Saturday, 31 July 2010

Daddy or chips?

I am sitting on Scarborough beach watching a small child being buried up to his neck in sand. He appears fairly happy with the situation but if the same had happened to me at a similar age, I would have been traumatised for life!

We’ve had chips from Harry Ramsden’s and made turtles in the sand. Very shortly I shall be going for a paddle but first the children are going to have a ride on the donkeys. I've only just learnt the difference between a donkey and an ass. I'd always thought they were the same creatures, and that we only sing “Little Donkey” at school at Christmas time because the concept of singing “Little Ass” is too horrific to contemplate!

It rained last night and we were all forced to retreat into our tents. Trying to cook vegetarian sausages under a canopy is no laughing matter, although in the mayhem, I did manage to whip up a rather lovely onion and red wine gravy, before spilling all over a plastic sheet. After the skies had cleared, we were able to light a pretty impressive fire, which we sat around whilst toasting marsh mallows and staring up at the bright, full moon. Blissful.

It seems that a few people have been commenting on the symphony trailer on You Tube. The responses are almost exactly as I would have expected; a mixture of good and bad. You can’t please everyone. I was insulted, however, to see that someone has criticised the young lad who was featured rapping in the third movement of the film on BBC Breakfast yesterday. Say what you like about me, or the BBC, but there is NO excuse for writing that about a child. If he reads it, he’ll be devastated and that is not at all fair. I urge anyone reading this, who enjoyed the lad’s performance, to write something constructive to counter-balance the rude comments.

I was rather tickled by the chap who felt the need to point out that the bus company who provided the vehicle featured in the clip originally came from the south like it was some kind of devastating information that would cause a catastrophic amount of embarrassment for the BBC. You can see them now, can’t you? Rushing through the corridors and spending hundreds of pounds of license fee payers’ money investigating how a bus that was built in High Wycombe could possibly feature in a film about Yorkshire! I am sure that 50% of the instruments played by musicians in the film were made in China. Does that make them invalid? Surely the fact that 280 Yorkshire-based musicians bothered to take part is enough to validate the project? Heaven knows what this particular person would have written if he discovered, horror of horrors, that the composer was from the Midlands! Maybe he'd have done something like this. On that note, I was particularly thrilled to be described by one reader of this blog as "bridging the gap between southern fairy and northern monkey!" Now that's the kind of praise I respond to!

350 years ago, Pepys was in White Hall, having a crisis meeting with other senior figures about how money might be raised for the Navy, which was in a very sorry financial position. Ships lay in harbours, unable to go to sea because they were falling apart. Sailors were not being paid. The situation was getting worse and the King was diverting more and more funds towards his court. I always think a good, old-fashioned Bring and Buy sale works wonders, but this was in the days before Blue Peter, so maybe things weren’t quite that simple. Instead, Pepys returned to the Admiralty Office to do some calculations aimed at working out quite how in debt the Navy was!

That reminds me... Must sort out my expenses...

Friday, 30 July 2010

Weird sheep

I was awoken at 5am this morning by the very strange sound of sheep.

Sleeping in a tent is a peculiar experience, particularly in a camp site in the middle of nowhere, which becomes almost deathly silent after dark. The strangest sounds get amplified out of all proportion and in your little synthetic bubble, you lose all sense of where they’re coming from. At one point I could hear a girl’s voice talking in her sleep. It sounded like the voice of an angel in my slumber.

The sheep, however, were highly entertaining. They were so loud that I assumed a massive herd of them were wondering past my tent. I know livestock are meant to bleat and moo with regional accents, but these chaps sounded really weird. I became certain that within the melee, at least one human was doing unconvincing sheep impressions!

I had to be up supremely early to be interviewed by BBC Breakfast at Rievaulx Abbey. A very charming man, with startling blue eyes did the introductions, whilst members of the Yorkshire Wind Ensemble played a few bars of my music... again and again! No one had told them they’d need to play, so I was thrilled that they were able to remember anything of the symphony at all! Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that they’d be playing whilst I spoke and I found the whole experience extremely confusing to the point I’m not sure I said anything that made any sense whatsoever!

Still, the journey across the moors to Helmsley was astonishingly pleasant. We drifted over the tops of beautiful hillsides covered in “shining purple heather” and looked down into valleys where little swirls of mist hung over the rocks like puffs of smoke. Our journey took us up and over the famous Rosedale Chimney so I was finally able to see the stunning view from there. Keen readers of this blog will remember that my last visit to the place was marred by a ridiculous unseasonal mist, which restricted the view to a white cloud which seemed to be strangling a little wooden bench!

As an interesting addendum to my rant yesterday. I discovered that my friend Meriel, upon telling the York Minster people that she wanted to use the building to reflect and pray, was given free entry, which made me feel a great deal less angry about the situation. Perhaps the church of England isn’t as bad or money-grabbing as I’d first thought! And, in response to the comment left on yesterday’s blog, I do appreciate that these churches and cathedrals are extremely expensive to maintain and would be horrified to see them turning to dust.

350 years ago, and Pepys was very proudly showing his father his new home and office. Later on they were joined by Pepys’ former neighbour, Mrs Crisp, who obviously had a whiff of the Anna Rider Richardsons about her, for she made a number of suggestions as to how the house might be better furnished.

Pepys received his first quarter’s salary, and went drinking in Westminster to celebrate. It was at the Rhenish Winehouse that he was sought out by the entertainingly named Mr. man, better known as the sword-bearer of London, who wanted to purchase Pepys’ Clerk of the Acts position. Quite why he felt this would be either practical or legitimate, I’ve no idea, but Pepys humoured him, suggesting they talk about it in the morning.

And for those of you who can’t wait to see A Symphony for Yorkshire, a trailer is now up on You Tube, so take a look, and let me know your thoughts. The full thing will be displayed on You Tube from mid-day on Sunday. I really hope you enjoy it...

Thursday, 29 July 2010


I am sitting on a step outside Cafe Concerto in York listening to the carillon playing a rather attractive little medley of classical music. It's rather lovely to know not just who is playing it, but how he's playing it and where he's sitting!

I am on the first day of my summer holiday. I am camping on the moors with university friends. We've already been to see the old place. It's a very strange blend of the absolute familiar and whole buildings I've never seen before, which confused us all!

York itself has not changed at all. We had a splendid picnic in museum gardens before strolling along the Walls.

The only disappointment was arriving at the Minster to discover that you had to pay £8 to enter, which for a place of worship is criminal. By all means ask for donations, but this is a building which would have opened its doors to the most troubled members of society and now effectively welcomes only the wealthiest, which I think is grotesque and a typical indication of what's wrong with religion today!

350 years ago Pepys was himself complaining about religion. The service he went to on this date was 'over the top'. He soon returned to more interesting pursuits and went for a walk to the village of marylebone. The evening was spent getting his accounts signed off by montagu. Pepys was worth 120 l. He was getting wealthier by the day!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


I am drunk. My head is slightly spinning. We just premiered a symphony for Yorkshire at the light in Leeds and it couldn't have gone better - although I was sitting on the front row so everything looked too big and I felt I was being attacked by enormous heads!! I've never seen one of my films on such a large screen. That said I was hugely proud of everyone and everything and myself for pulling off the impossible. I love the people of Yorkshire and the amazing BBC up here for making it happen. The network of regions at the BBC is the most precious resource in broadcasting and I am proud to have worked with so many of it's wonderful branches. Above all I love Alison for putting up with me for 4 months and working so hard.

350 years ago Pepys was busy. I'm a bit too drunk really to interpret what he wrote. It seems he heard from a sycophantic poet, to whom he gave some money. Then he was rude about Ireland. Naughty pepys.

But hurray for Yorkshire and hurray for my drunkenness!!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


I sat in a cafe today and took a few minutes to watch the world passing by. High up in the building opposite, a pair of pigeons sat on a window ledge staring down at the people and cars below. Pigeons, I think, like many birds, mate for life. I was always deeply saddened by my mother’s account of finding a swan, which had been killed by a car, being dragged to the side of the road by his anxious mate. With that in mind, I watched the pigeons for some time. They were huddling up to one another and seemed completely content in each other’s company. Almost, you could say, in love. One was repeatedly grooming the other, and they were rubbing heads. They reminded me of the elderly couple I often see walking down Highgate High Street. They never seem to let go of each other’s hands and it breaks my heart to watch them. Both are so old that it seems likely one is holding the other up, but it’s impossible to tell which! I often wonder what will happen when one of them dies. They seem so reliant on one another that I suppose it’s possible the other would simply fold up and follow suit.

So, I watched the pigeons and imagined them as an elderly couple holding hands and it struck me that they must be feeling affection for one another, and this strikes me as a very complicated emotion which goes far beyond the "urges" or "survival instincts" we generally attribute animals. And this got me thinking. My vegetarianism isn’t something I discuss very often. I certainly don’t feel the need to preach about it. But seeing those two old pigeons, sitting calmly, gently grooming one another, makes me certain that I could never bring myself to eat the flesh of another sentient creature. Probably not even if my life depended on it.

350 years ago, Pepys’ new neighbours took up residence in the Navy Office complex. Pepys was now in the rather fine company of two gentlemen called Sir William; Sir William Batten and Sir William Penn. The former was returning to the post of Surveyor to the Navy, a job he’d lost during the Civil War, and the latter, a well-respected sailor, had recently been appointed commissioner to the Navy. Penn is perhaps better known as the father of the founder of Pennsylvania. The two men would go on to feature prominently in the diary.

