Thursday, April 29, 2021

Changing Gear

Life changes gear... I have been lecturing at three different Universities, different things at each of them; I'm trying to think of what direction to head in next. I am very tired, and that's why I'm doing a blog posting while I gather energy for my evening class, which is starting again tonight. How lovely to be taught something by someone else!

On Tuesday, I had to stay awake to take part in an online discussion, despite having a Tuesday bedtime of 9 p.m. (plus crime novel). I went out for a walk to shake off the day, and rounded a suburban corner to be hit in the face by the most beautiful aroma from a yellow flowered shrub. I actually tucked my nose into the blooms and inhaled, which is not wise for a woman with rampant hay fever, but the scent was just so completely gorgeous that I had to do it. The whole route was an eden of lovely smells, drifting hither and thither on the chilly breeze. You'd catch a sniff of something and think you'd imagined it, and then there it would be again teasing your senses. The next thing was the birds: a throbbing cacophony of tiny shrill sounds, with the occasional mellifluous song rising to the surface of it all. Not even the harsh scraping of a jet across the sky managed to intrude on the groundswell of spring joyfulness. Boy, it's cold and windy, but that's not bothering nature. In fact, I could swear the whole lot is laughing at us pathetic creatures who can't fly, who can't sleep in winter and wake up in spring, and who can't speak to bees by smelling beautiful. What clumsy, stinking oafs we are!

It's all still going on out there, but I've no energy for walking today. I've been rehearsing a set of songs for next Wednesday, mainly getting used to standing up to play my guitar. All of the muscles in my body have realigned: I'm a walker, a breather in of fresh air. I've been playing guitar a lot, but sitting down. Gravity has pulled me downwards and I have to push up against it, and in the words of Val Doonican, walk tall (or at least stand tall). 

I have new songs, but can only confidently remember the words of one of them. I've written a new song every week for Song Circle with Katy, Rowen and Nadya. Sometimes they disappear because there are bits obscured by stress and overwork that won't allow me to finish them. Lots of the half-songs winged their way over to Robert to be finished and we're still doing that; it reminds me of being in The Chefs: I finish Robert's songs and he finishes mine. It's very exciting when the song appears in the inbox or in a text: it's like having a personal storyteller or something. 

And one of the songs ended up being Fatberg. Our Song Circle task that week was to write a really awful song, and actually we wrote rather good ones. Mine was the worst, not because it was impressively bad, but because I could have done a much worse one, so I re-worded it and sent it to Willie Gibson for a 'B' side for the Cutty Wren EP. Willie did a great job of making an authentically drainy-sounding backing track and Ruth Tidmarsh has just made a fantastic video for it that made me laugh out loud. It's almost finished.

Ha ha! Music and art! Humans are not so bad, birds, bees and flowers. I'm coming to a field near you to play my guitar soon, so watch out- that'll put your cheeps at a peep!

Soon it will be the summer and I'll take a vacation form teaching. Music and art are waiting in the wings, sharpening their chops and their pencils impatiently. I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Talking About 'She's at The Controls': Popular Music in Process

Six p.m. East Coast time, Eleven p.m. British time. I had no sleep last night because of the adrenaline but this was such an interesting conversation. I have Travis's book on order and I'm tempted to read Andrew's too.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Interview About 'She's At The Controls' with Jude Cowan Montague, Saturday, Resonance FM

Between 2.30 and 3.30 tomorrow you can hear an interview that I did with Jude Cowan Montague about my book 'She's at the Controls' on her Resonance FM show 'The News Agents', link here:

Wednesday, April 21, 2021


Ivyleaf Toadflax says 'boo'; Camellia petal-strewn pavement; blossom brocade on Hampstead Heath.

Monday, April 19, 2021

The Mandarin Ducks are Back!


Morning Thoughts On Feminism

Two 'strikes' in a 24-hour period. 
Knowing about feminism doesn't make you a feminist. 
All women are different and have different engagements with feminism.
It's not the only feature we have.
It's not the only thing we are.
It's always worth imagining yourself into a position where someone might treat you the way you treat others: it's really as simple as that. 
If the way you behave doesn't match the things you say, you'll get caught out.
End of sermon.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Review for The Cutty Wren E.P. in The Wire

 This was a good start to the weekend- a review in May's issue of The Wire.

And no, I wasn't in The Monochrome Set. They got their wires crossed! (see what I did just there?)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Live Stream Gig from St John at Bethnal Green on Wednesday May 5th

It's a lovely place! I will be there, and I hope you can join me from your home. The £12.00 ticket is for a household. If you're a one person household and it seems a lot, contact me afterwards and I'll send you some music tracks to make it fair.

Here's the link:

Bin Grin



I posted a video on the dreaded Hatebook, and a person I don't know commented about what an awful name I have. I've got so used to it now that I never even think about it, so it was a wake-up call of sorts. I can't really change it now!

The weirdest thing is that almost immediately, a completely different person randomly tweeted that I had a really great name.

First Song Inspirations

The first songs that I wrote were written inadvertently when I was a teenager studying for my exams. I would sit at the table listening to Linda Lewis, who I adored (and still do), singing along and drifting into harmonies while she sang, half concentrating on my revision and half concentrating on the music. 

The half brain that was listening to the music would wonder 'What would happen if that melody went off in that direction, instead of where it goes now? What made her decide to end that line on that note?'.

I had my own routes through the songs, sort of song-responses to her music that I can still remember when I listen to them now. I think everyone does this to some extent with music that they like, even if their own response consists entirely of an emotional journey through a song rather than a specifically musical one.

