Monday, 15 February 2010

The year of the tiger

Just found out to my great sadness that the lady who commissioned A1: The Road Musical has died. No one yet seems to know exactly what happened, but I feel devastated, not just because she was young and beautiful but because her absolute faith in me meant A1 became a reality. Without her, I’m not sure the film would have been made. I can only hope she’s in a better place.

I spent this morning writing the Pepys motet; or continuing with my sketches for it. The shortlisted texts running chronologically seem to fit quite neatly into six movements; each with a different central emotion or theme. I'm very relieved, really, because a structure was something the piece hitherto seemed to be lacking. Today I was working on a serene passage from January 16th 1660, which I've already referenced in the blog:

“I sat up till the bell-man came by with his bell, just under my window and cried, “Past one of the clock, and a cold, frosty, windy morning.” I then went to bed and left my wife and the maid a-washing still.”

Not only did we win the quiz last night, but we also won the spot round, which netted us £35 each because our team came closest to guessing the birth date of the quizmaster. We got within 6 months, based entirely on his taste in music, which guaranteed he was about the same age of us.

Talking of dates of birth, I see the Chinese year of the Tiger has just kicked off. I’m a Tiger. So is Nathan. So is Fiona and Matt and, in fact, many of my friends; which is strange because they're by no means all friends I made at school or university. Perhaps Tigers have an innate ability to sniff each other out. I sincerely hope that being Tigers in the year of the Tiger will bring us all a great deal of luck in 2010. I always hoped my being born on the lucky 8th day of the 8th month meant the Chinese were looking out for me. Shame they're a country with such a hideously dubious human rights record! 

It was a splashy day for Pepys 350 years ago. He travelled all over London and called in on many friends. He sent off several letters including one to his aunt Nan, in which he enclosed some satirical pamphlets taking the Mickey out of the rump parliament. It's quite astonishing how quickly Pepys was swinging back towards the idea of monarchy. Within the month he'd be openly toasting the King in his local pub.

Later in the day, Pepys had his lunch at Mr Crew’s house. The dining room was full, so he ate a dish of salmon on his own in the buttery below. It fascinates me to think how Pepys' status rose over the years of the diary. I'm certain that by 1669, he wouldn't have been content to eat food in a kitchen. His arrival anywhere would probably have led to an extra place being laid at the table. The thought of him sitting there on his own tucking into a dish of salmon actually make me feel quite sad, but being in the no-man's-land between servant and friend in many a social situation didn't seem to bother Pepys that much. Perhaps it gave him a sense that he was on his way up, mixing with all the right people, however they perceived him.

Pepys then headed to St Paul’s Cathedral and sat and read a book for a couple of hours. St Paul’s churchyard, of course, was where the majority of London booksellers practiced their trade. Pepys was often there, wafting around, whilst slowly adding to his enormous and in later years important library of books. Many of these booksellers lives were sadly destroyed by the Great Fire, which tore through the area, indiscriminately burning buildings, churches, shops and thousands of priceless books.

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