Monday, 31 December 2012

Feet of clay

It's the last day of 2012, which means I've now been writing a daily blog for exactly 3 years. This feels like quite a milestone, and I'm wondering if there's anyone out there who's read all 1096 entries? 

The 31st December is always best reserved for reflection, and what better way to reflect on a year which has involved huge amounts of both rain and travel than whilst driving on the M11 in a rain storm after visiting Lisa, Mark and Poppy in Huntingdon; the very people who encouraged me to start writing this blog in the first place?

It has been, by all accounts, a remarkable year for me. I've had two BBC films broadcast; Hattersley and 100 Faces (which have to be amongst the best films I've ever made) and witnessed the premier of two major community choral compositions; Ebor Vox in York and the Fleet Singers', Songs About The Weather in Hampstead Town Hall. 

Of course the big focus of 2012 for me was the London Requiem; my first ever album release, the subject of eleven online films and probably  the greatest artistic achievement of my life. The premier of that piece, amongst the Victorian graves of Abney Park cemetery on the one sunny day in September, was one of the most spiritual and emotional experiences of my existence. Furthermore, discovering that a Canadian lady had gone to her mother's bedside the day before she died and played her the Requiem recording is probably one of the greatest honours of my life. Hearing from people who have been touched by your work is about as good as it gets for a composer and many people have written to me this year. 

Apart from being poorer than a church mouse, I genuinely don't have anything to grumble about at the moment. I've travelled to Germany, Italy and Ibiza, I've felt supported, had adventures, intriguing encounters and good health. I've worked with some remarkable people, met Sooty and Sweep, recorded Tanita Tikaram, Maddy Prior and Barbara Windsor, visited Cumbria and Cornwall for the first time (my last two British counties) and strengthened friendships. 

Thank you to every single one of the readers of this blog for being interested enough to read my ramblings over breakfast. I hope you all have a wonderful New Year's Eve and a peaceful, successful, creative, inspiring and loving 2013. Remember life is there to be taken, so if you're miserable, lonely, or dissatisfied, there's only one person in the world who cares enough to put things right. Go shake things up!

"Happy New Year, Happy New Year. May we all have a vision now and then of a world where every neighbour is a friend. 

Happy New Year. Happy New Year. May we all have our hopes, our will to try, if we don't we might as well lay down and die."

Love Benj

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Bedknobs

Yet again there's very little going down today. In fact, Nathan and I slept in til past mid day, which is almost student-like behaviour!

Still, all this desperate lethargy is plainly replenishing my energy supplies. I'm feeling a great deal less washed out today and by January 2nd, I reckon I might be ready to take on the world again. 

I watched the whole of Bedknobs and Broomsticks this afternoon, which is a first for me. It's one of those films which I've only ever seen in little chunks. It's a lovely little piece. Heaven knows why it's not yet been turned into a big West End musical. 

We left the house to go to the shops at about 6pm, which means I haven't put my face in daylight for an entire 24-hour period. 

I've spent the rest of the day reading books about the River Thames. Yes, you guessed it, I'm tentatively flexing my muscles for another big project. At the moment it's just thoughts floating about, which I'm trying to pull together. The process of finding funding will come next. I shudder at the thought, but it's a necessary evil. 

Do you think the games makers wash their nasty little orange and purple tops? They're still everywhere, sitting in audiences on every television quiz show, gurning excitedly and waving their arms like imbeciles. I think they must by now be smelling really ripe, but fair play to the clothing designers: if those tops are being regularly washed, they're holding their nasty colours really well! 





Saturday, 29 December 2012

Grinding to a halt


I have sort of ground to a halt. I spoke to Fiona in Texas today, who is similarly inert. I think it’s just the end of the year blues. Too much food. Too much excess. Too much driving. Too much conversation. The body is pumping trans-fats, and lack of energy breeds lack of energy.

I got all panicky at the thought of going to the shop downstairs for a loaf of bread. I am perfectly content on the sofa today, sending emails and watching telly. I even saw the start of a Carry On film! That really is an indication of not being able to move!!

There’s genuinely nothing else to say. I am wracking my brains. There’s little in the news, other than that Kate Bush has just become a CBE, which I find thrilling. I don’t know what I think about 23 year-old athletes becoming dames. I understand that they gave us great pleasure this summer, and won the greatest award it’s possible to win in their field, but surely the dame-hood comes when they’ve dedicated the rest of their lives to charity? Kate Winslett is not a dame after winning an Oscar and receiving countless more nominations. A dame-hood is surely the recognition of a life’s work?  

Anyway, I’m plainly not setting the world on fire with this blog... If I had the energy I’d make some tomatoes on toast... but I don’t. If I had the energy, I’d care!


 

49

I've done very little today other than sit on the sofa watching telly and eating Quality Streets. I've also been trying to get people to watch our 100 Faces film and must have sent about 800 texts and emails. My absolute dream would be for the piece to go semi-viral in time for New Year's Eve. I think it's the right time for it...

We had lunch with Abbie from the choir today. It was her birthday and she was bedding down for the day in a beautiful pub in one of the old warehouses they've recently done up at King's Cross station. Sam Becker was there and I ate mushrooms on toast. Abbie has recently started knitting and has already been signed up for Craft and Cake.

There is, of course, very little else to say. I came home and did a bit of composing before admitting defeat and hitting the sofa again. I have no energy. None whatsoever. And to add insult to injury, I'm feeling a bit shivery and achy and worrying that I might wake up with some kind of cold.

Right, back to the DVD of Sarah Millican I got for Christmas... 

Friends and family tally this Christmas... 49.



Thursday, 27 December 2012

Barred!!

We're travelling back to London from Lewes at the end of a whistle-stop Yuletide tour of family and friends. 

The day began in the Premier Inn at Horesham, not Heyward's Heath as I reported last night. It's my Mum's birthday, so we toasted her with mugs of tea whilst I destroyed the light fittings hanging over the breakfast table. I have a tendency to fiddle with things, often until they break, and was horrified tonight to learn that my friend Ellie actually moved valuable things from her front room when she knew I was coming! That's something you do when children are coming to stay! I am horrified. 

We went from Horesham to Brighton and I popped into the Post Office in Kemptown to send a copy of my requiem to someone in Wales. 

As usual, I found an envelope and borrowed a biro from one of the shelves to write the address before heading to the counter. 

A tall, wide man stepped into my path and rather aggressively told me that I'd need to pay for the envelope in the shop attached to the post office, rather than at the post office counter itself. He pointed at a tiny sign by the envelope shelf which made this fact very clear.

I went over to the till, as requested, and was told that the envelope cost 36 pence by a Chinese woman serving me. I was horrified when the aggressive man took one of the biros from the shelf and called over to say; "he used this too, so he'll have to pay for it..."

