Sunday, February 28, 2021

Wednesday, February 24, 2021


Feeling smug

With my pug.

Feeling foxy

With my boxer.

Feeling merrier

With my terrier.

Feeling shit cool

With my pitbull.

Feeling impatient

With my alsatian.

Feeling regal

With my beagle.

Treading the ground

With my hound.

Heading to hell

With my spaniel.

Having a toodle

With my poodle.

Doggies at play

On Wednesday.

Wednesday is Music Day


Monday, February 22, 2021


I woke this morning feeling really down- the first time for a long time. Yes, lockdown has been horrible and I have worries and fears about that, but I also have a perspective; there are a lot of people in a much, much worse situation. This was an old thing, probably common to a lot of women with a similar past to mine: nothing that I do is good enough, and never has been. It is better not to matter at all than to be found wanting.

This, of course, is the exact opposite of what women should be feeling. We should want our voices to be heard as we speak up for ourselves and for each other. 

The relentlessness of no-change sometimes wears me down, though. The endless distractions, the Royalty one, the 'Boris's dog' one. The 'Black Lives Matter doesn't matter' one. The 'Extinction Rebellion are terrorists' one. The 'Exterminate Unions they are bad for business' one. The 'All Refugees are Illegal Immigrants' one. The ability of big money to silence everyone by buying their voices, because they have made us so poor we need the money, and that's the only thing we have left to sell.

The worst one is the 'We will learn so much from the sense of community that we got during the pandemic' one. Been on the roads lately? Seen people charging through red lights, U-turning, speeding? Heard people 'You didn't clap for the NHS'-shaming? In the end, we are human. White men will still go on about 'the PC brigade'. It will still seem that Europe is the enemy, rather than greedy banks who bet on failure for sport.

What set this off is watching an old version of Come Dine With Me where nobody was very nice and the men were particularly nasty, seemingly thinking their misogyny was somehow edgy. Misogyny is hatred. We sometimes forget that and more often have to, otherwise how would we survive in the workplace? I've looked all round the house for some strength and haven't found any, not all day. 

No wonder so many people have dogs! Dogs think you are the queen, because you feed them. I shall conjure up an imaginary one straight away, and then not only will I be good enough, I will be the best.

Swimming Against The Tide

It's not something you do on purpose, it's the way you're made. Thank God for fellow swimmers! 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

What's New Pussycat

This was my contribution to Kevin Younger and Xtina Lamb's online cover-version Virtual Open Mic. It's amazing what people put together- proper video edits, and some really sophisticated music. I have to keep it simple- I'm working at 3 different Universities at the moment and I'm very tired, but doing something like this keeps my creative head above water. The sections of cat drawing kept floating off the wall (boo to Blu-tack) and it was done in one take. I hope the next one will be done in slightly more relaxed circumstances. And maybe not in lockdown!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

I'm Not Out Walking

Once more, I'm not out walking. It's only a short while till I start teaching and in all honesty I miss the family of Egyptian geese who set up home at the pond last year. The ducks aren't the same: they seem silly in comparison, and the longer walks will take too long before I start work. So it's in my head, in my head, plodding through the mud, there and back to nowhere again.

In a few minutes I'll go out and look at the collapsed back yard. Most of the plant pots are sitting in a sea of sheared-off terracotta, having freeze-thawed their way into destruction. The waterlogged Bay tree that I've carefully nurtured into a pom pom on a stick is probably going to die. The Arum Lilies look like piles of wet lettuce and the geraniums look like appalled old gentlemen in ragged brown coats. Everything looks soggy and tired. 

I was going to say I feel like that's a description of me, but actually I wrote a weird song yesterday that's been circling around in my head all night, not because it's catchy but because it's weird. I sing 'Ahhhh' a lot because it helps to sigh, sometimes. It's a frightening song. How strange to write a song that frightens yourself. If I keep singing it, I might get used to it and scare it away.

