Monday, 9 January 2012

The West Lothian question

I’ve just got back from visiting the Fleet Singers in Belsize Park. They've commissioned me to write some music to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. All the singers have been asked to write down a memory in no more than 200 words. The memories can be about anything. The only stipulation is that they are dated (roughly) and come from within the present Queen’s reign. Some astonishing passages have already been sent. A number of them deal with major events like 7/7, Diana’s death and the Great Storm of 1989, whilst others are deeply personal and terribly moving. It is fascinating to see the different lives that 30 people have had. The only thing that many of them have in common is that they all turn up to a Methodist church in Gospel Oak once a month to sing together. Music is such an extraordinary thing. It unites.

Aside from a quick visit to the gym, today has been about the Hattersley project. I am now fine-tuning the orchestrations; cutting and cutting and cutting, because the songs are terribly fragile and would be utterly engulfed by my normal style of sweeping string music. Trying to write rather hollow, empty material is a great challenge, and I am very much enjoying the process. It strikes me how important it is for a composer to set himself new challenges with every piece he or she writes.

The newspapers are filled today with one question; “should Scotland become independent?” The Scots are looking forward to a referendum. I have rather strong views on the subject. Having experienced rather breathtaking racism from representatives of BBC Scotland, I feel a severance would probably serve to make us much better allies; it would also mean a disproportionate amount of the BBC licence fee would no longer be spent on lovely Scottish programming! I am, however, not altogether sure the decision should be purely one that the Scots get to make. How about the English get a referendum to decide whether or not to kick the Scots out of the union? Why can't we sack them? If you had an employee working for you who was undermining the company ethos, you'd tell them to get in line, or fire them. If you're in a relationship with someone you suspect no longer loves you, you often dump them before they can dump you! Why is it that all English people are expected to toe the line and call themselves British, when the Scots are expected to do no such thing? I love Scotland. I love Scottish people and I am deeply proud to consider Scotland to be part of my nation – but I’m frankly rather bored of hearing that this feeling is not reciprocated - and if it is, I'd like a Scot to make a bit of noise on the subject!

January 9th, 1662 was an office day for Pepys. There was much to be done. Christmas was over and the Duke of York wanted answers to various questions, and Pepys was still trying to get to the bottom of the rumours flying around regarding his clerk, Will Hewer.

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