Saturday, July 30, 2022


I'm restless: I'm flying to Vienna on Tuesday (what's the difference between a ticket and a boarding pass?), playing on Wednesday and then travelling back on Thursday, then going to Rebellion in Blackpool on Friday, playing and showing the film on Saturday and coming back on Sunday. Then I'm going to Scotland with my Offsprogs the following Tuesday. I have three developing travel piles: posh clothes for Vienna, punk scrum clothes for Rebellion and insect repellent and weatherproof clothes for Scotland.

What will happen to the almost-ripe tomatoes? Will the Bad Squirrel eat all the birds seed that the sparrows have bene enjoying? Will my pot plants shrivel without their thrice-weekly dose of bathwater? Will urgent things happen that I can't do anything about?

There's good news on the gigs front- a probable Saturday afternoon gig in Brighton with Wasbo Derek, and a mid-November gig at The Betsey Trotwood with my brother, who was one of the guitarists in The Chefs and who has been writing songs constantly for a year. We are going to play two or three Chefs songs at some point during the evening. In early September I'll be playing in Hereford, Sheffield and Shipley with Howie Reeve, the virtuoso bass player and singer. I have two gigs with David Lance Callaghan (Newcastle and Lewes), another possible one with The Girl with the Replaceable Head, and one in Bristol with the Lovely Basement. My new CD will be out on the 2nd of October: it's been mastered, the cover is being designed and it'll be going off to be manufactured very soon. I've contributed a track to a compilation of Kylie Minogue Covers too.

Is this restlessness or is it anxiety? I can't tell the difference. We tried to go to Scaledown last night to de-stress and see Poor Performer (Simon Rivers) but it was packed from the outset, and we couldn't face squeezing in. It sounded good from the street, and we had a nice chat with Simon and Lee. It's worrying: is the Scaledown secret out? We need a few months with the man from Sheffield with the sensory boot and the fluorescent strip light, chaotic improvisers, and inaudible poets whose quiet voices are no match for the rowdy post-office drinkers downstairs. That'll sort it out!

Wednesday, July 27, 2022


Finalist for the 2022 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards (BEST HISTORICAL RESEARCH ON RECORD LABELS, or GENERAL RECORDING TOPICS)

Thank you!

A Week on Saturday at Rebellion

In the afternoon, a She-Punks film screening and short interview with Gina and me; in the early evening, short sets by Gina. Pauline Murray, me and many more of course.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Man Up Ladder, Barnet

This man was removing Foxton's Estate Agent signage from a corner plot in High Barnet. Later that day, he was to open a micro brewery. Goodbye and good riddance, Foxtons!

From Sunday Drawing Club last night, and unfinished (a) because I did  a lot of talking about leaving my job and (b) because ladders are so damn difficult to draw. I might do a  close-up in colour next week, or perhaps another difficult drawing of a BT engineer sitting next to a comms box in Honor Oak Park last week with a whole table full of fiddly spare parts. Who knows.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Wasbo Derek and Chums

I wasn't able to get to the last Wasbo Derek gig, where the Brian-era repertoire was put to bed, so this one has been in The Diary for months. Even though it was hot (again) and the train was packed with young men with piercingly loud voices clutching alcopops and broadcasting their friends' secrets across the heads of irritated passengers, it was worth the journey. 

Oh, the Mr Whippies of the Brighton seafront! 

That was the first stop, and then The Prince Albert which was thankfully air-conditioned, because it was heaving with people. The show had begun by the time we got there and we watched the poet Darren Beaney before Wasbo went on stage, with Joe Davin joining the band on keyboards and their fabulous new young-blood drummer Kaya Kendal.

All the songs were new, which I felt was very brave. I rather enjoyed the unfinishedness of some of them. I have been missing the band's magnificent air of 'we don't care' and their thundering musicianship, and as usual they mocked the deserving-of-mockery without mercy. I loved their last number Carnivore Collective, having seen just that very band on the seafront minutes earlier. And the song about Teams made me roar with laughter. Be more agile, my *rse! What a stroke of genius to include the horrible nagging Teams call signal in the song. It was totally cathartic to have them sing about all those little things that are so endlessly annoying with such uproarious good humour, and to watch Jem charging across the stage with such joyful abandon again. The crowd had assembled from far and wide- Caryne and Dave from Frome and assorted Londoners including some of Bitter Springs, Simon and Kim, and Lee from Cult Figures (playing at the Dublin Castle on Saturday next week). Final band on the bill were Tigers and Flies, who featured some ace trumpet and trombone arrangements and a drummer trained by Brian Blainey, no less.

