Today started at a coffee morning in a junior school on the estate. It's such a horrible experience to be a lone male walking into a school these days. You can see the look of slight concern in people's eyes. They wonder who you are and why you're holding a suitcase. Schools have become fortresses. Tall metal fences keep the children inside and the undesirables out. In order to get in, one has to ring a series of bells and negotiate a set of external corridors; at every stage forced to declare your business to faceless intercoms. The Catholic school we visited later in the day was particularly gruesome in this respect. The secretary made me feel like an infidel! I suppose it's a necessary evil, but it certainly makes a school less of a central part of a community.
At the coffee morning, I met an extraordinary woman; strong and dignified. She'd converted to Islam from Christianity and had a sort of inner light which glowed like a kind beacon. There are so many remarkable people on the estate; people who deal with pain on a daily basis, yet seem somehow to take it all in their stride. I feel genuinely lucky to be walking among them.
We had lunch at Glad's Cafe and then drifted around the community centre all afternoon, watching a group of women doing a high-octane aerobics work out and speaking to an almost endless stream of local musicians who wanted to talk about the project. It's strange that none of them thought to bring their instruments. It would be almost impossible for me to feature a musician in this piece without at least hearing them play, particularly one who claims to play every instrument under the sun. That's a big claim!
I'm pleased to be heading home. I'm hungry and very tired and reckon I deserve an evening of telly with a big bowl of boiled vegetables! Man, I know how to rock and roll!