Thursday, 20 May 2010

Big gob

It’s been like a party in Costa Coffee today. The place was full of Highgate residents who all seemed to know each other and were talking about orchestras, art galleries and Christmas lights.

I tuned into one conversation about Dianna Abbott, who seems to have thrown her hat into the ring for the Labour leadership contest. I was initially thrilled at the thought. I wondered if maybe this is the shake-up that the labour party needs. She’s articulate and knowledgeable. She’s meant to be a pretty good constituency MP. She’d be a superb role model for disaffected people. The idea of having a black woman leading the labour party, and perhaps even going on to become prime minister, is incredibly exciting.

Unfortunately, Abbott is proving herself to be something of a media whore, who seems to be largely motivated by the idea of self-promotion. She's also been a thorn in her party’s side since 1997. She hated Blair and supported Brown, and then hated Brown when he took over. Can she really expect to lead a party whose policies she's systematically criticised? I view people like Dianne Abbott the way I view the Guardian newspaper and to a lesser extent, the Lib Dems. It’s terribly easy to position yourself on the outside whilst criticising the people within. It’s like back seat driving, or watching the football. It’s much more difficult to be the person who makes the decisions and even more difficult to stand by them, or the people who've been forced to make them. On second thoughts, perhaps it would be a very good exercise for Abbott to put her money where her mouth is... But then again, she knows she has no chance. Surely this is just another ploy to raise her media profile that little bit higher...

The writing is going well but I’m suffering from cabin fever and looking forward to the break I’ll get from composing when we start recording the music and putting the film together. I realised earlier on that I've actually been composing non-stop this year, but haven’t yet had the opportunity to hear anything I’ve written. Sadly, it’s now looking like the music I spent the first two months of the year writing will never be performed. It's a somewhat depressing thought, which is made considerably worse by the commissioner still trying to withhold payment for the work I’ve done, despite everything, including logic and the small matter of a contract, pointing towards the fact that I should have been paid back in February. Being a freelance composer is never exactly a walk in the park!

Pepys got up early 350 years ago, and headed to Scheveling with the young Montagu. The weather was still unseasonably poor, so it was impossible to transfer to the Nazeby. Instead, Pepys, who was hungover, went for a lie down in some kind of lodgings. Curiously, he must have ended up a communal chamber, because a young Dutch lady was resting in another bed. This situation generated one of Pepys’ more sensual diary passages, which I shall quote in full:

I went to lie down in a chamber in the house, where in another bed there was a pretty Dutch woman in bed alone, but though I had a month’s-mind* I had not the boldness to go to her. So there I slept an hour or two. At last she rose, and then I rose and walked up and down the chamber, and saw her dress herself after the Dutch dress, and talked to her as much as I could, and took occasion, from her ring which she wore on her first finger, to kiss her hand, but had not the face to offer anything more

*An earnest desire or longing

Pepys eventually left the lodgings and went to have a look around the church in Scheveling, where he discovered the skeleton of a whale’s mouth hanging in the chancel. He was astonished by its size, which I can sympathise with, having often marvelled at the size of the whale jaw-bone arch in Whitby.



Eventually the order came through for men to return to the Nazeby, and they were forced to tackle incredibly rough seas in boats that simply weren't up to the task. Pepys believed they were all in great danger, and pointed out that of the men in his transfer boat, he was the only one not to vomit everywhere. Charming.

A mixture of not enough sleep, the trauma of the boat trip and the effects of too much alcohol meant that as soon as Pepys reached the Nazeby, he fell asleep in his cabin, fully clothed. He was awoken by the ship’s gun sounding at 4am the next morning, but assumed it was 8pm the previous evening. When he peered out of his window, he mistook “the sun rising for the sun setting the night before.” And I'm sure we’ve all been there at least once in our lives...

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