Sunday, May 30, 2021

Woodwide Web in the Woods


From 'And Now, The Weather' Last Night

Three cheers for Kevin Younger and this partner Xtina Lamb for organising these monthly online cover version events. They have been saving graces during lockdown for a lot of isolated musicians while our active communities have been curtailed. There have been some fantastic performances and videos (Tiger Feet is number one at the moment). Here is mine from last night. I have no video skills, but I do have paper!

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Bands and Music and People

You get used to not seeing friends who play music for long periods of time because the nature of making music is that it's episodic. You have intense, focused relationships with other creative people, you make a tour or a gig or a recording. You share jokes, you eat together, travel together, get on each others' nerves. You need clean clothes or you should have had a shower. Things that are not funny seem hilarious because they... are. Collectively, you meet people at venues and in audiences. If you're lucky you become part of  a loose network of people who will say 'yes' to anything musical in any of it's forms. Amongst you there are people of supreme musical talent, people with basic skills but who always turn up on time (so valuable, those people!), people who know how to bring an audience, and people who seem to who entirely consist of ideas, mostly really good ones. Some people can read music, most can't. Some people's egos overflow out of a room and hallway to pour down the road: others are so self-effacing they seem barely there, until they pick up an instrument and let rip so uproariously you wonder where they were keeping all that energy.

So many people you come across, in a lifetime of making music. You get used to saying 'See ya!' and then it's a year, five years, ten years. You meet again and everything is the same because you have been bonded by all that I've just written about. It's called 'knowing the score' in slang that everyone uses but because it's music, it really is a score, only not the one on paper with dots and instructions about sound that people generally associate with the word. The score is not something you can teach at any of the University courses I've lectured on over the years. The score is to do with being able to recognise an experience almost before you experience it, to understand not only what your role is, but also what your more-than-a-role will be. To see the gap in a group of people that exactly fits your shape and sound, and to alight there with a feeling of belonging.

At Nick's funeral on Thursday, this is where I realised all this. Some of us have known each other musically since our very early twenties, others later. We had all connected through one musician, and we were knitted together by those experiences so a deluge of memories rained down. A group of us even laughed, when the very loving and solemn formal part of the afternoon was over.

Nick was very brave. At the end of last year he must have been very ill, but he still did the 'voice of Fatberg' and didn't say what was happening to him. He probably never heard the finished track, although I sent it to him. I was sure I'd see him again, just as so many other people at his funeral were. He was a big part of our musical landscape, our musical peoplescape. 

Personally, I've never regretted the diversion into music that punk knocked me into. I looked round at all those characters on Thursday, who were also looking round at each other, and thought just what a turbulent and volatile 'career' you have as a creative person. Money evades you (it always seems to be being counted in the next room, and escapes like a shot as soon as it moves into view); fame lasts as long as a tissue in a washing machine. Your skills vanish unless you constantly refresh and rehearse them. Your playing is replaced by someone more competent on a record. Music industry people tell you to sack your band (has happened twice). People claim credit for your music (has happened countless times). 

But it's a world that I understand, that has given me adventures, that is exciting, that has great and lasting camaraderie, understanding, laughter, and most of all, constant variety and change. The meaning of all this flies beneath so many people's radar, in particular that of powerful people in the music industry for whom the meaning of life is money and cocaine. It flies beneath the radar of the political class, until it's convenient to call it 'the creative industries'. It evades definition and the scales and measures used to quantify and qualify value. 

They just can't put their finger on it all. 

Good, because if they could, they'd squash it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Making Props And Mini-Scenery



Something we all have to get used to: things changing all the time. Thanks to Boris Johnson, the Austrian Government has banned flights from the UK. We were/are supposed to be playing there in July. We'll just have to keep our fingers crossed. I almost bought the flight tickets last week, but was waiting to see if it was three gigs or two. I am trying to give up being annoyed with the Government. It's an utter waste of time and energy engaging with mass psychopathy, especially when it's been voted for. They will all destroy each other in time, because psychopaths only care about themselves and regard anyone who isn't them to be an inferior being. I just hope the destruction of other people's lives stops sooner rather than later. I know that sounds trite under the circumstances, but I can't express in words the disgust and anger that I feel.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Sunday in Stockton

