Elderflower wine and champagne

This is Miranda, our Elder tree. I’ve chopped a load of her back this year and she has a bit of an aphid thing going on but she is delivering loads of creamy white cat piss smelling flowers. She has roses growing up her and the cats scratch her but she is a tolerant old hag.
Elderflowers work well as fritters made from coconut flour an egg and fizzy water, fried in coconut oil.
Elderflowers also make wine. It’s been a long time since I made any so this may not work.

The lemons are cooling in a sugary water solution ready to add the elderflowers for the champagne recipe from Booze for Free

Elderflowers in June

Being a judgemental angel – singing Mozart’s Requiem

photo by www.johnnycajon.com
photo by www.johnnycajon.com

The last time I sang in a choir I was pregnant, and I stopped because the little fucker inside me star jumped at the high notes. He’s ten now, and although he might still star jump it’s not going to make a difference to me.

Mozart’s Requiem is the music I fall back on when I need it. It’s been with me on a walkman in shitty, cockroach infested hostels in Fiji, it’s nursed me through heartbreak and miserable times. For me, it’s uplifting and optimistic so when I saw the advert for Bristol Choral Society ‘Come and sing along’ I didn’t hesitate to get tickets.

Three of us turned up and waited half an hour for coffee that we didn’t have time to drink. John would have slept with one of the Colston Hall waitresses to get us served but there just wasn’t time. Good of him to say he would though, take that bullet for the team etc. We split into Tenor, Alto (my mum) and me, Soprano. I’d looked at the score on YouTube and thought I was more likely to hit the high Soprano notes than the low Alto notes. We collected scores and went our separate ways.

It was clear from the start that I was in the shit. Adverting it as suitable for “Singers of all ages and experience” was a little inaccurate. Loads of people had never read a score before and didn’t know where to find their parts. Loads of other people had sung it a lot in their own choirs. My voice had a range of about 4 notes and I was near some really squeaky Sopranos who were an octave above me and I kept trying to reach their heights. I thought I’d probably just have to sit it out and listen but I kept going and it did get better. Come the end I could hit the top B with conviction.


The conductor was perfect, just the right balance of entertaining, slightly snide, doubtful and encouraging. I realise that looks like criticism but it was just what we all needed. The morning went fast, with us singing (or attempting to) along to a piano. In the afternoon the orchestra arrived and a little later the soloists. Surprisingly it was starting to sound a little better.

We all trudged out at half 4 and were to come back at 6.20 for the performance – to a full house, sell out! Oh pants.

We performed in the audience section (which was dark and hot and rammed full of menopausal women, me included). The audience sat in the section the performers usually go in. There were 700 singers. Plenty enough to cover my silence in the tricky bits.

The performance itself sped past, we hadn’t sung it all the way through before so that was a little nervewracking. I think it was pretty tidy for what it was, which was enormous fun.

It’s two days afterwards now and my diaphram feels like I’ve run a long way, my throat is just about ok. I cannot get the music out of my head. I was expecting to be totally overwhelmed and sobbing my heart out all the way through but it was too much hard work to have time for that.

What a totally brilliant thing to do, I’d do it again but next time I’ll do some scales and learn how to read music again before hand.




Every Record I Own – J is for Janis Joplin – Greatest Hits

Janis Joplin ‎– Janis Joplin’s Greatest Hits

janis I’ve had this since I was 14 or so. I used to be able to do a pretty good impersonation of Janis then, thankfully I didn’t keep doing it because it ripped my throat out every time.

What can I say? Great album, great voice, nice screetching scratchy guitars, a rockin’ brass section and it reminds me of hot sunny days hanging around Plymouth Hoe, and bawling out ‘Cryyyyyyy’ in subways that made it a whole lot louder. Those subways are no longer there, clearly the sheer strength of my voice resonated deep into the concrete cancer and made demolition needed all the quicker. Hmm.

Weirdly, at the time I was hanging out with a male Janis and his very young mother who was sleeping with his best friend. Plymouth eh! They were both bright young things with genius brains, we’d stay up all night speedily stoned, discussing Mandelbrot sets and arguing about the value of an integer. Conversations then, that I didn’t know were practice for the sort of conversations I have with my 10 year old now. I don’t know what happened to Janis, good things I hope. His friend died of misadventure, I don’t know details but he did have a taste for the hard stuff so I assume it’s something related. Nice bloke. What a waste.

CBS ‎– S 65470
Vinyl, LP, Compilation, Stereo
  • A1 Big Brother & The Holding Company – Piece Of My Heart 4:19
  • A2 Big Brother & The Holding Company – Summertime 4:01
  • A3 Kozmic Blues Band – Try (Just A Little Bit Harder) 4:02
  • A4 Full Tilt Boogie Band – Cry Baby 3:57
  • A5 Full Tilt Boogie Band – Me And Bobby McGee 4:30
  • B1 Big Brother & The Holding Company – Down On Me 3:07
  • B2 Full Tilt Boogie Band – Get It While You Can 3:24
  • B3 Big Brother & The Holding Company – Bye, Bye Baby 2:36
  • B4 Full Tilt Boogie Band – Move Over 3:40
  • B5 Full Tilt Boogie Band – Ball And Chain 8:01

Every Record I Own – B is for Bowie – Station to Station

David Bowie ‎– Station To Station

station I know the live Stage version of Station to Station so much better than the album version that this is just pale and limp in comparison. The live version is a big wall of sound attacking until you submit. There are scratches on the first track of my copy of Station to Station which don’t help either.
Once you get to Golden Years I’m on home ground, territory that sounds right, but it’s not my favorite Bowie. It’s all a bit lift music, background and nothing else.
RCA Victor ‎– APL1 1327, RCA Victor ‎– APL1-1327, RCA Victor ‎– APLI-1327
Vinyl, LP, Album, 1st Pressing
  • A1 Station To Station 10:08
  • A2 Golden Years 4:03
  • A3 Word On A Wing 6:00
  • B1 Tvc 15 5:29
  • B2 Stay 6:08
  • B3 Wild Is The Wind 5:58

Working with Oblique Strategies

I once had a boyfriend who,  heavily influenced by the Dice Man would make choices by throwing a dice. I think his choices were rather less dangerous than Luke Rhinehart’s and probably revolved around which pub to go to but nevertheless his life was dictated by chance.

