Wednesday, 12 January 2011


I’m en route to Newcastle; hurtling up the country at an unfeasible rate of knots. We don’t seem to have stopped anywhere, and are about to arrive in York. The last time I passed through this station, the whole place was under two feet of snow, and I was at the beginning of an adventure in an unknown city where everyone wanted to call me “pet”. The purpose of today’s trip is to hand over the music I’ve written to the people who are going to be performing it. I shall be over-seeing their first rehearsals and for some reason I’m fairly nervous. Maybe it’s because we’re going to hit the ground running. As soon as I’m off this train, I’ll be whisked to Alnwick to work with a brass band. It may be that my ill-mannered subconscious is trying to tell me that the music I’ve written for the band could be too challenging for them. My music software is warmed-up and ready to make serious simplifications should this prove to be the case.

I had a meeting this morning at the BBC to discuss a wonderful project. It’s so exciting, and we all came out admitting we’d passed the point of pretending to be cool, and were open about how gutted we’d be if everything suddenly fell apart. I don’t want to go into too many details for fear of randomly jinxing everything, but it’s one of those projects that would be a real turning point in my life if it were to come off. Sadly, I’ve now done everything I can to pitch the idea, and from now on we’re in the lap of the BBC Gods, who have to weigh things up and see if enough money can be found to make things happen. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Having said we’re speeding through the countryside on this north-bound train, we’ve just ground to a relative standstill, and been informed that there’s a “points problem in the Northallerton area.” The woman who did the announcement has a lovely clear voice, but seems to want to use it rather too often. She’s called Tracey. The Lovely Tracey. We’ve had all sorts of announcements, including a couple which were referring to something going on in the vestibules at the end of the carriages. Sadly, I don’t think The Lovely Tracey has any idea what a vestibule is. She’s already read the word out as “vestibullez” and “vestibulls”. Maybe next time, she’ll get it right!

Tiny soap box moment. It used to be that internet access was free on East Coast train lines. It didn’t always work, but it was one of those nice gestures that sugar-coated the extortionate prices and crowded carriages. It’s no surprise, however, to discover that wi-fi is now only free for 10 minutes. After ten minutes you have to pay. Yet another step back into the dark ages! Yet another reason to quadruple your carbon footprint and drive everywhere; even if the cost of petrol is at a ridiculous all-time high.

Can someone please lobby the government? I'm afraid I can’t do it anymore, because I’ve stopped communicating with my (Lib Dem) MP. Sadly, she decided to side with the Tories on the issue of student fees. Lynne Featherstone certainly was for turning and I was appalled.

I heard today that my junior school head teacher, Bob Whitworth, had suddenly died at Kettering General Hospital and the news has made me feel rather sad. He was quite a character; a Rushden nationalist who wondered why anyone would want to move away from the hallowed turf of Northamptonshire, but also a great lover of music. My junior school buzzed with music and a great deal of that must have been due to his influence. Good night, Mr Whitworth, and thank you for the music. Albert and the Lion will never be the same without you!

Saturday 12th January 1660, and Pepys took a trip to Rotherhithe and then Deptford to deal with a variety of Navy issues. He was thrilled to discover quite how well-respected he’d suddenly become, writing, “never till now did I see the great authority of my place, all the captains of the fleet coming cap in hand to us”

He stayed the night with Mr Davis, the store-keeper, whose wife was so ill that she couldn’t get out of bed to meet her guest for the night. Despite her illness, Pepys was made to feel incredibly welcome; “Prince-like” in fact, so much so, that he was “at a loss how to behave.”

I leave you with Pepys’ description of one Major Waters, with whom our hero was forced to spend much of his day: “a deaf and most amorous melancholy gentleman, who is under a despayr in love, as the Colonel told me, which makes him bad company, though a most good- natured man.” Poor Major Waters.


  1. Yes Ben, Bob Whitworth was very keen for music to play a dominant part at Denfield Park. He was always supportive of all the things I wanted to do and without his support I would never have been able to take pupils like you to participate in Oundle Music Festival or put on musicals like Oliver. Where would we be if he hadn't contributed to our lives, mine as a teacher and yours as a pupil.

  2. Rooting for you with the possible new project...