It could have been a disastrous journey, if I hadn't checked the Transport for London website half an hour before I was due to leave and discovered that there were no tubes at all running on the Northern Line branch from High Barnet that I needed to travel on to King's Cross. I hopped on bus to Arnos Grove, that 1930s-splendiferous tube station, and travelled without incident all the way to Eastcliffe, where the promoter Stephen Harland picked me up and drove us to the venue. The NE Volume Bar is small and perfectly formed, and was just perfect for a socially distanced gig on a Sunday evening. Charlotte Grayson and Steve McCormick were the other artists playing, and after the soundchecks we tucked in to Wendy's vegan hotpot and (wait for it) Blue Ribands! I didn't know they still existed.

Charlotte is 21 years old and has a worldly wise way with lyrics. She is already recording her second album and she is confident, with a classic Sixties-style voice that will take her far. Steve is a self-confessed stomper, singing sunny good-time songs that warmed up the room no end. Good job- the dressing room was chilly, and I was a bit worried about having a repeat performance experience of the St John's gig where my fingers were so cold it was like playing with Twiglets instead of fingers. By the time I went on stage the audience were well-lubricated, but not so much that they weren't listening to the lyrics- there were a couple of guffaws at points in the songs that people don't always get the twists of. And of course, there was the burp that I mentioned in yesterday's posting! It was a very friendly and lovely crowd, and I was massively flattered by Saskia Holling and her partner Russ Wilkins, two Medway scenesters, travelling down from Dumfries in their camper van for the gig. Of course we had a bloody good distanced yak, partly about Kevin Younger's monthly cover versions gigs, which we all do.

There could not have been a better gig to emerge from lockdown into. Stephen and Wendy are so interesting to talk to- they have promoted so many different gigs, often people that I really like: the Nightingales, Vic Godard, and of course Pellethead, the local heroes. I couldn't stop smiling. It could have been difficult- at one point I thought I was going to lose my voice because of all the chatting but all those months of four-seminar Tuesdays saw me through.

The green Goddess also behaved, and did not give me too many bad chords. If I don't treat her right, she sulks and throws the spanner in the works. I have realised though, that she is bloody heavy to carry around to gigs if I'm travelling by train.

Anyway- Steve and Wendy very kindly put me up, and I met their two rescue labradors, the boisterous one and the quiet one, before conking out entirely. It was a long way to travel for a gig but it was so worth it. The gig the night before in Beverley had been cancelled because the venue wasn't ready to open, so it was a bit of a punt to travel so far just for a one-off but I'm so glad I did. I am still buzzing today and had to go for a long walk to come down to earth again.

Heading home... after spending half the train journey listening to a distressed woman describing her boyfriend's cocaine-induced seizure at the wheel of his van, fighting the staff at A&E, being constantly drunk, borrowing money off her friends and relatives, and spending the money she was working 15 hour shifts as a nurse to save for their holidays on taxing the van he'd just crashed, I decided to take earplugs next time. She was travelling to see him after taking a day's holiday from work, and it was so tempting to tell her to turn round and go home immediately!

Suddenly being social is intense, isn't it?

Monday, May 24, 2021


I'm too tired to write about yesterday's gig at the NE Volume Bar at the moment- I wish I'd taken photographs, but it's hard at a social distance and my phone kept crashing anyway. But it was lovely, the best way of coming out of lockdown you could possibly imagine, even to the loud pissed burp from an audience member at the end between songs. Stephen Harland and his partner Wendy are great promoters and the atmosphere was perfect- the bar staff were amazing and so was the sound guy, Dave. More tomorrow when I've recovered from carting the very heavy Green Goddess up the steep bank from the tube station on the way home!

Saturday, May 22, 2021

More Recording

Today is vocals day for Femme Fatale. I've just remembered that I haven't really eaten anything today so I suppose I'd better do that first. I've already rehearsed half my songs for tomorrow night in Stockton and I'll do a bit more of that later.

It's daunting, the idea of replacing all the gigs I had to cancel from last year, and once everything seems to have settled down I'll get to work on that. Everyone's a bit shell-shocked still, but I can sense people coming out fo hibernation. Part of it's the travelling: living under house arrest, or at least town arrest, for a year is a weird thing.