Using Oblique Strategy cards brings an element of chance into what you have already chosen to do. It is a series of cards designed by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in the 70’s and they are an incredible way of changing your perspective on a problem. Originally made for musicians they translate pretty well into any creative area.

I’m using an online version that throws up a card at random along with a seemingly accidental colour scheme that I appreciate. It’s great seeing colours I would never consider using together. I had the link lurking in my browser bar for a few days before I could get the hang of using it. Some of the strategies are insanely obscure – “Do we need holes?” and “Idiot glee (?)” don’t feel terribly helpful for me right this second but maybe they will one day.

I used them properly yesterday when designing memes for Slumber-Roo. I’ve loads of pictures of babies and baby carriers and a list of quotes to add to them to make them into something that gets shared around on Facebook.  I was a bit stuck with this when I started, I couldn’t see how to fit everything I needed into a small image. Oblique Strategies said “Take away the elements in order of apparent non-importance” – now that was helpful, I knew it in my subconscious but I hadn’t actually considered the bare bones of the project. Then “Don’t stress one thing more than another” came up. This was getting really good, normally when I start a job I have a clear idea of what it is going to look like at the end.  At college, when I did pattern cutting I could see the finished garment in my head well before I’d actually made it or cut the pattern. I could revolve it, I could picture it on someone, I could almost feel the fabric in my mind. This job had me stumped for a while until I brought in the random element.


I’m not letting my life be dictated by them by any means, what I am using them for is as a way to get a different perspective on my work. Like looking at a drawing in a mirror so that mistakes stand out more clearly, the Oblique Strategy cards are helping me to get a fresh viewpoint.

Try them for yourself here http://www.joshharrison.net/oblique-strategies/ or you can use one of the many free apps on your phone. Or, if you have a spare £30 knocking around you can buy a set of the real things here – http://www.enoshop.co.uk/product/oblique-strategies.html




When things go wrong, what I’ve learnt from a crap situation

I recently started an e-course for creative businesses. I had high hopes; I’d done other e-courses with the same tutor and got a lot out of them. I made good solid virtual friends that led to us being friends in real life. My creativity blossomed, it worked well for me. The courses had regular emails, regular online events and supportive, lively Facebook groups that went with them.

The last course didn’t work for me because there was no free speech on the Facebook group. Discussion was not encouraged. Comments were allowed on certain subjects at certain times only, comments were moderated, deleted without warning. Every time I posted I felt the tippy toe stress of an abusive relationship – ‘will I annoy them’ going through my head, ‘what will they do?’. What they did do is remove me from the Facebook group, which actually saves me shit loads of stress checking it all the time trying to find out if I had missed something. So that’s good.

I know that some people are able to create great works of art in prison environments. I’m not one of them. I cannot create anything in a moderated world, I can’t be myself if I’m censored. Having been mostly self employed since the age of 18 I’ve managed to build up a lifestyle around my inability to be someone else. Or even pretend to be someone else, really, what you see is what you get.

So what have I learned? The dreadful reminder that being a presence on the internet can go to some peoples heads, and hopefully it will never go to mine. Hopefully someone will tell me if it looks like it’s going to.

I’ve been reminded that full control of a situation is not necessarily a good thing. Sometimes letting other people in gives you a sense of reality that you might miss being in the middle of it. As a control freak myself (you have to be when you are a single parent) that is a difficult one for me but a good lesson to learn and remember, every time.

I’ve been reminded that even if you really know your stuff, a certain amount of humility can prevent meglomania.

I have run www.lactivist.co.uk  and the other websites in the lactivist empire for the last decade, which included many interviews, (the most exciting one being when the outside broadcast van came to my house because I had no childcare and they really wanted me to speak about breastfeeding on the World Service.) I’ve been complemented by 3 professional business owners, on 3 separate occasions because they were impressed that none of it went to my head. I’m not a prima donna blogger. If I ever become one, someone take me out the back and shoot me, you have my permission.

I’ve learned that in a learning environment with a group, be it on the internet or elsewhere, it’s really important for the members of the class to be able to form as a group, so they feel safe to share and so they are interested in the other people doing the course. This can only work if there can be discussion and comment.  I’ve learned that if I do a course it helps me to have clear tasks and deadlines. These 2 nuggets of info will help me be a better course tutor myself.

I’m still on the course, well maybe not after this post but I’d rather lose the (unrefundable) £95 I paid than my integrity. I’m happy to think of that £95 as payment for the excellent value I got from the previous courses. I have no hard feelings, it just didn’t work for me and I learned a lot from what didn’t work.

I am true to myself and I remain an honest warrior.

Metta is more powerful than weapons.



Trees in Wales

I took my camera camping, in the country where you get to see proper trees.litche

I started off looking at trees from different angles, close up and from underneath. I took home some lichen for the beetles too.  I’ve always loved the different shades you get when you look up through the leaves of the tree to the sky so I took some photos of that. Then I discovered that my phone/camera does effects……



This twisty tree is how my mind felt before I spent a night on my own camping in blissful silence.


The cross section of a tree was one of the large logs in my camp site, there to be sat on or leant against.


More to come, I did actually take a sketch book too……