Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Tyndarids in Fulham

We're on our way to New York! About time, really. I need a few days where I'm not thinking about the motet. I may even feel human by the time we return. My dear friend, Sharon, is getting married over there and I can't wait to see her - not that you can ever expect to see much of a bride on her wedding day! 

We're taking the Tyndarids to their Uncle Gene, who'll be looking after them in Fulham whilst we're away. 

Yesterday I heard the wonderful news that my close friend, Helen, who very bravely moved to Cambridge at the start of the summer has got her dream job as a councillor in one of the colleges there. I'm very proud of her. There are a lot of positive things happening in the world at the moment. I often find that this happens in the autumn.  New school year and all that... 

So if I didn't have to endure a terrifying flight, I'd be very excited right now. What is it with flying? You all sit there in a big metal box pretending that it's not weird to be hurtling above the clouds at hundreds of miles per hour. I don't know what terrifies me more; fear of terrorism or fear of science! Ho hum...

Another short but sweet diary entry for Pepys 350 years ago. It was a Sunday and he spent the afternoon and 'forenoon' at St Olave's whilst Elizabeth and the servants cleaned the mess that the builders had left behind. By the time he'd returned, the place was still a tip. His last sentence, a rhyming couplet, reveals all; "At night went to bed without prayers, my house being every where foul above stairs."

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

What's the deal with acorns falling like rain?

I’ve just finished another day of admin. I went into town to have my hair cut first thing and then spent the rest of the morning traipsing around stage doors in the West End, putting up posters in search of gospel singers. I tried to focus on shows that had a large percentage of black actors, or musicals which place an emphasis on good quality singing. There are a surprising number of dance-based shows out there at the moment. My hair, thanks for asking, looks absolutely no different to how it did when I went in. Still, it only cost me £6, so I mustn't complain. I got a nice chat in with the bargain.

I came back from town and met Fiona in a Highgate greasy spoon. I had a full English vegetarian breakfast, which went down very well after all that walking around. This afternoon, I sent more emails to various gospel-type people. It’s very slow-going and I'm still extremely stressed. I got hot and bothered and a bit panicky on the tube today, which had a lot to do with the rain and the sauna-like conditions us Londoners have to put up with down there, but a fair amount to do with anxiety, I suspect.

Despite the weather, the trees opposite are still showing no signs of being ravaged by the autumn. My parents are currently in Nottinghamshire, where they say the trees are very definitely on the turn. My Dad was sitting underneath a giant horse-chestnut and the conkers were apparently falling on him like miniature missiles. Earlier on, my American friend, Christopher, wrote the following as his facebook status;

"What's the deal with the acorns falling like rain?! Ouch!"

Where are these dangerous places? I can safely say that I've never been hit by a falling nut in my life! Well, not one from a tree...

So, David Milliband has "stood down from front line politics” now that his weird brother has taken the Labour party leadership reins. It all feels a little bit like Master David is throwing all the dollies out of his pram. The fact remains that both of the Millibands are strange chaps, with very little experience of politics, and odd Wallace and Gromit-type mouths.

...I’d call them Barbie dolls, but they’re not handsome enough. There genuinely doesn't seem to be anyone left in the Labour Party with any form of charisma. It's very clear that it’s going to be some time before New Labour appear in power again.

September 29th 1660, and Pepys’ workmen finally finished plastering his house. He was thrilled with the results, writing "and indeed my kitchen is now so handsome that I did not repent of all the trouble that I have been put to, to have it done."

Pepys also mentioned that Prince Rupert arrived at court on this date but that he was “welcome to nobody”, which seems strange. The Prince had fought bravely on behalf of the Royals in the Civil War, and would continue to fight bravely against the Dutch in the coming war.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Art Neuveau pigeons

I’m sitting in the Haringey Council offices in Crouch End. It’s too hot in here and it smells of dirty socks and poo. To make matters considerably worse, children's TV is blaring out of a television mounted on one of the walls and a baby is screaming so loudly that all I want to do is yell myself. Fiona called earlier to say that the Northern Line was broken and that she’d subsequently had to abort a bus because the traffic was so bad. The man sitting in front of her had compared the roads to Bombay. I've never been to India, but imagine the Council offices in Crouch End, with their chaotic staff and pungent smells could well be reminiscent of that country! I spoke to a great lummox who went out of her way to make things difficult to me. I was forced to wait 45 minutes to see her and all she did was hand me a form, tell me to fill it in, and then join the end of the queue again. So it was another hour before I could be seen. Fortunately, the lady, Marie, who saw me that time was charming, and went out of her way to help me despite the battleaxe breathing down her neck. I sent a letter to Haringey Council to say how lovely Marie was.

Crouch End is, of course, the centre of the British Art Neuveau and rather appropriately the pigeons I fed in the square outside were almost every shade you could ever imagine pigeons to be! They were beautifully shaped as well, with refined, rather long necks and not a bit like normal London pigeons. Some were as white as doves; others were speckled with brown and mauve. None were conventional-looking.

Today has been one of those days which was filled with the most ridiculous amount of admin. There were trips to Muswell Hill and Crouch End to visit various banks and post offices and there were huge queues almost everywhere. I found myself running for buses and then walking long distances because the credit on my Oyster card ran out. I was very relieved to get back home.

This morning I had a rehearsal with Nic, who is singing the soprano part in the motet. We covered another two movements and she did incredibly well. Afterwards, we had a long chat about her acting career and she seemed very despondent about things. Imagine my delight, therefore, when she called me later on to tell me she'd just landed a brilliant part in a TV drama that could easily change the path of her career. Bravo Nic!

Friday September 28th, 1660, yielded another short but very sweet entry for Pepys. Most of the Navy office had cleared off to Chatham in Kent to do some business involving a ship there and Pepys was left in the office with Sir William Batten. I'm not sure his hatred of the man had developed by this stage but he went home in the afternoon and hung out with his workmen until 11pm. He gave them alcohol and was “very merry with them.” He seemed very pleased that they were a “droll” bunch; proof that he’d not entirely lost his common touch!

Monday, 27 September 2010


I'm sitting in my favourite Costa Coffee, opposite Fenchurch Street station. In a couple of hours I’m due a second rehearsal with the early music choir and I'm very much looking forward to it.

My back and legs ache. I’ve been trudging around London all day. My search for gospel singers now finds me sticking up posters in various universities, drama schools and theatres. Today’s epic journey started at my former drama school, Mountview, in Wood Green, and has seen me in Bloomsbury Square at SOAS, at the Royal Academy of music in Marylebone, Arts Educational in Chiswick and a host of stage doors along The Strand. I've just walked all the way from Drury Lane to Monument. Pepys, who regularly walked this journey, must have had better legs than I!

I had lunch in a greasy spoon in Turnham Green, which could well have been the smelliest cafe in the world. It certainly had the stickiest tables I’ve ever tried to rest my hands on. I felt filthy just sitting there. Still, the peas they fed me tasted lovely!

I’d never visited SOAS before. For those who aren’t familiar with academic acronyms, SOAS stands for the School of African and Oriental Studies. Although it's part of the university of London, its “alternative” reputation has always preceded it. I was expecting it to be teeming with rather willowy, bohemian types, and it didn’t let me down. In fact, the outside courtyard looked like a 1969 advert for the United Colours of Benetton. I’ve seldom seen such a multi-cultural parade of whimsies. Everyone looked glamorously hippy with a little twinge of dirt! These people would go to Glastonbury with just one pair of underpants, which they'd periodically rinse out in a river. The Hare Krishnas were handing out delicious-looking free curries and there was a massive queue of people waiting for them. It looked like a most interesting place and if there isn’t a grungy mized-race gospel singer lurking somewhere in there, I’ll be very disappointed.

Today was a rather typical in terms of my experience of working on the Pepys Motet. I was fairly calm this morning. Everything had been sorted with the opera choir over the weekend, and I'd just emailed them to confirm rehearsal dates. Just as I sat down to lunch, an email popped into my inbox which informed me that one of them couldn’t do it any longer, so I find myself searching for singers again. Two steps forward and one step back; the story of my life. The adrenaline rushes continue. I realise now that they come when I feel I’m pushed for time. Earlier on, I was trying to send something to the MU on my i-phone before my tube carriage hurtled underground and I lost reception... and that familiar feeling started creeping up my legs. Right now I'm trying to post this blog before my rehearsal begins and my legs are beginning to tingle...

The bottom line is that I’m just stressed out! I’m recognising all the symptoms; neuralgia, sneezing. The next thing I’ll have an all over body rash! Poor Nathan is having the deal with the lion’s share of my erratic behaviour and told me over the weekend that he felt I needed to look very seriously into how to manage my stress levels before embarking on the next of these types of projects. It’s certainly not going to be possible for me to do something like this on my own again. Watching X factor last night was hell on earth. One chap started singing The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and it literally destroyed me. I can't go to the doctor, because he or she will just tell me I'm stressed and need to take some time off work, which for a freelancer is deeply impractical advice. Not working makes me feel even edgier!

Pull yourself together, Benjamin. This will never do!

Pepys wrote a brief and not particularly interesting entry on this date 350 years ago. He spent much of the day, either watching over his workmen, or going through official papers with Montagu. I’d love to say something more entertaining happened, but fear I've already written more words in this paragraph than he did on this date!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Savoury Crepes

We went to Covent Garden today, and had crepes for lunch with our friend Carey. He talked about Flashdance, which has just started previewing at the Shaftesbury Theatre and it was fascinating to hear all the inside gossip. I can’t wait to see the show, although I'm not sure how I'd get on with a building filled with so many different and equally important creative people all needing to have their say, and in some cases, have their egos massaged. Surely with so many lyricists, book writers, composers, directors, choreographers and producers rushing around, the danger is that a show can end up being nothing but a product of compromise?