There's not much to say. I'm just writing this because I'm waiting for the potatoes to cool down to make potato salad with, and I've read the newspaper from cover to cover. The house needs cleaning, but that honestly doesn't appeal. I wonder if I could persuade the garden snails to do it?

Friday, May 21, 2021

Fatberg Video Nominations

The Fatberg video by our genius film maker Ruth Tidmarsh has now won three nominations for music video festivals! Eurovision here we come! Kind of. 

Music Afternoon

I braved the bluster this morning, walking four and a half miles there and back for vaccine number two. I pretended that I was in Ullapool and lo, when I returned home I had a shiny Ullapool windface!

Somehow I found pelicans on Youtube and spent about 15 minutes being really disappointed in their behaviour. Because I like them so much, I expected them to be nice, but they're not. Every video was called 'Pelican swallows.... whole' or something like that. In one, a brave little cat got very near to the deadly beak, but shot off at a rate of knots very close to being eaten alive. One pelican was trying to eat a capybara alive and didn't seem to realise there was no chance. It had a bloody good go at it, though. I have no idea how I got lost down this wormhole, apart from clicking on a vid of a capybara farting in the bath last week. Oh how to waste time.

This afternoon, I'm going to mix in Ian and Robert's vocals to the Femme Fatale recording, and also do some work on mine and Robert's songs. I've literally been waiting weeks to do this, but there has been so much marking to do that I haven't had the opportunity. Headphones at the kitchen table three days in a row! How extraordinary!

But first, a good read of the newspaper and a cheap sell-by-date lunch. I'll miss out the first few pages because I'm heartily sick of mawkish royals moaning about everything in the middle of a global pandemic. Talk about choosing their moment! There is nothing more completely tedious that narcissism, unless it's people who pander to it and keep it going. Best cure is to go into a hospital and work there: I think that might inject a little reality into things for them.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Recording Femme Fatale

Spirit of Nick, it's 8 p.m. and I've been editing and recording most of the day and part of this evening. I have a decent backing track demo of Femme Fatale with some guitar overdubs that are slightly out of time but (I might completely change my mind tomorrow) in a really good way that might become permanent. Very Velvets-sounding.

Tomorrow morning early I might put a guide vocal on it for my (male) backing singer(s). I hope to have two but I might ask more: I've only asked one so far. This moment has come around quite quickly.

I'd meant to do more rehearsing today for the gig in Stockton on Sunday, but I can do that tomorrow and Friday and Saturday.

On the cassette that I was digitising this morning I found fifteen anti-advertising feminist jingles that I wrote in 1983. They are strangely relevant right now, which is a bit depressing. Listening to all the tracks we did I can hear Simon Walker talking in the background between tracks, and imagine us all there at Elephant Studios in Wapping with the engineer Simon Tassano behind the desk- he actually showed me what it did, which was great because I was so curious. We had big glass panels dividing us to separate the sound, and endless tea and coffee from the ubiquitous stained mugs that still collect in studios and reproduce silently when no-one's looking.

I remember at one point, when the music was finished, walking down Coldharbour Lane in Brixton with two grand's worth of tapes in a supermarket carrier bag. That was a genuinely surreal moment: a whole TV series worth of music on quarter-inch tape reels carried by a scruffy twenty-something who lived in a semi-squat. The glamour!


I have dug out a cassette of music from a documentary series called Pictures of Women that a whole bunch of us made in 1983. It was made by a women's film collective and provided satellite employment for lots of young film and arty women in our Camberwell community and beyond. At a party, I'd said 'Yes' to doing the music, and from then on began a journey of what is commonly called a 'steep learning curve', writing the music, finding people to play it, and ultimately overseeing the recordings, something that I believe is commonly called 'production', although if anyone had described what I was doing as that at the time, I would have fainted with surprise.

Alas, the cassette has deteriorated a bit and there's some odd phasing on the drums, but I'm going with it because on a lot of the tracks you can hear Dubulah's guitar parts. And Lester Square from the Monochrome Set, for that matter, and Mike Slocombe who currently drums for that very band, plus Simon Walker on fiddle. We were a bouncy lot, full of youthful energy and you can hear it in the music.

