Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Scared Of The Car Wash

Yesterday evening I went to Earl's Court for the exhibition by the third artist in residence, Adam Hennessey. Sol Sato (the second) was there and Kimberley (the next) was there too. The work was lovely and it was great to catch up with so many people. This is Alba's photo of us, standing in front of the huge Terrorism Unit. I wonder if they were watching us and trying to spy on our artiness?

Apart from that it's a weird limbo time: there are lots of gigs coming up but they're just not here yet. I'm still a little dazed from being ill, but decided to treat myself to a drive. I scarcely use the car because I'm so concerned about its environmental impact. It's really just for travelling outside London when the train 'won't do' for some reason, but apart from anything else, I wanted to see if I could still remember how to drive.

First of all I had to put some petrol in it, and I'd read that you could buy reasonably cheap(er) petrol about two miles away from here. While I was filling the tank, I noticed a car that had been in front of me disappearing around a corner- to a car wash! I didn't realise such things still existed, and since my car was covered in thick Saharan dust on top and creeping green algae from the bottom upwards, I decided to go for the forgotten thrill, and take it for a scrub.

I don't know whether it was post-Covid-lockdown heebiejeebies, but it was actually quite frightening when the aggressive foam slooshing and whacking rotary brushes attached the car from all sides. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry, but I was stuck there until it was finished, and eventually began to enjoy the noise almost as much as I used to when I was a kid.

Then it was off to the cheapest supermarket in the world to buy tinned tomatoes (sorry Waitrose, but you've got to do better and I can't stand your new self-scan tills that take up so much space, remove so much goodwill and chat, and result in a rope to prevent people shoplifting. Some disconnect there, eh?).

Lastly, I drove to Crews Hill in Enfield and fought through a forest of floral wellies, scented candles and beige conservatory furniture to buy a plant pot and some small evergreen plants for the hanging basket that once used to house a beautiful rosemary tortuosa, with squirly branches and lilac-coloured flowers in February. It gave up in the summer after a dry spell while I was away gigging; it was the last plant that I expected to expire. The flock of sparrows that tell me to feed them twice a day have started ripping up the coconut fibre lining of the basket and I need to re-inhabit it as quickly as I can. So plants.

Well, that was my day. I have realised that the only way I'm going to finish the many songs that I've started is to go away somewhere boring-but-nice and do it there. Fair enough, I'm rehearsing Helen and the Horns songs and also backing vocals for a couple of gigs that I'm doing with Robert, plus I've been ill... but I want to entertain myself with some new stuff. You'd think with the lack of anything to watch on TV there would plenty of time for all that creativity. But here I am writing a blog post, and I've been reading at least three charity shop crime thrillers a week. I wonder if I might eventually read all of them in the whole world?

Monday, September 25, 2023

Frieze Sculpture

I had energy today! Enough to visit the sculptures in Regent's Park. It was sunny, and the park was looking gorgeous, a proper showcase London Park with lots of bog-standard cheap plants and flowers planted in such a way that they looked a million dollars- very clever planting.

I didn't have enough brain cells to catch up on everything I needed to this week, but just feeling a tiny bit more clear headed was wonderful. Here are some photos of the sculptures. The life-like man was weird, but nowhere near as weird as the actual half-naked man who was round the other side of a set of shrubs standing stock still- I think sunbathing, but ultra-creepy anyway. 

The more brightly coloured and bigger the sculptures, the better they were, I thought.

Sunday, September 24, 2023


I've spent the past week under the watery daze of post-viral fatigue. A middle ear infection (how the hell did I get that?) has been plaguing me for about ten days. I've been having the most extraordinary dreams, needing to rest for a whole day if I go for a short walk, and have had the concentration of a mayfly.

I've been able to read crappy crime novels from the charity shop, and strangely enough I've started to write songs again, though I've no idea if they are any good or not.

Most things, I'm shunting forward week on week because I haven't got the concentration to do them.

This has happened before, about fifteen years ago, so I recognise the weird state. 

Peculiar things penetrate my consciousness: peculiar things like the odious Russell Brand who was never funny, and who was always repulsively creepy. From a long distance away, I watch what is happening and with resignation, remember the preponderance of People Like Him who have crossed my own path. There should be a stronger word than misogyny for his type, because they are intent on humiliating and destroying women as though we have no purpose or existence, apart from being vessels for men like that doing things like that to us.

Anyway, let's not dwell on the dark side! I have been burrowing through my archive and found all sorts of interesting things. Some photographs seem to have vanished without a trace though.

I've looked everywhere for decent Chefs recordings for the vinyl album we're going to bring out next year on Damaged Goods, and have found all I'm going to find. That will enter the pipeline as soon as I get more energy. 

I found all sorts of interesting DAT tapes which I'll have to get made into WAVs; things like my MA project Herms (like Hymns, only the Her version), which I could release if I can find a DAT player that doesn't eat up the tape like mine does.

That's enough for now.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Pauline Murray at Stereo

A while ago, the designer Russ Bestley got in touch with me to ask if I'd be interested in reading Pauline Murray's autobiography, Life's A Gamble, and writing a short review for the back cover. No question of it, yes!