I'm never sure that I'm the biggest fan of savoury crepes. I think they go all spongy with anything other than a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar. When you start throwing cheese and mushrooms and bits of raw tomato into the equation, it turns into something it’s not meant to be. Nevertheless, I dutifully put my prejudice aside and ordered something called “A Greek”, which had all sorts of things like feta cheese, aubergines and halloumi scattered all over it. Sadly, when it arrived, it looked like something you might try to avoid stepping in on a pavement on a Sunday morning. It was enormous and completely circular, and it arrived on a giant deft plate to fit in with the Dutch theming of the restaurant. Suddenly I understood why there were clogs hanging from the walls! Anyway, I now feel like something made of lead is sitting in my stomach, so I’m not sure I’ll be rushing back.

It rained almost solidly today, thereby cementing in my mind the notion that summer is well and truly over, and that autumn might not be happening this year.

September 26th 1660 was a Wednesday. Pepys started the day at St Olave’s Church where, once again, he was discussing the gallery that was being built to elevate Pepys and the two Sir Williams above the hoi-palloi. Pepys went home afterwards and stayed there all afternoon with the workmen, claiming that his house was in a “most sad pickle.” He then went to his office and got distracted by a book about geography, which he read until late. When he eventually returned home, he found his live-in clerk, Will Hewer was missing. This made him angry, so angry, in fact, that when poor Hewer eventually got home, Pepys gave him a clip around the ears.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Cupp of tee

It was pizza night last night and Fiona came over to join us. She’s back from her world tour with Placebo and it was lovely to see her again. Less lovely was the man in Tops Pizza who told us to “get the f**k out” of “his” shop, or he’d punch us. This potty-mouthed outburst and its associated tirade of abusive hand gestures came as a result of Nathan challenging him on the wording of a poster displayed in the front window. What an unsavoury character. Working in a pizza place can’t bring a great sense of job satisfaction, but there’s never an excuse for agressive rudeness.

Yesterday was so cold, I almost froze to death. This is an exaggeration. The truth is that had I not worn a jumper, I would have died of hypothermia the moment I stepped outside my flat. They were actually forecasting frost in Scotland. Today feels a lot brighter, but there’s a proper nip in the air. If the leaves on the trees weren’t still green, you’d be mistaken for thinking we were in the midst of winter. My friend Helen, who loves cold, crisp days, would no doubt have been in her element all day. Uncle Bill told me two days ago that she’d already bought me my Christmas present. Are we really already at that time in the year?

The hideous thing about being self-employed is that I now have to start thinking about what I might do for a job after I’ve finished in Newcastle. I’ve written a few emails and thrown a few ideas about, but sometimes I long for a bit of stability. I’d love to be able to coast for a while in a job that I know I'll be doing in 6 months time, or work on projects which pay enough for me to not have to do them back to back. The worry is that my head still hasn’t recovered from Yorkshire, and here I am knee-deep in the next one...

This morning I finished work on a vocal/ piano arrangement of the last movement from A Symphony for Yorkshire. I’ve been asked so many times for versions of Doreen’s song that can be performed by smaller ensembles, so I thought I’d start with a version for male voice choir, because every town in Yorkshire has one of them. The Making Of documentary was screened on BBC4 last night, and visits to my website have gone up twentyfold. I’ve had some lovely emails from people congratulating me, and even more from people who want to know why the symphony itself hasn’t yet had a national TV broadcast. This is a question that only the BBC can answer, but I find it extremely strange that they wouldn’t opt to show the symphony after airing the Making Of programme! I definitely think there’s a London bias to scheduling at the BBC. The wonderful work that the BBC regions do is very often rather-patronisingly over-looked.

Tuesday 25th September 1660 is a very important entry in Pepys’ Diary because it contains the first ever reference in literature to drinking tea; “afterwards I did send for a cupp of tee (a China Drink) of which I never had drank before.” The restoration had finally brought tea to our shores. They were even drinking the stuff in America before it had become popular over here. Pepys, as usual, was right on trend. Tea only really took off two years later with the arrival of Catherine de Braganza, Charles II’s wife, who arrived in Portsmouth from Portugal and immediately demanded a cup of the brown stuff. Many consider the quote from this date 350 years ago to be the reason why people even know of the existence of Pepys’ diary. He wrote the words “Cupp of Tee” in longhand, and they leap off the page. It's said that someone flicking through the diary in Victorian times saw the words within a string of complicated shorthand symbols and immediately identified them as an early-ish reference to the drink; and so the diary was translated...

Aside from the reference to tea, it was an important day in the diary for many other reasons. Montagu returned from sea, bringing with him, Mary Henrietta Stuart, another one of Charles I’s children who was returning from exile (and marriage) in Holland. Pepys, you'll remember, had visited her rather tragic house in The Hague. Montagu was well, apart from some cuts or “brushes” on his feet which had not yet healed. They’d had a less than ideal trip across the North Sea, having as good as run aground on the Kentish Knock, a shoal fifteen miles from the Kent coast.

When Pepys eventually got home, he found that the plasterers had been working in every room of the house, and that Elizabeth had been forced to set up a bed on the ground for them to sleep on.

Friday, 24 September 2010


I’ve been fairly anxious of late and this anxiety seems to be manifesting itself in numerous ways. My voice, for example, still hasn’t repaired itself after the cold I had a few weeks ago. In fact, if anything, it’s getting worse. It’s constantly tired and feels really husky when I try to sing. I don’t know why I feel this must be stress related, but my body is obviously not as happy as it could be at the moment and much of that is due to the stress of organising the Pepys project coupled with the hell of having to take someone to court. The other thing I’m suffering from is fairly regular bolts of adrenaline. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly pressured to do something before a certain time, and I’ll be typing away at my computer, faster and faster and then feel something, like a sort of spinning ball in the pit of my stomach, which suddenly shoots through me. I obviously need more sleep and to eat better food. I was up once again at shit o’clock this morning, this time to have my filling sorted by the dentist and I’ve been close to falling to sleep all day.

Just after lunch I had to go to a fairly pointless “back to work” session at the job centre, which consisted of a man sitting in front of a group of comatose people, trying to give them suggestions about how to find work. I felt rather sorry for him, but from my perspective it was particularly pointless excercise, not just because he wasn’t exactly addressing the issue of finding jobs in the arts, but also because I’m within a week of signing off!

I was still reeling when I went into the meeting as I’d arrived at the job centre with a take away cup of tea yet been greeted by a barrage of body guards who wouldn’t let me in, because “people put alcohol into their cups of tea.” I had to sit on a step outside and drink it in the freezing cold. We've gone from summer to deep winter in the space of two days.

What made me almost apoplectic, however, was the fact that all the employees of the Job Centre were sitting there with cups of tea on their desks, which makes me angry because it creates a “them and us” situation where people who are probably feeling bad enough about their lives, end up feeling even more like second class citizens. Taking away someone's right to drink tea is about as humiliating and dehumanising as it gets!

Rather sadly, I’ve just looked down at my hands and realised a ring I’d worn for the past 15 years seems to have fallen off. It was given to me by someone who shared my life for 3 years, and I’ve never seen a reason to take off because I’ve never understood why people split up with someone and then spend the rest of their lives trying to pretend it wasn’t an important part of their lives. Anyway, the ring always sat on my finger rather happily next to a ring from Nathan and I have no idea where it’s gone.

Monday 24th September 1660, and Pepys went to lunch at his cousin Benjamin Scott’s. A huge contingent of his extended family had also been invited, some of whom Pepys had not seen for fourteen years on account of their having been living in New England.

After lunch, Pepys went to Temple Church. How strange to think I was there just yesterday. He did some legal business before heading off to Whitehall by water where he was due to discuss the possibility of getting more money for the clerical staff members of the Navy.

Later in the day, Pepys met his friend Monsieur L’Impertinent, and they took a coach to Broad Street in Vauxhall to visit a dancing school in a former “glass house”. I’d always thought a glasshouse was a military prison, but it turns out that this was only the case from Victorian times. In the late 17th Century a glass house was simply a place where they made glass and because glass-making was a mucky old business, it was banned from the City of London - hence the building being located the other side of the river. Pepys saw “good dancing, but it growing late, and the room very full of people and so very hot... went home.”

Thursday, 23 September 2010


I’m really buzzing. I feel incredibly excited. I’ve just had my first rehearsal with the early music choir and it sounded incredible! I was astonished to see how well-prepared they all seemed and it was a joy to be able to work with a group who not only understood my language, but “got” what I’d written and seemed genuinely excited to be bringing it to life! We managed to sing our way through 3 of the 6 movements, and actually ended early!

Yesterday’s rehearsal with the folkers also went well. I suppose in an ideal world we’d have got through slightly more material, but what we did note-bash was well-retained by everyone at the end of the rehearsal. The five singers in that choir are all great characters who I feel are likely to get on really well. Most of them have friends from the folk circuit in common, although only two of them regularly perform together. We drank herbal tea and sat on floor cushions whilst rehearsing, and half way through, a bottle of red wine appeared and was consumed. It was a very different world to the rehearsal with the early music choir, who gathered around a piano in St Olave’s Church and went at things with a sort of intellectual vigour, thereby illustrating the joys of working with such disparate groups of people, who come at music from such wonderfully different angles. I’m looking forward to finding out what rehearsals with the opera choir with bring; cucumber sandwiches, maybe, or a room full of bowls filled with hot water for them to inhale periodically. Obviously I’m expecting the musical theatre performers to arrive on roller skates with Arlene Philipps-esque armography already mapped out...

