Christmas Newsletter 2016

Lovely friends! How are you? I’m full of good wine, fried potatoes and waldorf salad. I’ve taken a forest walk with the dog in an attempt to reduce my cholesterol levels. I’ve debuted some pretty cutting edge dance moves to the strains of Kim Larsen (think Scandi Bob Dylan). Yesterday, I tried to explain the concept of Boxing Day to the Danes, and failed. (Later, Wikipedia tells me there are competing conjectures for the origins of the term, ‘none of which are definitive’. So I'm going to go with my theory that that Boxing Day refers to the urge to lamp a particularly annoying relative in the face, come the 26th December). Traditionally, this is a time to reflect on the year just gone (more below). But it’s also a time to watch Alan Partridge: Knowing Me, Knowing Yule, which is still one of the funniest things ever (“Oi Alan, what do you do for an encore…shag a robin?). And also, find random Christmas themed gif sites and make stuff like this:

Now, I know I normally do my short digest thing, but I figure it’s Christmas and you might have a bit of extra time on your hands, so I’m going for the long read. There's also going to be a lot of my face in this newsletter so I've tried to feature it in a wide variety of angles, lighting and circumstances so as not to get too repetitive.

If you’re at all like me, when reviewing the year and considering positive events and achievements (and I reckon it's important to do that, rather than beat yourself up for all the stuff you didn't get together...fight the default setting!), you might tend to dwell only on the big stuff. But I reckon it’s important to notice the little wonders too. And with this in mind, here are my year highlights from the micro to the macro:

JANUARY: I was honoured to speak on a panel about mental health and art for JW3’s Festival of the Mind alongside doctor/comics artist Ian Williams and writer (and former psychiatric nurse) Nathan Filer, who I was already a fan of. (>> Read his book, Shock of the Fall. It’s beautiful. Or this short piece in the New York Times. Since then, we've exchanged emails concerning goulash and Rumplestiltskin and I now have a crash pad in Bristol. Honestly, this is one of the best things about doing what I do…getting to meet so many luminous people (yourselves included!).

(Below: Me, Ian, Nathan at JW3)

FEBRUARY: I got invited to sing for one night in Emily Hall’s beautiful opera, Folie a Deux, alongside tenor Finnur Bjarnason. I had a week to learn it so it was a feat of memory. Plus it was the first time in a long while that I’d sung music written by someone other than myself (Purcell not included). I also saw snowdrops. And sung some new songs in a little bookshop in Copenhagen (to be recorded next year!).

MARCH: I played in the new Music Room @ Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the wonderful Unthanks came to my show. I also got put up in the most pimp hotel just across the road, with a dream bath tub plus I met a miniature pony. Like I said, it’s the small things.

APRIL: the month of the new leg (take 2). Sing the praises of the NHS!

This was the view from my bed. Pre-op, I decided that it’d be great to cook loads of home-cooked food in advance, as I couldn’t quite deal with the hospital fare. But that really didn’t work out as I only had a very specific appetite for sushi and those dried fruit strips for about a week. The nurses were also really fascinated by my herb tea collection. I resolved to bring some thank you tea in on a return visit, but didn’t manage, and for this I still feel bad. I did write the surgeon a thank you card, though. And I really meant every word.

MAY: this was my recovery month, where I remembered what it was like to walk without pain and just for the joy of doing it (I believe they call it a 'stroll'). I had honestly forgotten how that (last memory of this: 19 years old). Moral of this story: don't take your hard-working pins for granted, they are miraculous.

This was my first proper walk around the rose garden in the Kings Garden, Copenhagen. Stop and smell the roses. Walk and see the castle. Awesome. Thank you technology. Thank you titanium. Thank you Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.

JUNE & JULY: These were the intensive months of working to create a song and spoken word piece with a group of survivors from Freedom from Torture. Hearing about their experiences were extraordinary and moving. One of the group, 'Uganda', was kidnapped aged 12 and forced to become a child soldier in the Lord's Resistance Army. Another of the group, Jade, was also kidnapped as an adult and tortured as a captive of the same army. To this day, she doesn't know whether her three children lived or died. Unimaginable pain. Yet you couldn't have met a more gentle or kind pair. And here they were in London in 2016, laughing together about stories from their lives and singing songs from their homeland. It was tough at times. Emotions got stirred up, tensions became apparent, members of the group were often tired (insomnia, worrying about their asylum status, existing on a shoestring) and also in pain (physical, emotional). But I hope, and think the experience was some small step towards healing. If you haven't had a chance to hear our piece, Lost and Found, get comfy and listen here. (Below: workshopping with Prossy and Jade on our Cirencester retreat).

AUGUST: I did a lot of the Danish sea (delicious), at Kings Cross Pond Club (alg-y) and Kentish Town Swimming Pool (efficient) and Brockwell Lido (freeeeeezing). I watched the pound plunge. And I met my first ever star-fish. We shook fingers and it was glorious. I discovered writer Rebecca Solnit. A harmonium joined my instrument family.

SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER: Lost and Found show at the Roundhouse. Stage invasion. Picked my first porcini. Went to Bristol to mix Lost and Found audio. (Bloody hell, are you still reading this? Thank you!). Sung at HOME, a brilliant house concert initiative to raise funds for asylum seekers and songs of Emily Hall at Union Chapel with Khorikos choir. And started working on the Oracles mix with the legend that is August Wanngren, who I think of as the Clark Kent of audio (unassuming, actually a superhero).

NOVEMBER: Sang in Rejkjavik (see previous mailout) as part of the Bedroom Community label 10th Anniversary Celebrations. (Good to land on their Christmas compilation too). Met a hot Viking.

DECEMBER: Me and Strange Boy's Vigilate! Christmas fundraiser happened and it was super fun, thanks to our amazing performers and crew and loads of you lot who made it along (and made it so great). Special shout out to my partner in crime (and also hot Viking), Jasper Høiby who aced the bass. Plus we raised over £600 for Care4Calais.

Finally, I found out a song of mine, Greenwich Pier, that I recorded with Laura Moody and Maya Youssef (both superb musicians/ladies) back in 2014 had made it onto the BBC Radio 3 Late Junction record, 'Unpopular Music' (you opposed to 'pop-ular' music - took me a while to get it) as the closing track - woo hoo! (See pic at top). You can get hold of it here ( . A lovely end to the year :)

I do hope 2016 has been a good one for you (in spite of, you know, world events). Don't forget to appreciate the small things, my loves. As I saw on a kitschy meme the other day, 'don't let the things you want stop you appreciating what you already have'. Amen. And talking of kitsch, if you really fancy a custom-made Christmas gif, send me a pic before 30 Dec and I'll do my best to oblige. I shall leave you with this, a little video of me unwrapping my vinyl to the strains of Greenwich Pier. Lo res, hi excitement.

See you in 2017! In gratitude, and lots of love!


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