Thursday, 22 April 2010

A childhood hero

Today started excessively badly when I realised I’d lost the power cable for my computer. A couple of lengthy phone calls established that I’d left it in York, so I had to get on a 9am train from Leeds, and then take a taxi to the back of beyond to retrieve it. Wildly depressing and expensive on a morning I’d promised myself a lie-in.

Since then, however, the day has done nothing but improve. We’ve just seen an amazing brass band in the purple hills above Sheffield, and auditions in Bradford provided us with two musicians who will be amongst the most memorable in the film. One of them was a 16-year-old, stunningly beautiful, jazzer from Huddersfield. She was absolutely authentic. Heaven knows where the voice came from and I can guarantee it won’t be long before half the world knows her name! Perhaps more even more thrilling was the harpist who lives in a farm underneath the Wuthering Heights at Haworth. She is exactly what I hoped I’d find when I set out to do this project. She wears bangles made from bottle tops around her ankles so that she can provide her own percussion. She’s hypnotic and plays with breathtaking emotion. It’s Kate Bush all over again...

But the big news of the day is that I also got to meet one of my childhood heros. She used to present a programme called Playschool in the 1970s, and she was incredibly fit. I fancied her and wanted to marry her. Her name was Jemima. And for the American readers of this blog, Jemima was a rather sexy, slightly bohemian, rag doll who lived in the toy cupboard of a well-known children’s TV programme. Since her well-documented retirement, it transpires she’s been living a somewhat decorous life at the National Media Museum in Bradford with her friends Big Ted, Little Ted, Humpty and weirdly, Poppy. Poppy was the little, pug-faced, coffee-coloured imposter that replaced Hamble. The official story was that Hamble had lost the ability to sit up properly and kept falling on her face, which was distressing the more feeble viewers. But I smell political correctness. Hamble was, afterall, a) terrifying b) a drunken whore and c) a Nazi.

But the Hamble scandal is nothing compared to what has happened to poor Jemima, who at some point was forced to trade in her delicate, dainty floral dresses and replace them with... wait for it... a pink velour jump suit! Big mistake, Jemima! You are not Mad Lizzie! Alison, who was clutching Humpty to her bosom at the time, said that looking at Jemima was almost as disappointing as watching the Bananarama come back tour. How the mighty fall.

Anyway, I don’t know if I can say that I was more excited to be holding Jemima than I was the first volume of Pepys’ Diary – but I certainly felt a rush of something...!

The 22nd April 1660 was Easter Sunday, but Pepys didn’t feel the need to mention the big JC. Perhaps the last breaths of Puritanism hadn’t quite left his body. Instead he tells us about several Londoners, strangers and friends of the Captain, who dined on board the Nazeby. They brought the news that all over the City, in houses and churches, the King’s arms were being displayed. A statue of the soon-to-be monarch had also been commissioned from the Mercers’ Company and this would be displayed in the Exchange; right at the heart of London life.

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