This morning I went to the funeral of my dear friend, Raily’s Grandmother. She was called Naona; which I think is a deeply charming name and by all accounts she was a rather extraordinary woman, who once listed Noel Coward and Marilyn Monroe as close friends. The service took place at Temple Church, which is a beautiful building, best known for its appearance in the Da Vinci Code. Raily made an honest and moving speech, and my Godson, Will was well-behaved throughout. I gave him and pen and paper half way through and he drew fantastical and highly detailed pictures with a look of great concentration on his face. He calls me Uncle Ben and our friend Hilary (female) is known as Uncle Bill. The highlight was almost certainly a rendition of the slow movement from the Rodrigues Concerto de Aranjuez played by a magnificent guitarist accompanied by the church organ, which created a fascinating sound world.

The wake was in the middle temple; an area well-known to Pepys, but completely unknown to me. It’s hidden between Embankment and the Strand, and to be honest, I didn’t really know it existed. Afterwards, Uncle Bill and I took the circle line to Sloane Square and wandered around the shops. Hilary wanted to buy a jumper and we were trying to work out which palette of colours suited her best. It turns out she looks washed-out in avocado green (oddly the colour of her eyes) and brilliant in vile shades of orange. Who’d’ve thought?!

Sunday 23rd November 1660, and Elizabeth was up early to dress herself for mourning. Pepys took delivery of a “black cloth cloak to walk up and down in” fashioned by his father from a previous garment. Mourning for the Duke of Gloucester had now taken on an almost ludicrous fanaticism. Pepys went with his wife and Sir William Batten to church and they heard a good sermon made by Mr Mills. Later in the day, he met up with Mr Pierce the surgeon in Whitehall. Pierce was with his wife, “newly come forth after childbirth” and both, like the whole of London, were in mourning for the Duke.

Pepys went to Westminster Abbey in the afternoon and reported that the congregation were hugely shocked when a piece of plaster fell from the roof. Pepys left church, no doubt feeling shaken but with a renewed sense of self-righteousness in time for his planned rendezvous with Dirty Diana, who didn’t show. No doubt feeling rather disappointed he went home to find Elizabeth. Perhaps he asked her to dress up as a school girl to compensate!

Asparagus wee

I’m sitting in Pret a Manger in Vauxhall about to go to my first rehearsal for the Pepys Motet. On this occasion I shall be working with the folk singers. I am absolutely terrified...

It’s been an ridiculous day, which started at shit-o’clock with a visit to the dental hygienist. She scraped my teeth and gums like a child holding a felt-tip pen and then informed me that I was doing everything right in terms of my oral hygiene, which pleased me. But she'd hurt me... and that wasn't very nice.

After the dentist, I went into Muswell Hill to buy paper for my printer and decided to treat myself to a loaf of nice crusty bread and some asparagus from Sainsbury’s for lunch. I remember thinking, as I walked in the glorious sunshine, how lovely it felt not be in any great rush, and how relaxed I was feeling...

I came home, started printing parts for the motet, and immediately ran out of ink. Not noticing the spare cartridge right next to the computer, I swore several times, grabbed my jacket and trundled back into Muswell Hill. As I opened my wallet to pay an extortionate amount of money for a pair of ink cartridges, I realised, with horror, that my card had gone missing. It’s always embarrassing to have to walk away from a purchase when it’s already been rung through a till. The card certainly wasn’t still in Sainsbury’s, although I’m sure the lovely woman in there would have given me any of the 17 cards that had been left in the self-service area on that day alone. I felt I ought to check at home before going through the misery of cancelling it.

To save myself another journey into Muswell Hill, I went to the bank to see if I could get enough cash to pay for the cartridge I’d sheepishly asked the guy in Rymans to hold behind the counter like some kind of high-fashion dress I didn’t want anyone else to buy. The Polish woman who greeted me in the branch seemed genuinely astonished that I didn’t have my passport with me or one of those modern driving licenses that you keep in your wallet. I’m rather proud of the fact that I still only have a paper driving license, but can see why the lady in the bank wasn’t particularly excited for me. In retrospect I can also see why she didn’t think my bright orange MU membership card was proof enough of my identity, although I did sigh audibly enough to make her feel at least slightly ashamed for refusing it. Fortunately, I know all my card numbers off by heart, so as soon as I’d scrawled them all on a post-it note, I was given £50, had purchased the cartridges and was on my way...

Sadly, there was no sign of my card back at home, so I went up into the loft with a cup of tea to cancel it over the phone, whilst continuing with the printing. I fitted the new cartridge, and all was good for approximately 3 and a half minutes. But then the printer then broke down. I threw a stapler across the room and it shattered into a thousand shards of cheap Chinese plastic. Meanwhile the people at Barclays kept cutting me off, transferring me to the wrong zones of the cyber bank and generally behaving like turds. Eventually, I managed to stop the card and order a new one, but when I explained that my flat didn’t have a doorbell for the delivery man, there was a long silence. “Well if you’re not in when the currier arrives, he’ll leave a card, and you'll be able to request delivery at a more convenient time” said a Barclays employee with a thick Indian accent. “But I still won’t have a doorbell and he still won't be able to deliver my card to me” I said, calmly. “But it will be a more convenient time” he replied... and I couldn’t disagree. I asked if the card could maybe be delivered to my local branch in Muswell Hill, and apparently it could, but only if I went into the branch in person to ask them to request the card be delivered there. “Can they not do this over the phone?” I asked. “Of course not" said my new friend "you could be anyone.” “Well, could you not tell them that I’m me?” I said “No” he said rather definitively. And that was that.

So back I went into Muswell Hill to request that the card be delivered to the bank there; a process which took the best part of two hours and involved a lengthy interview with a man called Jamie who smelt of cucumbers.

On top of all this, gospel singers and trebles continue to elude me. I find myself staring at black women on the tube, wondering whether they’re the answers to my metaphorical prayers. I do sometimes wonder if I’m being punished somehow for my hatred of organised religion. When I look at the websites of many gospel choirs I’m greeted with all sorts of quotes about Jesus that make me feel slightly uncomfortable. Gospel choirs are usually called things like IDMC (Individuals Dedicated to the Ministry of Christ) which make my fingers feel all funny. It is, of course, foolish of me. I want genuine gospel singers – of course they’re going to be hard-core Christians! But... and let’s face it, born again Christians are rude bastards with very little concept of humanity and it’s no surprise at all that out of the 30 or so gospel singers/ choirs I’ve now contacted not a SINGLE ONE has even got back to me to thank me for my interest in them/Jesus. Surely they should be out there spreading their message to the unconverted?

Pepys wrote a classic diary entry on this date 350 years ago, which throbs with the intrigue and sexual liberation we associate with the Restoration Period. It starts innocently enough. He wakes up and claps eyes for the first time on his new houseboy, Wayneman. He doesn’t seem particularly horrified by the lad’s name, which surprises me, but it takes all sorts. In fact, it seems the lad was an immediate hit. Pepys described him as “a pretty well-looked boy”, whatever that means.

Pepys then walked to Westminster with his good friend, Luellin, stopping en route in Salsbury Court for their morning draft and a pickled herring, which sounds almost too horrific for words! The two of them gossiped like char ladies. They talked about a young girl on Cheapside who sold children’s coats whom Pepys had always fancied. Her reputation however, had been recently destroyed by one Lady Bennett, who Pepys refers to as a “famous strumpet” but would probably best be described as a high class “Madame.” Lady Bennett befriended the young girl, it seems simply so that she could sell her virginity to a man who’d taken a shine to her. Scandalous!

Pepys then went to Montagu’s house in Westminster under the pretext of sorting through some books. Possibly spurred along by Luellin’s salacious stories, he instead spent all his time sitting out on the leads on the roof, “gazing upon Diana, who looked out of a window upon me.” Diana, you'll remember, was the daughter of his former neighbour in Axe Yard. It all sounds terribly romantic, but we must remember that a) Pepys was married b) Diana Crisp was barely a teenager c) that Pepys, still hung over from the debauchery of the night before, had just vomited his entire breakfast of herring into Montagu’s “house of office.”

He then went to the bustling New Exchange to buy a pair of short, black stockings “to wear over a pair of silk ones for mourning.” The great and the good were all in mourning for the Duke of Gloucester. It had become a sort of bizarre fashion craze for the well-to-do.

When Pepys returned home, Wayneman was called so that his sister, Jane could show him how to put Pepys to bed. He tucked our hero in and even read a little; “fairly well” as it happens...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


I always think of September 21st as being the first day of autumn and there’s been a distinct nip in the air all day, despite the beautiful sunshine. I woke up early this morning to get to the dentist in Tufnell Park at some ungodly hour. I’d barely slept, having spent the whole night tossing and turning and worrying about my up-and-coming court case. Unfortunately when I arrived in Tufnell Park I was told that the dentist hadn’t yet turned up; that she’d be at least half an hour. They also told me that there was no way I’d be able to have a filling today because I’d only been booked in for a check-up, despite having told them on the phone that something white and enamely had dropped out of my gob and left a big hole in one of my molars. Maite behind the counter said the dentist might be able to give me an emergency filling, but pointed out I’d still need to come back for a check-up and a proper filling later on. Besides, emergency fillings tend to be made of metal and I didn't want to look like Jaws. So I was forced to book two separate appointments for later in the week; the first see a hygienist and the second for that proper filling. £100 lighter, I left the dentist, wondering quite how people who aren’t about to start work again, afford to live on the dole. If your tooth falls out when you’re signing on, are you expected just to push it back into your mouth?