Pepys spent the day at Montagu’s home in Whitehall with his clerk, Will Hewer, amongst other things, casting up his account. He found himself worth 100l, which is something approaching about £10,000 in today’s money. Interestingly, Pepys opted to take a coach home “but the horses were tired and could not carry us farther than St Dunstan’s” (somewhere in the region of London Bridge.) So they were forced to call for a link boy, and to walk the rest of the way home.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Pepys goes clubbing


It currently feels like I’m in some kind of dreadful nightmare. Ever since getting up this morning things have been going wrong. The bus was badly delayed on my way to the post production house in Wardour Street, and then I had to leave to catch a train before I’d found out the result of the alchemy process the film was having to go through. I then got trapped underground on a tube going nowhere for three quarters of an hour and had to sit and watch the seconds ticking by as I missed first one train, and then almost the last train I could have caught to make my next meeting. To make matters worse, I seem to have brought the rain with me to London and everything is sticky and wet. I’m simply not sure how much more of this I can take!


The good news is that I managed to make my train to Newcastle. I’m heading up there for a meeting with the BBC about another project. The annoying thing is that I have a train ticket to Leeds from London and one from Leeds to Newcastle but I don’t have one direct from London to Newcastle. Going via Leeds would add 2 hours to my journey and destroy any chance of attending a meeting. Leeds is on a spur line which branches off from the main London to Newcastle route, so it actually makes perfect sense for me to be able to use my two tickets to travel to Newcastle direct. Fortunately, a lovely official man standing on the platform agreed that this was the case and defined Leeds via York as a “permissible route.” Unfortunately, before he drifted like a guardian angel into my world, I’d been forced to deal with a veritable gorgon, who could see I was stressed, but insisted on throwing the the book at me to make it very clear that she was in charge and that no one should assume to be able to travel to anywhere without a valid ticket and that if I had to miss my train to sort things out, it would be my fault for arriving at the train station with seconds to spare. She was, in short, one of those people the world could happily do without!


What a difference a few minutes make. I've just had a phone call from Keith the camera, who has been in London overseeing the alchemy process, and early reports are good. I am tentatively relieved. Cautiously optimistic.


There’s now a bit of a palaver going on with luggage at the end of my carriage. Three enormous bags, which have been dumped in the aisle are being threatened with de-fenestration at Peterborough Station. No one is owning up to them. It's all very amusing... but what if they’re bombs?!


I've just spoken to Alison who has been taken off work for a week with sciatica; no doubt brought on by the ridiculous stress we’ve both been under over the last few weeks. I asked her if this meant she was going to miss the premier on Wednesday, “like f**k I am!” came the response. I think the plan is now to get drunk beyond any concept of the word. If all goes smoothly, there will be a wildly disproportionate number of hugs and tears and I will be the happiest man in the world.


The bags are not bombs. They belong to a rather charming family of orthodox Jews who stepped forward just as their suitcases were being unloaded onto the platform at Peterborough. How awful for them if they hadn’t managed to catch them in time. Losing all of their luggage would definietly have ruined Christmas... or Hanukkah.


I am slowly calming down. I have run around and sweated so much today that my black shirt is now covered in salty white lines. I pray to God that everything will now go smoothly and that the people in Newcastle won't mistake me for a scarecrow.

Thursday 26th July 1660

...and Montagu left the House of Commons to be admitted to the House of Lords. I assume his new title meant he could no longer be viewed as a common man. After watching his beloved patron taking his place in the house, Pepys disappeared into Whitehall and spent a day of gorging on plates of meat and “drinking hard”. In the early evening, he visited St James’ Fair; which had returned to the capital for the first time since the interregnum. It was here that he met up with some of his old clerk friends and a large gang of them then descended on their old haunt; a club in Pall Mall. This diary entry is important because it has become one of the earliest references to Pall Mall as an inhabited street and furthermore one of the earliest references in literature to “clubbing”. Bravo Pepys!

He must have been utterly plastered by 10pm because Will Hewer was summonsed to see him safely home with the aid of a link boy. Upon reaching his house, he found that the previous owner, Willoughby, had sent for all his belongings from Pepys’ new bed chamber; “which is a little disappointment, but it is better than pay too dear for them”. Pepys had obviously taken a shine to the furnishings he'd temporarily inherited, but was refusing to pay through the nose to keep them.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

La Belle Boteler

I had a very restless night last night and dreamt about plane crashes. Nathan told me I was crying out at one point in my sleep and I woke up to find my jaw clenched so tightly that my cheeks were hurting. It’s a very stressful time. London is incredibly hot and muggy and getting on the tube when I arrived was like stepping into a sauna.

It was wonderful to see Nathan again, and to breathe a bit of that sooty Highgate air. The flat smelt so familiar and it was wonderful to curl up in front of the telly with a cheese cake! Our home now has two resident spiders. They’re much bigger than normal ones, so we’ve called them Atilla and Genghis. Atilla is particularly social, and seems to want to be wherever we are at all times. I think this would probably freak quite a lot of people out, but I love spiders. They eat all the creatures I most despise so they know they're welcome wherever I am.

Today has been restful. It’s my Dad’s birthday, so I was able to go up to Thaxted to spend some time with my parents, my brother, Ted, and his partner Sascha. It was astonishing to witness quite how much of a drought they’ve been having up there. Much of their garden is now dead, and a walk across the fields in baking heat revealed streams which had completely dried up. My Dad said the last proper rain they had there, fell in the shape of snow in February! I worry about the fish. Where on earth do they go when there’s no water? And then what happens to the Kingfishers who feed on the fish? Until I saw the cracked earth and the dying crops, I hadn't thought how serious a drought could be... It makes no sense. Leeds looks so green and verdant.

Nathan was given belated birthday presents, including some plugs with remote controls on them, which means all of our sitting room lamps can be switched on with the flick of a single button. It’s like a disco as I type. All the lamps go off... and then they come on again... Nathan is shrieking like an excited little child! Unfortunately, he can even operate them from the kitchen, so periodically I'm being plunged into darkness. I can hear a little voice giggling away...

We came back from Thaxted and headed into the centre of town, where we had a lovely drink outside a pub on Villiers Street down by Charing Cross Station. It was very relaxing end to the day.

Pepys was his usual busy self on this date 350 years ago. He kicked things off in an “ordinary”, which was a tavern, or a dining room which served meals at fixed prices. Here he met a Welsh teacher, who was described as “a good scholar but a very pedagogue.” Later in the day (or was it yesterday? Pepys once again was confusing himself by writing up his diaries at much later points in time) he met up with my favourite character, Monsieur L’Impertinent and his sister Frances (La Belle Boteler) who regularly captivated Pepys with her beauty! On his way home late at night, Pepys called into a Barber to be shaved. It’s strange to think that this sort of thing could happen so late at night.

Saturday, 24 July 2010


I am on a train to London. I’m finally getting the chance to have that hug! The BBC have identified that I’m stressed out of my mind and have arranged for me to have a bit of TLC. I can’t thank them enough. I think I may have worried a fair number of you yesterday with my reports from the front line. What I didn't realise was that a lot of work was going on in the background to try and identify the problem and a solution could well have been found... So as I wing my way back to London, I feel a great deal calmer. When you’ve been deeply and personally involved in a project, it’s sometimes very difficult to respond to inevitable crises in a calm and considered manner. I apologise to any of you who were worried.

My brother, the ever-cool banker says that a deal is only good if it dies three times. If the first death was the dramatic walk-out by string players in the recording studio, and the second was the mayhem with the percussion group on Hessle Foreshore, then perhaps, just perhaps we’re nearly there!!

The fact remains, that this will be the finest film I’ve ever made. It may have stolen my sanity, but with any luck it will all be worth it!

I spent the day today drifting around Leeds with my oldest school friend, Tammy. We were the best of friends from the age of 11 and have remained close since leaving the sixth form. Every time we meet, she makes me want to burst with pride. Very few people from my home town managed to escape and even fewer managed to make something of themselves. She lives, in my view, an extraordinarily rich and exotic life in Italy. Her husband is an engineer for Ferrari and she is a teacher. More excitingly, she’s now pregnant, so we spent a great deal of time leafing through maternity dresses in H and M, Tammy rightly believing that there’s no point in splashing the cash on something you’re only going to wear for a few months. She was being very exacting, however, and I felt the need to point out at one stage that when she’s 8 months pregnant, she’ll wear a hessian sack if it’s comfortable and won’t care two jots about the colour!

It was very charming to see how nervous she was. I suppose when you’ve watched all your closest friends getting pregnant, you get to observe all the stages; the excitement, the terror, the protective urges, the boredom, the excitement again, followed by the unbelievable boredom and finally that long march towards the scaffold that gets forgotten as soon as the little tyke appears and wisely surveys his new surroundings.

For some reason, I also felt the need to remind Tammy that all babies are dull as dishwater until they begin to speak and walk, at which time they become the most fascinating little people in the world. This opinion never goes down particularly well with the parents who always believe theirs is the most interesting and beautiful baby in the world. I can sense the mother of my goddaughter bristling as she reads this and thinking; “if you’d spent longer with Deia in this period you’d realise how amazing she was at that age...” She’s probably right!

Now why do you suppose my computer clock suddenly thinks it’s 23.22 on 3th January 2009? That’s very weird. Am I in a time slip, I wonder? Did I get so stressed yesterday that I put back time? Hang on a minute, 03.01.09 is my god-daughter’s birth date! That is seriously weird! I was just writing about her! Is this some kind of sign, I wonder? Is my very wise goddaughter communicating with me psychically? What is she trying to say? When I last saw her she said nothing but the word “kick” as she threw a ball in my direction. Maybe she's frustrated by her present lack of words and has started to investigate the higher forces of connectivity. With her mother and grandmother being the way they are, this would hardly be a surprise!

A quick shudder as I pass through Grantham. My mind has been very far from all that nasty business, but it continues to chug away unpleasantly in the background. The MU are currently working through the various legalities. Thank God for the MU!

