Friday, 9 July 2010

Belligerent hikers

We’re heading to a hotel in Hull as we’ve a ridiculously early start at Spurn Point tomorrow morning. I take full responsibility. We were planning to film in the early afternoon until I was told that the place gets ridiculously busy on a Saturday and nothing’s certain to ruin a beautifully crafted shot more than a shed load of belligerent hikers!


It is the muggiest night of the year so far and I am more tired than words can say. I had a very nasty shock yesterday which meant I barely slept. It was after midnight and I was talking on the phone to Nathan. He was returning home after an evening with a local friend. As he walked down the alleyway behind our house, he spotted someone acting suspiciously and confronted them. I could hear the altercation on the other end of the phone. The guy was obviously getting quite stroppy, but Nathan was being reasonable with him and eventually I heard him disappearing. Nathan came back on the phone and said he was going to sit outside the house for a bit to see if the guy returned. We carried on chatting...

About 3 minutes later the phone suddenly went dead. I didn’t think much of it to begin with. Nathan’s phone loses its battery with frustrating alacrity. I left it a while and then called back, but the phone just rang and rang. Slightly perplexed, I called the home phone, but no one answered. I called the mobile again. Nothing. It seemed so strange. When we’re apart, we never go to sleep unless we’ve said goodnight to one another. It’s a sort of rule...

As the minutes ticked by, I became more and more concerned and eventually convinced myself that the intruder had returned and that Nathan was lying in the darkened alleyway injured or bleeding. The more I called Nathan, the more I panicked. Eventually I became inconsolable. I was stranded in Leeds. There was no way I could get home. I to call Fiona, but she was in Serbia. I tried to get in touch with the friend Nathan had been with, but couldn’t find a phone number. So I called the police. They offered to do a welfare call. I must have gone into shock because after five minutes I ‘phoned them again... and then again. At one stage they told me that officers were “at the scene”, which made matters considerably worse; “the scene of what?” I asked; “we don’t know” they said, sounding like they were lying...

Finally, after another hour, I got a phone call from the police saying that they’d found nothing untoward, although they’d also had no response when they knocked on our door. “No signs of a struggle?” I asked “no” “nobody bleeding?” “no”. So I went to bed and lay awake thinking about various other dreadful scenarios.

A text message came in at 4 in the morning from Nathan. The police had woken him up. His battery had died, his phone was on silent, and surreally he’d also simultaneously managed to unplug all the landlines in the flat. After our phone call, he’d gone on a trek to find some milk and then gone to bed because he thought it would be too late to call me back. So, I suppose I now feel a bit foolish for over reacting, but it was an utterly terrifying experience, and one that I sincerely hope will never happen again.

Today I went to Harrogate to play Doreen Brigham my Symphony for Yorkshire. Doreen is the delightful 98-year-old woman who’d won the competition to write lyrics for the last movement of the piece. I was absolutely terrified beforehand. Doreen had become something of a talisman for me and I’d thought about her many times throughout the process of writing the music, always desperately hoping that she’d like what I wrote. I was also highly conscious of the fact that the music is still not ready. I was so keen to let her hear a final version, but sadly that was not to be. The CD also skipped, so she couldn’t hear the best part of one of the movements.



Nevertheless, she seemed to enjoy what she did hear very much; saying after movement two how sad she felt it sounded and after movement one, how clever I was... But it was her response to the last movement that I shall never forget. She sat and mouthed the words as they appeared in the song, seemingly in perfect rhythm with the music almost as though she were singing along to a tune she already knew. It was incredibly moving. Profoundly so.

The rest of the day saw us back in Leeds in an area of railway tunnels known as the “dark arches”. It was proper guerrilla filming as in the process of organising everything else, no one had thought to ask permission to film there. Perhaps the feeling of naughtiness went to our heads because we really went to town, with smoke, fire spinners and all manner of crazy lights. Later in the day we were back outside the Hyde Park Picture House with the Colombian drummers before heading back to the arches because the club we’d booked for filming wouldn’t allow smoke, and I wanted the remarkable Ed Alleyn Johnson to film his rock God solo in a backlit cloud of swirling red mist!

Monday 10th July 1660, and Pepys did his first official day of work at the Navy Office. Not a great deal else happened, other than that our hero was taken to lunch by two friends; a lunch Pepys described as a “collation”. Oddly, my mother is the only other person I’ve heard use the term. When asked to make food for a large quantity of my friends, she’ll often throw together a “cold collation” – which is a kind of buffet, I suppose.

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