"I'll do no such thing," I replied, "I borrowed the biro simply to write the address on the envelope. Most post offices have pens for customer use and I couldn't find one."

The woman behind the counter started to ring the cost of the pen into the till. I felt my cheeks flushing with rage, took the CD out of the envelope, thrust it down on the till and said, "you know what? If that's your attitude, I don't want this either."

And left the shop...

There followed the most terrible scene in the street outside the shop, which seemed to draw rather a large audience of passers by. The Chinese woman rushed out and started  screaming at me like an insane fish wife, the aggressive man pushed me and then tried to drag me back into the shop by my shoulders, and only stopped when I screamed at Nathan to start filming him. 

We gave the woman 36p for the envelope, but the man said he wanted twice that amount. It became very clear that he was employed as a heavy and probably would have knocked me out if I'd returned to the shop. 

He ended up by telling us we were barred! Barred from a post office? Whatever next? I've never even been barred from a bar! 

I immediately called the post office to complain and was told in no uncertain terms that because the incident had happened in the shop that the post office was in, rather than an actual post office, there was nothing they could do. 

My argument, of course, was that I'd entered the shop as a post office customer, and frankly, that the post office might want to question renting space in a building being run by a bizarre Chinese woman who employs heavies to threaten the post office staff who cross her. 

The whole incident was frightening and unsavoury and left me shaken for a few hours.

We went from Kemptown to the eastern edge of Brighton, where we called in on Nathan's wonderful Uncle Jimmy and his brilliantly sparky Auntie Maggie. We drank champagne and ate Christmas cake whilst a budgerigar flew around the room, periodically landing on my finger...

As we left the house, Nathan revealed that he'd lost his keys, which we eventually found in the door of the car! Thank God we weren't in London... 

From Brighton, we went to Lewes where we kidnapped Uncle Bill and drove her to Ellie's house in Lindhurst, where we were fed a delicious pasta dish and entertained by her delightful children. Rozina, the eldest, has to be one of the most intelligent children I've ever met. I read her a bedtime story - a factual book (of her choice) about the digestive system - and she explained what atoms and molecules were. She's six and a half. I felt a little like one of those Edwardian gentlemen whose interaction with children was limited to listening to Latin poetry.  

It's been a mightily busy day, and I am exhausted. We've just done a tot up... In the space of four days we've now seen 49 separate family and friends. That's got to be some record! 

Blood and water

We're in a Premier Inn in Heyward's Heath. Nathan's gone to bed with a headache and I seem to have lost my toothbrush, which means I've just tried to clean my teeth with a finger!
I am exhausted, so sincerest apologies if this blog entry makes little or no sense, or if it's chockablock with grammatical errors.

We've spent the day in a little East Sussex village called Ditchling, the home of my cousin Matt. We don't see a great deal of my extended family, which, after today, is something I'd very much like to change. 

I sat down to a piano covered in framed photographs of my grandparents, aunts and cousins; all faces I recognised, some whom I'd not seen or thought about for years. The memories floating around the dinner table stretched back to my early childhood. It is wonderful to put your own life in context from time to time. They say that blood is thicker than water and at a certain point, when the pace of life begins to settle, this becomes an incredibly important thing. I can see, within the younger generation, kids who remind me of me: and why wouldn't they? They're cut from the same piece of cloth.

We did an enormous quiz and sat for hours around a piano harmonising pop songs and carols, just as we had twenty  and thirty years ago with the same number of people, just a subtly changing cast list... I am no longer the spotty adolescent, with a nose too big for my face, who feels self-conscious and gauche. 

Interestingly there are no very old or very young people in the family at the moment: we're at that part of the cycle. There were no old ladies gnashing their teeth in the corner, and no babies or young children doing the same thing on the old people's laps, so the conversation flowed without any need to pay homage to those who tend to demand more attention! 

All in all, a thoroughly lovely day and the first, I hope, of many similar occasions. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

To you and your's

Happy Christmas to you and your's! I've eaten too much food and watched too much telly. There's almost no point in writing a blog on Christmas Day because I'm not doing anything that a million people across the country aren't also doing. And that includes the Alka Seltzers!

Our friend Jim has joined us for the day. We picked him up from a hotel in Stansted earlier, a journey which involved driving through a number of floods. I've never seen flooding like it in this part of the world. 

I'm beginning to find myself rather preoccupied by all this rain. I mean, what happens if it just keeps raining? 

We saw two stags in a field, which was quite a magical encounter. I'm only disappointed that they weren't being pursued by a troop of wallabies. Strange as it may seem, the Hertfordshire/Essex border is known to be the home of a tribe of wild wallabies who escaped from a zoo half a century ago and have happily continued to breed here ever since. They periodically appear... My Mum once did an emergency stop for one!

We took Jim on a walk to the windmill just after the sun set. The sky was a glorious midnight blue with a chink of lighter blue on the horizon scattered with pillars of black clouds which looked like smoke pouring out of a row of chimneys. 

As we walked along Newbiggen Street, we were able to peer into all the windows. Mini soap operas seemed to be unfolding in every one. Scores of tables were set up for Christmas meals with green and red napkins. In some windows grandpa was sleeping. In others the kids were sitting in circles receiving their presents. The town smells of woodsmoke. It all felt rather Christmassy. 

Now the dreadful Strictly Xmas show is over we can sit down as a family and play some games. Lovely. 

Monday, 24 December 2012

Round the Wrekin

We're in Shrewsbury, heading back to North Essex for the second part of Christmas, which involves swapping Nathan's family for mine. 

Today was pretty much as all Christmas Eves should be. We watched a film about Santa, an episode of Deal or No Deal, played with a Rubix cube, and then pottered into Shrewsbury...

We had one more Christmas present to buy, but arrived in the town after most of the shops had closed. It was raining pretty miserably as well, but fortunately enough of the chains were open for us to buy what we needed.

Nathan's family's big Christmas Eve tradition is going out for a meal at Pizza Hut. I joined them for the first time last year and felt privileged to be with them for a second time. I'm a proper sucker for an annual routine! Everyone wears Christmas hats. It's all very jolly. 

And so, as we steam our way past the Wrekin, it's time for me to wish you all a very pleasant and peaceful Christmas. May Santa bring you all you long for, and if you're feeling lonely, be brave enough to head to a local pub, or phone or write a letter to that friend you've been meaning to contact for some time. Love to you all. Benjamin. 

Sunday, 23 December 2012

North London to North Wales

I'm in Penley in North Wales, with a red and orange snake wrapped around my neck. I've never held a proper snake before. He's cold and smooth and I like him rather a lot. My only issue is that he eats mice. Nasty, messy business... He's currently sitting very happily on my belly under my jumper. Sweet. Bit odd? 