The entire train carriage is now in hysterics because a frustrated woman has just phoned someone and is delivering a high-octane, 5-minute monologue without actually drawing a breath. Literally without breathing. It is a wonderful thing to listen to, made even more enjoyable by the reaction of everyone around her. She is, of course, oblivious. The highlight came when she called the person on the end of the phone a "freekin' spastic" which caused the woman opposite to snort so loudly that she almost choked!

July 24th 1660 was a Tuesday. The more I delve into the late 17th Century, the more complicated the politics of the time seem to become. "Reversionism" was the buzzword of the day. This referred to the practice of bringing people back into the official positions they'd held before Cromwell swept to power, which of course makes Mr Barlow’s claim to a chunk of Pepys’ income slightly more understandable. Of course, there were many exceptions, and the reversion card was always trumped by a “grant beyond sea” or a promise made by Charles II when he was “beyond sea” or in exile. Pepys’ rise and rise was as a result of neither of these two processes, so noses were being put out of joint all over the place by those who felt they had a more legitimate claim to the various positions he was being awarded. I can't imagine Pepys was making many friends at this point in his life and when half the world hates you, sometimes you just gotta pretend not to notice!

Friday, 23 July 2010


There are no real words to describe how I’m feeling tonight. I can’t say too much until all avenues have been explored but it seems the film might have been shot in a strange format and this could compromise its quality. All I want to do is curl up in a ball and hide. At the moment it feels like the hundreds of hours we’ve spent on the project might count for nothing and I am gutted. I want to go home and I want a hug but the train to London is too expensive. Besides, inside I know I need to stay up here to try and solve the problem. Unfortunately it’s the weekend and realistically there’s not a great deal to be done until Monday. It’s definitely been a more than depressing day... and to make matters worse, there’s no hot water in my flat, and my hand-washed clothes all smell like sour biscuits.

July 23rd 1660, and Pepys was still sorting things out with his predecessor, Mr Barlow. They went together to see a scrivener in Fenchurch Street, who they found sick with gout, so were forced to ask him to sign their agreement from his bed. Pepys was irritated by the scrivener’s desire to change the wording of the contract in Mr Barlow’s favour. Pepys then went to the Navy office and there took, somewhat cynically, the oath of Allegiance and Supremacy, a sycophantic gesture of support to the King and his religious views. From then on, Pepys ping-ponged his way between the City and Whitehall, drinking in Charing Cross before heading home by boat. He had a merry supper with Elizabeth and his clerk, Will Hewer, who proved to be very “droll”.

Thursday, 22 July 2010


I’m feeling slightly frustrated. Our edit is essentially over. All that’s left is a process called the online, which is when an affable chap called Andy examines every shot making sure it looks as colourful and beautiful as it can. Unfortunately the end of the day got rather concercertinered and with one thing or another, specifically a whole wedge of technical issues, I ended up going to “picture lock” before I’d been able to have one last look at the film. I’m now powerless to change anything, and as a control freak, I find that very frightening.

That said, earlier in the day, we had a viewing in front of half a tonne of BBC Yorkshire executives, all of whom seemed to genuinely love the film. The editor of BBC Radio York was crying by the start of the second movement, which I took as a great compliment. Hazel’s mastered versions of the music were played out for the first time, and they sounded extraordinary. She’s done a wonderful job. For the first time on this project I felt truly proud of what we’d created and by the end, a little tear was prickling in the corner of my eye.

There’s not a great deal more to write. I’ve come home and am treating myself to an evening in front of the television. I’ve bought a very small bar of dark chocolate, and I’m going to nibble it with a cup of tea in front of Celebrity Masterchef.

Sometimes life doesn’t need to go at a million miles per hour to be fun!

The 22nd July 1660 was a Sunday and it rained hard during the night. This would not be rare for Leeds at the moment, but my parents, who live near Cambridge haven’t seen any real rain for the past few months and say their garden is utterly destroyed.

After looking into a few of the 100 churches that then stood in the City of London, Pepys went for a massive family lunch at his Uncle Fenner’s where he found himself surrounded by relatives.

He then went to St James’ Park for a walk and tried unsuccessfully to get into the exclusive Inward Park, an area which is still railed off and known as The Enclosure. Quite why he was refused entry, I’ve no idea, but one man was “basted” by a keeper for smuggling people into the area by carrying them across a lake on his back! An inspired money-making scheme.

Pepys returned home by boat, which was a new pleasure for him. In those days boats were banned for anything but official business on Sundays... Pepys, as a new government official, could finally take advantage of the loophole and seemed intent on flaunting it!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Wild cherries

It’s been raining in Leeds all day, but the rain has now cleared and the evening sun is shining brightly in a sky filled with herringbone clouds. There’s going to be an amazing sunset. After finishing in the edit, I went for a jog, but instead of turning left on the canal tow path, I turned right. It was an extremely fortuitous decision. Heading west, as I was, the canal runs parallel with the River Aire for what seems like hundreds of metres. A system of locks takes the canal higher and higher, whilst below, the river flows majestically. The skyscrapers of Leeds stand proudly behind.

The canal is so clear and still and its covered in beautiful lily pads. Its smooth surface reflects everything in sight; the sky, the honey-smelling buddleias and countless stunning Victorian bridges that the canal passes underneath. Every bridge has its own character; some are simple and elegant, some are grand and sturdy. Some are made of brick. Some are made of stone. Each bridge is covered on the underside with imaginative graffiti; often in metallic paint which reflects light into the darkness. There was something incredibly magical in the clean and fresh air.

As I turned one particular corner, I was confronted by a group of people standing on step ladders underneath a tree. They were picking large black berries. I stopped to ask what the berries were, assuming they were sloes and was astonished to discover that they were cherries. Dark, beautiful, shiny, wild cherries. “Would you like to try one?” one of them asked. “I’d love to” I said. And with that she handed me a handful from her bucket. "We have plenty." I was expecting them to be sour, but they tasted rich and sweet; the most delicious cherries I’ve probably ever tasted. And it got me thinking; firstly how wonderful it was to find a group of people enjoying the crops that Mother Nature has given us for free, but secondly, how often I must have run or walked past wild cherry trees in the past, never knowing what I was missing.

Yesterday, Sam and Julie sent me pictures of the garlic they’d grown on their allotment. Sam now grows most of the produce he eats and there’s something remarkably impressive about that. It makes me think that we should all start to do our bit in that respect. And possibly that as the economy collapses, perhaps it's something we’ll be forced to do.

We re-filmed the male voice choir this morning on a hillside that seemed to over-look the world. We were just south of Sheffield, but I could see Ferrybridge power station and as far as York. They did a wonderful job, and the film now has the emotional heart that I was looking for.

Not a great deal happened in the land of Pepys 350 years ago today. He went to visit his predecessor, Mr Barlow, in his lodgings at the Golden Eagle in Fetter Lane and showed him the documents, which made his pledge to give him a sixth of his income official. Barlow was thrilled. The rest of the day was spent dealing with Montagu’s papers; specifically the ones that dealt with his new title, the Earl Of Sandwich; a title which still exists today. Montagu was the first in a long line of important men who would go on to share this new name. The fourth Earl of Sandwich, for example, gave his name (via Captain Cook) to the Sandwich Islands, better known as Hawaii!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Third hand venison

Today it became apparent that I'd need to reshoot the male voice choir section of the symphony. It’s a horrible decision to have to make but we looked at the footage again and again and every shot was either badly lit or slightly blurred. It comes back to the whole steady-cam hell which has plagued us on this shoot. A word of advice to all budding film-makers out there; think incredibly carefully before using steady-cam. It is not a cure-all and it can go horribly wrong. Steady-cam, for those of you who don’t know, is a complicated harness made up of various weights and heavy duty springs that a specially trained cameraman wears around his body. In theory it should enable the camera to glide through the air. Unfortunately, if you underestimate the weight of the camera, everything goes wrong, and instead of beautiful gliding shots, you get lumpy, strobing shots that look like they were filmed on the worst kind of cam-corder. Worst still, if the harness goes wrong, the tension is so high that it can break a cameraman’s back! I think they should probably be banned...
Anyway, we’re heading off to Sheffield first thing tomorrow morning with nothing but a tripod and a camera, to get some beautiful static shots of the wonderful faces of the male voice choir. That’s all this film ever needed. I was just being greedy...

As you can imagine there were some pretty gruesome scenes in the edit suite today. At one point I thought Alison was going to attack me with her bare hands. She’ll no doubt be thrilled when I’ve left Leeds and her life can begin again. Still, whenever there’s a viewing, people seem impressed, and there’s all sorts of interest in the piece from all kinds of different places including, randomly, Newsnight. If Jeremy Vine tries to interrogate any of my musicinas, I’ll have a word with my autocue mates and screw him over for the next 20 years! (A little known fact about me is that I used to be an autocue operator and on one occasion messed up Mr Vine’s autocue so badly, live on air, that there was an on-screen silence which lasted 8 seconds whilst he flicked through his scripts and slowly turned the colour of a ripe nectarine...)

This evening I did the longest interview in the world for the BBC4 “Making of” team. This involved me sitting in a recording studio talking about every stage of the project, and at one point I thought I was going to keel over. I bored myself almost rigid. Heaven knows what the poor crew made of my emotional ramblings. “I love life” I trilled “I love my job and I want everyone in the world to join a choir or a folk band and I want no one to be lonely and everyone to smile at their neighbours and tell their friends and family how much they mean to them...” Mortifying. It felt a bit like a ghastly charity appeal for Children In Need. The bottom line is that I’m now so tired I've entirely lost the ability to filter my emotions, or indeed the language I use. I laugh hysterically when something is funny, cry like a 4 year-old when something is sad... or happy and have no control over the words that come out of my mouth. Today, for example, when the cameras came in, once again, to film me in the edit, at the end of every sentence I said the word penis, which I’ll wager was funny the first time...

