Monday, 2 August 2010

Spasmodic Dysmenorrhoea

It’s my last day in Yorkshire and I’m wandering about rather aimlessly. It feels like the last day of a holiday when you’re waiting for an evening flight. My mind is already back in London thinking about the Pepys Motet and quite how much I’ll need to do on that to move it forward to the next stage!

All my clothes and belongings have been thrown, willy-nilly into my car. I don’t have enough suitcase space and so things have been stuffed into little orange Sainsburys bags, which are splitting down the sides. Dirty laundry is mingling with toothbrushes and bits of food that I didn’t want to throw away when I left the flat. Shameful!

I’m being interviewed on Look North tonight and don’t have anything to wear that hasn’t been screwed into a little tiny ball, or coated with a layer of tenty-grime. I'm wearing a pair of socks for the third day running and a jumper that I slept in every night when I was camping.

I'm horrified at the prospect of someone witnessing the way I’ve thrown things into my car. I remember as a child, my family returning from Devon with a car rammed full of post-holiday clutter. Unfortunately the boot burst open as we were driving through Stroud and all our belongings, from dirty laundry to children’s toys, were deposited on the High Street. My mother rushed out to stop the traffic and salvage as much dignity as she could, whilst my brother burst into tears because he felt the holiday had been ruined. I think I was probably simply trying to pretend I wasn’t there.

Heaven knows how humiliating it would be if the boot of my car flew open today on the M1. I think I’d just have to keep driving!

I just spoke to my Mother who brings news from the province of Essex. All the flowers in her garden are now officially dead; murdered by the sun, including the Buddleia, which is apparently one of the hardiest plants know to man (and butterfly).

She also tells me the very sad news that one of her close friends, who’s been suffering with cancer, has now had her treatment stopped and we’re told it’s just a matter of days. She's apparently hoping to live long enough to see her son getting his exam results in a few weeks’ time. The news made me feel extremely sad. The idea of having your ambitions and dreams cut down to things you might be well enough to achieve in the space of a few weeks fills me with a mixture of panic and incredible pain. It’s also at these moments that I feel a great deal of anger towards people who waste their lives in a permanent haze of drugs and alcohol or in pools of depression or self-obsession. Perhaps these people should be forced to watch someone who is desperate to stay alive, thankful for every extra moment they’re given to breathe the air of this beautiful planet.

The responses to A Symphony for Yorkshire continue to come in. Most people have commented on the film’s optimism and joy, which I consider to be a huge compliment. One chap from Sheffield has even offered to take me out for a drink to fill me with “over-introspection and gloom” in an attempt to corrupt by relentless positivity! Negativity is easy. We can all find the bad in people but life's not worth living unless we focus on the good.

The nicest thing that I’ve ever read about myself was written yesterday by a lady on Facebook, who first got to know my work through the Oranges and Lemons project. She wrote:

“The only thing I can say after listening to and seeing the video of the complete symphony is that everything surrounding you is magic and you make it real by giving a light of hope and happiness to everyone’s heart.”

If I hadn't already decided to have "Benjamin Till: The Musical" written on my headstone, I'd go for that!

350 years ago, Pepys started the day in a boat to Westminster, which he shared with the two Sir Williams. Their servants followed in another vessel. Quite right! After doing a bit of work at the Admiralty, Pepys went for lunch at Mr Blackburne’s; “where we were very well treated and merry.” He then headed for the office of the Privy Seal, where he was paid handsomely for a couple of days’ work. He returned home early; “it being the first time I could get home before our gates were shut since I came to the Navy Office.”

Unfortunately he discovered Elizabeth was not very well, suffering from her "old pain", which has subsequently been diagnosed as spasmodic dysmenorrhoea or horribly painful periods. The condition seems also to have also led to periodic yet incredibly unpleasant boils and cysts forming around her private parts. The illness was untreatable in those days and made intercourse almost impossible. Pepys was obviously not responsible, but she may well have thought he was, fuelling rows and suspicions. Pepys mentions that she was suffering rather badly from the condition when they got married, which must have been just awful for them both. What a way to embark on a sexual journey!


  1. Hey Benj, I feel a responsibility to point out that depression and self-obsession really shouldn't be lumped together as two ways in which a person may waste their life. Depression is a serious, paralysing, debilitating illness and certainly isn't a lifestyle choice or mood. See for example x

  2. Hey there. Obviously in many cases depression is a very serious condition and one which I have a great deal of sympathy for. I'm afraid in some cases it also becomes something of an excuse, which gives those who are genuinely suffering from clinical depression a taller mountain to climb in terms of general understanding. You are right to pick me up on what I wrote, however, and many apologies if I caused offence. I do, however, firmly believe that we all only have one life to live, which in many cases we have no option than to keep living. Doctors and psychoanalysts have a lot of responsibility to make sure they're not creating a generation of self obsessed naval gazers through sloppy diagnosis. It's very easy to tell someone they're depressed, which creates a vicious cycle. I was once told by a GP that I was depressed because I'm gay. A plain nonsense!

  3. Can't even begin to unravel the reply above, Ben. Depression is an appalling condition: if you'd had it or watched someone suffer from it you'd know that. Suggest you stop digging and quit while you're ahead and (lucky you) happy.

    As for self-obsessed naval (sic) gazing ... why not try blogging ?