The drive up here was long, but trouble-free. We saw Nathan's father and step family for lunch in North London and are now hanging out with four generations from his mother's side. 

There have been games, quizzes, tonnes of food, and now we're talking about constrictor snakes sizing up their victims by lying out straight beside them. Apparently they'll only take on prey if they're longer than them... So if your six foot long snake stretches itself out next to you on the sofa, it's time to make a run for it, or find a couple of large rats... Not one like Cas the rat, obviously! Go for a wild one! 

We've just tried some fake snow. It's meant to be a magical experience. Simply put a pile of white granuals on a plate, add water and hey presto... A weird mushy mess which looks nothing like snow! I love Christmas!

350 years ago Pepys had just returned from a long horse ride to Woolwich with Lord Coventry which made him cold, but deeply excited to have been hobnobbing with a man of Coventry's standing. 

Lord Sandwich left London to spend Christmas in Huntingdonshire and gave  Pepys strict instructions to  speak to his maid Sarah, who'd been outed as an alcoholic. Sandwich liked the woman so decided to offer her one more chance to dry herself out! Tough times. 

I'm holding a snake!  



Saturday, 22 December 2012

The driving rain


I just received my first negative comment for the 100 Faces project, which was posted on my YouTube channel. "Who did this” wrote John Watson, “Reeves and Mortimer, surely this is a spoof...” I took the comment down. I don’t really understand what it means, and it’s too badly punctuated to be featured alongside my work. I’m also not aware that Reeves and Mortimer were known for their black and white musical films about the aging process. Frankly, I’m only prepared to allow negative comments to be seen which show a degree of thought or wit. It’s my own channel. I can do what I like!

The day’s been spent running pre-Christmas errands in the driving rain. I think if it rains any more, England will become a series of Islands. I feel desperately sorry for the people who are trying to get home for Christmas. I may well be joining them in a puddle on my way to Wales tomorrow night! The images from the South West are painful; shops with Christmas presents and decorations floating down the aisles. I don’t really know what the answer in all of this is. With most situations, we can blame the government, or send in the army, but we’re absolutely helpless when it comes to the weather.

My day took me to Kentish Town, where I had to send out 4 more requiem CDs which were ordered this morning. I had photos to develop and mount board to buy, and it all seemed to take rather a long time. I found myself in Iceland at the end of the day trying to buy a veggie burger for tea. You can always tell when a shop isn’t designed for your sort when the tiny fridge with vegetarian food inside is being used as a shelf for Capri Sun!

On my way home, whilst writing a tweet, I walked into a lamppost, which was mortifying and more than a little painful. Smack bang into the thing I went. The person walking behind me didn’t seem to want to acknowledge what had happened, which made the situation all the more embarrassing.

Right, I must get on. We’re sprucing up the house for Christmas. I don’t know why it feels so important to arrive back to a nice clean house after the festivities, but it does...

Friday, 21 December 2012

Nativity


I went to my god daughter’s Nativity play today. I guess this is a rather regular part of all parents’ lives at this time of year, but it was a proper novelty for me. The play was, of course, terrible, largely because Deia didn’t have anything to do in her role as the sheep, but also because these things are meant to be terrible... and as a result, I loved every minute, and laughed hysterically! All the clich├ęs were present. Despite being told not to film the proceedings, the entire audience stood with mobile phones in their hands, trying to capture a few gems which could be used to blackmail their children when they become stroppy teenagers. A little boy, who didn’t seem to be in a costume, was wondering around the stage looking extremely confused. One of the angels had a temper tantrum which involved an astonishing amount of foot-stomping and huffing. The guitarist didn’t know the carols and couldn’t play more than four chords, and the nursery teachers didn’t seem to have any concept of melody.  One of the wise men (or actually a wise woman) was cut half way through her speech, and rather unceremoniously frog-marched out of the hall by her teacher. It’s a cut-throat world, this nativity business...

The emails and messages continue to pour in about the 100 Faces film. They played the piece on BBC radio stations across the region this morning, and apparently the phone lines were flooded with people saying they’d had to pull over in their cars because they were crying too much to keep driving. Another message left on my YouTube channel said; “I lost my father this year and I found this very comforting, I am passing it on instead of Christmas cards.” It’s so wonderful to know that something I’ve made has already been taken into the hearts of so many.

I’m currently watching the “Text Santa” charity show on ITV. Amongst other things, they’re raising money to create day centres for lonely old people, which is, in my view, one of the most important charities we can raise money for. One of my biggest fears in life is ending up lonely. The woman they were featuring on the telly had lost her husband after 53 years of marriage, and then her daughter to cancer. Apparently she felt so lonely on some occasions that she resorted to listening to the voice on the answaphone telling her that she had no new messages. I wept bitterly.
Right, that's me. I'm off to buy a mince pie!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

100 Faces is born


The 100 Faces film was broadcast by the BBC in the North East and Cumbria today, and it seems to have gone down very well, certainly if the twittersphere is anything to go by. I got incredibly nervous around the time it was airing; worrying that people somehow wouldn’t get it, or would think it was pompous or unnecessary. I was so surprised by the negative comments that the Metro piece garnered. By the time that particular film had finished airing, it was trending on twitter, with the most astonishing number of negative comments! In the case of 100 Faces, however, I needn’t have worried. There was an overwhelmingly positive response and apparently even the newsreaders who introduced the film were brushing away tears as it ended!

I have placed the film on YouTube, and already had a series of very positive responses, one of which came from Sir Tim Rice, which was quite a thrill. I am so pleased with the film, and so proud of it, and so grateful to BBC North East and Cumbria for being brave enough to commission it. It takes guts to say yes to a roving, nutty composer who says, “trust me, it’ll be fab!”

We popped out for some sellotape at noon today, and returned home at 4, having been unable to resist the allure of a greasy spoon and a lengthy trip to PC World where I bought a wireless speaker system. It was the first time I’ve been to a branch of PC World and been served by an articulate young man who smells nice and seems to want to do almost anything within his power to help. As a result, I ended up buying the most expensive speakers in the shop. That said, I’m so often required to play music and films through my computer, that it was becoming quite embarrassing to turn up to various unofficial screenings to play everything through a single speaker because the wires to the other one had been chewed through by my pet rat! Sometimes you need to invest in the technology that makes you at least look like you know what you’re doing.

Speaking of which, Cas the rat is poorly at the moment with an enormous tumour which seems to be engulfing him at a rate of knots. There’s nothing we can do. The tumour will just get bigger and bigger until it takes all the nutrition from his body. He’s too old to survive an operation, so we just have to keep feeding him, giving him love and hoping he doesn’t end up in too much pain.

