The beginning of November is the arbitrary time when I start pruning the hedge. Fencing is a big consideration when you start out allotmenteering. There is one garden pest that can do more damage than all the others put together – homo sapien of course. A native wild hedge with hawthorn, blackthorn and particularly dog rose can go a long way in helping to make things secure. There are other advantages – as well as security, there’s privacy and wind-breaking plus you can plant lots of fruit bushes and trees in it and flowers at the base making it a bird and insect haven.

Once the hedge is established, pruning and laying is a big job – especially for one person. The hedges in the field have taken off this year, doubling in size in places, so now it’s a gargantuan task. Had I planned it more carefully, I wouldn’t have put so much barbed wire in the outer hedges, which means I can’t use any machinery to cut it.

Fortunately help is at hand. When my neighbour Alex showed an interest in my bottom two allotments, I offered it to him on the understanding that he’d help me out on the farmlet when I needed it rather than pay rent. It works well. I’m a great believer in the ‘Your time for my time’ as a universal currency – it transcends the greed-based banking system. Now Alex and two of his mates have bought the allotment opposite. They’re organic like me and now we’re in serious farming territory.



There’s no such thing as ‘a quiet time’ once you embark on serious food growing, however at this time of year, there are fewer immediately pressing jobs such as fruit and veg picking, so it’s entirely possible to have a few days off. It’s a good job, because the viral shits wiped me out for a couple of days plus I had a harrowing couple of weeks. I had ME for a day and probably PTSD for a morning.

I went up yesterday and it was mild-misty-drizzly – everything damp-damp-damp. I didn’t do much – just the usual shyte-shifting and snuffling round the field. I filmed some background footage for a video for a new song I’ve just written.

Now is the time to plan for next year and I need to get on with it. I’m going to do some drawings of all the beds, making a note of what was in this year, then decide what to put in next year. I spent a lot of money on a tipping trailer for the tractor with the express purpose of driving round the track to Jimmy’s to harvest some of his twenty-year old muck mountain so I need to get on with that too.

I’m harvesting lots of runner beans to dry. I’m on a nerd forum on the internet and someone recommended borlotti beans so I’m going to give them a go. I’ve picked two big bagfuls of hawthorn berries which take about 18 months to germinate. I plant them directly into the beds – I use no dig so I can just pot them up when they appear. I’ve often thought of trying to grow native wild hedging commercially. There are still loads of rose-hips to pick.

Hawthorn berries


Rock and Roll:

I kind of got my muse back and I’m not quite sure where from. I’m itching to go out playing live again. I’ve got 3 gigs lined up so far. I went through a list of my songs and picked out a load that I haven’t played for ages. I started a new one a while back, inspired most unusually by an opera song – Bellini’s Norma – Casta Diva sung by Maria Callas. I just had a couple of verses then Erin told me about a band called Dawes. They have a song called From a window seat which is kind of direct observation of what goes on during a plane flight. They have a decent guitar player too. I then read about Richard Dawson and he does a similar thing. That’s what I’ve been doing for ages, but it gave me a burst of inspiration and I sat down and wrote another 8 verses in one go. Stream of consciousness man. It’s called Solo – it sounds melancholy but it’s actually optimistic. I worry that my black vernacular humour might offend someone, even though it’s never malicious – I shouldn’t – I had the same anguish when I wrote the book. Khany and Sandra told me to be true to myself so I did.

Having written the song so quickly, yesterday I set about recording it and I did it in one fell swoop without stopping – it took about 8 hours. There’s a great joy to having a simple efficient recording set-up. The hardest thing was the first guitar part. I used the drum machine on the Casio keyboard as a click track. I did the vocals second then the drums then the double bass then the second guitar part (using the tremolo on the Tremolux – lush) and finally a keyboard. I have the video mapped out in my head but ideally I’d like The Derry Girls to be in it so I’ll have to play them the song and ask their permission. Hornshaw has the most drole way of saying a thousand words by raising the lateral half of her left eyebrow by 14.5 degrees and I’d love to capture that.

‘Someone’s being rude in the resusc room. Hornshaw raises an eyebrow and telepathically asks me whether I have any spare ‘STOP BEING A CUNT!’ stickers.’

I might have to edit that line.

Back room


I’ve been asked several times about doing an audio-book version of Painting Snails – it’s just getting round to it. I’ve also been asked about prints of the woodblock chapter illustrations. I bought some nice paper ages ago and that’s as far as I’ve got. Mitton has suggested an exhibition and he’s asked me how quickly I could get 20 or so framed pictures together, so that might spur me on. I’m doing a woodblock of 3 wasps for the first chapter. I could easily make this muso-art-fart stuff into a full-time occupation.

We’ve finalised a date for our Sick of Being Normal – Pendle Punk forty years on event – 8th Feb. It’s exciting – all these arty threads are weaving together and building on that radical legacy. Mid-Pennine Arts organised an exhibition of banners at Brierfield mill and Louise and I had a look yesterday – it was worth it just to see the stunning majesty of that towering magnificent Victorian sandstone building. The banners were good too.

I’m chairman of Kirkgate Allotment Association and we’re having our first meeting in ages this aft. That will be a laugh. I’ll report back next week.

Brierfield mill
MPA banner exhibition

When I wrote the book, I had the somewhat naive notion to go out and play gigs and talk about the book in between songs. It made me feel like a bit of an art twat, but it kinda worked. The thing is that the songs and the writing are all part of the same thing – the book title came from the song – it’s all anecdotal observation. I also managed to incorporate my favourite art form – woodblock printing.

I’m doing exactly the same with the second book – the difference is that I’m writing it as I go along, so the blog will form the book. The album to accompany the book seems to be writing itself – neat. There’s an added dimension too this time – film making. Jon Mitton is making a documentary in ten episodes. He’s already finished two and the third is filmed. The second one is about Notsensibles and punk, and it’s been very well received. The first one is kind of an introduction and he has me reading from the book like some kind of Jackanory dick – I’ve just quietly put it on YouTube.

In the first book I deliberately didn’t mention being a doctor at all until the seventh chapter ‘Emergency’ then bang. I wrote about a cardiac arrest where the bloke survived. In the second book, Emergency is the second chapter. Eimhear, Erin and Hornshaw are our three most recent consultants. Likening them to the Derry Girls is a literary device for a bit of humour and fun. I think it might spoil it if I actually watched the series.

We’re trying to make a recruitment film to attract new colleagues. I took my sixties Voix de son maitre record player into work. I thought it would make a great opening shot and help show how we’re a bit different – it would also be a device to introduce some background music – how many ED consultant offices have record players? I thought it would be fun to film little clips of classic 7″ singles and put them on social media. So far I’ve done Frantic Elevators – Holding back the years and Muddy Waters – I’m your doctor (get it – I’m your doctor – arf arf – not many people get these cryptic references?) I was filming another couple last Thursday when there was a Bang Bang Bang on the wall – I’d never realised that we were right next door to the hot reporting room – the radiologists didn’t like it one bit. It made it into the song verbatim although I just couldn’t resist adding a cheeky bit at the end.