Friday, 25 April 2014

Sleep typing

It's terrible how the disappearance of one's husband can lead to the complete disruption of what little routine one has! I've already been asleep today and woken up thinking there was something I needed to do... Turns out I'd forgotten to blog, and now my face feels all hot, which must be something to do with adrenaline. Apologies if what I'm writing makes little or no sense. My eyes are half shut!

I've spoken to no-one all day except Nathan, in France, on the phone, at various stages of Tattoo-ness.

The rest of the time has been spent in front of a computer, splitting my day into morning, afternoon and evening sessions. This morning I finished off the arrangement of Love Is Everyone, this afternoon I sent off four TV pitches to Archie and this evening I worked on the orchestrations of the title song in Brass. I have typed the word title four times now, three of which the computer auto-corrected to "Turks" and then "turtle." Big fingers are no good, I tell you, for any form of iPhone functionality!

I went to bed with iPlayer playing an episode of Russell Howard's Good News, which, for the uninitiated is a topical satirical news programme. Imagine my surprise, therefore, to find it dated from 2010. Top news story was Kate and Will's engagement! Come on BBC! You can do better than that! Perhaps I should be more horrified that I watched the blessed programme! At least it wasn't the episode which seems to be on permanent loop on Dave where Howard talks about my Coventry Market musical film. It's on so often that people have stopped calling me to tell me they just saw me on telly playing the piano! That, I believe, was 2008, so I guess the BBC are two years more up-to-date than Dave. Still no real excuse... I think I'm typing in my sleep now...

Thursday, 24 April 2014


I've been working on an arrangement of Love Is Everyone today. I've been asked to do a version of the song for the London Gay Men's Chorus to sing, and hope I'll be able to do them, and the song justice.

Nathan is in France having a tattoo painted onto his back by a hugely well-respected tattoo artist. I felt awful when he left this morning, suddenly convinced that I should have gone with him. I certainly would have been very frightened at the prospect of going to France, changing trains, staying in a hotel and then turning up at a strange tattoo artist's house all on my own. But there again, I'm a home boy. The adventurous independent gene which my brothers have in spades is entirely dormant in me. I find it crippling to even strike up a conversation with a stranger.

I had tea with Lli tonight. It was fabulous to see her. We met in our regular cafe, a little place in Muswell Hill called Feast which is rarely crowded, and always a good place for a bit of food and a natter. We were rather surprised, therefore, when an elderly couple came in and opted to sit at the table right next to us! There was no one else in the cafe and perhaps 30 tables which were further away from us!

Thanks to a lovely man who came to see us at lunchtime, we now have hot running water, and even more thrillingly, a bathroom tap which actually works. We'd got so used to it being broken that we'd forgotten that ordinary people actually wash in sinks!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Wonderful wonderful Northampton

Our house has no hot water! I couldn't have a bath this morning, and when I tried to run one this evening, despite the hot water switch having being on all day, we still had nothing. I had osteopathy in the afternoon terrified that I smelt horrible.

My day started with a journey up the M1 to Northampton. My old mate Bernie Keith wanted to talk about the wedding on his BBC radio show. He offered a telephone interview, but I don't need much of an excuse to go back to my home town. It's so odd to think that I went up and back in a morning when there were people in my class at school who had NEVER been to London. I wonder if the same would be true of Northamptonians today or if the global village we find ourselves living in makes us all more regular travellers.

Anyway, it was nice to talk to Bernie and he played the whole of the Mother's Song at the end of the interview.

On the way back to my car, I walked across Midsommer Meadow and noticed, on the other side of the canal there, a little ramshackle building marked "Northampton Sea Cadets." Northampton is famous as the UK town furthest away from any coast, so one wonders what these poor cadets get up to! Do they imagine the sea? Pretend to be in boats? Or does the grubby canal double up as a harbour? It may not be tidal, but water is water.

I've been completing the sixth draft of Brass today, which I've given to Nathan to read. It'll be his first time reading the script so he better not be too harsh!

This evening we went out to dinner in Highgate with Matt and talked a lot about his new project. He's making a situation comedy which won't feature a single actual word. A sort of cross between Mr Bean and Pingu, which sounds deeply intriguing.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


God I feel sick! I reckon I must have consumed my body weight in chocolate today! I'm actually feeling a little bit grumpy as a result; firstly because I've got heartburn and am sort of crashing after the mother of all sugar rushes, but also because I'm annoyed with myself for continually stuffing brown crap into my gob simply because it was sitting in front of me! I've no will power when it comes to food. None whatsoever.

