Sunday, March 01, 2015


It's a competitive world in music shops
I went into one with a male music friend not so long ago and he made an enquiry about a 400-watt amp, light as a feather, easy to carry and with a great valve sound.
The shop guy looked embarrassed and competitive in equal measure.
'Never heard of it! Are you sure?', he tried.
[you must be imagining it, you twat]
'Yes; they are made in Wales', said my male music friend.
[and don't call me a twat in your head, you twat]
'I'll look it up on the internet!' challenged the shop guy.
[and then we'll see that they don't exist, you twat]
Tippity-tap-tap went the fingers on the computer keyboard.
As the shop guy watched the company website materialise in front of his eyes, and he realised that the 400-watt amp, light as a feather and with a great valve sound made in Wales actually existed, his ego shrank to 200 watts.
He was standing next to a 400-watt customer.
Silently, two other shop guys appeared at his side, 200 watts each, to peer at the company website with him.
600 watts of shop guy versus 400 watts of customer.
But I don't think the victory was theirs, do you?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Duffel Coats For You, Girls

Once, on a visit to Newcastle, I saw the standard winter Saturday-night carousing by young women dressed in very short skirts with bare arms and legs, tottering along on skyscraper heels, bodies folded against the bitterly cold winds.
A kind thought crossed my mind, and I resolved to fill a white van with cosy duffel coats, and take them on a mercy-mission to keep those poor young women warm.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Is

Friday is
Pieday is
My day.

Thank You, Librarian

The book I needed is £400 on Amazon (not that I use it any more anyway... well, not much).
I managed to find one copy in a library, but it wasn't possible to borrow it.
16 pages into my notebook of scribbles, I realise that the best thing would be to photocopy the whole lot.
(When I did my MA, one of the students did the calculations and discovered that this was cheaper than buying some books).
I went to ask the librarian where the photocopier was situated and explained what I needed to do.
'Oh well: how long do you think you'd need it for?'
'A week'.
'Nobody borrows it any more. I can let you borrow it for that long'.
He even came downstairs and waved it in front of the security bleeper to make sure the alarms didn't go off.
Now that is a kind librarian. Bless your cotton socks, sir.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Stuck Zips In A Fishing Village Shop

It was cold.
It was time to get a jacket to keep the biting wind at bay.
The large size was enormous. As he took the khaki weatherproof jacket off, the zip stuck and he had to wriggle out of it to remove it. We put it back on the hanger.
The medium size was huge. How strange to be a 'small', we thought; as he tried to get the zip undone, it stuck.
We pulled it over his head and put it back on the hanger.
The small size was perfect; he decided that was the One. He unzipped it, halfway; the zip stuck.
It was a wrench to get the jacket off, over his head, again. We put it back on the hanger.
We left.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Zine Fair in Brighton

With a huge painty shelf wedged into the car and a box crammed with Caroline Lucas cupcakes, we pulled up to the neat little Unitarian Church Hall in Brighton's New Road to be met by a crowd of Offsprog One's friends who had come to help. They were really excited and some of the zine sellers were already there to help set up. It went really well: some people sold out really quickly. There was a bread-seller and some visitors even tried to buy the nursery children's paintings of igloos from the wall display. It was a successful day and there was a great atmosphere: well done to Offsprog One for setting it up and to Offsprog Two for making some superb Simpsons t-shirts.
Me and Joan gobbled up a couple of Caroline Lucas cupcakes: mmm lemony! Then it was a nightmare drive back home through lashing rain and strange, drifting orange fog made of mega water droplets from hell, the M25 peppered with crashed and broken down vehicles. My car may be a complete wreck itself, but the good old rust-bucket got me back home safely in the end.
Somewhere along the way I've picked up a virus; I know I'm ill because I had to cancel a day out with Gina after locking myself out of the house, and I can't stop sleeping.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lee Thompson in Barnet

The Black Bull was so packed that the best strategy was to squeeze in and then try to hold your ground. The crowd was good natured, bordering on rowdy, and at least half of them looked far too young to remember Madness. Lee was in fine voice, dedicating the song Honey to his wife and playing a new song which I think was called You Don't Own Me, whose words were on the ground. 'Im not admiring my shoes', he promised. A tall man sporting one strut of a pair of specs over his ear conducted along happily; everyone was wearing their finest, even the grown-up skinheads, still wearing pristine Harringtons, who were on their best behaviour.
When the band launched into Too Much Too Young, there was a  surge to the front and people started bouncing; a cover of a Jam song (don't know the title, it was a hit but I'm not fan enough to know it) went down a storm. It got so crowded I tried out the courtyard where a sax player was lurking, but you couldn't hear a thing so I came home. This was a spirited gig that obviously pulled the punters in from miles around. There was much mobile-phonery as people phoned their mates, but alas I think they'll get there too late.
Pretty good having a proper gig in my manor. The guy round the corner in the antiques market used to drive pop stars around and he told us one day that Madness, Sade and Spandau Ballet all used to play regularly in a pub in Barnet which was demolished a few years ago: they cut their musical teeth out here in the sticks. On the sticks, possibly.
We all get older, fatter, wrinklier. I wish I hadn't opened that bottle with my teeth to show off; there is a gap where it once grew.
I was left wondering about skinheads. Was it a good rehearsal for going bald in middle age?


