Thursday, 14 June 2012

Still alive

This morning I got on the train at Hove, expecting, as usual, to find myself on the little trundling train which stops at just about every coastal town and suburb between Brighton and Portsmouth. 

I didn't realise until it was far too late, that I was on some kind of fast train. I stood in horror as the train picked up speed and shot, like a bullet, through West Worthing station, and the next station, and the one after that...

I had visions of ending up in Portsmouth, weeping on the platform like a little girl. Fortunately, just as I decided to relax and enjoy the countryside, the train began to slow down again for a curiously-named place called Angmering. 

The man sitting opposite could tell I was somewhat confused: "where are you heading?" he asked helpfully. I explained my situation and told him I assumed all trains stopped at West Worthing. "Never take anything for granted," he said, sagely. "I brought my wife a mobile phone. We got home and it wasn't in the box. Never take anything for granted..."

I thought for some time about how a situation could possibly arrive where someone would go home with an empty box instead of a mobile phone, but the advice itself wasn't bad! 

It turns out that Angmering Station is home to a charming little shop presided over by a proud woman, whose name is almost certainly Jean. It's really nothing but a hole in the wall, but all sorts of lovely sweets and treats, beautifully displayed, spill out onto the platform. Jean does breakfast baps and lovely sandwiches. I was rather pleased to have stumbled upon her. 

Piquet and I spent the entire day working on the Requiem sound files, stopping only for a brief lunch of delicious vegetable samosas and nan bread. We worked until our level of productivity slowed to a trickle and our ears were in tatters. We did, however, achieve everything we needed to achieve and the tracks are very slowly beginning to take shape.

It's back to the grindstone tomorrow with two rehearsals, one for the requiem, and one for the Fleet Singers. It seems very strange to me that one of my compositions is being premiered on Saturday night! The date has rather crept up on me. My mind has been so firmly planted on the Requiem in recent weeks, that all thoughts of York and Fleet, which were so present in my life at the start of the year, rather vanished. 

I'm now on a train back to London. It feels like years since I was last here and I've missed Nathan rather badly, no doubt partly because I hadn't seen a great deal of him in the run up to my trip and partly because the last few days seem to have lasted an eternity. 

Pepys went to Tower Hill exactly 350 years ago, to see Sir Henry Vane The Younger being beheaded for treason. Considered by Charles II to be too dangerous to be allowed to live, Vane was one of the previous King's regicides. So frightened was society at the prospect of more civil unrest that the official figures who presided over the executions of Cromwell's cronies would do anything in their power to stop condemned people from delivering impassioned or potentially incendiary speeches from the gallows or the block.

Vane's fate was no different. The City of London sheriff present at the execution repeatedly attempted to take Vane's papers away from him and when this failed, a signal was made for trumpets and drums to be played so loudly they drowned the poor man out. 

What is in little doubt is that Vane died bravely. Pepys writing that he appeared the "most resolved man that did ever die in those circumstances." Perhaps as a result, Pepys was disappointed not to have been  able to see the fatal axe blow. By that point, so many people had climbed onto the platform with Vane that he completely vanished from sight. Sounds like an absolute shambles. Perhaps he wasn't killed at all! Perhaps he's still alive. On the moon. Or in Vegas!

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