I suppose everyone's life is unique, but Pauline's had a particularly extraordinary journey through life. There was so much here that I recognised, especially in the odd 'world' of the north east of England in the 1960s and 1970s. Poles apart in terms of background (although I had a bit of a shock to my system when I came south to Brighton Art College in the 1970s and discovered that I wasn't posh!), there is a particular 'thing' about the north east and the way it seems cut off from everything else that makes you either give up and stay there, or have to escape. 

My escape was to go to an art college as far away as I possibly could; Pauline's was to get together with a fellow musician, and make music as soon as she could- and go to as many gigs as she possibly could, too.

The book is a riveting read, and last night she talked through some more episodes of her life to a rapt and loving audience that included both her son and her daughter. In between stories of her life, she played songs from each different part of her musical journey, which worked very well to consolidate the changes that happened to her as she toured and recorded with different bands. She had a lovely guitar (I think it was a Martin) and was in very good voice, playing confidently and with a degree of strength that shows how powerful she has become as a solo artist.

After a break, Gaye Black joined her on stage  and did a short interview before throwing everything open to questions from the crowd. Gaye and Pauline are long-term friends, and you could tell from their rapport in this part of the evening. It was like sitting round a table with them and having a laugh.

I hadn't planned on staying so long (still on the planet Mars with antibiotics and earache) but it was so nice to be there that we managed to stay almost till the end. There were lots of interesting people to talk to: Pauline and her Offsprogs of course, Gaye and Eric, Simon McKay fresh from a theatrical production and still missing Fenella; Chris Plummer, and Steve from Retroman Blog with his partner Mayumi. It was a slightly different crowd from normal: I suppose the Penetration and Invisible Girls fans. My favourite story, especially because of writing about the attitudes of producers to female artists, was the recoridng of Pauline's vocal in an Invisible Girls track by Martin Hannett. She sang it in the vocal booth, got no feedback from him, and the track simply started again, so she sang it again- six times. Eventually, she went into the control room, and he was fast asleep under the mixing desk! 


Thanks, Pauline, for a really different and welcoming Sunday evening.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Stony Stratford

Pics only to start with- I've been unwell, and in fact got out of bed to do this gig. I'm bloody glad that I did- it was a really nice evening.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023


Trailblazer is the name I have just given to the small slug that lives in my house. In the morning, I can see where it's been, blazing a silvery trail across the rug. It's rather confused: there are many changes of direction. In this respect it's like many human beings that I know, including myself.

Stony Stratford Tonight!

Long time no see! Looking forward to seeing The Antipoet and other chums tonight!

Monday, September 11, 2023

Hamsto Derek

This is Hamsto, a drawing to be auctioned for the Wasbo Derek new album fund. I was sorry not to be able to play their afternoon fundraiser at the Prince Albert in Brighton, but I'm singing backing vocals for Robert at The Lexington that night (cue a lot of 'shouting in a bucket', not about Robert but about something else). 

Anyway- the fundraiser will be great- Vic Godard is also contributing a drawing and I believe Johny Brown is due to do a solo set, and there will be more music too. The date for that is Saturday 14th of October in the afternoon so do go along if you live in Brighton!

This weekend? I had a lovely lunch in York with Mick, June, Laura and Danny. Although it was a sweltering day, June had booked us into a restaurant in the old Assembly Rooms that was huge, airy and relatively cool. We managed to relax and catch up for a very nice three hours before I dashed through the heat to the train home. I'm looking forward to playing in Hull on the 5th of December again with Graham Beck at a record store called Wrecking Ball. I'll post the ticket link soon!

Friday, September 08, 2023

Gnome's Hat

I had such a huge list of things to do. It built up over the week and became almost unmanageable.

One of the things was to paint the garden gnome. I haven't really got much of a garden, just an overstuffed back yard, but the gnome had become more and more dilapidated and really needed a coat of paint.

I cracked open the red enamel and got to it: the right soft brush, a tissue, a little stirrer...

The paint was mad: dribbly, smelly and seemingly having a life of its own. Soon, it was all over my hands and everything I touched. It splashed on to my best green shorts, and while I was panicking about that and trying to tear off a bit of tissue and open the white spirit, the paintbrush flipped over and splashed the table and the floor. And a pen. Red paint dribbled all over the gnome's neck and I had to rest it on the side of the sink and stop it from dribbling on the sink too.

I had to put the shorts in the washing machine because the tissue disintegrated all over them because the white spirit dissolved it.

This was so exhausting that I went to lie down a bit. It was so hot.

I fell asleep for two hours, and as a consequence, didn't do anything else on the list.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Revisiting Portraits

The portrait that I did for the Nurse at the Demo got lost in the post so it seemed best to deliver it personally. It was an excellent chance to return to The Hub in West Kensington, and see some of my art workshop pals at the same time. Alas, the Nurse had been held up, but I had a quick chat with my pals and said hello to the current, third artist in residence, Adam, before heading up to Earl's Court to meet Offsprog Two for a cup of tea.

On the way there, I spotted Sol, the second artist in residence, in the gallery where I'd had my own show. Nestled in his paintings, he laughed as he told of a five-year old who'd come in and told him he should do better. Children are always blunt! I love his work, anyway.

Then just outside the tube station, a tube worker I thought I recognised was having a fag break. 'Excuse me, are you the person a did a portrait of, with your colleague?'. It was! he said thank you, and that the picture was on the wall of their rest room. They hadn't been there when I'd delivered their portrait and I was touched that they had hung it on the wall.

Here's Sol with his work: