Thursday, 7 April 2011


We’ve just been to a little basement bar on Charlotte Street, where we were celebrating James Fortune’s birthday. His partner, Victoria, arranged the gathering the day before and had thought no one would show up at such short notice, but there were scores of people there. He's a popular bloke.

It was like old times; countless people I hadn’t seen for way too long. Nic and Vic were there, regaling us with tales of recent motherhood. Michael Brett, Stevie Trowell, Adam and Glyn. The only person missing was Fiona, no doubt ensconsed in a condo, all those miles away in Texas, waiting for some official papers to be stamped that allow her to leave the country as a married woman. I'm told she's enjoying the exile and baking plenty of muffins. It was a shame that the bar got too noisy for an old man like me. Some mop top appeared in a corner, and started spinning discs, in a totally unnecessary attempt to create a "vibe." The vibe was fine as it was.

We were forced to make a retreat at about 8pm and headed for Soho where we sat in the window of an Italian, watching all the bizarre people shuffling along Old Compton Street. We’re having a proper heat-wave at the moment, and London is a spectacular place to be when the sun’s shining. Everyone seems so alive. Yesterday, the South Bank felt like the French Riviera. What was it Adele sings? “I like it in the city when the air is so thick and opaque. I love to see everybody in short skirts, shorts and shades.”

What I like considerably less is the fact that I’m going to need to have an operation. I went to see the ENT specialists on Gray’s Inn Road today. It was a somewhat bizarre experience. There were probably 6 people in the room, all with different specialities; all very friendly, yet curiously intimidating. I felt like a caged animal. They made me stick out my tongue, grabbed hold of it between two massive swabs of gauze, stuck a camera down my throat on a long stick and forced me to sing. Sing, monkey sing! I gargled. It was highly uncomfortable, slightly undignified, and reminded me of the sensation you get when you stick a toothbrush down your throat to induce vomiting! There was gagging and dribbling...

Anyway, the end result was my being informed that I have a polyp or cyst on my vocal chords, which explains the silkiness I’ve had in my voice for all these months. I can’t say I’m thrilled at the prospect. The doctor said he was “pretty convinced” it wasn’t cancerous, but that he definitely recommended my having it cut out. He said that he didn’t feel it was affecting my speaking voice too badly, but that it could easily grow, and eventually make me sound like Phil Mitchell. Obviously, he didn’t put it in those terms, but I heard him loud and clear! Possible side effects of the operation – apart from the general anaesthetic, which terrifies me – I might end up with a chipped tooth, in the unlikely event that it scars I could find myself in a bit of a Julie Andrews scenario, but worst of all, I won’t be able to speak – not one word – for an entire week after the operation. A WEEK? I mean, I don’t think of myself as a recidivist chopser, but since the arrival of computers, my handwriting has descended into something that resembles hieroglyphics! It’s actually more not being able to sing for a week that worries me. Not an hour goes past when I don’t sing something. What is a day without an ABBA medly? Nathan tells me I was even singing on the treadmill today (apparently whilst dancing and clapping my hands in time to the music, which is almost too mortifying to comprehend!) I think I'll have to go on a writers’ retreat! It’ll be the perfect moment to write a Requiem. I could go to a little seaside town and sit in silence on a deck chair watching the young people passing by. Don’t most composers write their best works whilst recovering from illnesses? Or maybe that’s mostly illnesses of a mental variety... Hmm... Still, needs must...

I have a nasty suspicion that this early sunshine has brought forth the hay fever season. Can't wait.

April 7th, 1661 was a Sunday, and Pepys skipped church in order to do his accounts. In the afternoon he called in on Sandwich, where the discussion turned to Ireland and the state of religion over there. Some things never change! There were chats about money; how to make money, how to retrieve debts. Pepys went home, calling in briefly on his parents to see his wife, who was still living there...

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