Soon it will be imperative for me to return to London. I don’t think Nathan is looking after himself properly and I’ve started missing all sorts of people rather badly. Furthermore, the clothes that I've been hand-washing for the past 2 months are beginning to smell a little bit odd. They need a boil wash, and I need a bloody bath...

It was a typically busy day for Pepys 350 years ago which involved a morning’s work at the Navy office followed by lunch at his parents’ house, where an unfeasibly large number of people ate a pasty made from the third-hand venison which Pepys palmed off on his mother a couple of days before. What comes around, and all that... Amongst the diners was his cousin William Joyce. Pepys always considered the Joyce’s to be social climbers of the worst kind and he’d heard that, in their time, they’d been rude to him. He wrote: “I did this time show so much coldness towards W Joyce, that I believe all the table took notice”. Claws back in, Gentlemen, we're British.

One final thing... The following blog came in today from someone who missed the boat yesterday... So I am adding it as a special bonus today, because it has such an important message...

From Jim:

I couldn’t catch up with the blog the last few days because I’ve been working all hours, but hope this late submission for the big 200 is still valid. I’m Ben’s friend Jim – namechecked only once so far I think for the dubious accomplishment of creating his Eurovision scoreboard, but rather proud of that cameo nonetheless. I’m lucky enough to work with some of Britain’s most talented young musicians (doubtless a Yorkshire symphonist of the future among them) in the National Youth Orchestra. We’re in the midst of an epic month of activities: Bernstein’s MASS with players from four continents at the Southbank Centre, ten of our players somewhere in deepest Brazil touring with their superfunky Youth Orchestra of Bahia, ten more at Aldeburgh fusing their western musical sensibilities with those of their young counterparts from the South Asian Music Youth Orchestra, then this weekend we kick off our main summer course in Birmingham with lots of rehearsals ahead of the BBC Proms and also a lot of encounters with local young people. I’ve spent a lot of this morning finalising plans to put a handful of NYO players on the roof of Birmingham Town Hall and the council buildings opposite to captivate the everyday people with a tiny little taste of the orchestral wonderment they’d never usually find because it’s all sealed up in concert halls. What I know from the National Youth Orchestra is this: if you’re a musician and you’re even half-talented, you have to pass it on. You read about some people who own famous artworks and, rather than lend them to galleries, they keep them on their drawing room walls. You just can’t do that with music. Music is for sharing. Music’s nothing without an audience, without ears. At NYO we’re having an extraordinary year busting out of our box and sharing our passion, zeal, lust, joy, excitement and affinity for music with the other people of Britain, hoping it may fuel them to try harder on the violin they’ve been scratching at for a year, or to reach for that bassoon they’ve squirreled in the attic, or simply to encourage them – from the example of 165 tireless teens – that they too can achieve anything they put their mind to. I’ve seen, and marvelled at, all of Ben’s filmed musicals and know that this is the spirit they invest in everyday people too. I can’t wait to see the next bunch enlarged, emboldened, empowered by the opportunity to express themselves collectively through music. Such sentiments power me through on days like today where I’m bogged down in the logistics of making it all happen with email after email after email. It’s worth it. It’s so worth it. Happy 200th everyone, and keep loving and sharing the music you make.

Monday, 19 July 2010

200 blogs and counting

It’s been another tough day in the edit, but we continue to take baby steps forward. For much of the day I thought we were going to have to reshoot at least a couple of scenes, but a few pep talks from Alison and Keith the camera man made me realise I was striving for an unachievable perfection. Our film is performed by musicians of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, so make it too glossy or perfect would run the risk of its losing its heart and soul. Also, there’s a limit to how hard you can fight before you need to step back and think; “yeah, you know what? That’s as good as it could ever be...” The pride is beginning to come. Every time I watch a run through of the film, I wince for a while and think, “I must do something about that shot” before losing myself again, and finally feeling genuinely proud of not just myself, Alison, my filming family and Hazel and Simon but every single one of those performers featured in the film who are giving it everything.

For those of you on Twitter, apparently the Yorkshire Symphony is tweeting. BBCyorksymph. It’s also on Facebook...

350 years ago, Pepys and his wife “did lie late a-bed”. Later in the day they headed by boat to Westminster. Pepys dropped Elizabeth and Will Hewer at Whitefriars with a shopping list as long as their arms, which included a new fire iron as theirs has already broken. Pepys called in on Montagu and found him still in bed. He then went to Westminster Hall where he met up with his friends, the booksellers, Mr and Mrs Michell. He took them out for anchovies and olives at the Dog Tavern and paid for everything. Gawd bless him.

So, the exciting time has come for me to publish the blogs I’ve received today. I hope very much that you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I have. I have cried four times already and am touched that so many people have bothered to share their lives in such wonderful prose. Happy 200th birthday to you all!

...and the prize for the blog that could have been written by Pepys, oddly goes to my brother, Edward. All you need to do, Ted, is finish the day singing some motets on your balcony, and you're the man himself!

From Helen:

A glimpse into my life, eh? Well, I'm a psychotherapist recently moved to Cambridge. However, Monday is still my day for seeing clients in London so this morning I made my weekly train trip into the Big Smoke, earlier than usual as I had a hair appointment. I've been to the same hairdresser, Elliott, for eleven years now and we've become good friends - it was great to see him, but sad to hear the latest in the saga of his marriage break-up. I'm now immersed in the exhausting intensity of seeing nine clients in a row, but since my 4pm client has called in sick I have an hour free which I'm using to send in my blog like the good girl I am - my last chance to do so before tonight's 10pm deadline, and better than venturing outside since Regent Street is a risky place to have a consulting room, shopping-wise! Plus it's way too hot for me out there - I loathe summer and the sun, and it makes me long even more to get back to my beloved airy Cambridge. Even summer feels almost bearable there! Almost.

From Rachel:

(Stands up) Hi, I'm Rachel and I'm a self-confessed blog addict. (Smattering of applause) I also play the french horn, so I'm not just a random who reads your blog; I'm enjoying being able to keep up to date on Symphony happenings.

My day was typically uneventful; working at Next is not what I intended to do with my degree. I'll be honest, I spent 2 hours sorting lingerie. It would appear that no one in York knows how to use coat hangers.

However, in sympathy for your mentally long days recently, I thought I'd give you the low-down on my decidedly more interesting Saturday.

The Next Sale started on Saturday. In case you weren't aware, it starts at 5am. Why this is, nobody knows. It just does. So my day started at 4.50, in time for my 6am shift.Work was fine, nothing particularly thrilling, just women going crazy because 'everything is half price or less'. Great. Then lunchtime came around and on my way to buy my sandwich, I found myself surrounded by policemen in full riot gear, police dogs, ambulances and all sorts of noise and generally excitement. York doesn't see very many riots so the police were taking no precautions. Thankfully, by this time I'd purchased my baguette and had made a hasty retreat, as they then closed of half of York to stop grown men fighting about football...ridiculous.

After finishing work at 3, it was off to Leeds to meet my parents. An amazing Bella Italia dinner (don't be put off by the fact it's a chain) later, we made our way to the West Yorkshire Playhouse to see the evening show of 'Britain's got Bhangra'. A-MAZING! A bollywood musical - all singing, all dancing. If anyone gets a chance to see it - go! And that was it. 18 hours after it started, Saturday was finally over.

As you said 'a few words' about my day, I think I may have outstayed my word count.... Over and out,

From Edward:

Hi, I'm Ben's older brother, Edward. I work as a banker in Canary Wharf, London, and live in the riverside flat reference by Ben in this blog.

I started the day knowing it is likely to be a long week, especially as my boss has just got back from Shanghai and I haven't seen him for over 4 weeks. Actually, the arrival of school holidays has kept the day less hectic that I had feared. In fact, the only urgent matter is that it looks like I may go to Sibos in Amsterdam this October. The last time I flew to Amsterdam for a 1 hour meeting, the volcanic ash cloud conspired to keep me there for 3 days before I managed to get a ferry ticket, so you can understand my trepidation about returning!

My new blue suit from Hong Kong fits perfectly and looks great. I am surprised given that I put on weight during my recent trips to Hong Kong and Morocco. Thankfully, the weight is coming off again and the suit fits.

Fingers crossed, my new hire has not been tempted to remain with his current - and my ex - employer. I was worried that a counter offer might get in the way of completing my little team in London. It seems that good sense has prevailed. Likewise, another ex colleague from way gone when joined the team today. I took him for tea in Canada Square this afternoon and we sat out in the sun and gossiped for a good hour, pretending that I was introducing him to product management. He'll be a good addition to the team.

I spent the end of the day arguing about how to help a customer finance a big Israeli infrastructure contract. I was surprisingly frank with those concerned, which yielded some good action points for the remainder of the week.

The work day ended at 6.30 pm, which I always like. The flat is lovely in the warm sunshine and I've changed into shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt. It's almost as good as being on vacation.

From Elizabeth:

I've been reading your blog since I found it via the BBC website a few months ago. I'm really looking forward to hearing both the Pepys Motet and the Yorkshire Symphony once they're allowed out - I grew up living just north of Yorkshire and I've been enjoying your descriptions of places I know and love while you've been filming.

My name's Elizabeth; I live in Ealing and commute to work on the train every day to small software start-up company in Reading. It's a 25 minute bike ride from the railway station to my office - Reading's surprisingly well equipped with cycle routes. This morning I almost ran into the company's CTO who was running to work along the canal towpath. He got into the office a distressingly short time after me, suggesting he runs almost as fast as I cycle.

