Saturday, 30 June 2012
Friday, 29 June 2012
Our first interview was with a charming old lady called Doreen, who talked to us a little about Victorian gravestone symbolism, which is a genuinely fascinating subject matter. Death in Victorian times was something of an industry, which I'm convinced is largely due to the fact that Victorians could control almost anything; steam, water, electricity and diseases, but they couldn't stop people from dying. Perhaps as a result, the mystery of death fascinated them. It became grand and ritualised. As people grew wealthier and more class-obsessed, so they showed off with ostentatious tomb stones, mausoleums and monuments. Hidden symbols gave clues to the occupation of the grave's occupant, how he'd died, where he'd lived, whether his wife had gone first and even his secret religious leanings. There was a symbol for everything.
After bidding a fond farewell to Doreen, we interviewed one of the maintenance officers at the Cemetery Park, who talked with fabulous enthusiasm about how important the space had become as a nature reserve.
From Tower Hamlets, we went to Bethnal Green to interview people about the Stairway to Heaven campaign, which aims to finally build a monument to the 180-odd people who died in the wartime stampede and crush at that station. One of the women we spoke to had lost a cousin and a grandmother in the tragedy. The details are horrific. Many of the most seriously disfigured bodies belonged to women, who had died in strange contortions in a vain attempt to protect the children who were crushed underneath them.
We stood and looked down the staircase where it happened; just 19 steps. It's almost inconceivable that so many people died there; but in a crush of this nature, which happened in the dark, as people fall, they stick their hands out, which means everyone becomes horribly intertwined. It's almost impossible therefore to pull people out, and the result is slow suffocation. The woman we spoke to said that her grandmother was heard to scream "they're treading on me, they're killing me" before she died. It took the family hours to identify her body in the morgue. In those last traumatic moments, her hair had turned from jet black to snow white. Almost inconceivable.
After lunch we returned to the cemetery and I did a series of pieces to camera about my requiem, perched on gravestones, basking in the sunshine, surrounded by wild flowers. Believe me, it doesn't get much better than that.
From Tower Hamlets to Westminster Bridge. Each of the films is being presented by a different member of the choir and today was the turn of Anthony, one of our tenors. We walked in tiny circles on the bridge, trying to avoid the hell of waving tourists, a low, bright sun, horrid high winds and pretty much every piece of rubbish the location wanted to chuck at us!
It's now 8.30pm, and this workaholic has returned to Highgate cemetery in the hope that it might yield a few decent bird noises, or something, which I might use as atmospheric sound for the recording.
I think I need to knock things on the head and go home for a nice bit of food and put my feet up however. I have a seemingly unending week. I must try to recharge the batteries!
Pepys did his accounts for the end of June on this date 350 years ago and discovered himself worth 650l, the largest amount he'd ever possessed. To celebrate, he took his wife to church, and gloried in her new "green petticoat of flowered satin with fine white and gimp lace of her own putting on."
He met up with Sir William Penn in the evening, who was being suspiciously nice. Pepys was unimpressed, and assumed the rogue was up to no good; "I shall never be deceived again by him again, but do hate him and his traitorous tricks with all my heart." 17th Century dissing was an art form!
Thursday, 28 June 2012
Sam conducted. I didn't have to get sweaty. I could sit back, relax and focus on the sound that was being brought to me by the extraordinary players. At one stage, during the Gradual and Tract, I became absolutely overcome with emotion. The strings finished their sequence and Sir Arnold's vocal kicked in. It sounded raw and filled with emotion; a voice in the wilderness. I suppose it was a mixture of pride and joy that I felt. The music I've written in this requiem is filled to the brim with little pieces of me; and hearing it coming alive for the first time was a heart-stopping moment. I explained to the strings that the melody they'd just played was dedicated to Jacqueline du Pre. I didn't tell them that I'd sat writing it at the foot of her grave. That felt a little too much, but I suspect, because they played it with such great tenderness, that they knew it had come from somewhere important to me.
I am beginning to think this recording could be something very special indeed. I just received this email from one of the string players:
350 years ago, a genteel woman, claiming to be a relative of our hero, paid Pepys a visit, and asked to borrow 10s, which she promised to pay back that evening. Unsurprisingly she failed to return. More surprisingly, Pepys revealed that she'd played the very same trick on him on a previous occasion; "I shall trust her no more" he wrote. I wouldn't have given her a second chance!
Pepys spent the entire day in the office and went to bed, writing that his "mind is now in a wonderful condition of quiet," on account of all the work he'd been doing in the office of late. "business" he wrote, "is a delight to me."
