Monday, August 31, 2020

These Streets

Sometimes you have a dawning realisation, something that should have been obvious to you, but you have misread it. When I walk around Brighton, stories of my previous life there swirl around my head, my late teens and early twenties hiding around corners and peeping out at me; I walk around Newcastle thinking about my Dad working in the Toon and my job in the X-ray department as a technician; I walk around Camberwell thinking about the perils of trying to raise two children there on a tiny income. Last week, we went to the village where I was brought up. I can remember where everybody lived, what the shops used to be, and where I hid from the lightning during a massive thunderstorm. Once I went on holiday with someone, and realised I had gone on holiday with their memories of other times they had been there with someone else.
All of those things are rolled into this song: the past has demons as well as angels, and both characters are likely to make an appearance unbidden when you tread old ground. I am very grateful for the present and the future.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Smart Phones

Not so smart, are they? They can't make a cup of tea and bring it to you in bed on a Sunday morning.
Or maybe they are smart- they have kidded us into believing that their version of smart is smart.
Essays on my desk, Friday morning 9 a.m. please.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Whitley Bay

Naturally, after months with the narrow horizon of High Barnet and the occasional trip to the deep south, once we got out of London it was going to rain, wasn't it?
The Toon was OK yesterday for wandering round, but today the water cascaded down in buckets. A trip to the coast was in order and so was a trip to the fish'n'chip shop.
We ate outside in the rain.
A passing woman laughed so much she crashed into a bin: ha ha, woman, ha ha!
My fish finger sandwich was so gigantic that I gave half of the fish to Carol's dog. Almost a whole fish hand, in fact.
This is me and Carol, on the wet bench table.
It was still great to see the sea, even though the beach laughed too.

Friday, August 21, 2020


Unfortunately, some days you just can't avoid it any longer.
When procrastination becomes writing the academic article that you've been procrastinating about, you know you're sunk.
I put on a CD of French music and pretended that I was in Paris, scrubbing away like Cinderella.
I didn't even notice it was on repeat for about 3 songs into the rewind.
Something about today is half-hearted.
I tried spraying my parka with waterproofing spray, because it's more like a sponge than a parka, and you don't want that from wet weather wear. Alas, the can of spray ran out halfway through, so I'll have one waterproof shoulder and one absorbent one.
C'est la vie! (see what I did there?)
I thought I'd cleaned the cooker and then I put my specs on and realised that I hadn't.
My normal specs are broken: they did that to themselves yesterday with no help from me, but I can't go out to get them fixed because I'm waiting in for the postie.
Nor can I do the hoovering (same reason), so the dustballs get a reprieve for a few hours at least.
I have discovered that Doritos, though very tasty, so not constitute lunch, but believe me if you saw those bananas over there in the bowl you would find it very easy to resist them. They may become more appealing to the gaze later this afternoon, if I have to wait in much longer.

Days like this, I look for minor things to celebrate.

I found the phone charger charging lead!!! Wahey!
The ugly enormous vintage blouse that I bought in Armstrong's in Edinburgh about five years ago doesn't look too bad when you're bored with your other clothes.
I have written an Americana song from the viewpoint of a protesting eighty-year-old.
There are 8 small boxes of wild blackberries in the freezer.
I'm going to Newcastle next week.
I am a mother (that's a big thing!)
It's quite nice not being able to do the hoovering.
I put the huge bubble wrap mountain away in the loft.
There are hardly any moths (actually, there could be hundreds of them, hiding. Scrub that one).
I had  a blister on my heel, and it's almost healed.
I like it when it's windy because it's exciting.

That's enough.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

In Brighton, 22

Photo by Claire Barratt.

Oh Bondage! Up Yours: Working On A Chapter

Today I am cutting down a chapter that I've written for a book called One Track Minds. My contribution is on this track by X-ray Spex, and I have to 'lose' a thousand words by dusk.
For any cowgirl this is difficult, but I do know that what is being chopped out is probably extraneous stuff. It's just that I was so appalled to see how hostile and cruel the press had been to Poly when I went to Liverpool to look at Falcon Stuart's archive. They treated her as an object of ridicule.
The misogyny and racism disgusted me. Patronising, belittling: and some of these journalists are still writing today, having reinvented themselves as jolly middle-aged raconteurs.
It's hard to detach emotionally from it the reviews of the day but I'm mainly focusing on descriptive content, including the stings-in-the-tail of each article, in the hope that the build-up of insulting crap will tell its own story.
The record itself. How brave of a young dual heritage woman to come out with that in the 1970s!
I will always be really grateful to her for documenting the contemporary female experience of punk, which just like in academia, is still in the hands of white male historians.
They 'don't even know they're doing it'. Ahem.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

From At The Edge Of The Sofa

The Porter Rose At Dawn

Subscribe to Gina Arnold's website for a whole series of Chandler-inspired stories, poems and songs, as they roll hot off the press. Maybe contribute yourself, too!

