Monday, March 30, 2020

Ben Wilson

Thanks to Andy for reminding me of Ben Wilson! He does beautiful miniature paintings on splats of discarded chewing gum on the pavement, and there used to be a trail of his lovely work all through Barnet High street until the council ripped up the paving stones and replaced them. That completely sums up Barnet Council: they had a potential tourist attraction on their hands and they destroyed it. It's a weird place to live, knowing that you live in a borough with such visceral hatred for creativity, but I suppose it's a good place to be a resister.
There's one scuffed painting left in the street where I live. Don't tell the council, or they'll remove it forcibly with it's arms pinned behind it's back.

Ben has now painted gum on the Millennium Bridge
and even has the odd discreet painting in Tate Modern (hear that, Barnet Council?)

In 2006 Ben did a specially-commissioned painting for my first solo album, Suburban Pastoral. That paintings almost completely worn away but it was in a discreet place, so it's probably an honourable scuff.
I've now ordered his book. He is an artist worth supporting. I wish his publisher was better at publicity- i can't find the order link but you can take a look here Finally, here's the link to that album, Suburban Pastoral; I have a very few physical copies left. I am massively proud of the songs, because I hadn't really written anything for years and they just poured out of me in an endless flow, starting a solo career that I never dreamed would happen, and it's still going on. What an absolute blessing.
here's a song:

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Fox And The Teabag Booty

Barnet Council stopped collecting food waste a while ago. What a nuisance! Ever since then, on bin eve (the night we put our rubbish out), foxes have ripped open my bin bags at the dead of night and ransacked their contents.
The telly was on this evening and the drama was flowing. Although it was absorbing, I could hear scraping outside the window; it finally dawned on me what was happening.
Sure enough, a fine young fox was out there rummaging through the contents of my bin. It ran off down the street, a piece of plastic clasped in its jaws ( I wish it had taken something more nutritious).
The pavement was amply decorated with a week's rubbish, apart from the loose stuff that was blowing swiftly down the road, too fast to catch.
A week's used teabags lay scattered in clumps and heaps, obviously a seductive aroma for a hungry fox. So that was a good part of my lockdown exercise for the day, dustpan and brush in the freezing wind! So many adventures to be had in High Barnet.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Bullrushes, Up At The Ponds

Ranty Post: Don't read Unless You Have To

All those emergency beds lined up at the  Excel conference centre: it will be like a peculiar echo of the Olympic ceremony.

I am still waiting for an apology to the nation from the Tories for running down the essential services, and in particular the NHS, that people need in order to be healthy. After such a long time in power, they are answerable for the lot of it.
Over to you, Tories?

Those awful 'uplifting' soundbites of people doing brave things; could we have those without the dramatic music? This is reality, not a reality show. We are not a film, we are real; this is something that is really happening. Those brave people might not be here tomorrow. Could we support them with more staff, plenty of food and rest, not with intrusive cameras and mood soundtracks?

Johnson: it's only appropriate to trust people to behave honourably when those people are fully informed of the facts by someone who is trustworthy themselves. It's not remotely surprising that people panic-bought. That's what panicking people do; they don't behave rationally. Johnson has read too many books about wartime heroes and none about communities and how they need to support each other. You know: Youth Clubs, social care, all those things libertarians don't see the point of.

It would be great if the media and people in general stopped hunting'n'shaming.
Yes, it is actively dangerous to ignore the need to socially isolate, but the entire internet and a lot of the print media is awash with fake information, and this problem has been around for a long time without any proper legislation to prevent it.
A bit of authority rather than rambling platitudes at least a month ago would have been more than useful.

Big cheers for the NHS, shop workers, lorry drivers, care workers, and postal workers!

In another world- the whole spring tour has been cancelled. I'm doing an online concert on Friday via Facebook for Loud Women, and M J Hibbett is going to upload a virtual gig later this week. Calum is organising a day's internet show and I might do my own online thing too, further down the line.

Apolz: I won't rant again. I'm working from home and very busy with that. I'm going to upload a nice picture now!

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Musician's Covid-Inspired Dream

Me and my pal went into a multi-story car park looking for a guitar for my gig that night.
Because of the virus panic situation I no longer had one of my own, and I had to 'acquire' one (borrow it, I mean) from one of those huge semi-Range Rover monstrosity cars which lined all the parking spaces in the car park.
Surreptitiously we pushed the car down all those ramps, one by one, into a bay at the bottom of the car park. It took ages, and was absolutely exhausting, for verily they are huge brute machines.
I got in through the window and dived down through layers of black plastic in a dedicated musical instrument area next to the dashboard, eventually drawing out... an antique balalaika! Beautiful, worn old wood and intricate inlays, fretwood sound hole, delicate neck...
Not a guitar.
I wrapped it up again, packed the layers of black plastic and we pushed and hauled the damn car up all those ramps and back into its original parking position.