I've definitely NOT got archive ears, which you really need to engineer these things properly. I'm running it from a knackered Sony tape machine too. Probably I should take the original masters somewhere and get them converted, but at the moment my budget is covering the future, not the past. I'll put these on Soundcloud later this week, just for the craic. And I'm also going to put our version of Leavin' You Baby up there too- just for the energy blast!

I've missed Bargain Hunt because I was so absorbed in what I was doing. I thought it was going to pour with rain this afternoon but it's not looking like that. However I'm also going to do what I meant to do, which is record a version of Femme Fatale for a Mexican fanzine, and rehearse for Sunday's gig in Stockton. The studio tan is well on its way but who cares? I got to hear my pal again and I have to say that I don't think any of us have lost our bounce, and Nick definitely didn't. I'm so glad to have him as the voice of Fatberg!

Just posted on Soundcloud:

Leaving' You Baby

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

A Day Out

It was so exciting! An actual day out! I met Gina at Tufnell Park tube station, just like in normal times... except we were wearing masks. We went to see Tracey Emin and Edvard Munch at the Royal Academy just like in normal times, except we were wearing masks. 

It felt like an entirely new experience, to be in an art gallery. All that space, and all those paintings. Gina showed me some of her own work when we were having coffee in the courtyard before the exhibition, and I could see the correlation: the idea of nakedness and exposure of women not for the male eye, but from the female feeling and experience. Taking back control mate, innit?

I worked out that Tracey Emin works on some of her paintings upside down, which was intriguing. I do a similar thing, though not the same, with drawing. I particularly liked seeing the different pressures of the paintbrush on the canvas. And the most amazing thing? It wasn't mediated through a screen, and the paintings were big... huge, some of them. Even the smell of the gallery, and the sound of the gallery attendant humming, and it reverberating gently around the space and merging in with the quiet chatter and clumping footsteps. An art gallery, and art. Real.

I'm listening to Gideon Coe at the moment and have been moved to tears by hearing him play a Dub Colossus track. Such strange times of illness and death, yet Spring has arrived and is paying no attention at all. Everything outside is green and rainy and fresh and exuberant. I have planted courgette seeds, and they have positively burst into life out from the constriction of their husks. Out of prison, no longer confined! I know just how they feel, actually.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Little Egret, and Remembering Nick 'Dubulah' Page

So Dubulah has passed away, and a whole load of memories of working with him, laughing, arguing, eating, planning, drinking, all flooded back last night. I scrabbled through cassettes to find music we'd worked on together, and marvelled at just how many musicians he has worked with in his life, from so many different cultures. I remember him telling off the Ethiopian players on stage at the Edinburgh Festival and how it didn't seem to matter- everyone just took it in their stride. And I remember the first time I marvelled at hearing Transglobal Underground with the Bulgarian Choir samples, and Temple of Sound at Womad, and Dub Colossus at Netil House or somewhere else east... Passing Clouds perhaps? With Winston Blissett on bass, and a horn section, and Mykaell Riley singing. And then Transglobal at Under the Bridge, a glorious reunion where you could still see the schoolkid in everyone on stage. I remembered the Simonics, a five-piece band that consisted solely of Simons and Nicks, who recorded at Elephant Studios in Wapping with engineers named Simon and Nick. I remembered Bumble and the Beez, with Simon Walker on violin and Mykaell Riley singing his heart out. And the Red River Mountain Boys!

Nick would come running with his guitar if you had something musical to do, and a sandwich and cup of tea (or beer) to offer in exchange. You learned to record and keep the first take, because he was so brilliant he'd go off into the stratosphere with his playing after that. He listened to the music in the song and played to it- that's very rare in a musician. 

So many of us bought and sold Nick's guitars too. My original Gretsch Chet Atkins Tennessean was his. He had borrowed some money from me, and was trying to sell it to pay me back. I was furious. "Never sell a guitar to pay back a debt!", I told him. But he carried on- so I had the guitar off him, and I've still got it. That was the guitar I played in Helen and the Horns, and it came everywhere with me. Once, he showed me a fabulous guitar he had with gold machine heads. He had just discovered that they had tiny fold-out string winders hidden in them, and the two of us sat and gurgled with delight like two silly guitar nerd babies.