I looked up from my work today to see Ian Clayton on The Michael Ball Show. Ian is the guy who wrote the wonderful book I’m currently reading called Our Billie. He looked like a fish out of water on that tawdry show. His truthful, dignified, understated energy glowed through all the superficial shimmering day-time weirdness. It was like watching the moon in a bright blue sky. I’m not sure Michael Ball truly understands how to interview people and suspect he’s too self-involved to be interested in the people he’s talking to. Ian told his moving story, briefly, and then they cooked him a lemon pie which he was forced to eat and compliment. It felt deeply inappropriate.

The next time I looked up, I saw a news piece about a bright orange dog called Ginger on CCTV footage being left in a car park by its callous owner. The owner deposited the poor thing on a patch of grass before getting back into the car and speeding off. Apparently Ginger was too injured to run after them and just stood there, watching the car disappearing, no doubt wondering when his owner would return and what he'd done to merit being deserted. What with the Cat Bin Lady, the latest fashion definitely seems to be for the media to bring our attention to animal cruelty through the medium of security cameras. Cat Bin Lady is going to court now – and no doubt the owner of Ginger will meet a similar fate. But there’s an underlying double-standard here. I feel deeply uncomfortable when anyone makes a big deal about cruelty to certain animals if they’re planning on going home to tuck into a big old steak and chips. It’s all very well to anthropomorphise the thoughts that go through a beautiful dog’s head when its owners walk away, but what happens to a lamb ripped from its mother breast, or a cow who enters an abattoir, smells blood and panics without realising why? Is sticking a cat in a bin so much worse than slashing an animal’s throat and draining it of blood, simply for a good meal?

September 21st was a Friday, and Pepys spent most of the day in his office. He went briefly to Westminster and returned to the City by water, watching the corpse of the Duke of Gloucester being brought down Somerset House steps on its way to burial in Westminster. Pepys alighted at the Old Swan steps, which was his preferred landing place, being the first beyond London Bridge, and therefore the nearest to his house at the Navy Office. Before going home he went to the Hoop Tavern, and with friends amongst other things, ate above 200 walnuts! A new family member had arrived when he got home; Jane Birch’s brother, Wayneman, had been brought from a position in the country to become Pepys’ new boy servant.

Monday, 20 September 2010

In priase of Holland

I sat on the kitchen table today and worked my way through great piles of admin, most of which related to my seemingly fruitless search for trebles for the motet. I’m now using a sort of splatter-gun approach, having realised that schools are usually way too busy (and dare I say too rude) to respond quickly, if at all. I’m still feeling slightly resentful about St Paul’s School, who kept me waiting for 5 months, merely to inform me they had their own concert on the night of our performance. I think the likelihood now of my finding any trebles at all is next to zero. Frankly, I feel I'm more likely to give birth to a set of singing quintuplets before I hear anything from a certain school in Kent! So I have to start to thinking about what I might do instead. Should I form a choir of counter tenors, for example? Or teenage girls? Or women who sound like recorders when they sing? How would I advertise for that, I wonder?

The gospel singers – or lack of them - are similarly still causing me nightmares. I’m now sure I’ve contacted every gospel choir with an on-line presence but still only two people have expressed an interest in getting involved and one of them is white! Aggggghhhh!

A rather ominous looking letter was sitting on the doormat this morning. It was a response to my court papers, informing me that not only is the lady defending herself, but she is also counterclaiming for the half payment I received when I started work on the commission. I wish I could write more about what’s going on, but fear at this stage, anything I might mention could be viewed as incendiary. Suffice to say that the Musicians’ Union continues to guide me through the process and that lawyers in Lincolnshire continue to advise her. No doubt justice will prevail. The idea of going to court for anything makes me feel sick in the stomach, but forward we must go...

I took myself into central London late this afternoon. The letter arrived and made me feel so angry that I simply paced my way around the kitchen for 20 minutes and knew I had to get out. My plan was to have my hair cut, but they were crammed into the barbers like sardines, so I wandered around Soho in the late afternoon sunlight, before taking myself to Hummingbird on Wardour Street. Hummingbird sells cupcakes, which, I’m told are as good as the ones in Magnolia or is it Wisteria that they go on about in Sex and the City. I wouldn’t know how the Hummingbird cupcakes taste, however, because I bought a chocolatey mound instead that I thought was a cupcake but it turned out to be a sort of heavenly swirling mass of chocolate, marshmallows, dried fruit and malteesers, which sort of melted in my mouth when consumed with a lovely cup of tea. If any one reading this blog is a chocoholic and happens to be passing by, I suggest you pop in. I think it’s called a Rocky Road! I’ve returned home feeling much satisfied yet slightly sickened by the man on the tube who was eating chips and a burger right next to me like some kind of pig in a trough.

Pepys spent the morning with the two Sir Williams walking around in the garden of the Navy Office complex. In the afternoon, he headed to Whitehall and called in on Mr Dalton, who was now installed in his former house in Axe Yard. Pepys collected a number of papers that had been left in a cupboard there, writing; “and so I have now nothing more in the house or to do with it.” He visited his former boss Sir George Downing (of Downing Street fame) who had summons him to moan about Montagu’s conduct at sea. Pepys asked him to jot his complaint down in a letter (which sounds a little too much like Harringey Council for my liking), and while he was doing so, Pepys chatted to Downing’s wife; “a great deal of discourse in praise of Holland.”

Sunday, 19 September 2010

A lonely old night

It’s been an extremely dull and boring day which has seen me doing next to nothing. I decided to sleep until my body told me to wake up, and managed an epic lie-in which lasted until 11.30am. I obviously needed the rest. I wasn’t at all well yesterday and was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. Towards the end of the day, my stomach also started to hurt, but I blamed that on the coriander that I’m sure managed to find its crafty way into my lunch at brother Edward's Arabic restaurant.

Since waking up this morning, all I’ve done is tidy the house, dry my clothes at the laundrette (our tumble drier is still broken), eat an omelette and copy out more parts for the Pepys motet. It’s now getting dark, which makes me feel slightly on edge. It feels like I’ve sort of thrown a day away. Nathan is doing a gig in Birmingham and I was hoping he'd be back by now to keep me company, but he doesn't seem to have left the Midlands yet, so it's going to be a lonely old night... 

I had a text today from Fiona who tells me she's in Moscow. Her tour with Placebo has taken her to all sorts of astonishing Eastern European locations over the past few months and I'm deeply envious, not least because I know if she were in London right now, she'd pop up the road and enjoy the Antiques Roadshow with me.

350 years ago, Pepys wore his mourning garb all day. He worked in the Navy office in the morning and went back home at noon, expecting to find Elizabeth similarly attired and ready to join him for lunch. Sadly her tailor “had failed her”, which I assume means he simply didn’t turn up, rather than appearing and dressing her inappropriately.

Pepys waited until 1pm and then left Elizabeth to change into something else before joining him at the Mitre Tavern on Wood Street, which according to Pepys was “a house of the greatest note in London.” The Mitre really does appear to have been a rather astonishing establishment. It was certainly very large. According to the hearth tax list of 1665, it had no fewer than 29 fireplaces. Unfortunately its good times were almost over. Its owners died in the plague and then the tavern itself burnt down in the great fire. Still, in 1660, it was a bustling, fashionable location and Pepys met a large crowd of his friends there. They were all “very merry and had a very good dinner” whilst the rain bucketed it down outside. They played a card game, rather hysterically called “handycapp”, which Pepys had never played before but enjoyed thoroughly. And with a name like that, how can you blame him?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

What march?

It's been a very beautiful autumnal day. A watery sun has been shining on London almost permanently and the tourists are out in force. I've spent the day with my family; a belated birthday treat for Edward, who opted for Arabic food in Souk Bazaar followed by a trip to the Tower of London.

In the meantime I'd decided to go to the anti-pope rally, but unfortunately I failed miserably to do so! I sort of hate myself for missing it. I thought I'd be able to join the march somewhere along its length, but walked across half of the capital and couldn't find anyone anywhere en route from Hyde Park to Westminster. I did, however, come across hundreds and hundreds of policemen putting out barriers on Pall Mall and assumed it was for the demonstration. "Where's the march?" I asked one of them. "What march?" he asked. "The one against the pope. Is that not what these barriers are for?" "No" he said, laughing, "these barriers are for the pope himself. At 6 o'clock he's gonna drive down here on his pope-mobile. I didn't know there was a march." So I walked away with my angry tail between my legs, marvelling at how many policemen had been employed to make sure the pope had a safe journey in his bullet-proof ice cream van. But where on earth was the march?

The Tower of London wasn't quite as exciting as I'd hoped it would be. I think the more inherently interesting a place, the less they bother to make it user-friendly. There was lots of climbing up and down flights of stairs, jostling crowds and glass cabinets scantily filled with things that weren't properly labelled. Way too much militia. Way too many suits of armour; and on top of all of this, some horribly rude beafeaters. Sadly, this wasn't exactly a surprise.  I visited the complex a year and a half ago to record bells for my Oranges and Lemons project and met some very snippy men dressed in little red dresses! I went up to one of them today and asked if he knew where Pepys had been held during his short time in the Tower, but he just stared at me like I'd just made a bad smell, and then walk away without saying a word. His rudeness almost took my breath away!

Still, the buildings themselves are extraordinary and my Mother and I were both simultaneously floored by the weird atmosphere in the White Tower, which is deeply sinister. Standing at the spot where Anne Bolyn was beheaded was also a rather strange experience. I was surprised to discover that so few people had actually been executed in that place. All in all, less than 50; and a surprisingly high percentage of those in the First World World. Of the few that were beheaded there in tudor days, the large majority were women; a fact I also found slightly shocking.

