Friday, March 05, 2010

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She's a Punk Rocker

Last night's excursion to The Merchant's Hall in Islington was fun; Gina and Caroline were there, and we watched Zillah Ashworth's film, She's a Punk Rocker, sitting on a motley collection of old chairs. The sound wasn't up to much (strange speakers I suppose) and it was bloody freezing until Zillah's partner Sid fixed the enormous gas heater blaster thing which then roared like mad and made it even harder to hear, but the film looks great- it's really colourful and does the whole subject justice.
Afterwards, Ginger Baker's daughter Ginette read from her book. The microphone wasn't up to much either and in several people's opinion the reading went on for too long; one audience member told her afterwards that she had reduced punk to just fashion and f*cking which made it just the same as any other subculture. I think she had; but then I also think that it was the sort of subculture that had room for everybody.
That was the point.
So for her , if it was just about finding a sexy boyfriend and dressing up, that was OK.
Her Mum was great- she came and took the microphone afterwards and talked about her other daughter, who played guitar in Zillah's band, and who was constantly being asked by guys she was trying to be in a band with if she was 'foxy'. The Mum was incensed by this, and articulated her feelings very well. Gina wants to interview her for her documentary!
We met one of the artists; he told us that he painted the right hand side of the paintings and his partner painted the left side. What a great idea! He was rather pleased, as he was obviously a better painter than his partner; he let us discover this for ourselves, which I thought was very funny.
Rob Ayling, who runs Voiceprint (that's the label that releases my records) was sitting in front of us, much to my surprise; but he's distributing Zillah's film on Voiceprint and that's why he was there.
We talked about crying when cats get put down, which wasn't much of a business-like conversation, but the whole evening was slightly surreal, with a black labrador wandering around trying to get in the photos.
The chap sitting next to him was probably famous: as he left he said 'I've got to go, I'm producing Leonard Cohen's new album at the moment'. That is the sort of thing probably-famous people say, isn't it?
This is how I know I'm not; the thing I say is 'I've got to go, I haven't had any dinner yet and I've got last night's curry in the fridge'. If that changes, you will know I have crossed the divide and become a star.

The photographs are of Zillah and Ginette (and the paintings- you can see my fave of John Cooper Clarke and the budgie), and Gina sitting next to Gina, painted by the left-hand-side artist, which is why the painting looks like somebody else.
These screenings and talks are fun. Go if you get the chance.
Oh yes! I am supporting John Cooper Clarke and Don Letts in Hereford later this year! I am really excited. Years ago, Helen and the Horns supported John Cooper Clarke at Ronnie Scotts. I remember Molly Parkin pursuing him hotly, and, I think, rather a snog going on. The man is a genius, and put him next to Don Letts- that's a dream gig to see, let alone to play at.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


I had always wanted a tortoise, until later I found out that you have to keep them in a run that they can't see out of, and that seemed cruel to me.
Anyway, now I don't have so much as a blade of grass in the back yard.
But when the Offsprogs were little, I dreamed that I worked in the nursery part of a primary school, and they were giving away their tortoise.
How exciting! Of course I volunteered to take it, thinking how excited the Offsprogs would be.
Suddenly, in a moment of self- awareness, I realised that it was all just a dream.
'Aha', I said, 'This is all a dream and although I can even feel the scaly tortoise in my hands, as soon as I wake up, it will be gone and I will have no present to give to the Offsprogs'.
'Aha', said the dream back to me, 'This is a special sort of dream in which if you are given something to take away with you, it is actually real, and it's there when you wake up.'

So, of course, I believed the special dream; and so, of course, I woke empty-handed and sheepish with no tortoise to give to my little girls.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Couple of years ago, there was a terrible clattering commotion at the cat-flap in our kitchen door.
Alarmed, I stood up from where I had been working at the kitchen table, and went to have a look.
Enter the Whippersnapper, triumphantly bringing his booty home for his family: a dead mouse... complete with the whole mousetrap that had deaded it.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Goodbye, Whippersnapper