This morning I've got a really bad case of The Monday Problem. The Monday Problem occurs when you get into the office on Monday morning, but realise you have very little idea what on earth you were working on the previous Friday. Knowing this, I left myself copious notes on Friday about *what* I was doing. Sadly, the one thing I seem to have omitted is *why* I was doing it. I have lots of notes on which functions I need to re-write in my program, but no idea of what bug I was trying to fix. I've now got a mug of tea and some music on (I wear headphones in the office - they're enormous and look ridiculous, but sound great and I don't have to look at me) and am hoping everything will soon become clear. I'm listening to an album called "Bleeding Light" by a band called Holy Ghost Revival. I always listen to music in albums-worths, even on my mp3 player.

Last night my boyfriend and I walked from Ealing, through Chiswick toHammersmith to see Penn & Teller's last show at the Apollo. Sorry, the HMV Apollo - I don't think there's an unbranded venue left in London now. (The Relentless Garage, I ask you.) Chiswick isn't somewhere I know well, but it seemed extraordinarily well-served for appealing-looking pubs. I think some Sunday trips to investigate their roasts might be called for. There's some intriguing shops too - a specialist bread shop, and we even found an example of that fast-vanishing breed the independent record shop.

Penn & Teller were fabulous, their show's a real mixture of proper, old-fashioned stage-magic, showmanship and new twists. Why demonstrate feats of memory with numbers when you can do it with a nailgun and risk of maiming? My favourite trick is Teller's "Shadows" - I don't care about the mechanics, it's just an absolutely beautiful thing to watch. If you've never seen it, the trick is on youtube here:

From Nathan:

Hello again, to anyone who remembers my "guest blog" a few weeks ago, and a simple hello to those who don't!

I'm Nathan, Benjamin's partner, and as I've already contributed a bit to this blog (let alone been mentioned a fair few times), I thought it would be bad form if I didn't respond to Ben's plea for info on what his readers have been doing on this day, the 200th day of the blog!

I have spent all day today, from 10am until 6pm, in a recording studio in South Woodford, singing backing vocals for a new "Glee"-esque theatre show that will be touring the UK very soon. Fans of Glee will be delighted to know that many of the hits from the TV show are being featured, and for me, it's been a fantastic opportunity to sing the kind of songs that I never get to sing in my everyday life. Songs like (predictably) "Don't Stop Believing," "Living on a Prayer," "The Final Countdown," Vogue," "Don't Stop Me Now," "Jump," and, seemingly, hundreds more. I worked on the tracks for a couple of days last week as well, and it has been a huge amount of fun. Great music. The show is going to be one helluva fun night out!

I've also just been booked today to do a series of surprise singing events all over the country, throughout September. Every night, you'll find me at some dinner event or other, pretending to be the Head Waiter, or the Maitre D', before whipping out a microphone, and bursting into song. I love doing it: it's a right giggle, so I'm really pleased that I've been allocated such a big block concerts. I'll be visiting Liverpool, Bradford, Wakefield, Co Durham, Devon, Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Blackpool to name a few.

Less fun, is the fact that I've completely thrown my neck out! I was at a party last night, playing many very silly games, and laughing more than I have done in a very long time - we played "How Many Ferrero Rochers Can You Eat In One Minute?" Tragically, I only managed three. It's harder then you think, alright?), and "How Quickly Can You Get An After Eight From Your Forehead Into Your Mouth Without Touching it?". Not very quickly at all, it turns out, judging by the smears of melted chocolate down our faces! Dangerous though these extreme games might seem, it was simply while telling an anecdote that I shrugged my shoulders, and something went a cross between "Crunch" and "Squelch" in my back. The upshot today is that I can hardly move my head at all, and I've been in constant pain all day, having to turn my entire body if I want to look behind me, or even to the sides!

Tomorrow brings my first day at my new day job: working in the Box Office at the Shaftesbury Theatre, which I'm quite looking forward to, in a strange kind of way. One of my new colleagues will be an old friend from a show we did together in Germany about 10 years ago, so it will be lovely to pick up that friendship.

So it's been an eventful few days for me. At some point soon, I'll sit down, and take five minutes to do absolutely nothing... Nah - never gonna happen!

From my mother and father, Richard and Noelle:

For the second day running we’ve spent a sociable day in hot sunshine eating and drinking. Yesterday we were at Little Eastern Hall with the Thaxted Festival crowd, complete with peacocks. Today we met our very old friends Mike & Sue (Sylvester!) at the Orchard in Grantchester, surrounded by the ghosts of Rupert Brooke and Virginia Woolfe, eating cream teas. Pity about the wasps. Last time there we were there with Ben & Nathan. Lovely spot. Now we’re off for a glass of wine on the terrace. Will it ever end?

From Fiona:

I am writing from the painfully chic lobby bar of the W Hotel, Barcelona. Even the children in here are minted. I am 15 months into my 18 month World Tour with Placebo and we have a day off here before flying to Palma for a gig tomorrow. There is no danger of me actually getting served here - the staff are way too busy looking nonchalantly cool to do any work - so I can write undisturbed whilst staring out at the sun terrace which overlooks the ‘alternative’ end of the beach. By alternative I mean the ‘hippy / nudist / dope-smoking / gay / anything goes’ end of the beach. The W has done its best to hide this colourful slice of life by roping off a section of the sand and installing a blingtastic champagne bar, but there really is no disguising what’s on view. Big sunglasses please.

I sunbathed by the pool for an hour or so this morning then retreated as the temperature reached sweltering and I became unglamourously sweaty. I did some yoga, had some ‘encouragingly big plate featuring disappointingly small food’ room service and then got my teeth into some violin practise (Barber’s violin concerto. One day I’ll whip through that bastard blindfolded, maybe..) whilst staring through the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean. I never forget that I am lucky to be experiencing all this luxury and at the same time I wonder why we really desire any of it, when nature is so stunning.

Also in the hotel is legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk. He and his friends invited us to watch them on the halfpipe yesterday, which was impressive, and most of my bandmates have gone off to watch them again today, but as I really know nothing about skateboarding I felt a bit of a fraud tagging along. They are friendly, laidback and fearless guys but I admit I am intimidated by duuude-ism and Awesomeness.

This evening I will go for dinner at a restaurant on the harbour with a few of my bandmates then get a reasonably early night in preparation for tomorrow’s hectic schedule. The beds here are huge, fluffy linen clouds that surround you and float you off to sleep. This feels truly amazing after you have spent two sleepless nights bumping around in a coffin-sized bunk whilst hurtling across the continent to the next gig on the tourbus. Pepys would never have imagined such a schedule to be possible, although he would have had the right constitution given the quantities of wine he seemed to enjoy!

Still haven't been served. Happy 200th blog!

From Philippa:

I'm Philippa, mother of Ben's god-daughter, Deia, and lifelong devotee of la Till. I'm a screenwriter and I live in East London with my husband, baby and cat. All their names begin with 'D'.

I had an angsty blog all planned - I was going to talk about juggling work and motherhood and how challenging that can be and then move on to nature of human existence. Then I was going make you cry and finish up by wowing you with inspirational quotes ... and then I had the most glorious day, so I thought I'd tell you about that instead.

It was one of those days when I wasn't trying to do a million things at once, and I'd had enough sleep (rare, rare, RARE) and everything just seemed to flow... I took Deia to the park and then to a playgroup near our house where we had a great time, playing on the slides and the little cars and cradling various plastic dolls - which were then either thrown onto the floor, or bitten, or ritually undressed before being discarded. We came home. Deia slept. I had some tea and washed the floor. My babysitter came and cooked us a super healthy lunch and I did a few hours editing on the script I'm currently writing. Oddly I've signed a non disclosure on this one, so all I can tell you is that it's true, historical, Spanish (but not set in Spain) and really really dark... I love it. I'm halfway through and in that place where you feel as if at last you've broken the back of the thing and you've nailed the tone and now it's time to have some fun...

In the afternoon I heard that I'd got a film project I'd pitched for a couple of weeks ago. I am THRILLED. It's an incredible project. Once again, historical, true story - Czech this time - packed full of magic realism and possessing an emotional punch that left me reeling for days when I first read the story. Again, I can't say anything about it... This is ridiculous, and probably a bit irritating. Let's move on...

Anyway, the babysitter left and Gaby and her Mum arrived for tea. Gaby is Deia's godmother. She has taught her the vital life skills of starting a motorbike and the correct way to drink beer from a bottle. After an hour of fine conversation I wandered along the Hackney Road to give Reiki healing to my friend Sam, who last year had a massive stroke and has been recovering ever since. It was a particularly lovely session and I floated home full of hope, gave Deia a bath... and here I am.

It's not the most scintillating of days, but the incredible thing about it was that I felt able to really be IN it - really live it and be present to it. Ah you see, I suspected all that angst would come out somewhere... Because, if I'm honest, I have everything I need and want in life. Life is full to the brim with amazing things. And yet still, it's a daily battle to really enjoy it - to be in it, moment by moment, rather than continually thinking about the future or the past, or whether they'll be enough time to do what needs to be done, or what I could be doing if I wasn't here. And all the time I'm struggling with my mind, I'm missing these little, golden, timeless moments that make up days like today. BE HERE NOW. That's the trick. I only manage it one day out of fourteen. But actually, maybe that's pretty good going.

I read what Pepys did on this day (I'm sure Ben will tell you.) It sounded quite similar - nothing very special on paper... but I can't help wondering if his was a golden day too.

From Tash:

Tomorrow I will be doing a dress rehearsal at Park Junior School with Chris Twell. They are doing Oliver this week. Then going to Bedford to present documents so that they can do my CRB check for the part time Vocal Animateur job that I have with them starting September. Then off to MK to see my singing teacher for my last lesson before the summer holls and just to finish off, a lovely Yoga class :-)

Take care and I can't wait to see the end result of your Yorkshire symphony...