Right, that's it! Off out there in the wetness to damage limitate.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Songs Are My Friends

It's raining again. I had hoped to go out for a walk before work, but instead I'm still here. It's not what comes from the sky that bothers me: it's the feet bit. It's a sea of mud with mixed in dog mess and it's off-putting. My boots and shoes are all caked with it, and it will reactivate as soon as I just add water.

I picked up my guitar. I have been writing a lot of songs, some good and some rubbish.

I'd forgotten how nice it is to sing an old song, comfortable like a charity shop jacket that's already been worn in by someone else. After time's passed, your fingers still land on the chords automatically, and although my voice is strained from working extra freelance jobs (replacement for cancelled gigs), it's not difficult to sing the familiar grooves. As I sing, my troubles leave. 

I used to imagine them leaving the planet and heading off into the universe, into infinity. There's no space in space any more though, is there? It's all been littered with Musk's satellites and various debris from previous explorations, the equivalent of Simon Armitage's graffiti on the previously wild Yorkshire moors. A punch in nature's face.

So my troubles have to go somewhere else. They turn into atoms and dissolve into the atmosphere. Maybe that's what we're all doing, and maybe that's why it won't stop raining. It's our collective tears, evaporating and condensing in an endless cycle of woe.

Oh dear: I didn't mean to become so mournful. Back to my songs, because my songs are my friends. Hello again- I'm glad you're still here.

Here's one from ages ago which I really like playing. It reminds me of Scottish dancing somehow. I think that got into my blood a long, long time ago, injected by McMum and McDad. Vaccinated with Scottish heritage at an early age!

Music and Accommodation

If we all lived in enormous houses, would we make louder music? If there were no neighbours to annoy with drumming shaking the walls and bass guitar booming through the floor... how many more bands would there be?

My neighbour moved here partly to get away from a situation where her former neighbour drummed constantly. She move here for peace and quiet, but I'm a musician too. I've evolved many quiet ways to rehearse, using a Spanish guitar instead of an electric one for instance, and have even worked out a way of recording loud singing, quietly.

There isn't a way to soundproof my house. It's too small; if I soundproofed it, it would become smaller still and start to feel like a padded cell. Sometimes I imagine either having a bigger house, or maybe a studio I could go to to play and sing as loud as I wanted without considering everyone else. 

Not only that, the council has re-routed all the traffic from the High Street past my rattly front door so most recordings that I do have a lot of extraneous traffic noise on them.


It would be nice to thunder about all day long, booming my electric bass and twanging my electric guitars at full volume. I could Get A Drummer In and have a bit of a thrash. I could have a soul band! People would stop thinking I'm a folk artist! I could be loud and proud!


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Thoughts On 'What We Do In The Shadows'

I came late to this series, but watching it has completely brightened up lockdown, in a shadowy sort of way. The episode where the terrifyingly enormous werewolf is lured off the top of a building by a squeaky bone has got to be one of the funniest things I've seen in ages.

Like a lot of good TV comedy, there is food for thought in more than just it's funniness. The episode where they all went to court for ending the life of the bad vampire (he frazzled in the sun when the familiar Guillermo accidentally opened the door, holding masses of roses he'd bought to help to disguise the smell of the bad vampire), is a case in point. At the court there was a Green Room for the familiars, with snacks and uncomfortable seating. The familiars were of all shapes and sizes. One was 75 years old. 'I'm going to be a vampire soon!', he said. Guillermo's face fell; he realised something that he was trying really hard not to realise: he was never going to be made a vampire, no matter how many years he put in as a familiar. I thought about how in real life, these relationships happen. Vampire types surround themselves with sycophantic familiar types, who live in hope of graduating to the heights of vampiredom, but they'll never get there. Just when their prized status is in sight, the vampire will topple them back down to the bottom of the pile, and the next familiar in the queue will start to live in hope. This happens so often in life that I've become quite entertained by identifying situations where it's going on.

