Monday, 3 September 2012


This morning, during my jog around Highgate, I found myself, for a while, behind a bloke who was also running. He was holding something big and black, and as I crossed the road and looked back, I realised it was a cardboard coffin! I have no idea where he was heading, or why he was running. Rather disturbingly, he seemed to be making for Queen’s Woods! As I ran away, it occurred to me that we were on Cranley Gardens; once home to serial killer, Dennis Nilsen, who murdered 3 of his 15 victims in a house on the street. He apparently flushed as much as he could of their remains down the toilet and stored what wouldn’t flush in a wardrobe in his house. Astonishingly creepy.

I jogged into Queen’s Wood and was rather surprised to find a rather lengthy trail of piles of white sawdust leading from the main path to a very small clearing in the trees. Glinting in the dappled sunlight was a large carpet of white sawdust with a box resting on top. As I ran towards it, I thought I might be about to stumble upon some kind of freshly dug grave, and my heart leapt into my mouth having witnessed what I’d just seen on Cranley Gardens. What I found in the clearing, however, was slightly more surprising; a picnic basket, a blanket, cutlery and wine glasses set out for a romantic picnic... But no one around! It was like the Marie Celeste. I can only assume some very lucky young lady was about to be given the romantic afternoon of her life, and that I’d emerged just after the young man, who’d set things up, had vanished behind a tree, waiting for his beau to appear...

As I ran back to the house, I passed a young lad, who’d set up a little trestle table on Southwood Lane to sell his old books for £1 each. He looked sad yet hopeful, and the sight broke my heart. I dashed into the house, grabbed a quid, and handed it to him. “There”, I said... “that’s to celebrate your first step towards becoming an entrepreneur!” His face lit up. By this stage, another middle class Highgate-type had made her way to his stall, and I reckon the lad was quids in for another sale!

I went to Abney Park cemetery this afternoon to take a photograph of Katina, our alto soloist, for the Requiem album booklet. We had a riot taking photographs of her holding a little lacy handkerchief that had belonged to her Grannie (also called Katina.) She is such a funny girl; almost incapable of taking anything seriously, although she put the fear of God in me by telling me a list of things I needed to sort out for the recording of the requiem before I’d be able to release it in any format. Who’d’ve thought you needed to buy a bar code? I feel like such a hick from the sticks in this regard. I wish I had someone to take care of all of this on my behalf.

On the way to the cemetery I listened to radio reports about the Paralympics. I’m becoming increasingly fascinated by these games and the sheer number of different races that have to take place to ensure parity amongst competitors. There are, I think, 17 different 100 metre races, which, I’m told includes one for stupid people, or in less un-PC terms, people with lower levels of intelligence. I’m sure there’s an even more PC version of the phrase, but I prefer stupid. Now, here’s my issue: Surely, being stupid doesn’t mean you run any less quickly than someone of above average IQ? Frankly if you’re so dumb that the concept of running fast, in a forwards direction, and in a straight line eludes you, then you’re not fit to be on a running track? Are some people so stupid that they run backwards? Is this a genuine risk?  I think when mental disability enters the frame; you get into all sorts of grey areas, which ultimately lead to the question of whether these people actually want to be there or not!

On the way home, I listened to a report about the youth orchestra of Iraq; a group of young people who must surely be amongst the greatest ambassadors for music in the world. These kids are almost all self-taught. When the situation in Iraq became unstable, most of the music teachers fled the country. Most of the kids in the orchestra downloaded sheet music from the internet and watched music tutorials to teach them fingering for their chosen instrument. Western instruments, in Arabic countries, are regarded with suspicion, and one young girl was forced to disguise her ‘cello in a large box on her way to school every day. It warms me to the bone to think that music has the ability to live on, whatever silly regime or destructive religion tries to prevent it, and because of this, I believe now even more than ever, that if there is a God, he lives through music.

September 2nd, 1662, and Pepys had a rather perfunctory day, which involved a bit of office work, a bit of personal business (involving his brother’s recent betrothal) and an obligatory stint watching – and probably goading – the workmen who were building the extension on his house.

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