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
350 years ago Pepys had a cold and his wife had earache. There’s not much else to say!
About 125 of us danced and sang and skipped through the streets of York tonight. The sun was low in the sky and lighting the tops of sandstone buildings. Hot air balloons drifted low above the city. We were rehearsing the Ebor Vox with possibly only about one sixth of the full of amount of singers who will converge on the streets of York in 2 weeks’ time. It’s going to be an astonishing spectacle – young men were even cheering in the streets today - and I'm so touched at the work that many of the choirs have put in to learning the music I’ve written. One particular group, who shall remain nameless, impressed me hugely. They stood to my right when we reached the York Eye and have the most infectious love for singing, which is an absolute joy to behold. I was really proud of so many of the people who joined us this evening; the woman who walked along with her hand in the air keeping count of the number of bars we’d sung, the wonderful characters from the male voice choir who camply serenaded the ladies from the steps of Clifford’s Tower, the young drummers who kept time for 2 hours without complaining. It’s going to be a wonderful occasion; join us on July 9th at about 6pm outside York Minster.
Sunday, 24 June 2012
The entire experience made me somewhat uneasy. I was genuinely quite scared, and rather enjoyed the sensation. It struck me that life is genuinely made more exciting by those things we still can't quite explain. I strive to give my music an air of mysticism, and have always found myself drawn to legends, standing stones and strange atmospheres in buildings. I turned my back on organised religion, not just because I think it's deeply corrupt and damaging, but because what it's offered in 2000 years is pitiful compared to what organised science has offered us in 100. That said, I refuse to turn my back on the thought that everything can, will or even should be explained.
Only last week, Nathan, the biggest cynic of them all, returned from a gig in Guildford saying he'd seen "what people would probably describe as a ghost." He was using the loo in a hotel room and saw someone walking through the room out of the corner of his eye. If a ghost is an unexplained presence, then a ghost he saw.
I suppose one of the biggest mysteries of them all is music. Why is it that certain intervals work? What gives some people the power to play or sing a melody with such exquisite beauty that people gasp? What is it about a musical suspension which makes a grown man cry? Yes, of course science will attempt to answer these questions, but the answers will always be speculative. And that's how it should be. It's what makes us tick. It's what makes us know that we're alive.
350 years ago Pepys was starting to reap the rewards of his new-found diligence in all things work-related. He was even beginning to feel more knowledgeable than his seniors. As the most junior figure in the office, and the only non-titled officer, he was also the man who people tended to pick on when they wanted an easy ride. A man called Edward Field, for example, had major beef with the Navy office and slapped a number of subpoenas specifically on Pepys' head, which our hero was forced to fight in and out of court, until a 1664 act of Parliament, specifically brought about by the business, gave the Navy board the power of magistracy within the City of London. Take that Mr Field!
Saturday, 23 June 2012
I ventured into town to meet Nathan for lunch, whose allocated lunch break started at the ludicrously late time of 4.30pm. It's absolutely impossible for a hypoglycaemic individual like me to go that long without food, and I came close to decking a group of Spanish tourists who did nothing but shout at each other in pubophone voices during the seemingly endless tube journey in. I walked along Oxford Street cursing and muttering like a lunatic. The shops angered me, my trousers annoyed me, I even managed to feel irritated by a woman across the street whose legs were too fliddy to pedal her Boris bike. She wasn't in my way. She wasn't in anyone's way. Normally I'd have felt very sorry for her, and possibly even offered her a hand, but in my low-blood-sugar state I just felt terribly cross with her for being so profoundly mal-coordinated. The only thing which touched me was the homeless woman selling a magazine which her dog was proudly displaying in its mouth. I liked the image, and then hated it, worrying the dog was being forced to do something which it wasn't enjoying. I wondered how I would have felt being forced to sit with a magazine stuffed in my mouth for an afternoon. I once had a teacher who made me stand with my nose against a drawing pin. That wasn't much fun.
The weather didn't help my state of mind. It was both horribly muggy, from huge rain storms over night, and incredibly windy. The winds weren't refreshing, however. They simply made me feel like I was in a blast furnace. At one point they took the cup of tea I was holding clean out of my hands. Hot scalding water bounced in the air.
The bus workers are striking. I'm not sure what their point is, but one driver on the news actually said that bus drivers did the most important job in the world; "everyone copes when the tubes go down, and when the trains stop running" he said, "but when the buses stop running, that's it." Um. Thing is, I just took the tube into town. I didn't quite understand his point, and I reckon a medical scientist would give a bus driver quite a run for his money in terms of who has the most important job.