Pepys spend the morning, 350 years ago, "looking over" the workmen in his house. After dinner, he headed to Westminster to attend a parliamentary committee who were meeting to talk about the horrendous debts of the Army and Navy. According to Pepys, one Colonel Birch was "very impertinent and troublesome."

The two Sir Williams went home by water, but Pepys stayed behind to drink at the Rhenish Winehouse, and later walked home, buying a hat band "and other things for my mourning tomorrow" en route.

Friday, 17 September 2010

But can Wonder Woman sing?

I had THE most terrible night’s sleep last night. At about 1am, when we went bed, I was still feeling absolutely wired and ended up tossing and turning until about 4 in the morning. At that point I got up and watched an episode of Mock the Week on i-player. All sorts of nonsense was going through my mind; ideas for future projects and things I needed to do rather urgently on the Pepys Motet. I eventually got back into bed and must have been close to hallucinating because suddenly I became aware of a ghost staring down at me from high up on the bedroom wall. I think I simply dreamt it was there, and within my dream, I’d woken up, opened my eyes and seen the same face staring down, incredibly life-like and more than a little surprising. It was very strange face; a bald-headed, rosy-cheeked man, beautifully lit and highly-colourful against the darkened wall. I must have yelled out, because Nathan woke up and asked me what was wrong. I didn’t tell him because I didn’t want to scare him. I suffered in silence!

I woke up this morning, and felt something strange in my mouth, and realised either a piece of tooth, or most of my one filling had come loose. I called the dentist to discover that they couldn’t see me before Tuesday. Fortunately I'm not in any great discomfort... yet.

We talked about our very different childhoods last night. Nathan still finds it hysterically funny that, at the age of 4 or 5, we were taken to countless CND marches and rallies. I feel very proud that my parents thought to take us. I still remember the “die-in”, where hundreds of people lay down on a street in London to show the authorities what it would look like to see a city’s worth of people killed by nuclear attack. Sadly, I was never taken to Greenham Common, probably because I was a boy. My childhood friend, Ruth from the commune, had been many times, and obviously witnessed far too many ladies lying down in front of vehicles carrying nuclear bombs because one day, during the school sports day, she broke through the barriers of spectators and lay down in front of the sack race! I still remember the look of defiance in her eyes. Nathan also finds it near hysterical that we had a soft toy, a sort of enormous sheep, that we called “Sexy”. He can’t believe we were allowed to call a soft toy by that name. I think we’d just heard the word and thought it sounded nice.

Nathan can’t talk, however, because he grew up in a house with a grass green shag pile carpet! I think this is far more shocking, particularly when you discover that he had to RAKE it as a child. Yes, there was such a thing in the early 1980s as a carpet rake, which allowed you to fluff up your carpet, ridding it of vaccum tracks and furni-dents. Sometimes, when visitors were coming, Nathan’s mother would be known to actually rake herself out of the room! No one was allowed back in until the visitors arrived! Celia, I'm horrified!

Today, I finally finished writing the Pepys motet. Hurrah! All that now remains is the fiddly task of creating individual parts. I’ve done about half of them, but my head hurts.

Tonight we’re going to see Linda Carter (yes that’s right – Wonderwoman) doing a cabaret in town. I can’t wait to see if the turquoise-eyed freedom fighter can also sing!

Pepys woke up on this date 350 years ago, and gave Elizabeth 15l with which to buy “mourning things” for them both. Later in the day, there were drinks in Whitehall, and a visit to see the Prince de Ligne, the new Spanish ambassador who was officially welcomed to the country in “very great state.”

After the ceremony, our hero, and a whole host of people went to Axe Yard, and Pepys officially handed over the property to its new tenant, Mr Dalton. Pepys was sad to say goodbye to his “poor little house” and got even sadder upon arriving at his new one. Elizabeth presented him with the things that she'd bought and he was distinctly unimpressed, “they costing too much.” He went to bed feeling “discontent.”


Today's blog asks a question. Can Wonder Woman sing? The answer is yes. Incredibly well. She is a consummate jazzer and brought with her a field of astonishingly talented musicians. Who'd have thought it?!!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

A bullet proof box on wheels

It’s my brother’s birthday today. He’s 38 years-old and we had lunch together at the Barbican to celebrate. What a curious place that is. It’s obviously incredibly well-loved. I can think of few other examples of 1960s brutalism that are so well-kept. It seems that almost every resident, for example, has flowers cascading over his or her balcony, dripping down towards the bright green ponds underneath. I can’t help but like the place and I’m a man who loathes concrete! Edward said the complex wouldn’t feel out of place in a former communist country and that it suddenly struck him how the brutal architecture we associate with those regimes, was perhaps less a result of socialist principals and more to do with the era during which communism thrived –and perhaps ultimately died.

I managed to find Edward a present for his birthday that hopefully generated a great deal of nostalgia. It's a set of music books which we used to have at our junior school. They’re chock-a-block full of the songs we used to sing in assemblies; those 1960s part-religious, part do-gooder ditties with pretty melodies, and recorder accompaniments, that I suspect only have a shelf-life within classrooms and halls that smell of bleach and school dinners.

I watched some footage today of the Pope in Glasgow. The ghastly sight of him in a bullet proof box on wheels waving inanely at the crowds, made me feel incredibly sad. It’s a horrible thing to watch a person who's so obviously disassociated from the people who love him. A girl presented flowers through the window of the pope-mobile, which pulled up for a minute before continuing on its snaking journey around a make-shift road in a park. A photograph was taken; “something this young girl will treasure for life”, Hugh Edwards said, but no doubt all the picture will show is a white blur behind a window reflecting sunlight. More worryingly, the only flags that people were waving were of the Irish and Italian variety; a sea of orange, white and green. It was all very pretty, but where were the union flags? Where were the Scottish flags? Everything felt so incredibly phoney.

The only thing that moved me slightly was a young woman, billed as a “single mother of 4 from a council estate in Glagow.” She sounded genuinely thrilled and said she’d come to see the pope, and that if she got to actually meet him, she’d get down on her knees. They asked her what she'd say to him, and she replied; “I’ll pray for you and you pray for me and we’ll both get through this life together.” Which I thought was a lovely statement, but what good is praying when you could actually get off your arse and DO some good? Also, I’m sure I’m not the only one who wondered whether she might not have been in such a terrible financial situation if she hadn’t signed up to a religion that encouraged unsafe sex!

Pepys was typically busy on this day 350 years ago, darting from place to place, meeting people en route. It was a Sunday, so naturally he went to church twice; the second time to Westminster Abbey, where he “walked up and down” until it was time for the sermon.

Later in the day, he wondered around St James’ Park, taking a look at the work Charles II was having done to Pall Mall, and the canal that was taking shape in the park itself. It was here that Pepys saw the King, who was mourning for his brother in purple. Pepys was also sad to announce that the Earl of Oxford had died of the pox; with no heirs, thus bringing an end to a title which was some 500 years old. Pepys needn’t have worried, however, because the Earl’s death was a vicious rumour .The man actually lived as long as Pepys himself, right the way into the next century. He still died without an heir, however, so Pepys was right in one respect.

Pepys also bumped into the young Diana Crisp, who said she needed to talk to him the next time he was in Westminster. Quite why she couldn’t talk to him there and then I’ve no idea, but it properly freaked him out, possibly because he thought she was going to announce a pregnancy that he may or may not have something to do with! When he eventually arrived at his house, it was very late at night. On his way home; “a gentleman in the Poultry had a great and dirty fall over a waterpipe that lay along the channel.” Man, those streets were dangerous!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

One in the eye

I have never felt as nutty as I’m feeling right now. My computer isn’t working properly. There’s something horribly wrong with its internal mouse, which is making it almost impossible for me to work on the motet, and yet I need to start sending the parts out. Add to this the almost mind-numbing frustration of trying to sort out rehearsals for the two choirs I’ve now chosen singers for and you have a composer teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown! I firmly believe that computers were sent down to earth to create mayhem and that one day they will eventually control us all. It is always at the most inapportune moments that they decide to conk out. Always when we're most in need of their assistance. I suppose I need to start backing things up in case it just packs up suddenly out of spite.

I went back to the hospital today to have my feet looked at. Unfortunately I managed to miss my appointment. There was a rather unpleasant en-route altercation with a lorry driver, but I was mostly late because I’d forgotten what time the appointment was actually booked for! Luckily they agreed to still see me, but I had to sit like a plank in the waiting room until the doctor had worked his way around everyone else. It was always going to be a waste of time, however. My feet are a great deal better, and I certainly wasn’t about to go for another hideous injection just in case the pain came back. The double-edged sword, of course, is that by acknowledging that I’m getting better, I’m effectively taking myself out of the system. If the pain comes back, I have to start all over again with a visit to my GP. This, you’ll remember, is the GP whose reception staff told Nathan to try Boots, when he went in to ask who might talk to him about the possibility of a course of injections to help with his dreadful hay fever.

As I sat in the waiting room at the Royal Free Hospital, I realised how much of an old people’s game orthopaedics is. There were a group of old women in there, nattering, gossiping, and complaining bitterly about the long queues and the smell of murray mints was wafting into the sanitising gel-filled air. I'm rather proud that I'm no longer one of them. That's one in the eye for the ageing process! I hope I don’t need to return until I'm at least 79.

For those of you who enjoy reading blogs, I recommend the following;

It’s written by a friend of mine, another fan of Pepys, who’s recently been diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma, which I’m absolutely convinced he’ll beat. His journey, however, has only just begun, and I'm sure he’d be grateful to know that people were with him at every stage.

