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Monday, 30 August 2010

Weekend at Wimereux

Hullo, just got back from two wonderful blustery days in Wimereux in the Pas de Calais where my dad and mum bought a little terraced house many years ago. I went with boyfriend Matty and good friend Kiran, and we had a great time.

The light was fantastic, the sunsets strong and golden. We walked on the dunes, the cliff top, the beach, through the sports park, to the seventeenth century fort at Ambleteuse and our eyes dried in the sea wind. Apart from Kiran's - she had sensibly brought some large dark glasses.

We saw paragliders wheeling on the thermals, gulls hovering at the same level of us, standing as we were on the sandstone cliffs, folk gathering mussels for tea off the granite rocks and the sea going out unbelievably far. This is such an amazing stretch of sand at low tide. And the waves looked turquoise green and gold-white in the sun.

The back of our Wimereux pad is such a sun-trap, we took our coffee and I went to lie on the grass as Matt luxuriated with his filterless Gitanes, his preferred cigarettes grises, underneath the kitchen window. There's a vine which curves vigorously round a metal arch, but its grapes aren't ripe yet, the same as my garden crop back home.

I think M and K really enjoyed themselves, they seemed to appreciate the adventure and said they loved the place and the company. And Wim is a charming Victorian seaside resort, a real family destination, a jolly bright town. When Blanaid was a little girl she ran along the vast stretch of sand into the sea quick as quick in bare feet, holding her rubber ring round her waist, unselfconscious and full of childish enthusiasm. Going there really brings back happy memories for me, now I'm the mother of a young grown-up.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Aster Aweke

One of my more recently discovered heroines of la musique is Aster Aweke. Yes again I've found her by listening to Late Junction, what would I do without that show? She's from Ethiopia and uses a lovely vocal texture.

I love the way she sings over band music. She is always light in her treatment, which is difficult when you sing over a loud band. Listening to her has made me want to sing with a band for the first time in many many years. Would have to be the right players though. Maybe I'll ask some old friends if they might let me have a shot.

I'm really into a song of hers on youtube called 'Emiyee' which has a rather eeky poppy jazzy accompaniment but her vocals are just so delicate and strong. I would like to get her new album. Fiona Talkington keeps playing tracks from it and it has great traditional music accompaniment which I adore.

At the 12 Bar

I couldn't resist posting this nice photo

Prince of Wales, Wimbledon

I'm playing Hidden Away at the Prince of Wales on 2 Hartfield Road on Tuesday 31st August. Should be lovely, I haven't been to the Wimbledon Hidden Away before. Really looking forward to this gig.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Googling myself

I guess I do google myself a bit, to see if there's any new reviews that come up for 'Doodlebug Alley' mostly. And I do laugh at strange combinations of my names. This one tells a story ...

Muogammar Nature Reserve Discovery Season
I will be on a train that arrives at Cowan Station at 9:36am, the next train ... “ friend from the netherlands is over, will see if i come ”. Jude Manik ...

Adventures in the Australian bush are going on as I google, stuck in front of my computer. It's time to get out and have some real life adventures myself.

Emma Hurok - Russian chanteuse

Emma Hurok is Eddie's grandma and she is a wonderful singer. I'm just listening to the opening of an interview of hers which Eddie has sent to me ... she's got a lovely speaking voice too. As Eddie says, her delivery is sardonic and humorous. I would have really liked to meet her. For her music and more information visit her reverbnation page.

Eddie has put up some lovely pictures. There's an amazing picture of Emma as a young girl holding a basket in a photographer's studio. Shades of Little Red Riding Hood.

I asked Eddie about his grandma and he said that she was very matter of fact. My grandma was too, she was Scottish. Emma used to wear dark blue sunglasses inside like the early directors of film. There's a story about this that's familiar to silent film historians. Let me use Eddie's words to tell it as I love the way he puts it:

"Hollywood directors used them and wore them so often in the days of B&W film.. because the blue would remove the colors and give them a perspective of what the scene would look like in B&W ... well the stars and showbiz people didnt understand this.. and thought it was the new "IN" Fad to wear Blue sunglasses.. so celebrities began wearing Blue Sunglasses all over the place.. unaware they were initially used for a purpose they were in the dark ... so to speak ... about."

