Tuesday, 26 June 2012


I woke up in York this morning, and once again it took me a few seconds to remember where (and indeed who) I was. It took about an hour for me to wake up properly. I sat at breakfast staring at the woman's perm on the table next door, for no other reason than because I couldn’t be bothered to move my eyes! She also looked like a labradoodle.

The sun was shining as I walked down Micklegate at 8.30am. It was a hugely pleasurable experience, which was over a little too soon. After about five minutes I'd reached my destination. You tend to forget, when you’re a Londoner, how quickly it’s possible to get from A to B when you’re not in the capital. And, frankly, how much more pleasurable it is to take a leisurely stroll, rather than cramming oneself into a crowded, stinking tube.

We kicked the day off by the side of the Ouse, looking at the boat we’re going to be singing on as part of the flotilla on July 7th. As we arrived, someone was spraying an industrial hose across the mooring and the steps down to the river. Two days ago, the whole area was under a meter of water. The woman who runs the company was at her wits’ end. They've had floods now at least once a month for the past three months. Even if it’s a beautiful sunny day, if the level of the Ouse is too high, the boats won’t go under the bridges, and have to stay moored. She’s laid off most of her casual staff. When we complain about the weather, we forget that it’s actually affecting some people's livelihoods.

From the boatyard, I went up Bootham to BBC Radio York, where I was interviewed for a sort of Desert Island Discs type show. I’d met the presenter, Russell, about two years before, when we were both panellists in the Symphony for Yorkshire auditions. He seemed very well-prepared, and was a very fine interviewer, listening to everything I said, and maintaining eye contact with me throughout. Heaven knows what I burbled on about. CND women, tourettes, electrocutions... We laughed a lot.

I returned to London on the midday train, and then hot-footed it to Islington and St Pancras cemetery to do some more sound recording. It was warm and peaceful there. It’s very much a working cemetery and I walked past a number of burials, and clusters of people who'd come to the graveyard simply to hang out with their loved ones. A family of Irish people had obviously bedded in for the day, sitting on deckchairs around their daughter/ sister’s grave, and as I left, I walked past an enormous group of teenagers, who were obviously there to see a school mate. I was surprised by how many people there were laughing, which I thought was rather lovely. Death doesn't need to be formal. There is no appropriate emotion. The experience reminded me of the grave of Yasi, at Brookwood, which reads “and we laughed and laughed and laughed,” and has gone right to the centre of the Requiem. I’m thrilled to report that I’m going to be meeting Yasi’s brother as part of this extraordinary requiem journey on The Space. It’s a wonderful thought.

350 years ago Pepys had a cold and his wife had earache. There’s not much else to say!

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