Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Magic in the trees

They play BBC Radio Cumbria in the shower blocks at our campsite, which  is a sound I find deeply comforting for some reason. There's something utterly familiar about BBC local radio, which comes, I assume from my doing so much work around the English regions. There's a certain formula. A certain style of delivery which unites them...

We've just endured a mega-storm. Fortunately whilst the rest of the group are staying in soggy tents, Nathan, Sam and I are "glamping" it in a little wooden hut with a fridge, a kettle and a proper bed. It's all a bit "Heidi" without the bad dubbing, but it's fabulously dry, and we spent the evening playing host to 13 people, who all gratefully crammed inside for a wonderful meal of vegetarian sausages, bread baps, salad and halloumi.

Everyone's now gone to bed, but all the tents are leaking so miserably that I'm half expecting to be woken up at 3 in the morning by a queue of shivering people wanting to sleep on our tiny barn floor. 

Today has been magical. Nathan, Sam, Raily and I jumped in the car first thing and drove 70 miles to a little town in Scotland called Sanquhar. The journey took us around Carlisle, Gretna Green and Dumfries and through some spectacularly beautiful scenery. 

Why Sanquhar? Because it's the home of a very special brand of knitting, which I'm sure I've discussed already in this blog. (The Sanquhar tradition deals mostly with gloves; beautiful, intricate things in black and white which look like ornate timber-frames houses.)

The town itself is rather ordinary, pleasant enough, but really just a little lowlands market town, although it immediately became apparent that the good folk of Sanquhar are amongst the most friendly people in the world. We visited the tiny museum, and a chap called Rab and young girl called Laura took us around in person, showing us a wonderful slide show about the area and pointing out all sorts of curios. 

We had tea in a beautiful craft museum, where Raily bought me a copy of the record of ABBA's Greatest Hits Volume One, which had been turned into a clock! It's the album which shows the band sitting on a park bench and it was the first record I ever owned. To continue the theme of this blog in recent days, one of the tracks featured on the album is Mamma Mia!

We walked down the High Street and into the post office, which revealed itself as the oldest post office in continual use in the world. It opened in the early 18th Century, which I find quite staggering. 

On the way home, we stopped by the town's old castle and parked up outside a derelict building. Seconds later, Raily was climbing into it through a broken window, which felt so decadent and brave that we all followed suit. 

It was some kind of farm house with a stables attached. The roof had caved in and the floor was covered in slate tiles. We nicked four, which we later washed and gave to the kids with coloured chalks for them to draw pictures of what they wanted to dream about tonight. They couldn't have gone down any better.  

On returning to Northumberland, we picked up the others and returned to our beloved Sycamore Gap, telling the kids that the gap in Hadrian's Wall was created when the magic flew out of England many years ago. We assured the kids that, because all the magic had flown out at that point, the tree in the gap had maintained a few little wisps and that if they all pressed their ears to its trunk they'd be able to hear the tree singing. And sure enough, when the kids listened, they heard a curious  choral sound! I can't imagine how it happened. At one point I wondered if the sound was coming from my pocket! What is life without magic? I hope the kids remember these long summer days for the rest of their lives. I certainly shall. 

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


It's 9.30pm and we've just left the beautiful white sandy beach in Alnmouth on the Northumbrian coast. We came here for chips right at the end of the day, and paddled in the freezing water and ran races across the sand as a pink misty light descended on the world and the lighthouses far out to sea began to flash their secret codes. 

We spent the day at Cragside House, a stunningly beautiful 19th Century mansion house set in a ravine in the middle of Northumberland National Park. The weather men forecasted carnage - terrible downpours all day - but we had nothing but blue skies and a gloriously hot sun. Yet another raging success for the BBC's finest! 

We travelled through the National Park on our way to Cragside. It's the first time I've spent any time in these parts and it's absolutely stunning. We had young Will in the car and stopped at one point to take photos of a truck load of sweet smelling pine logs which had been left in a layby. We could see for miles across the hilltops behind. 

I think I'm right I'm saying that Cragside was one of the first houses in this country to be fitted with electricity and the place is filled to the brim with Caractacus Pottseque inventions for turning joints and rinsing plates. Mez even spotted a curious machine which seemed to be a precursor to the Soda Stream. 

We came home singing ABBA at the tops of our lungs on the single carriage stretch of the A1 which runs from Alnwick to Newcastle. Travel further south and the next time the road becomes single carriageway again is outside our house in London. I love the fact that I'm on the same street that I live on, just 300 miles further north. And singing ABBA to boot. As the man who wrote A1: The Road Musical, I can think of no better way to end a day! I am radiantly happy as I write this.

Uncle Hadrian

We're sitting around a fire in an idyllic and wonderfully clean camp site in the hills of Northumberland.

