August 2017 

My blogging hasn’t been as on it as 2016! Due to mixture of being too busy with the stuff to write about the stuff but also not having wifi at home, or my own pc or laptop. You get an hour a day free wifi in my local library and I can use the laptop and my parents place and my wonderful friend DiDi lent me her old gaming laptop for a while but generally I’ve struggled a bit to keep up with emails and blogs and things which aren’t just in a handy little app. 

I was feeling pretty excited about getting a new computer as I’d managed to save a bit of money but then I’m leaving work on Monday evening, the brakes lock on my car, one trip to the garage later and all my savings are gone! 

Back to square one! 
So this months blog is another vlog made on a handy phone app! 
Hope you enjoy it!!!

Here be the link…..

Studio vlog!

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August 2017 

F is for Football


“You’ve got time” 

“Don’t panic”

“Take your time” 

“Trust your feet”


Lessons for (football) life that were told to me by women who helped me to see the (flood)lights in the dark.

 

 

 
Primary School 

Football, in primary school, was an everybody thing. And it was mostly played out in PE sessions with a big yellow squidgy foam ball and seemed like fun.

Football in the playground however was already dominated by the boys -myself and the other girls were fully engaged in playing “horses” – this basically involved pretending to ride around on an imaginary horse?!

So yeh, I guess football was a “guy thing” even then, but we did play some football and we collected panini stickers and several of us had our own football…though mine was purple with a smiley face on it and smelt of grapes!

We already had popular kids even at that age,  and they were made up of the boy who was best at football (James) and his “girlfriend” at the time (Carly) I mean with hindsight it feels a shame that at a young age we sort of chose the popular girls based on the fact they were dating a “cool” guy – but outside of this she just was actually really quite cool and funny and would get a colourful hair braid over the summer holidays and had a great house we could all go and play in and she’s remained “cool” in to grown up life, so she’d still win any popularity contest in my eyes. She’s a thoroughly good human. We chose a good one to look up to.
(With regard to primary school dating I didn’t “date” until secondary school and depending on how you “validate” these things I can’t really say I had a “proper” boyfriend until AFTER I left university!! Slow burner! Anyways, moving on…)

So in primary school, football existed for us all but for whatever reason it didn’t dawn on my friendship group of girls to play it in the same way the boys did. We’d go to Evergreen Football club on Friday nights when we were in year 6/7 somewhere in that summer transition between primary and secondary school. We’d hang about hoping to talk to one of the boys who played there? (I mean, again, not really me. I was there. I was aware that I felt funny emotions when I saw James’ older brother in a football kit, but essentially at this stage I was still riding imaginary horses and playing with Sylvianian families….but don’t worry Christmas of that year I get my first guitar and start to get a little Cooler) now Evergreen must have had a ladies team back then? They certainly have one now (actually I hear they have two?!) but I don’t remember seeing them? Or ever really meeting girls who played or being asked if we wanted to play.
I can’t  quite recall how old I was but my parents took me to my first football game. I can’t even remember the teams but our family friend John was playing.

It was exciting

It was noisy

There were snacks

I felt part of something

It took a long time to get started

I was wiggly

I was moany

It started

It was exciting

John unfortunately went for a header at the same time as another player and came off…in a stretcher if I remember right?! It was all rather traumatic!

We hated the other player

We were united in our desire to see him lose.

That was fun

We chanted louder for John’s team because he’d been injured and couldn’t play so surely it was only fair they’d win?

But they were losing

We chanted louder

They weren’t actually as good as the other team

We chanted louder.

Nothing feels sweeter than a goal by a team you have started to think won’t do a goal.

We chanted even louder.
I discovered that day. My desire to always support the underdog. That hasn’t gone away yet.
As a kid I did sit next to my Dad on the sofa and watch football occasionally. I found it slightly less mind numbing than watching the F1 with him.

I was there just to be near him and bug him probably, Almost everyone I’ve asked cites “watching football with Dad” as the reason they love football, but watching sports on telly with my Dad was rare and doesn’t really form a part of my football relationship – he rarely watched sport or anything on the telly. My Dad, in my memory, was either at work or playing with us. He was constantly playing with us. Building go karts, spray painting bmxs, taking us to building sites to play in the “trenches” (foundations) – and other such parenting activities that were allowed in the 80s and 90s that probably seem really unsafe now. He was (and still is) the best, so nope I don’t have many memories of watching football with my Dad because he was far too busy being my Dad for any of that stuff 🙂

Secondary school

We weren’t allowed to kick footballs about at school. I guess maybe they would be more likely to break a window?

