The auditions reached fever-pitch in Leeds today. We were absolutely inundated. It was mayhem. The over-all standard was lower. If I never hear another flute player again it will be too soon. Flutes, flutes, flutes, clarinets, a few saxophones and a shed-load of people with verbal diarrhoea, who made me want to slit my wrists! And then there were the children with pushy parents; the ones with sinister mothers who sit in A-line skirts knitting whilst keeping a watchful, if not slightly warning eye over the judges. The ones who answer the questions you ask their children, for fear that someone will discover they've been frog-marched to the audition with the threat of no dinner if they don’t play well... I like the kids that shamble in with dog-eared bits of music, undone shoe-laces and parents who keep their distance. They're the ones who remind me of me...
That said, there were a number of stars; a brilliant violinist (who frighteningly was the only string player of the day), a fabulously funky group of Columbian drummers, a cool rock band and a burlesque singer with the biggest chest I’ve ever seen! There was also a saw player, who played The Swan and reminded me of my Grandmother, which made me feel a bit sad.
...But I can’t write a symphony without strings! I have two brass bands, a wonderful wind ensemble and a top-notch choir, but I can count the professional standard string players who’ve shown up on the fingers of one hand. In fact, I can count them on two fingers, despite the fact that I've called for strings in every single interview I've done! I’m particularly annoyed at the two string quartets who promised they’d be coming today, and simply didn’t show up. That kind of behaviour wastes everyone's time.
350 years ago, Pepys was dining on yet another ship in the Fleet. This one was called The Speaker, and our hero described it as a very brave ship; "brave" consistently being one of his favourite adjectives. By this point, Pepys seemed pretty content with his life on the seas and at one point described the Nazeby as “home”. It’s Stockholm Syndrome, of course. Even I am beginning to view my colourless, airless hotel room up here as a home, simply because it’s the only place I can vanish to and close a door on the busy world outside... It's my little sanctuary, although I wish Nathan were here to share it.