And Colin Robinson- what a stroke of genius to have an energy vampire who even wears the real vampires out! He has a boring room in their residence, where he apparently sits at a loss waiting for opportunities to victimise people with boredom.

One of these days, the episodes on iPlayer will end. I will miss them. They are my lockdown friends and I think about them when I'm not with them. I hope they will be OK.

Imaginary Pancakes

I love pancakes and it's been ages since I had any. Today is mega-work day and I'l be too tired to make any tonight, so I'm going to do it in my imagination instead. Thin, flat, chewy, horizontal stodge with crispy brown lacy edges... mmmmm! 

A sprinkling of sugar and a good dose of fresh lemon (mind the pips!). And then... more! And more! 

I think I will have six. 

There, that's better.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021


Today I drove. 

I have done this occasionally during lockdown, but I've never seen so much traffic on the roads as there was this morning. The roads themselves are in a shocking state: drivers swerve around potholes, or crash through them, suspensions twanging. Roundabouts, once invented to make traffic flow more smoothly and presumably reduce emissions from engines idling at traffic lights, are being converted into non-roundabouts, where queues of traffic wait with their engines throbbing, pouring vile stuff into the atmosphere. 

Goodbye, Old Street roundabout! 

Hello, stuck buses and angry white van drivers all lined up in fury. 

Goodbye, Highbury Corner roundabout! 

Hello, suicidal delivery bikes and honking big-guy megacars vying for first place in the queue, and secretly thinking they can simply ride or drive right over the competing vehicle to Get There First.

And the driving! From the Trump playbook, it's anarchy out there. I have never seen so many impatient U-turns, exercised without caution and without apparent awareness of the direction of traffic flow. 

Red lights? Pah! They're for sissies! Roar through them and push everyone else out of the way. Every single one!

Road rules have been burned on the bonfire of regulations that we don't hear about any more since Grenfell. Manners are a thing of the past. The louder your car-voice, the more important you feel in your rudeness and the higher your status. 

Forget #MeToo: this is the age of #MeFirst!

I returned home a trembling and exhausted wreck. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

King Rocker

What a great film! On a purely personal level, I miss the Nightingales. They are so open and friendly. When you see them, you sit down next to them in the pub and carry on talking as though there has been no gap between now and the last time you saw them. They are also a gracious band. I remember the first time I supported them, I think in 2014, at The Prince Albert in Brighton. Robert Lloyd chatted to me about The Lost Women of Rock Music, which he said he had read, and the whole band watched my set. What headline band does that? Not very many, I can assure you. I've still got some of their earliest vinyl releases. I've grown up with them, like a lot of other people, and always delighted in their lack of fame (a bit mean!), because they belonged to me (and people like me, of course).

Favourite bits of the film? Robert's constant surprise at everything... and the fact that he was once a food reviewer for a men's magazine... and Stewart Lee's comparison of Fliss Kitson's taxidermy activities to the preservation of old and worn out things (like, ahem, The Nightingales)... Samira Ahmed's voicing of Robert's voice as he talked through the band (absolutely hilarious, and what a sport she is!)... Gina Birch and Robert's duet at the end. The whole heart and soul of being in a band was there: not the rock'n'roll excess, but the sitting in curry houses, the bantz, the casual wandering about in a  rehearsal room with a bunch of people that know each other really well and that are completely relaxed in each other's company, the dedication to a common cause that can't be explained. The No Money.

The whole thing. 

Why live your life like that? Why on earth not, thinks Robert.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Working Full Tilt

I've got loads of things to write about. I wake up in the morning and think 'That's a good idea! I must write that on my blog', but things are very busy round here. I'm doing a lot of lecturing (and preparing for lecturing), reading through and correcting the first proof of She's at the Controls, finishing off some music and a sleeve illustration, the Oh Bondage! Up Yours article is in the work queue with editor's comments, and I've only just recovered from a bout of gastro enteritis that completely knocked me off my feet (ha ha! I may have mentioned that).

