I got up super early today to tick off more points on an ever-growing list of things to do. My relatively relaxing day yesterday had quite a knock-on effect. Whilst sorting out hundreds of things for the Requiem, I was also sending bits of music up to York, dishing out invites for the Fleet Singer's concert on June 16th, and trying to prepare the house for our annual Eurovision Party on Saturday. Preparations involved a lengthy trip to Muswell Hill, the highlight of which was a visit to the 99p shop where we were able to buy every piece of cleaning equipment known to man, every weird sugary snack ever invented, and a whole heap of stuff we had no idea we couldn’t live without. We spent about £35, which is going some in a shop where nothing costs more than 99p. Our sitting room smells slightly of pet rat, so we're blitzing it. Nathan has added bicarbonate of soda to the carpet shampoo. Odd, I think. Anyway, the room now smells of wet pet rat.
By the evening I’d even managed to rustle up two lasagnes; one without peppers for Fiona. I felt like Nigella Lawson. I am plainly domestic goddess! It's a shame I don't flex these particular muscles more often.
In the evening we went to Highgate cemetery. John Caird (director of Les Mis) had invited us to a lovely little do which celebrated the renovation of a gorgeous little chapel on the West side of the cemetery - the curious spooky part which you can only visit on special occasions. We sipped wine in a charming courtyard whilst the Highgate choral society sang to us. It was terribly genteel and I started to wonder if we’d not made a mistake by opting to premier the London Requiem in the wily, windy, rustic setting of Abney Park cemetery, when we could have staged it in the relative normality of that little courtyard.After the choral concert, an oboe quartet performed within the chapel itself; a truly wonderful acoustic, and a marvellous ensemble of players.
We were then taken on a mini-tour of the Western side of the cemetery. I was so thrilled to be able to share it with Nathan; the enigmatic Egyptian avenue, the curious circle of Lebanon, the sun setting behind the deep green trees and casting long shadows across the marble monuments. I hadn’t realised there was an un-consecrated area in this part of cemetery for dissenters; religious non-conformists, suicides and atheists. That’s probably the reason why Highgate is so special. It caters for everyone; all religions, all cultures. Radcliffe Hall is buried here with her lesbian lover. In the middle of the area of dissenters was Michael Faraday, who had apparently been offered a grave at Westminster Abbey but turned it down in favour of being buried with his wife. If only Charles Dickens and Henry Wood had been as romantic. Their wives are buried at Highgate, but both opted to be buried in more glamorous locations!
We walked back home through Waterlow Park, which had turned all dusty and hazy after a couple of days of ridiculous hot weather.
350 years ago Pepys was sucking in all the information he could about Catherine de Breganza. London was buzzing with stories of her journey from Portugal to England, and all accounts suggested that Lord Sandwich had won her trust in a way that no one else had managed to. She’d awarded him with a bag of gold, thought to be worth 1400l in sterling. She'd apparently been a recluse for much of the journey by sea...
“and all the voyage never come upon the deck, nor put her head out of her cabin; but did love my Lord’s musique, and would send for it down to the state-room, and she sit in her cabin within hearing of it.”
Lord Sandwich’s star had never shone so brightly!