Monday, August 29, 2022


#sundayafternoondrawing of two chaps refuelling a miniature railway engine at the 2022 Flamstead Scarecrow Festival

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

The Ability To Lose Earrings

I have got lots of lovely pairs of earrings, which is a good thing. Even before the pandemic I was good at losing them- when tucking my hair behind my ears, taking off my jumper, moving my bag from one shoulder to the other... even in my house, a bit like those socks that just-one-sock disappear and you have no idea where to.

I have been doing an earring audit, because during the pandemic the ability to lose them ramped up considerably when they fell off when I was putting on or taking off my mask. I had been wearing the best ones to cheer myself up: no point in wearing lipstick under all that cloth, and it made me feel dressed up in a more subtle way than 'all dressed up and nowhere to go', even though there was, in fact, nowhere to go during the lockdowns.

I can wear odd-sized gold hoops quite happily, but the fantastic bolo-tie type bull's head looks damn silly hanging on its little hook all by itself. Or maybe it doesn't. A long time ago, I deliberately knitted odd socks to wear because I thought it was silly wearing matching socks just because you had two feet. They're not twins, are they? They are mirror images of each other. A little boy and his mum followed me down the street once, with him telling his mum how silly I was not to have noticed that my socks were different colours.

From now on, wearing odd earrings is de rigeur in my world. I lost those socks ages ago (both of them), but I'll continue to wear odd earrings until I've lost the odd one of each pair too- then I'll smile.


No birds, apart from the occasional robin or blackbird, used to come into my back yard because it is so small and dark.

The people over the back fence (against planning permission, bonfire of rules etc. etc.) built a huge loft extension that stared into my kitchen constantly. I could even see them in bed until I posted a note through their door to tell them, and eventually they put blinds up. I still knew they could peer straight into my house, and so a few years ago I planted a tree- a white birch. Apparently birch trees don't destroy house walls in the ways that other trees do, and they grow quickly as they establish themselves.

It's grown fast and green-leafy, and now my back yard is private. Fleas4U, the neighbourhood Bad Cat, makes rarer and rarer appearances, and now (partly because I have a bird feeder) the garden is full of bossy sparrows who even ask for more seeds by lining up along the gutter and chirruping, and blue tits who have a lovely song. Fat wood pigeons waddle in the ground harvesting the remains that the sparrows have dropped, flustering and flapping off when I go out there to pick the miraculous tomatoes that seem to have managed to grow despite a dearth of daylight.

One bird feeder is susceptible to squirrels, and I put it on the bedroom windowsill. It took the sparrows a long time to (a) find it and (b) work out how to helicopter up to reach it, but sure enough they did. Little packing noises drift in on the early morning air. There was even a scruffy crow there one morning, jabbing at the seeds.

I had to shut the door when I was recording my album because it was so riotously noisy out there, but it was natural noise and I love it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The Value Of Saying Sorry

Saying sorry is a power struggle, isn't it? I mean the sincere apology, not the one that bats away responsibility. No matter how seemingly insignificant or potentially devastating the activity has been that warrants the apology, the person who should apologise has to put aside their pride, their sense of being put-upon, their guilt and their desire not to be in the wrong. That's a whole pile of burdens to cast off, before then making themselves vulnerable to whatever punishment (if any) is going to come their way. No wonder it is so hard to do: it's an admission of guilt and an owning-up to something, whether an incident or a character flaw, that a person might not like to recognise in themselves. We are used to being judged by other people, not judging ourselves and accepting that we may need to change.

I'm not moralising- I'm musing!

Monday, August 22, 2022


It's quiet. No gigs, no excursions, no plans. Just peace, and a little melancholy. This is the perfect track for the afternoon.


Flamstead Scarecrow Festival

Next year I'm going to go dressed as an enormous crow, to see if I can scare the scarecrows.

It was surreal to see a red kite hovering so close to the village that you could clearly see the feathers on its chest. Not scared at all by more than 50 scarecrows!

Friday, August 19, 2022

Upcoming Gigs

More to be confirmed and organised: ticket links to come. I'm getting rusty with lettering after such a lot of time out! N.B. the Middlewich gig is the 12th not the 10th.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022


So much has happened, and is happening: a blizzard of gigs, cancelled gigs, rebooked gigs... and of course, leaving my University job and taking a leap into new waters. 

I am leaving because of a 'last straw' situation. For all it's statements about equality and diversity, ever since I started there I have been subjected to a constant stream of misogyny and in one case, a sexual assault. The very first time this happened I reported it to the then course leader, who completely gaslighted the situation. I realised through watching his interaction with another female member of staff that he was going to hush up anything else that happened. This hushing up continued with later course leaders for fourteen years, with a short break when there was a more enlightened course leadership situation. You'd be astonished and appalled at what has gone on. 

