Tuesday, 23 February 2010

On the Road

I’m in a car speeding through the deepest, darkest snowiest wilds of Lincolnshire, having just rehearsed the Choir Invisible in Grantham. They worked incredibly hard and I was both extremely proud and terribly relieved. I now know they’re going to do my music proud and can’t wait to hand over the reins to their conductor, Sally. The work she does with the choir is remarkable. They don’t just sing as one; they move and even breathe as one.

We had a good and speedy journey up the A1; a road that, I believe, will always take good care of me. That said, it’s thrown up a fair few challenges on the way home. It’s predominantly unlit which makes it hard to negotiate and actually fairly spooky on a snowy old night like this. I half expect a sixty foot ghostly white horse to ride out of the mist, backlit by oncoming headlights.

On the way up we stopped at my favourite transport cafe and have smelt like dirty chip pans ever since. Worth it for the lovely omelette they fed us, and the memories the place brought back of being on the road, you know, with the wind in my hair... singing songs by ELO and getting stopped by a policeman who couldn’t believe anyone who wasn’t drunk could drive so badly! I like to think of myself as the butcher, younger brother of Jack Kerouac.

I spent the morning working on the motet but it still feels like I’m tap dancing with blue tack on the soles of my shoes. I need to keep telling myself that I’m still splurging; getting ideas out of my head and onto the page, because often when I listen back to what I’ve spent an entire morning writing, I just want to slit my wrists! Am I putting an unnecessary amount of pressure on myself? Am I being too slow in recognising my own genius? Or am I just writing crap?

In my rush to describe how boring my life was yesterday, I forgot to mention the thrilling news that we won Sunday’s quiz for the second week running. It was slightly more embarrassing than exciting because we also won the spot prize (again) this time because chart-freak Till happened to know that Elvis Presley had 21 British number one hit singles. Each and every one of them undeserved, of course.

Back to the comfort of the past and.... drum roll please... Thursday 23rd February 1660 was Pepys’ 27th birthday! He describes the day as having been “pretty fair weather” but doesn’t seem to have spent much time celebrating. Perhaps this was a side effect of having too much Puritanism in his blood, or perhaps people just didn’t make a big deal of birthdays in those days. Either way, there were no party poppers, presents or piss ups at the Prince Edward for Pepys. He got on with a pretty conventional day, had a nice chat with Mrs Michell at her book stall in Westminster Hall, and discovered that his patron Montagu had been elected “with 73 voices, to be one of the Council of State.” Montagu was in the ascendant and bound to take Pepys along for the ride. Perhaps this was as good a birthday present as our hero could have hoped for.


  1. I was going to refrain from posting yet again, seeing as how I must have an outdated view of blogs. (Generally I would think a good creative type such as yourself, writing a blog with 25 or more followers, would be greeted by intelligent discussion and roused by infectious encouragement, but I seem to have become a cheering squad of one.) So I'll raise my voice in support, then retreat to the sidelines to give you peace.

    Simply put, you are on the right track. You see Sam as a person, you connect him to your life and to the lives around you. You can see that the world has changed only superficially since the 1660s. (How different, after all is your experience in a transport cafe from one of Sam's meals in a public house?) So explore his humanity and the way he observes the world; note his contradictions and hypocrisies; ponder his attitudes as they evolve from a Puritan world into status, wealth and a new profligate society. See how Sam is you and Sam is me, for good or for ill.

    Yes, you are putting too much pressure on yourself. And yes, you're missing your own genius. And yes, you're writing crap. So did Sam. And we're still reading him three hundred and (almost) fifty years later.


  2. Eric, please don't retreat to the sidelines! I love reading your thoughts. It's a privilege to hear from someone who knows Pepys as well as you do... and to hear your perspective on things. It's the comments on this blog that keep me writing it! So more, please!

    And thank you for those words of encouragement!