It's been quite an extraordinary day. We set off at 9am and drove north up the A1 through all sorts of weird weather. We stopped for tea in a transport cafe in Rutland and had our lunch at Quernhow in North Yorkshire. Sadly, the cafe owner was incredibly low on food, so after we'd ascertained a whole load of things that he didn't have, we settled on a plate of egg, beans and chips whilst the rain lashed down outside.

We reached the campsite at 3pm and in the absence of any of the others, immediately headed off to Hadrian's Wall. 

Finding Hadrian's Wall was a childhood ambition of mine. I've tried on several occasions in the past but the quest has always proved fruitless. I even tried to find it in December when we were shooting 100 Faces. It's always eluded me. We've run out of time or not been able to find a nice bit of it...

As we drove through the country lanes, searching for the wall, we suddenly became aware of something which looked a little like a rather solid dry stone wall snaking its way along the crest of a craggy hill. And there it was! 

We parked up and rushed through a field towards the wall, and marvelled at the way that it ebbed and flowed like a giant roller coaster over the hilltops. 

We followed the wall by foot for a few miles, staggering up the steeper slopes and tripping our way back down again. We were searching for the romantically titled "Sycamore Gap" where a beautiful and ancient tree grows in a dell. Set against the wall it looks quite magical; so magical, in fact, that it was used as a location in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. 

We sat there for some time eating fruit as the clouds drifted over head. Sometimes the clouds were brown and bruised, other times they were almost black, but all the time a bright sun shone down on us. It was all so dramatic and wonderful.

As we walked back to the car, the rain, which had been promising to arrive for thirty minutes, started to fall. And there in the sky, hovering like some kind of mystical tiara; a glorious rainbow... Then a double rainbow... I stood on the wall, photographing the view and it actually made me weep. I didn't care that I was getting soaking wet. 

We returned to the campsite and met up with the others for a glorious al fresco dinner and an hysterical impromptu play about the Underworld by my godson, Will, and Tanya's lad, Tomas, which featured an even more hysterical pitch invasion by their sisters doing Scottish reels! 

Perfect. Perfect. 

Sunday, 28 July 2013


Sam is here, and is sitting on the sofa knitting a pair of socks with at least four needles. Nathan seems to be doing something similar, but I believe he’s making a pair of gloves in a “Sanquhar” design; an intricate black and white style of knitting which comes from a Scottish village. It looks like ornate Tudor timber framed buildings.

We're off on our holidays tomorrow; camping in Northumbria. Unfortunately, we've learned that it’s raining up North. Hilary, Tanya, Raily, Mez et al are already up there in some kind of state of mayhem by all accounts. I’m told Uncle Bill broke down on the way up, and that all the tents have leaked very badly. Little Jago woke up in a pool of water. It sounds quite hideous.

With any luck, the three of us will ride into the camp site like knights in shining armour and in the process, bring a little bit of the sunshine we’ve had pretty much all day in London with us.

I’ve spent the day today investigating the Leeds Pals; a regiment of ordinary Yorkshire men, who signed up to fight the Great War in 1914, almost as soon as Kitchener had let it be known he was searching for a “new” army of non-professional soldiers who were needed to fight the good fight. They trained for a year and served in Egypt before being transferred to France. Sadly, a high percentage of them were killed in the first three minutes of the Battle of the Somme. July 1st 1916. They calmly went over the top, and walked into a no-man’s-land which was literally humming with machine gun fire. They died in their hundreds. An entire regiment was wiped out, and an entire city was left grieving. Tragic.

There’s not a great deal more to say. It’s just been one of those quiet Sundays where very little happens. I can feel my energy finally returning. The sore throat (touch wood) has gone and I can greet August with a smile, and a flurry of research.

Rain storm

I'm in some kind of mega rain storm in some kind of mega country house in Oxfordshire. It's not a bad place to be in a storm. We're at the wedding of a pair of Nathan's more theatrical friends. It's been a lively and rather lovely do with many of the Royal Airforce Theatre Club members present. 

The newly weds hired in a photo booth and a box of dressing up clothes for wedding guests to take comedy photographs in. Two copies of each photo came out of the machine; one of which went into a special book for the bride and groom, which felt like a very lovely idea for a souvenir, although one wonders quite how much these things must cost. The wedding industry is an absolute license to print money, which makes me feel quite angry sometimes.

There was a chocolate fountain which I made good use of. Pineapple, I discovered, is a particularly good thing to stick on a skewer and suspend under a waterfall of the stuff. Highly decadent. 

I had a lovely chat about my First World War musical, which people seem genuinely interested to hear about. I'm actually trying to encourage as many people as I can to talk about relatives who fought in the conflict or were affected by it in some way. It's astonishing how many people have fascinating familial tales to tell, and how the war still inspires, chills and moves people 100 years on. 

Ali, who's directing the show I've written music for, talked about her great-grandfather, one of the catastrophically high number of men killed in the battle of the Somme whose body was never found. Her great-grandmother was 8 months pregnant at the time, and her Grandfather was therefore born without a father. Horrifying.