Crockery Design

This is the design for the mug for the last Guitar Weekend, which was a smasher. The weekend, not the mug.
I actually learned quite a lot this time around, probably because there was an atmosphere of enjoyable industry about it although there were still plenty of laughs. It was great to hear Tim Donkin's fab voice on the group version of Hold Me which you can hear here:
We did a fair bit of group recording as well as the learning sessions; and of, course, listening to Martin, Jim and Brian playing in their distinctive styles is always a pleasure.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Millionth Marple

I'm trying to work out how many million times I've watched this episode of Miss Marple.
Often, I forget the plots because I'm simply not concentrating. The Offsprogs once told me that I'd watched a Poirot episode many times before, but I didn't remember it probably because mostly with those I'm looking at the clothes.
I think I know whodunnit in this one but I don't know how. There are lots of camp moustaches (toothbrush-style, not beetle-looking ones like Poirot's), some nice wooden furniture, red lipstick on all female mouths, pancake make-up on everyone, unfeasibly green grass (lots of it), stern detectives, and the thread of Mis Marple's quavery voice holding it all together throughout.
Dum de dum. I wonder if there are any crisps left?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Article Playlist

I'm at the fact-checking stage after another three hours working this morning. There are two books I need to consult- one extremely rare one that's going for £400 on Amazon, and one that I don't have. So I'm off to the library on Friday. I thought it might be interesting to share the playlist with you. I have really enjoyed writing this article even thought it's been hard work. It's not particularly academic but is more of an attempt to pick a different path through the history of songs than the normal one, and I've listened to some great music on the way through it. It was unexpected to suddenly be asked to finish it, but a refreshing change in directing from the mega-project I've been working on since 2010.

1954 Tubby the Tuba by Danny Kaye  
1966 Under My Thumb by The Rolling Stones
1966 Out of Time by The Rolling Stones
1968 Wet Dream by Max Romeo 
1969 Melting Pot by Blue Mink
1969 The Lemon Song by Led Zeppelin
1970 Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys by The Equals
1970 (To Be) Young, Gifted and Black, by Bob and Marcia
1973 Brother Louie by Hot Chocolate 
1973 Stir it Up by John Holt, Island Records
1973 Funky Kingston by Toots and the Maytals
1973 Can the Can by Susie Quatro
1973 I Shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley
1974 I Shot the Sheriff by Eric Clapton
1974 Devilgate Drive by Susie Quatro
1977 Oh Bondage, Up Yours! By X-Ray Spex
1979 In Love by The Raincoats 
1979 Fairytale in the Supermarket by The Raincoats 
1979 Typical Girls by The Slits
1979 Shoplifting by The Slits
1979 Black Woman by Judy Mowatt
1982 Do You really Want To Hurt Me by Culture Club
1982 Night Nurse by Greg Isaacs
1983 Kill the Police Bill by Ranking Anne

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


I hadn't realised how wound up I'd been until I woke up this morning and didn't want to.
It was a really successful night with spot-on performances from the hilarious Amy Corcoran, who somehow managed to get the word *rsehole  into every song, a very poignant contribution from Pete Astor, and a fantastic set from Martin Stephenson and Jim-the-Fiddle that had them rolling in the aisles. The atmosphere was great and I appreciated Kalamazoo Klub promoter Guy Simpson turning up to show his support, plus Paul Eccentric and Donna, Lester Square and Jo, Dubulah and Jim, Gina Birch and Mike, Nat the Hammer, Foolish Girl (yay! but when's Him Indoors going to come along?) and a very supportive audience who listened all the way through and generally got into the scheme of things. New songs were debuted; Amy trembled before her first song, I trembled after mine. We ate chips from down the road and sausage rolls from my bag, we drank coke or wine. Jim went walkabout at Martin's behest and people tried not to lure him over to serenade them; they were just that side of cool. Niosha and Yuzrin from the University of the East did a fine job of the sound and Offsprog One did a great job on the door for us. The Boogaloo is a convivial place and people chatted with each other for a long time afterwards. Thank you for coming along everyone, and roll on the next one on April the 20th!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Be Hare Or Be Square

It seems like ages since the last Artyfartle, which was at the Lexington- in fact it's just over a year ago. That one was on a Sunday afternoon and featured songs from Wes, Lucie, Amy and myself with a talk on pinhole photography from Joan. The one before that was even further back in the mists of time and was at the long-lamented Perseverance with Viv Albertine, Martin, Amy and myself and Gina talking about felted Birchbags that she had made.
No talk at tomorrow's event, but lots of music. Pete, Amy and me will be playing new songs (I will be airing the Two Minutes Left song Quik Fitte for the first time that I wrote and recorded for Linear Obsessional just before Christmas ) before Martin takes to the stage, joined by Jim the Fiddle, to make us all smile with his music and humour. The evening starts at 8.30 and finishes just before 11. It is £9.00 on the door to get in, £7.00 concessions although UEL students with a card get in for free, and it's very close to Highgate Tube which is on the Northern Line. I should be practicing my songs but I'm eating strawberries instead, or just about to. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

More Writing

On my bookshelves there are two layers of books. I have mined these, but will have to delve deeper tomorrow because I can't find Roger Sabin's Punk Rock? So What. I've just acquired a really interesting book by Gareth Murphy called Cowboys and Indies, which is a history of record labels, a lightning tour. I'm halfway through the article, but I took a break and went for a long walk to clear my head before a large dose of Come Dine With Me.

A Petition

I am so concerned about what is happening to the NHS that it's giving me nightmares. Bit by bit, it's being eroded and pruned until soon there will be nothing left.
This petition is quite specific and I am posting it here because a friend in Sussex is so worried about a Mum she knows not being about for much longer for her children. If you have time, please sign it.