Friday, 20 January 2012

Fresh hope in the fresh air

How about this for a piece of casual racism:
MAN IN HOTEL RECEPTION: (to Receptionist) Hello there. I’m afraid I need to change rooms, mine smells very strongly of curry.
RECEPTIONIST: Oh dear. The last guest must have been Asian.

MAN IN HOTEL RECEPTION: Yes. That’s what we thought.

I’m on the last train from Manchester to London. I think we’re due to arrive in Euston at midnight, which is a bit of an unpleasant thought. We’re stopping so often, it almost feels as though I’m sitting on a bus. I’m exhausted but upbeat.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve been dreading today for ages. Stupidly, I overheard my horoscope on the radio and learnt that, whilst the first part of my week would be plain sailing, the second half would find me struggling to make myself understood. I don’t know if it’s more worrying that I allowed myself to get in a tizz about a horoscope or that the single magpies I kept bumping into were also freaking me out. When I woke up this morning, the only thing I could see was one of the little critters bouncing up and down like a child on a trampoline on the wall of the multi-storey car park opposite.

My major worry was, of course, unveiling the songs I’d written to new our Hattersley family. It’s one of the worst things about being a composer; the moment when you have to show your babies to the world. There’s the terrible nagging fear that people won’t like them, won’t get them, won’t be able to sing them or worse than anything else, won’t say anything at all. The songs that I’ve written for this project are hugely personal; almost intrusive, and the biggest risk of all was that those taking part would simply think they were all a bit too much.

Fortunately none of these worries had any foundations. The responses to the songs were incredible. There were happy tears, nostalgic tears, peals of excited laughter and lots of reminiscing. One of the ladies from the community centre said that I’d summed up 37 years of her life in one song, which is one of the kindest things anyone’s ever said to me. I was almost pathetically thrilled. These are, after all, the people who let us into their lives and trusted Paul and me with their most precious memories. It’s a huge relief to know that we’ve not let them down. I have nothing but absolute respect for them all and think they’re so brave to join us on this extraordinary project.

Of course it did nothing but rain miserably all day. It usually rains in Manchester, and I’ve only known the sun to shine once in all my visits to Hattersley! I was hoping for snow. I’d actually like some snow when we film. Hattersley is famous for its snow - great tall twisting drifts of the stuff - and I’ve never filmed in snow. That said, I don’t want to kill our cameraman, smash any of the BBC’s expensive equipment, or break the of the legs of our participants on huge patches of black ice, so maybe I should pray for sun, or the perfect filming conditions: white cloud.

350 years ago, Pepys had four gallons of Malaga wine and a hogshead of Cadiz sherry delivered. Quite how long he expected it to last, I’ve no idea, but I’m sure he cracked open a bottle or two that evening when his Aunt and Uncle Wright appeared at his house to play cards – his new favourite game. Gleek.

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