I continue to wade through my AJP Taylor history of the war. It's such an ancient book (published in 1963) that every time I turn a page, it comes away in my hand! I opened it today and the whole thing split in two! It was obviously second hand when I bought it, or was given it, and I find myself wondering how many other people have leafed their way through it. 

The most interesting thing it throws up is the astonishing incompetence displayed by those in charge of the military at the time. This really was the first of a new type of war, which no longer resembled a game of cricket where gentlemen finished their tea before squaring up to one another. Many of the early conflicts of the war; particularly those in the Caucasus or the Dardanelles, were absolutely thrown away by generals who demanded afternoon naps, or decent breakfasts before continuing with their campaigns... Whilst they rested, the enemy were able to call for back up, or regroup. Thousands of men lost their lives because the old farts in charge still thought they were fighting the Crimean war. Sassoon talks often about generals in their nightcaps, miles back from the front line, grumbling about unsuccessful working parties without any knowledge of what soldiers were enduring.

We take so much for granted these days.

I danced to one tune in the disco tonight... Mamma Mia! It's fast becoming my theme tune. It's not even my favourite ABBA song. 

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Mamma Mia

The song Mamma Mia has followed me around all day today. First airing was in the gym whilst I tried to read AJP Taylor's account of the First World War on a exercise bike (for the record, it's dry as toast, but I was thrilled to see he'd dedicated the book to one of my heroes, Joan Littlewood.)

The second airing came as I sat like an angry lemon in a traffic jam on the M25 heading to my parents' house. I'd been stranded in slow and no moving traffic for 45 minutes. Travel news on Radio 2 informed me  that things weren't going to get better any time soon, so I settled down to listen to their early evening request show with a chirpy Irish fella who sounds a little like your man who does the gardening with the curly angel hair. 

A bloke phoned in to say his granddaughter was coming to stay for the weekend. He was excited about taking her on a cycle ride and to the beach. There was something genuine and honest about his voice, and by the time he stopped talking, I was as excited as he was about his granddaughter's visit! The song request was hers: Mamma Mia. 

I don't know why I should find it so moving that the songs I've loved all my life should still be entertaining children today, but I was. That's the timeless nature of ABBA...

I turned the radio up and decided to sing at the top of my lungs to take the pain of the traffic jam away... But then a funny thing happened. The traffic began to move, and within seconds I was traveling at 80 mph and turning onto a relatively empty M11. Ah! The power of ABBA!

I had a lovely time with the parents and came home to watch an episode of Glee... One of our guilty pleasures, and coincidentally, the episode was about guilty pleasures. And how did it end? A massive ensemble version of Mamma Mia featuring the entire cast dressed in silver jump suits! 

I find it very hard to express how I feel when I hear ABBA. Desperate sadness, deep joy, utter nostalgia... A sense that perfection is possible. If I didn't hear at least one ABBA song in a day, I'm sure my life would rapidly cease to make sense. 

Go on... Go do it. Go to You Tube and type in "Summer Night City" or "When All Is Said and Done" or "As Good As New" and let the magic begin! 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Bonkers But Brilliant

I'm currently in a little self-catering apartment near Tower Bridge. It's become Fiona's London bolt-hole whilst she rehearses with Placebo. It's very nice, but utterly airless, with enormous windows which don't open. In this weather, I reckon I'd be throwing pieces of furniture through them, just for a bit of air. 

Fiona also heard a ghostly man's voice talking to her in the night, so I might get the smudge sticks out and give it a once-over.

We've just been down to the river for a little picnic. Marks and Spencer's finest olives, a sandwich from Pret and a lovely vegetarian raspberry jelly. We sat outside the GLA and watched Tower Bridge opening as the sun set. Quite a treat. 

The rest of the day has been about admin. Silly nonsensical things which are necessary, but take forever to sort out. 

Still, I sat for a few hours on the sofa and treated myself to some more Sassoon. I'm reading at a much faster pace after disappearing into my library of First World War literature in the roof and emerging with at least six books I felt I ought to read including AJP Taylor's history of the conflict, which looks a bit dry but ought to give me a necessary overview. It's all very well getting empathetic about the plight of young Tommies in the trenches but in order to nail a musical about it, I've got to understand everything precisely and in absolute context. I love the fact that my childhood obsession has provided me with so much appropriate research material.

We've just watched Tales of the White City, which Fiona reckons is the best film I've ever made. She likes the fact that the stories have breathing space, and absolutely loves Vicar Bob's angry sequence about epilepsy. Every time I see it, it feels just that little bit more daring and eccentric, which I rather like. I sincerely hope that the BBC see fit to give it a broadcast slot. 

When I first handed A1: The Road Musical in at Channel 4, no-one knew what to make of it. There was a sort of bemused stand-off, which only shifted when the piece was sent off to C4 lawyers, who described it as "bonkers but brilliant." I think Tales of the White City definitely fits into that category! 