Saturday September 15th 1660, and Pepys was up early at his office dealing with naval business. He lunched in Westminster with Mr Dalton who was about to buy the Axe Yard lease from him. They feasted on one “great court dish”, which was a massive plate of meat containing cuts from every conceivable dead animal. Later in the day, Pepys was told off by his boss at the Privy Seal for making several mistakes, which included allowing the fees of six judges to pass unpaid. Pepys was put into something of a panic, fearing he’d have to pay the money out of his own pocket. Nevertheless he called in on his father to bespoke a mourning suit to mark his respects for the Duke of Gloucester. Collective mourning, in those days, was a big business.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


So George Michael has gone to jail? What is it with these gay 1980s pop sensations called George? Boy George has only just been released from his prison term. I don't know the man, but I think George Michael must be something of a weirdo, with little or no sense of what it means to be a functioning human being in the 21st Century. But don't feel sorry for him; a mini-prison term will, no doubt, give his flagging pop career a mini-boost. If we’re really lucky, he’ll release another bland song, with a video which takes the mickey out of the British criminal justice system. I was, however, incredibly amused to see that on the wall just below the shop window he’d crashed into whilst smashed out of his skull, someone had written the word Wham! Nothing can beat a well-placed piece of graffiti!

I watched a bit of daytime television today and was horrified at the level of mental inadequacy that some people in this country seem to want to demonstrate. I was watching a programme called Pointless, which is a quiz show. The contestants were asked to name a state in the USA which had a coastline. The idea was to name one that the fewest people would have thought of. I sat there wondering whether Maine or Maryland would be too obvious, so imagine my horror, when the first contestant answered Orlando (that’s right - they were asked to name a state), and the next person said Detroit! The final contestant, was a SCHOOL TEACHER and he said Mexico! Mexico?! There are too many people in this world who consider geography to be an unimportant subject. We, as British people, love to laugh at the Americans who think Africa and Paris are both countries, but when a teacher thinks that Mexico is a state within the USA, we have to acknowledge that something is going very very wrong with our education system!

September 14th 1660 was a Friday and Pepys was busy sorting out his finances. He sent Elizabeth to visit his mother, who he’d heard wasn’t well. Quite why he couldn’t have found the time later in the day to visit her himself, I’m not sure, particularly as the news of her illness apparently made his heart “very sad”.

Pepys' mate, Luellin called in in the early evening, and dragged him off to the Mitre in Wood Street, where a great gathering of their communal friends were being “very merry.” Luellin was drunk and Pepys had been given the task of defending the ladies from his amorous advances. Pepys liked this role, because it apparently gave him carte blanche to kiss the ladies himself; “very often” and “with a great deal of mirth.” Hysterical!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Clap him in a pair of handcuffs

My eyes ache. I’ve been staring at a screen non-stop all day and everything I’m typing seems to be swimming around me. I’m desperately trying to finish this draft of the Pepys Motet so that I can really begin to focus on vital admin. But what I’m doing is so hard and at times so unbelievably boring that occasionally I just want to scream! I worked all morning in the cafe and have worked all afternoon and evening on the kitchen table. I don’t have anything of any interest to report, unless anyone reading this is interested in a discussion about where on a choral score it’s best to place a crescendo. Under the note but above the text? Below the text? Oh, I just want to curl up and vanish.

I understand that there will be demonstrations on the streets on Saturday against the Pope, and I am extremely tempted to join them. Nathan just called to tell me that he might dedicate the rest of his life to bringing down the Catholic church in the form it presently exists. I’m certainly deeply uncomfortable that the public purse is being used to bring Panzer-Papa over here. Firstly, the UK is a secular country. If British Catholics want the fascist to come and visit, then they should pay. Secondly, if ticket sales are anything to go by, not enough British Catholics are interested in him coming to our secular country, so why’s he coming? Why not just go straight to Dublin, or better still, stay at home? Thirdly, what message are we sending out to people who have suffered abuse at the hands of Catholic priests, if we’re prepared to allow a man into our country who personally covered-up criminal acts made in the name of his religion? In my opinion, he should be arrested. Susan Boyle, should rush up to him, kiss his ring and then clap him in a pair of handcuffs.

I suggest if you’re proud of this country as a place where human beings of all creeds, religions, genders and sexualities live together whilst respecting and caring for one another, you'll get out there on the streets and march. We need to show British Catholics that their figurehead is inappropriate, and encourage them to work out out how their religion is going to work in the 21st Century in a country where abuse, homophobia, bigotry and misogyny are not appropriate; certainly not in the name of religion.

That said, it’s very important we don’t end up fuelling a sort of 21st Century Popish plot. It must be remembered at all times that everyone who lives here has the right to think what they want to think, and practise whatever religion they chose to... without fear. The only thing we have to ensure is that religious views don’t get in the way of our secular laws.

September 13th 1660, and Pepys was visited in the morning by Old Mr East, who was obviously some form of elderly 17th Century delivery man. He appears in the diary every so often, bringing bottles of wine and parcels to Pepys. 350 years ago, he arrived with letters. Pepys rewarded him for his troubles with a bottle of Northdown Ale, “which made the poor man almost drunk”.

The appalling levels of child mortality at the time are brought into focus with the news that Elizabeth spent the afternoon at the burial of Pepys’ cousin’s child. He then writes that within the month, his Aunt Wight and his cousin Elizabeth had both lost sets of twins, which seems incredibly shocking.

And to cap off a day of doom and gloom, Pepys brought the news that the Duke of Gloucester, the youngest legitimate son of Charles 1st, had died at the age of 21, “by the great negligence of the doctors.” The Duke was an interesting character. He was the only heir to the throne who’d remained (for some time) in England during the interregnum. During this time, he was forced to live in quarters within the Tower of London. At one point Cromwell even considered propping him up on the throne as a kind of constitutional monarch, with no powers, believing that, due to his youth, he’d not yet been corrupted by the Catholic and absolutist views of his mother and father. In 1552, Cromwell released the Duke and he fled to Paris to join his family in exile. Cromwell, had achieved one thing, however. During his time in the tower, the young Duke had been brought up with puritan values and remained a staunch protestant to the end of his (all too short) life.

Sunday, 12 September 2010


I’m currently lounging around in my friend, Julie’s sitting room. We’re doing a day of watching rubbish telly and eating glorious food. We’ve just had a plate of spaghetti drizzled with delicious homemade pesto and a bowl of Julie’s fabulous peach crumble. Perfect.

A rather embarrassing thing happened earlier on which made me feel like the woman who stuck the cat in a wheelie bin. Julie had just told us about her brand new convertible car and we rushed to the window to look at the lovely thing parked on the street outside. I was chewing gum at the time, which isn't something I do very often and it didn't taste very nice, so I decided to spit it out. Some strange impulse came over me and I foolishly chose to throw it out of the window. As I flicked it away, I wondered how embarrassing it would be if it suddenly went off course and actually hit the car that we were all busily admiring. Imagine my horror, therefore, as we watched my chuddie, in semi-slow motion, flying through the air and glueing itself to the windscreen of Julie's car. Highly embarrassing, and obviously I had to immediately run out and un-attach it. Now Nathan's calling me Cat Ben Lady.

Earlier in the day, we had lunch in Highgate with our friend, Cary. We ate at Cafe Rouge, but unfortunately the place seemed to have almost entirely run out of food. Whoever heard of a chain restaurant running out of eggs? Surely this seriously impedes on its right to call itself a cafe? And surely, with Tesco just down the road, it would have been very possible to pop out and buy a few dozen more just to tide things over until the next delivery? For the record, they’d also run out of lemons... Curious.

September 12th 1660 was a Wednesday and at rained all day, which meant Pepys’ cousin, John Snow didn’t turn up for dinner as arranged. I wonder if they sent word to say they weren't coming. Ah, the days before mobile phones, when you could spend hours waiting for someone who never turned up...

How things have changed in 350 years... and yet, Pepys' final sentence of the entry reminds us that some things haven't changed at all; “At home all the afternoon looking after my workmen, whose laziness do much trouble me”

Saturday, 11 September 2010

100 Club

I'm sitting in the 100 Club on Oxford Street. What a fantastic place this is. Everyone you can think of, and more besides, have played here, from the Rolling Stones to the Sex Pistols. Well, actually they're the ONLY two groups I can think of who have played here, but I'm reliably informed that there's a list as long as your arm of the great and the good. Your arm, not my arm. My arms are short. 

Anyway, I've been watching the awesome Circus Envy who played a brilliant set tonight, which revealed what extraordinary musicians they all are. They even played a song in 5/8, which for non-technicians reading this blog, is a very tricky time-signature. Neither waltz nor march! 

Currently on the bill is Dan Whitehouse, a soulful singer-songwriter from Wolverhampton who plays with a very charming pianist. It's these kinds of evenings that remind me quite how much talent there is out there and just how much manufactured rubbish we're forced to endure on shows like the X-factor. 

It's September 11th, which means it's my friend Sharon's birthday. It also means that, probably right now, some pratt in the American bible belt is setting fire to the Koran. I think we could all do without that sort of gesture. It's times like this that I try to imagine how wonderful the world would be if it were stripped of all religion.  Imagine how much more responsible we'd all be? How much fuller our lives would be. How we'd look out for each other. There'd be no excuses for not getting on with living. 

September 11th 1660 and Pepys spent a day in his house watching his carpenters at work and seeing that the wainscoting was properly cleaned by the maid, an event which brought a great deal of mirth to Pepys and Elizabeth. It's not mentioned why. There was lunch with the Sir Williams and a first hint of the animosity that would come to define the relationship between Pepys and Sir William Batten. 