Sometimes, girls and guys just need to have fun. I'd walked into that gig with a pile of anxiety on my shoulders, and left it completely carefree and ready for a huge bag of chips on the pier. Salt and vinegar on mine.

(W)Asbo Derek, welcome back in your new incarnation. Here's to many more gigs, records and hilarious afternoons like this, where the audience gets the point of the songs straight away and sings along (wrong words and tune, but what the heck), and heckles hilariously between songs. I have a feeling the new drummer is going to really enjoy the ride. There was a cowbell clunk in a gap in the proceedings that was the closest to a sonic wink you can get...  and that my friends, is that!

Friday, July 22, 2022

September at The Hope and Anchor with Karen and Charlie Tipper

24 Hours Release, Optic Nerve

This has been released today on Optic Nerve Records. They have done a good job, and once they realised the situation they have communicated well with me.

Cherry Red Records bought the recordings from Attrix in Brighton a while ago, and OK'd this release without letting any of us in The Chefs know about it. It would have been nice to know about it before the label tweeted about it (that's how I knew), but that's Cherry Red for you.


Thursday, July 21, 2022

Rehearsing with Robert in Ranterbury

I mean Canterbury! This is us running through our set: our gig is at Theatre am Spittelberg, Vienna on 3rd of August.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

That's What I Was Doing Yesterday

... drawing the Toni Tubna poster. It involved sitting in one place in the cool dark kitchen, doors and windows closed, waiting for the hot day to go away. I had half a melon in the fridge and ate bits of that for a refreshing change, and drank a million glasses of water. I had put a tin tray of water out for the birds, and I saw a sparrow having a drink from it. 

Miraculously they seem to have survived the heat, especially the 'You Stupid Bugger' pigeons, who are probably made of alien material, such are their survival skills. Just don't tell Elon Musk or he'll try to privatise them and pull out just when they've got their hopes up. I wonder what he's going to do, now it's been shown that space travel reduces your bones to something one stage up from dust? 

Not going to be quite so easy to escape to Mars with your unseemly brood of children now, is it Mr Musk? Eh? Eh?

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Drawing a Breath

The album masters are all done, and now it's sleeve design time. I have a drawing from when I was five that I'm going use. McDad's best friend Charles worked in the X-ray Department of the Royal Victoria infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne, and used to show up every so often on a Sunday afternoon with a huge cardboard box of the orangey-yellow paper that film was wrapped in. It was absorbent so you couldn't paint on it, but I drew my way through piles and piles of it. It was very unstable and used to tear easily, and I drew so much that a lot of my drawings got thrown away, but there's one that I really like and I'm going to use that for the cover. Over and over again, I drew girl groups with their mouths open singing: usually three friends singing together in a line with their arms around each other's shoulders.

This is the grafty bit of making a CD: making sure everyone is credited, making sure that the songs are registered with the copyright agencies, getting photos done, making sure the design works. There are a couple of mega-hot days ahead and I can do some of this while it's impossible to go out. I think it sounds really good, and it's only a pity that I learned so much towards the very end!

And then there is organising a tour to promote it. Or just to tour, really: I like the travelling and playing to people.

It's weird, having handed in my notice at work. Formal jobs have lots of mini-goals and 'We will be doing this' and 'We must do this' deadlines and so on. Without that trajectory and being driven by a desire never to be bored, rather than ambition, I'm not sure how life will pan out. I do know that I want to campaign seriously for the NHS, and against misogyny and racism. The latter is very difficult from within an organisation.

These periods in life, gaps for thinking, are very welcome. I tend to live life at a hectic pace and the only thing that I'll sit down for are TV news shows (having  break because of the despicable Tories), detective shows, reading detective novels, and of course illustration, which I find completely absorbing.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Mother's Ruin, The House Mill Gallery

This is an exhibition by women artists, including Mandy Prowse and Julia Maddison, at this wonderful gallery at Bromley-by-Bow. The buildings reminded me of Delft, perched by a stretch of languid water behind the usual hideous construction-industry-fest of nondescript office buildings for non-existent workers.

Inside there is a lot of intact mill machinery, and the artworks are arranged around the building looking as though they have materialised from the ancient dust and wood. It's the best sort of place to see an exhibition of work like this, because the building adds to what you see, which is a series of artworks that comment on motherhood's bittersweet trajectory. The materials could be sourced from the mill era itself, although the commentary of the artworks is completely contemporary. It's on till Saturday: go if you can.

Gawd bless art and all who sail in her. This could have been rather a drab day, but instead it was a really stimulating one spent finding that the spirit of creativity is undimmed by the hideous reality that swirls around as at the moment.

