I spent the rest of the day working my way through the Fleet Singers commission, which is now within a gnat’s whisker of being complete. Do gnats have whiskers? All that remains is a five-minute musical sequence about the 1999 eclipse. Under normal circumstances, five minutes would feel like a considerable amount of material, but when you’ve already written more than 50 minutes of through-composed music, it becomes something of a walk in the park, or more specifically, a walk in a very dark park where the birds have temporarily stopped singing and the night has rushed in from the East at 100 miles per hour. I thought I might try and base the music on birdsong after my rather existential experience on Hampstead Heath last week when the dusk chorus faded to nothing as night fell.
The end of an era has arrived in our house and it feels very strange. Every morning, whilst I’m eating my Shreddies, I like to watch five minutes of breakfast television. We have a little television on the table in the kitchen. At lunchtime I tend to switch it on again, whilst I’m working, to keep me company and stop the deafening silence which engulfs me when I’m composing. I switched it on this morning but television, it seems, is no more; at least not the type of television that you can watch through an aerial. Yeah, yeah, I know they’ve been warning us about the digital switchover for years, but when nothing disappeared on April 4th, I sort of assumed the signal would simply get weaker and weaker, and, at some stage, be replaced by eternal snow storms which would, periodically, reveal the ghostly shadow of an alien being, and create a whole new genre of science fiction. Sadly, this is not the case. Switch the telly on in the kitchen, and it’s just a black screen. No sound. No spooky outline. Nothingness. Oblivion. And when I consider that my earliest childhood memory was watching ABBA performing Dancing Queen on Top of the Pops, today was, most definitely, what I would describe as the end of an era.
350 years ago, Pepys sent his servant boy, the deliciously named Wayneman Birch, down into the cellar to collect some beer. Don’t go down into the cellar, Wayneman! It’s a rouse! Your master is going to follow you with a cane and beat the crap out of you for being a lazy bastard! Poor Wayneman... His sister, Jane, recently back in service in the house, heard the commotion and rushed to the scene, begging Pepys to be lenient on the boy. Pepys relented, and afterwards tried to put a spin on it, declaring to his beloved Jane, who was distraught, that he only beat the boy out of love for him and the need to correct his faults for his own good. Apparently this seemed to do the trick. Jane was easily appeased.