350 years ago, London had largely defrosted. In fact, Pepys had followed the Duke of York to St James’ Park a few days before and watched in horror as he tried to skate on broken ice. Pepys’ week was a riot of meetings with key London figures. Lord Sandwich had started to trust him with incredibly sensitive information and Pepys was beginning to reap the rewards of his puritanical attitude towards work. Less happy was Elizabeth, poor thing, who was lonely. It’s terribly sad to think that Pepys’ solution was to search for some kind of paid companion. Why did the woman have no friends? I assume because she’d be plucked out of an impoverished immigrant household and dropped into the home of a social climber, who himself didn’t have a natural position in the world. Elizabeth was never going to be accepted by the likes of Lady Elizabeth Batten and yet Pepys had effectively closed the doors on her previous existence, routinely refusing to have anything to do with her parents.

Censored? Surely not!

I received a phone call this morning from the BBC in Newcastle telling me that it was unlikely that our 100 Faces film could be posted on YouTube after its broadcast in the North East and Cumbria tomorrow night. 

This means that people living outside of the region will not have an opportunity to see what has turned out to be a very beautiful and thought-provoking film.

Initially, I believe, there was some (justifiable) concern that those hateful Internet trolls, who tend to besiege YouTube with little pieces of tinsel-coated bile, could well end up saying something vicious or personal about any number of our 100 participants. The BBC, quite rightly, has a duty to protect those who take part in projects of this nature, but at the same time isn't allowed to veto inappropriate or hurtful comments left on YouTube for fear of immediately entering the same sort of media maelstrom that the vote-rigging scandal created five years ago.

The problem in all of this, of course, is that I've always tried to create work which I hope will reach as wide an audience as possible. No one creates art to have it not broadcast because people might write insulting things about it! 

I dug a little deeper and discovered that the BBC's YouTube department were iffy about placing 100 Faces on YouTube because it features "vulnerable people." And, by vulnerable people, they mean children. Children in this case who have volunteered to be in a project and whose parents have signed release forms which allow them to be featured. 

...And so the fall out from the Jimmy Savile business continues to engulf us and the world, in my view, has officially gone mad. 

But how does this play out? Will the BBC be forced to stop making films which feature children? Will we end up in a place where all young faces will need to be pixilated? Will children be banned from being in BBC dramas, and need to be CGI'd or portrayed by adults or puppets? I certainly will need to think very carefully about featuring under 18s in future projects, because by doing so, I could well end up restricting the development my own career. 

I have decided to put 100 Faces on my own YouTube channel. It won't have the reach that the BBC YouTube channel would have, but at least I can manage comments made about the piece, and make sure those featured in the film are protected from reading anything inappropriate

I want to make it clear in all of this that what is happening is by no means the BBC's fault. As we know, the BBC is coming under a huge amount of (in my view largely unfair) criticism in the media, and is simply doing what it can to transparently address the general public's concerns. 

No other broadcaster would be able to commission and produce a film as beautiful as 100 Faces, and every time I work at the BBC, particularly for the remarkable BBC English regions, I feel extremely proud. The BBC is the envy of the world, and something we should all be proud to invest in - and should want to protect at all costs. 

The purpose of this blog is simply to show Joe public the direct impact of their jumping on the witch hunt band wagon. If you want a generation of children who can't be comforted by adults even if they're distressed and can't be shown on television even if their parents give express permission, then we just need to keep doing what we're doing. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Lewes Carroll song book

We're somewhere in the darkest corner of South East London attempting to make our way back to civilisation. It was Anthony from the choir's Christmas party tonight. As a freelancer, I don't find myself being invited to many Christmas parties, so it was lovely to chow down on some festive fodder and chat to a few new faces. 

I spent the rest of the day composing. I've set myself the target of completing 2012 - a year where it feels I've done nothing but compose - by writing two more songs. For some time I've wanted to write a book of songs for children's voices based on Lewis Carroll poems. I think it would be nice to unearth a couple of lesser-known gems alongside the obvious pieces from the Alice books, so if anyone has a suggestion, now's the time to get in touch. 

We're now on the North Circular, so civilisation is in sight. I am exhausted and a little bit snappy, so writing anything else is probably a bad idea. Sleep well, folks...




Monday, 17 December 2012

Playing a sheep

I went down to Philippa's house today, trying to wrap presents for Deia and little Silver on the tube there, which turned out to be a profoundly bad idea. I'm rubbish at wrapping presents at the best of times, and could see the woman opposite chuckling to herself in a slightly horrified way as I ripped pieces of paper and stuck them together with the only tape I could find, which had pictures of skeletons on it! 

Two other girls on the tube annoyed me beyond words. They spoke with those sloanny "ya ya" accents and everything was "sooooo cool". One of them launched into some kind of monologue about how she was staying with family friends over the weekend, "they're like soooo crazy," she yawned, "they've all been like  expelled from Harrow for drugs. It's quite cool really." She was grotesque and I wanted to shake her. Readers of this blog will know that I have huge issues with privileged young people, particularly those who refuse to acknowledge how privileged they are, and as for thinking that being expelled from school for taking drugs is somehow cool? Absolute insanity. 

Problem is, you get a child taking drugs on an inner city estate and his life very quickly spins out of control. These wealthy kids get chance after chance after chance. They get put in expensive rehab. They learn that taking drugs is a way of getting attention. Mummy and Daddy bail them out repeatedly. In short, they're an absolute waste of everyone's time and energy and yet somehow you know they're destined to succeed.

I had a marvellous time with Philippa. Deia was poorly, but put a brave face on things, whilst Silver cooed and billowed quite happily to herself. She seems to particularly like the brightly-coloured letters stuck to the fridge doors. Easily pleased! 

We did craft at the table in the conservatory; Christmas cards and hand-made decorations from salt dough. Without wishing to sound too American, the run up to Christmas, as seen through the eyes of a child, is a very special thing. I may even try to get to Deia's nativity play on Friday. She's playing the sheep; a role she actually opted for. Ellie's daughter's playing Mary... Just saying! 

Of course the role we all want is that of the inn keeper. It's possible to change the course of religion and history simply by saying, "come in!"

Gaby, Rob, Nathan and Rob's partner, Fiona, joined us for the evening and we ate Thai food. So much of Philippa's life is focussed around her big conservatory table. It reminds me so much of my own upbringing, where the giant kitchen table from Habitat was the centre of life. It was where we ate, did homework, played games and chatted late into the night. It struck me this evening that I miss having a table... 

Yuletide tidy

It's a bit of a late blog delivery tonight for no other reason than that a day of R and R can lead to hard core inertia! 

We spent the morning giving our house a pre-Christmas spruce up, and now it's a shining beacon of cleanliness and Yuletide joy! The tree is up. There are fairy lights and tinsel wreaths on our mantle piece and everything is clean and tidy. 

