Today started way too early in the morning. The alarm clock on my i-phone, which is meant to shimmer like a soothing harp, clanked like the noise Pacman makes when he's eaten by a ghost. I staggered to the bathroom, wondering who I was, and immediately dropped a piece of toast into the bath. The hideousness continued on the tube to King’s Cross when a woman pushed her lard-like body into our carriage and shouted at a bloke for not immediately getting out of her way.“What a foul mouth you have on you,” I said, cuttingly. She responded, “just you wait buster” so furiously and with such little irony that I chuckled all the way to my destination. Periodically, she glared at me from behind her fat, little eyelids.
At King's Cross, I boarded a train to Newcastle, but lost my seat reservation ticket somewhere between taking it from the machine and reaching the actual train. I had, however, and hugely rarely for me, managed to remember the seat number, so was quite surprised when my not being able to produce the actual document for the ticket collector caused so much bother. A second guard was sent to talk to me and I ended up feeling quite embarrassed! I could feel the woman next to me - another fat chocolate froozler - glaring at me like a common criminal.
I spent the day in meetings about my next project; a musical film for the BBC about the Tyne and Wear Metro. I felt uncomfortably southern when they interviewed me on the radio and hope the good folk of the region will trust me with their stories and not write me off as a loony Londoner. No doubt my tragic Yorkshire-nationalist stalker, who recently even went to into an internet forum in Wales to ask people how they'd feel if an outsider wrote A Symphony for Wales (a question that was gloriously shot down in flames by the person who answered “was Mendelssohn from the Hebrides?”) will have something to say about my working in Newcastle without a Geordie bone in my body. What can I say? Sometimes it takes an outsider to capture and distil the essence of a place. I feel hugely privileged and excited to be working in the area and hope I deliver a film that people will feel proud of.
The staff at BBC Newcastle are absolutely fabulous and really enthusiastic about the project. I was given a tour of the city; which was bustling in the unseasonably warm sunshine. We looked at some of the metro stations, but I agreed not to actually travel on one of the trains until they could film the momentous occasion for another documentary. We discussed how hysterical it would be if I went completely over the top; like they do in the documentaries when people see the pyramids or the northern lights for the first time. I could burst into tears and say; “I can’t believe I’m finally here. I had no idea a train could be so beautiful or that a door could make such a sweet hydraulic sound. This is the happiest day of my life, [weep/honk/splutter etc.]” Knowing what I do about Geordies, I’m pretty sure none of them will care two hoots about my going on the Metro for the first time! "Who's the daft Northamptonian talking about Newcaaaaaaastle?"
Our day ended with a big meeting at the Sage in Gateshead where I also met one of the members of 80s pop band Prefab Sprout. I stared at her from across a coffee table, wondering if she'd sung the line “Hot dog. Jumping Frog. Albuquerque” or had appeared in that iconic video by the swimming pool.
What an amazing venue the Sage is! It sort of hangs over the River Tyne and standing in the foyer feels a bit like standing on the edge of a cliff, with the most perfect views across Newcastle below.
I’m now on the train home, feeling stressed about Pepys; about gospel singers, and the fact that the whole thing seems to have suddenly landed on my shoulders again. I'm simultaneously doubting myself and going through all those composer-specific thoughts which niggle in my mind when I start rehearsing my music. Is it all too hard? Have I over-scored? Will the audience understand what I've written? Roll on Newcastle when I’ll have a team behind me again!
The 12th October 1660 and Pepys made a big deal about eating a Venison pasty at the Dolphin in on Tower Street. Venison was obviously a rare meat and one that he enjoyed the taste of. After dinner, he returned home to the news that his beloved Lady Jemima was in town. The wife of Sandwich had been extremely graceful and gracious towards the younger Pepys and he’d developed a sort of school boy crush on her which lasted until the day she died. She was obviously a formidable woman and a veritable baby factory, giving birth to an impressive10 children (two in one year). "She made me sit down all alone with her, and after supper staid and talked with her, she showing me most extraordinary love and kindness."
She also told Pepys that his uncle Robert, who had a sizeable estate in Huntingdonshire was planning to make him his heir, which was particularly exciting after Lady Jemima also let it slip that said uncle was about to become an ex-uncle.