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Pretty clouds

The clouds in the sky this evening are more than a little strange. Most of them look like balls of cotton wool against a forget-me-not blue backdrop, but in some areas these fluffy balls are linked  by hundreds of thin, vertical white lines. Like scores of tiny pipe cleaners or strands of horse hair falling off a broken 'cello bow. It almost looks as though someone has drawn the fluffy circular clouds, thought better of it, and rubbed them out with a cheap eraser, which has made everything look really smudgy. 

I'm in a shockingly bad mood this evening. I feel lethargic and irritable. I don't like being ill and want whatever's wrong with me to get lost. It's incredibly dull. I went to the doctors yesterday, who was fairly non-plussed, shrugged his shoulders a lot and said I'd only really need to start worrying about glands if they got hugely visible, which they're not. In fact the painful one isn't even feelable! He's prescribed tablets for acid reflux, which certainly can't do any harm, particularly in the light of the huge quantities of vinegar I consume on a daily basis. 

I still reckon it's the hardcore stress of White City working its way out of my system. The only thing which worries me slightly is that these are the symptoms I experienced when suffering from glandular fever as a 17 year-old, and I certainly don't want another bout of that! Really, I'd just like a whole day on the sofa, doing nothing but reading Sassoon. As the Littlest Hobo used to say... "maybe tomorrow..."

This morning I went for a massage, which was lovely, except he absolutely pummelled my back to the extent that I nearly yelled out in pain on a number of occasions. Apparently I've got knots upon knots. 

Nathan and I went to the South Bank this afternoon for a meeting with the Kaleidoscope Trust about releasing Four Colours. We met Alistair from the charity in the British Film Institute cafe and spent a few hours drinking expensive tea and sorting things out. Self-releasing an album is a tricky business and there's a phenomenal amount of admin to sort out. 

The South Bank was on great form, however. It's such a unique and wonderful resource for Londoners. They've presently got a big installation which features vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers all growing in enormous pots and crawling up giant wooden window frames. The bees were in their element, diving into buddleia bushes and enormous pumpkin flowers. 

There's also a huge sandpit, which stretches for a hundred yards along the river path. It was full of kids making eccentric structures, happy as Larry.

I feel genuinely very proud to be a Londoner when I visit places like that. Not a lot will beat the South Bank on a sunny summer's evening. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The cycles of life

It's 8pm and I'm snaking my way through the sticky streets of Fitzrovia. I was meant to be meeting Fiona for a drink in town, but her rehearsal with Placebo was overrunning so badly, that I had my hair cut instead, sat with a cup of tea on the corner of Wardour Street watching the world go by and then returned to Highgate feeling very happy. 

It's humid, though. It's like walking through a dirty steam room in a dodgy sauna. Last night was the hottest night ever recorded in the UK. Thunder rumbled almost constantly. I wanted an Italian-style humdinger of a storm to make things fresh again, but sadly we had to make do with the sound of a permanently grumbling tummy, permeated by tiny little intense rain showers. 

On returning to our car earlier, we realised the back window was open and the rear seat was completely soaked as a result. Still, only in Highgate could you leave your car window wide open and not have the £20 you'd left on the dashboard stolen!

Soho was buzzing. A jazz band was playing in Soho square; three musicians were wandering in circles around the hut in the centre, creating a curious Doppler effect. People were sitting on the grass, undoubtedly with terribly wet bottoms. Puddles of warm rain water sat on the streets, slowly evaporating into the hot air like water in a hair dryer. The smell was intense. The smell of my childhood; dust and blackberry bracken mixed with the unmistakable pungent stench of summer rain. Sassoon summed things up in a passage of his diary which I happened to read today, proclaiming  the smell of earth after rain to be, "the kindest smell that ever came to make me glad."

I continue to lap up Sassoon's diaries. I read them keenly, occasionally noting a turn of phrase or image which had a profound impact on me as a teenager when I first read it.

My carefully preserved hard-back copy of the 1915-18 diary was bought in June 1990 when I was 15. I know this, because a flowery inscription, which I'd proudly written in brown ink tells me so.  The writing reveals all the hall marks of a young lad who felt somehow that he was living in the wrong period. The back inside cover is bedecked, not with pictures of Bros or Kylie Minogue, but with coloured pencil crayon drawings; cartoon cats and flowers drawn by my friend Heather, who died of breast cancer before she was 30, and dark pictures of gravestones covered in poppies and phoenixes rising out of intense fires by me.

Julie asked me yesterday what it was about the First World War which had haunted me for so many years. She'd apparently talked about it with Sam, and decided it was the whole aspect of loss of innocence which had appealed. I'm not sure this can be the case when I consider my uber-innocent fifteen-year old self. Perhaps as my own sexuality began to dawn, this world, where, let's face it, most poets and writers had at least dabbled with the idea of licking the wrong side of the stamp, began to open up in front of me. It felt comforting and romantic. It was the world of Merchant Ivory films; a world where everyone had floppy hair, went punting and appreciated art and beauty in a way that none of my friends at school seemed capable of doing. 

