Saturday, 13 August 2011

Tu as des ailes

I walked to the Caledonian Road with Fiona today. We wandered through Waterlow Park, up Brecknock Road and down York Way, catching up on 6 months’ gossip in the process. She introduced me to a really cool network of warehouses filled with music shops and rehearsal spaces, which I was surprised to know existed. She was buying various cables and pedals for a live gig this evening where she’s playing electric violin with a DJ... She’s so cool.

We walked home via the Holloway Road, and stopped at Amazon Cafe for food. Amazon has been around for as long as I can remember and is famous across North London for the quality of its chips, which are hand cut, and more delicious than anything I could ever describe. The first time I visited the place was over ten years ago, when I was rehearsing a ballet at the former National Youth Music theatre buildings. Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t actually in the ballet. For some reason, probably because times were good for the creative industries, it was decided that a director should come into rehearsals in to help the dancers access their inner actors. I made all the right noises – and was thrilled to be given my own dressing room at the Royal Festival Hall for the run of the show - but I was ultimately a huge waste of their money. Once a ballet dancer, always a ballet dancer... and these kids couldn’t even walk without turning their feet out!

Ballet dancers are a funny old breed. They retire probably earlier than members of any other profession, with absolutely wrecked bodies, and then have to retrain as physiotherapists and stage managers. One of the male dancers actually became a porn star. Rehearsals are conducted in absolute silence, and having come from opera, where the choruses behave like six year olds with ADHD, I found the lack of noise almost sinister. The choreographer was the only one who spoke – and that was only to calmly say; “I want a grand bouffant, followed by a passe l’aspirateur, a poisson rouge and then a fait la plait” whereupon, in absolute unison, a group of dancers would sort of float across the room like glorious winged beasts with a routine that would have taken a West End chorus the best part of a day to rehearse. My job was to then go in and say, “now, to make these utterly pointless steps seem more like acting, how about you try to think of something really sad... Imagine someone’s told you you’ll never go on point again... Or that Rymans have run out of tissue paper...” (genuine gasps of horror)

Anyway, to get back to the narrative, whilst rehearsing said ballet, one of the dancers came bounding in one afternoon to inform us that she’d been to this amazing cafe called Amazon where the chips were to die for. She’d had a huge plate of them, she told us, alongside a delicious omelette. I couldn’t quite believe a ballerina had been eating anything other than tissue paper, and kept an eye on her all afternoon to see if she was rushing to the loo for a sneaky vomitting session, but she genuinely seemed to be one of those people who could eat, and more bizarrely, dance on anything.

August 13th, 1661, and young Edward Montagu was still rather gravely ill. Suspecting small pox, his mother, Lady Jemima, immediately dispatched her other three boy children to Pepys’ house. One assumes the girls were left to fend for themselves. After dinner, Pepys went to see his father, who had returned from the country. The two men discussed Pepys’ sister, Pall, who, it had been decided, was no longer welcome to stay with Pepys as his servant. Poor girl... not even useful enough to be her own brother’s servant. Pepys’ father was rowing bitterly with his mother, who had, apparently, turned into a “very simple” woman. This diary entry is utterly misogynistic!

There was a big family meeting in the early evening, with various uncles and such, coming together to read Uncle Robert’s will and thrash out some form of compromise in terms of divvying up the money.

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