Thursday, June 23, 2022

Fleeting Memories Of Amsterdam

So many people- a river of them flowing down Damrak, night and day. A river of chatter in the daytime, a river of shouting at night. I walked for miles; I sat beside canals and watched: the barber shop on a boat, full of black t-shirted men with sculpted (or ready-to-be sculpted) hair; the two young women in hijabs riding identical Vespas side by side, chatting; the coots nesting comfortably in an abandoned boat. I wandered into shops and marvelled at the luridly-coloured 'clog' slippers made of nylon plush, all sizes available, and the woman with a traditional Dutch bonnet who refused to be  photographed and coughed Covidly. I went on a canal trip and saw the stray cats' sanctuary on a boat, and the self-seeded hollyhocks sprouting magnificently from the quayside. I found a good cafĂ© and sat there, watching the world go by, and I waited for a while next to some street people who were sharing touching stories about their families. The bicycles  streamed off the ferries: ting-a-ling! Get out of the way!

Grim men did deals in clusters on the street, their mobile phones clamped to their heads. In the red light district, there is a 24 hour service. The prostitutes, tall, fierce and wary, reassembled their fishnet clothing after a punter's appointment as their eyes darted around looking for more custom. Oh, how terribly depressing it was to see them in the mornings. What an exhausting and mindless occupation. Small groups of men shambled through the streets purposefully, peering into the shop windows at the 'goods'. This was a sobering reminder of the true hierarchy that exists in the not-modern world.

I lay in the tiny hotel room at night listening to the shouting in the alley below, and inhaling the cannabis fumes that percolated through the windows. I met my cousin, who I haven't seen since McMum's funeral, and of course I interviewed punk women at OCCI: but more of that later.





Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Rehearsing McCookerybook and Rotifer Songs

Today Ruth came round and after a quick lunch we ran through the songs for a week on Saturday in Whitstable, and a week on Sunday at The Country Soul Sessions. She had really done her homework and it was really nice to sit in the kitchen and play at low volume, fuelled by coffee and blueberries, for the whole afternoon. Ruth is replacing Jonathan in the McCookerybook and Rotifer band, and we have a full rehearsal next week. If you'd like to come to the Sunday gig (Drew Morrison and the Darkwood and Paul Handyside are also playing), here's the ticket link: www.wegottickets.com/event/544144

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Painting a Delft Tile in Delft

Imagine! McDad used to collect these tiles and I have a small collection myself. I went to the Royal Delft Factory to look round (it was fascinating) and managed to enrol on a painting session. We sat on long tables, and some people had charcoal templates of traditional designs. I chose to paint the woman downstairs who was painting a vase. I had taken a photo of her with her permission. We had two different brushes for the two different techniques, and ceramic plates with cobalt oxide to paint with. This will turn blue when the tile is fired. Let's hope it survives the journey back to London when they post it to me! I''m intrigued to see how it turns out. I have been longing to do this for years!






Photos from Women in Dutch Punk Conference



 





Saturday, June 18, 2022

Women in Punk Conference, Amsterdam

Join us this afternoon at OCCII Amsterdam, where I’ll be showing the She Punks film early on, and you’ll be able to hear from four generations of women punk band members before their gig tonight at the same venue.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Recurring Dream

Last night I had a recurring dream, in which I was trying to solve the same problem that I was attempting to sort out the last time the dream crept into my head. I was in our old house, big and magnificent (from the outside).

There was a corner of the house that was collapsing, though. It was upstairs under the eaves. You couldn't see it from the outside and sometimes even from the inside. I'd been trying to work out what to do for years, but I couldn't. I asked builders and estate agents for help and nobody else could fix it either.

I know now that I'll never be able to fix it, and I never could.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Women in Dutch Punk, Saturday

I'm heading to Amsterdam this coming weekend to chair a panel at the Women in Dutch Punk conference, where I will also be showing Stories from the She Punks. To replace the Oh Bondage! Up Yours intro and outro, Gina and me started jamming some chords. I think we'd intended to record it 'properly' but because Lindy Morrison was in town, I spliced together some sections that fitted together and she drummed over that; this is the first outing for the film with this temporary bit of music.


