Sunday, 5 February 2012

Werneth Low

I returned to my hotel room about 10 minutes ago to find it being cleaned. 5pm on a Sunday night feels like a funny time to be cleaning a room, and when you’ve been working all day, it’s more than a little irritating to get back, desperate for a bath, and have to sit like a lemon in the foyer. I also find the whole thing quite embarrassing. It's bad enough to think the cleaners might judge me based on the clothes I’ve left on my bed and strewn across the top of my suitcase, but it's even worse to think that they now have a mental image of me. I’d much rather those things happened entirely anonymously!

We’ve been on the Hattersley Estate all day working with Jean, Jean and Bill who all have solos which they're going to be recording in the studio tomorrow. They all did really well, although we struggled a little with Bill. The poor bloke is 80 years-old and both blind and almost deaf. I’m not quite sure why I thought he’d find learning a brand new song so easy, but I’m having to hastily organise a few plan Bs if various sections of the piece prove too much for him. We’ll get there.

The snow had largely melted in Manchester this morning, so we decided to brave going up onto Werneth Low, a hill which is said to have extraordinary views of the Hattersley Estate. Hysterically, when we started to climb the hillside, we found ourselves disappearing into a cloud, and from the top all we could see was mist, plus the odd child with a toboggan! It reminded me of a similar experience whilst working on A Symphony for Yorkshire when Alison and I left Leeds on a beautiful sunny day to explore a location on the Yorkshire Moors, and found ourselves in such thick fog that all we could see of its world famous view was the bench which looked out over it!  Producer Paul has been driving the BBC van like a trooper all weekend. He's a hardy Derbyshire lad, who's been on snow-driving courses, so I've felt very safe.
beautiful views over the estate...

Yet again, I have tea pouring out of my ears. Whenever you enter a house in Hattersley, it’s the first thing you’re offered, followed by whatever food they have to spare in the house. My love affair with the place continues. Today we went to visit a gentleman with an amazing collection of cine films from the estate when it was being built, including images of a pair of children running towards one of the mobile shops that used to serve the place, and coming back with handfuls of sweets. The images were grainy, a little fuzzy and a sort of browny-orange colour. He kept apologising, but the quality of the pictures simply added to their inherent wistfulness. they could have been shot specifically for the song I’ve written, which I hope has a similar sort of romantic and nostalgic quality. I was thrilled.

I was less thrilled to see, in the centre of Manchester this morning, a Japanese lad with a surgical mask strapped over his face. Am I the only person who finds this behaviour slightly rude? I’m sure he’s simply trying to protect himself from pollution, and would, no doubt, do the same thing in Tokyo, but sadly it comes across as though he’s trying to avoid British germs and this makes me feel uncomfortable. It looks sinister. Perhaps it’s just another symptom of my latent xenophobia, but I wouldn't go to Dubai and take my top off, because I know, by doing so, I'd offend the locals.

February 5th, 1662, and Pepys went with Sir William Penn and his wife to the theatre to see a misogynistic play called Rule a Wife and Have a Wife, which was apparently acted very well. They arrived at the theatre early, so went to a nearby pub for some Rhenish wine and sugar. Pepys seemed more interested in ogling women than watching the actual play. He was particularly enthralled by Lady Castlemaine, lover of the King, and renowned beauty, who'd recently got over some kind of sickness (one assumes small pox, because she became a great fan of black patches.) In Pepys' words; “notwithstanding her late sickness, [she] continues a great beauty.”
One assumes that Pepys' private parts caused him a little bother before bed. The diary translation I’ve been forced to read today is based on a Victorian translation which tends to edit out any mention of anything remotely sexual; “so home and to bed, putting some cataplasm to my . . . . which begins to swell again.” A few months before this date, Pepys was suffering from a swollen testicle. There. I’ve said it.

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