Perhaps it was an era in history which presented me with individuals who seemed to think more like me. People I could recognise. My Grannie, after all, had been alive throughout the conflict. I couldn't get a handle on the Victorians, but Edwardians had electric lights and gramophones and cars. Not so different from us.  I empathised, for the first time, with the men who were needlessly sent to war. It was the first time I'd put myself in someone else's shoes and thought "there but for the grace of God..." And it was MY period. I'd found it for myself, and I could immerse myself in it every time the modern world felt brutal, or I felt isolated. Sassoon would understand me if only he was alive. And I longed to find my own Robert Graves and hang out at Garsington with Ottoline Morrell!

Such a curious thing. And I'm grateful to Julie for asking the question because it's made me think so hard. 

The scary thing about this musical I'm about to write is that it needs to be a masterpiece or the fact that my life has come a full circle to write it will have been without point.


An utterly horrific start to the day. I had a meeting with the BBC at White City booked for 11am, but inexplicably over-slept. My wake-up call was a text from Penny, sent at 10.30am. Thirty minutes to get from Highgate to West London! Tardiness is genuinely not very "me", but I guess my body's trying to tell me that there's nothing left to achieve for the time being other than hibernation! 

I jumped into a taxi without eating breakfast. I loathe taking taxis. I think they're wasteful and decadent in the extreme, but I literally couldn't think of another way to get across London fast enough. 

The taxi snaked its way through terrible North London traffic. Twatty drivers seemed to appear on almost every otherwise empty stretch; learner drivers, women with steering wheels too big for their little hands. All the time I felt lightheaded due to a combination of nervousness and lack of food. Nightmare!

I finally reached the BBC just 20 minutes into the meeting, and everything went swimmingly; five of us in London, and dear Helen, on her own, up in Newcastle. I felt a genuine twinge of longing to be up there with her. I adore working at the BBC in Newcastle. I imagined how lovely the little Heath opposite the BBC building up there must look in the sunshine and immediately started to think of ideas which might get me back up there working with the team again. 

The six of us discussed Tales of the White City and how we might promote it both to people on the estate and to a wider audience, with any luck on the telly.

After the meeting we went to Phoenix School to play our film to community leaders on the estate so that they could give us their feedback. It's always quite a frightening moment. I tried to focus on enjoying the film, but kept looking around in the darkened space to see if anyone was laughing, smiling, or wiping tears from their eyes... 

As it happened, I needn't have worried. The first person to speak afterwards dissolved into floods of tears before he could get a sentence out. That kind of response genuinely makes things seem worthwhile. If you can move just one person, you're doing well.

We went for a quick drink afterwards and then I was off, bouncing my way from Shepherd's Bush to Clapham Junction on the hottest day of the year on the most crowded train I've ever been on with the rudest people in the world to keep me company. A young black women sucked her teeth at anyone who remotely entered her body space and another bloke informed me that my entire body weight was leaning against his shoulder. Plainly a physical impossibility,  but I couldn't think of anything suitably acerbic to spit at him, so I just grinned inanely and hoped he'd think I was a lunatic.l before asking if he'd rather my entire body weight leant on his head! 

In other news, I am presently troubled by a sore throat on the right hand side which I've had for about eight weeks on and off. It flared up again yesterday in the form of a more glandular ache. Part of me wonders if it's all due to stress and my body urging me not to put myself through the hell of a project like White City again... But how quickly we forget. Just as a woman forgets the pain of childbirth the moment she sees a beautiful baby lying on her stomach, I forgot the physical and mental torment and prolonged periods of stress which are generated by my children. And if anyone dares to Mommyjack this blog by suggesting that writing a Requiem isn't as emotionally and physically draining but ultimately rewarding as childbirth, I'll be very angry indeed! 

I saw a wonderful play tonight; a haunting, wistful one-man show about the Christmas Truce which was beautifully written and acted by one Alex Gwyther, a fellow World War One nut. We chatted to each other in the bar afterwards and at one point he looked me in the eye and I could have sworn we'd both somehow travelled 100 years and back in a split second. 

After the play, we went for food with a whole crowd of people including Jim Zalles, Julie Clare, Tim and a few of Jim's wonderful friends. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Golden Heath

Hats off to Hampstead Heath for yet again providing me with a golden, magical day.

It was Philippa's idea. She organised for a few of us including Rob Rackstraw, Rob's Fiona and Pikka to meet by the bandstand, and so we sat chatting, playing games with the kids, plaiting hair, eating, drinking and listening to a covers band for the entire afternoon. 

There's little else to say. Lazy days on the Heath are never filled with intrigue and activity. People loll about. Some climb trees. Some play with frisbees. Most are content simply to be, and we fell into that category.

At the end of the day, as the sun started to melt behind Hampstead village church, we walked to the top of Parliament Hill and stared down at a slightly hazy London. I worried slightly that we were looking at low lying clouds of pollution. Brother Edward's world of Canary Wharf was partially masked by an exhaust-coloured mist and places further south, like Crystal Palace, were entirely obscured. Perhaps it was simply a dusty summer evening drawing in. 