Thursday, 21 June 2012
Heading down to the platform was like dancing with death itself. One girl with 4 inch heels, with hair like straw and legs like a giraffe, was tragically too pissed to climb down the escalator unaided, and how her friends laughed as they lifted the slaggy cow down one step at a time. I was wishing for something awful to happen, really just so I could join in with the laughter.
I've just been to a Fresh Voices event at BAFTA. The organisation showcases the work of screen writers from ethnic and cultural minorities and stages some wonderful events. The screenplay being read this evening was a little out of my comfort zone in terms of its action-packed, straight-boy, geeky-chic, sci-fi vibe, but it was plainly a very good piece. I take my hat off to organisers for not playing it safe. The Fresh Voices events are always so well thought-through. Everyone gets fed, there's always a high calibre of experts talking on the panel, and tonight I got to rub shoulders with Floella Benjamin! She's the second living legend I've met this week.
The sun shone all day yesterday, which was a wonderful treat as we were filming sequences for the London Requiem films. We started our adventure in Hoop Lane before working our way down to Abney Park and then Postman's Park, where we were able to film some of the ridiculous plaques to Victorians who'd died in all sorts of ever-increasing "heroic" circumstances. The pantomime artist, for example, who went up in flames trying to extinguish a fire that was enveloping her companion, and my favourite, the plaque to a lad called Soloman Galloman who died saving his brother from the path of a vehicle on Commercial Street. The bottom of this particular plaque reads, "Mother I saved him but I couldn't save myself," and these lines have made their way into the requiem.
20th June 1662. The sun was shining but the wind was high. After a day of business, where our hero occupied a great deal of time worrying about money, in particular a decision to spend a few shillings on a pair of tweezers, Pepys took his wife and servants on a walk to the famous Half Way House. It seemed to be his preferred activity in the summer of '62.
A day later, Pepys got brutal with his serving boy. Many of the other staff had complaned that the lad was a thief and a liar. It's worth and Pepys decided to intervene. It's worth quoting the passage in full as I could never find the words to sum up such sadism!
I called him up and with my whip did whip him till I was not able to stir, and yet I could not make him confess any of the lies that they tax him with. At last, not willing to let him go away a conqueror, I took him in task again, and pulled off his frock to his shirt, and whipped him till he did confess that he did drink the whey, which he had denied, and pulled a pink, and above all did lay the candlestick upon the ground in his chamber, which he had denied this quarter of a year. I confess it is one of the greatest wonders that ever I met with that such a little boy as he could possibly be able to suffer half so much as he did to maintain a lie. I think I must be forced to put him away. So to bed, with my arm very weary.
Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Every time the Olympics happens, Ravelry stages a "Ravelympics," which involves its members challenging each other to a series of knitting tasks, which all kick in as the opening ceremony of the actual olympics takes place. The projects are called things like the Afghan Marathon, the Hand-spun Heptathlon and the Sockput. All harmless fun, very much in the spirit of the Olympics, which we're told "transcends sport."
The US Olympics committee, however, who plainly (and purly) take themselves just a little bit too seriously, have written to Ravelry, suggesting that the Ravelympics, "denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games" and are "disrespectful to our country's finest athletes and fail to recognize (with a zee) or appreciate their hard work..."
You stupid, grotesquely pompous, bible-bashing, humourless turds! Get over yourself and focus on blowing patriotic smoke up your insecure athletes tight little arse-holes. If you want to take up a cause, how about fighting for the universal rights of your citizens?
Leave the knitters in peace to appreciate the true spirit of the Olympic games and don't bother coming to this country. With ridiculous views like that, you're not welcome.
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Monday, 18 June 2012
My Grannie was a great one for people-watching from benches. We'd often station her on a nice-looking one, and go off for a stroll somewhere. Invariably, we'd return to be told the life stories of the strangers who'd shared her space for a minute or so. "She wasn't wearing a wedding ring, but he was. They were definitely having an affair..."
I spent the morning in Hampstead Garden Suburb with Nathan, walking around the cemetery there, searching for some of the gravestones whose inscriptions feature in my Requiem which we're planning to film on Wednesday. It was very much needle in the haystack time. In the end I had to head for the cemetery office to ask them to search through their records. Fortunately, they are a hugely organised and very polite bunch, and one of the gardeners was able to take me straight to where I needed to be.