But the boys (and it was mostly boys) of Kings Langley secondary school weren’t to be disheartened or discouraged by this rule so they used to play football every morning and break time with a tennis ball.

They played right across the main “quad” which, wherever you were coming from or going to, you had to pass at some point. It was a gauntlet of fear -I am not sure if you’ve ever been hit full whack on the back of the legs by a tennis ball kicked full pelt by a year 9 boy but it hurts! But accidents like these would happen with the tennis balls.

Accidents happen.

They seem to happen more often to unpopular annoying kids who wear nirvana tshirts and spend their breaks in the music department? Funny that?!
There was one guy, used to trap the tennis ball under his foot, give you a little nod of reassurance and keep it trapped until you safely crossed. Possibly he was my first crush. Possibly he has no recollection of doing that. From some detective work (Facebook stalking) I think he’s a happily married police officer now. I don’t think he plays anymore, not even 5 a side, but Facebook can’t tell you everything can it? So I like to think he still has a kick about and is the kind of gent who makes sure he doesn’t kick a ball at someone?! any way I digress. Again!

 
The girls don’t do football in PE .

The boys don’t do netball.

The girls don’t do cricket.

The boys don’t do hockey.

It’s weird isn’t it?

We ALL do cross country – but in reality only a handful of the good and sporty kids do that -the rest of them go smoke in the woods for a bit and then headback to school pretending they just did the run – this kind of cool rebellion was beyond me and I actually ran it with my other band camp mates!
Schools weird isn’t it!? But also great at the same time.

Anyways. Football becomes the realm of a thing my brother does and also starts to represent a lot of things I think of as rubbish, corrupt and sexist – well done several premier league players of the 90s and 00s for making the beautiful game so utterly unappealing to young women! And there seemingly ends my interest in football.
School goes on. I live without football.
Life, friends weddings, university, nephews and nieces are born, travel, laughter, tears. All these things happen without football. It rears its head occasionally, after all World cup bets and celebrations are for everyone to get excited about right? My brothers still rolling home muddy or watching a game as I roll my eyes with the age old

“I could get that ball in the back of the net for the amount of money he is on”
( little do I know at this point that I couldn’t have been more wrong! One day I discover that I couldn’t get a ball in the back of the net if i joined a five aside league that was so badly attended you actually played rush goalie and one of the four women on the other team has never played football before -but cocky me of the past thinks it looks quite easy this football malarkey)
So yeh. I had a life without football in it.
Fast forward a bit
My friend Holly asks me to sing at Watford ladies as the half time entertainment. I’ve never been to see them play and that strikes me as weird, I mean at this stage I’m not even a football fan but I’ve seen watford men’s team twice? Why is that? Why haven’t I seen the ladies?

Anyways I’m excited! that’s a cool ground to play on!

Oh, they don’t play on that ground?

Of course they don’t?

They’re “just” the women’s team?

Clearly, I have a lot to learn.
It turns out to be the best afternoon I have had in a while. I’m inspired and excited and totally addicted to this game now. I start paying attention to football.

I slowly begin to see all the good bits about it that I hadn’t appreciate before. To the blindingly in my face obvious link between the game and music which never really crossed my mind before.

The addiction isn’t too strong at this point. I take a vague interest. I see two more Watford ladies games. Cos it’s close. Cos it’s cheap.Cos my boyfriend is away for four months and my grown up friends have lives. So I end up back at Watford ladies. Something to do.
My long term relationship starts to end. Before it finally does I actually googled “how to save your relationship”

One of the suggestions was “alphabet dating” basically it’s attempting to go on a series of dates with your partner but each has to begin with the letter of the  alphabet, the idea being it’ll help you try new things, rekindle the romance, that sort of thing and so we began….
A was for Aeroplanes and as he was a solider a trip to the RAF Museum was actually something he would like to do…super information gathering geek that he was it was like having a private tour of the museum with the curator themselves. We had fun on those dates. He liked them. But he stopped liking me.

So it was only five letters in to the alphabet that I was left with tickets to something he would never come to.