There's lots more interesting pictures on the reverbnation page.

Natalie Merchant - Leave Your Sleep (2010)

Listening to NM's new album ... not sure what I think of it yet. It's a long one. Twenty-six tracks, I'm only four in. A celebration of writers and writing. I liked the track 'Vain and Careless' which Fiona Talkington played on Late Junction. It's a setting of a Robert Graves piece. I'm a big fan of Graves however unsettling he may be at times ...

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Song of the Unsung Heroine

Gina Burch and Helen McCookerybook's new video, taken in the vintage guitar shop on Denmark Street.

I'm looking forward to our Desperado Housewives gig, as Helen's going to lend me her cowboy gear - apparently she has loads in the loft.

Clipping the dog's hair

It's nearly time to clip the Bedlington's hair and stransform him from lamb to whippet. However I've only got the kind of clippers that blokes use on their beards et al and a dog-walking chum tells me that these make a noise that scares the dog. He told me to leave them running for a bit before using them so that the dog gets used to the sound.

I pick up a lot of tips when walking the dog. It's very educational.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Cowboy song

The Desperado Housewives are doing a cowboy themed evening at the Montague Arms on 9 Sept. I've written two new songs for the event. Here's the rough lyrics of the most recently penned. In fact I've just finished it. It's very very simple and like 'The Thousand Stories' it just builds up a simple image of a meeting but this time in a more dramatic way. Now I have to walk the dog.

Under the Moon

Under the Moon
The pale of the moon
Under the stars
The evening stars
In the warm night breeze
Of the desert

There is a house
A lonely house
A single lonely house
Where a boy and a girl
Can be together

In the pale moon light
La la la la light
The palest moon light
They arrive one by one
In heaven

She holds out her hand
Her little hand
Her pale little hand
And takes his
Calloused hand

He holds her hand
Her little hand
Her pale little hand
And swears they will
Never be parted, never.

Under the moon
The palest moon
Under the stars
The evening stars
In the warm night breeze
Of the desert.

12 Bar - tastic

Another very lively session at the 12 Bar, Denmark Street! I love playing this venue. It's so photogenic too, I'm looking forward to seeing the pictures my friend Sarah took on her new digital camera. I played in the front bar and Helen McCookeryBook played on the main stage.

Earlier in the afternoon we had a very nice afternoon's rehearsal for a Cowboy themed evening from the Desperado Housewives on 9 September at the Montague Arms in New Cross. I wrote a new song which sounds like an old delta Blues, called 'Old Ned' about a broken down horse who is off to the knackers yard.

Kath and Helen had wonderful cowboy songs already written and we worked out some extra parts to them. I hope I have made enough notes to follow what we talked about. I'm listening to the songs back now and trying to remember what we agreed! Oooops, one's memory is so shakey sometimes! Still, I'm sure it will be alright in the wash.

When a cowboy, loves a cowgirl ... etc etc - lovely!

Lamb and Tyger photo 3

... and here's one of Blanaid's photos of Solly and me from this lunchtime's session

Lamb and Tyger photo 2

Managed to take a picture before Blanaid went to meet her friends and before the rain came down. Colours were lovely. Yellow flowers on green grass, orange pinafore dress over turquoise shirt. Now Matt is going to do a painting in gouache from the most interesting pictures. He's chosen one in which the hands make an interesting shape. We'll see how it goes, but I'm pretty excited to see what it might look like. I think it will be good.

Lamb and Tyger photo

I'm going to take a photo for the Blake album today. My tiger mask has arrived, and Solly has been brushed. He's going to be the lamb.

