Monday, 27 September 2010

SOAS

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!

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