Friday, 10 September 2010

Downing tools

I had to stay up until an ungodly hour last night so that I could collect Nathan from the 24-hour Tesco on the North Circular Road. He was being dropped off after a singing gig by a lady in a very posh-looking convertible mini. It was at least 2am and I’d gone beyond tired and come out the other end. When we finally got home, it took me forever to get off to sleep. I lay in bed thinking about the countless emails I needed to send...

I’ve just returned from a meeting in Ladbrook Grove where I discussed various exciting-sounding projects with the wonderful Glynis Murray. Her company, Tomboy Films, has a wonderful atmosphere, and they make extraordinary films. They feel like a little family. Everyone sits down around the boardroom table and eats a communal lunch. Today's was macaroni cheese and an assortment of very tasty salads and cheeses.

As usual, it took me hours to get there. There were problems on that silly little pink line that goes from Liverpool Street to Hammersmith, which is painfully slow at the best of times, but today it excelled itself. Add to this the illogical LU decision to entirely remove the Northern Line from the rest of the underground network at King’s Cross, and you've got a seriously long journey on your hands. Does anyone understand the logic of this new subterranean layout? I swear that once you’ve travelled up escalators, walked along several winding corridors and then returned to the bowels of the earth, you're back where you started.

Anyway, I've downed tools for the day and plan to do nothing but watch television for the rest of the day. I’ve worked too hard this week and my brain doesn’t seem to want to deal with anything more...

September 10th 1660 was in the middle of the fair season and Pepys, having missed Bartholomew Fair, called in on the one in Southwark. Unfortunately, he doesn’t give us any tantalising descriptions of what he saw there. We’ll have to wait until 1663 to hear about monkeys dancing on ropes and various deformed animals in cages.

Later in the day, he called in at the naval office and found Sir William Batten at dinner with some friends on a good “chine of beef”. Pepys was invited to join them and he ate heartily, confessing to having been extremely hungry. In the evening Pepys went drinking with old friends and went to bed having drunk too much!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Aqui esta encerrada el alma de Benjamin

I'm in Vauxhall, which feels like the freakin’ Wild West to a genteel North Londoner like me. It’s full of grotty roads, darkened corners, bright neon lights and dirty bars. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere to go to to escape the noise and speed of inner-city living. Cars roar, club music pounds, tubes rattle. It’s hell encapsulated.

Ironically, I’ve just been to visit a group of folk singers, some of whom, I hope, will perform in The Pepys Motet. It was very interesting listening to them singing my music. In many cases they made total sense of the material. I’ve always had a tendency to write folky-sounding music. The issue they did raise, however, was the possible need for live amplification. Folk singers are not known for their loud voices, and I imagine, without some kind of assistance they’re going to be blasted out of the water by the opera singers, who'll sadly be standing right next to them!

I'm working so hard on this composition. I now know exactly what Elgar meant when he wrote his enigmatic inscription on the score of his violin concerto, “aqui esta encerrada el alma de...”herein is enshrined the soul of...” I don’t know that it would be possible for a writer to pour more of his body and soul into a work, or perhaps more accurately, I didn’t know it was possible for me to pour any more of myself into a composition. I'm now writing in such detail, with such precision and passion, that, for the first time in my life, I’m almost scared to place my trust in a group of musicians to take it to the next stage. I like it sitting here in my head and I'm scared about what the world will say when they hear my actual compositional voice. This isn't pastiche, or sountrack, or music written for a specific performer. This is my music. My voice. My soul. Aqui esta encerrada el amla de Benjamin...

Minty from Eastenders was milling around in the cafe today. He seemed to be with a toddler, who he handed for a while to a policewoman, until the child started to talk into her walkie-talkie and no one knew where to look. Minty, or Cliff, is a great deal more rotund than he looks on the telly. Strange, because they say the TV is meant to add pounds.

The whole court business continues to rumble onwards, like the traffic outside this bar. I’ve now served the papers, or whatever the term is, and the time has passed for the Defendant to get her defence in. This kind of implies she’s opted to do nothing. Perhaps she’s hoping it will all just go away, or maybe she’ll claim she never received the papers. It’s so hard to tell. The MU are advising me to wait a while as it sometimes takes the courts a fairly long period of time to get the papers back out. Her defence may have already been lodged. Whatever the case, it’s a violently hideous experience and I wish it were all over. At the same time, I absolutely refuse to back down. I will not live in a world where hard-working creative people are taken for granted any more than they already are.

September 9th was a Sunday, and Pepys went to St Olave's with his new best buddy, Sir William Penn. Mr Mills the vicar delivered a “very good sermon.” After church, Pepys took Penn home for a Sunday lunch, to introduce him not only to their new home but also to Elizabeth, who Sir William had never met.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

But I am more cunning...

Having woken up this morning feeling panicky, I decided to dedicate some time to admin. My biggest issue at the moment is the fact that I’ve chosen to set passages from Pepys' Diary which come from the Latham and Matthews edition. I suppose I’d rather naively assumed that one version of the diary was very much like another. I’d forgotten that the shorthand Pepys used, regularly throws up wildly differing interpretations. The Wheatley version, which was “translated” in the 19th Century, is out of copyright but the Latham and Matthews edition most definitely isn’t. Even subtle differences would have an enormous effect on my work, and reverting to the Wheatley version could take me weeks. To make matters distinctly worse, the L and M edition is controlled by a theatrical agent; in this case, Lucy Dundas at PFD.

Having worked as a casting director in feature films, I've a great deal of experience when it comes to dealing with agents, and know for a fact, particularly with these big names, that if the million dollar signs aren’t flashing up in front of their eyes, they can decide to go painfully slowly, bordering on the; “don’t waste the air around me by bothering me with this crap”.

True to form, Ms Dundas has not responded to the email which I sent a week ago, and when I telephoned her today, she went from being “in” to being miraculously “in a meeting.” Whoever spoke to me asked me to email her instead, which meant “don’t ask me to ask her to waste her precious breath by actually speaking to you.” She seemed surprised when I dared to point out that I’d already sent an email. I asked that she asked Ms Dundas to phone me back as soon as possible. When I started to reel off my number, she sighed audibly. I suspect she’s used to actors who tug their forelocks and feel grateful that she’s even bothering to talk to them. Crumbs, do these people not know who I think I am?!

The one thing in life I refuse to be treated like is a nobody. Nobody in life is a nobody and everyone should be treated with respect.

After keeping me waiting for some time, St Paul’s School have now acknowledged that they can’t provide me with five trebles, which is a blow. They have a concert of their own on November 25th, which is a fair enough excuse. The music master at the school has given me a few other suggestions, however. Top of his list are the trebles in the choir of the Queen’s Chapel at the Savoy. Pepys mentions the chapel in his diaries and it was, I believe, very close to his beloved New Exchange. Oddly, all the trebles in the choir come from a single school in Orpington. Teachers, like agents, are notoriously slow to respond...

September 8th 1660, yielded another incredibly short diary entry from our hero. Pepys stayed at home all day but was called for in the evening by Sir William Pen, who gave him a glass of wine and chatted with him late into the night, no doubt wanting to find out more about this young pretender who seemed to be here to stay now that the Restoration dust was clearing. Pepys liked Pen, and wrote that “I find him to be a very sociable man, and an able man, and very cunning.” Cunning seems to have been a compliment in these times, reminding me of my highly intelligent 4-year-old godson, whom I chatted to one day, as we walked along the York City walls. We talked about his friend Tomas, who is both taller and older than him. “Yes” William said; “but I am more cunning...”

The Tyndarids

And by the way, if any of you want to see what Nathan's up to at the moment, take a look at this highly intriguing video...

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

An isolationist stance

I'm currently making myself a sort of mixed vegetable platter for tea. This must be what the French call an assiette de legumes. It's the only thing you ever get offered as a vegetarian in Paris. Well, that and omelettes. I always opt for the latter, and then spend my meal searching for the inevitable specks of ham that they've slipped in, with vitriol. Whilst steaming a pan of peas, carrots and sweet corn, I'm also boiling an egg for the Tyndarids. Rats go crazy for boiled eggs, and as I'm insisting that our boys grow up vegetarian, we need to give them a good dose of protein every so often, so their coats stay nice and shiny...

There was a mortifying incident in Costa today when the girl behind the counter asked if I wanted to redeem some of the points I've collected. I said I didn’t. She looked at me rather curiously, “are all these points just from cups of tea?” she asked. “Yes” I replied. “Well, there's rather a lot of them. How many cups of tea do you drink?” I immediately blushed, which made her blush. I couldn't think of anything to say, so there was an awkward silence, whilst I pretended to laugh because I didn't know if she was joking. It was at that point I wondered quite how much money I'd wasted in that cafe. How many cups of tea is "rather a lot?" and at £1.65 a pop, how much money does this amount to? Now that I'm signing on, should I be staying at home and drinking Tesco's own brand?

I've been reading Ian Clayton’s book, Our Billie. Ian interviewed me a month ago about A Symphony For Yorkshire and I was extremely impressed with his outlook on life. His book is about the death, by drowning, of his 9-year old daughter and it’s deeply harrowing, but somehow incredibly uplifting. It's really a book about love. He writes a great deal about community. He comes from a Yorkshire town where people truly look out for one another.

His book has made me think a great deal about my own views on community. The work I do is very much centred on groups of people sharing a commonality of some sort. I'm often described, or perversely accused of having a slightly rose-coloured view about life, specifically communities. Supporters would call it a sense of magic, critics, a tragic optimism.