We have to take the picture before Solly's hair gets cut off. It's got too long and it's really a nightmare. I've got a new set of clippers. I wonder what he'll make of being clipped at home, he's only ever had it done at the doggy hairdressers.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Turkish shop

Have discovered the Turkish supermarket in Eltham. Am now enjoying nice new coffee, dates, syrupy pastries, olives and apricots for breakfast.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Alina Orlova

I'm just listening to Alina Orlova. I like her. She's very inspiring. She sings in Lithuanian and English.

I'm inspired to do some work with the microkorg.

Here she is singing and playing piano at the Cafe Oto. Sadly I missed her summer gig, and she's not back again this year.

Blanaid said she likes this song.

I like her song about the last mammoth.

Naomi Woddis - Nothing But

I asked my good friend Naomi Woddis if she would let me publish a poem or two on the blog and also a photograph as she is also a serious photographer and she kindly agreed. Naomi and I are working together on a radio show for National Poetry Day for Reels Rebel Radio, so I'm getting to spend some lovely meetings and chats at her beautiful place in Highbury and Islington. It's a magical place, with doors that open off the kitchen onto a brilliant garden. You could hardly believe you're in central London, I think it's one of the nicest places I've seen to live ever. I do love London so much.

Here's one of Naomi's poems. I don't want to publish them all at once as I want to write some more about Naomi later, and that will give me a great excuse to do so.

Nothing But
Plaster dust laces a light bulb. Beyond
this the smell of newly daubed emulsion
is an echo in the nostrils, a slouch
of damp, the stench of not moving.
The careless invitation of a three-seater,
its screech of red is the only real warmth
you'll find. Its fake fur covering, your last
lurch at tenderness. Lint gathers in its cracks.
I'm all the comfort you'll ever need it says.
But, sinking in to its hopeful upholstery
you find there is no way of getting up.

Power to the Palatine

While walking along the tow path to Mile End, who should cycle past me but my old friend from London Metropolitan University, when I used to work in the Students' Union, Rhys Rose. He was going very fast, with all the gear ... black lycra all over and looking very fit, and late for work. Just had time for a hug and for him to tell me he was having a launch for his new pub, The Palatine, in Stoke Newington on Saturday. It's the old 'Satchmo's', 97 Stoke Newington High Street.

I tottered over after work, and had a very pleasant half a wheat beer in that fine new establishment. Rhys has lots of ideas for showcasing artist work and for using the very fine space for acoustic performance. Licence problems means that we can't have proper band nights there - yet - but who knows what the future might allow, once he's built up a good reputation for a trouble-free night spot. If you're passing by, drop in for a coke or a whisky or whatever you fancy - and if you're a London based artist and would like to display your work, you can get touch with Rhys.

Matty and I were particularly taken with the dance floor, and couldn't resist wanting to try out a few steps. I can't wait till we have a proper dance together but he hasn't quite fixed my portable 78 player. Of which more later.

On an aside, it was nice to be out in Stoke Newington. Matt is just reading Edgar Allen Poe's short stories, and he lived in Stoke Newington as a youngster in London.

Monday evening at the 12 Bar

Hurrah! A wonderful gig at the 12 Bar on Monday evening. I'm playing and so is Helen McCookery Book, another of the Desperado Housewives.

What fun it will be ...

Friday, 20 August 2010

View from a barge 3

View from a barge 2

View from a barge

Bedlington on a boat


I've got another review by someone who likes to use the word 'wimmin' when he thinks a performer is feminist. That's not a misogynist use of language or trying to be derogatory at all! Is it? That was sarcastic of course. See, I can be funny too, just like him.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Fig tree

I bought a fig tree and planted it today. It looks a fine little thing. Fingers crossed we get lots of figgies.

Emma Hurok

Emma Hurok! What a great vibrato and style. I love her voice. And she's Eddie's grandma as well!

