Thursday, 1 March 2012

A lilac shag pile

I don’t know which was worse on my journey up to Newcastle; the rancid woman with a hangover sitting opposite me, who sighed and sweated and buried her face in the table in a bid for sympathy, or the two ghastly middle-class children who’d obviously been brought up to believe they were not just the centre of their mother’s world, but the centre of every last human in the world’s world. Sometimes I think there’s a lot to be said for allowing children to sit in prams under trees, completely unattended for long periods of time! It’s the best way to teach them that the world fundamentally doesn’t care. You earn respect, you don’t demand it. There’s nothing worse than the whinnying “eha eha eha” of a child who’s only crying to get their own way. Children like the irritating little brats on the train, grow up into rancid ladettes like the sweat-box opposite me, who believes the world should feel sorry for her because she went out on the town last night and got rat-arsed. If you’re going to sweat the stench of white wine, go and sit in someone else’s carriage...

The sun breaking through the mist was a glorious accompaniment to my journey north. As we travelled up through the home-counties, I was treated to some of the most spectacular scenes I’ve ever witnessed. The gently undulating fields, semi-silhouetted, shrouded in mist like a piece of batik held up to a lamp.

I had the mortifying experience of having to do an interview with Radio York whilst sitting on the train. I had offered a pre-record, but they seemed intent on my speaking live. I went to the vestibule of the train, but it was way too loud, so was forced to do the deed in front of everyone in the carriage. Big, confident, excited voice. Mortifying. To make matters worse, the phone predictably cut out about one second into the interview, and by the time they’d called me back, the presenter seemed to be all flustered. I must have spoken for all of ten seconds before things very wisely got wrapped up. Miserable. Thankfully I didn’t swear when I was cut off. At least not out loud. Everyone on the carriage was staring.

A lovely lady at Euston Station got the day off to a really good start this morning by helping me out of a pickle. I’m going back to Manchester on Saturday to celebrate Ellen’s 40th birthday, and blithely bought myself an advance train ticket some weeks ago, thinking the event would start later than it did. I actually don’t know what was going through my mind when I chose that particular train. Anyway, I thought I’d at least see if I could change the ticket without having to take out a bank loan, and the lovely lady behind the counter went above and beyond the call of duty to, not only change my ticket, but do so for no extra cost whatsoever. Isn’t that just lovely? Thank you, Mrs Lady.

I’ve been in Newcastle all day. It was a balmy spring day; which seems to be my experience every time I visit the city. The crocuses were out on the heath next to the BBC buildings; a thick purple and white shag-pile carpet, wrapped tightly around a line of trees. Helen, who met me from the station, said she’d been studying the crocuses up-close and noticed two single yellow flowers in the sea of lilac. She said she imagined them hatching from their bulbs and thinking; “what’s all this then? Why are we this garish colour? We look ridiculous compared to our mates.” I loved the fact that this thought had occurred to her.

The meeting at the BBC went well. We talked about all sorts of fun things and I played them the Hattersley film, which seemed to go down incredibly well. I noticed a few tears being subtly flicked away by a gentleman who shall remain unnamed...

We went for lunch in a wonderful little cafe in a residential area to the North West of the BBC buiding. It’s apparently considered to be a bit of a dive by Newcastle standards, but I was really taken with it. Rows and rows of clean Victorian houses stretching up and down hills. Intriguing little Indian shops and launderettes. Lots of green space. It reminded me of parts of Crouch End and Hyde Park in Leeds.

I woke up this morning with my teeth locked together; a strong indication that I’m stressed. It’s difficult to know what to do about it, because it’s stress caused by having too much work to do, which is a stress I’d far rather have than the stress of loneliness or the stress of feeling like a failure. The life/ work balance is really complicated, isn’t it? At the moment, in order to live as a composer, I have to take on slightly too many commissions, because I can’t afford to live on the amount I’d be paid if I did a more realistic amount of work.

For those who are interested, Tyne Daley – who it turns out was Lacy off of Cagney and Lacey - was extraordinary as Maria Callas in last night’s show. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

350 years ago, Pepys went to see Romeo and Juliet, the first time it had been staged in London since before the interregnum. He hated the experience. The actors were ill-prepared, and he thought the play itself was pretty rubbish. I love the fact that Pepys doesn’t really rate Shakespeare.

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