Sunday, May 28, 2023

Whitley Bay This Morning

What unbelievable fun! So much to write... I mustn't forget the dog who had been taken into a cubicle in the Ladies' loos and who poked it's mutt out under the door to investigate what was going on on the other side of it. Very funny. Just a whiskery nose.

Here's Robert and me, playing.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Glastonwick on Friday 2nd

I'll also be playing a solo set at Glastonwick, Attila the Stockbroker's small but perfectly formed festival in Sussex, on the Friday night next week.


What Were We Rehearsing For?

This! McCookerybook and Rotifer are playing on Sunday morning at 11 a.m.

Make sure you're up to see us!

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Rehearsal with Robert

We've done four solid hours of rehearsal for next Sunday's gig at The Whitley Bay Carnival. We are including a couple of solo songs each, augmented by some playing or backing vocals. I've lost my voice, just like Fiona Bruce the new reader on the six o'clock bulletin. 

She's lost hers because I've turned the sound down, since she's a dastardly Tory and I don't need any more right-wing punishment than that meted out by everyday life in UK PLC. Is it just me, or does she actually sound pleased by the bad news that she's delivering?

Speaking of delivering, I sent a framed embroidery to a gallery in Bath yesterday, and a print to an ex-colleague who ordered one of a limited edition that I had printed of the garden snail. I'm hoping the Post Office does its stuff and delivers everything safely.

It's complicated living a guitartist's life: booking travel, dodging rail strikes (yes, I still support them), booking accommodation, making sure that I don't forget my guitar, that I have clean clothes and a toothbrush, that people know I'll be playing where I'm playing, and remembering to eat.

Which reminds me...

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Writing a Song

It's been about six months since I wrote a song, apart from helping a little boy write a song about dolphins at half term in the Hub in West Kensington. Drawing has kept me occupied and preoccupied, with a fair amount of political protest too.
In between bouts of spring cleaning (goodbye moths in the house, goodbye rats in the back yard, who someone seems to have sorted out at the beginning of their rat-run), I've sat with my guitar and put chords to one of the melodies that I dreamed a few weeks ago.
Writing melodies first is hard because you then have to fit words to them. Thinking of words first is much easier, but I've taken to typing them into my phone and they feel as though they have disappeared into that greedy little electronic thing. I put a little notebook into my bag yesterday to stop that from happening.
Having excess melodies was useful when I was working with Robert, because I could just give them to him as starters for songs he could finish. Same with him and me, I think. Anyway, he sent me his new album to listen to and it's got some really lovely songs on it. I sang backing vocals to a few of them, Amelia Fletcher did some and so did Kenji. It's got a nod in the direction of French film music, Jacques Brel and all sorts of other delicious audio ingredients. There will be a launch gig in October.
In other news, I am preparing for one of my embroidered artworks to be shown at Bath Fringe, which is tricky for various reasons. I'm going to sit and begin a new embroidery while I'm invigilating as part of the art. That's a rhyme of the time, BTW. 

Saturday, May 13, 2023


This week has zigzagged through all sorts of different zones. I'd been expecting to be recording but the change of plan meant there was time to reboot my eBay account, and also to embark on a massive house cleaning exercise, which of course meant massive house dirtying first. That's still in progress. There's an enormous full bin bag in the bathroom, boxes of moth-eaten stuff in the kitchen, and new curtains in the bedroom with hand-stitched curtain tape (I don't possess a sewing machine).

On Wednesday evening I went to Iklectik in Lambeth to see Gina play, with Marie accompanying her. An improvising night, she used the opportunity to try out some new material, which sounded very promising. Alas, her computer said 'no' twice, but there was enough there to herald some great new songs. Afterwards, Anat Ben David and Atsuko Kamura (plus two other women) played a wonderful set that showcased both their different skills and the variety of sounds that can be used as vehicles for songs. One of the women in the group has a fabulous singing voice, note perfect and rich of timbre; but Atsuko and Anat's songs also suited their vocalising beautifully. I was mesmerised. there were lots of people there that I knew: Gina's husband Mike, Lee (who was making a recording in the front row), Nadia from Dubais with her friends from Portland, Yumi from UEL... it was busy! I left after the first two sets to get back home in the chilly May night air. Cold, innit?

Thursday was more cleaning and clearing: it's slow work. I found all sorts of 'lost' things, and didn't find others. On Friday morning I attended an online Union meeting, and was heartened to see that there are 30 current and ex-employees who are determined to address the poor way we were/are treated by UEL.

In the afternoon, I went to Hackney to post off a print and take along another drawing to be scanned. On the way home I had to double back because a tree had fallen down on the tube line and it was closed. It was nice though- I travelled partly by bus, and from a vantage point on the upper deck, watched a barber contentedly eating a banana between clients.

Today, south of the river Thames, I saw a bagpiper in full Highland dress coming out of St Thomas's Hospital, wheeling what must have been his bagpipes behind him on a trolley. Must have been going to the loo: I heard the strains later on through the crowds of tourists. Wandering along to the Garden Museum in Lambeth, we chanced on a bargello embroidery workshop being run as part of London Craft Week.

We sat at a long table flanked by friendly strangers, pulling strands of wool and sewing with thick needles. As we chatted, A young woman talked to us about her MA research on tourist travellers taking part in local craft activities, and a woman opposite suddenly realised that I'm the person who had done the drawings in the gallery in West Brompton that she'd been walking past. It was heartwarming- she said that people had told her about me. Nice not to be forgotten!

