I’m proper knackered. It’s been quite a day. It started with Alison and me climbing up what seemed like the steepest hill in the world to the top of Sutton Bank in the Yorkshire Moors. We were location hunting and I thought the white horse there would make a fairly iconic backdrop. Unfortunately it looks a bit rubbish close up. It’s Victorian as opposed to Neolithic and it seems the locals aren’t that fussed about its future. The white stones, which are now grey, are sliding off all over the place and being held up by little wooden planks, which have weathered so badly that they look like pieces of soggy cardboard. It's like looking at a beautiful smile, moving in for a kiss and discovering all the teeth broken and decayed. I was so disappointed. I remember that place as having an almost mystical energy. I used to sit up there in the middle of the night, listening to foxes barking. The last time I visited was on the darkest, frostiest night I think I’d ever encountered. Our car refused to climb the hill and we walked to the top in such extreme mist that we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces. It was the first time in my life that I’d known the power of nature.
Rievaulx Abbey, on the other hand, proved as spectacular and spooky as I’d remembered it 20 years ago and I can’t wait to film there.
We ate a vegetarian lasagne and bought homemade cakes in Helmsley, stopped off at a cool scrap yard (you gotta keep these films real) and then found ourselves in York Minster watching Dr John playing the carillon. It was a truly magical experience. I walked through the Minster Gardens and could hear this delicate chiming getting louder and louder. It was astonishing how complicated and intricate the music seemed to be. I stood for some time, in awe, looking up at the minster, which was yet again gleaming in the late afternoon sunshine. We climbed up in to the ringing chamber. The light was streaming in through enormous circular windows on all four corners of the room that revealed breathtaking views of York and the countryside beyond. Standing on the roof, we could see both the Moors and the Dales.
This evening’s auditions were great. I finally got my drag queen, and to boot found an amazing and beautiful African drummer, and a crazy keyboard player who specialised in trance music. I'm thrilled at the way the BBC up here are developing the piece. Despite the general election and Icelandic dust nonsense, they’re sending all manner of reporters to cover the story and researchers across the county are busting their guts to find us interesting players.
Driving back to Leeds along the A64, I feel very tired, yet extremely relaxed. There were moments today when I felt like the luckiest man alive. I am, afterall, being paid to dive into God’s Own Country whilst bringing a once in a lifetime opportunity to a whole batch of people. Life is good!
350 years ago, Montagu was entertaining a veritable cavalcade of the great and the good, mostly “gentlemen, former great Cavaliers.” (No doubt ones who’d been even better Roundheads!) Their agenda was plain. They were going to bring King Charles the Second back home; probably in the Nazeby. Pepys was suddenly right in the middle of the cogs that were powering the Restoration. But there was still an element of intrigue. Montagu requested that certain shady figures be left from the ship’s log – and received several letters for “his eyes only”. Pepys was excited and intrigued...