Elisabeth Claude Jacquet de la Guerre - "Judith" (6)

Elisabeth Claude Jacquet de la Guerre's work Judith. Picked just because it has my name. Short but sweet. Bit dramatic. The harpsichord kind of purrs behind the bell like vocal. I find this type of operatic delivery difficult to get into but I'm trying to embrace the 'Italian style' more fully recently, and not listen to it with the kind of prejudice I had against its formal sound when younger.

√Člisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre

My friend Emma Jane Hyde has recommended to me the music of Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre. A quick google shows her to have been a very exciting composer and musician and there's a lovely portrait of her too, holding a sheet of music she was composing. Really love the hair, very high, like a beehive.

Bit of a prodigy she played before Louis XIV at the age of five and carried on. This is a great quote about how she was a real creative type, couldn't help improvising, from her contemporary Titon du Tillot who praises her 'marvellous facility for playing preludes and fantasies off the cuff. Sometimes she improvises one or another for a whole half hour with tunes and harmonies of great variety'. Harpsichord improvisation. Nice.

I will have a listen to her pieces played on Youtube and post something later. Isn't it wonderful finding about this brilliant women of early modern music? I think so anyway.

Matt, Jude and Solly on the barge

Photo by Ms Blanaid Montague

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Anne Ford - music, and being unconventional, can save your head ...

After writing about Francesca Caccini, I thought I might dally my toes for a little while in some of the history of rather interesting female musicians and poets.

I have been an admirer of the very unconventional Ann Ford for some time. She played the viola da gamba, and English guitar and defied her father to perform in public.

Her infatuated lover wanted her to become his mistress and when she refused, he tried to sabotage her concerts. What an arsehole. How typical.

Anyway she ended up getting married as it helped her do what she really wanted to do. Unfortunately, when they were travelling to Italy, her husband died in Boulogne. This was the middle of the Reign of Terror and she got imprisoned. I'm not quite sure how these two facts are related, but never mind. The important fact in my opnion was that she was later released under a pardon for prisoners that could prove they could earn their living. Hurrah for her being a professional musician. Three hurrahs!

Fortunately she was painted by Thomas Gainsborough. This was just as well, as I expect I would never have heard of her otherwise.

Boyfriend's shirt

I'm wearing my boyfriend's shirt - it's ages since I did that. It feels very nice. It's a very nice shirt. TM Lewin. Pale blue check.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Francesca Caccini and Modern Floods

I have been listening to Francesca Caccini's music on Lucie Skeaping's Early Music Show on BBC R3 and am so taken away with her melody and expressive ornamentation.

The word painting of this incipient operatic style is so breathtaking. This use of an emotionally affective solo vocal over a simple chordal accompaniment is very relevant to modern singer songwriters as well.

Here's the famous painting of Francesca.

Also, this morning at work I have been shotlisting aftermath of floods. So I have written some lyrics which relate to this experience, and intend to set them to an ornamented, emotionally affective vocal line over cello and uke.
Francesca and the Caccini family, thank you all for this inspiration.

Here are the simple lyrics. I love this idea, but have yet to see if it works in practice. I am convinced it will.

It all happened so fast
I can't even put it into words
So much damage has been done
Everything that we had built is gone

We are left here with the water
And our neighbours who hug us
For they too have lost everything
And have no insurance

Too late for sandbags
In our rubber dinghy
We paddle the streets
Watching the rescue workers in waterproof clothing
outside the block of flats

They carry our old friend into the ambulance.
We talk, and wade and stand
And hold each other

Francesca Caccini

Wow, just found her, she's amazing.

I wrote a complicated post about her and her music, and the piece I'm working on and then it disappeared when I clicked Publish Post. Grrrr.

I'll try again later, too disheartened just at the mo.

Monday, 16 August 2010


My lovely friend Neil has posted about me and my album on his blog.

It's a really interesting blog about life in South London. It has both a historical angle and also talks about things happening today.

Well worth a read. I revisit it a lot.

Odds and sods, bits and bobs

I have got too many glasses in my cupboard. I am never going to buy a pack of crockery / glassware ever again. In fact I am coming to the conclusion that I hate sets. I even hate the idea of a set.