Still, it's been a glorious day, which was spent with Nathan's family in North Wales. It's very rare for both halves of Nathan's lot to be together in the same space, with a full compliment of nieces, nephews and great nieces. It was also rather nice to spend a day with my in-laws now that they are officially just that. I am no longer David's sin-in-law, or Samantha's brother-out-law, which was what we cheekily used to refer to each other as. Now I'm officially a son/brother-in-law! And I have a husband! How odd is that?!

We went to Sainsbury's in Muswell Hill first thing this morning to buy Easter eggs for the family, and were horrified/ excited/ perplexed to find they well selling off great big Cadbury eggs for 70p. 70p!!! Christ knows how many we brought as a result, but we stuffed them all into a basket with forty cream eggs and a load of straw we'd convinced the man in the deli opposite to give us, and arrived at Sam's house feeling rather pleased with our gift.

...And it would have been a glorious gift had Sam herself, and then Nathan's mother not also arrived with stacks of eggs, cakes, biscuits and God knows what else. We could have opened our own chocolatier! It becomes rude, of course, not to sample every chocolate variant, and so it went throughout the day.

There was a glorious roast dinner for tea, which meant we could all re-gorge ourselves to assuage our savoury appetites. Isn't it astonishing how it's possible to stuff one's face with sweet stuff, and then be ready to start all over again with the savoury treats? The human body definitely has two distinct stomachs...

There is, of course, no nicer thing to do than sit down to a roast meal with loved ones. Aside from everything tasting delicious, there's something about the sharing buffet-like aspect of the meal which makes it rather unique. Vegetarians and non-veggies alike essentially just walk along plate loads of goodies choosing which bits of the meal they want to tuck into. The joy about a roast, ironically, is that, unless you become obsessed with cooking roast potatoes in duck fat, aside from whichever meat you opt for, the large majority of food can be enjoyed by both veggies and meat eaters.

For the record, roast potatoes aren't any tastier when cooked in duck fat. Duck fat just makes ones lips feel all greasy. A combination of butter, vegetable fat, par-boiling, and a good shake in the pan will crisp things up beautifully and avoid the sensation of having dowsed your lips in Vaseline mid-meal! Take it from a veggie. We know how to get the best out of potatoes!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Happy Eostre

We've had a lovely Easter Day. Actually, more specifically, we've had a lovely Eostre Day. I'm pretty sure I knew Easter had its roots in Pagan celebration, but wasn't aware quite how direct the links were until we did a bit of digging whilst with Raily and co yesterday. In most other countries in the world the word for Easter has a direct relation to Christianity. Not so in the UK. It turns Eostre was a pagan Goddess associated with fertility and rebirth. In fact, Easter eggs and Easter bunnies all have their roots in paganism, so if anyone asks you to remember the true meaning of the day, or suggests that eating Easter eggs is a modern tradition, you'll be able to instantly put them right. I'd actually go as far as to suggest that the Easter bunny predates Jesus Christ! Controversial!

The weather's been horrible all day. In response to the UKIP person who suggested that this year's floods were due to the wrath of God over gay marriage, I say this: Our wedding day saw glorious sunshine, sunshine which has continued for at least three full weeks... Until today. Jesus' special day, when the weather went rotten! Someone somewhere will be thinking that the rain represents God's tears. I think God just wants to make it very clear that he's on our side!

This morning we trundled off to Stevenage to watch our dear friend Amy in a production of James and the Giant Peach in a theatre complex which instantly took my back to my early childhood. We used to go to watch pantos there in the late 1970s, and I also recall time spent in a crèche in the same building whilst my mother played badminton. I may be wrong, but the theatre, I believe, is still part of a sports and leisure complex. Even more strangely, I believe we were on our way to Stevenage when our car had to do a sort of emergency stop for what, at the time, we thought was a hare but subsequently assume could well have been a wallaby! Whatever it was was enormous, and wild wallabies are said to roam the countryside in the Bedfordshire/ Hertfordshire borders... Escapees from a Stately Home (before anyone thinks I've gone barmy on the crumpet!)

This evening we went to see Ian and Jem for a glorious salad (keep those salads coming Jem!) and a pudding tart thing which was almost unacceptably delicious. It looked a little like a quiche, but the fabulous short crust pastry was sweet. There was a sort of milky, egg-based filling, within which various sultanas and large shavings of chocolate were nestling. It's hard to think how it could have been any nicer, or indeed if the company could have been sweeter.  We had a wonderful night.