I've just come home to make some pasta and found a melted pepper and half a punnet of mouldy grapes in our fruit bowl. Devastatingly ghastly. The grapes were covered in fruit flies and I entered the pepper as I picked it up. There was a strange liquid residue. We've saved what we can and thrown the rest into a bin bag which we've already thrown onto the street. 

That'll be a nasty surprise for the little old man who spends his life rifling through the bins of Highgate. I guess he'll have seen much worse. Seeing Philippa changing her daughter's nappy this afternoon made me realise how lily-liveried I am when it comes to squelch and gore! 

The tree with the hole

Today has gone from being a horrid day, to a hugely magical one.  It's amazing the difference that about twelve hours will make!

It was the day of the Fleet Singers' concert. They were performing Songs About the Weather at St Anne's church and I was incredibly proud of them. They always rise to the occasion and pull something special out of the bag in performance. They're such genuinely lovely people and I feel very privileged to have written something which they seem to have taken so much to their hearts. 

The journey down the hill to the rehearsal this afternoon was upsetting in the extreme, however. We arrived at the church a little early and decided to pop down the road to grab a cup of tea. There was nowhere to park so I decided to jump out of the car at the junction with Gordon House Road when the traffic lights were on red. 

Unfortunately, my opening the passenger door coincided with a cyclist tearing down the road in the gap between our car and the pavement in what I've since realised was a mini cycle lane. As I opened the door, he went smack into it and fell onto the pavement in a crumpled heap. All I could do was apologise. I plainly should have looked before opening the door. Apologies weren't enough for him, however. 

As Nathan got out of the driving seat, he got an absolute mouthful, which turned into a mild head butt when Nathan argued back. 

It all became very horrible, very quickly. The bike rider got on his high horse about us being"middle class c***s" and within seconds was threatening to f*** us up; a threat I recorded on my mobile phone. He said he could get £30k out of our insurance for what we'd done, but then decided he was a "reasonable man" and that we could give him £20 to fix the little rubber piece on his peddle which has fallen off and seemed to be the only damage we'd done to the blessed bike and its ghastly owner. I am very sorry I opened my car door and knocked him off his bike, but there's never any need for physical assault in retaliation. 

We gave him his money. He stank of dope and was obviously feeling a little paranoid. During the entire exchange, I simply stood and watched in something of a daze. I realised afterwards, when I burst into tears and then had to sit down because my legs gave way, that I was suffering from shock.  

Still, on we went to the rehearsal, and the day got better and better. Julie, Michelle, Tina, Sam and my
Mum and Dad came to the concert, and seemed very much to enjoy the experience. My Mum, I feel, of all people was able to relate most to the memories from the choir which I'd set to music, particularly the constant running theme of Blow the Wind Southerly, which was my Auntie Gill's theme tune, and the references to Greenham Common. I've always been incredibly proud to be the son of a
CND campaigner. 

I was also thrilled to be able to introduce my father to Beverley in the choir, who last clapped eyes on him in 1959, standing at a bus stop in Nuneaton! She never spoke to him, but knew exactly who he was. She later lived next door to my uncle Ben Till and thought it was a very odd coincidence that the work her choir was singing was written by someone of the same name. It was only when she mentioned she was from the Midlands that the penny began to drop. 

After the performance, we went to the pizzeria opposite and sat outside eating and drinking the night away. Louise the editor appeared with two DVDs of the White City film. Bless her. She'd walked all the way from Finsbury Park to deliver them by hand.

Michelle mentioned one of the memories in the oratorio which had really stood out for her, the one about the tree with the hole in it, and she'd wondered if it was the same tree which I'd mentioned so often in this blog. It is. "I'd love to go some time," she said. I thought for a moment. "Let's go now..." 

...So David, Louise, Michelle, Nathan and I jumped into a car, drove around the edge of the Heath, bailed out somewhere near the Vale of Health and roamed the heath for several hours in the darkness, having a very special adventure which culminated with a visit to the tree, which all five of us climbed inside and sat for some time marvelling at the smooth wood and the circular patterns on the bark within, which we studied by the light of iPhones. 

It was utterly magical. It felt like the place belonged to us and I was sorry when it was time to go. 

Life is about days like this, and I want more of them! 

Friday, 19 July 2013

Close but no cigar

Well, I can honestly say I didn't sleep a wink last night, at least not before 6am, which has to be a record. I sat, wide awake, watching episodes of Pointless on iPlayer and a Top of the Pops from 1978. I don't know what was going wrong. It was a muggy, still night and my mind was busy with silly thoughts. Most likely, however, it was the fault of the seagulls! They performed a minimalist symphony throughout the night, squawking, screaming, squeaking and whinnying the most bizarre rhythmic patterns which would occasionally, and purely by chance, sound curiously tonal. I lay there, mind completely alert, attempting to transcribe the rhythms. Periodically, I'd hear such a weird noise that I'd leap to my feet and look out the window, staring out onto a darkened Hove street. A cat stalking a rat would creep out from behind a parked car, but the rest of the town was almost certainly sleeping. 

