Sunday, 30 January 2011


I’m heading back to Newcastle on another ridiculously crowded train. The world and his girlfriend seem to be heading back North after a weekend in the Big Smoke. I’m surrounded by young people and feel rather decrepit.

My suitcase is perilously balanced on the top of a huge pile of luggage in one of the vestibules. I’m too scared to check on its wellbeing, in case it’s caused a health and safety incident. I am staring at an Upper Crust sandwich, which I’ve brought for my lunch. I’m going to wait at least another half an hour before eating it, because, at the moment, it’s all the excitement I’m going to get on this journey.

I’m listening to some music that someone sent me through the post. It seems to be one of the things that people do when they see me on television. I’m really not sure what any of them expect me to say. I guess it’s financial backing they’re after, and not words of encouragement or criticism from a fellow composer. Sadly, the work I’m listening to at the moment defies comment. Its lyrics are amongst the worst I’ve encountered, and it sounds like lift music. I regularly find myself hearing the work of musical theatre writers and being astounded by the sheer amount of delusion that seems to be present in what they've done. It upsets me, partially I suppose, because I imagine people hearing my music and thinking exactly the same thing!

The guard on this train speaks with a light Brummie accent. Every time he makes an announcement on the tannoy system, he mentions that there are still plenty of seats in first class. Apparently I can upgrade for just £25, but, aside from £25 being rather a lot of money, I’ve been put off by his describing it as “sumptuous first class accommodation.” Sumptuous is such a ridiculous word to use in this context. I wonder if anyone pays their £25 and then asks for a refund based on the accommodation not being sumptuous enough. What does sumptuous even mean? informs me that it means “revealing great expense; luxurious.” Hmm. This is an East Coast train, and first class or not, people still put their feet on the seats and grind chewing gum into the carpets.

My legs are aching in a rather pleasant way; a way that suggests they’ve been working hard... which they have. I woke up early today so that I could take myself for a jog. I’ve been jogging every day now, for the past week and a half. I weighed myself last Friday and then again yesterday, and discovered that I’ve lost a pleasing 3kg, which is half a stone in old currency. It’s astonishing how quickly a body returns to its natural weight, which in my case is still about half a stone lighter than I am now, but I’m well on the way.

I just have to make sure that these nine days in Newcastle don’t destroy all the good work. It’s almost impossible to eat healthily at a Travelodge, and there doesn’t seem to be anywhere in the Newcastle quayside area that sells anything as simple – or low fat - as a salad, or a bowl of soup... It’s all chips, burgers and steak bakes...

On that note, I’m part horrified and part excited to report that our night shoot on the Metro project is being sponsored by Greggs. Greggs cheese and onion pasties are my big weakness. They taste so good, but they’re sent by the devil to make me look like Captain Caveman! In the middle of a night shoot, however, I’d happily have them shovelled into my body intravenously or by some kind of process of osmosis. My new food regime makes me dream of Greggs... and pizzas... and Cadbury’s Cream Eggs. I have to keep reminding myself that there’s also a lot to be said for the re-emergence of cheek and hip bones! Time to eat that lovely sandwich from Upper Crust...

January 30th 1660, was a fast day, observed as a penance for the death of Charles I, lately referred to as his murder. Pepys went to church, and Mr Mills made a sermon about God punishing men for the sins of their ancestors. Nothing like wallowing in the past. I've always thought it would be a great idea for a clergyman to horsewhip me for the terrible treatment of homosexuals in the early 20th Century. Obviously this would make a great deal more sense than him horsewhipping himself for systematically abusing choir boys.

I’m pleased to report that Pepys himself was far too sensible to fast. He went home from church and immediately tucked in to a lovely dinner.

He then took himself for a walk with Sir William Penn. They went to Moorfields, which was the place that the fashionable went, merely to be seen to be walking, just as Hyde Park in those days was the place where the even more fashionable went to incessantly ride about in expensive coaches. It was still unseasonably glorious weather and Pepys and Penn were pleased to observe two of their clerks, young Davis and young Whitton “going by us in the field, who we observed to take much pleasure together, and I did most often see them at play together.” Maybe they were gay? Just a thought...

Later on, Pepys called in on the other Sir William (Batten), and found Elizabeth there with Batton’s wife - the other Elizabeth. The two of them had been away, watching Cromwell and co. being hanged and buried at Tyburn. Rugge’s Diurnal gives us even more information about the event: “This morning the carcases of Cromwell, Ireton and Bradshaw (which the day before had been brought from the Red Lion Inn, Holborn,) were drawn upon a sledge to Tyburn, and then taken out of their coffins, and in their shrouds hanged by the neck, until the going down of the sun. They were then cut down, their heads taken off, and their bodies buried in a grave made under the gallows. The coffin in which was the body of Cromwell was a very rich thing, very full of gilded hinges and nails.”

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