Oh, and we recorded Leaving' You Baby together, too. Somehow, he'd persuaded Robin Scott (of 'M' fame) to let us record for free in his studio in Wivelsfield in Sussex. We went down there by train, and when we got there I realised we both thought each other knew how to program a drum machine. "I'm not touching that thing", said Nick, and that was my first experience of drum programming, the weirdness of which we kept on the proper version of the song. We recorded that at Alaska studios in Waterloo with Paul Gadd, Gary Glitter's son, who was the nicest person in the world and who had  husky dog that sat with us all day. There, Nick told me off for saying I couldn't sing in the mornings (so of course, now I never say that, and can do it perfectly well) because we only had a day. We discovered the delights of the Bell sampler, pushed the faders to the max when the engineer was out making a cup of tea, and had an absolute blast. We phoned Mykaell and he happened to be passing by later that day- he came in, threw a swathe of the most brilliant harmonica playing across the track, smiled and went off again. Same with Simon Walker, who set up, played the maddest thing you could possibly get out of a violin, and serenely floated out into the cool south London air. It was an amazing day. Nick persuaded a friend to release it on his label, Pure Trash, and it even got played on the BBC's folk radio programme on a Sunday morning- and at a nightclub in Spain where King Kurt were playing, apparently. The photo session for the cover was slightly disastrous. Nick dressed up as a Greek god with a toga and ivy in his hair and we sat in a huge truck so my friend Kim could take photos- but the sun hit the screen and most of what we got was reflections. I ended up doing a drawing.

I suppose all this is saying that Nick was a whirlwind of anarchy and can-do that completely blew a hole through bullshit and artifice. You could have quite forthright conversations and then everything would be forgiven. He called me 'Cooks' as a nickname and accepted my tomboyness. When he moved to Spain, I missed him being around but I knew he'd found love, and that was amazing.

I hope his many friends manage to gather and celebrate him soon. He crossed paths with so many of us, and I have to say there are a million things I learned from him. He was the first person who played Brecht and Weill to me. He couldn't help being an educator as well as a friend.

I had to go on a long walk today to calm the shock of hearing that he has gone so suddenly. On the way back, this beautiful little bird was pottering around gracefully at the brook. It was very shy, but I did manage to take this photograph. I know we all have different memories of Nick, and these are some of mine, shared with cyberspace, and it's been quite a therapeutic exercise to write them down as it turns out


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Big Takeover Top Ten

Here's Fatberg being appreciated in all its gory. I meant glory:


I can't find my camera anywhere. I thought of looking in the Junk folder of my email account. Seriously.

Not An A&R Person

A thought has just occurred to me. I consistently take an instant dislike to particular songs upon their release which go on to be massive hits.

Perhaps I have a future as a negative A&R person where I listen to the repertoire and choose songs that I think are utterly crap. That way, I detect hit records (or tracks rather) 100% accurately, just by not liking them.

Anyone want to give me a job doing that?

Looking Forward To Tomorrow

 I'm so looking forward to tomorrow. Wednesdays are music days and I have songs to write.

I haven't been sleeping.  A friend is in an induced coma. 

I feel as though I need to think about them to keep them going. Isn't that silly? I can't help it. There's that sort of love for people that isn't romantic at all, but is to do with looking forward to seeing a person, even if you haven't seen them for ages. They are part of your peoplescape, and part of lots of other people's lives too. You've been through things with them, and have a shared past and you hope a shared future too.

It's not the sort of thing you can write a song about, but writing songs about other things will be good therapy.

Meanwhile, I am sending all the positive vibes I possibly can, both in waking hours and in sleeping hours.


I will never, ever vote for the Conservative party for a very simple reason: I had first hand experience of their heartlessness when I was little more than a child.

I was brought up in a Northumbrian village. No theatre, no cinema, no museums, no galleries: just people. Villages are a combination of working class, middle class and upper class people, though the latter are on an altogether different astral plane. Within these class divisions, there are class divisions. There is always someone to look down on and sneer at, or to look up at and envy.

For some reason as well as associating with children from the council estate, I used to get invited to some of the large houses on the periphery of the village and beyond, to play with children who seemed to live quite isolated existence in families who could best be defined as 'upper middle class'. The houses had grounds, often. I was invited to Pony Club Dances and once even sweated in a sauna in someone's gigantic garden. The mummies were stand-offish and wore suits and pearls, unlike the mams that some of my friends had, who were altogether more approachable.