Wrecking A Generation

I was driven to tears this morning by the plight of these poor children whose 'A' level results have been manipulated, and those who are still waiting for GCSE and BTec results.
What a terrible level of extra stress they have been handed on a plate, completely underserved, on top of all the rest of the life-changing disasters that they have had to put up with.
You know: not just lockdown, but fears for their relatives, no holidays.... what a burden they are already carrying.
On the BBC news, a young girl read out part of a story she had written months ago that predicted the whole shebang. She was a star pupil (at least she had that), but her story concerned the sorting of children according to their social class by an algorithm.
She has had to campaign to get the results reconsidered, to get a letter from the head of her school to the University she hadn't managed to get in to in order to ask for her place, and was still waiting for UCAS to update with the new information. She was calm, articulate and just so much more grown up than any of the sorry clowns that are pretending to be in charge of our lives at the current time.
That's the sort of experience whole generation are going through.
It is time we had a new government, before they destroy anything else.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

At The Edge Of The Sofa, Again

On Youtube!

Equal Parts

Yesterday was very busy. Robert completed the artwork for our 10" vinyl e.p. and I completed the lettering. We have six brand new co-written songs, mixes almost complete, artwork under way.
I think you can hear the fun we had recording them in the songs themselves; there was lots of energy and spontaneity in the studio.
'Shall I do this?'... 'Yes! That's a great idea!'.
You can hear lots of different influences in there: a bit of Aztec Camera, a bit of Northern Soul, a bit of Orange Juice, a country lick here and there; Jacques Brel, Francois Hardy, even The Doors. But it has it's own sound too, made from the contrasting and complementing sounds of Robert's steel-strung Martin and the Green Goddess, or Pea Souper as he calls it. We also have distinctive voices.
Speaking of voices I've also been working with Kenji, who has one of the most gorgeous voices of anyone on Planet Earth, and this files turned up yesterday in my mailbox. That's another exciting collaboration.
Meanwhile a blast from the past. Cherry Red's release Make More Noise features The Chefs' song Food, and is being played by Colin Spencer today on his show:

Ahem: where's my copy, Cherry Red?

Rose Hips

It's rose hip season! At primary school we used to go out picking huge quantities of these and have weigh-ins, being paid a pittance by the pound by a company called Delrosa who used to manufacture Rose Hip Syrup.
I posted this on social media and discovered that  my friends all over the north east of England also used to do this, sometimes organised by the Women's Institute, rather than schools.
Delrosa was based in Wallsend which was fairly close by, and all of us used to drink the syrupy beverage, encouraged by the fact that it was allegedly very high in vitamin C, which of course would have been boiled out of the berries in the manufacturing process. I think you could even get it at the clinic in the village. It was absolutely delicious despite its dubious nutritional value (also by general agreement). What an odd thing to have done: it's exploitative child labour, isn't it? It was fun, but always ultimately a disappointment when what you thought was a gigantic haul was weighed and you took home a mere few coins in payment.
The north east was such an odd place to be brought up. They tested all sorts of things on us- the original GCSE qualifications based on coursework (called 'Certificate of Extended Education': I've got one in General Studies), which we did in the 6th form alongside our 'A' Levels; weird crisp flavours like mint sauce and tomato ketchup years before they cropped up anywhere else; floating breakfast cereals that had been developed for astronauts. I think it was regarded as an odd enclave that people never entered or left, a bit like Mars on Earth. But some of us escaped, and I was one of them, and now I've told you!