From now on it's odds and sods, bits and bobs for me.

I've always liked life better when it's cobbled together.

Hot milk and figs

I do really enjoy a cup of hot milk in the evening. I'm drinking one now while eating a peach off my peach tree and an apple off my apple tree and thinking how wonderful it is in this little patch of land.

Earlier today I ate fig rolls for breakfast. Apparently they were an ancient Egyptian snack and later physicians thought they were really good for the digestion and so were a good treatment for lots of illness. According to Wikipedia, a Mr Charles Roser patented a machine which inserted fig paste into a dough. They're great as they are not really a biscuit and to my mind they make a nice change from the old office biscuit.

I would like to plant a fig tree this autumn. I expect they grow quickly compared to many other fruit trees so I can probably get away with planting a small one and then urging it to hurry up and bear those yummy figgy parcels by serenading it gaily. Is this right?

Blind Willie McTell

I seem to be on a blues odyssey, beginning with the Blind Willies.
Blind Willie McTell - wow! What a darling voice, what fabulous fingerwork.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Lovely weather - not as forecast

Don't trust the weather forecast - it said it was going to rain rain rain like crazy for three days. We have just had a beautiful time on the canal. Lovely sunshine, great food, fun doing the locks and just enjoying being out of doors.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Stromatolites on Reverbnation

I failed to put Stromatolites on Myspace so it's now on Reverbnation, you have to scroll down. I put it on twice through inefficiency. Tracks 7 / 8. Hear me sing a demo to a rehearsal of a band that didn't know I was going to put some lyrics about ancient fossils of blue-green bacteria over the top. Don't miss it!

Blind Willie Johnson

Just listening to some BWJ after hearing him on Late Junction earlier this week. I love the way he goes to town on his humming and his ahhhhhs. I adore humming ahhhing in the middle of a song, especially as in interlude in a verse or a chorus where you don't expect. 'Bebe Requin' sung by France Gall has a great example of this as well.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Ye Olde Shippe

Sweet Thursday at The Old Ship in Richmond. Didn't turn out to so hard to get to, neither. I had a bit of a thrill as the District Line crossed the shiney Thames in the early evening, and it was a mere short trot to the very comfy room above a woody panelled ye olde Englishe pub.

Alec looks great in his pointy beard and trilby. And we had a very festive time indeed with our array of performers. We were chosen at random up to the stage although Alec very kindly called me his 'secret weapon' and let me perform last so I kind of knew when I was up.

Guy Padfield kicked us off with his autoharp, playing an enchanting little piece. I had to restrain myself from joining in on improvised vocals. What a lovely light, ringing, open sound it has.

Then Mr Michael Wyndham served up some bonnes mots about his nan, who was very popular with the GIs during the war, and a version of Francois Villon's hanging ballad. How strange. These are exactly the two themes of the first two songs on my album, 'Doodlebug Alley'.

I loved it when my friend Maria Slovakova got up and treated us to her unique vocal renditions - especially I loved 'Poison Berries' because of the strange and compelling way she offers us the words. And a lovely long love piece about living in New York. She lived there before during and after 9/11, and that experience ran through the story.

Sally Smithson, now I hadn't seen her before, and what a comic genius and stupendous wordlady that woman is. So funny. So true. So apt. So ingenious. Loved her! From the very first, when she told us of the Aardvark curled up on its private bits as a pillow, that fart in its face when it's asleep .... I wanted to hear the rest of that children's alphabet.

I played some new material, which was fun for me, and always a good thing to do. That was the first airing in public that Tram 41 has got. I must work on it a little, especially the clicking, because that is a fun bit live. I should make it a little more like the Addam's Family, very Morticia!

My god I adored Morticia as a teenager ... now where is my hobble skirt ... Thing?!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Pauline Seward - review of Bonnie Prince Billy gig

My beautiful and talented friend Pauline has written this review of the BPB gig that I was at and I asked her if I could post it. She kindly agreed. I'm so thrilled.