We went to Brent Cross after lunch and walked like zombies around John Lewis with half of North London by all accounts. Nathan immediately got shopping tummy and went into a panic, but I managed to ignore him for long enough to get a fair amount of Christmas shopping done, whilst slowly turning into the Grinch as my blood sugar levels started crashing.,,

We survived the experience, and a dreadful traffic jam on the North Circular, and returned home to eat pizza and watch the BBC sports personality of the year award. 

Am I the only one who's really bored of the games makers? It seems no one can talk about the Olympics without feeling the need to thank them, and a whole host of them suddenly appearing in their silly orange and purple shirts whilst cheering like imbeciles. Now, I didn't have a lot to do with the Olympics, but the only time I was helped by one, he managed to put me on the wrong train and waste about 2 hours of my day! 

Right. Time for bed. Although first I'm going to watch the divine Nigella Lawson making a few cakes! 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Civil disobedience

I seem to have chosen the very worst time to decide to leave central London. Leicester Square station is packed to the rafters mostly, it seems, with people dressed in Santa suits singing 1980s pop songs in the style of a football crowd. 


A word to the wise; a song very rarely starts on its highest note, so if you start singing it on YOUR highest note, you will very quickly run out of steam!  Now, in my best and most patronising voice, I say this: When deciding where to pitch a song you're hoping to encourage friends and ruffians to join in with, it's often best to start somewhere in the lower-middle part of your voice, and then you won't need to shout!  

Anyway, despite it being the last but one shopping day before Christmas, I decided to brave the crowds and headed for the bright lights of Oxford Street, which this year are sponsored by Marmite. 

I met up with the lovely Lli at John Lewis, and before we'd noticed, it was 10.30pm. I genuinely don't know where the time went. All I know is that I now have a new close friend and a new favourite hang out, in the form of Leon on Old Compton Street. It has a downstairs which was entirely empty, even on a Saturday night, and we were able to chat for hours on a comfy sofa, surrounded by books, totally undisturbed by the growing mayhem of the outside world. It sells wonderful veggie and organic food. 

There's not a great deal more to say about today, other than that a great deal of it was spent queuing in various post offices. The queue for the post office in Highgate actually stretched all the way down the street as far as the junction with Southwood Lane, which is a good 70 metres away. People would arrive at the door of the post office and ask, with absolute incredulity, if the long line of people on the pavement, looking every bit like a bus queue, was actually something they were going to need to join. I'm afraid this is what happens when you close down the post office up in Highgate village... 

Say no to post office cuts! Actually, don't bother. The government only responds to headline-grabbing, hard-core civil disobedience these days. They do as they please otherwise, regardless of our wishes, and let's face it, none of the people standing in that post office queue today were gonna start throwing bricks through windows, were they?! Tschh.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Ghostly tippex

I feel sickened at the news of another American shooting spree. This one took place in a primary school and they say as many as 30 may have been killed. It begs a single question: How many more incidents like this will it take before those silly people ban firearms? It's profoundly simple. If a child can't be trusted with a toy, it's taken away from him, even if it spoils the game for everyone else. There's something called "group responsibility" which that particular nation with its "Jesus loves me and f**k you, I'm going to heaven" culture would benefit from learning. 

As a man who got caught up in the confusion and panic of a shooting at my own school, I can tell you, it's not a lot of fun...

Our particular shooting was brushed under the carpet almost as soon as it happened. I've thought for some years that it was the subject of a news black-out which I'll only be able to prove with a visit to Collindale newspaper library to see if the newspaper cuttings my family carefully collected are present in the "official" version of the paper. 

Granted, the media worked very differently in those days, but it was odd that the event made the front pages of the tabloids and then vanished like a stone in murky water. I know for a fact that what happened  opened up a potentially lethal can of worms, which would have been very uncomfortable for the authorities. Call me a conspiracy theorist. One day I'll write about it. But for now I'll allow my memories to join everyone else's in a chasm of silence...

Last night, as we left the church in York, Nathan and I found ourselves lost in a twisting subterranean rabbit warren of corridors. We followed a staircase to a closed door which had the word "emergency exit" written over it. "Surely it's not alarmed?" I asked Nathan. He shrugged. I pushed the door and...

AALLLAAAAARRRMMMM!!!

It screeched and beeped and rang and juddered. It was mortifyingly loud. Suddenly the church was filled with chaos and people running in circles trying to make the ungodly noise end! #whatanexit!

We drove out of York via the Fulford Road, which gave me the opportunity to show Nathan the house I'd lived in as a student. We got out of the car and went to the alleyway behind the house where groups of us used to sit on picnic rugs when it was particularly hot... And there, on the bottom brick, a few letters neatly drawn with tip-pex; "B+P+T 93"; Ben and Pete and Tanya 1993. I found the sight rather moving. Almost 20 years since we'd absentmindedly daubed our initials onto that bottom brick, on a lazy, carefree autumnal day at the start of my second year, there we were; as clearly as if we'd written it just yesterday. Whatever happened to those days filled with petty problems and optimism, eh? We thought we could walk on water back then. 

And what of B+P+T? Well, we're still in touch. Pete teaches drama in Switzerland and Tanya and I still go on holiday together every year. We're doing okay...

As we drove home, down the M1, I received an email from someone who'd ordered the Requiem CD about 3 months ago. It must have got lost in the post. I'd like to say that this would surprise me, but the post office has been in a state of such disarray every time I've visited in recent months that nothing would surprise me any more. 

I asked the woman in question to confirm her address and was tickled to discover that she lived in Hinkley; less than a ten mile detour from the motorway. A CD popped through her letter box at midnight. How's that for a speedy, personal service?!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Christmas Concert

It's minus 5 degrees and our car is covered in a thick layer of frost. This is proper winter weather and I love it. I'm a big hairy bear, my thermostat is broken and I spend so much of my life boiling over, that it's a relief to be able to don a coat, a scarf, a jumper and a cloth cap and still feel human!

We're just leaving York having listened to an uplifting concert of Christmas music performed by the wonderful Sounds Fun choir and the fabulous Djembe-bash drummers. 

We travelled up in the late morning, and as we moved further north were rewarded with increasingly more beautiful wintry scenes. The sun was low in the sky and glinting magically on frost-laden trees and misty fields. 

On entering Yorkshire, a freezing fog descended on the A1, which seemed to be hovering at ground level. We were driving through swirling white clouds, and yet the sky directly over head was still blue, and at one point, just before the sun began to set, and somewhere near Ferrybridge, the mist turned a sickly shade of orange. It was incredibly spooky. I half expected to see the arrival of a massive space ship!

York was freezing in a damp, bone-chilling sort of way. Even the locals were commenting on how cold it was. Nathan immediately bought a hat. 