Tonight was the last rehearsal of the Fleet Singers this term and I went along for cake and post-performance chatter. I arrived late and walked into the room to a stirring round of applause from the choir, which was unexpected and incredibly touching. I didn't know where to put myself. The evening got even more moving when, at the end of the night, they decided to sing a sequence from Songs About the Weather and took a vote on which bit they most wanted to sing. In the end it was a straight tie between an elegiac sequence about a coot's nest on Hampstead Heath, and a rousing chorus about Greenham Common, so the choir sang both... With great joy. My heart burst.
During the break, whilst I stuffed my face with delicious lemon drizzle cake, a group came up to me and asked if I had recovered from my car crash. I had no idea what they were talking about. "But you wrote about it in your blog," they said. I looked perplexed. And then it dawned on someone. "When he said he got in the car and crashed, he was writing metaphorically," she said "he had an emotional, rather than a physical crash." I was so grateful to her for clearing things up as I was beginning to think I was losing my mind! Of course the misunderstanding caused much hilarity.
350 years ago and Pepys wrote that the courage displayed by regicide, Sir Henry Vane, as he stood at the block waiting for his head to be chopped off, was being talked up around London as something of a miracle.
Pepys went to the studios of two painters in the afternoon and was shown portraits of the King, the Duchess of York, Anne Hyde, and various other figures of the day. Of course he was most keen to see a portrait of his pin-up girl, the controversial Lady Castlemayne, lover of Charles II, who seemed to have little interest in standing aside to make way for the new Queen. Pepys was unlucky. The portraits of Lady C were considered so incendiary, that they'd been locked away!
Sunday, 17 June 2012
Dan Carter joined us at the end of the rehearsal, and we went out for a plate of Japanese food in Spitalfields with Uncle Bill from the chorus. It was so lovely to see her. I've missed her enormously since she's been in Lewes and feel very fortunate that she's joined us for the requiem adventure.
Dan kept us amused with tales of his exploits on various cruise ships. I think he was slightly worried about revealing too much in front of a laydee, but Uncle Bill took it all in her stride, pointing out that when she's up in the night, breast-feeding her son, knee-deep in nappies, she'll have something entertaining to think about!
We walked her to Liverpool Street tube and drifted back to Brick Lane, where Dan introduced us to a lovely little cafe called Full Stop, which he said was the nearest thing he'd found this side of the pond to the places he used to frequent in Chicago. Whenever I'm with Dan, I feel hopelessly parochial!
We returned to the car to find another parking ticket. Not only is the area around Brick Lane impossible to drive around on a Sunday, it's also impossible to park in, and, if you're transporting heavy keyboards, it's vital to be able to park!
350 years ago, and Pepys really wasn't doing anything of any great interest. Elizabeth Pepys wasn't well. She was often not well. She was probably known as a sickly child in her youth.
Pepys called in on his neighbour, Sir William Batten, and found a room full of people drinking wine. He was going through a bit of a puritanical period, abstaining from wine, theatre and anything remotely fun, so refused to join in with the countless toasts which no social occasion was complete without in those days.
Saturday, 16 June 2012
Of course, after pride comes the fall; or in this case, a twinge of sadness. I was meant to go to a party with Edward after the performance, but in the car on the way there, I suddenly crashed. I guess I’d existed on adrenaline for the entire day and the bubble just burst. Small talk with strangers when you're in that state is bad news. In fact, my doing small talk at the best of times is disastrous. Nathan says I have a habit of insulting people when I first meet them. I often feel cripplingly embarrassed and then tend to comment on something which I know is inappropriate, but it pops out all the same. What’s that lump on your chin? Why do you limp? What’s wrong with your hair?
It’s more than just an adrenaline crash, however. I’m also aware that much of my current blue is of my own making. I'd rather underplayed Songs About the Weather with friends and family and probably as a result, the only people I knew in the audience tonight were Nathan and my brother. This is the longest piece of music I've ever written. It's a big deal. It's an oratorio. It's longer than the Requiem. It's also very specifically for the Fleet Singers, so unless they opt to sing it again, tonight will be its first and last performance, so it’s a bit like giving birth, knowing your baby is immediately going to be taken away from you.
Anyway, I've decided to eat in front of the telly to cheer myself up. I may end up looking like a pumpkin, but right now I don’t care!
350 years ago, Pepys spent the day gallivanting around various villages on the Eastern fringes of London. He spent the afternoon in Greenwich, showing Lord Sandwich's many children the Royal yacht and various palaces and gardens.
