Friday, 30 November 2012

Sheffield hills

Much as I find St Pancras Station iconic in the extreme and incredibly tastefully renovated, it can be a confusing place for those of us who aren't lucky enough to be taking the Eurostar to Micky Mouse's Parisian abode. 

The trains to grubby places like Sheffield, Leicester and Kettering are fenced off from the rest of the station and accessible only by specific escalators which can take some time to locate. 

Still, Britain looked gloriously beautiful from the train as it charged north. The frozen sky was powder blue and lined with a lattice-work of shimmering vapour trails. Frost and mist clung to the downs around Luton. The fields looked like they'd been dipped in Golden Syrup and dusted with icing sugar. I wonder when we'll see our first snow?

As I travelled up to Sheffield, I found myself glancing through the hundreds of emails I sent to people, trying to get them to listen to, or buy the requiem. The upbeat tone and optimism of them made me feel incredibly sad. 95% of them were entirely ignored. 

One of the truly horrific aspects of being a writer is the incessant need to self-promote. It's so embarrassing and disheartening, particularly when you're forced to contact people like agents, reviewers, producers, and execs, who know their value and behave like prannies.

Oddly - and this is very curious - Americans, Canadians and Australians almost always respond to my emails. The absolute radio silence is a curiously English phenomenon. Maybe it's because we shy away from conflict? Whatever the case, I genuinely think that the Brits are ruder than any nation in the world.  We've coasted for way too long on accents which sound refined! 

I spent the afternoon holed up in a farm cottage in the hills above Sheffield with Andy, our music man on the 100 Faces project. Today we were editing all the spoken passages so that they fitted perfectly with the orchestral soundtrack. It's astonishing how the spoken word can be made to sound so much like singing, when the right word hits the right beat. I'm really beginning to reap the benefits of my slightly anal score, which dictated the rhythm of every single spoken word. Leave nothing to chance, that's my motto! 

As we drove back to Sheffield, I found myself envying Andy's lifestyle. The air in those hills is so rich and sweet, and he's surrounded by high-calibre folk musicians, making music almost every night of the week, in pubs within a few minutes' drive of his house. 

A glance out of any window in his cottage offers enough inspiration to get any writer through an entire day, and I found myself wondering whether my music would somehow become more expansive if I lived under those tall, brooding Yorkshire skies. 

November 1662 ended in a bitter cold frost. Pepys himself was quite content. His newly refurbished house had been cleaned and decorated, and despite the huge sums of money he'd spent furnishing his grand new rooms, when he did his end of month accounts, he was still worth over 600l. His only worry was whether employing a well-bred female companion for his wife was going to end up costing more than he could realistically afford. 

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