I didn't see her that evening. It was heaving. A great night.

Bonnie Prince Billy (Will Oldham) Shepherd’s Bush Empire 5/8/2010

By the time Will Oldham sang ‘I see a Darkness‘ the song made famous by Johnny Cash ) half way through this show there was a feeling that he has currently moved some way from the themes of discord that dominated his earlier work. Without losing his masterful precision and literacy he presented a set that was gloriously melodic and redemptive.

The music has a sunshiny, mellow quality similiar to the instrumental richness of the Great Palace Music album of a few years ago.

Will Oldham is an enthralling performer to watch. He is relaxed yet focussed and passionate. His singing style is a dynamic dance as he moves his arms, feet, fingers to express the music. He seems to live the narrative of each song. At one point he seemed so absorbed that he’d lost his place in the set list. Although this dramatic presentation is probably well planned there was an element of spontaneity and looseness and a sense of genuine communication with the audience.

He is noted for his collaborations with other musicians, tonight the Cairo Gang as featured on the Wonder Show of the World album, from which most of the set is taken, augmented by the improvisational drummer Alex Nielson and classically trained Lavinia Blackwell. These two are the core musicians of Trembling Bells, the opening act - the only irritating thing about the evening for me was that a lot the audience talked through Trembling Bells performance - marring a gorgeous set an -evocation of early Fairport Convention, accessorised with sexy, slightly spectral, morris dancers.

Later during the main set the audience was quiet and reverent during part of a song which seemed to invite participation, ‘This is the chorus - ‘Go Forth, Go Folks trust your brain, trust your body‘ a brilliant simple creed which encapsulated the lyrical content of the evening.

The evening ended in a mutual encore, huge applause and appreciation from the audience, after Will Oldham had already said ‘This is so much fucking fun do you mind if we stay around and play some more songs?’

Kerry Andrew

Have just discovered Kerry's blog and decided to follow her.

She's a very interesting composer and performer. When I did an open mic slot at the Magpie's Nest she was doing a 'proper' slot as 'You Are Wolf'.

I like the way she begins each entry something like this:-

Level of conviction in own genius: 6
Hours of creative activity achieved today: 2.5
Watching: 'Rev'
Hair day: Greasemonkey

Maybe I will try something similar in the future. I love discovering new possibilities for approaching the blog. Trust Kerry to come up with something a little different.

The Old Ship, Richmond

I'm playing a gig at this pub tomorrow, at the invitation of Alec Bell, poet and all round decent chap. It's quite a way for me, but it should be fun.

Ten Thousand Stories

I've written a slow song which evolves simply, over two ukulele chords, simple words that repeat. I like the way that the image builds slowly over the two verses and chorus. It's a love song but an oblique one.

Here are the lyrics:-

A house on a street
A room in a house
A bed in a room
A man on a bed
Ten thousand stories

A man on a bed
A bed in a room
A room in a house
A house on a street
Ten thousand stories

It's about a man I once saw sitting on a bed in a house, a long time ago. Now we're going out. So it's a memory of a first moment of love. A feeling that at that time came to nothing.

The ten thousand stories refers to the many stories and possibilities we have inside each of us. We are fascinated by the stories in our lovers. I'm fascinated by the stories inside my boyfriend. So it must be love.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


Oooh! I've worked out to do overdubs and harmonies on my portable Tascam DR-1. You can only overdub one set of harmonies. But that's okay. Excellent!

Forthcoming book

So I'm meeting my publisher this morning about the forthcoming book based on my work and the world during 2008, the year of Obama's entrance and Bush's exit, the Chinese Olympics, economic meltdown and much more. I always wanted to write something epic and relevant to today.

Today moves so fast though doesn't it. Can't catch it.

We're meeting in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern, which I hope I'll find with ease, having the most terrible sense of direction ever handed out. I have my notebook! And it's so so so wet.

