Thursday, October 08, 2015


Hello! You found me!
However, you lost me before you even started building. It was the project manager, blocking the street on a rainy day with his huge brand-emblazoned umbrella, having a conversation with two cronies in a very loud voice.
One of the cronies noticed me trying to get past, and drew his attention to it.
Instead of apologising, he harangued me for not saying 'Excuse me' (I had) and very ungraciously let me pass.
You haven't got much to build on, really (excuse the pun).

The Business Pause

I have started to watch TV again. I wept when Nadiya won The Great British Bake-off.
I became ever more irritated by The Business Pause.
Whether in national or local government, police management or high-level NHS administration, the English language has become riddled with examples of The Business Pause.
Everything, says the talking head, usually with his hands held aloft in a chopping motion emphasising syllables, is a matter of This (pause...), That (pause...) and The Other (pause...).
One (pause...) two (pause...) three (pause...).
Just like that. Such gravitas! Watching, the TV viewer counts along with The Man In The Suit.
There are three things in the slogan, always, separated by a pause between each to make sure The Man In The Suit owns plenty of time.
How serious he is! How carefully he (and his scriptwriters) have considered the meaning of the words between the pauses!
How meaningless those words are! But we have listened, for they are carefully counted out for us and separated by The Business Pause.
"These buildings are being erected here to emphasise the insincerity (pause...), artifice (pause...) and contempt (pause....) that underline our company policy towards the housing problem."
I would much prefer to hear the pauses only, without the words in between.
Thank you, good night.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Giraffe Legs

I went to the shop today- what a victory. My legs are like new-born giraffe legs; they have been screwed on in the wrong direction. The shopping bag felt really heavy and I had to forget the four tins of beans for 90 pence (or whatever).
Luckily I seem to have missed most of the Tory conference coverage on TV. I have seen the occasional glimpse of their navy-blue fantasy on a silent screen, and the occasional smug white well-fed face mouthing nonsense like a goldfish with its earnest no-message.
One blessing is to forbid myself from writing any more post-it notes with instructions about what to to when I'm better. That wasn't helping, and when it reduced me to tears I decided to stop.
God bless lifeline phone calls from my daughters and Martin. Normal reassuring voices cut through the cacophony, shut down the sirens and piped in the outside world, which has managed to survive suspiciously well without me.
I told myself a dark short story, in which the billionaires of the world did away with us all to make life easier for themselves. But being psychopaths, they eventually did away with each other (what to do with all those guns!). The end.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Sofa Stone

I am a sofa stone, a lump of cloth-covered limbs bundled up in a ball. I move once an hour. I look at things in the room I'm in, that belong to a person who normally dashes around like a bagatelle ball colliding with people and ideas at a furious rate.
Even water tastes disgusting; and what's happened to it's texture? Gloopy and viscous, how can this stuff quench my thirst?
Outside the window, people make detailed and complicated noises, speaking at a rapid and breakneck speed. The hiss of falling rain duets with my tinnitus and pushes out the noise of the 1950s racing cars, red and yellow, that are whining and roaring round their track inside my head.
Unbelievably though, I think I may be getting better.

Monday, October 05, 2015


It appears that I'm one of the lucky few to have picked up an infection from the local hospital. There is nothing to be done but sit and wait for it to go away. Ho hum.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Almost Post-Poorly Posting

The ague has rattled my bones for the past five days and still has not completely left me. What a nightmare. I've experienced the full crapness of the 111 service, which although manned by perfectly nice call-centre personnel, I can imagine could leave an elderly or desperately-ill person to die in their home. Having to call three times to go through push button options every time is not a joke.
The idea is that the more you contact them, the higher need you are assumed to be in. The system doesn't take into account the fact that if you feel worse and worse, you might eventually become so incapacitated that you won't be able to phone them at all, in which case you are abandoned and left to your fate. Luckily Offsprog One came up from Brighton to come to the hospital with me; I'd taken a turn for the worse after Offsprog Two left her part of the relay. Today I ate for the first time since Wednesday last week; what a relief. I am so looking forward to feeling like a normal human being again. The chemical weapons are beginning to work.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Fish Fingers