And then we had to start the process all over again.

Luckily, I woke up.

Saturday, March 21, 2020


Yes, in the middle of this, I've had a tooth out.
I was getting a bit long in the tooth, I suppose (ahem).
It wasn't for vanity reasons; in common with Little Bruv we discovered, the cause was the tufty-tufty removal of beer bottle caps with the back teeth back in our mis-spent youth, which is as good a reason as any, I suppose.
More kitchen videos on the way soon.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Bandcamp Fee Amnesty

Bandcamp is waiving its charges to artists today. If you'd been thinking of buying my new miniature album either digitally or as a physical product, now's the time to do it!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Writing Again

It could be two months ago, except it couldn't.
During the strike I was sent final editors comments for my book. There's a major restructure in there, and some more research.
I started again this morning, accepting the edits to start with, and then making a list of citations to check and new texts to get hold of. One at least I'll need to go to the British Library for, because there apparently isn't the budget to buy it at the University of the East Library and it costs a hundred quid, beyond my means as a part time lecturer, no music income for the foreseeable future and pay-deducted-for-striking union member.
After reading seven detective novels while I was ill during the strike, I ought to have an appetite for something different. Alas, I haven't, although I'm currently re-reading Charlotte Greig's fantastic book Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, in search of an elusive quote that I kind of know isn't there. There is something really satisfying about this detailed finishing-off of the book, though sometimes I just want to throw the computer out of the window and become a garden designer for ugly industrial sites. This is what fate has dealt me, and this is what I do.

I don't regret the strike for one second, especially after hearing the awful story told to me by a female colleague on the picket line, and reflecting at home on the gender and race of the lecturers who weren't given proper contracts.
It makes my book all the more important to finish, but it's going to take time, still.

I've also been digging about in the old song pile. Richard Sanderson's planning a release, and I can't decide between an ultra cheesy Noel Coward-alike song, or a humorous little ska one.
I still haven't fully got my voice back after the laryngitis that I had a few weeks ago, but normal service will resume very shortly, I think.
There is also plenty to write: I will still be collaborating with Robert Rotifer, remotely. I also have another two projects in the pipeline but my good friend Kenji has advised me to remain stumm about such things in future.
He is right, of course.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Review for Pea Soup in Mojo

On the way to Edinburgh with the Offsprogs, an appalling young many was bragging into his phone about his company making money from the epidemic. There were lots of other vile things he said in his many braying phone calls on the journey but that was the worst. We wondered about rescuing his girlfriend from him.
I made a post on social media about it and then decided to delete it, because there was a panic epidemic going on at the time and I didn't want to add to it.

Then I saw this, very kindly shared by Bongo Pete. I was so happy I cried. Things can feel like a struggle sometimes but this completely made my day.

We went to the Botanic Gardens that Dad used to love so much. The pink Magnolia was in bud, and I cried again for different reasons. I am glad to know love, both as a feeling and to have been on the receiving end of it.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

I Hope!

Fear of Retribution

Reading about the Harvey Weinstein case and it's verdict, it was the words 'fear of retribution' that jumped out most loudly and clearly.
Any woman who has ever stepped out of line in any way will know this feeling exactly.
We are kept down because there are so very many ways of men who want to stop us 'blabbing' about their bullying and controlling behaviour, for getting their revenge on us if we do talk.

One ex-boss of mine had a thing about what he called moaners: women who didn't like being discriminated against at work. You couldn't respond with honestly because that would make you a moaner, and guess what- he was the boss! You didn't dare to complain because he was in control of so many aspects of your job, and you need your job.
Oddly, there was that same 'pushing the boundary' sexual thing going on too, which I discovered after talking to another female member of staff.
That's an almost insignificant slip of an example.

I sometimes feel that I have carried a huge weight of fear of retribution in an enormous bundle on my back, like a huge and heavily-laden snail shell. It's not just me- I know lots of other women like this, all artists, musicians, writers and so on. Last summer, something really strange and unexpected happened: I stopped being afraid.
I don't know why; somehow rather than feeling intimidated, I felt that people who do this will never be happy because their pleasure is derived from giving pain to others, and that this is a great darkness to live with. Their pleasure resides in ruining lives and preventing people from finding out about it. They are not to be pitied: they are far too destructive for that.

Every person who has been bullied has a right to recover and to thrive, regardless of people who throw their weight around. I applaud the bravery of the women who have emerged from the shadow of Weinstein's behaviour and I wish them peace, happiness and a sense of resolution.

Yes, there will be a defensive backlash; there always is!
The retribution.