Inspired, I came back and finished my Kyle track (I think!).

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Recording a Kylie Song

A whole bunch of us are recording Kylie songs for a charity album- and a whole bunch of us are recording Can't Get You Out Of My Head.

I recorded Drawing Club (or some of them at least) doing backing vocals, but a lot of my other tricks and wheezes haven't worked, and the whole thing is taking a lot longer that I thought it would. It's four o'clock and I'm only just having lunch. It's home made roasted vegetable soup, and I looked at it and thought 'That looks a bit like cat sick', and now I don't want to eat it.

I know I'll get there, but I was feeling cocky about my skills and as my late McMother used to say, 'Pride comes before a fall'. Oh, the joys of Presbyterian parenting!. I've even dropped my precious microphone on the kitchen floor today, and spilt coffee all over my clean clothes. It's not even hot today, it's yesterday's heat hanging over. I think I'll have some crisps, read private eye for a bit, and then go back to it again.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Finishing Off

The album went off to Ian Button to be mastered yesterday. It took nearly four hours to upload, but it's arrived at its destination safely. Now, I'm finishing off an illustration project which I'll probably get done today, although I'm going to put the text in and make a PDF of it, which might take a bit of time.

I've been sitting and drawing at the table, listening to Howlin' Wolf, Destiny's Child and The Threepenny Opera, with the door open and silent birds- I think they're too hot to tweetle.

I have another small musical project to do and complete by the end of this week if possible. I overestimated my editing skills, I think, but then we only improve our skills by talking on new challenges, don't we?

Below: the illustration project, almost finished.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Some Of The Jobs I've Done


Saturday job, Littlewoods, Newcastle upon Tyne

Bar work, the Black Bull, Wylam, Northumberland

Darkroom technician, X-Ray Department, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne

Washing up, French restaurant, Brighton

Breakfast waitress, the Bedford Hotel, Brighton

Cleaner, B&B, Brighton

Shop Assistant, Gallery 57, Brighton

Typesetter and printer of tablet envelopes for veterinary surgeons, Malling Press, Lewes

Shop assistant, Gallery 57, London

Layout artist, Better Badges

Signed artist, RCA Records

Freelance illustrator, Moneymarketing Magazine

Freelance community musician and songwriter, Southwark

Freelance composer, Channel 4 and educational/political videos for Smith Bundy Video, GLC etc.

Freelance composer, musicals e.g. Identikit for ILEA

Office worker, Labour Party headquarters

Senior Lecturer, Commercial Music department, University of Westminster

Lecturer, Music department, Middlesex University

Lecturer, MA Creative Entrepreneurship, LCCM

Senior Lecturer, Music Department, University of East London

Lecturer, BIMM

I don't think the barmaid/babysitter ever thought she'd have a life like this.

Sound Engineers, from Sunday Drawing Club


Sunday, July 10, 2022

From The Country Soul Sessions


Love with Johnny Echols at The Garage

Two concerts of the three scheduled for London had been cancelled due to the singer losing his voice, but thankfully this one went ahead. Thanks to Caryne and Dave (who were doing a roaring trade on the merch stand), I had a guest list place and even though it was extremely hot, this gig couldn't be missed. The venue was packed with an audience that can only be described as adoring: mainly older people buzzing with anticipation, but also some new blood who seemed to know the songs backwards. Last time I saw the band was in Glasgow, but no two gigs are the same and it was intriguing to see them again more than two years later after things have changed so much.

For a start, this time I watched and listened as a musician. After deep-diving into the mixing of an album, I found the live sound mix really absorbing. The drums sound particularly good (are all live sound engineers drummers?). In fact everything sounded good, apart from the occasional muddy mix of the vocal harmonies, which was a real shame. I wished that I could loop some of the songs to work out the harmonies, which of course are absolutely inspired. I was trying to map them in my head and in my mind's eye they were like automation lines on a Logic page: colliding and swerving and all sung perfectly in tune. And the guitars!

This is a really good band. I was particularly taken by the bass player (possibly new), who was clearly loving the bass lines and the sheer musicality of it all. Even from a distance you could see that he was living within the music and thoroughly enjoying being in the band; he was completely latched on to the groove all the way through and was delighted to be standing next to Johnny, sharing the occasional bit of banter with him. I found this completely charming, a perfect illustration of the agelessness of the songs. The band obviously had a lot of affection for their trumpet player, too. He was bell-clear and probably classically trained.