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Starts Soon: At The Edge Of The Sofa

Segment 3 [from 5-30PM]
MILES HUNT [Wonder Stuff], THE CATENARY WIRES [featuring Amelia Fletcher], SUCH SMALL HANDS [featuring Melanie Howard], UMUT ADAN [from Turkey], WITCHING WAVES, and CINERAMA [acoustic and live].
Segment 4 [from 7-15PM]
THE UKRAINIANS [featuring former Wedding Present guitarist Peter Solowka], VINNY PECULIAR, HELEN MCCOOKERYBOOK [The Chefs], DARREN HAYMAN [Hefner], and MELYS.
Segment 5 [from 8-30PM]
BADLY DRAWN BOY, SYNDROMET [from Sweden], CHORUSGIRL [from Germany], JETSTREAM PONY [featuring former Wedding Present drummer Shaun Charman], and, of course, DAVID’S LEGENDARY MEMORABILIA RAFFLE DRAW.
In order to raise the funds to produce At The Edge Of The Sofa as well as pay some of the artists and technical staff who have found themselves in need of financial support during the COVID-19 pandemic, David has plundered his personal memorabilia collection and come up with a fantastic selection of bits and pieces to raffle.
The items have been grouped into six bundles and, accordingly, six prize-winners will be randomly drawn during ‘At The Edge Of The Sofa’ on Saturday 15 August. The winners will then be contacted and asked to list their three favourite bundles in order. The idea is that we can match the bundle to the person who most desires its contents. In the case of people wanting the same bundle, that bundle will be randomly allocated. Simple! Right?
To enter the raffle, please make a payment to us via PayPal using this link: (If it says Cinerama, you're in the right place!)
You will be allocated one raffle ticket for every £1 you send.
For those of you in the UK, please use the 'sending to a friend or family' option (since it saves us money in Paypal fees)!
We have looked at other payment options, but PayPal seems to be the best option for us at the moment.
The raffle will close at 12 Midnight BST on the 14th of August.
Good luck!
For information on what the prize bundles are in full detail, please click here:

Wednesday, August 12, 2020


I've just remembered that I meant to get up at six to go to the Wednesday market.
I didn't get up at six, and I forgot it was Wednesday.
Hashtag hot.
It's even too hot to log into Hotmail.

Raymond Chandler Project

My academic colleague Gina Arnold (one of the editors of The Oxford Handbook of Punk and a pedigree rock music writer) has initiated a project that is inspired by the discovery of a list of story titles that Raymond Chandler never used. People have written stories already, and you subscribe via email to receive regular stories, songs and so on. I've aways been a big Chandler fan like a lot of others, so this instantly stood out as a brilliant concept.
It was so hot yesterday I browsed through the list... so many of them are song titles begging for a song. Last week's song that I wrote for Song Circle felt like a flop but I liked the chorus, and as soon as I alighted on The Porter Rose At Dawn from the list, the song rewrote itself and I recorded it in the simmering heat of late afternoon. It's rough (the edits scream out at you, the vocal takes are at wildly different volumes) but I sent it off and Gina likes it.
It was a good feeling to rescue and reshape a song and it was a great thing to do as the temperature pushed my head steadily groundwards.
Three drops of rain last night! I am so worried about the geese!
I slept partly on the floor downstairs because it was boiling upstairs, and next door were having an all-night carouse in their garden that involved a lot of loud shrieking laughter and shouting. When I awoke this morning, I could hear sparrows arguing in the back yard. Just now both a blackbird and a wren guiltily fled something close to the back door that they were investigating. I have to stop worrying about the geese. The remaining one with broken wings that can't fly away appears to have got themselves a mate, and none of the water fowl seem to mind that the pond is disappearing in front of their eyes. I suppose they don't have foresight, so they? The trouble with being close to nature is that you have to let it take it's course, wherever that may be. And of course the problem with humans is that they have to interfere, and can't let nature take it's course.
I'm afraid that if anyone else says to me that sociopaths make good leaders ever again in my entire life, I will hit them extremely hard. Almost sociopathically, in fact, except it will be in my head.
Brazil, China, the USA, the UK, Hungary, Russia, Belarus: all of them.
With our schooling in British exceptionalism when I was a child, we used to gasp at the terrible antics of despotic leaders elsewhere in the globe, and now we are elsewhere too. Is this really how it's all going to end, with vain, pompous, selfish, corrupt liars in charge of our delicate ecosystem, our culture, our humanity? For too long, stone age politics has been seen as the ideal. I detest Darwin and the whole idea of survival of the fittest.
When they get to Mars, they will all kill each other anyway, because they are so aggressive and competitive. In fact they will probably even kill each other on the way there, in either Richard Branson or Elon Musk's rocket.