… and that’s where it really begins.
Because as you may have guessed .…F was for football. 
I’m not sure what he would have made of an arsenal game but I loved it. And back on google again this time with “how to get over a broken heart” it advised me to take up a new sport. Feeling inspired by arsenal ladies I found a local team that would be willing to take a fully grown, penguin footed, heartbroken, music geek and let them join them. The first team I try -Bedmond- welcome me. They, without knowing it, help build me back to something that resembles the me before he left. They are my floodlights in the dark and it isn’t until that team dispands and I try out for others and start playing 5 aside that I truly appreciate the chances of finding a team like that was actually unbelievably rare – don’t get me wrong, women’s football has the same ever lasting friendship bonds as any five a side or Sunday league or any sport at all for that matter- but these guys were something special. One player in particular – and she knows who she is – met me on those cold nights with supportive inappropriate banter that brought me back to life.

She talked to me the whole time we played, she passed me the ball, she encouraged me, she remembered to invite me to the Christmas meal.
She definitely knew something was amiss. She didn’t know what exactly but she must have just thought to herself. You don’t just all of a sudden discover football as a fully grown adult – this weird folk musician is here because she’s not quite sure where else to go!?

Either she thought that or she saw some sort of excellent potential in my future career as a right back and wanted to nurture it?!

I mean, it’s possible!?

So I’m kind of ending this story of my love of football where it began, and I’ll probably update one day from that moment to this current one where I’m planning a football EP but for now this blog is a long way of saying…..
I fell in love with football

For the simple reason that

F was for football.

And I doubt anyone would have but if you’d kept a keen eye on my life for the last couple of years you’d have maybe noticed a growing collection of seemingly random experiences….they aren’t so random if you put them in order and look at their first letter.

How to get over a broken heart?

Carry on dating yourself….all the way to Z xxx

F is for Football

January 2017

This year couldn’t have started better. The first week I headed off to Cornwall to record with The Company of Players.  We were at Cube Recording  and had just under a week to get our debut album together.
It was such a great experience. My admiration for the other band members again rose, my own knowledge of  the recording  process grew, and I can’t tell you how great the songs are sounding and how incredibly proud of this record I feel – and it wasn’t even finished when I left.

Couldn’t fit all my thoughts about it in one blog but some of the things I wanted to chat about in my blog/ things I have learnt this week…

The Studio
This maybe sounds pretentious and high maintenance but a big % of making a great record is about feeling great when you go in to the studio, about that being the only thing you have to think about. I have had some great recording experiences but I have never had the luxury of being able to hire a studio and live on site for consecutive days. My recordings have always been about when I can afford to get in the studio – often a spread out process that involves working lots of hours to save the money and then finding snippets of studio time to try and get in and get stuff down. My last album was a great experience but it was also a substantial amount of time on the M25 in rush hour, taking that out of the equation and replacing it with waking up in a beautiful cottage, eating, showering in the nicest shower ever, throwing on some comfy pyjama-like clothes and walking a few feet over to the studio was just wonderful.

Recording over a few days in the studio without having to run off to do something, or have the producer have to finish up for another client at some point was a great process. It felt like a musical retreat that I came away from feeling all zenlike 🙂

The Studio itself was out of this world. The Microphone I sang in to was worth more than my car, guitars and other worldly goods put together (although not quite as much as my house!) It managed to record my voice perfectly with a really lovely up close sound but somehow didn’t pick up all those weird lip movements and over breathiness that you often get when you try to get such a close recording (although this may have something also to do with Sam and Ross who were driving the good ship that was the studio – I’ll get on to them later)

The set up with little sound-proof booths meant that we could all track songs together live but there wasn’t the pressure of thinking “Gah if I mess up I mess up everyone’s take” because we were all being recorded separately. As a 10 piece band this was so important to us to get the live feel as a big part of our record – oh and as a 10 piece band it was kind of important we could track more than one instrument at a time or we may have been there for quite some time!
So this was one of the best things about Cube but not only do the booths allow you to track “alone with the band” (best of both worlds) they also have clear double sided doors in them so that you can SEE your band members. I am the queen of visual cues and really like to be able to “jam” with my band members – the set up for this is perfect, you get the feeling this place was designed by a musician or someone who has been around musicians their whole life. It is no exaggeration to say that this studio is perfect. They’ve thought of everything.
There’s space to practice, to drink tea, there’s headsets which allow you to control your own guide track separately to anybody elses,  you can control the level of your own backing track throughout a take – I didn’t even know that was something I wanted in this life – but it is 🙂

The People

You probably know how I feel about the other 9 members of the band so here I shall just wibble on a bit about the people who helped record our Album.

Gareth – Gareth owns Cube Recordings. He designed it and made it what it is. The studio has some pretty impressive clients and achievements. It is fair to say he is kind of a big deal. He is also really down to earth, goofy looking in photos, welcoming, funny, friendly and has a magical way of making you feel like you’ve known him for years and you should instantly make yourself really comfortable in his studio.