Monday, 9 August 2010

A royal progress

Well, although no one except Matt has heard anything, I'm now very happy with the work I have done putting vocals to the Windsors tunes. It just goes to show that you can't eat enough hats. Or something like that.

Anyway, I'm going to put one of them up on my myspace page for the curious, just because I can. It's about stromatolites. 'What?' You may say. They are very ancient fossils of single celled oxygen making bacteria who primed our world for later complex organisms - like us!

It's quite unusual for me to pick such a scientific subject for a song, although I often do dally on the border of science of arts. I must feel I can go there lyrically in this new musical context.

So, to have a listen, visit

Choice artist on Scrub Radio

This Thursday I'm Dennis Holseybrook's CHOICE ARTIST - show starts at 6pm (Greenwich time), my segment is at 7.30pm

Thank you Dennis!

Dried citrus rind

I have got the value dried fruit from Tescos with the dried lemon and orange peel pieces. I really like it. My daughter hates it with a passion. I remember I did too once. They say your taste buds get less sensitive as you get older.

I'm eating a few pieces with cheese for breakfast washing it down with a cup of loose leaved Ceylon tea from a little cup decorated with hollyhocks that belonged to my grandmother.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Lucy's Diary

Grrrr I can't go to this but Lucy's Diary are launching their new album on Friday!

Great stuff.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Public Nuisance?

Kath Tait has a comical and charming new poster of her show 'The Life and Music of Abigail Rhododendron: Failed Singer / Songwriter and Public Nuisance'.

Kath is one of the three Desperado Housewives, together with myself and Helen McCookerybook. Her very cool poster is designed by Sonja Van K.

Sonja's website is at

Failing to write

I am failing to write anything that I can live with to either of the Windsors tracks, despite listening to the music on my headphones on the walk to work.

I may have to confess that I can't add any decent vocals to these tunes. Wouldn't this be better than ploughing ahead and offering something I don't feel is right?

Usually I don't give up easily, but part of being an experienced as an artist is that you hope you have learnt to be selective in how you spend your creative time. And if something really isn't working I am probably better off pursuing something else. At least for a while.

I wonder if I will ever return to these tracks though, I really think my vocals wouldn't be right on either tune.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Windsor Calypso

I'm listening to the lovely tunes of 'The Windsors' a band in progress. Unfortunately I can hear myself talking some crap in the background which is rather putting me off. Oh good, Matt is talking now and he's talking more than me. What a relief. I hate it when I realise I am going on and on and on and on ... but somehow, I just can't stop myself. I suppose the music is a form of chatter anyway, the notes and lines, and it's beautiful.

Pen Pusher 16

Hurrah the beautiful magazine has arrived in the post. And there's my poem - 'Austria: Jorg Haider' by Jude Cowan. Oh I am pleased. As punch. Whatever that means.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Bonnie Prince Billy gig

Yes! We made it to the BPB gig after all last night at the Shepherds Bush Empire.

We really didn't deserve our good luck as Matt and I left the house very late. But we rolled up, bought a couple of tickets off a tout cheaper than the cover price, and ended up with a great view of the stage -

- just before Billy came on! Oh it was a treat. He slouched on in his t-shirt, shortish jeans and espadrilles, and promptly got into the alt-voguing for which he's famous. Three songs in he covered the song I blogged about a couple of posts ago, 'Troublesome Houses'. Superb. I adore his squatting and bouncing mannerisms. Everyone, put your hands on your hip and stick your leg out. Now cross your legs over and take a long step to the left, down the floor. Then flick your wrist and scrunch your shoulders. It's so great to see him let go physically as he gets into the sound of his voice and the delivery of the music.

The dynamics, the harmonies, the song lines; it added up to a masterclass on how to put the emotion and the melody at the heart of the production. Matt hadn't seen BPB at all before and he said it was the best he'd seen of this kind of work. As we're intending to work on something not a million miles away as a duo, this was exactly what we needed to see. Sometimes life works out.

