Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Suddenly Realising

Oh fart. I have suddenly realised why my Logic programme has gone bananas today. I have been recording a vocal with a different microphone to normal and it's great to sound different, but the program was REALLY playing up, basically doing what it wanted, and in the end I saved everything and stopped.

I've just realised what the problem was- the computer from work for online teaching came with a duff keyboard that wouldn't do things like full stops, and a duff mouse that you had to bash to get it to change anything, so I swopped them with the ones on the recording computer.

THAT's why it wasn't working. Duh.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020


 First time I've drawn anything in bloody ages. I've been so absorbed in music and planning for the new University term that I haven't really sat down to it. But one of my songs has the chance of a video and I did a storyboard for it today. I hope I don't forget how to draw.

Do You Know How To Wash Lettuce?

I had arrived at a colleague's house for a work meeting (including lunch) during the vacation, and I was the first one there.

'Do you know how to wash lettuce?' asked the host, a male colleague who lived not far from me. 

'It's just that I've got some really important phone calls to make'.

Relegated to the kitchen with a slimy green cluster of leaves that had been bought with a 'Reduced' label on it, I eyed the rest of the salad vegetables also waiting to be washed, and cursed the oldest trick in the book of making a female colleague feel secondary as soon as she walked in the door.

I resolved to make the lettuce-washing last until the next arrival, at which point the host would need to take on the hosting duties himself.

He kept coming in to check how I was getting on, because of course there were the rest of the salad vegetables to be washed when I'd finished the lettuce, while he was making his really important phone calls.

Sure enough, I was still washing the limp bundle when the next person arrived (inevitably a man, because of course as so often has been the case, I was the only woman in the department).

There was an abrupt personality change. 

Heartily, my host bellowed; 'Who's for coffee?', simultaneously throwing me a filthy look and glaring at the leafy splodge on the draining board.

Two personalities! What a surprise and how depressingly normal. I'd love to be able to 'out' every male colleague who has humiliated me during my career but that would need a whole book. Hang on a minute...

Saturday, September 26, 2020


A few weeks ago I sang on a track by George Barker, who had made an electronic backing track for a versions of the traditional English folk song The Cutty Wren. He suggested that we should do a 'B' side, so I repurposed a song from our weekly Song Circle (instructions: write a bad song) from being a song about sex, to a song about drains. Quite similar, really, some might say...

I played the riff and chord sequence on the bass notes of the guitar, layered up some backing vocals and sent the rough version to George with a request to make it sound like Giorgio Moroder. Boy, has he come up with the goods! I'm going to re-do the vocal next week, with a harsher sounding microphone and tighten up the backing vocals so they sound more like singing rats than The Andrews Sisters.

I actually laughed with joy when I heard it! Creativity to the rescue again. I am so enjoying collaborating with other musicians. 

There is more in the pipeline, watch this electronic space!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

On Janice Long's BBC Wales Show, Tomorrow Night

Three cheers for Janice Long! She plays great music and she's a really warm-hearted interviewer. I recorded three songs at the kitchen table for her show tomorrow, and will also be interviewed on air. Suzanne Vega too! I love her stuff. What an honour to 'share a stage' with her!

Not 100% Pop Star

Well, I've spent the morning doing copious housework tasks: vacuuming, washing the bedding, cleaning the cooker, putting papers away (some of them: the imminent crashing to the floor of the academic book pile meant that some of them are waiting until I can balance the books -ha ha!- in a less precarious manner). In between, I'm booking guest lecturers for my classes, preparing teaching materials, and writing an academic article.

The bits of the day where I get to do music, those are my favourite bits. Lots of my artist friends seem to be acquiring studios, and it seems like such a wonderful thing to do. In my imagination, I've got a big airy studio with white walls and space to not only have all my guitars out and smiling at me (they do!) but also art materials lying about waiting for ideas.

At least I can find corners in my house to do these things, and snippets of time. My Spanish guitar travels from room to room with me, and is picked up as I wait for slow internet connections to come through. 

It has always been like this. 

I used to cook spaghetti for my kids with the Green Goddess guitar slung over my shoulder as I stirred the pans, and wrote songs while I was slaving over a hot stove. Most of my PhD was done in between dropping Offspring Two off at primary school and leaving for work in the mornings, with an hour on Fridays while the double edition of The Simpsons was on TV. 

I wonder what it would have been like if I'd been able to do what I wanted all my life? Not many people get to do that, do they?

I would probably have been absolutely miserable.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020


 I think the definition of stress must be missing the turning and ending up being unable to cross Vauxhall Bridge to Sarf London, and it taking two and a half hours to get to Camberwell by car from High Barnet (probably about 12 miles) in the second hottest day in a hot September. I'm still petrified of public transport, and so, it seems, are a lot of other people.

It was worth it in the end, to sit with the Offsprogs and eat round a table in the garden, with a baby fox crunching something sinister on the roof of the dilapidated garden shed under the eagle eye of Offsprog Two's cat, who seems to have fallen in love with me.

Tranquil, with the night breeze blowing next door's weed smoke and conversation over the wall, a dog barking in the distance and the background hum of traffic: Camberwell tranquil. 

On the way back, I mused on the SUV vehicles that seems specifically designed for bullying road-users to bully in. 'Im bigger than you!' cars, for people who want to drive really fast down small streets lined with parked cars on each side, and when they can't, they aggressive tailgate you to get their own back on... everyone.

