Monday, 1 September 2014

Tarts

I'm sitting with Nathan and Cindy in our relatively tidy sitting room watching the X Factor on iPlayer. We're actually watching it on itvplayer, but I refuse to acknowledge this particular system because it's rubbish.

We've basically been tidying the house all day and have dispatched about eight bin bags of carefully sifted rubbish into various recycling bins across the capital. We threw away as much as we possibly could. Tomorrow I'm going to become even more ruthless and throw away about half of my possessions!

Our house is full of moths. We're gonna kill them all. They're chowing down on all of Nathan's beautiful knitted objects. They must therefore die. Horrifically if needs be.

I bought two wooden boxes from Homebase yesterday which we've filled with mementos from our wedding and Brass; cards, photographs, little gifts, pieces of music, dried button holes... It was lovely to look through everything again, particularly the wedding stuff, which has been in a giant pile in our bedroom. We found cards from Michael Stipe and Katie Melua, and, of course, all the lovely messages and letters from friends and family.

We briefly stopped tidying the house to have lunch at the Cafe Rouge in Highgate. We'd found some tokens for the restaurant in a pile somewhere and thought how lovely it would be to treat Cindy to a decent meal.

I ate a tart, and then had another tart for pudding. It was pretty decent food, although some tart in the kitchen stuck a load of coriander in the tossed leaf salad. I can taste that shit a mile off and had to spit an entire mouthful of food into a napkin as soon as my teeth made contact with the evil herb.

After eating we went onto the Heath and sat on blankets watching the bright green parakeets flapping through the bright blue sky whilst drinking bright orange fizzy pop. It was nice to be back on the Heath after an entire month away from London.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Derbyshire again

I feel like we've covered a fair amount of the country today. As I type this blog I'm in a car speeding through the centre of Derby. Derby!

Derby is where Simon Groome and Goldie from Blue Peter were from. The Blue Peter team used to come up to his farm to go sledging. Derby is also where I failed to win a Gillard award for my film about Watford Gap... But I can't hold that against the place.

This morning we drove down to Guildford, where Nathan was doing a gig singing opera in a marquee. I deposited him outside a glorious house in the middle of a rather beautiful wood, and drove off to look for a NHS walk-in clinic. I've had a dry, tickly cough since Brass finished. It doesn't seem to be going away and I'm not at all into the idea of going on a honeymoon which might involve visiting an expensive American doctor.

The walk-in clinic at Guildford hospital, which was advertised on the internet, turned out not to be a walk-in clinic, and I was sent instead to Woking.

It took an hour for me to be seen, but the doctor I met was very good. Very friendly. She's put me on antibiotics and wants me to have an x-ray when I get back if the drugs don't work because she could definitely "hear something" in my left lung. Great.

I returned to the fancy house in the wood, picked Nathan up and drove North, around London, through the Home Counties and up into the midlands to the delightful Derbyshire town of Belper, where Little Michelle's father, Michael, was celebrating his 60th birthday in his brand new garden.

It was a charming event. Lovely company. Beautiful food. A great fire which we all sat around. Michelle sang three operatic arias accompanied by Ben Holder (our Brass MD, who happens to be her partner... They met at our wedding.) Her voice improves every time I hear it.

The views from Michael's garden are stunning; you can see right across the valley to a dark wood, and a hillside criss-crossed with dry-stone walls. It's almost as though you could throw a stone across the valley. The air is so still and hazy up there. I longed to be walking in those fields. There was something rather haunting about them.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Kate Bush

So, I can't be absolutely certain, but I'm pretty sure Kate Bush just sang Cloudbusting especially for me!

We have just emerged from the musical event of the year, the most hotly anticipated live gig that perhaps there has ever been. Kate Bush at the Hammersmith Apollo.

The air of expectation as we arrived at the venue was quite extraordinary. Everyone was having their photograph taken in front of the sign which said "Before The Dawn: sold out." Ushers were trying to keep people moving, but everyone wanted to savour every moment.

The merchandise stalls were mobbed. I bought a mug. I wanted to honour Kate's request to not take photographs during the gig, so figured a mug would give me something tangible to take away with me.

She came on stage singing the song Lily from the Red Shoes album. I got so excited that tears started spurting from my eyes. Her singing was really rather fabulous. She sang in a robust area of her voice; a blend of re-enforced head voice and a far less familiar chest belt.

Everything started like a rock concert. The band (which included a double drum kit) played from a plinth. Kate Bush stood in front, in a spotlight, belting out some of the more familiar numbers; Hounds of Love, Running Up That Hill, King of the Mountain...

And then everything sort of disintegrated... The band was trucked to the back of the stage, people dressed as fish skeletons rushed on, and Ms Bush appeared in a film sequence floating in the sea whilst performing And Dream of Sheep from the Hounds of Love album. It soon became apparent that she was going to do the unimaginable and perform the entire Ninth Wave.