It was a couple of years later when I started writing my own songs, which were entirely different in genre and 'attitude' because I was a punk rocker. I found the lyrics very difficult to deal with: melodies seem to be so much easier. Now, I write the lyrics first in my head and wait for the music to match them. If I complete the tune, the song doesn't happen: fitting in lyrics feels like the ugly sister trying to cram her feet into Cinderella's tiny glass slipper. I have spare songs in the song cupboard, just melodies all sewn up waiting for words.

Because creativity is so random, I fully expect to find myself in a place in the future where I have no melodies, and only have words. At that point, I'll unlock the song cupboard and let the melodies out. 

I meant to write about something completely different this morning, but I didn't.

Here is my favourite Linda Lewis song, Old Smokey.

Monday, April 12, 2021

In Memory of Lost Parents

I'm writing this post to honour and respect those of us who have lost parents, and who may be feeling pain during the celebration and veneration of a royal life. Every life is precious, no matter what stratum of society you belong to or what country you originate from. Every person has the right to grieve for people they have lost, and in particular to prioritise grieving for family members that they have known and loved. To anyone feeling overwhelmed by the national grief we appear to have been ordered to feel, and who feels a more sincere and loving emotion towards a person or people who raised them and cared about them throughout their life, let's recognise and value each other's families, no matter who we are.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Women of the World from the Kitchen

 Available on this album:

From Last Night's Drawing Club

I've joined a Drawing Club, and last night we drew from a webcam set up in a bar in Key West in Florida. Nobody was wearing masks apart from the barman. How to keep a deadly virus alive!

It was bizarre: people came and went, and the music was so awful that we turned the sound off. We saw a chat-up in progress. There were many pairs of sunglasses, perched on people's heads, and Hawaiian shirts. A parallel world played out: there is absolutely no need to visit Mars in order to encounter aliens. 

Were they watching us back? Who knows.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

From Kevin Younger's Lockdown Mr Unswitcheable's Covers Night

It was another great night of predominantly Medway musicians with some fabulous guitars at Kevin Younger's night yesterday evening. From peoples homes, gardens and imaginations came a series of 'Doing It' covers from musicians starved of social contact, gigs and hairdressers. Vintage tea-sets, Bargain Hunt chic, CD collections and piles of books formed the backdrop for many of the videos; in others, Kentish gardens with gravelled driveways and swaying hedges (plus birdsong) hosted swaying singers vocalising with their hearts and souls. Gawd bless Kevin for organising these monthly events, which must be a nightmare of watching submissions, planning and scheduling. And gawd bless all of us in middle age who are still motivated to join in and make a 'thing' when someone says 'go!'.
I don't even live in Kent, but I'm an honorary member of the county for these occasions.
Here's mine, which was originally filmed in the dark with a lonesome candle. Alas, the traffic flow down my street was extraordinarily loud that night and the computer camera said no. So it's a daylight performance, but at least you get the German bit!
Look up 'Mr Unswitchable' on Youtube for a feast of viewing and listening: you won't be disappointed.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Never Trust Technology

I woke up this morning (yes, it's going to be a blues posting) and the latest Apple update had deleted all the notes on my phone. This is the second time that's happened. I don't back up stuff to the Cloud (that's a bit like leaving your house doors open) so I've resigned myself to the fact that three months ideas have gone down the pan. 

In some ways, that's a blessing. I am an ideas hoarder, and there's no Marie Kondo for overstuffed heads, is there? I have overstuffed notebooks, overstuffed sketch books and overstuffed hard drives so losing a three month overstuffed tech stuff isn't a problem. In fact, I'd been putting off backing them up because I've got years of backed up notes anyway. I just need to remind myself not to hastily type up all those morning thoughts before I get out of bed. If they're not worth fetching a notebook for, they're not worth saving.

I'll never forget Myspace just deleting everything with no warning, and starting again in an utterly useless way. I'd been using it as a sort of diary of all my very first solo gigs, and that vanished in less than a twinkling of an eye, as Rupert Murdoch's interns decided they knew what was best for an international social media music community. A bit like Santa's elves, only a very dark and destructive version.

My house smells weird. Maybe it's my mood. I'm going to open the back door, and let the ideas out.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

It's All Go In The Song Kitchen

At songwriter dawn, I did a mix of the backing vocals for the Reclaim These Streets song and then balanced the computer on a pile of books to film Falling In Love Again so you couldn't see the radiator in the video. Last night, I'd filmed an atmospheric version with a flickering candle and a velvet curtain draped over the radiator, but by the time things had stopped falling over- books slipping off piles, everything falling off the table, tripping over the vacuum cleaner lead, the guitar falling over and having to be re-tuned, and then roaring cars belting down the street outside, the version I filmed was too dark and granular and the song was too fast because I was so stressed by my einsturzende room (I'm getting a bit Deutsch because I sang half of it in German). So I did a daylight version this morning, which is probably far too perky for such a sultry song; I tried to look a bit midnight about the eyes, though.

I also recorded a version of Women of the World in the kitchen, for another time. Then I went out for a stroll to stock up on the hay fever: the horse chestnut trees were delighted and tossed their twigs in the wind.

What have I been doing this evening? Working on tomorrow's song for Song Circle, struggling with the words until Robert sent an email with a new song for us to work on, prompted by his new guitar purchase. New guitars are always full of pent up songs, you see.

It was a welcome distraction, because Robert's idea was more difficult than the song I was working on in the first place. So I finished the relatively easier song, then did a cheeky simplification process on the Robert song, which I'll punt to him when I've got the words right.

I'm sitting next to a list of things that I should have been doing today, but I haven't. That's the best sort of day.