Ross – Ross was our engineer for the week. He too had a really good way of making you feel like you’d known him ages, for that week he kind of became a band member and I will miss him not being part of our shenanigans. He was funny and sarcastic and enjoyed an unhealthy snack – all good traits of a Company of Players band member. He is also really really talented. I am not good with ages but looking at how comfortable he is as an engineer, as if he’s had years of experience, and just listening to him talk about his life experiences so far, I can only assume he is somewhere in the region of 108? or perhaps he is in his twenties and is just one of life’s over achievers? either way we were lucky to have his skill and his personality with us for the week.

Sam – Sam. Sam Kelly. Sam F**ing Kelly. I don’t. I can’t. I struggle to sincerely put in to words my admiration for Sam after this week.  Sam is seemingly the most effortlessly talented musician you will ever meet, see, hear. Good sounds and songs seem to just flow from him in an almost annoying way.  He once played a Company of Players gig a little worse for ware. Before we went on stage I honestly have to say in my mind I was like “Can he do this?” but being a musician is as easy to Sam as breathing and he didn’t miss a beat. He is magical to watch and to listen to. He is a dream to play with. He is also a wonderful band mate who makes room for everybody.
Sam is producing the Company of Players album. Having seen him work this week I was blown away. Having seen him put in hours upon hours to support everyone to get their best performance, keep everyone happy, pay acute attention to the same track even after listening to it for the 800th time. He never once waned in his enthusiasm. He is so passionate about music and so wants to get this album right. I think he should be really proud of it. We all contribute so much to this band but I think we all left feeling like we owe a great debt to Sam for making this album come together. He’s as humble as he is talented so I will tell you how much work he did on this because I doubt he ever will.Actually he is still their now as I type this. We have all left but Sam’s there (with his beers left by thoughtful members of Said the Maiden) he’s there crafting all our takes into something wonderful. Music is as easy to Sam as breathing. But I don’t know anybody who works harder at helping other people to be their best and at finding ways of sharing that music with other people. I feel lucky to have worked on this project with him. I will remember it for a long time. I am a better musician for it. Thanks Sam, you big melon head 🙂 x

 

The Magic Moment

There was so much laughter and many memorable moments of the week. The Company of Players are a wonderful group of humans and I can Wax Lyrical about them forever but to save this blog from becoming even longer than it needs to be I will just tell you about one moment.

Kelly Oliver was laying her vocal track. It was quite late in the evening by this point so watching from the control room all I could see from the lamp light she had on in the booth was her hand. Her face was in darkness but I could see her hand as she waved it up and down following the melody of the words she was singing. She did several takes – although she could have used the first with no editing if she had wanted to – and each time she sang I actually didn’t even breathe. Maybe this sounds really over the top but I felt in that moment I was probably in the presence of somebody who is likely one of the  best folk musicians of our time and one day  I would be telling my Grandchildren how I sat on the floor of a control room, hot lemon in a mug, spellbound and mesmerised by her. And I imagine my Grandchildren would be crazy impressed because they probably have her poster on their wall and her records on CD – because my Grandchildren listen to CDs in an ironic retro way?!

I think we made a little bit of folk history. I am really proud of my part in it. I can not. Can not wait to share it with everyone 🙂 x

January 2017

Final blog of 2016 

My final blog of 2016 is a rough draft of a poem I sat and wrote this morning after my favourite superhero had visited me 🙂

Spending the morning with a superhero

6 months pregnant. She squats to the floor to be three year old height and plays the same imaginary game she’s played a zillion times. 

She doesn’t roll her eyes, or say “not now” or explain it’s hard for mummy to keep getting up and down. 

She asks about my day, my family, my job. We talk about New Years resolutions (because bringing a human life into the world isn’t enough) 

I ask her what it feels like when baby moves. Is it like being on a roller coaster? Does the whole world shake?
Yeh, it is actually, it’s just like that and it keeps me wide awake. 
And I wouldn’t have known. Because she never says and it never really shows. 

And I love playing with this one who has my superheroes face. But sometimes with a certain look that man is in her place.

They met when we were still in school. we joked he was the love of her life.
Seems he really was, but we didn’t know that at the time.

And we navigate the “do not touch” “be careful” and “that’s not a toy” 
As they enter into my totally unsuitable world. 