Friday, 15 June 2012
I managed to twinge some kind of muscle in my back earlier on and have been in discomfort ever since, which hasn't exactly added to my enjoyment of the day. As I got off the tube, I leant down to pick up my little keyboard and the contortion was so painful I emitted a little yelp. What I didn't realise was that the little plastic backing to the battery case was still on the floor. A man prodded me and pointed downwards. I've never wished more for someone to pick something up on my behalf. Obviously my cry of pain hadn't quite been loud enough!
Still, I had a good rehearsal with Julie earlier on, going through her music for the requiem in her mother’s Barbican flat. Earlier still, I found myself sitting on chairs in a soggy Russell Square, watching Nathan singing a little gig in honour of the Small Charities week. He did a very good job, and coped manfully with a rubbish sound system, and the fact that the little awning on the stage area covered everyone’s face when they were performing. The first girl hadn’t realised, and seemed to be just a pair of singing thighs. What I found even more disconcerting was that there was nowhere obvious where I could put a bit of money into a box. Surely the point of a charity event is making money for charity?
Thursday, 14 June 2012
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!
Wednesday, 13 June 2012
Fiona met me from the station and we went back to her house, spending the night eating wonderful food whilst listening to tapes of our teenaged selves playing chamber music and speaking on BBC Radio Northampton.
We woke up this morning and walked along the sea front to Brighton, marvelling at the pace of life on the south coast. I instantly find myself feeling more relaxed when I'm here.
This afternoon, Piquet and I went to see Sir Arnold Wesker, who has the dubious honour of being the first person to lay down a vocal on the requiem recording. Sir 'Nold is singing the words written on his mother's grave in East Ham;
"she lived passionately, fought for right endlessly, loved family and friends deeply."
The words could apply very equally to his daughter, (my friend) Tanya, who was torn away from us all on May Day this year.
Arnold was brave and sang with beauty and great dignity, worrying all the time that he sounded breathless and out of tune, not realising that the sound I was after was that of a real person. The natural emotion and honesty in his voice was worth more to me than a dozen of the world's finest opera singers. Arnold has played a hugely important role in my life for the last 20 years, so his inclusion in this requiem means more to me than he'll probably ever know.
We talked about his mother, and then about Tanya. I'm not sure he's even started to get used to the idea that she's no longer with us. "It just feels like she's not visited us for a while," he said.
Dusty, 'Nold's wife, had made some beautiful scones for after the recording, which we ate with some of her homemade raspberry jam. She is, without question, one of England's finest cooks!
As we left the house, I asked 'Nold to sign my score. Parkinson's has really started to effect his coordination, and his writing has become a little wobbly; so much, in fact, that I had to ask what the first couple of words said. "To Ben" he read "of whom I'm so proud." I don't suppose it gets any better than that.
Back to Worthing in the sunshine. Finally a day of sunshine. Piquet and I continued with our never-ending mission to sort the sound files; which will continue tomorrow as well.
Pepys spent the day 350 years ago doing business (which often simply meant sucking up to people) across London. It was plainly a very lovely early summer day, for he took his wife and boy servant on a lovely duskly walk to the halfway house; which marked the mid-way point in the fields between the City of London and the village of Bermondsey.
Tuesday, 12 June 2012
Monday, 11 June 2012
He's having a lovely little snooze, having just done a face plant in a plate of chips! There's something a little undignified about falling asleep in chips.
I've just been to the first large-scale rehearsal for Ebor Vox. 250 singers and a brass band converged at the York Railway Museum, which was deemed one of the only spaces in the city large enough to house so many performers. Apparently there's still a hope that the final number of singers will top 800; to celebrate 800 years since York signed its charter of independence.
It's quite a thrill to hear so many people performing a piece of music that you've written; something which has previously only bounced around in your head. I remembered writing the first bars of music, humming along to a crude chord sequence in my bedroom, before heading to the gym and promptly forgetting everything I'd written. Three months later, 250 people have been humming the piece in their own bedrooms.
Some sequences sounded absolutely wonderful; a proper wall of sound, led by the unparalleled Shepherd's Brass Band, who also played on A Symphony For Yorkshire.
I'm not sure I was as inspiring as I could have been today. I've reached a level of exhaustion which I can't even begin to explain. I'm having to fight to remind myself to be cheery and full of energy. A charming little bloke saw me walking up Micklegate just after the rehearsal and stopped his car to specifically tell me how much fun he'd had singing my music. I thanked him, of course, but I'm not sure I appeared as grateful as I actually was. Writers and creative souls are nothing without an occasional word of encouragement.
