Monday, 23 May 2011

Solo 'cello

I'm sitting outside a cafe opposite Liberty on Carnaby Street. The sun is shining, I'm eating a chocolate cookie, and I’m listening to a ‘cellist busking Bach unaccompanied suites. He’s really very good. I suspect he’s playing on his second instrument, however, as it sounds a bit boxy and he's sitting in direct sunlight, but the experience is very relaxing and more than a little moving. Much of the repertoire he’s playing is stuff that I used to play in my youth, and memories are flooding back of times spent with Fiona and Ted busking in various Midlands towns. Those were some of the happiest days of my life. Endless summer days. Coventry was always the best. We went there as often as we could. We had a pitch outside a cafe in the precinct where it was dry and the acoustics were brilliant. We played Pachelbel's Canon endlessly, but no one seemed to mind. The cafe staff used to bring us free soup for our lunches, because they reckoned our playing encouraged their customers. Come to think of it, I think my Grannie also knew the owners, so there might have been an element of nepotism going on. If they saw us hovering around because another busker had got there early and pinched our pitch, they’d send the imposter away and welcome us back with open arms.


I've had two meetings today; both about this potential film about homophobia for BBC London. The first meeting was at the BBC. We discussed the format that the film might take, and had a good natter about university days. We're college contemporaries; he was Cambridge, I was York, but we both did a lot of theatre stuff, so had a number of people in common.

I milled around Soho for an hour or so, and then went to Charing Cross police station, where we were also discussing the film. I have to say, I've been incredibly impressed by the Met and the way that they’ve gone about trying to find the person who attacked Philip. I suspect we’ll never find the bastard who did it, but if we don't, it certainly won’t be because the police haven’t done their absolute best.

There was a time when I flirted with the idea of going into the police. I still do, from time to time, when the film work dries up. I love doing what I do, specifically because I get a tangible sense throughout that I'm improving people’s lives by opening their minds to new possibilities. I'm sure being a policeman must be greatly frustrating, particularly when you just can't crack the nut, but the idea of periodically solving a crime, and making a real difference to the world, has a great deal of appeal.

I have sent emails to various friends, asking for their thoughts on my long list of gravestone quotes. I've asked everyone to mark each one out of ten, and when all the scores are in, I'll hopefully get a sense of which ones are most moving or stirring. If anyone reading this blog would like to do some scoring, please get in touch, and I'll send you the list (ben@benjamintill.com).
Thursday 23rd May, 1661, and Pepys went to the Rhenish winehouse with Henry Moore and his friend, John Bowles. There, they met Jonas Moore, the mathematician, who “did by discourse” make Pepys and his friends “fully believe that England and France were once the same continent.” That this was not an already established fact, feels strange to me. In fact I found the sentence so intriguing when I first read it that I set it to music in the second movement of the Pepys Motet.

Pepys went home and changed into his black silk suit - the first time he’d worn it that year. He went to the Lord Mayor’s by coach, where he rubbed shoulders with a “great deal of honourable company” and witnessed some “great entertainment.” Pepys sat with Elias Ashmole. It was a day of science, for Ashmole seemed to want to assure Pepys that “frogs and many insects do often fall from the sky, ready formed.” One assumes he was talking about a whirlwinds and the like, rather than trying to convince Pepys that insects weren’t born. Or maybe he believed that they were falling from heaven. Pepys had a lovely time and went to bed so late that it was already light outside. His final sentence reminds us that it was Holy Thursday, and that various age-old (and often now long forgotten) rituals were being observed up and down London; “it pleased me to see the little boys walk up and down in procession with their broom-staffs in their hands, as I had myself long ago gone.”

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