We did a spot of Christmas shopping and then stationed ourselves in Cafe Concerto, where we ate soup and cake, and I decided that I needed to seriously reduce my intake of fat! 

The concert was in a church just off Micklegate which was decked out for Christmas with a number of pews covered with boxes for the poor. 

There were carols, great Christmas songs, spirituals, rounds and some fabulous grooves from the drumming group. I was thrilled to see two community groups coming together to sing such good music. They tackled two premiers and a host of new arrangements. Really very impressive for a group who have a no-audition policy. 

They sang my song with gusto and passion, and obviously particularly enjoyed the passage filled with suspensions at the end because it sounded great. 

There was a buffet laid on for the audience afterwards, which I thought was a lovely touch. 

All in all a great evening. I've had a really lovely day, in fact.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Mother Nature's trump card


I woke up this morning and took myself for a walk in Highgate Woods as the sun burst through the mist. It is difficult to say quite how moving I found the experience. Sometimes Mother Nature works very hard to remind us what astonishing beauty she has the capacity to create.

The trees were covered in a thick rind of frost. The sun was lighting the tops of the branches so that they glowed yellow against a powder blue sky. It was an impressionist light; soft around the edges. Those who passed me on the paths between the trees seemed to be smiling to themselves. We were definitely sharing a moment of great beauty.
 
I returned from the wood to piles of tax receipts and continued the mind-numbing task of putting them in date order. The big court case (see September 2011) took place in this particular tax year, and it seemed that every box or file I opened was somehow sent to remind me that the pain still hadn’t quite left my body.  On a more positive note, I’d actually paid tax on the full amount that was taken away from me, so I’m due a fairly hefty rebate. I’m pretty confident that, once the accounts have gone in and been cleared, I’ll finally be able to gain a sense of closure on the matter, a full three years after the Choir Invisible commissioned me to write a suite of songs for them.

But just look at this sky!!


Nathan and I are off to York tomorrow to hear the wonderful Sounds Fun choir performing another one of my songs; a setting of a Lewis Carroll poem which my good friend Matt describes as “the best piece of music I’ve ever written.” Oddly, I can’t even remember writing it. I don’t know when I wrote it. I don’t know why. Latterly, I started adding it to the score of my adaptation of Alice Through the Looking-Glass, but I couldn’t tell you which of the 12 or so performances of that work was the first to feature the piece. All I know is that I found the manuscript nestling in a bottom draw just before the concert of my work last November and speedily arranged it for three voices. The songs which write themselves are often the most successful.

It’s the 12th of December today, which makes it 12.12.12. I took a photo of the clock on my computer at twelve minutes past twelve and thought for some time about the significance of the date. It is the last time I’ll see a date of this sort in my life time. I don’t know why that felt so peculiar. It’s only a date, but I’m glad I marked it.
 
 

London went into a massive thaw on this date 350 years ago, which caused a considerable amount of flooding in Pepys’ house, much to his great chagrin. There’s not a lot else to say because Pepys himself doesn’t have a great deal more to say!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Fields of ice and smoky fog


London seems to have spent the day shivering under a hoar frost. Windows and roof tops are caked in the stuff, and tonight, a fog of Biblical proportions has descended.

We used to get fogs like this in my childhood in East Northamptonshire; fogs where you could barely see your hand stretched out in front of you. If it weren't for the street lights, I doubt I’d be able to see a thing out there. It’s swirling in giant smoke-like halogen-coloured clouds, roaring menacingly at those silly enough to be outside. People walking on the Archway Road are nothing but ghostly silhouettes. Everyone should be tucked up inside warm houses. I pity the homeless.

I spent the day doing my 2011-2012 tax return, which means my living room is filled with little piles of receipts. The job is made somewhat more complicated by young Cas the Rat, who needs to come out for a run before the end of the night.

Unfortunately, dear Cas has a penchant for paper... Big time. He loves the stuff. He loves it more than food. Our sitting room floor would be, for Cas, the equivalent of my walking into a room filled with roast potatoes. In about 15 minutes he’s capable of causing mayhem, running away with receipts, chewing and ripping them up, weeing on invoices and payment slips... I may well have to scoop up all the piles and put them somewhere else to avoid this paper apocalypse.

The good news in all of this was my discovering £20 and $82 dollars nestling in the piles of receipts, obviously from moments where I’d rashly emptied the contents of my wallet into a receipt box. It’s amazing what can get caught up in a Costa Coffee receipt. They are, without doubt, the silliest, largest receipts in carnation. Children should be encouraged to write letters on the backs of them, or draw pictures. I have no idea why they need to be so large, but I find myself having to fold them in half before putting them in my wallet. What’s perhaps worse is that there were 82 of them...each for the cost of a single cup of tea. This means that in 2011-2012, I spent 82 mornings working in Costa. No wonder I found myself with a lot of points on my Costa card! Do they pay their taxes properly, I wonder?

350 years ago, and Pepys did nothing but work all day... and in fact, all night. He finally knocked things on the head at 1am. It was his ambition to make as much money as possible and the only way he knew to do this was by working hard, whilst being the man about town so that he could be in the right place at the right time when opportunities presented themselves. There wasn’t much he could do to be out and about on this date, however. A hard frost had turned the deep snow in London to fields of ice.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Frozen Lewes

We're travelling home from an incredibly frosty Lewes where we've spent the day celebrating Uncle Bill's birthday with Mez. 

It's been a relaxing day. We called in at Julie's on our way down, for a quick cup of tea, a look through a bag of yarn and a natter, and reached Lewes at 4pm. 

We ate pizzas, exchanged gifts, listened to classical music and walked Meriel's dog, Berry, through the still streets of the town, staring into the windows of houses on the High Street, very much enjoying the sight of all the twinkly Christmas decorations within. It was all rather charmingly Victorian and I'm really beginning to understand the pull of this particular corner of the world. 

The evening ended in front of Uncle Bill's open fire, where we put the world to rights for several hours whilst eating tangerines.  

After the absolute mayhem of the last few weeks, I'm finally beginning to feel human again. Quite how long this feeling will last, I'm not sure. Tomorrow is tax day. I shudder. 

350 years ago the snow was so heavy that Pepys was unable to get much further than his office next door. The Pepys household was joined by a new family member; a cook-maid called Susan who history has not rewarded with a surname. She was destined to remain in Pepys' employment on and off for about a year.

Her name is mentioned in my Pepys Motet within a passage of the diary written at the very end of 1662, which I set to music as part of the work's (as yet unrecorded) second movement. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Cake overdose

We've been in Thaxted all day. In fact we came up here yesterday night, and have done very little other than sit in front of an open fire, drink tea and eat enormous slabs of cake ever since. 

There's little else to say. It was our monthly craft and cake meeting today, and a number of wonderful people descended on my parents' house to knit, stitch, bitch and trough. 

