Thursday, 21 January 2010


It is 4.31pm and I’m at Leeds train station about to head back to London. I’ve just had a very interesting meeting with the BBC about the possibility of writing a symphony which unites musicians from across Yorkshire, so it’s with a sense of excitement that I return to the capital and write this blog.

On the train up, it struck me how perilously close we are to the collapse of the English language as we know it! Without wishing to sound like my Grannie for a second day running, the carriage was positively buzzing with little snippets of conversation as people barked shamelessly into their mobile phones; a veritable Bon Marche of “innit”s and “you get me”s. The catering manager announced; “if myself or any of my colleagues can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to ask” and the woman opposite was chuntering away in pure management speak; “I wonder if Sue could action that for us. Internal Coms want the initiative cascaded across the piece by Tuesday.” It could have been a sound installation entitled; “The death of English represented by random people in a train carriage.” I don’t so much mind the ghetto talk, we had a fair amount of that going on in East Northants, but I start to shudder and sharpen my elbows when people replace meaningful words with posh-sounding rhythms.

Rant over.

I spent last night in the company of my dear friends Imogen and Marinella. We had an Italian in Soho (a meal, not a person) and I got to meet Imogen’s brother for the first time. There was a lot of laughter, I stole a tea pot, and Marinella added a story to the collection of tales so tragic you’re powerless to do anything but laugh. Some years ago, her Grandmother went on a coach trip and decided to use the on-board toilet facilities. Unfortunately she forgot to lock the door; an error which coincided with the bus suddenly breaking and then swerving. This sent Grannie careering out of the loo and down the aisle of the coach with her skirt hitched up around her waist and her knickers ‘round her ankles; a roll of loo paper limping along in her tragic wake. She came to rest pressed firmly to the inside of the windscreen, with her dignity in tatters. It’s stories like this which make me pleased to be alive!

Today in 1660, as usual, there was no work at the office for Mr Pepys. He also had to endure an embarrassing conversation with one of the recently-unemployed clerks who claimed Pepys was elevating himself in society by climbing all over his friends. There’s also reference to the return to Parliament of Speaker Lenthall, the man who, in 1642, famously and courageously refused Charles I’s entry to Parliament to arrest five troublesome MPs. This act of defiance was seen as the beginning of the end for the monarch. By 1660, Lenthall, like the rest, was hedging his bets; using his influence with the likes of Monke to protect himself from being punished if, as was seeming increasingly likely, the monarchy returned.

And for those who are interested in quirky facts, Edwina Currie has come out in support of the Pepys Motet and even offered to present it to the audience at the premier. Good for her! And as the ex-partner of labour MP, I never thought I’d ever be saying that about a Tory!

An example of the shorthand Pepys used in his diary. This is part of the second paragraph of the diary:

The condition of the State was thus; viz. the Rump, after being disturbed by my Lord Lambert, was lately returned to sit again. The officers of the Army all forced to yield. Lawson lies still in the river, and Monk is with his army in Scotland.

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