Except the seagulls. It would appear that Seagulls don't sleep. They hop around on roof tops, fighting and chatting quite happily until dawn, at which point they seem to become particularly excited. Sometimes hundreds of them start calling at once; often their shrieks synchronise and then start to phase. Sometimes they sound like old women laughing. 

I took myself for beans on toast on the beach and watched a man using a long oar to punt himself across the deep turquoise waves on a surf board. It must be some new-fangled sport, because he certainly wasn't going to get an opportunity to surf on a sea that was smoother than a snooker board! 

Today was perhaps the hardest of all the days we've had in PK's attic studio. Maybe it was the heat or the absence of fresh air, maybe it was the lack of sleep, but on one occasion I started to feel incredibly light-headed. A few moments later PK said he'd started to hallucinate and it struck me that the pair of us had sat for so long in the dusty sunlight pouring through his attic window that we were both suffering from heat stroke. I still feel incredibly odd.

We're so nearly there now in terms of comping and tuning the two Pepys movements, but it's been such hard work, and just as we thought we'd reached the end, a whole set of computer glitches set us back a number of paces. It wouldn't have been possible to get any further without the pair of us going mad, so I've hopped on the first London train. My August hay fever seems to have kicked in, so my nose is running and I'm sneezing like a trouper! I'd love a cup of tea, but these trains don't have buffet trollies.

Nathan, Julie and Michelle have gone to see Abbie in an open air production of Midsummer Night's Dream. It's a terribly dull, over-performed play, but I sincerely wish I was there to support Abbie and share the experience. Michelle mentioned picnic blankets in a group email and I suddenly started to feel a little sad.

Samuel Beckett watches over us from a postcard on PK's wall. His wise eyes and impressively-wrinkled forehead tell me to keep swimming against the tide. Sassoon delivers a similar message in his diary, striving to better himself, longing to become an important poet, rather than someone who just enjoys writing. I think we can all sympathise with that. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Flip flops

My entire body is coated in a very fine, misty film of salt water! PK and I have been slaving away all day in his loft, which may well be the hottest place on earth at the moment. 

This Pepys Motet is officially a monster! We've spent the entire day fine-tuning the rhythmic aspect of the piece, which is a pretty hefty undertaking when dealing with 20 singers, each singing a unique vocal line. The movement is painstakingly slow, which means there's plenty of scope for people singing just slightly out of time with one another, particularly when interpreting triplets!

At one point in the mid-afternoon, when we realised we'd spent 4 hours working through the first minute of music, I went into a mini-meltdown. I genuinely felt like I'd finally met my musical Waterloo (cue song.) It's such an intricate and complicated piece of music and each note recorded seems to require some form of detailed attention. 

Pep-talks followed from PK, Nathan and latterly Julie Clare, and I left the studio feeling a lot happier, realising that we've been listening to everything in its rawest form. No reverb. No after-effects. No equalising. When this stage is complete, PK can go away with his sonic chamois leather and give everything a nice polish! Everything sounds better with reverb! 

So, I find myself returning to Fiona's house tonight, Siegfried Sassoon diary in hand, contemplating a fourth day on the motet, focussing on the other movement. I hardly dare to imagine what it will sound like. I'm not sure how much work we did on it last week, but it was considerably less than we did on the movement we've recently been pulling apart!

Still, there are worse places to be during a heatwave than Hove, Actually. The air is clean, the light is syrupy, and the people in these parts go about life at a very different pace. Cars take longer to turn out of junctions, shoppers take hours at supermarket tills finding the exact change in their wallets, people amble through the streets looking both cool and cool! Flip flops are even cool... Mobile phone receptions come and go, and no one cares. The Co-op has run out of milk and bread. Ditto.

I had breakfast on the beach. A plate of beans on toast and a lovely cup of tea. The air was warm. There was a light breeze. The early morning sun was glinting majestically on the mirrored surface of the calm sea. I was forced to squint whilst looking at it. People around me chatted about stuff that didn't matter, the sorts of conversations you have when you're not worrying about a list of things which needed to be done yesterday. 

I could certainly imagine myself living here, although I'd feel a little disloyal to Hampstead Heath! 

We're told the heat-wave is only going to intensify next week, with temperatures destined to break the records set in 2003 (which incidentally is mentioned in the oratorio which is being performed by the Fleet Singers on Saturday night!)

Songs About The Weather. 7pm. St Anne's Church, Highgate!


This train to Hove literally stops everywhere. I mean, where or what is Fishergate other than a road in the City of London? And what the hell is Aldringdon? Did it even exist before I got on this train? Will it ever exist again? Am I dreaming? Do you think I could get the driver to take me straight to Fiona's flat?