I've spent the day sticking photographs in an album. I've recently had about 300 pictures developed which go back to February. It's been such an extraordinary year and I've genuinely not had an opportunity within the last six months to sit down and take stock. It's therefore been quite a privilege today to look through all the photos and remind myself of the many good times I've had. 

350 years ago, London was under a considerable amount of snow and Pepys was taking great pleasure in going to St James' Park to watch people skating. 

Winifred Gosnell, the woman who'd recently been employed as a glamorous companion for Elizabeth was already playing up, saying she'd been told she could expect regular visits to the theatre and as much time away from the position as she wanted. 

Pepys was not at all happy about the situation, and when the girl announced she needed to go away again to live with her Uncle for a period, he took great delight in firing her! She left the following day... 

Sign off

My work in Newcastle was completed at about 4pm yesterday, when a delegation of the great and the good from the BBC came to view the film. The response was extraordinarily positive. There were tears and laughter and a genuine sense that what we'd made was perhaps the best thing that BBC up there had ever done. 

I went for a drink afterwards with Nell. The two of us were the double act who kept the project on track and lit the lanterns which led us through the darkest patches. We toasted the end of the project with a sneaky G and T and I returned to London feeling relieved, radiantly happy, nostalgic, tearful and incredibly grateful to the wonderful people of the North East and Cumbria for commissioning the film, making it happen and, above anything else, being brave enough to take part. 

I got home, and for some time, sat looking at the DVD of the film, wondering if I'd ever be brave enough to watch it. It takes guts to watch or listen to something for the first time in the cold light of day. Fortunately it looked as good on the telly as it had in the edit suite, and I watched it about eight times in a row, weeping like a little child whilst feeling deeply proud. 

It's such a unique film, as much a social project as it is a work of art. Each person in the film says a simple sentence about their life in 2012, and as the participants move from childhood into old age, their obsessions move from something as simple as learning to ride a bike without stabilisers, through the existentialism and naked ambition of adolescence, the sometimes frantic attempts to find stability in one's 30s and 40s to the pain of losing life-long companions. Those who reach their 90s genuinely seem fairly thrilled simply to be alive. 

The ageing process is imperceptible throughout the film, as it is in life... Suddenly, you're aware that you're staring at a 100 year-old without really knowing where the years went.

It's a remarkable project and I can't wait to share it with the world.


Friday, 7 December 2012

Fight for the arts

Today's news was full of the age old debate about state school vs public school. Apparently a group of kids with exactly the same A-level grades have had their university application forms compared. In the most extreme case, someone from public school, who'd done work experience at the united Nations, was up against a state school kid who'd done waitressing. It's not fair and yet, in the present climate, it's not at all surprising.

As someone who is deeply proud to have been educated at the local comp, my line on this argument is always going to be that if State schools are ALLOWED to get it right, they will always give a child, not just a decent education, but a well-rounded sense of his or her own position within the world. Going to a good state school makes you realise how inherently lucky or indeed unlucky you are, and more crucially, gives you the tools to do something with this knowledge. 

The key word here is "allowed." The problem with the state system is that it's subjected to the whims of successive education ministers, who want to make their mark by changing things, usually to make schools appear more efficient and perform better in areas that can be more easily ranked. 

A most extreme version of this would appear to be the present Michael Gove, who seems to be banging a  very peculiar rhythm, despite the advice of teachers and even the civil servants who work for him. 

The most worrying of his policies, in my view, is the down-grading of subjects like music to a "soft" status, which means the state will not give support to schools who wish to teach it. My mate Debs is now teaching music GCSE as an after school club. If we allow this to happen, sooner or later, music in state schools will become the terrain of teachers of other subjects who happen to be musicians in their spare time. 

In my day, music in state schools was a right rather than an option.  If a child showed aptitude, he or she could learn an instrument for free, and for a small annual fee could enroll in the county music system. These were the golden days when music in schools was so good that the European Youth Orchestra had a 40% cap on British players. Imagine how many gold medals British musicians would have won in those days if these were the music Olympics!

My university form was chockablock with the opportunities I'd been given by playing music. I'd played the 'cello in Germany, Canada and on countless television programmes. I'd even been given a Blue Peter badge - a mark, of course, of pure genius!

But that was when things worked; when kids at State Schools could hold their heads up high because of what they'd achieved rather than what society had told them they should EXPECT to achieve. It's a subtle, but deeply important distinction. 

So how do we put a positive spin on this? Well, we lobby. We lobby schools to value the subjects like music, drama and art, which give kids (often less academic ones) the chance to shine, to explore, to travel, to interact, to build up a CV of skills and experiences, to find hobbies for life, and more crucially, perhaps, take a break from relentless exams and academia. 

We try to change perceptions of the arts. A taxi driver in Newcastle recently told me that his 9 year-old daughter was badgering him to go to dance classes and that he was horrified that she could even contemplate something that would take her away from her studies and give her a "false sense of hope for the future." I suggested that without something interactive like dance in her life, she might wake up one day and realise she only knew how to communicate virtually. I basked for a moment in a curious silence...

We lobby the government. We lobby our local authorities to keep their arts for all policies. We show them the export potential of art in a country which is still in recession. Think about Adele's tax bill, or what the producers of Skyfall will earn? Surely any government would relish an opportunity to have a bit of that? 

Above all, we look at how excited we all were by the Olympics, and how amazing it feels to be world leaders in a field. We excel in the arts and the arts must be allowed to be part of our Great Country's future... And that starts with education. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Red sky in the morning

They say "red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning" and this morning, when I woke up, the sky was a glorious shade of crimson, which may explain why it's presently raining little darts of ice! 

I braced the icy winds and stood for a few moments, in my dressing gown, on the hotel balcony  staring out across the Tyne, lining the iconic Newcastle bridges up so they fitted together like pieces in a game of Jenga.

Snow came to Newcastle in force yesterday. It must have taken the weathermen by surprise because none of the roads had been gritted and Newcastle ended up in gridlock. 

I walked home along the quayside watching cars going into hopeless wheel-spins and excited children trying to make snowballs out of the centimetre of slush which had fallen and then frozen solid.

This morning the roads were even more treacherous. A bloke walking in front of me went down like a sack of spuds on a pedestrian crossing, and because he couldn't get up with ease, actually rolled himself back to the pavement like some kind of beetle. It was like something from Metamorphosis. 

We've spent the day in Byker editing 100 Faces, which is now looking absolutely stunning. We're in a good place. With a day to go, we've already started the process of finessing shots. Of course, with something like green-screening, there's always a million and one extra things you can do to make things look even better. A Hollywood movie would have a team of people working for weeks on this sort of thing alone. 

