Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A loin of veal, a great tart and a dish of anchovies

I'm in the library of a strange stately home near Grantham which seems to have been turned into a university for Americans. It feels so strange to be cocooned within a building that represents such British-ness whilst hearing only the faintly nasal strains of wealthy American teenagers. It's also strange to drive to a building less than a mile away from the A1 that is accessed via a road covered in cattle grids!

I've come up here to work with the Choir Invisible on the music I’ve been writing over the last few weeks. It's always nerve-wracking to take your babies out in public for the first time, particularly when you know they're works in progress. Fortunately their conductor, Sally, heard them earlier and seems to like at least  of the four songs. I think she feels the fourth is pompous; which obviously doesn't fit the soulful vibe of her choir. Perversely, I feel the song represents my best writing and feel the synth strings and brutal precision of computer music software would make anything sound pompous, but it's difficult to convey this without sounding... well, pompous! We’ll have to see what happens when I get the choir singing a bit of it later on.

My journey up the A1 was great fun. It’s impossible to get bored of driving on that eccentric road, lined as it is with a bewildering array of strange houses and countless distractions including a full-sized fighter plane outside RAF Wittering and a two-dimensional representation of a black cat in the middle of a roundabout just north of Sandy. For me, every Little Chef, truck-stop and bridge along its length brings back a memory of my time working on A1: The Road Musical. The mayhem, the anxiety but above all the absolute joy as I drove up and down feeling like I was finally doing something extraordinary with my life; something truly unique which justified my existence and gave me my first stab at leaving a legacy. All be it a quirky one. Odd to think I'll never know if I've achieved that particular goal. I often wonder if some of those incredible composers who died before achieving recognition are given the odd leave of absence from heaven to attend recitals of their work.

There’s no doubting that Pepys left the world with a legacy. Hence, we know that exactly 350 years ago he was hosting the dinner party he'd been thinking about for days. Most of the guests were relatives and Pepys seemed to enjoy himself as much as anyone surrounded by family politics can. He was particularly impressed by the food that Elizabeth had cooked, and listed it in detail: “a dish of marrow bones; a leg of mutton; a loin of veal; a dish of fowl, three pullets, and two dozen of larks all in a dish; a great tart, a neat's tongue, a dish of anchovies; a dish of prawns and cheese.” It sounds ghastly! I wonder what vegetarians did in those days...

The photograph shows Janet Wood in A1: The Road Musical, performing in a scrap yard a stone's throw from where I'm sitting today.

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