From Sandra:

It's me, Sandra, the one who told you that because of Watford Gap The Musical, YOU have got me back to singing! I must say it's great having the opportunity to contact you (I often wanted to in the preceding months but you have had so much going on). Special parts for me were learning of the financial backing you deserved, also the excitement of getting the musicians and singers and the personal bit when Nathan arrived in New York out of the blue! The other bits were recreating for me scenes of York and Leeds both of which I am familiar with. The shot from York Minster down at the musicians was amazing as was the handshake across The Shambles! Hope you managed to get in to the Railway Museum or even on the nearby Wheel. The former I have done twice, the latter not at all because it was enough for me to go on the London Eye!

Your incredible knowledge, skill and inspiration to others I shall remember always. I'm loving reading your blog and I'm so impressed with all the work you have put in and are putting in to Pepys Motet. Last weekend, I introduced a friend to The Samuel Pepys Pub Restaurant at Slipton, near Kettering (which you are probably famililar with anyway) - she only moved to this area about four years ago and it was meant to be a "cultural" afternoon. Sandwich lunch at the pub followed by a look around Lyveden New Beild near Brigstock (unfinished lodge for Tresham from Rushton). In the pub there was a reproduction painting of Mr Pepys with a brief profile on him. I mentioned you and your work to the Landlord who told me that The Samuel Pepys Appreciation Society had visited fairly recently. It is thought Mr Pepys stopped there en route somewhere or even overnight but there is nothing documented to confirm that. The Landlord was interested in your work and when I gave him the website details, he said he would print off extracts for his clientele.

I was in Herefordshire on 26th June for three days. The cousin we visited has a Museum in the grounds of her home in Wormelow to the memory of Violette Szabo, the war heroine so beautifully acted by the wonderful Virginia McKenna in "Carve Her Name with Pride". Every June there is a Garden Party to remember Violette who spent some of her childhood with her Aunt and Uncle who lived in the house that my cousin now owns and also spent time there between her missions in the war years. It is called the Violette Szabo Museum which has a website. The family is very proud of my cousin, Rosemary Rigby, M.B.E. Since 2000 when the Museum opened, Virginia McKenna has attended every Garden Party and every now and then Tania Szabo (Violette's daughter) will attend as she did this year - she lives in Jersey and is a translator. I met her for the first time three weeks ago but I have met with Virginia several times now and she is so likeable and modest - a lady who clearly was touched so deeply by the bravery of the heroine she portrayed. I hope you have seen the film. Jack Warner played Violette's Father. If you haven't seen it, I hope one day you will.

Now, as to the day of your 200th blog - Monday, 19th July 2010, I shall be going to work but in the evening to a rehearsal for the "Voices Aloud" Choir - our show is Friday & Saturday, 1st & 2nd October at The Masque Theatre in Barton Seagrave at 7.30 p.m. We are working on medleys from lots of West End shows and the MD has hopes of us at competition level next year. Don't suppose you can get to see us?!

From Meriel:

I woke up rather late this morning after a very strange dream in which someone was trying to paint me blue and got rather upset when I declined. Freud would have something to say about that methinks. I then spent a fair amount of time faffing about and finally got on my bike at at about half past eleven to cycle round Lewes delivering posters to schools for my latest venture.

My latest venture being a club for children and young people which aims to combine drama, dance and creative writing. And music. And the visual arts. A tall order you may think. But not really. The idea is that we have a theme for the term and around that we create a piece of live performance with a written element. Depending on the theme and the interests and talents of the members, we then bring in whatever art forms seem justified and fun.

While cycling I pondered another idea I had recently which is a mobile library for homeless people. Homeless people typically find it hard to join libraries as they have no address. All I need now is a van, several hundred books and some willing volunteers in Brighton and East Sussex.

I bumped into an old friend and her baby, rather charmingly named Diggory, when I was out and about. They were sitting on a bench by a pond full of gorgeous ducklings, ducks and swans. As I approached them, I narrowly missed cycling into the pond (my co-ordination skills being rather lacking) which would have provided some entertainment. It occurred to me that Lewes during the day seems to be populated almost entirely by parents and babies, which can be a source of delight (they are all very cute and happy etcetera) and also some sadness (I would like to join their ranks). At least I now have a boyfriend so am one step nearer motherhood! And he is neither married, mentally ill, a sexual deviant nor living in another country. It's a start.

I then popped in to see my boyfriend's parents as I was down their way. His dad called me Melanie and teased me because of my fluorescent cycling jacket, and his Mum chose to confide in me which was very touching. I am beginning to love them both.

I finally got home, very hot, and jumped in the shower and tried to fix the dishwasher and washing machine while eating a rapid lunch.

Then it was off out again to work. On Mondays I work as a counsellor in Hastings for an organisation that provides low cost counselling to people on a low income. I love this work, and have been there for nearly a year. I feel a sense of satisfaction that I am benefiting people who are often struck down by many of life's woes (mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, profound loneliness, marital breakdown etc) and I meet some wonderful people. My counselling sessions were followed by supervision when I discuss my clients and get support and advice from my supervisor and fellow counsellors. We are a mixed bunch: a person centred counsellor (me), a psychodynamic counsellor, an existential psychotherapist and a CBT therapist. It is always interesting.

On the train on the way back I was eyed up by some dodgy youths with cider and retreated into my ipod.

Just thinking of watching some TV before bed. And consoling myself with the thought that it is only three days til my holiday.

Bring it on!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Old bags

Leeds has been battered by high winds for the last few days. Perhaps the taller buildings here are funnelling it somehow, but every time I’ve been out recently, I’ve really noticed it. Today's was a sort of hot wind, which confused me because it’s been very overcast. The weather we’ve had up here this week certainly makes me feel extremely relieved to have shot our film last week.

I went to Tesco earlier on and was served by a very strange man who looked at my full basket of shopping and asked if I wanted a bag. “Yes please” I said, and his hands disappeared for a moment before a single bag appeared. I picked up my extra large packet of Shreddies and put it inside. “I think I might need another one” I said. There was a confused paused, and rustling underneath the counter before a second bag appeared. I filled it with shopping within seconds and then stopped and looked at the check-out man. He stopped and looked at me. His eyes flicked down at my shopping. “Can I have another bag please?” I asked, and he obliged. One more bag was handed to me. This happened on two more occasions. Never once did he take the initiative and hand me a whole set of bags. It was one at a time, but only when I asked for one. Now, do you suppose this is the new Tesco policy? Employees are allowed to ask if you require a bag, but from then on will only provide them if you ask, and then only on a bag by bag basis? Or did I just encounter a freak who wanted to punish me for threatening the world’s resources?

Tomorrow is my 200th blog, and I am still very keen for some of the people who read it to tell me what’s going on in their lives on this date. It doesn’t have to be many words, but if you’re happy to share your day’s activities with the rest of us, all you need to do is jot down a few words and email them to me by 10pm tomorrow. If tomorrow turns out to be really dull for you, then perhaps you can tell me what you were doing over the weekend. My email address is I suggest you might start by introducing yourself and saying what you do, before saying what you’ve done! I'm very much looking forward to hearing from you all...

350 years ago, Pepys’ carpenter finished work on the door he'd commissioned to lead out onto the roof, which strikes me as very speedy work. Later in the day, Pepys met up with Mr Pierce the surgeon, who had a porter with him, who delivered Pepys a barrel of lemons from John Burr; ho you'll remember was Pepys’ troublesome former clerk, who’d obviously remained at sea when Pepys left the Nazeby.

Later in the day, he visited the New Exchange, a bazaar on The Strand, where the current Adelphi stands, which specialised in fancy goods like fans, gloves and perfumes. It was a place that the great and the good went to gossip and be seen.

Pepys then went to see Montagu, who palmed off an old bit of venison on him, which “smelt a little strong”. Pepys, in turn decided to palm it off on his parents, who he’d not seen for a little time because his father had been pestering him to put in a good word for him to have a position in Montagu’s Wardrobe. He went to sleep, slightly worried about the debts he’d accrued in the process of getting his new job.

Pepys’ household found itself a new member in the shape of Will Hewer on this date. Hewer had been employed as one of Pepys’ clerks, but also as a domestic servant. He became an astonishingly important figure in Pepys’ life, and in fact Pepys was living with Hewer in his Clapham residence when he died in 1703.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Like Edam

I decided not to set my alarm and fell asleep last night before midnight, waking up at 11am. I obviously needed some sleep and have been pretty low energy all day. I thought tonight I might venture out on the town, although I’ve never been very good at making small talk with strangers, so I’ll probably just wander around for a bit and then return home for a mug of cocoa. I’m so tediously rock and roll!

I’m currently watching Tonight’s the Night with John Barrowman. Two young girls are murdering a song from the musical Wicked and the audience is going bananas. The girls seem thrilled to be there, which you can’t take away from them, but I’m not quite sure why the audience is cheering so wildly. I think a ripple of polite applause, just at the end of the song, would have been a much more appropriate response. There’s a lot to be said for sympathy applause, it puts people firmly in their place and makes them aware that they need to try harder. Dionne Warwick was also singing on the show, and even though the gusset seems to have dropped out of her voice, it’s good to know the old bird’s still ticking along, wearing those baseball caps and pencilling in those eyebrows.

John Barrowman is now singing Let’s Get Loud in front of a group of gyrating morons. It is intensely irritating and I've discovered a new found loathing for the man. I didn’t think my opinion of him could drop any lower after seeing him in Desperate Housewives, but I think this has to take the biscuit. To me, he is the epitome of shiny cheese. He is like Edam.