How did I get here from writing about music? Oh yes- a link to Gina's website so you can subscribe and /or contribute.
As for the others: let them eat money.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Early Walk

Having woken at 5.30 a.m., it seemed churlish to ignore the blue sky and I got up, had a hearty breakfast and went for a walk. This is positively the last time I'll pick blackberries!
There they were in all their shiny, bobbly, sweet and sour black splendour, literally dropping off the bushes.
I fought through thistles, nettles and Rosebay Willowherb, all of which had made a pact with the blackberry bushes to make it difficult to harvest them. "Yah yah yah! Go 'way!"
Nowt like a pair of stout denim trousers on these occasions; their blandishments fell on deaf legs.
Parakeets have found Barnet (screeeech!!!) but they haven't found the blackberries, yet.

Everything smells gorgeous early in the morning. Someone's honeysuckle had escaped from their back garden and twined itself around a lilac tree. What a fantastic scent! Further on, even the simplest of Leylandii hedges smelt tangy and delicious as the breeze wafted past it.
It was already hot and the dog-walkers were in t-shirts and trainers. The sky was enormous this morning (has it grown?) and the fields were different because they have been mown for hay.
You could smell that too.
Like a happy clappy idiot, I showed my tub of blackberries to the woman at the till in the supermarket. She didn't mind. She told me how hard it was to decide between apple pie and apple crumble with the apples from the tree in her garden. You know what, I almost forgot the apples in my bag. People have piled them up at the edge of their gardens and the pavement and say 'Help Yourself', so I did.
Wormy, bruised, but real: a bit like me, I suppose.
I'm armed with new detective novels and the day's paper, resting my voice a bit before more singing and waiting to see what the weather has in store. It's either going to be too hot to go out, or too wet to go out.
The house is a mess with stuff in grumpy piles all over the floor but we don't do tidying up when the temperature is over 30 degrees, do we?

Monday, August 10, 2020

Distanced Recording at Onecat Studio, Brixton

Robert and me have co-written six songs, which we finished yesterday and which are currently being mixed. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, helped out by Ian Button on drums and Jonathan Clayton (who engineered the session) on bass and double bass. It will be a 10" vinyl release, coming soon!

Oxford Handbook of Punk Rock

I wrote about violence, punk and women for this book chapter.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Big White Bairns Tell Porky Pies

Since everything the Big White Bairn says is a lie, why don't newspapers and other media sources hold off from reporting anything he says until he speaks the truth?
And while we're at it, that might be quite a good idea to apply this to our own home-grown big white bairn, who changes his mind with the wind.
Let's just not listen to him, and make some space for doctors to tell us what to do instead.

Song Musings

Earlier in the week, I realised what a good idea it is to write a song every week for Song Circle. It means that you can write a bad song, and it doesn't matter so much as when you only write a song every month. Strangely, one of my bad songs from a couple of months ago turned into someone else's good song at another time.
There is something very revealing about playing a song to the group, and realising halfway through that it's not working. Sometimes it's a matter of simply being too complicated, and sometimes it's a matter of being too simple. I really appreciate the time we spend doing this and what I'm learning from it. Not only that, the privilege of listening to other musicians working on crafting their songs is an amazing experience.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Non-existent Tuesday

Tuesday didn't exist: I was in bed the whole afternoon with a migraine. Normally, I have jazzy auras and sometimes not even a headache. Yesterday's was excruciatingly painful, and the whole afternoon  it made me want to throw up. I didn't realise it was a migraine for a couple of hours because it didn't come with the usual colourful sparkles and zig zags.
Today I caught up with yesterday's missed things, then drove to Battersea Park to meet the Offsprogs. Suddenly I got loads of visual disturbances, but luckily I had medication with me and I caught it before it got me.
It was unnerving driving home though, and it was a relief to get back.
It was so nice to see them. We watched cormorants flying above us. Offsprog One says they sleep in the trees next to the lake. We saw a swan chasing ducks across the water, and a heron just standing there pretending to be a statue of a heron. They do that, you know.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Not Cuba