Monday, March 01, 2010

On Being Sarah Cox

Out in the yard, helplessly moving plant pots around like blank chess pieces, I overheard Radio One. 
It's being listened to by the adjacent builders.
How can this be? 
Sarah Cox, standing in for Fearne Cotton, teases the (male) listeners with constant references to breasts, as though she is a man herself, and a misogynist one at that. 
She must be utterly desperate to be one of the lads: I have never heard such pleading to not be a woman in my life.
She interviews someone called Davina (could it be McCall? I hope not! Surely she has more sense!). Davina is riding a bicycle for Sports Relief and, over and over again, tells us how sweaty she is in her lycra gear. This seems infinitely more important to her than raising money for a charity; did she work out this priority for herself or did the producers of the show persuade her to demean herself in this way?
And the BBC is axing BBC 6, the station that plays proper music to proper listeners.
That's what happens in a recession, isn't it? The tw*ts return from the wings, triumphantly brushing aside any sort of social progress, and if you don't go with their flow you get stuck in a backwater and labelled boring and worst of all, 'a feminist'.
Well, a 'Sarah Cox' is not a good thing to be, is it?

Two Interesting Articles

Cazz Blaise's article in the f-word on women and punk: the intro
Caroline Coon blogging about images of women musicians on British stamps

Sunday, February 28, 2010

I Am Sad

In the matter of a couple of days, Offsprog 2 has not only shaken hands with Johnny Depp (he's already married, Offsprog 2, you can't have him) and gone to the Tory Party Conference (they are not allowed to heckle and have told they will be removed from the building if they do).
Meanwhile, I have spent this afternoon in distraction therapy, recording a new version of On New Year's Eve which is up on Myspace.
Myspace is annoying me at the moment: they have tried so hard to be Facebook and forgotten that they are THE musician's site and it's how most of us make network and contact each other. It's how I met Martin too!
But both me and Katy have noticed that our song counters jam and don't count after a couple of hours. She thinks its because they have to pay royalties and don't want to. But I have never received a royalty from Myspace; I just think they are so busy adding games, apps and other silly Facebook-a-likes that they have lost the plot.
Bit like me really.
I can't settle: Whippersnapper is not doing too well and I am dreading losing another little familiar.
Us white witches need our magical furry friends to sing to and laugh at.
I have even forgiven him for eating a huge irreparable hole in the back of my favourite jacket when I got back from Scotland last Monday.
I'm wandering round the house waiting for this evening's call from the vet; like policemen they get younger every day and sympathy from a young woman barely out of her teens is poignant in its authenticity.
I am sad.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Delta 5 and The Au Pairs

If anyone knows the whereabouts of Jane or Lesley from the Au Pairs, and/or any of Delta 5, please can you contact me at

Not Slumping This Saturday

Oh, not this Saturday!
I lost yesterday afternoon entirely, as Whippersnapper is terribly ill and has had to go back to the vets. The cure for pancreatitis is to starve the cat, and the cure for diabetes is to feed it. Somewhere between, I hope he will get well.

So today- well, I am preparing a mega-budget for an archive of women's music and memories, in conjunction with Debi Withers, and that is going to take up a lot of today.
Meanwhile, I have been colour-coding the clothes on the clothes rail, which has been amazingly therapeutic. I have no room for a wardrobe, and have to keep clothes acquisition to the minimum as a result. But sorting through what I have results in new combinations and almost feels like buying new clothes. The chest of drawers that wouldn't go up the stairs in this mini-house is going into storage next week and I have to find somewhere to put six pairs of denim jeans and a selection of vintage woollens. Hmm.
Offsprog Two is hovering, or should that be hoovering, but I've just been in her room and observed her habit of storing clothes everywhere but her cupboard, so she's on a hiding to nothing today.

I have started to read Zoe Street Howe's book on the Slits, Typical Girls, and it's providing a lot of food for thought- the cosmopolitan make-up of those early punk bands, for instance, and the surprisingly manipulative Joe Strummer. I read Marion Leonard's book Gender and the Music Industry last week and was particularly taken by the way the Spice Girls reverted Girl Power to the woman's right to choose her make-up and shoes!

Later, I have a super plan. Gina sent me a link to a yodelling video, and I will begin today. I am certain that the meaning of life, or one of them anyway, is stored in the ability to yodel. I may not make the Tyrolean Yodelling Championships, but hope to edge a micro- millimetre closer to being able to mimic Dolly Parton!