Where pets can’t be squeezed too tight and baubles can’t be pulled
off of trees.
My superhero navigates this terrain. To spend some time with me
xxxxx

Final blog of 2016 

1 year

 

This day last year was a “first day of the rest of my life” kind of day. I had woken up from a wonderful party where all  my friends had gathered to celebrate my “retirement” from my full time job as a Young People’s Services Librarian, I’d been working in libraries  for 10 years. So although I would still be working on my charity project at the prison library, I would no longer be a proper children’s librarian! That was a big deal to me.   And look how lovely the library family were – I still miss them.
library-family
I was so so moved by how many of my friends came to my house to party with me. I felt very loved and supported – and I am thinking perhaps I should organise another party soon?

I woke up in this new world on the 8th and by the 12th I was heading off on my first tour of Germany.  I just got back from my second tour of Germany on Sunday – so it seems things have gone full circle.

As so often goes with life, it feels like the year has gone very quickly and at the same time I can’t really remember exactly how things used to be, the changes and the time have creeped up on me.

I wanted see where the road took me but I also had plans for this year too and mostly they stumbled in to place.

I wanted to see a bit more of the world and sing my songs while I was at it I managed to wind my way to Germany, Brussels, Wales, France, Iceland, Ireland and a few far flung corners of England too. I’ve met some wonderful people and seen some beautiful places. I’ve also had a couple of calamities – which is good, I think, because I lived to tell the tale.
dsc_2194

I wanted to spend more time on my music, and I have. There aren’t many days I leave the house without my guitar. I am either playing music, recording music, writing music or teaching music. It is a wonderful, insane, pinch me am I dreaming sort of a life to live – and that makes it all the more easier when I am paying overdue charges because my bills are late again or living off of Aldi soup.

I wanted to develop my Storybook Dads charity project and I have been able to do that. I can’t really understand how I managed to do that at the same time as working my last job. It still has lots of flaws but it is getting there, and it continues to make a real difference to the families who use the project. I recently sat down and started planning all my “dreams” for next year and really putting in to place some more sustainability and development for this was top of my list.

I wanted to be there more for my friends. Many of my close friends have quite different lives to me now and we have to make an effort to make sure we remain what we’ve always been. I got to watch one of my friends little girls for 6 weeks while she attended a course, it was the best afternoon of my week by miles. I also babysat for my friends son (he is only five months, I was terrified) but her and her husband got a date 😉
This Saturday I have planned a “Super Mums” afternoon that involves yoga, meditation, tea and cake for my Mum friends.  Maybe those things sound like obvious things to be doing for your friends but I wasn’t finding the time before – I want to be able to do more of this stuff next year. If you’re my friend – if your life is similar or different or somewhere inbetween – I want to see you more, talk to you more, be part of your world more 🙂

I also wanted to mend my broken heart. Sometimes I think it has mended. Sometimes out of nowhere it sneaks up on me and reminds me that it is very much in pieces. Lately I am starting to think that maybe it is always going to be a bit broken, it’s one of my defining features and there are people who will love me all the more for it – a bit like my lazy left eye!!! Which someone I have a lot of time for told me he has never noticed…which is silly because it is as clear as….well as clear as the eye on my face… 🙂

Apart from the bits where I talk about my broken heart, I tend to try and be positive in this blog but like all human lives there’s been some hard parts to this year, some have taught me things, some have just left me feeling totally helpless and blue. But overall when I look back this year has been a lovely year.
Thank you for being a part of it.  🙂 xxxx

So many people have been part of it that I can’t possibly thank or mention everyone but….

Colin Weston – Thank you for believing in my music and helping me share it across the world. Everything about Independent Music Collective is a dream and I am so proud to be part of it. Gigs in shoe shops, mobile buses and student unions in Iceland – who knew? It is no exaggeration to say you’ve helped me achieve things I have been dreaming of since I was about 12. Thank you from the bottom of my heart…..:) In your face…. xxx

Mum and Dad – For the loans, for the love, the advice, the shoulders to cry on, for looking after the pets when I go off adventuring, for mowing the lawn 😉 and so much more xxxx

Jess Distill – for asking me to join you on your trip to Iceland, for being brave and following your dreams – you make me want to be brave too.
For inviting me to be part of The Company of Players, you have no idea what an impact that has had on me, I have never felt more welcomed and more like a real musician when in the company of you all. Thank you xxxxx

 

There’s so many more people I want to mention who have been such a big part of this year Lauren, Paul, Spinky, Amy, Lewis, Lydia, Clare, Tony, John….the list goes on and on. I have so many lovely friends.

Lots of love
From me and my lazy left eye!!!

xxxxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 year