For those who don't know The Hounds of Love, the Ninth Wave is the album's epic B side; a through-composed psycho-drama sung from the perspective of a drowning woman. And she did the lot. With panache. There were helicopters floating above the audience, huge silks which billowed like waves. At one point an entire house trucked on and Kate's real-life son Bertie sat on a sofa delivering the most surreal monologue about sausages. It was peculiar, amazing, moving, eccentric,  sumptuous, perplexing... All the things you want a Kate Bush concert to be.

Kate herself came across as entirely unpretentious and utterly un-enigma-like. Very warm and friendly in fact. Between songs, she seemed just like someone's Mum. Before the interval she said "we're gonna have a little break now. See you in a little bit..." And off she went, waving like she'd just won the bingo!

The second half focussed mostly on the Ariel album. When you're Kate Bush, you have too many hits to even try to cram in. You don't need to sing Wuthering Heights or Baboushka or This Woman's World. If you chose not to sing a single song from your latest album, no one will complain. The highlight of the second half was almost certainly Ms Bush's live recreation of her duet with a blackbird! On the Ariel album it was audacious enough, but when you recreate, chirp for chirp, the sound of a series of blackbird calls, in perfect time, you are a God. She is a God. I cried again.

Just before the end of the evening she sang a song I didn't know, just her and a piano (which they'd just dropped an enormous tree through). The hall fell silent, and there it was; that familiar Kate Bush ballad sound. Those open piano chords. That voice which jumps up and down octaves. The warm vibrato. The notes which fade to dust but somehow end with a seductive heavy consonant. It was a magical moment, made more magical by her finishing the set with Cloudbusting, the most anthemic of all of her songs. It will take me a long time to forget the image of row upon row of hands clapping in time at waist level, and then, as elation grew, above the head, and then a Mexican wave of people simply standing up because they didn't know how else to show their excitement.

And so the concert ended with everyone on their feet, which I guess can only be called a premature-standing ovation!

And I fulfilled a life-long ambition which no one will ever be able to erase from my memory.

Kate Bush. You have made me the luckiest man on the planet. Not only did you just sing beautifully, you did so on the twelfth anniversary of my relationship with my husband Nathan! Thank you from the very bottom of my heart! What a way to mark twelve years!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Fuzzy


I had a lovely lie-in again this morning. I’m still a bit fuzzy-headed and washed-out, but am slightly better than I was yesterday. I think recovery is going to be a rather long journey this time round, however.
Our bedroom is an absolute tip. There are piles and piles of things heaped on every inch of the carpet. I started to move boxes and suitcases around and found loads of things from our wedding; cards, old button holes, loose bow ties, bits of music, one or two of the more perplexing presents we received, photographs, heaps and heaps of paper work. Just looking at it broke me out in a sweat. It’s almost impossible to know what to do with it. So many people gave us presents which need to be hung on the walls in some way, but there is literally no wall-space in a house which is already filled with my photographs. Then, of course, I found loads of birthday cards, and the silly jokey made-in-China presents that people get for you on these kinds of occasions. They’re great fun for the day of the party: you wear with them, or play with them, or laugh at them... but then what? Where do they all go - except in terrible piles on the bedroom floor?

I threw away two bin bags full of stuff and then stalled and went into town to meet Nathan for a late lunch. On the tube on the way in, a woman sneezed and said “bless me” which I thought was a little eccentric, don’t most people say “excuse me?”I have never really understood the whole shouting “bless you” at strangers when they sneeze. It’s an odd compulsion, and quite intrusive. Surely most people would rather not have their sneezes publicised to the world?
On the way home, I collected our car from Highgate Autos. It’s the first time we’ve used these fellas, and I was hugely impressed by them. Not only did they do us a brilliant deal on the large amount of work we needed doing, but they were friendly and charming. It makes such a difference. They’re situated in a little mews development behind the High Street, which ought to make them the most expensive garage in the world, but they’re really not. I was also thrilled to hear that there’s been a garage on that particular site since 1910, which, I guess is pretty much since the first cars entered London. I love those little pieces of modern history.

I came home, and have started watching the athletics. I’ve no idea which athletics I’m seeing, but I’m thrilled to note that one of the 5000m runners is called Gaylen Rupp! Apparently he’s Mo Farrah’s running partner. As Nathan rightly points out, “of course he’s a fast runner; he needed to run away from all the kids who beat him up at school because of his silly name!”

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Dreams

It's been a bit of a non-day, or a "nay" as I like to call them. I had a lie-in, and woke up naturally after dreaming that I'd gone back to my old school to re-take my A-levels. I can only think the dream was a direct response to the new A* grade which arrived for the first time this year, in the process entirely devaluing the A (without a star) I got for my own A-level music!

I spent the afternoon making horrible biscuits to celebrate Nathan's return from France. I didn't set out to make them horrible, but had to use self-raising flour instead of plain flour, which gave the biscuits a curiously fluffy yet bitter taste. I smothered some in chocolate, some in jam, and others in a mix of icing sugar and lemon to disguise the taste. I burnt the rest by mistake, so had to throw them in the bin.

