Sunday, 14 February 2010

My name is Benjamin and I'm an echolalic

The car business is now sorted, thankfully. It turns out that Alan Day, that highly respected Volkswagen dealer, was simply trying to rip us off. I have three words of advice for any North Londoners thinking of paying a visit to these people... try not to! It seems their status as a London-based garage gives them license to brazenly charge twice the price of anywhere outside the M25. Nathan took the car back to Lincolnshire, where they did him a good enough deal for us not to want to slit our wrists anymore. They still charged us more money than we have, but not a catastrophic amount.

Many thanks to Jim for suggesting I trade the car in for a hot air balloon. I did think long and hard about the prospect and concluded it probably would suit my creative image, but sadly I’m no good with heights. I’m also pretty bad with bridges, a propos nothing, except that heights and bridges both make me want to empty my pockets and throw everything including myself down into the cold driving air...

Whilst on the subject of strange compulsions, many thanks to those of you who’ve provided me with a fancy name for the weird impulses that force me to mimic voices and sounds that catch me off guard. Echolalia sounds so much grander than Tourettes. So, my name is Benjamin and I'm an echolalic.

...And talking of sounds diabolical, if any of you share my loathing of recorder music, have a listen to this:

I’ve spent the entire weekend so far formatting music to send off to the Choir Invisible in Lincolnshire. It's one of the necessary tasks of being a composer, which I'm afraid is about as entertaining as watching Peter Andre presenting This Morning. It’s not been the most romantic way to start Valentine’s Day but we’ve just been out for a bite to eat in Tufnell Park and are currently sitting in the Curtain’s Up pub waiting for a Valentine’s themed pub quiz! All aboard the love boat!

350 years ago, Pepys was himself celebrating Valentine’s Day. Rather nice to know it’s not one of those traditions we have to thank America for. A little bit of research reveals there are even references to Valentine’s Day in Chaucer; "For this was on seynt Volantynys day whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make." (For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh to choose his mate - that's a translation for those of you who wouldn't know how to cheese a make)

The tradition back in Pepys’ time seems to have been that everyone, regardless of marital status, would choose, just for fun, a second Valentine; often the first person they spoke to on the day. This person would be offered a little gift to seal the deal, which in Pepys’ case was often meant forking out for a fancy pair of gloves. The search for a Valentine often involved a great deal of hysterical horse-play with people appearing at the bedsides of those they fancied, waking them up with a harmless little kiss. I’m sure many marriages never recovered from the shock! The idea of a relative stranger wandering into my bedroom and waking me up with a little kiss feels more Vampire than Valentine, but each to their own. Elizabeth and Sam were awoken 350 years ago by the voice of Henry Moore, a lawyer and friend. Elizabeth, obviously got rather excited by the prospect of receiving a pair of gloves from this man, and dressed speedily, dashing down the stairs to challenge him to be her Valentine. It smacks of tragic desperation, but I guess these were very different times.

Thenceforth it was an unusually slow day for Pepys, who played his lute for a few hours in the afternoon before calling in on Mrs Jem en route to a tavern where he lost 6d at cards “like a fool”. What he never admits to is who, if anyone, he chose to be his Valentine. In future years his ruminations on the subject would occupy many diary inches. On one occasion, he even chose his current lover as a Valentine, which strikes me as a typically Pepysian attempt at playing with fire!

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