That's enough for now!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020


In my head, I've re-branded 'Brexit' as 'Toxit'. The whole idea of it seems specifically designed to divide people and sow seeds of hatred amongst us. Originally a ploy by the odious David Cameron (remember him?) to keep his ailing political party in power, it became weaponised by protesting people who felt left behind and who wanted to stop immigration (ironically, in the areas of the UK with the least immigrants), and now has made Britain a grim place to live in. Everyone hates everyone else, and thinks they are stupid. It has become trendy to be extremely angry about something: it almost doesn't matter what. 

Reasonable requests like those made by the Black Lives Matter campaign get lost in a nasty morass of snarling righteousness from people at both extremities of politics. Polarising people is an excellent way of preventing social and cultural progress. Back in the day we called it 'divide and rule'. You're so busy shouting at your neighbour for an imagined slight, that you pay no attention to your rights being taken away by the 'up-theres' who want to reduce you to a servile beggar.

I have been reading Wild Swans (when I can bear it) and the current drifts into thought control by both sides of the political divide that are echoed by the strictures of communism are really alarming. It sometimes appears that lived experience is starting to be of less value than doctrine.

It's probably stupid to be misty-eyed about Rock Against Racism, but the ability of punks (including some feminist ones) and the Rastafarian community to stand together on stage and play gigs for a common cause that they both believed in, despite some really fundamental differences in beliefs and behaviour, was  a hugely effective political movement. It was a statement of values by a generation of young people, a belief in an equal society that I felt for many years made a massive difference to policy.

Now all that seems to have been pulled to pieces. Where anger once translated into positive activity, it now fizzes through people like sulphuric acid, destroying them as it goes.

Thursday, September 10, 2020


 Sometimes I wonder if I'm a hoarder, but a friend once told me that I was an archivist, so I'm going with that! I've spent a lot of time today going through newspaper cuttings on song writing and music production, weeding out the ones I don't need, and going through those pieces of paper that I have scribbled ideas on for months, and doing the same thing.

I have filled three quarters of a recycling bin, so I guess that makes me not a hoarder. I've found some great stuff: when I'm in the full flow of working, I rarely have time to look at things in great detail unless they are directly connected to something I'm lecturing on at the time. I've also found some old song drafts and oddly, the receipt for my engagement ring from many moons ago. I remember that time- I was working as a youth worker in Southwark. I was frumpy, clumsy and definitely not cool. It was bought from Caledonian Market in Bermondsey on a frosty Friday morning, very early, from a wonderfully glamorous and sweet lady. Marriage came and went- and I've still got that receipt. 

Oh life, the cards it deals us!

I'm trying to decide whether to go out for a walk before booking the lecturers for this coming University term, who will be delivering online lectures. What a shame they can't do it in the flesh! Last year's lecture series was the best ever. At least it's something that will work well as an extended online session. Group songwriting is a bit more challenging, but I think I've worked it out. Doing so much online music since March has shown me what can be done and what can't.

To walk or not to walk... Offsprog Two mentioned yesterday that she'd had a Magnum Classic, or one of their ice creams anyway. That idea makes a walk extremely tempting. I need something to blow the dust from my ears anyway so a bit of fresh air might do the trick, washed down with an ice cream.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Up At The Pond Today

 It was sweet, up at the Brewery pond today. I went up to see the white geese, and they were snoozing together on the bank of the pond, heads under wings, picked out bright against the green grass. Next to them, on a wooden bench sat an old man, just passing the time of day. 

They were keeping him company, and he was keeping them company.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Silly Things

One of the silly things that has happened in my professional life because (I assume) people where I worked thought that I was a silly thing myself, was a prestigious research centre not being built on a campus where I worked.

I  was asked by a powerful colleague if the University might be interested, and his interest wasn't passed up the chain of command until it was too late- and bloody embarrassing for me. Things like this have never ceased to be annoying. That's my gripe for the morning.

Monday, September 07, 2020


Facebook and Google have gone Baby tech: big, clear writing, lots of space so you can read them on a phone, lots more clicks to find anything so the first sight of the interface is baby, and so on.

This must be a new fashion. The new Volkswagen Beetles are baby tech too; they look like kiddy cars that have grown up still looking like kiddies. We all know adults like that!

Friday, September 04, 2020

Bandcamp Friday

Aaargh! I overslept! It's another Bandcamp Friday today, where artists don't have to pay sales commission to Bandcamp. 

Here's a link to my page:

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

A Two-Posting Day

Normally, two-posting days happen when I'm avoiding something (usually writing an academic article) but actually today I'm feeling really relaxed, for some unfathomable reason. All sorts of stressful things have happened: having to put off my vacation because of Covid, the PRS site crashing twice when I was trying to register mine and Robert's songs, it being the day for washing the sheets and duvet cover, updating my website, rushing to the shops in between deliveries of things that I should not have bought...
It's this: writing a song inspired by this wonderful artist, whose work we saw at the Baltic Art Gallery in Newcastle. Just writing it is taking me to another place, an imagined rainforest full of rustling creatures and bountiful leaves.
I don't even care if I'm the only person in the universe who likes my song. It is serving it's purpose, just by making me feel good today.

Lockdown Productivity

The London set have all been very busy in various ways: The Bitter Springs have released back catalogue, their new project The Oldfield Youth Club has released tracks, Lee McFadden has been releasing lots of stuff, Asbo Derek have been playing online, it's been go-go-go.
But I miss the silly things.
This is for them plus Vic, Mandy, Ruth, Dave, Caryne, Dave, Johny, Inge, Beth, Robert, Ian, and all of the rest of the London Set (including, of course, the Monochrome Set, who inspired this song).