It's all a very good distraction from the terrible virus, and actually each thing helps the other- writing helps song writing helps teaching helps writing helps songwriting... and so on. In a lot of ways I feel more energised that I usually do at this time of year. I just have to remember to eat.

The next posting will feel like a break from everything, whenever it appears.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Spring Pea Soup on Bandcamp Friday

Special edition hand-coloured hand-stamped Pea Soup in Spring livery with yellow and blue peas.

Numbered from 100 downwards, limited to 15 signed copies. £20

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Equal Parts

Robert passed by at a distance today to drop off my equal part of the Equal Parts E.P.

I've got boxes in the front room! We can't tour it yet, but we have sold a few on Bandcamp (thank you, if you're reading this and you bought one).

Meanwhile, Willie Gibson and me have just finished an E.P. too: Electronica Botanica, if you want a genre. It's analogue synth and singing, and has been a wonderfully different project to work on and should be released later this month. Apparently he put Fairlight parts on to one of the Madness albums. Isn't it odd to work with someone you've never even met? We spoke on Skype once ages ago, but everything on our project has been done by exchanging files.

And Robert and me have more songs in the pipeline. If we get to gig this year, we will have a full set of songs. I'll have to get to work on those bloody awkward chords again but boy, I've learned a lot through these collaborations! I've had to really work hard at my playing, and I've also had to learn to record my vocals so they leave the house exactly as I want them to sound. The powers of concentration have never been called up to such an extent as during these lockdowns, and I have bought two sets of headphones: one for recording and one for mixing. Fancy that! Maybe I should become a dedicated vocals producer.

That's it for now; I'm under the weather again today, propelled along by anti-emetics, and I've got admin to do. I remember working for Southwark Council once and looking out of an upstairs window. There, on the flat roof, was a huge sheaf of files fluttering in the rain that my predecessor had filed exactly where they thought they belonged. 

I thought that was funny, in a rather awful way.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Help Musicians UK Benefit CD

Coming out on the 26th February- take a listen here. The release has loads of fantastic music and includes Feral Five, friends of mine for a long time, and one of the best electronica bands around at the moment. My track, Coffee and Hope, is one that I recorded for Janice Long last year.


I didn't take a photograph of the frozen rosebuds, but I did take this pic of mudurn art on yesterday's early morning walk. Crashing through thin ice glazing, my boots plunged into deep, cold mud puddles that oozed over my ankles. It was a great walk- the sun was really bright and there weren't too many people around. There were so many little birds in the bushes tweeting away that I didn't care that I didn't have any in my hands; it was worth it. 

Every stage of the year has shone a new light on the same walks; there is so much to see that I never even knew existed before the pandemic narrowed everyone's horizons. I can set off thinking that I'm going to see the same old scenery but everything will have changed, even the birdscape. I was thinking back about the Egyptian Geese and their fantastic parenting skills, raising six goslings out of eleven, when lots of the ducks lost entire flotillas of ducklings to the marauding fox. And Mr and Mrs White Goose! 

I've been working, not walking today, and will be doing the same tomorrow. Next walk will be Wednesday. I hope it doesn't rain.

Monday Work

I'm just starting work for the week. My inboxes are full of academic spam created by bored lockdown academics, little opinion triggers that set off muscular discussions and knowledge displays. They would be interesting to engage with, but I'm busy. Of course, I have to check each one in case it is relevant to the things I'm teaching, but it's hugely time-consuming and the delete bin is looking like a virtual charity shop. It's a stressful time for teachers of all stripes and I can see that this is an effective therapy: there is a surfeit of knowledge. We want to lecture, but students need emotional support at the moment, not information, so we're sharing that with each other. 

I think. 

Maybe I have a surfeit of analytical thought, and should just get on with my job.