a lifetime. Subtle political action like that is very much underrated.

Fiery Bird, Radio Woking Tonight

Thank you to Elaine McGinty for inviting me! The broadcast is between 6-8 p.m. tonight:

When the Wind Blows

Yesterday, the wind blew me and the Offsprogs to Strawberry Hill House and back. It was my birthday present from them, and I have many pictures of stained glass windows, memories of delicate Holbein drawings and a desire for it to be MY house. It was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
There is more to write another time about this.
Take a look:
It's a wonderful place
The only thing is: it's not on a hill.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Starting to Make a Batch of Pea Soup

By golly, you have to be strong to do this!
The handle has come off the stamp already, and I had to wedge it back in.
A few a day, doing a bit at a time, three stamps to stamp, then green ink painting to paint.
On hundred vinyl copies of a miniature album, five songs on each side: shortest, about 20 seconds. Longest, two minutes.
Release date the 29th of February, a non-existent day.
No additives: Pea Soup

Friday, February 07, 2020

Photographs In My Mind's Eye

Some of the best things in life are impossible to photograph; eat your heart out Instagram, really.
A rehearsal where two people feel challenged by working together, but manage to lock their guitar playing into a secure and magical groove, concentrating for two solid hours, barely speaking.
And a recording session where the music just flows, head space opens up, ideas come tumbling down and settle on the music machines like many-coloured butterflies.
That too.
And as for teaching: well, when your students pull rabbits out of the hat and look just a surprised as you are, to find them there.
Big that!

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

The Wrong Square

I've landed on the wrong square on the Monopoly board. One of the places I worked for a year and a half didn't pay my income tax- and the hyper-clever computer at the Inland Revenue didn't notice, either. That's no holiday for me this year, then.

Demo From Yesterday

This is one of the three songs that we recorded yesterday. It's an old one that I've revived the words too (it has been released as an instrumental). The other two need a bit of editing. It's nice to play bass again, though this bass line will be redone at some point.
It's so great to work on music again.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Book: on the move

Yesterday I sent what I hope is the final draft of the book to the editor. I could endlessly tweak, add, re-edit... but it has to stop: it has to be finished.
I am very grateful to Martin Greaves for reading through it and giving me useful feedback, to David Sheppard for looking at an early draft and being really encouraging, and to Sarah Killick whose transcription skills finally got the thing moving. And more than 30 women who agreed to be interviewed: well, thank you indeed.
So today, I'm at work as usual with an array of bananas on the desk. This evening I'm doing more work with Johny Brown on his songs, as second guitarist for the gig at The Lexington on the 21st of March, and tomorrow I'm going to record some new songs with Ian Button. Only two, I thought, but there's another one with temporary lyrics, and also some songs already there recorded that I could do some overdubs on to. And I'm really looking forward to both those things.
By the end of the week I'll know about the gigs for the first part of the year, and I can start fussing on about those: some with Pauline Murray and Johny, both solo, a couple with The Flatmates and some on my own, as well as The Lexington.
I'm waiting for a student who hasn't turned up, but (don't tell anyone) I don't mind. I worked a humungously hard week last week with a day with 12 scheduled tutorials over six hours, and this week I'm visiting a new placement host organisation as well as teaching. I have started giving the song writing students rapid-fire exercises to do. Last week's was a song for the Queen's 100th birthday, and this week will be an eight-line song to sing about homeless people in the street, with a chorus that passers-by can't forget. Let's see what they come up with.
The Green Goddess is here beside me, a bit like a faithful familiar. She is waiting for action and I've done a bit of playing already, cautiously. My fingernails are frail and feeble which means that my wintertime diet has been lacking. They only need to last another couple of days.
Come on guys, you can do it, I know you can!