Fiona put it rather succinctly a few days ago; "people like us" she said "set up camp and drop little things off the edge of cliffs." She was quoting hyper-ballad by Bjork, but the analogy really struck me. I often feel that's all I do; throw little nuggets into the ether in the hope that someone out there will catch them and nurture them.
Every day now is a scrawl of diary entries. A gust of wind and the house of cards tumbles.
Take tomorrow, for example. I was expecting my return train from York to be at noon, but when I checked my ticket, for some ungodly reason, it's actually been booked for 9pm. I am due to start creating sound maps in PK's studio in Worthing at 4pm. There's no way the ticket will be able to be exchanged on the day for anything other than a ludicrously expensive piece of paper, but what else can I do? Turn up a day late to see PK, and the knock-on effect takes me into July!
I just ate an entire pizza and now I feel sick.
I have exciting news on the requiem front in terms of an artist who's agreed to perform on the recording who will be a very familiar name to people of my generation. I don't want to jinx it until she's signed on the dotted line, but I am so so excited!
350 years ago, and the conundrum of the disappearance of Pepys' father was solved. He'd returned to the country to tend to his wife, Pepys' mother, who he'd been told was gravely ill. He wrote a letter to tell Pepys that she wasn't actually as bad as he'd expected w,hich made Pepys angry with his sister (who'd sent the letter) for creating a scare. It didn't take much for Pepys to get angry with his sister. Let's not forget that Pepys' sister had lived with him for some of the previous year... as his servant!
Sunday, 10 June 2012
Saturday, 9 June 2012
I'm bored of the weather and bored of the cost of public transport in this city, which has haemorrhaged £9 from my oyster card in a single day. I'd double check this figure with an LU member of staff, but they've stopped peopling the ticket office at Highgate Station!
I'm in Catford, taking a much-needed break from the mayhem of recent days. It's craft and cake and I sat preparing a score for our first requiem rehearsal tomorrow whilst people knitted socks and hats around me. I really must learn a craft. Julie thinks I'd make a wonderful knitter, but I don't have the patience, the mathematical brain or the eye for detail.
Catford is incredibly alien to me. It's a strangely edgy sort of place, filled with intimidating and unfamiliar types of people. There's a disproportionately high number of fat women here, for example, who seem to drag themselves around the streets like their legs are made of lead. There are a very high number of men in these parts who skulk about exuding attitude and glancing at everything and everyone with deep suspicion. Groups of lads in hoodies roller-skate down the centre of busy roads with no regard for motorists, or, it would seem, their own safety. Passing car stereos blare out too loudly. There are weird barriers everywhere, stopping people from crossing roads at the most convenient places. Curious kafenias emit ever-more curious smells. Grubby-looking shops sell weaves, false nails, and odd-looking fruit. The place emits a whiff of lawlessness and reminds me very much of parts of Brooklyn. It excites and horrifies in equal measures, but I certainly don't get a sense of a local community who would come rushing to a stranger's aid if he were to find himself in trouble!
I got my 1662 dates muddled up yesterday, so 350 years - and one day ago - Pepys went to Lord Sandwich's house, where a talking parrot caused a great deal of mirth. It was only Lady Sandwich, who, for some reason, didn't like the creature. We never learn why.
Home, and Pepys found himself troubled by the behaviour of his clerk, Will Hewer, who had started to get ideas above his station...
"Home, and observe my man Will to walk with his cloak flung over his shoulder, like a Ruffian, which, whether it was that he might not be seen to walk along with the footboy, I know not, but I was vexed at it; and coming home, and after prayers, I did ask him where he learned that immodest garb, and he answered me that it was not immodest, or some such slight answer, at which I did give him two boxes on the ears, which I never did before, and so was after a little troubled at it."
Hewer plainly forgave Pepys, for the two men went on to become trusted confidents and a life-long friends. Hewer became an incredibly wealthy man, the Judge Advocate General no less, and, in later life, when Pepys' health was failing, he invited his former employer to live with him in his Clapham mansion. I think Pepys may well even have died there.
350 years ago, Pepys and his clerk, Hater, spent the day indexing (or "making an alphabet" as Pepys called it) of all his contracts. Pepys became quite well-known for his obsessive lists, and this was no exception. In the afternoon, he went drinking with Ralph Greatorex, the great mathematician and instrument maker of the day, who suggested someone to help Pepys learn how to measure timber. Quite why he wanted to measure timber is anyone's guess.