Sunday, 3 January 2010

Getting into my stride

I didn't quite make it to Westminster Hall yesterday. Having been a tour guide at the Houses of Parliament in my dim and distant past, I can reveal that nowadays, it ain't all that. You won't find Nell Gwynn selling oranges there any more, and you'll be lucky if you see an MP in the haze of security people trying to stop terrorists from blowing the place up. It's still got a very fine hammer-beam roof, however, which sadly, Pepys never comments on!

Instead of heading to Westminster, I went to one of Pepys' other haunts: Islington. Probably the area he would have referred to as Moorfields. I spent the entire evening with friends eating and chatting about the state of musical theatre today, being very much of the opinion that the Olivier judges should remove the category of best new musical in the awards this year. It doesn't seem right to me that a show as mind-numbingly awful as Dreamboats and Petticoats should get a nomination purely because it opened! There are so few new musicals opening in the West End (I think only four this year) and we need to take drastic action to avoid drowning in revivals and American transfers. A statement like removing the award would bring much needed publicity to the crisis. I think the long-term answer is for the government to fund a theatre that specialises in new musical theatre. We have publically subsidised theatres for ballet, Shakespeare, new writing, contemporary dance, opera... but where do we go if we want to see cutting edge new musical theatre? Who's funding the young writers? Stateside it's an entirely different situation. Musical theatre is revered and properly funded. Rant over.

Aside from whinging about musical theatre, I reckon I must have eaten at least half a loaf of very delicious bread. I am now adding bread to my list of things to start going easy on tomorrow. I've heard one slice of bread is as fattening as 16 pounds of cheese or 998,000 Jaffa cakes (which we all know are as low fat as celery). I did go to the gym yesterday, however, which gave me the right to eat the Eton Mess we were served for pudding.

Today I am wearing my brand new brown jumper. I now have 4 jumpers; one admittedly a hand-me-down from my father, but it's a joy to have some choice finally. I spent the entire 2007/8 season wearing a lime green thing which became increasingly threadbare, yet appeared on every single photograph of me over a four-year period. It was a horrible jumper, it made me look pasty and ill, yet for some reason I wore it with pride. I shall burn it with pride.

350 years ago, Pepys talks about a great frost across London. There is frost on the roof of Highgate tube down in the dell opposite my house so I can assume that weather conditions are comparable. Pepys dined on a piece of beef and cabbage (an early roast dinner, perhaps) and seemed to spend much of the day playing cards with an assortment of different friends. He also ate more brawn. As a vegetarian I have no idea what brawn tastes like, but it sounds pretty miserable.

My partner gave me a copy of the score of Spem In Alium for Christmas. I looked through it yesterday and it's frightened me. There really are passages (all be it only 34 bars in the whole piece) when all forty performers are singing at once; all entirely different lines. No doubling up. That's some achievement!
A little research tells me that (to use it's proper title) Spem In Alium Nunquam Habui means; "I have never put my hope in any other but you", which I think is a very warming thought. Hope is such an important yet risky emotion. Daring to hope is a bit like daring to love. It opens you up to so much potential pain and as a result, people often don't bother. Yet without hope the human race is nothing.

I am in a hopeful mood today. I am about to visit my very dearest friend and my goddaughter, who I have not seen in some time. Unfortunately seeing her will also involve seeing a group of people who brought a rather large blast of pain into my life at the end of last year. But without seeing them, I will not be able to call myself a proper Godfather or a true friend. So see them I must, hoping all will be fine.

If you don't know the piece and want to hear Spem In Alium (and I very much recommend it) click here to listen on You Tube.

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