Monday, 26 March 2012

The return of Jane

I’m not well at the moment. I have a pain in the back of my jaw, in my throat or somewhere in that general area. I can’t really put my finger on it. It’s plainly a gland of some sort, but I’m not used to glands being so painful. It’s been hurting for a few days now, and it’s possibly getting worse, so I’ll have to keep an eye on it. I woke myself up this morning by biting the back of my tongue with my enormous brontosaurus teeth, which are so large and flat that my dentist once laughed at me. I think I only have 24 teeth compared to, I think, the 32 which most people have. I hurt myself, but I digress...

It’s been a hugely frustrating day. I’ve spent hour after hour sorting out the brass band parts for the York anthem. Every time I write for this particular ensemble, I realise how woefully inadequate all music-writing software is when it comes to the eccentricities of brass band scoring. They're like like no other ensemble; the instruments that play within brass bands are scored differently when they feature in orchestras or other type of band. The surrealist quirk (without wanting to get too technical) is that brass band tubas (of which there are two sorts) play in the treble clef, so in some instances you end up having to transpose an instrument by more than two octaves. It’s all very confusing – and a little bit ridiculous if I'm honests - but it's made infinitely worse by the music software programmes which universally refuse to acknowledge these age-old traditions.

The Hattersley films are being broadcast this week in the North West, and it feels very strange not to be up in Manchester whilst all the interviews and publicity is taking place. Apparently Jean Taylor, whose film was aired tonight, had a whale of a time in the BBC studios and came across brilliantly well on the radio.

Despite feeling a bit ropey, I took myself out for a jog this evening. It was the first fresh air I’d had all day, and it was a much-needed tonic. I jogged across the heath, and managed to time it so that, as I burst out into the first open space, the blood-red sun sank beneath a row of trees. Suddenly, it looked like everything was on fire, and I imagined I was flying – aided hugely by the stirring Icelandic Eurovision song which happened to be playing on my iPod! I suspect because we tend to gulp in more air when we’re running, I'm often acutely aware of the smells I’m jogging through. On the heath at this time of year they are particularly potent; blossoms and dust, mud, and green shoots crashing into me like enormous waves of medicince.

A funny thing just happened at my local corner shop. I walked in to buy some Ribena, and the man behind the counter pointed at me and said; "you're in the Ham and High! Are you a writer?" He rushed over to the pile of newspapers and opened one up, and, sure enough, there I was, standing in front of the Fleet Singers, being described as "A BBC composer." It's quite a nice little piece - and I'm pleased it was in the Ham and High, because that's the newspaper I used to find all my information.
Wednesday 26th March, 1662 marked the 4th anniversary of Pepys’ operation to have a stone the size of a ping pong ball removed from his bladder. He genuinely was very lucky to have survived the experience (as are we, for he’d not started writing his diary when it happened.) As has become something of a tradition, Pepys threw a “pretty” dinner for a group of friends who included his favourite cousin, Jane Turner. There was a brace of stewed carps, six roasted chickens, a jowl of salmon, two neats’ tongues, cheese and a “tanzy” which I think is some kind of pudding, named after the flowering herb tanacetum. They spent the afternoon singing and playing the flageolette. They even brought a chef in to do the cooking. Jane Birch was drafted in to help out, and was rewarded with a full-time job at 3l per year - a pretty hefty amount for a servant in those days.

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