Monday, 22 March 2010

Was God listening?

We’re driving on the M62, somewhere between Bradford and Halifax. There seems to be a problem with the car as we’re unable to drive above 60 miles per hour, which means it could take us rather a long time to get to Nathan’s sister’s house in Wrecsam. That’s if we get there at all! Jeopardy is something this blog’s not had for some time.

We arrived in Leeds at about 1am last night and I was up by 6 to do my radio interviews. It was a rather beautiful, still, spring-like morning and walking through Leeds on my way to the BBC was quite a treat.

The radio interviews were, as usual, fairly surreal. Only one was with someone in the flesh and the rest were what they call “down the line”, which means you sit in a little room, facing a wall covered in blue hessian, talking to a disembodied voice. More often than not, you hear your own echo through the headphones and that's when everything becomes a touch existential. Who is that man? Why is he repeating what I’m saying? And if it’s me, why does he sound so camp and so much less resonant? Meanwhile you realise you haven’t heard the question the interviewer’s just asked and suddenly your face feels hot, and your heart beats like thunder in your ears and you get an uncanny desire to swear or start singing Baa Baa Black Sheep because for the first time you’re all too aware that you’re live on air and no one can control you.

We wandered around Leeds in the early afternoon marvelling at a seemingly endless supply of eccentrics, whilst feeling the love of a city where everyone seems so wonderfully warm and polite. Certainly by London standards. We were amused by the bloke who seemed to express himself simply by honking like a goose, and the fully-grown man who sounded like a tiny little girl. I had my hair cut in the market by a brilliant women with an amazing hair-do and we ate beans on toast sitting next to a gothic cowboy with a smile that would bring light to the darkest of shadows.

I was interviewed on Look North about an hour ago and felt quite excited to be sitting there on the big red sofa with the presenters. We’ve launched a competition for people to write a poem which expresses what they feel about Yorkshire. I’ll use the winning entry as the basis for the Finale of the mini-symphony. I very much hope something unique and wonderful will turn up as the meetings I’ve been having with the technical people suggest we might be on for the most extraordinary film which will feature groups of musicians playing in locations across the counties of Yorkshire right the way from trawlers off the coast of Hull to the bottom of coal mines in Sheffield. Genuinely thrilling.

Pepys woke up on the 22nd March 1660, convinced that today would be the day he’d finally go to sea. He took leave of Mrs Crisp and gave the key of his house to Mr Hawley for safe-keeping. When he arrived at Montagu’s house, however, he was told that the weather was still too bad for his Lord to leave London, despite the fact that many other crew members including Pepys’ servant boy, and Mr Sheply had already gone on board. Perhaps Montagu felt there was still business to take care of on dry land as he spent much of the day sorting out his will.

Pepys took the hiatus as an opportunity to go shopping. He bought himself a pair of grey serge stockings, and a sword. He was now a proper gentleman and wanted to look like one. By mid afternoon, he’d hit the pubs, drunk and eaten himself into a stupor and was thrilled to find the bill being picked-up by his drinking companions. Everyone was trying to woo him; offering him an astonishing array of goods in return for his good word. Pepys the Puritan remained philosophical; “I pray God to keep me from being proud or too much lifted hereby”. I’m not sure God was listening...

1 comment:

  1. Oh yes, I'm sure God was listening. But in case you haven't noticed, God tends to change his stance incrementally over time. In the course of the diary you can hear Him thinking, "Just what is pride? How much is 'too much' lifted?" Sam provides him with constant input and guidance, and God adjusts his opinion accordingly.

    And I can certainly relate to your surreal radio experience. I was once interpreting for a Soviet consul and found myself unexpectedly staring into a great, big Russian television camera. I was hypnotized. Face flushed, every nerve buzzing, suddenly I found he had stopped speaking and I didn't have the foggiest. To this day I don't know what he said, but I "interpreted" it nonetheless. No "Baa baa black sheep," just a jumble of platitudes. I was probably spot on.