More information here: https://occii.org/events/conference-women-in-dutch-punk/

Friday, June 10, 2022

It's A Hard Truth

Sarah Corina was bass player with The Bomb Party and The Mekons. She has recorded The Monochrome Set and lots of other people, and works as a producer, so it was great when she sent me a backing track to write a topline and lyrics to, especially since I've been so immersed in making my own 'sound'. It was good to take a break from that and do something entirely different. Sarah's done a few mixes of the song, and this is my favourite one:

https://soundcloud.com/mccookerybook/its-a-hard-truth

Monday, June 06, 2022

Antidote

Sunday Drawing Club is a great prescription for too much anything. After disappearing down the computer rabbithole yesterday, the gentle banter and the show-and-tell nature of it all was a wonderfully calming way to spend the evening and escape from the endless Jubilee TV. There was a street party here and everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun; in between editing I took a cup of tea and perambled a couple of times. It did seem rather odd that people were being sent away for not living in the street. That didn't seem quite in the spirit of things, so I retreated back home. Large-scale images of Prince Andrew and Prince Charles project themselves across my internal screen too regularly. The millions of pounds paid to get Andrew off the hook came from our taxes. And of course, the food banks. Just think how much we could have provided for our poorer people if that money had been spent on them instead. Ever been swindled?

So where were we? All nice and calm after drawing club. Darren Hayman was drawing a cover for a forthcoming live album: strong lines picked out the dramatic architecture of the church, under the ceiling of which nestled him and his band. Darren Riley's drawings romped colourfully through heroes of 1960s and 1970s popular culture. Duncan drew a still life of a glass on the table which reflected the evening light beautifully, and Sarah drew a hundred-days mini comic of their motivation for banging nails into the new fence: imagine Jacob Rees-Mogg's and Price Andrew's faces on the nail heads, and it increases their bashabilty exponentially.

I drew two drawings from the imagination, which I haven't done much of at Drawing Club. I am going to illustrate two books and being asked to do the second made me realise that I have to get my skates on and illustrate the first. It's a personal book that a mother reads to her children, and the first job was to create the character. I drew one that didn't look quite right, and started again. Here they are, a wingnut, otherwise know as a sycamore seed:



Saturday, June 04, 2022

Invisible and Inaudible

It's taken a year but I've almost finished fourteen songs. I tried to leave it alone yesterday, but still spent two hours editing the backing vocals of one of the songs. It's still going to be a very DIY sound but it's my DIY sound. Things that ought to be easy have been difficult, and vice versa.

I'll spend much of today working on it too. I've tried to replace the vocals on a couple of songs but it's not working: the cogs are not in the right position just yet, but I know I'll get there.

Then I have to set up the speakers and invite Ruth round to take a listen. I really trust her ears because she has had the same slightly odd relationship with music as I have. It was Vic Godard who pointed it out: her upbringing was largely pop-music-free and I had that huge break while I was raising my Offsprogs. I had burned out, and resolved to pay back the help I'd had in my youth from people like Vi Subversa by helping young musicians myself, which led to an accidental career as an academic and no music making at all. It seemed pointless by then because all the young student musicians that I was working with were so brilliant. It was the magical Jamie McDermot who encouraged me back into playing again, and by then a head of writing steam had built up from not doing it for nearly 25 years that propelled me to write and write and write.

No doing it for a long spell is a really good way of doing it differently when you come into it again. There are new rules- but what the hell. Feeling like an imposter is very character-forming.

I woke in a panic at dawn. I worried about everything. Underneath it all is a fear that what I have created is not music at all, just a sequence of random noises that nobody has had the guts to tell me is rubbish. This is the definition of paranoia! I haven't 'tested' anything yet, and the actual music has been hidden away. What's going to happen when I let it out to play?

Friday, June 03, 2022

The Punk Jubilee

Of course I remember the last jubilee. I was in Brighton, squatting in a house with no bath or hot water- just two cold taps for around eighteen of us. We wandered around in a small group, inspecting street parties, and felt alienated by the whole shebang.There was something almost camp about that jubilee; there was just as much pressure to celebrate, but people naturally took it for granted that punks wouldn't have anything to do with it. 

