Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Lord Privy Seal

I’ve only managed about half a day’s work each day this week. Something Christmas-related always draws me away from my favourite seat in the cafe. Today it was the need to do some last-minute shopping. We’re off to Nathan’s family this year, which means a whole host of extra little presents; some for people I’ve not yet had a chance to meet. It was only last night that I consolidated everything I'd bought so far, and realised, to my horror, that I’d brought some people two presents, and others nothing at all. It’s a freekin’ mine-field, this yuletide business!
Still, Christmas cheer had definitely descended on Muswell Hill this afternoon. Strangers were chatting to each other in the queues, swapping ideas for gifts, and trade secrets regarding where to find said gifts. One woman was determined to help me find a photo frame, even though I wasn’t looking for one, and if I had been, certainly wouldn’t have entertained the thought of a Winter Wonderland-inspired three-dimensional horror. "Lovely for the kids," she said. Surely a photo frame is the last thing a child would want for Christmas? Surely buying anyone a Christmas-inspired anything for Christmas is a very silly idea? By the time Christmas rolls around next year, it will be buried in the bottom of a drawer, entirely forgotten.
I've been doing some work on my Golden Jubilee commission for the Fleet Singers; a choir who rehearse in Gospel Oak. We’ve asked them all to submit two memories from two different decades – in about 200 words. The memories can be anything; from something deeply personal; a thought, a conversation, a moment in time – to something which documents a major event; 7/7, the eclipse, the ‘89 storms, the Silver Jubilee. There are some wonderful submissions – which will, I’m sure, inspire me greatly.

Pepys went to the Privy Seal office, 350 years ago, to be told that no more signatures would be granted this month. Sir John Robartes, Lord Privvy Seal, was spending Christmas 30 miles out of town. Pepys was secretly pleased, though worried that the King might decide to send him after him to get an important document signed.
The Lord Privy Seal is often used in documentary making terms as a warning not to do too much visual word-painting. If, for example, a person being interviewed mentions that they enjoy gardening, an inexperienced director or editor might show a cutaway of a garden – despite the fact that we all know what a garden looks like. It’s called Lord Privy Sealing after the apocryphal tale of a young researcher who was told to go away and find pictures of Lord Privy Seal. He returned with photographs of Lord Lloyd Weber, a toilet seat and an elephant seal!

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