And me, I was so thrilled, I couldn't help smiling all night. He's an inspiration.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Liverpool ahoy!

Last Autumn I visited Liverpool as a guest of Pete from the Big I Am who had kindly arranged for us to a couple of venues including that ancient pub The Pilgrim from which wayfarers set of for the New World. Patrick from France and his artist girlfriend Christiane came too, and we had a wonderful time. I remember a particular bowl of meat stew in the local tea room was enjoyed, and Pete cooked us a lovely chicken dish as well. Here's a pic from when we went to Birkdale Sands. That's an Anthony Gormley in the sea.

Bonny Prince Billy

Ah - just seen BPB is at the Shepherd's Bush tonight and there are tickets left ... wonder if Matt will want to go.

I'm watching BPB and the Cairo Gang do 'Troublesome Houses' on Youtube. I admire the way he fits the text over the music. It's a blindingly good example of how to make prosey lyrics match a musical arrangement. And in delivering it with compelling physical and vocal style.

Gosh I'm quite gushing. I love it when you get a thing for a song. It's so all-consuming for a little while.

If you want to know the version I'm on about it's at

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Singing saluang songs

I used to sing to the saluang when I was in Sumatra Barat. When I was talking about it to a friend yesterday he asked me what one is. The most that Westerners usually know of Indonesian music is the gamelan, or gong orchestra.

The saluang is a bamboo flute which is played using circular breathing. It's very beautiful. It has a soft breathy burble. Then the singer joins the saluang in a nasal tone and sings almost in unison, but there is so much ornamentation and interpretation this is not unison as in the Western interpretation.

I love singing saluang music although I haven't done it properly for such a long time. I have some old cassettes but they don't have the power of music made sitting cross legged in a street market and singing to the mountains as the sun goes down.

It's the instrument of the Minangkabau. I loved staying with my menang friends. They are a real matrilinear people. The house stays with the women who run the household, not just in a cooking/cleaning capacity. The men are traditionally welcomed as guests and very much feel this. They are honoured, served the meals etc, but they also feel that transience of their existence in which they are almost a visitor in the home. Often they have to go off and earn their living. Of course this is my impression but it was a very strong one.

Here's a chap playing a saluang at the kind of gathering I used to join in with. Although we didn't have so much techhie equipment in my day.

Monday, 2 August 2010

An itch, an annoying itch

Oh, yes, it is that time of year when ankles and feet get bitten on the lawn when you're oblivious to the pain because you're having a nice evening drink in your garden with your boyfriend. I have had various advice on how to stop the itching (antihistamine, cortisone) and on how to stop getting bitten (B12 tablets, Citronella spray) none of which I have put into practice yet.

I have also noticed fleas hopping around the dog's curly beige coat. So he's had a flea pill this morning, sneaked into his gravy rich can of dog yum. So easy to get a dog to eat up a pill. So hard to do the same with a cat ...

Black cab 2

Drove a Fairway today around the carpark. It's awesome. You're seated really high, so you feel really in control, and it turns on a dime. It even has a little light that says 'TAXI' which I can take out and put 'SOLLY' the name of my Bedlington terrier.

Can't wait to be a 'civilian' cabby.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Thank you Billy Bad Brakes

That witty lad, Billy Bad Brakes, has written Doodlebug Alley a jolly fine review on Amazon. I am moved by the effort he's put in, he's clearly had it spinning a number of times. Awwww, thanks BBB.

Black cab - question for bloggees

Hmmm ... I'm thinking of getting a black cab to ferry around my dog, daughter and various musical gear / musicians. It should make it possible to play gigs in weird out of town venues. Anyone got any thoughts on owning a Fairway? Have you ever driven/owned one? They're supposed to be great on petrol and very economical. And I know folk rave about that legendary 'turning circle' for negotiating town traffic and the winding city streets. I shall have to test drive one and see how I feel sitting up there as drunks and suits try to flag me down to take them home or to that expensive bijoux bar in Mayfair.