It was an odd thing to be a punk in not-London. A friend came to see us in 1977. 'Punk's over in London, you know', he said, as though that would stop us from being in a band; by then, I suppose, even punk had become almost establishment in the capital and embraced as a quirky 'event'. Small squads of Brighton punks still used to head to King's Road from Brighton despite it being 'over'. Big Bruv and his friend got stopped and searched by the rozzers. His friend had a pill in his pocket; it was a joke pill that you put in a cigarette to make snowflakes come out. Big Bruv's coat pockets were filled with the little grobblies that paper tissues turn into if you don't clear your pockets out (this was the same coat that a sock emerged from the sleeve of, as he swung his arms when we were walking down the road one day). That's where I saw Poly Styrene's wonderful stall at World's End, stocked with lime green and yellow Dayglo vinyl dresses, with Poly herself sitting proudly in her perfect setting, glowing as much as her dresses- Poly Regina!

The London punks were a nobility of sorts. As though in a copy of an anarchic Beano, we read about their adventures and felt liberated by them. Oddly, there was a mixture of scorn and celebration when we integrated with them on our home turf. It must have been great to visit towns and cities outside London and find like-minded people, but at the same time, people like us must have seemed a bit like also-rans who didn't have any ideas of our own. The thing was, if you rejected Malcolm McLaren's spin, we all had much more in common than not: we too had been listening to reggae music, The Velvet Underground and Hawkwind. We lived in the margins, alongside the gay community, the trans community and sex workers (it was Brighton, after all).

I was sad to miss Jordan's celebration last weekend. It seemed apt that it happened in Brighton, because her partner was a Brightonian, and I chatted with her properly for the first time at The Louder Than Words Festival in Manchester late last year which they attended together. They seemed very happy and bouncy; what a great way to spend the last part of your life, in a happy relationship. God Save the Punks, I say!

(I'm watching Rod Stewart just now on TV talking about his 'pride in being British'. Oft-times resident of the USA, Rod. Get a grip. Sing 'Do Ya Pay Your Taxes' to the melody of 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy')).

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Vocalising

It's been a day of three halves (I know, I know).

The first was clearing up this morning, the second was Offsprog One and her friend coming for lunch unexpectedly, and the third was more editing and some singing this afternoon. I re-sang the song that Sarah Corina sent a backing track for a while ago, and tried to redo some vocals on a tricky song for the album. I'm not sure if it's there yet: I'll take another listen tomorrow. 

With the editing, I get one bit right and then all the other bits seem wrong. I think that's always the way. The thing is, I know that I make a lot of progress and when I go back to earlier songs I have to bring them up to scratch. One of the songs had the guitar sounding like mud and I hadn't even noticed, because I was concentrating on something else. Oddly I think my hearing is getting better, at least for detail. This means that things like tube train announcements and tannoys seem brutally loud and I have started focusing in on individual birds singing in the mornings.

Fourteen songs: it's the fine tuning at the end that seems so excruciating.


Speaking of Chaos

I'm having a huge clearout and downsizing the furniture. I have severely upset a spider, and broken a teapot lid, which will be a bit of a project to glue together.

I have copious quantities of dust up my nose and in my hair, but it's good to have a purge. I have a HUGE pile of stuff to sell on eBay but that's a day's work in itself, photographing that and posting it, so not for this week.

Later, I'll sit down and do a bit of editing and also try my voice out. It was rather creaky yesterday but that might have been because I was thinking of something else- I spent part of the day taking a lesson in animation from Joan Ashworth and walking in Burgess Park which is unrecognisable since I moved away.

I was exhausted when I got home, because Joan is so full of ideas that my own creative brain goes into overdrive. It's wonderful, and it was a great break from editing music, which was beginning to make me feel as though I live inside the computer.

So meanwhile, I'm sitting in the middle of a pile of art books trying hard not to be distracted by them. Tomorrow morning early, I'll unearth the last drawerful of trousers before the British Heart Foundation carts away the enormous chest of drawers that has clogged up the living room since I moved here eleven years ago. I don't know where I'll put them but that's part of the fun. I think.

Live small, think big!



The Party Of Chaos

Yes, the Tories are indeed the party of chaos, whose Thatcher project is now playing out completely as a demo of what happens if you let market forces rule everything. Lay off the airport staff during a pandemic? Then there will be no airport staff after the pandemic. Am I an idiot to enable to see this? The idea is that companies put a bit of profit away for a rainy day (sic) and use that to furlough everyone in addition to the government scheme, so that everyone is ready to start up again when the world is ready.

Instead, they have been roughing the lot. Now all we need is for voters to make the connection between the politics of greed, and the chaos that results from it.