I have been thinking about grilling two fish fingers since roughly 10 a.m. this morning. Somehow, I think that's not going to happen; it's now 4.10.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mixing Gina's Music

During the summer, we started mixing Gina Birch's music for an installation that she will be working on in November. Most of her album was finished but I co-wrote some songs with her to complete the album, and it seemed to make sense to mix it ourselves. We have spent a few hours on one of the first tracks, To Please Is To Forget Yourself and I've just listened to the mp3 of it.
Oddly, it's a bit like gardening. You put loads of graft in and don't have time to inspect what you've done. The perhaps the next day you go out there and think 'That's really made a difference!'.
For us, it's all about listening rather than being technical exercise. Or rather, it is a technical exercise in service of what we want to hear.
It is intriguing for me to work on music that is so different in genre from that which I record myself; with your usual stuff you default to particular sounds and techniques, but with this it's a big experiment and that is exactly the way Gina likes it. It's liberating for me, as it takes me away from old habits and puts playfulness back on the agenda, and Gina is a natural collaborator so it benefits her too. I am really looking forward to our next mixing session.

Alfie Stephenson

Sending love and condolences to Martin, his sister, daughters and the rest of the family. I am very sorry for your loss; he has so much to be proud of in those he has left behind X

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Daintees at The Sage, Gateshead (And Me)

The Sage has probably got the friendliest staff of any venue that I've ever been to, which is miraculous given the thronging activity backstage. Last night, there were an orchestra, a wedding and us; there were boxes of tagged instruments, full catering for millions (the orchestra), an ever-ready coffee machine and dressing rooms aplenty. A bagpiper wailed away somewhere in the distance and at one point when I came off stage with my electric guitar, I hit a crossroads that consisted of streams of women and men in severe, formal black and white garb, heading towards the other auditorium for their concert after their three-minute warning. Cultures crossed but didn't merge; we all had our own destinations, our own dressing rooms and out own sound, lighting and stage management people.
The sound on stage was crystal clear and that always helps; my set was short and I hope, sweet, but it was a story-song set and the Rickenbacker sounded great. It is so easy to play that it almost plays itself, as well as looking rather snazzy. I have the same thing happening that used to happen with the Gretsch, the Green Goddess. People talk to the guitar instead of me, and once someone insisted on photographing the Green Goddess in her case after a gig. Humph.
Thank you Gateshead audience from the bottom of my heart for getting to your seats at 8 o'clock to watch my set. For a support artist, this is true support!
I found my friend Carol after saying hello to Rupert from El Cid, and we sat and watched a great set from The Daintees. I had heard tell that the Glasgow Oran Mor gig was riotous, with a Hen Party conga-ing and all sorts of stuff like that. In contrast, this was a seated venue, but the warmth was still there; every time Martin mentioned a village, the crew from that village piped up. They shouted for Louis' Cafe in Sunderland in particular; even I remember that place, which was a welcome slice of the warm 1950s in grim 1970s Sunderland by the bus station. The vibe coming from the band on stage was tremendous. The band was augmented by Fin McCardle on percussion, Kate and John's cowboy shirts smiled in the lights and Chris was positively dancing as he played bass. They played a lot of old favourites and a very lovely version of Rain, before Rupert and Niles were invited on stage to play Hobo Train. Shouts to Tim Donkin's brothers and to Christine, all from the Songwriting Weekends.
The tour continues this week, with Danielle Howle supporting; information from:
Photo by Andrew Bailey

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Cold

I have stopped working. My body has turned into a duvet and I have swallowed a hedgehog.
I am conserving energy for the gig at The Sage tomorrow supporting The Daintees.
I can still sing, thankfully. It just hurts.