It's Eurovision tonight. I've got the crisps and the chocolate ready to scoff, my ears are tuned and I'm ready to go!

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

What's Eurovision?

I used to think of as many ways as possible to stimulate people to write songs, both in my University lecturing and in the workshops that I used to run for and with various people. One year, I asked a University group to write (for fun, as an exercise in working to a brief), potential UK submissions to the contest.

None of them had heard of it- none of them. It was so tortuous trying to explain the contest and its history to them, that I just gave up and got them to do something else instead. I wonder if they've heard of it now?

Monday, May 08, 2023


Thank you to Stuart and the Young 'Un for their patience and skill in hanging the framed portraits in the gallery in April. They were calm, knowledgeable and humorous: just who I needed at the time. I'd been told that I couldn't drill into the brickwork and put in screws.

'Right, the first thing we need to do is to drill into the brickwork and put in some screws', said Stuart.

There was no arguing with a man with a laser, a drill and a tape measure. Lightning quick, the job was done, and the walls were covered with my drawings. They'd even picked the lot up from the Community Centre, a task that had seemed impossible to me and my foldy trolley from Robert Dyas.

All hail handymen, and everyone else who helps us out when we need them. The Young Un's a talented artist, too.

Sunday, May 07, 2023

L'Age D'Or at The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras Church

I've had a couple of weeks of catching up on art exhibitions: the Rosetti exhibition at Tate Britain, Gilbert and George's exhibition gallery off Brick Lane, which warrants a posting of it's own, Andy Warhol's fabrics at the Fashion and Textiles museum (beautifully presented but not really worth the entrance charge), and yesterday, this exhibition that features work by Gaye Black, amongst a plethora of modern surrealists.

Gaye talked me through the 3-D collage she had on display alongside her prints. The story behind the objects added a whole new layer to the work itself, and I offered to give her a small bird's skull to use one day. Pauline Murray was down from Newcastle, and both Gaye and me have been given copies of Pauline's forthcoming autobiography to read and comment on. Eric, who looks after Gaye's printing and so on, was there too and we had a convivial afternoon.

It's the perfect context for Gaye's work to be exhibited amongst; there are drawings, films, installations, small sculptures and collages, all set out in the murky stone-walled crypt that reminded me of the Vault in Brighton where we all used to rehearse in punk times. It's a big exhibition, it's free, and it's on till Monday and well worth a visit. There are some really skilled artists represented here. 

Here's the link to the 'about' page:

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Snail from Sunday Drawing Club on Wednesday


Lloyd and Bean, Bush Hall

It was impossible not to go to this gig: Lindy Morrison on drums, and Robert Lloyd exploring his interest in country music. I went with Gina and Mike, and everyone was out: Lee, Caryne and Dave, Simon Rivers, Terry Edwards, in fact almost the entire London Set, out on a Tuesday instead of a Saturday.

The evening kicked off with David Lance Callaghan and his fantastic drummer Darren. Lindy was watching from the wings with a blissfully happy smile on her face. They started off with a clutch of new songs, and then played songs that I was more familiar with including She's The King Of My Life. I'm an admirer of David's guitar style, which is similar in some ways to some of my own playing but with way more energy and much more reliance on the lowest 'E' string, which I believe he tunes to 'G'. I'm no adventurer with tunings but I love it when other people do it. I bought his CD to listen to, as I've seen him live several times since being on the same bill in Lewes last year.

We were sitting next to some people who live close to Robert Lloyd who'd come down specially from Brum for the gig. Their excitement was really infectious, and I think the entire audience was completely intrigued by what they were about to hear. Robert looked really excited too, and the band struck up their first couple of songs with a rather shambolic beginning from the twin vocalists: I felt that at first they looked and sounded like a Venn Diagram whose circles hadn't yet overlapped. But very soon they joined in the middle, Janet meeting Robert's relaxed approach and Robert meeting her professionalism, and the gig took off and became a seamless overlap between two artists who live in different worlds. 

The band was superb. Mark Bedford played bass and there were two guitarists, one of whom (I think it was Mark Birchmore) was well up on rockabilly and country licks. I'd been listening to Chet Atkins as a housework soundtrack earlier in the day so my ears were well attuned to what he was playing, which was just brilliant: sharp, rhythmic and creative, at the same time as referencing all sorts of retro guitar heroes of the fifties era. 

And Lindy- I don't think I've ever heard her play so well. How odd to discover that she is a perfect country/hillbilly drummer! The discipline of the backing musicians mean that Robert and Janet could be playful and informal, though at certain points they pulled together tightly to sing some absolutely perfect renditions of their songs. The songs themselves are really interesting. Because of Janet's vocal style, they at first appear as though they are country songs but then they suddenly swerve, at times throwing in the odd Bacharach-type chord that references something entirely different. None of them are anything like Nightingales songs, which are like wonderful miniature storms in enormous teacups. These stretched-out, elegant songs allowed space for Robert to sing with his full range and really deliver the words with sculptured clarity. By the end, the conversation between Janet and Robert had settled into a warm and funny groove.

Verdict: a fabulous gig, and lovely to see a different facet to Rob Lloyd's writing, set off in the context of a bunch of exceptionally skilled musicians and songwriters who are confident enough to play in an entirely different playground. I felt inspired, and started writing a new song today. Hooray!