I’m not sure the programme is aimed at people like me. In fact, I’m not sure it’s aimed at anyone. It’s one of those BBC turkeys like Last of the Summer Wine or My Family that they continue to bring back because they’re scared of commissioning anything new or daring. Has anyone seen My Family with Zoe Wannamaker and Robert Lindsey? I think it may be in its 59th season. I watched it this week and spent all the time trying to work out whether the son in it was the same actor that a female friend of mine slept with on a North Sea ferry to Denmark. This surely means I wasn’t particularly engaged in what I was watching.

Television’s saving grace tonight, however, came in the form of young singer, ElizaDoolittle, who was on the Lottery Show. Her song, Pack Up is genuinely worth listening to. I don’t know what it is about this country and its ability to generate a seemingly endless parade of fascinating young female singer-songwriters. But she is no less talented than the likes of Paloma Faith and Duffy. And you can hear her song here.

Pepys was visited first thing in the morning by “an old, consumptive man”, who later revealed himself to be the infamous Mr Barlow, his dreaded predecessor at the Navy Office. For some reason, which has never been clear in my mind, perhaps out of kindness, perhaps just to get him out of the picture, Pepys offered to pay him a whole 50l year from his salary (which is about a 6th of the full amount) . This seemed to thrill the old man, who no doubt was just chancing his luck by stalking the young pretender.

Pepys took advantage of the good weather and sent all his belongings by cart to his new house. He followed later on, over-taking the removal carts “a-drinking at the Strand” on his way. Once installed in their new home in Seething Lane, Elizabeth was sent out to buy some food and came back with a quarter of Lamb, which they endeavoured to eat, but discovered it was “not half roasted”. Obviously an early form of take out. Pepys went back to Westminster by boat to do some work with Montagu, who had a stinking cold and sat in bed like a lummox all day. His last few sentences, however, bristle with pride. Pepys walked back to his new home with a linkboy, one of a set of young lads who made their living by holding torches in front of the well-to-do to light their way through the darkened streets of the capital. It’s probably worth quoting our hero in full:

"I went on foot with a linkboy to my home, where I found my wife in bed and Jane washing the house, and Will the boy sleeping, and a great deal of sport I had before I could wake him. I to bed the first night that I ever lay here with my wife."

Friday, 16 July 2010

Shangri La

I could barely sleep last night. It was horribly hot and muggy and I got myself into a panic about the edit, which led to my scribbling a pathetic email to the Head of Regions at 3am. Once again, editing was slow today and I could barely keep my eyes open through most of the morning. On a more positive note, we’ve now very nearly mapped out the whole film, which means next week can be about finessing our shots. This news means I have a weekend off and I’ve no idea what I’m going to do with myself! I’m almost panicking at the thought. I think a lie-in could well be at the top of my list but I am not a fan of enforced rest.

I had two gin and tonics after work and I walked home from the pub feeling extremely light-headed. How pathetic am I? I bought myself a 12” sub sandwich, and after one bite decided I didn’t actually want to eat it. Unfortunately I continued with my mission and now I feel horribly uncomfortable.

I wish I could think of something more entertaining to write but this week seems to have zapped me of my personality. I have decided to spend the rest of the evening searching for songs on You Tube that I haven’t heard in years. I’m starting with this by the groundbreaking ELO. I’m loving the film that goes with it and am considering using a number of the edit techniques in A Symphony For Yorkshire. I particularly like the one where hearts drift across the screen... Classy.

350 years ago it rained all day and Pepys was unable to have his goods taken from Westminster to his new house. He doesn't write a great deal more, and neither shall I! Is this the shortest blog entry I’ve ever written?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Strawberries and lettuce

This morning was horrible! At about mid day I was wandering around Leeds, sending angry text messages and feeling incredibly sorry for myself. Yet again there were a ridiculous number of technical issues and glitches in the edit suite and way too many people were standing around, scratching their heads and saying; “well, you should never have shot this film in high-def.” I left the building and very nearly left Leeds, saying I wouldn’t return until the technicians took the film as seriously as everyone else at the BBC. In a few hours things were sorted and we were able to continue. It has to be said that not a single day has passed in the edit where I haven’t lost at least 2 hours to problems apparently “beyond the control” of everyone. The technicians stand around saying, rather rudely, that they can't help, until someone kicks ass, or gets shirty and the problems are miraculously solved. That is not the way the world should work. I hate having to throw a barny just to get something done.

We started editing the third movement today, which can only be described as an embarrassment of riches, both sonically and visually. It’s absolutely not what anyone will expect from the symphony but it sounds incredible and the pictures are stunning; the most amazing are probably the shots of Circus Envy in the back of a pickup truck speeding down the middle of Spurn Point, butterflies fluttering around in the early morning sunshine.

I returned to my flat late tonight. I was at Purple Pro this evening listening to the final mixes, which incidentally sound brilliant. Hazel has been doing sterling work. On returning I stood in the lift with a guy who was obviouisly just coming home from a jog. I had decided to give myself a night off physical exercise, but he spurred me on. I'm sick and tired of having a face like a bloated football and need to get back in shape. Besides, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the renewed energy I’ve had since my new regime began on Monday.

The first song that came on my ipod when I was running was Summer Night City by ABBA. Every time I hear that track, bolts of electricity start to surge through my body. If you don’t know the song, I urge you to watch its fascinating video here. It shimmers with a sort of 1970s, glitterball vibrancy and I consider it to be almost mystical! It makes me long to walk around the streets of Stockholm during the white nights of summer.

This is my 196th blog. My 200th blog will therefore happen on Monday and I've decided it’s time to hear from some of the people who read it. I would love to know what you guys are up to on that day... even if it’s just a few lines. I will publish anything that is sent to me before 10pm on the day and hopefully you and I will all have an opportunity to peek into a few others lives, however eccentric or banal, for one day only.

Pepys’ 196th diary entry (or wait, 1660 was a leap year, so does that mean he’d written 197?) was written on a Sunday. Pepys started the day with a lie-in, before heading off to Westminster Abbey to listen to a sermon delivered in Henry 7th’s chapel. He obviously enjoyed the experience, for he returned in the afternoon for more of the same, admitting that he spent most of his time ogling a woman there. In a slightly uncharacteristic concentration lapse, Pepys reports this fact for a second time at the end of his diary entry,  proving, if proof were needed, that he tended to scribble brief notes on a daily basis before writing them up in full at a later date.

Sometime in the middle of this seemingly endless day, Pepys dined alone with Montagu, and discovered him to be something of an agnostic, which no doubt was something of an admission in those days. He then walked around the park until it got dark before returning to Elizabeth, who’d been confined to the house all day on account of her having packed all of her best clothes for the move. Pepys also admitted on this date that his patent had cost him L40, probably mostly in bribes and pay-offs. This was an enormous sum of money in those days and Pepys was worried...

I've just eaten a punnet of strawberries that taste like lettuce...

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Monsieur L'Impertinent

I just spent the last two hours preparing a response to a letter from a solicitor in Lincolnshire. Once again, I can’t really give any details, but suffice to say that one of the things I may need to discuss in court is the nature of “soul” and what constitutes “performable” music. If I lose, it will be a slap in the face for hardworking and ambitious composers across the world. What I will say, is that 8 weeks ago 250 musicians and a whole brace of BBC staff wondered if a Symphony for Yorkshire was beyond the realms of possibility. A great deal of hard work and belief has proved the opposite to be the case. Nothing is impossible if you simply close your eyes and open your mind. And surely something can only be deemed "unperformable" if one has tried to perform it! It is my ambition to have worked in every county in the country before I'm dead, but sadly when I hear Lincolnshire mentioned, I shudder.

The edit continues to go slowly, but we’re getting there. Unfortunately it looks as though we’re not going to be able to reshoot the Hull Youth percussion group and I’m devastated that we're going to have to lose them from the piece. Their conductor was contacted yesterday and asked about a possible re-shoot on Saturday but he claimed it was too short notice, so unfortiunately the kids have not been informed. My belief is that it should be the kids themselves who decide whether Saturday is too soon to head to the centre of the town they live in. At least that way they wouldn’t be upset when they watch the symphony and find they're nowhere to be seen. If anyone reading this blog knows any of the young people in question, perhaps you could get them to contact their teacher and lobby him to at least tell them where the filming would take place. Frankly, if only one wanted to do it, I’d still want to film them... I’m horrified at the prospect of their not being involved.

It’s been raining and thundering all day despite the BBC website claiming Leeds would have “sunny spells”. Not only are they not predicting the weather, they’re not noticing it either. Anyhow, it’s incredibly muggy and I feel like I’m in a steam room. Outside, the lightening flashes and the thunder roars and I have a stonking headache coming on. I can’t decide if it’s something to do with the humidity, the electrical particles in the air, or the fact that I’ve been staring at a substandard screen in the edit suite all day. It would be just my luck to be struck by lightening. My little episode on the bumper cars has proven that I must be some kind of mecca for electricity. Perhaps that's why all technology breaks when I'm anywhere near!

350 years ago, Pepys kicked off the day, by telling his wife to start preparing their things to be transferred to their new house at the Navy Office in Seething Lane. And for those of you who are interested in details, this particular lane is in the City of London, just round the corner from the Tower. This would have been something of a move for Pepys. Westminster was a considerable walk away and also the home of the King, Parliament and juicy gossip!

He spent much of the day paying off various tabs at the stalls in Westminster Hall, knowing that he'd soon need to start shopping elsewhere! There was a brief cameo appearance in the diary today from one of my favourite characters, one Mr Butler, always known by Pepys as Mons. L’Impertinent, possibly on account of his political incorrectness and seeming ability to say (and get away with) the most astonishingly rude things. I wonder why he appeals to me quite so much...?