Friday, February 26, 2010


It was a cold and rainy February night; I left the maps at home by accident (the resident artist pulled out at the last minute and I wanted to paper the walls with maps) and the felt pens (for drawing on the paper tablecloths); the home made raspberry muffins got distracted by an animals-on-holiday fancy dress party in Brighton, but there we were in the end: Martin Stephenson, Viv Albertine, Acton Bell, Katy Carr, Gina Birch and me, with a select audience and a row of stools on the stage.
We played three sets consisting of a song each, sitting in a row and mixing our songs; we all made the occasional mistake, because these were new songs, but that was OK because this was Club Artyfartle, for people to feel comfortable playing and showing new stuff.
Martin started off, playing his positive and happy songs, and Acton Bell followed on, with a Beatles song she'd heard on the radio in her dream and then realised when she woke that she had made it up herself; then Viv sang a trio of spiky and sharp songs, playing some mean guitar licks and adding a rock slant into the proceedings. I was next, singing Britishly pickin' stuff, and Katy followed, sounding European and mysterious, her strong voice reaching to the corners of the room. She left early, as she had to rise at 4 a.m. to go to Poland.
It wonderful to sit there surrounded by different styles of music, feeling the different emotions of each different performer. Hats off to the song writers for going along with the unusual format and being brave enough to mix it up and go for it: and to the audience for enjoying it all and being so warm!
Moment of the night was Gina's presentation on Birchbags, her boiled wool bag project. She was concise and funny (especially the bag with the red cross on it 'for emergencies'), unpacking bag from within bag, giving Mary Poppins a run for her money and keeping the audience mesmerised.
Diana heckled goodnaturedly from the door, Sandie (aka Foolish Girl) and Val Phoenix took photos, and my Champagne Friend turned up; it was a success, I think.
I have much to learn: a mailing list consisting almost entirely of song writers is not good for populating a club. Of course, a proportion of them are unlikely to come either because they have other gigs on, or they are grumpy about not being asked to perform. I also shouldn't be so secretive about who's playing; I could have at least listed some of the performers. And another time, I will make damn sure I have a poet and an artist.
But generally, I was delighted, so much so that I didn't sleep a wink last night thinking about it. It was a massive privilege being in such company and great fun to mix such styles; the person-pod was on shuffle.
Where and when else do you get to hear such varied and interesting songwriters playing together?
If you didn't make it, check out:
I have Viv Albertine's new CD and I will review it later this weekend.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Artyfartle Review Tomorrow

Reviewing tomorrow: Club Artyfartle featuring (cast in order of performance) Acton Bell, Martin Stephenson, Acton Bell, Viv Albertine, Katy Carr, Gina Birch, and me.
working to day, giggging tonight (The World's End, Finsbury Park, onstage 9.15)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bird Thought For The Day

Shoulda stayed in Africa.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I Don't See This Out Of My Window Any More

Saturday Slumping

Sometimes you have a day that doesn't map out the way you expected it to.
The morning took an age to rev up; I'd been hoping to rove darn sarf to see a friend but realised that I hadn't made the hearty stew I was planning to make for McMum (I'm going to visit her tomorrow as she's broken her arm), and I was also planning to go to the ICA to hear a colleague's talk on Arthur Russell, the king of disco.
But a visit to the ICA website told me that the tickets were too costly for a woman of my meagre means, so I'm going there in my imagination instead, and I'm visiting my pal by phone later on.
Meanwhile, the stew's been bubbling for a while, and Whippersnapper is delighted as he can soak up my body warmth for a little longer. I think he is a snake or a lizard covered in fur and pretending to be a cat, actually.
Club Artyfartle is bowling along; I bought the paper tablecloths for the audience to doodle on (the idea was to exhibit them next time around). The line-up is myself, Katy Carr, Martin Stephenson, Acton Bell and one more who wishes to do it privately, all playing brand new songs. Gina Birch will be showing the banners she has sewn for a film project, and I am hoping to have a poetry reading too.

Martin's going to start a club in Gosforth called Club Tornado and he's asked me to design a poster for it.
He's made a very funny film starring himself, his mate Davey Cowan, assorted people who called round while they were filming it (the electricity man and the postman) and my lovely red BSA Bantam, out in the fresh air for the day. The film is made by Ali Macleod, and you can see it at