The fact that outside my job I have had a lot of respect, not just from the music community but also from the academic community for my writing, was a massive support. However, this year I have witnessed a new member of staff experiencing a very similar situation to mine, and when I protested on their behalf, the hushing up was deafening.

I have decided to walk.

I have a few months to wait before I reach retirement age, but I'm so glad I have handed in my notice. Last year a pro rata bonus was given to all staff because of the extra work we did during the pandemic. Not much at all, but a token amount that helped with morale. This year, staff like me who have been there longer and who are on an earlier version of the employment contract have been excluded from it. Therefore the more experienced staff, and older staff, have been discriminated against. Can you imagine how it would feel to work side by side, doing the same amount of work or more than colleagues, and knowing this? 

I'm glad I have decided to walk.

There is infinitely more, including a member of staff who's doing a PhD using fellow members of staff as guinea pigs without our consent in writing: such bad ethics. It would not surprise me if the whole University collapsed... but it won't, because all of these working practices are part of the spirit of the age.

I am walking!

Now I will be a musician and illustrator, just as I was before I entered academia. I will do some lecturing at more honourable institutions that I've freelanced at before, with more enlightened managers, and better due diligence. I will also campaign against discrimination at any opportunity I have, and I will be able to set aside the heaviness that you carry when you are subjected to discrimination yourself.

So on to music... my brother James McCallum has been writing songs for the better part of a year. We are going to do two gigs together so he can play his stuff, and at his suggestion we will be playing one or two (or three) Chefs songs. He was one of the guitarists in the band, and I've occasionally played them live, so we'll work on them as guitar versions. We have two gigs, at The Betsey Trotwood on 16th of November and also supporting Wasbo Derek at The Prince Albert in Brighton in the afternoon of 26th November.

It also looks like me and Robert will be playing together supporting Darren Hayman's band Hefner at the Ivy House in October: more news on that soon, plus other gigs to come. I need to do one of those posters, don't I? But before then I have to send off the new CD to be manufactured. The artwork is ready, the tracks have been mastered, but I needed a holiday with the Offsprogs, and we've just done that.

Oh, the restorative power of tattie scones!

Monday, August 08, 2022

Adventures of a Trolley

While Pauline was playing, an earnest-looking man walked across the front between the audience and the stage, pushing a trolley with empty flat aluminium serving pans on it. Oblivious to the punky crowd, he was on a mission. 

Several minutes later, he crossed again in the opposite direction, this time trundling the same trolley with identical pans full of mashed potato covered in clingfilm. He had the same focused, intent expression on his face. Nothing could have been happening, as far as he was concerned: no music, no punks, just his journey across the room with the mashed potato.

His final journey, during Gina's set, was to return in the original direction, again with a trolley with empty pans on it. Was he real? Was he a performance artist doing a piece called Mashed Potato Journey? Was he a figment of my imagination? I've been wondering about this ever since it happened. 

Or didn't.

True Punks

It was unnerving to go on stage after a ruffty tuffty band called the Barstool Preachers who had the room stompin' and yelling, but that's the way the cookie crumbled and Gaye, her pal Eric, Gina and Darren-from-Bolton sat in the front for my set and made everything seem OK. Attila the Stockbroker showed up too- my old friend from the 1977 Brighton punk days. In the Spanish Village d├ęcor and armed with a Telecaster (UK version), I sang through my songs and was astonished to see a woman picking up the Beachwalk chorus and singing along with it straight away. I was far too tired to be nervous (so knackered that I gave my Rebellion booklet away to Pam Hogg and don't even remember doing it), and anyway I mean my songs and they are true to how I feel. Quite a few people had left after the band and I had a more chilled crowd who were very appreciative.

Pauline Murray was on next, dressed in a fabulous pink original Biba shirt. She was nervous at first but got into her stride very soon, playing a mixture of Penetration and Invisible Girls songs plus some from her lockdown album, which I really enjoyed. She ended with a rousing version of Don't Dictate and got a huge round of applause for that one.

Finally in our girl's club, Gina set up to play and after a couple of teething problems with the computer (#nevertrusttechnology), she put in a fine and rousing set of angry electronica that gave everyone's brains something to chew on. Good! Always, my favourite song is I'm Glad I'm Me Today and I'm glad it made it into the set for the gig.

At such a deep punk festival, what did people think? We hung around to listen to Barnstormer, Attila's band, for a bit, and leaned against a floral pillar wondering, until a very punk-looking gentleman crossed the room to talk to us. He asked us if we spoke French, and in a mixture of French and English, he told us how much he had enjoyed our music. From the heart, he spoke: 'You are true punks!'.

That's good enough for me. The French punk spoke it, so verily it is true!


