Thursday, 9 August 2012

Dusk on the heath

I’m sitting on a whale-shaped fallen tree on Hampstead Heath, waiting my turn to climb inside the “tree with the hole” to record one of my audio blogs for the Requiem project. There are two dreadlocked white people sitting inside, having a rather intense conversation about life, which I’m loathed to interrupt. However, if they’re still sitting there by the time I’ve written this blog, I might have to ask if they’d mind my stepping in for a few minutes.

The heath is a funny old place on a smoky, dusty, mid summer’s night. The whole place becomes a giant speaker system, and you can hear people talking miles away, so still and soft is the air. It’s a very magical place.

A group of children has now moved into the tree. They’re Americans and they’re projecting! I’m quite impressed that their parents are encouraging them to be as quiet as possible. In this kind of acoustic you genuinely don’t need to do anything other than whisper! I also rather love the fact that there are little kids wondering around the heath at dusk. These are the long summer days which they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. Magical places like this tree are made even more special when the fading light starts to play tricks on the mind. There’s many a time I’ve come to the heath at this time, and seen all sorts of ghostly shapes and hues out of the corner of my eye.

Today’s been about admin and started at Highgate cemetery, where we’re filming next Wednesday. The lovely woman who showed me around brought my attention to a plaque in their newly refurbished chapel. The tablet was left in 1877 and is dedicated to a 36 year old man called George, “he was my friend, faithful and just to me...” and is signed “by his sorrowing friend, Albert”

It would be conjecture in the extreme for me to suggest that these were a pair of gay Victorian lovers, but the plaque serves to remind us that since the beginning of time, gay men and women have been rather shunned by the conventions of death. Even these, I’m sad to say, that it’s still slightly distasteful for two men to want to be buried together.

The American family are still here – and it’s getting really dark. The father is obsessively taking photographs of the inside of the tree – the flash light is blinding me - and Mom is spreading out a picnic. All very nice and everything (if not slightly eccentric at dusk) but as I wait, my computer batteries are running low, and hundreds of mosquitoes have started to buzz around my head. They don’t usually like me, but I reckon these ones are going to make an exception.

This afternoon I went into Crouch End, and then to Muswell Hill, preparing stuff for our shoot tomorrow. We’re trying to film sequences to accompany the Offertory, which is the most experimental of all the movements. PK has just sent me a series of mind-numbing mixes which both terrify and thrill me!

August 9th, 1662, and Pepys, yet again, was up at 4am, getting on with a day of business which took him East to Trinity House and then west as far as Whitehall.

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