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.

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