At one point, the DJ came on stage to play a song which meant there were no less than four guitars on stage, which was quite incredible. Bonhomie radiated from the stage and although I'd intended to just stay for a couple of songs (the heat was unbearable for this Celt with thin northern blood), I couldn't leave. The atmosphere was great and the audience was full of characters. A man with a walrus moustache and sideburns was standing next to me, having  lovely time with his pals; young women came up to buy giant t-shirts to wear as dresses, and in part of the room there was a small collection of wheelchair-users. People roared along to songs and conducted the solos (rather brilliant, Mr Johnny Echols) with arms aloft and fingers pointing in different directions.

Now I must listen to their recorded music with fresh ears. The last band I saw at The Garage was actually King Kurt, my ex-husband's band. I was struck last night by just how many rock tropes King Kurt incorporated into their music despite their psychobilly intentions, because last night's psychedelic sound was firmly rooted in stop/start structures and a big, tight sound that are common to all rock music. Of course, though, Love were precursors to all of that. In other words, this band contributed powerfully to a language of rock music that has lived on for more than 50 years. 

A few years ago I went to see the documentary, Love Story. It's a great film if you get a chance to see it. Music frequently does more for race politics than 'politics' does, and this current incarnation of the band follows that principle through, which is great to see. For gender you've got to look at Sly and the Family stone, but that's another story.

All in all, I think everyone who was there would agree that it was a wonderful night out. The singer did the band proud and managed to resist getting the crowd to sing everything for him (just a little bit of one song, but he took over again pretty quickly). The atmosphere was fantastic, and the staff at The Garage were perfect. Ten out of ten, bar staff and doormen, for managing a very hot and crowded night without losing it!

Friday, July 08, 2022

Photos from the Country Soul Sessions

I think these photographs are probably by Stephen Tagg Randall, the house photographer at The Country Soul Sessions. We did have a really great gig, and I hope there will be a video of it on Youtube at some point. Meanwhile Wizz has cancelled my flight to Vienna for the Mccookerybook and Rotifer duo gig there, but I'm not giving up on that one yet. I think they'll have to offer another flight. In other news (yes, I've been watching the REAL news and I don't think Johnson has resigned at all), I've spent the day fine-tuning the album tracks, taking out little clicks and whooshes. I've had to stop because I got so tired. I did go out for a walk to clear my head, because mixing my music has become almost an addiction. It's going to be an 11-track CD with three bonus tracks (which I haven't 'inspected' yet), called Drawing On My Dreams. That's because I dream so many songs. I'm probably dug in for the rest of the weekend doing this so I can send it to Ian Button to be mastered on Monday. Last night I went to the launch of ex-UEL student Paul Hanford's book, Coming to Berlin It was cathartic to see a graduate from the music degree do so well and it was great to see him again, and an added bonus to see Vanessa Lobon and Colm Forde from Doc'n'Roll and have a good chinwag with them. 


Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Last Couple Of Days Of Mixing

Not long to go now! I have an album title, a potential sleeve design and I'm hoping it will be ready to master on Monday!

From The Country Soul Sessions

We had a wonderful night on Sunday at The Country Soul Sessions. Paul Handyside was on first and it was nice to hear his songs again. Drew Morrison and the Darkwood followed and if I'm not mistaken I heard a new direction in one or two of their songs- moving towards the soul sound. Their guitarist is great- what an energy bomb! Such enthusiasm- it was completely infectious. We all really enjoyed playing, even though we couldn't see the sea from Soho. We were a bit tighter, with no wind buffeting us, but I did miss the child dancers! I love playing The Country Soul Sessions- there's a great vibe down there and it's one of the places I've always felt able to go to on my own, which is testament to its friendliness and the fact that Drew and Alex consistently put on really great bands. Next McCookerybook and Rotifer gig is at the Vienna Popfest on the 3rd of August, where it'll be just to two of us, and then I'm playing solo at Rebellion in Blackpool and so is Gina- and we'll be showing the She Punks film there too. 


Another Resignation

I got there first. I resigned from my job on Friday.

Friday, July 01, 2022

Tomorrow on Whitstable Beach! We're On At New Time Of 7.45


So Close To Completion...

I reckon one more day of tweaking and fiddling, and I'll be there. I had fourteen tracks, which I have edited down to eleven. I've got a title and have decided on a front cover image. I'm working on the running order, and it's beginning to make sense. Oh boy, I've learned such a lot about recording and mixing: none of it theoretical, all practical. I know my songs inside out and have been micro-managing the little in-between noises. There are gigs this weekend: Whitstable seafront tomorrow, and The Spice of Life in Soho early evening on Sunday, both as McCookerybook and Rotifer with a full band. Hooray!