(I have decided not to write about the University strike).

Wednesday, March 11, 2020


Rehearsals are in full swing for the gig at The Lexington on 21st March.
On Monday, we rehearsed Johny's songs. This is the first time in my life that I have actually been an accompanist to someone else's music and it teaches you such a lot. One of the things Rhoda was talking about on Sunday while the tunes were being broadcast is how much you have to be aware of the lead singer when you are a backing vocalist, and this feels really similar- watching another person's body language to make sure you fit in with what they are doing. It is really enjoyable and Johny's chords and songs are so different from mine- it is an adventure in a different song country.
I got lost on the way to the rehearsal because my phone's battery died. A very kind chap at the kiosk at the station charged it up, and I realise that Transport for London had directed me to a totally roundabout route which meant  along walk through the rain with my guitar, but the rehearsal was worth it.
Yesterday, I went to St Albans and we picked up where we left off with Rendezvous D'Automne, the song that Francois Hardy sings and that Vic and me did as a duet on his album. That's Vic, Ruth, Dave and me. I've still got to learn the last verse. Words, and French words at that.
This afternoon I'm heading to Brockley to rehearse my own songs with Adi. I'm just about to sort out the set list for that, but I thought I'd have a little procrastinate first.
This whole night is the brainchild of Neil Palmer who drums for The Bitter Springs and The Oldfield Youth Club, and it's being put on by the marvellous Bizarro Productions, who are angels to a lot of touring musicians because they support us so well.
Okily dokily (the Offsprogs deeply dislike my Ned Flanders tendencies): time for a coffee, and then back to music.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Chatting with Rhoda Dakar at Resonance FM

Women-fronted reggae, Lover's Rock, a bit of Bodysnatchers: thank you to Rhoda Dakar for joining me today to celebrate International Womens' Day, and thank you to Jude for making it all happen! Photo by Jude, and you can listen here:

The Song of the Unsung Heroine


From Twitter.
Tweeter anonymised, more than he deserves.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Nottingham and London Bridge

Life sure has thrown me some sh*t (very little of which makes its way on to this blog), but there are also some unique adventures that make me celebrate being alive.

I believe in compassion. A few years ago I met Caroline Kerr and learned about the Bras Not Bombs initiative she had set up. It is a simple idea: she provides clean, new underwear to refugees so they have at least some dignity and hygiene even when everything else around them is so terrible.

I know for some people, kindness like this is regarded as a weakness; the refugees who are displaced by the bombs that we manufacture in Britain and sell to psychopathic despots to clear out their populations don't seem like any responsibility of ours, do they?

I completely reject the silo mindset that thinks one group of people are special and another aren't. History tells us this is a lie; scientific and cultural progress have always involved communication and collaboration.

I can't write much (I've just deleted a major rant, you lucky things!) because I'm going to Nottingham today to show the film and play my songs at Caroline's celebration of International Women's Day. There are a lot of us headed that way to play music, show films and generally congregate to support Bras Not Bombs.

If you live nearby, please come along and lend your support.
It is such a good, kind, compassionate cause. Here is the ticket link:

Tomorrow I'll be playing some records with guest musician Rhoda Dakar on ResonanceFM at 4.30 p.m. , again to celebrate International Women's Day.
It's the splendid polymath Jude Cowan's initiative, and the whole day of programming from dawn till dusk is unusual and vibrant- do tune in if you can!

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Monday, March 02, 2020

Resonance on Sunday 8th

I'll be doing this show late afternoon on Resonance FM with Rhoda Dakar on International Women's Day:

Bras Not Bombs on Saturday

This Saturday in Nottingham, I'll be showing Stories from the She-Punks early afternoon, then playing in the evening alongside some amazing musicians!
Tickets here

Postviral Collapse

Clumsiness is the word: apopaclypse now.
By tomorrow, I think I'll be able to speak properly; the exhaustion of the weekend is abating and I've got some antibiotics to clear up the added extras.
Every time I look at anything in this house it falls over or drops off the shelf, all by itself.
I'm walking through a sea of socks and scarves on the floor; two pots just jumped off a pile of boxes and landed with a crash on the lino. Everything has slumped; the kitchen is festooned in crumbs and dried leaves from various vegetables.
The shoes are in disarray, coats slip gently off the coat pile and land folded in extraordinary shapes on the rest of the things that glided down there earlier.
Even my hair is a mess. No matter how hard I tuck wisps of it into the fierce plait that I've designed to stop it from crawling about all over my face, is slips out and laughs at me like a mad puppy that has escaped its lead.
My computer jumped off a pile of books and landed with a crash on the carpet this morning.
Plastic bags crackle quietly before whooshing off the side in the kitchen.
And I've got toothache.
I hate to moan.