I am already beginning to feel a sense of nostalgia. This has been such a special project, and I've so enjoyed being back in Newcastle again, surrounded by the wonderful people at the BBC up here. I am just not ready for the process to end. 

350 years ago, and London was still something of a Winter Wonderland. Pepys was very much enjoying the sight of various gardens and landmarks covered in snow and hard frost. 

His household, however, was in a state of flux. Their maid Sarah had been sacked, purely because Elizabeth Pepys didn't "like her attitude," and Pepys paid her off feeling incredibly guilty and angry about the situation. 

Welcomed into the household was Winnifred Gosnell. She wasn't a replacement for Sarah. Far from it. She was actually being  employed as Elizabeth's "companion", someone she could hang out with, play cards with, gossip and shop with and so forth. One assumes there were other slightly more subservient aspects to the role, but Pepys already fancied the pants off her, so she could expect to be well-looked-after.

Gosnell was actually destined to become a well-respected actress and sang beautifully, which excited Pepys to the extent that he spent much of the day hanging out with her and Elizabeth, until Elizabeth smelt a rat and sent him packing to the office! 


 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Too early


I was up a long time before the sun this morning. The sound of the alarm going off actually made me scream. I'm already part way to Newcastle and there's still no sign of the dawn.  There is, however, what seems to be heavy snow falling and settling around Stevenage. This could be another long journey...

I got to King's Cross, and was immediately put into a stinking mood by the silly people behind the counter at Upper Crust. 

Me: Have you stopped doing those lovely cheese and egg breakfast rolls?

Her: (laughing in a sort of inept, yet sinister way) Yes

Me: Okay. Well just a tea then. 

Her: A large one?

Me: No, small

Her: A medium tea coming up. Would you like a pastry with that? 

Me: No. I want a small one...

Her: A sandwich?

Me: No! Can I ask why it's policy here to assume your customers want a large version of a drink? It's a very cynical policy.

She looks at me and blinks a few times, before gesturing ineffectually  towards another person behind the counter, who obviously always deals with the tricky customers.

Him: It's because tea is good for you, Sir.

He delivers the words like some kind of punch line, a cheeky grin on his twatty face. The other staff members chortle gleefully. It's like the sound of canned laughter on a bad 1970s sit com.

Me: Not really funny is it?

I would have had a little rant, but concluded life was too short and one of those do-gooder, "I don't like conflict" type women was standing behind me in the queue.

Here are some interesting facts about East Coast Mainline's complaints procedure. 

1) It is based in Plymouth, which, I suspect, is the furthest town in the UK away from any station covered by the train route. One wonders if this is an attempt to avoid angry customer demonstrations?

2) In order to get compensation, you are obliged to fill in one of their official claim forms, which comes with a handy envelope in which to put your tickets. Unfortunately, said envelope doesn't come with a prepaid stamp, so anyone trying to gain compensation must factor in the cost of a stamp and the hassle of trying to find one 

3) If your ticket "wasn't validated" (eg stamped or clipped) you're expected to write and send in an extra letter which doesn't fit into their tiny official envelope unless you write it on a piece of paper the size of a train ticket. A more cynical man would wonder why, on the two occasions I was deeply delayed this week, the guard hid in his van, refusing to pass through the train. The result of his inactivity/fear of reprisals/ laziness? A train full of people without validated tickets who could well find themselves unable to claim for compensation without jumping through another fifty hoops.

Anyway. Dawn is breaking over Rutland, which is probably my cue to get some shut eye...

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Existential!

So, former Coronation Street actor, Andrew Lancel, is the latest celebrity to be engulfed by the Jimmie Saville scandal's fall out. Lancel, we're told, more than 20 years ago, sexually assaulted "a child under 16." He is now 42 and married. This "misdemeanour" happened whilst he was at drama school with a girl who could only have been a couple of years his junior. 

Now, we can, of course, only guess at the details, but it strikes me that it will be very difficult for Lancel to shake off his newly acquired reputation. His  role in panto this year has already been thrown into doubt because there "are children in the show." 

What is the world coming to? I'm afraid, in cases like this, if the accused can be named and hounded and lose work before he's given a fair trial, then we should also be able to name the alleged victim. Whatever happened to innocent until proved guilty? 

I am sick to the back teeth of all these stories coming out about famous people. Tell me just one thing. Has the Jimmy Saville case led to a rise in people who suddenly feel that they're able to report sexual crimes? People who were, perhaps too frightened to do so before? This can only be a good thing. My worry, however, is that the tendency for people to jump on the band wagon means that the only rise in people reporting these sorts of crimes concerns cases involving famous people. 

A very special lady came into the post office today with a brilliantly cheery Santa hat on her head. She was a tragic sort and looked a little like a gnome. She was the sort of person who would probably need to have specially designed chairs to fit her peculiar shape.

The poor woman was having terrible issues with her hearing aid. The whole queue could hear it shrieking and whistling. Heaven knows what was going on and what it must have sounded like in the poor woman's ears! The queue shouldn't have laughed... But it we did. Uncontrollably. 

I decided to come off Twitter today. Ironically, I haven't yet been able to deactivate my account and when I sent a tweet asking how to remove myself from the app, someone retweeted it! 

I guess I'm just not cut out for the Twitter world. It feels rather cheap and fake; like a horrible popularity contest, and I don't need anything else in my life which makes me feel insignificant.  There's actually another bloke on Twitter called Benjamin Till who has 4 times the number of followers as me, and I'm just not sure it suits me to be constantly thinking of witticisms, or trying to pretend that my life is a sparkling roller coaster just so that more people follow me. And for what purpose? I'm a composer. I write music, and if I can't use the app to publicise what I do for a living (24 days, and not a single sale of the requiem as a result), I don't really know why I'm there. 

I sort of feel the same about Facebook where there are some 600 people who describe themselves as my friend. This  irks me in a similar way because it means so little. I don't want group invitations sent at the flick of a button. I want to know I'm valuable enough in someone's life to receive a personal message. 

At the moment I feel as though one of my feet is no longer in the same world as the rest of my body. It's probably a sign of absolute mental and physical exhaustion and the constant flux in my life coupled with a deep fear about next year and the work that may or may not come in. I wake up in bed not knowing what city I'm in. I have pains in my chest. I am distant. I find it hard to focus. My mind wanders off into fantasy worlds. Parking in a car park which doubles up as the set of Holby City only enhances this slightly existential "nothing is entirely real" existence , and when I stare for hours at my iPhone, getting dragged into a succession of virtual worlds, I sometimes feel invisible. 

These thoughts will, of course, pass after a while. After a week's rest, healthy eating and exercise, I'll be right as rain again.

Anyway, I've been twiddling with this all day, and need to get back to my autocue. No rest for the wicked. Tomorrow I'm up at 5am!!