Friday, 2 September 2011

Summer Night City

It's been incredibly hot in London today. I'm on a tube train heading to the National Theatre. It's boiling hot and it smells like cheese and vinegar, which is deeply unpleasant. I'm trying to work out if the bitter smell comes from the tube itself, or from the man sitting next to me, who seems undesirable. Every time I get on a tube in hot weather, I ask myself why Londoners routinely put up with this nonsense. 

Julie and I are going to the National to see The Kitchen, which is a play by my mentor, Arnold Wesker. I don't often refer to him as a mentor, but as the years flicker past, I realise that this is the role he's always played in my life. He's a wonderfully uncompromising bloke, who showed me that a man could tread an honest path in this industry without the need to stab anyone in the back. And he regularly tells me I'm his favourite living composer, which should never be under-estimated! I'm pleased to say he's having something of a revival at the moment. They're also performing Chicken Soup with Barley at the Royal Court. Sir Arnold himself is 80 next year. He was in his 60s when we first worked together, getting on for half my life ago! 

I've exited the tube and am now crossing Hungerford Bridge. The Eastern sky is a picture; a smudgy blend of pastel pinks and blues. Just as I was admiring the view, I was aware that someone had switched on the halogen lights along the length of the bridge. For a moment or two, I wondered why this would have happened in broad daylight, until I realised it wasn't actually the street lights, it was simply that the setting sun had dropped beneath the cloud, and was glowing like a huge orange bonfire. Glorious...

11.20pm, and I'm walking back across Hungerford bridge, having seen the play, which was lovely. There are at least 30 in the cast, playing waitresses, chefs and cleaners, all of whom move around the kitchen set like dancers in a ballet. It's wonderfully atmospheric. It's a true coup de theatre, and must have had the most astonishing impact when it was first performed in the 1950s. I also found myself inexplicably moved by some of the speeches, perhaps because I know so well the man who wrote them. Maybe it's because he wrote them when he was younger than I am now. They came from the pen of a man who wanted to change the world.

After the play, Julie and I went to the fairground which has sprung up beside the London Eye, and dared ourselves to go on the weird spinning ride, which saw us sitting on rickerty metal chairs 40 feet above the Thames. It was a deeply surreal, and dizzying experience, which made me feel very light-headed. The lights of London became circular luminous streaks in every colour of the rainbow! I posted my blog mid-ride, but it didn't go!

350 years ago, Pepys wrote one of his longest ever diary entries. There were many words, but none of any great interest. He went drinking. There was intrigue. It seemed that there were people in high places who wanted to take Sandwich down a peg or two.

Elizabeth decided to make a pie, went shopping for ingredients and bumped into the son of the Duke of Somerset, who presented her with a necklace. Pepys was obviously slightly concerned, but decided to play things cool. At least for the time being...

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