Nathan returned from France with even more pretty pictures drawn with permanent ink on his back. They are absolutely beautiful, but are red raw and angry-looking, and my first task was to rub cream over them which was a curiously unsettling experience.

I'm feeling considerably better than yesterday, but am still utterly wiped-out and fell asleep on the sofa in front of the telly this evening like a little old man. I dreamed that I was lying on a beach in the Caribbean and only realised when I opened my eyes that an angle-poise lamp was shining directly onto my face.

We watched The Great British Bake Off and I instantly became emotionally involved. Some poor chap had his ice cream taken out of the freezer by a wicked woman who said he had his own freezer. I absolutely supported his decision to have a tantrum and throw everything in the dustbin. I'd have done exactly the same thing. In my view, the woman who'd sabotaged his ice cream should have been disqualified, but everyone decided to focus on the way he responded to the situation she'd caused. Frankly, if that had been me, I'd have taken out her pudding with a hammer and a blow torch and seen how she responded to that. I suspect anarchy isn't the way forward for the Great British Bake Off, but it might be worth a go.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Humour bypass?

I used to think I didn't have a sense of humour. I very rarely understand jokes, particularly ones with punchlines which rely on word play. When I was young, my mother taught me how to read someone's face, so that I could laugh politely when they cracked a joke that I inevitably didn't understand. It's only taken me forty years to realise that my sense of humour is triggered by schadenfreude: the humour of cruelty. If someone falls on ice, I chuckle. If someone's skirt falls off mid-dance routine, I laugh. If someone sings out of tune, or gets bow shakes whilst performing a concerto, I often go into hysterics. I've laughed in funerals, assemblies, serious pieces of theatre and many an audition.

Whilst working on Taboo in the West End, I used to look forward to the moments when things went wrong; those times when the props went missing, or the curtain fell off its hinges, or better still when the leading lady went into a low-blood sugar trance and simply sat on stage with an inane smile on her face whilst the rest of the cast covered for her.

Today, schadenfreude was out in force on the streets of London. I sat in the waiting room at the osteopath's whilst an elderly black lady talked obsessively about being saved by Jesus. Readers will be pleased to hear that Jesus rewarded her by revealing her dirty knickers to the world as she stood up. Something terrible had happened to her skirt, which was made of a ghastly man-made fabric which glued itself together as she was sitting on the chair. I followed her along the corridor with the most astonishing view of her underwear. It was like the skirt had become a Venetian blind, which had been pulled up to reveal someone pulling a prune-like moonie at the window. If Jesus exists, he has a great sense of humour.

Later on, I popped into a cafe where they'd just washed the floor. A rather tarty-looking woman with deep attitude arrived wearing pink stilettos. The lovely Russian woman behind the counter, with her dark l's offered the obligatory warning; "be careful of wet floor." Almost instantaneously, the woman slipped and then swore with such venom that she slipped again. I have seldom laughed so much to myself.

On the tube on the way back up to Highgate, we were entertained by a wonderful busker called Tony Sweet. I kept myself engrossed in my iPhone, but was hugely impressed by his chutzpah and courage. Frankly, anyone who makes it their business to cheer Londoners up deserves to make a living, particularly one who does so via the medium of live music. I gave him some money and he instantly spotted me as a musician, which I thought was rather clever of him. In fairness, I was dressed entirely in black, and hadn't brushed my hair, so there was perhaps an air of unkempt coolness about me. Maybe it was the silver elephant I wear around my neck, which more people seem to comment about than anything else.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Bank noliday

I doubt there can be anything more depressing than sitting alone in an empty house on a rainy bank holiday with a stinking cold! Nathan has gone to France to have his tattoo finished and I am trying to recuperate.

As a special treat I took myself to the local Sainsbury but they'd run out of bread and to make matters worse, the rain was so dreadful as I walked there that I became instantly soaked to the skin. What is it about bank holidays in the UK? I eventually found two bread roles which became  soaking wet on my journey home, so lunch tasted and felt as wet as I did!

There is of course nothing on the telly to distract me. In fact, if I have to watch another advert with Nicole Scherzinger laughing coquettishly with a blob of yoghurt on her nose, I'll drive a rusty fork into my right thigh! I think the advert where she casually destroys a Greek temple is the most irritating of the series. Frankly I'm looking forward to the one where they use the blob of yoghurt on the end of her nose as target practice. Slag.

Later in the day I got under the duvet  and basically fell asleep, waking up periodically to look at a tweet, talk to Nathan in France or vomit. Yes, I had a little spate of vomiting which wasn't entirely pleasant, especially when it splashed back in my face. Too much information?

I'm ending the day obsessively watching programmes about Kate Bush on iPlayer. I write a great deal about my love of ABBA, and not so much about my love and absolute respect for the great Ms Bush. That said, I went through a month-long period a few years ago when every blog title was a reference  to a Kate Bush lyric. She's a genius. Beyond genius, really...