Ian and Jem are in a UK civil partnership, but also recently got married in New York, so one assumes the US marriage will now take legal precedence over the UK civil partnership. It's a very specific circumstance, and I'd be intrigued to know where the law would stand. We jokingly call them bigamists! Whatever the specific legal nature of their relationship, it's wonderful to share a space with two men who know how it feels to be married to another man. There are so few of us at the moment. I guess all four of us can consider ourselves to be trailblazers. How fabulous is that?

Saturday, 19 April 2014

An ancient art

I'm at Brother Edward's in Canary Wharf in a room filled with flags from European countries. Edward and Sascha are showing us this year's Eurovision Song Contest entries. Malta's song, I'm Coming Home, is a tribute to "those who didn't come home from the Great War." For obviously reasons it's immediately become my favourite. I was hoping for a song which referenced the war 100 years on. It feels deeply appropriate for a European competition.

Speaking of the First World War, I was deeply moved to discover that the cast of Brass have started writing letters en masse to one another. A great deal of Brass is based on letters written between England and France and I wanted the cast to have a sense of the magic and excitement associated with receiving a proper letter. It seems they're enjoying the process enormously and I'm enormously proud to have encouraged them to resurrect a dying art form.

I've done nothing but eat food today. We had brunch with Christmas Jim and Matthew in Vauxhall, which was more like lunch, before heading out West for a surprise birthday dinner for Iain, where we ate more. And now we're out East eating yet more... It's a hard knock life!

Two songs

A very strange thing happened to me today. I was introduced to two songs that I'd never heard before and both prompted wildly severe yet diametrically opposed reactions! Both are love songs. I loved one. I hated the other. One, in my view, defines everything that is perfect about music, the other sums up everything that can go wrong...

The first song was written in the 1890s but recorded in the early eighties by The Fureys, an Irish folk group. It's called When You Were Sweet Sixteen. Not the most promising title, but I assure you, it's one of the most hauntingly beautiful melodies you'll ever hear. Utterly timeless. Utterly still with the most perfectly placed minor chord in the chorus. My mother introduced it to me today when I went to see the parents in Thaxted. She'd remembered it from when it was released and was trying to recall the song's title so that she could find it and listen again. A quick bit of googling tracked the song down and the three of us sat and listened to it on YouTube almost holding our collective breath. Tears were running down my face. It's one of those songs which I'm sure takes on more significance the older you become and I heartily recommend it.

On my way home from Thaxted, as I drove through the darkened country lanes, with brilliant bright stars, and the eerie lights of aeroplanes landing at Stansted floating all around me, I played the song again. And then again, eventually deciding that I'd become obsessed with it and that a blast of radio was necessary to break the song's spell.

It was at this point that I fell off the magic cliff and landed in a pile of excrement. The song which offended me so totally was by Mary J Blige and called Everything. Blige is one of those singers that some people rate highly. To me she's just a bird with nodules who likes the sound of her own vocals a little too much, which could possibly explain the vocal damage. I wouldn't let her near one of my own songs because she wouldn't respect the melody enough!

Anyway, aside from the ghastly bland, entirely forgettable tune, and the song's grotesque "New Jack Swing" vibe, the lyrics have to rank amongst the worst I've ever heard. If there was an award for a song most likely to have been written on the back of a Cornflakes packet, this one would win hands down.

"It's because of you I'm never sad and blue. You've brightened up my days in your own special way. Whenever you're around I'm never feeling down. You are my trusted friend, on you I can depend."

I mean, I wrote songs as an eleven year old like that, which my family had the decency to laugh at, but this song got to number six on the UK charts! I could have cut up pieces of newspaper and randomly generated a better lyric than that!

...And there she is trying to make it sound all soulful and cool with vocal licks and finger-wagging. Well, as they say, you can put a turd in a Harrods bag, but it's still a bag of shit. And this shit is smellier than most.

I immediately felt tainted, and had to play The Winner Takes it All, which is what I do whenever I need to remind myself that I have yet to reach perfection as a songwriter. It often calms me down, and reminds me of the beauty in the world. And then I played When You Were Sweet Sixteen again, and shed a few more tears, imagining how proud I would feel to have written something so profound and so devastatingly beautiful.