Sunday, 26 June 2011

Blood and poppies

Last night's concert was wonderful. It happened in a village outside Sheffield called High Bradfield, which featured prominently in A Symphony for Yorkshire. The organisers made a proper fuss of us when we arrived and asked me to talk to the audience about the piece before the choir performed it. It was a little terrifying to stand on a platform and improvise a speech in front of 300 people, but my mother said she was proud! I said how much I'd enjoyed the concert, how beautiful the village is, and how I think it has one of the finest views in England, before talking a little about Doreen, who wrote the lyrics for the last movement of the symphony and is about to celebrate her 100th birthday.

The Dore Male Voice choir did me proud, and took the work at exactly the right tempo; I'd written them a unique version of the song which was designed to be much slower than the original, and it worked really well, I think.

As we emerged from the church for the interval, the sun had dropped really low in the sky, and was glinting through the trees in the churchyard, making them appear to glow magically against the brooding storm clouds which were rolling into night time. I never cease to be moved by the remarkable moment when the day closes its eyes. I could stand on a thousand hill tops and beaches and never get bored of that moment.

After the concert, the sky looked even more remarkable. It was the sort of fantastical backdrop a child might paint behind an image of the nativity; midnight blue melting into a lighter blue, bleeding to a yellowy-white at the spot where the sun had dropped behind the horizon. The first stars were twinkling in the heavens, mirroring the shimmering lights of Sheffield in the distance. In front of that backdrop were the black rolling hills; the Dales colliding with the Peak District. Utterly glorious. I adore Yorkshire. It inspires me like nowhere else.

I got very little sleep. The muse descended and I wrote in my hotel room until 3am.

Driving back down the A1, somewhere just outside Grantham, we saw a field on the horizon which was bright red with poppies. I imagined a group of lunatic women, yelling lines from Macbeth, whilst wiping their blood-spattered fingers across the corn. I'm not sure why such a thought should have occurred to me on the outskirts of Grantham. Perhaps it was because we'd decided to stop off at Fortheringhay on our way home, which was, of course, the village where Mary, Queen of Scots met her gruesome end. It might also be because I've developed a rather strange hatred of Grantham of late. Margaret Thatcher and all that...

The reincarnation of Mary, Queen of Scots in Fortheringhay

I returned to a baking hot London, which is currently basking in the mother of all heat waves. Stepping off the Cambridge train was like entering an airing cupboard. I could barely breath!

The Tyndarids celebrated their first birthday  at a party this afternoon in Hackney. They met two of their brothers, their sister and their aunt. Tom had done lots of party food, and given the rats an entire table filled with lots of lovely treats, including a bowl of tiny sandwiches and a hedgehog covered in little pieces of cheese. We had to be very careful putting the boy rats with the girl rats, for fear of an incest incident, and our boys disgraced themselves, by immediately fighting with their brother, Charlie Sheen. I very much fell in love with another brother, Emilio Estefez Rabbit, who sat on my lap whilst we both had a lovely snooze.

"Monkey", the mother of all rats explores a table of goodies


350 years ago, Pepys had lunch with Lady Jemima, before being summoned by his father who had important news. Pepys' Uncle Robert was gravely ill, with a "dizziness in the head," and Pepys Senior had been called to Huntingdon to deal with things. One assumes the news was more exciting than upsetting, for Samuel. He was, after all, the main beneficiary of his uncle's estate!

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