All was well: life flowed with a peculiar rhythm: school work, play, Brownies, tomboydom with my best friend Linda over the road; the invitations to the big houses carried on.

Then it became known that my parents voted Labour.

Instantly the invitations from the posh mummies dried up. I never went to another Pony Club Dance. Friendships were left in limbo, almost like a sentence half started and not finished. I didn't get to play in those Wendy Houses with the 'only child' any more: those little girls played with children of their own class now. A door had been slammed in my face because of the political beliefs of my parents.

This preparedness to punish a child for the beliefs of their parents has quite naturally stuck with me for my whole life. In fact later on , one of the teachers at school used to berate me in class for my 'half baked left wing views'. There is more to that story, but to tell that would reverse-ferret on what I've just written.

Thus I was taught by example what being a Tory means. It means casual cruelty, especially when you think you can get away with it. It means covering up nastiness with a veneer of respectability. It means intolerance. It means bullying. 

I accept that we live in a Tory country where it appears most people don't like people from 'other' cultures, and venerate putting personal interests and furthering of personal wealth-gathering above anything else. I also accept that I will never be able to understand this mindset. Congratulations to the Tories for passing on their nasty values to the electorate. 

'Well done you!' in the words of Martin Newell. 

Luckily, I got vaccinated against this when I was young. Unluckily, I have been sentenced to feeling 'wrong' for my whole life. But do I wish I was one of them? Not bloody likely.

Monday, May 10, 2021


Doesn't it seem silly to be scared of going to B&Q? There used to be one just down the road but it's been demolished and turned into 'luxury flats'. Nothing downgrades the word 'luxury' more than a plethora of flats being described that way, I find.

Anyway- I discovered that the searing frosts this year have destroyed a mega plant pot in the garden, leaving the poor juniper sagging sadly out of the side of it, with pot-shaped tangles of roots clinging to a pot-shaped soil ball. I looked online as we all do these days, only to find at the checkout that everything was out of stock- the pots, the soil, just everything.

Getting into the car and driving wasn't a problem: it was the shopping. The supermarket's OK because I've done that all through lockdown, but buying anything apart from food felt really weird. The young whippersnappers in orange jerkins evidently felt so too. They didn't want to talk; they didn't want to tell anybody where anything was. They just wanted to be there, ideally checking their phones and guffawing at each other in that late teenage way. I did manage to gently force some information out of them, so now I've got a hanging basket liner. How exciting!

At the checkout, the woman was furious even before I got there. 'How am I supposed to lift that up?', she shouted at the big plant pot. I was rather taken aback. Shopping has definitely changed. I offered to pick it up so she could scan it. 'No!' she barked. 'I JUST DON'T WANT TO BREAK IT!'.

Actually I think she didn't want to lift it up, but was shamed into doing it because I offered. She carried on snarling, aiming terrifying evils at her colleague at another till. 'She shouldn't be there!' she confided, loudly. 'She's not a till worker!'.

I tried to help. 'Maybe you could join a union?', I suggested. A tumble of snarls fell out of her mouth. 'Useless! Useless! I used to be in the GMB and then I left!' 'Thank you', I said. For a second, she made eye contact and smiled. 'Have a good day', she said.

It's definitely not just me who isn't ready to come out of lockdown. The staff at B&Q aren't either.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Thinking About St Johns

I woke up at the Usual Time this morning, for verily, normal life carries on and I have to (a) vote and (b) do a whole lot of marking today. I do feel happy though, after last night! Part of it was quite simply singing out properly and playing with amplification; I do sing and play at home, of course, but politely out of consideration for the neighbours. These houses have very thin walls. Once, Offprog Two and me sat watching TV with the sound down and we could hear the dialogue from Eastenders coming through the wall.

There's a huge amount of traffic in London. We are all in our cars because we are afraid of travelling on the tube with people who don't wear masks, all squashed up in a viral soup. What should have been a 45 minute journey took more like two hours. The roads have been revised since lockdown and nobody knows where they are, and neither do I. Luckily I'm a short sound checker.

The church is beautiful and the organiser Gareth and sound guy Dave were the only people there when I got there. I tuned up, cleaned up, poured a cup of camomile tea (it was cold in there!), sound checked and waited until just before 8. There was one person in the audience, and the vicar passed through once or twice.