I wanted birds in my little dark yard, so ten years ago I planted a white barked birch at the end of the yard because birds like birch trees. As it was growing, no birds came, but at last this year they have discovered the bird feeder and it gets noisy out there. When I go away I fill it up, and when I get back it's empty.

Yesterday when I got back not only was it empty, it had been positively scoured. There were no sparrows to be seen or heard, and it did cross my mind that they had deserted me. I refilled it, and waited.

A scout was sent. I heard a chirp or two last night. Another scout came to confirm it, and returned to the flock to let them know that the seeds had been replenished.

This morning there's a cacophony out there, and at least a third of the seeds have gone already. Chirp, chirp, chirp... and there is also water for them to wash and drink, a tin tray that I top up from time to time. They stand on its edges in a circle (sparrows like circles: ever seen them standing in a circle around a dandelion plant, feasting on its leaves?).

I was going to write more about last week's gigs but I wrote about birds instead. I'm still processing the gigs!

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Breakfast With Rock Gods

What a full-on week it's been! There may be time to write about some of it this coming week when I'm on holiday in Scotland (holiday! holiday! Scotland! Scotland!)

The title of the post is what one of our fellow B&B-ers said to us (they weren't there for Rebellion). Here, for now, are some photies (Scottish for photos, practicing) taken at Rebellion. Big thanks to Jennie, Gaye and of course Gina. There is so much to write but I'm so very tired, having been buzzing on adrenaline since Tuesday. This is a mad life, but it's a good one. 

These pictures are completely jumbled up- you'll see Pauline Murray, Gaye Black, Gina Birch, Don Letts, Pam Hogg, Rhoda Dakar and more here. Just about the only music I saw was Attila the Stockbroker's Barnstormer. He showed up and sat in the front row while I was playing which was sweet: right back in 1977 we played so many gigs with him and it's amazing to see him still around doing his stuff. And of course I watched Pauline and Gina's sets- the rest of it was talking and listening, and I learned loads, as well as becoming a complete fan of Pam Hogg. And even more of a fan of Rhoda's, who homes in on the truth like a laser. And at last, I managed to acquire one of Gaye's fabulous badges, after giving away all the others I'd bought.

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Wednesday, Theater am Spittelberg, Vienna

What an amazing theatre! What an amazing night! What an amazing audience!

It washy unit we started playing that I realised this was our first gig as a duo- but it worked, probably especially well at this gig, where people listened to every word and talked about it afterwards with us.

I'm off to Rebellion with Gina tomorrow, up early: just changing gear in every sense of the word.

Phew. A scorcher of a gig!

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Bas Jan, Gina Birch, Kate Stables at The Moth Club

This was Dexter Bentley's fundraising night and we battled through the muggy air to get there. I've never been to The Moth Club before and loved it's Youth Club feel, and amused regulars in the bar directing the young 'uns (ha!) to the right doorway. It has something of the air of The Brudenell Social Club, in Leeds, to it.

As we arrived, Bas Jan were finishing their set of mostly spoken-word songs, skilfully played and much appreciated by the audience.

Gina was next, and there was a wave of affection from the crowd as soon as she started. The discipline of recording her album with Youth has upped her skills as a vocalist no end- and soon the crowd were singing along lustily to her new material. She was excellent, warm and just as sparkly as the shiny background to the Moth Club stage.

We stayed for Kate Stables because we couldn't not, even though by now our collective temperatures had reached 200 degrees celsius. The crowd took a while to calm down, but Kate has the magical skills of silencing over-enthusiastic chaps by being quiet. Two songs in, everyone was totally with her. She played banjo and guitar with equal aplomb, and sings note-perfectly in a way that blends completely with her playing. 

What an inspiration!

Busy Day

Getting ready to go to Vienna today! 

Gideon Coe played 24 Hours last night, which I missed because I was at the resonancefm event at the Moth Club in Hackney to see Gina playing at Dexter Bentley's fundraiser. I'll post about that later if the day has enough hours. 

Meanwhile here is a pic of the Only Three Lads podcast that I did on Sunday, too.

Monday, August 01, 2022

About Women's Football

What is really so moving is the number of women reporting the fact that as young girls they were forbidden to play football at school, and seeing their joy and pride that finally it's become a game that they can 'own'. No bitterness, little anger- just celebration and hope for the future. And what graceful playing: proper teamwork, proper focus, a supportive manager. Now is the moment to see it all, because the big businesses are circling and licking their nasty, greedy chops. 

How can we fight back to stop them gutting the goodwill out of this sport as it thrives, and making the matches too expensive for so many people to attend? You can feel the profiteering sharks circling around...

I hope the strong will of the individual team members holds out against exploitation with the power of their collective force. Spirit of St Trinians!