Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Every old sock meets an old shoe

Just after lunchtime today, I drove to Enfield to deliver my pitch. They've been filming the drama in a big old Victorian school up there, and when I arrived a group of children on scooters were bombing their way through the school hall, screaming wildly, followed by the actress Sue Johnson. Unfortunately, circumstance dicated that I was forced to play what I'd written on a laptop, which felt like about the worst way to showcase my work. I could barely hear the music over the whirring of my computer and I’m not sure the response to it could have been more lukewarm! I guess you win some and you lose some. Incidental music is a strange beast. It’s either right or it’s not. You get it or you don’t, and I suspect on this occasion, it was someone else’s turn to hit the nail on the head. Still, I’ve seldom laughed as much as I did in the studio yesterday, and it's important to embrace any opportunity to have one's work recorded.

So, it's out of the bubble and back to the grindstone. I think tomorrow I may well go to Greenwich to have a look at the maritime graveyard there. I've officially used up all my cemetery quotes, but still have two movements left to write. Seeing as the work is continually pushing me towards thoughts of wide expanses of water, I can think of no better graveyard to visit than this one. I have to say, I'm tired of writing the requiem now. I need to get to a stage, rather rapidly, where I can stick the first draft in a bottom drawer, and return to it with a fresh, objective pair of ears. I've written close to an hour's worth of music, and my brain is fried.

We went to Stingray in Kentish Town for tea today and had their Prix Fixe as a sort of “tomorrow the regime changes and I get fit again” gesture. When you’re a freelancer you crave routine; even just the routine of going up the hill to the village to write at 9am every morning becomes a form of pilgrimage. Too much time spent bouncing from one weird, unstructured day to another can end up being incredibly unsettling. It makes me feel like a drifter, which is the most dreadful thought of them all...

When I first moved to London, I lived in Hackney with my friend Jo and her sister. At one point, a bloke in his 30s moved in with us. He was an (unsuccessful) actor, had crazy shoulder length curly hair and used to pay his rent in cash, which he took from a sort of roll of money that he kept in his pocket. I remember being utterly horrified that someone of his age could have such a rootless existence, and that, at the age of (I guess he was no older than about) 34, he would not have a mortgage, or any desire to live like a grown up.

I’m now 37, and I don’t have a mortgage, or a pension... I wonder how horrified I’d have been of me!

Friday 16th August, 1661 and an ill-wind was blowing. Pepys went to the Navy office and found the place almost empty. Most of his clerks had gone to the funeral of Tom Whitton, who Pepys described as vibrant young man, and as likely to live as any of the clerks in his office. Whitton had died of the plague - and this was officially the first reference in Pepys' diary to the calamitous disease. “It is such a sickly time both in City and country" he wrote "every where (of a sort of fever), that never was heard of almost, unless it was in a plague-time.” A number of other celebrities of the day had also died, or were seriously ill with “fever-like symptoms.” It would take a while to reach pandemic levels but little did our hero know that within 4 years, something like a quarter of Londoners would be dead.

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