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Reality check

Just when you think you’re in the home straight, another problem comes along and smacks you across the face. This morning it became clear that we’re going to have to re-shoot at least two sequences from the Symphony for Yorkshire. Predictably one of these was the shoot with the youth orchestra that caused all the problems on Hessle foreshore and led to me snivelling on a pebble beach whilst eating a Macdonald’s veggie burger. The footage from this particular occasion is just awful; dark clouds, musicians looking disengaged, confusing camera work... The only decent shot was wrecked by the “making of” crew who suddenly appeared on one side of the picture. No doubt they got better shots than we did!

The other problem I’m having at the moment is that I'm suddenly being forced to face the realities of life. When you’re filming you live in something a little bubble. Not only do you eat rubbish, but you wear the same clothes day after day, you let your flat get messy and all your vegetables go rancid. I've just scraped a liquid mass out of a cupboard which I think must have been a potato at some point. It looked a bit like a undercooked omlette.

There’s not been hot water in my flat now for two weeks and the man has just come round to fix it, which is a relief because I HAVE to wash my towels. I washed them in cold water a few days ago, they took forever to dry and when I tried to use them, I couldn’t believe how horrible they smelt. I might as well have tried to dry myself with a block of parmesan cheese.

I also need rather desperately to do another draft of the Pepys motet so that I can start the search for singers in earnest. I think I’m going to have to dedicate an hour to this each day. There really is no rest for the wicked.

Friday 13th July 1660 was a lucky day for Pepys, bordering on momentous, for it was the day which saw the patent for his new position finally sealed and granted. There were nevertheless still many hurdles to be leapt over before the moment finally arrived. At one point Pepys was even forced to pay a bribe to an angry man, adding archly in his diary; “I did give him two pieces, after which it was strange how civil and tractable he was to me”.

As soon as the patent arrived, the good news started to tumble in. Pepys had his choice of house okay’d by the powers that were at the Navy Office and his various requests for home “improvements” were granted, which included the addition of a door up onto the leads of the house, so that he could go up there to walk, sing and star gaze. Filled with joy, Pepys took the signed patent to Elizabeth, who was unsurprisingly thrilled, and the two of them went to look at their new house, which pleased them both enormously.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Chancery Hand

We started the edit today. Well at least, we dipped our toes into the murky waters of the edit! There was a great deal of setting up to be done at BBC Leeds to try and get the systems to recognise high definition film. There was a lot of head scratching and much disappearing behind desks to unplug plugs and re-wire wires. Eventually a sort of temporary solution was found and at about 3pm we finally began the process of matching pictures to sound.

It’s a more complicated process than you’d imagine. High definition means that everything gets picked up; the merest flick of the eyes is magnified – and a wonderful shot can be spoilt by someone in the background doing something slightly eccentric. A brilliant set-up in the market in Leeds, for example, was completely wrecked by a little girl with the biggest head I’ve ever seen, staring like a simpleton at the camera! And in another shot an enormously fat woman actually tried to hide behind the thin violinist because she didn’t want to be caught on film! On top of this there are so many technical things that can go wrong. We suffered a fair amount from the sun coming in and out, sometimes so regularly you’d have thought God was having a disco and this has a terrible effect on the exposure of the film. When you’re working with jibs and steady-cam, focussing can also be a problem. And then there are the musicians, who are a troublesome lot at the best of times! There’s nothing like a singer marking their part, singing down an octave, or miming, to makes things look a bit unnatural.

Nevertheless, despite all of this, I maintain we’ve shot an extraordinary film, far surpassing anything I’ve made before and I can’t wait to start finessing the glorious shots.

I’ve started a regime of health and fitness. Our shoot might as well have been sponsored by Coca-Cola and Haribo. I’ve eaten nothing but rubbish and I feel all bloated and weird. Unfortunately I keep popping up in shot and I've never seen myself looking so fat and middle-aged. I sort of waddle now when I walk and keep catching sight of the little bald patch on the back of my head. Add to this the fact that the sun has sent my hair a few shades lighter and dried it into a wispy, thin mess and you have one very embarrassed director! Ageing is such an unkind process. I don’t behave like a 35 year old. Why should I look like one? And when did everyone around me suddenly get younger than me?

Anyway, I’ve been for a jog tonight, so I feel a great deal more energetic and I had a lovely salad for tea. Sadly, I’m still craving sugar, which is worrying. Perhaps I’ll pop down to the Co-op below and buy myself some fruit... or allow myself a little packet of sweeties. A couple of sweeties can’t do any harm, surely?

July 12th 1660 and Pepys was frantically running around Westminster and up and down the Strand trying to get his official papers signed, sealed and delivered. It was a hugely complicated process. The document needed to be written on the right sort of paper, in a very specific font called Chancery Hand. In fact, from the mid 15th Century, right up to early Victorian times, all official royal documents were required to be written in that hand. And perhaps unsurprisingly, Chancery Lane was the street in which the clerks trained in this style of handwriting were based. Pepys had heard that his predecessor was in town, still kicking up a fuss, so ran frantically down the lane trying to find a clerk who could help him, but none were about. Eventually at 11pm, he found someone, and the papers were drawn up, but Pepys went to bed, still panicking.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

It's a wrap

We finished filming A Symphony for Yorkshire an hour ago, and I suppose I’m feeling rather strange and empty. It feels like the end of some kind of era and I hate the thought that I won’t be spending any more time with the surrogate family who've been my companions for so many exciting days. The filming process has been an extraordinary period of time with very few lows and countless highs. And the most amazing shot happened today. 60 musicians marched up a steep street in Sheffield, led by a group of police drummers and a troupe of majorettes. The coup de theatre, however, was the open-topped bus which followed behind them, crammed full of even more musicians and people with balloons and Yorkshire flags. Loads of well-wishers turned out to wave from the sides of the road and all had made a real effort to dress colourfully, bringing all manner of stuff with them including dogs, drums, surf boards and handmade Yorkshire flags. The shots looked magical. I felt ridiculously proud to hear my music playing so loud on a bank of speakers along the road and humbled that people had bothered, not just to tip up, but to learn their parts and play with so much gusto.

Later on we headed to the village of Millhouse Green, to film our male voice choir in their local pub. Yet again I found myself overwhelmed by the experience. At one point I started playing through movement four to try and get a level for sound and spontaneously the choir joined in, singing with an energy and commitment which blew me sideways. It is a real thrill for a composer to hear his music sung like that.

The final shot happened in Viaduct, a gay bar in Leeds. I suppose it felt all the more special because the location represents one of my part of this enormous and diverse community of Yorkshire. At one point I started to wonder how many of the 150 musicians who played in the symphony are gay. It’s easy enough to count the ethnic minorities or the women or to make calculations about peoples’ ages, but I suppose ours is one of the more invisible communities. It brings to mind the age old joke, “which is better? Being black or being gay? Being black because at least you don’t have to tell your parents...”

Our final shot was fronted by the wonderful Em Brulee, who snaked her way up a flight of stairs looking mysterious and glamorous in a 1950s sort of way. Em describes herself as a gay man in a woman’s body, so the location seemed perfect.

July 11th 1660 was a busy day for Pepys, during which he cheekily asserted his right to the house he wanted in the Navy Office complex. He’d been spurred on to take somewhat drastic action when he saw “a busy” fellow arrive to take possession of a house on behalf of Lord Berkeley, one of the new commissioners. There were only four more residences, so in a panic, Pepys rushed home, grabbed a pair of sheets, and knocked on the door of the house he fancied, only to find it occupied by one of the old guard who' lost their positions and were supposedly moving out. Pepys explained to the gentleman that he had come to live in his house and promptly spent the night there! I suppose, even back then, possession was 9/10ths of the law, and Pepys was desperate for the house no matter what.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Pickup Truck

We’re currently on our way back to Leeds from Hull. The sun is beating down, and it’s already turning out to be one of those golden days; one I’m sure I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

We started out at Spurn Point underneath the most beautiful blue sky. I suppose it was the shot we’d all been looking forward to; the winning combination of the wonderful Circus Envy and one of the most mystical places on the planet. The boys were brilliantly well prepared, and filming them was a joy. We let the track run and they played along perfectly in sync...

One of our shots involved the band crammed onto the back of a pickup truck. They looked incredibly cool, and as we hurtled along the single track road running to the end of the spit, I realised that I was seeing exactly what I’d imagined when I planned the shot. The sea to our right was gleaming in the bright sunshine, and to our left, the ferries and oil rigs on the Humber were perfectly in focus, glowing magically in the early morning light. You could see for miles.

We filmed the sequence from the top of a van, looking down on the pickup as it sped along behind us. I think it was at this moment, as the wind rustled through my hair, and hundreds of cabbage white butterflies fluttered around us, that I made the conscious decision to take time out simply to consider how lucky I am.

...And the day continued to improve. An hour later, we'd driven back to the Hessle Foreshore, donned wet suits, and were with the Humber Lifeboat Rescue Team, steaming backwards and forwards underneath the Humber Bridge. We filmed a violinist and a skiffle board player and it was an absolute riot. It struck me that you’d be foolish to claim to have lived unless you’d hurtled underneath the Humber Bridge on a motorised dinghy!

July 10th 1660 was a busy day for Pepys. He kicked things off by putting on his “new silk suit, the first I ever wore in my life”. Restoration fashions and fabrics had obviously arrived in force! Pepys was heading to the wedding of the wonderfully named Mynheer Roder. It was a dazzling society event “with very great state, cost and noble company”. Pepys, never one to miss an opportunity to ogle the ladies, came to the conclusion that he was lucky to have found Elizabeth; “ among all the beauties there , my wife was thought the greatest”. Mynheer Roder, was by all accounts a bit of a pratt. He became an evangelist preacher and was eventually imprisoned by the usually tolerant Dutch, for systematic attempts to undermine the authorities in the name of Jesus. In 1672, he caused mayhem by mistaking the French invasion of Holland for the end of the world. Unfortunately there’s not much going back from that...