I look back at my childhood in Northamptonshire and realise I never really felt a sense of belonging to the town in which I grew up. It wasn’t easy. My Dad was a local teacher, I was a vegetarian, my mother was a hippy and my brother was a "boffin." This was apparently enough of a communal crime for us to merit regular bricks through our windows. As an eight-year old boy, I fell off my roller skates at the end of my street and was immediately surrounded by a ring of teenagers who took it in turns to spit at me. It was character building incidents like this that understandably made me withdraw somewhat from my surroundings. I started looking down at the people around me. They'd rejected me, so I'd reject them. I was often accused at school as having a "isolationist stance" but I didn't care because my community was 15 miles down the A45 at the music school in Northampton; which was a community, if you like, of outsiders just like me.

As a result of all of this, I've often doubted that a community can exist purely on the strength of environment. I often struggle with shows like Eastenders. Why do these characters only hang out with those who live in their neighbourhood? What do they actually have in common? Why would anyone want to drink in a local pub?! But then, reading Ian’s book, reminds me that this life does exist in a world beyond my television set. Neighbours genuinely care for one another in many towns across the country, including the place where my parents now live. It's just something I've never been a part of in my London-based bubble, and the reason why I was so excited to meet some of my neighbours a few weeks ago, and ironically why I've dedicated my life to making films about communities!

The 7th September 1660, and Pepys wrote one of his shortest ever diary entries, on account of his having stayed in all day, there being nothing to do the in the office. He was rather pleased, as the day off gave him the chance to start the process of going through his books and tidying things in his house. Pepys informs us at the end of the entry that it was on this day that Montagu set sail for Holland from the Downs.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Go Compare

Waking up this morning was pretty difficult. It always is on a Monday morning. I walked down the Archway Road in milky sunlight to Holloway Road to sign on. It strikes me as very odd that I need to walk that far. What if I were elderly or had a broken leg? Would the authorities offer to pay for my bus journey every two weeks? I’ve always maintained that the Highgate job centre is a mile and a half away from Highgate because the residents refused to allow there to be a gathering of riff-raff in their midst. I assume that they assume that the people who don’t work in Highgate are doing so because they don’t need to. Judging by the people I sit with every day in the cafe, they might be right.

I staggered my way back up Highgate Hill, my heavy computer bag strapped to my shoulder. At one point I thought I was going to pass out. I’m sure it will do me good. I dreamt last night that I’d filmed myself for a documentary talking about my eating disorders. For some reason, I’d decided to do the whole “interview” underneath a blanket, with the camera under there with me, and a torch for lighting. I’d filmed myself with a particularly unflattering angle from below. When I watched the footage back, I looked like the fat tenor in the Go Compare adverts. It looked like I was wearing some form of prosthetic. My double chin went from ear to ear.

More wealthy children vomiting incredibly loud, screamy conversation all over the cafe this afternoon. At one stage I wanted to scream myself. It's incredible the effect that lots of girls shouting can have on one's emotions.
Aside from all this, I've been very sad today for two reasons; firstly because my dear friend, Ted’s Grannie, Nora, died yesterday at the ripe old age of 99. I remember her being at all the concerts we played at as children and staying in her house near Manchester as a sixth former. I'm also sad because Mike Edwards, the ‘cellist, and founder member of the great Electric Light Orchestra also died over the weekend. Edwards was a true showman, who I’m told used to have an exploding ‘cello and sometimes played with a grapefruit, which I'd loved to have seen. Rather horrifically, his van was crushed by an enormous rolling bale of hay, which seems almost too comic to be true. He will be sadly missed.

It was a bitty day for Pepys 350 years ago. He spent much of his time gossiping, mostly about money, and the rest of the day organising provisions for the fleet of ships waiting in the Downs. In the evening, he dined on a joint of meat, before organising the remainder of his books to be sent from Montagu’s to his new house at the Navy Office.

Sunday, 5 September 2010


I’m in a bit of an anxious place at the moment. This is no doubt something to do with it being a Sunday night. I’ve got that feeling I used to get on a Sunday night when I hadn’t done my homework. I suppose I’m just panicking about all the things I need to do in the coming week; most of them relating to the Pepys motet. Very soon I’ll need to know exactly who’s going to be performing it, but so much is up in the air at the moment. There are way too many singers I’d like to use for the early music choir, and feel some of them could be moved across to different choirs, but at the same time, this project needs to be about legitimacy, and there’s no point chucking someone into a folk choir who doesn’t have at least a passion for folk music... The main problem is that I’m doing it all by myself. I don’t have anyone to talk to about things, especially now that Nathan is off to do singing gigs across the country for the next few weeks. There’s no Alison, or a massive BBC team working on this one. I suppose once I’ve finished writing the piece, it’s going to be easier. I can take off my composer’s hat, and stick on a more organised one.

I spent the afternoon with Philippa, Dylan and my goddaughter, Deia, who’s turned into a proper little chatty thing with a seemingly enormous vocabulary. She recognised a watering can today, and pointed at a sheep in Hackney Farm, and said “little pig.” She’s mimicking words left, right and centre, so I suppose now’s the time not to swear, to avoid the embarrassing occasions when she shouts rude words in monasteries. I told Philippa she was being ridiculous at one stage, and the word was repeated several times. Thank God I only said ridiculous. We sat for some time, Deia and I, posting little stones through a slatted wooden garden table. We were seeing which stones were small enough to fall through the gaps and I suddenly realised how interesting little children become when they start to gain a meaningful vocabulary! She’s still talking about herself in the third person, however, but I’m told all children do that. One step at a time... She’ll soon be reading Virginia Wolf.

...Or by the looks of this picture, listening to Dizzee Rascal

September 5th 1660, and Pepys was visited by the father of his recently “put away” houseboy. One assumes the father was trying to change Pepys’ mind. I suspect the term "put away" means a great deal more in this context than being merely sacked. I suspect this particular lad was more likely on his way to Australia... Pepys explained about the lad’s countless misdemeanours, and begrudgingly his father accepted the situation. Pepys, perhaps feeling guilt, or sympathy, gave the father 10s for the boy’s uniform, which obviously the father had paid for when he put his lad in Pepys’ service. The thought of this man going away with 10s in his pocket and the knowledge that his boy would almost certainly be sent down under, almost breaks my heart.

Elizabeth, apparently “ became impatient” later in the day, so Pepys took her shopping and bought a pearl necklace for a whopping 4l 10s “which I am willing to comply with her in for her encouragement, and because I have lately got money, having now above 200l in cash beforehand in the world.” Not that I’m a cynic, but I’d suggest this extravagant gift was maybe bought out of guilt. Less than 24 hours before, Pepys was rolling around in a bed, with a barely teenaged girl, in his former house in Axe Yard.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Nulla puella negat

It’s been another rather lovely late summer day today, but I seem to have done nothing but sit on a sofa writing music. I was waiting for an important delivery for Nathan which annoyingly never came. We put an enormous sign on the front door saying; “Delivery for 343a. Bell not working, please call...” but it was obviously more than our postman’s job was worth to actually pick up his phone. At about midday I discovered a “whilst you were out we tried to deliver a parcel” card on the doormat. There are no words...

Last night I went to the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park to watch Into The Woods. A belated birthday present from my dear friend Ellen. It’s an absolutely perfect location for that show. The set was beyond beautiful; an enormous four-tiered wooden structure, which seemed to cling to the giant trees at the back of the stage area. The show itself was patchy. The director had a “concept”, which rather destroyed the integrity of the show and I went away feeling less moved than I would have done had he left things well alone. Hannah Waddingham (the Witch), Michael Xavier (the Prince/ Wolf) and Jenna Russell (the Baker’s Wife) were wonderful, but the guy playing the Baker wasn’t a good enough singer to play the role. Unfortunately they decided to cast an “actor”, which is always a mistake in the land of Sondheim. I was also disappointed by the distinctly underwhelming actress playing Cinderella who had a vibrato that you could swim through. Still, it will take me a long time to forget that wonderful setting. The performance started at dusk, with a magnificent pink sunset still in the sky, and all the way through the show, there was the continuous magical sound of wind rustling through the trees.

Helen and a very expensive programme...

Tomorrow was meant to be the BBC4 premier of the film they made about the making of A Symphony for Yorkshire. Unfortunately there seems to have been some kind of disagreement within the internal political mechanisms of the BBC, which meant that it was on and then it was off and then it was on and then it was off again. I wasn’t sure that the BBC were actually able to change their minds like that, particularly so late in the day, and with something that was already on the listings, but changed their minds they have. Oh well, I’m assured it will be screened later in the year. I just wish I hadn’t sent out an email telling everyone it was on!

September 4th 1660, and Pepys, yet again, had the builders in, installing a new floor in his dining room. Pepys and his friends Dr Fuller and Mr Moore returned to the Bull Head tavern at lunch time. Keen readers of this blog will remember that the three of them had shared a very fine venison pasty there a few days ago. There had been an argument about theatre, which they decided could only be resolved a few days later whilst eating the remainder of said pasty. Pepys was given the deciding vote and came down on Dr Fuller’s side, which meant Mr Moore lost 10s.

In the early evening, Pepys called in on his old house in Axe Yard and bumped into Diana Crisp, daughter of his former neighbour, Mrs Crisp. Diana was the young girl who’d been so flirty with Pepys two nights previously. He seized the moment and took her upstairs “and did dally with her a great while, and found that in Latin Nulla puella negat”, which rather hideously means, “no young girl says no.” Just you wait, Mr Pepys, until 1669, when a certain young girl will use pins to protect herself from your rogueish advances!