Friday, 26 March 2010

The cutting of the stone

I was sitting in Cafe Nero this morning when a pair of teenagers came and sat on the sofa next to me. He was a little bit camp, and she was asking for his advice about a boy who’d been flirting with her. The conversation moved on to the fact that the lad felt none of the other boys at school liked him that much. He didn’t really know why. She said she thought it was because he got on so well with girls. He was the only bloke she knew that she could talk to about anything. What they didn’t mention was the elephant sitting in the room: the lad was gay, or would be gay, and suddenly I was whisked back to the very same conversations from my own youth. I had that terrible thumping fear again; the desire to change the subject. Too much chat about how well I got on with girls, could well lead to an accusation or a probing question; and that would change things irreversibly. I hope to God that this particular young lad is living in a very different world; one where he’s able to be open about his sexuality. One where he’s never frightened about the feelings he’s having because everyone around him understands and supports him. I wanted to call over and tell him everything would be okay. But he’d already steered the conversation onto safer ground and very soon they disappeared back to school.

This week’s been a bit of a wash-out regarding the motet. I’ve done a few hours here and there, but don’t feel I’ve jumped forward as far as I should have done. I’m 2/3rds of the way through the first draft and am suffering from the self-imposed pressure that always comes at this stage. The feeling that you have to keep topping yourself; that there must be something even better that you can drag from your soul so the whole piece ends in a blaze of magnificence. Sometimes you just have to plough on through.

I’ve been doing a fair amount of admin; sending out emails to all manner of places and beginning the lengthy search for singers. I think I’m going to struggle to find folk and gospel performers. I emailed about 10 gospel choirs today.

Sam is currently sitting opposite me, knitting a pair of trendy socks out of bamboo wool and sagely commenting on the dreadful television we’re watching.

March 29th 1660 marked the second anniversary of Pepys’ life-altering operation to remove a bladder stone; a procedure that took place on the kitchen table in his beloved Mrs Turner’s house. In the 17th Century, you were much more likely to die from an operation of that magnitude and Pepys was all too aware of the fact. In fact, he was more likely to celebrate this anniversary, the day of his re-birth, than he was to mark his birthday. Stuck on a ship, however, there was little he could do in terms of partying, “only within my soul I can and do rejoice” but he resolved to mark the event every year from thenceforth, always in the company of Mrs Turner.

The rest of the day was spent doing what Pepys became famous for; making inventories. He made a note of the number of guns and the number of men on each ship in the fleet. Pepys’ meticulous bookkeeping would eventually revolutionise the Navy.

In the evening, Mr Shepley and Mr Howe appeared in Pepys’ cabin with bottles of wine and a few bits and bobs to eat; an improvised party to celebrate the cutting of the stone, which was by all accounts a very jolly one!

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