The lights came up, the music flowed and off we went! I imagined people at home sitting on their sofas, though I was in a box of lights with the paintings on the church walls looking sternly on, but it really was good to sing again in a  proper venue. My fingers felt like frozen twigs that I had to snap to form chords (even by the end of the gig they were still cold) but I did a gig in Spitalfields market in temperatures of -10 once, so they just had to obey the instructions to do as they were told. There was no PA system, just monitors; maybe it would have felt like elevated singing in the bath if I hadn't had my guitar in my hands!

Every time I do anything like this, I feel thankful because life might have been so very different. I can't articulate exactly what happened because it is private, but there is something so magical in this freedom that absolutely blasts its way through any desire to be a pop star or anything like that (bit too late, anyway). It's being able to stand there and sing what I want, the way I want to sing it, to have learned to play well enough to make music to sing to.

Afterwards, the vicar came out. What a sweet man. He had watched at home he said, because the sound was better there. We chatted about closed churches and mosques, and gigs in churches, and how good Peggy Seeger is. Imagine being an enlightened vicar who not only does vicarly things but also gets to see gigs in his church. Now that's some life.

Thank you to everyone who 'came along'!

Wednesday, May 05, 2021


Join me at this event tonight at 8 p.m.

Ticket link:

It will be weird: me and the sound crew, and everyone else there in my imagination. I have had a few requests for songs.

Let me know if there's a song you'd like me to play, and I'll get it out from the attic and dust it!


Tuesday, May 04, 2021


Last week's mega workload has rendered me a complete energy-exhausted flop today. I have the desktop computer 'jukebox' playing Rufus Wainwright gently in the background, with bits of Terry Callier and Odetta thrown in here and there. I've dug out some lyrics sheets for songs I'd forgotten the lyrics to. I've done some marking, and discovered that another of my students appears to have got a job after doing a work placement. This almost made me cry; life is just so tough for people these days. I feel so proud of her.

The sun is temporarily shining and it's tempting to get out there, but when I went shopping for coffee this morning, I was tricked. It started raining as soon as the front door clicked shut. So I don't believe you, Mr Sunshine: you're a liar, just like almost everyone else. Or at least, the people who tell us that they aren't.

Isaac Hayes. How I love the atmosphere of old recordings; you can almost hear the wood panelling and the scruffy carpets in the music, with the cigarette smoke curling through the dense air of the basement and the empty whisky bottles lying on their sides amongst the worn-out shoes of the musicians.

I should do some more cleaning. The regular moth flypasts in the evenings are becoming bit of a joke, and there are small beetles sneaking around everywhere. The spiders have given up: they are maxed out and their webs are getting tatty through misuse. I washed the kitchen floor this morning, peeling inexplicable tiny blobs of dusty Blu-tack off the linoleum and rinsing dust-clogged yellow cloths in grey soupy water in the sink. Motivation is low for such things, though, especially when the living room is full of tempting guitars and piles of lyrics. 

Actually, my finger-ends are sore after graduating from the Spanish guitar to the Green Goddess. The digital divas are taking a rest until later tonight or even tomorrow morning. I've almost forgotten how to rehearse for a live gig. 

I do remember that you can't stop a song halfway through and put the kettle on at a gig, so I suppose that's a good start.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Tony Hancock in 'The Rebel' from Drawing Club

Drawing Club on Sundays: a kind of dreamy online activity with the imagined whisking sound of pencils of paper. We are far-flung: Edinburgh, Bolton, Kent, London. Conversation chunters along, we hold up our drawings to the little computer camera and show each other what we've done. 

I missed out on watching most of the actual film because I did a screenshot of the beginning with the bowler-hatted men and the deadly uniform workplace, and started drawing that, so the film is on the list to watch properly another time. From earwigging the discussion, it seems there are a lot of awkward truths that unfold in the story: very Hancock. Very awkward Hancock.

What else? Lots of rehearsing with my guitar for Wednesday night's gig, a lovely lunchtime Zoom with my friend Joan about an animation/sound mini-project, watching the forthcoming Fatberg video come into existence (!), cooking a huge pot of green vegetable soup, and making a start on the mountain of marking. And marvelling at the silly pigeon that got into a local shop window yesterday, only to be joined by two more silly pigeons today.