Somewhere in the back of my mind was this idea of going to Cuba this summer, just for the adventure, and the great music, and the being somewhere entirely different.
Instead, it's been blackberry picking and writing my own music, all within a very small radius indeed.
Scratched arms, nettle-stung legs and broken fingernails.
Glamorous me!
I've heard mp3s of yesterday's songs and they are spirited and fun and very catchy. It was definitely a good day worth doing, a well-spent eight hours. I'm looking forward to next Sunday when we record one more song and do a bit of spit'n'polishing.
Meanwhile, song circle has moved to Wednesday and I'm looking for an impossible rhyme. I do know that when that happens, you have to toss aside the line that won't rhyme and replace it with another one that means the same thing, at which point the perfect rhyme for that will fly in from the wings (sic) and land in your lyrics book with a gentle plop.
I remember once a friend laughing because I like to leave things for a few days (in that case it was a month) to really savour finishing them off.
That's what I'm doing with the rhymeless line.
The other problem?
Dreaming up a killer chorus and forgetting to sing it on to my phone before going out blackberry picking.
Ho hum.


On a blackberry picking expedition up the back fields, we met this little chap. He was inspecting the pool that had accumulated in some BT workings in one of the fields. At first, I couldn't work out what I was looking at and then realised it was this little kestrel.
It didn't fly away: it was protected by the barriers that had been put up.
Maybe it was thirsty and wanted a drink.
What an unexpected treat, and definitely the last thing I expected to see on a hot afternoon in lockdown.

At the Edge of the Sea Lockdown Festival

I'm delighted to have been invited to contribute to David Gedge's At the Edge of the Sea lockdown festival which is going to be streaming on the 14th and 15th of August. It is a unique festival to go to and I've not only made a lot of friends there, but I've also seen some bands that I've stuck with ever since- most notably Jetstream Pony and the Catenary Wires. This is the info from the Scopitones site but there will be more to come:
As we mentioned in our previous newsletter, ‘At The Edge Of The Sea’ [David Gedge’s annual festival in Brighton] has joined the list of events postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This event will now take place on the 13th and 14th of August, 2021.
However, we are very excited to announce that a ‘virtual’ version of the festival will still happen this year!
‘At The Edge Of The Sofa’ - which will be free to watch - will take place during the evenings of 14 & 15 August [the Friday and Saturday that had originally been earmarked for ‘At The Edge Of The Sea XII’].
We are planning to stream this event live on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
We are still working on the exact format but the plan is that David will host the event from his living room in Brighton and introduce a variety of features, including world-wide premieres of nine Wedding Present ‘locked down & stripped back' videos. These will include a brand new Wedding Present song.
David will be on hand to answer questions posted online by viewers and play requests live on his acoustic guitar… as he’s done during his previous streams.
And if that wasn’t enough… you will also be able to see exclusive ‘lockdown’ videos from many of the other fantastic artistes who have appeared at At The Edge Of The Sea over the years [or who were scheduled to appear this year].

So far, we’ve been promised appearances from [in alphabetical order]:
Amelia Coburn / Badly Drawn Boy Chorusgirl CUD
Darren Hayman [Hefner] / French For Cartridge
Helen McCookerybook [The Chefs] / Jake Shillingford [My Life Story]
Jetstream Pony [featuring Shaun Charman (ex Wedding Present drummer)]
Martin from British Sea Power / Melys / Miles Hunt [The Wonder Stuff]
Si,irene [from Japan] / Such Small Hands [featuring Melanie Howard]
Syndromet [from Sweden] / Terry de Castro [ex Wedding Present bassist] 
The Catenary Wires [featuring Amelia Fletcher]
The Popguns / The Primitives
The Sleazoids [featuring Paul Dorrington (ex Wedding Present guitarist)]
The Ukrainians [featuring Peter Solowka (ex Wedding Present guitarist)]
Umut Adan [from Turkey] / Vinny Peculiar
Witching Waves / Young Romance
And, yes, of course, there will be a raffle! Stay tuned for more news about that rest of the festival in our August newsletter.

Sunday, August 02, 2020


That was a sharp leap into semi-normality today!
I drove to Brixton for a socially-distanced recording session at One Cat Studios with Ian and Robert. We recorded three new songs, one just vocal and guitar, one tremendously ambitious one which ended up sounding fabulous, and a very simple one which had a sort of Johnny Cash vibe. We have one more to do and a revisit to the first two we recorded. Eight hours! That's old school.
I have disinfected my computer, my phone and my watch, my clothes are in the washing machine and I had a good scrub when I got home. I used up half a tube of hand sanitiser too.
It was absolutely great to spend a day doing this.
Absolutely great.
We are going to do another day, and then we will have recorded a little six-track record.
Hoo hoo!