Wednesday, 17 July 2013


I'm on a train yet again from London to Hove, having opted to save myself an early start by staying at Fiona's the night before my day with PK tomorrow. I was hoping to get to Hove in time to sit on the beach and watch the sun setting, but I might have left it a little late. The sun looks suspiciously low in the sky, and I've barely left Victoria! 

The weather is oppressively hot. They have now raised the "heat wave warning" to level three, which means we now have to look out for all our very old and very young relatives, some of whom, apparently, are likely to die. The fourth (and final) warning is coupled with an even gloomier prognosis. Apparently "anyone could die." Cheery!

I, for one, am struggling to keep dry. How tragic is that in the middle of a drought? When the heatwaves roll in, we must all pity the hairy people. They were talking about keeping hairy dogs clippered nice and short on This Morning this morning, and I feel the advice should be extended to humans of the hirsute variety!  After showering at the gym today, I simply couldn't dry myself. I couldn't tell if water or sweat was pouring off me, but two towels and a hair dryer did nothing to stem the flow! It's genuinely mortifying. 

Talking of water, I've just taken a massive dive into the First World War pool to do research for the musical I'm about to write. I'm working my way through archive lists at the Imperial War Museum, seeing which of the collections of papers might be relevant. Of course it's impossible to ascertain the relevance of papers without knowing the story I'm trying to tell, but I can't decide on a story until I've done the research! Which ought to come first, I wonder? 

A few weeks ago, I felt moved by a poster on the tube for Friends of the Earth's campaign to plant flowers to save bees. Nathan and I are both great bee lovers and the deal was to text the word "bee" to a number, which would donate £5 to the charity, and in return a packet of seeds would be sent to me filled with flowers that bees like. Simples.

Today the man from Friends of the Earth called to ask for my address so he could send me the seeds. "Do you have a few minutes to talk?" He asked. I nodded semi-audibly. "Firstly, I should point out that I'm part of a small team of people who are paid by the charity to make calls of this nature..." How sad, I thought, that we've reached a stage where disclosure of information requires someone from a charity to make it clear that he's not a volunteer and is being paid to warm-call me. 

He took my address details fairly swiftly, but then the inevitable happened, "so where will you plant the seeds?" He asked.  "Probably in my garden," I said. "Oh are you a keen gardener?" he asked... And there it was. Rule number one when you're asking for more money, "make them feel special by hooking them in with chatter about something which interests them..." 

And with that he launched into the script. Did I know that four types of British bee were already extinct? Did I fully understand the nature of the crisis that the loss of bees would create? I barely had time to respond before he motored on into the next part of the script, priding himself on the fact, no doubt, that he could charm the elderly birds out of the trees and make it sound like he wasn't actually reading a script. 

I felt really let down. I'd donated money to a charity, a small sum, of course, but there I was with a man reading a script which was plainly going to end with his asking me for another donation. And more calls will follow, I've no doubt. Friends of the Earth will sell my contact details to other charities and I'll receive emails filled with bleeding heart requests for money from the type of fashionable charities for children and animals which I despise.

It's cynical and it's sad, and I shall think twice before donating to a charity like this again. A one off donation should surely be enough?

I'm afraid the caller got a slightly terse response from me. "I know where this is going," I said "and please stop reading this script at me. I am genuinely excited to be receiving my seeds, and I will plant them and hope that more bees come to visit me, but I know you're going to ask me for more money, and that's really not fair. Are you okay for us to just finish this call now?"

I could tell he was somewhat taken aback by my response, but the idea of going through a ten-minute conversation with him feeling more and more as though he were reeling me in seemed unfair on us both! To my mind, he alienated me right from the start of the conversation by telling me he was being paid to make the call, and it immediately struck me that his behaviour was no less irritating and morally dubious than that of those out of work actors and wannabe models who jump out on you wearing kagools and holding clip boards begging you to donate to charities who ought to know better!

Rant over! You're better than that, Friends of the Earth! 

I've now got off the train and snaked my way down to the sea front. I did manage to miss the sunset but have been rewarded with a pale blue sky and the twinkling lights of Brighton stretching into the misty distance. I may well try to record more waves. There's not a wisp of wind in the air tonight... Just the faint aroma of seaweed, candy floss and barbecues. The moon is glinting in the sea like phosphorescence! 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


I am actually losing the will to live. I've watched my day disappear into a hell created by Microsoft. Nathan has spent long hours talking to people across the world about the fact that my address book in my old computer refuses to appear on my new one. Part of me feels annoyed because it's such a ghastly First World problem to have! Feeling ashamed at myself doesn't serve to dampen the anger I feel that I may well have to input them all painstakingly by hand.  The bloke at PC World was completely unhelpful. He just blinked gormlessly at us. 

We had such positive plans for the day. We were going to sort out all the artwork for our charity release before heading to the park to photograph some of Nathan's knitwear designs. But by 5pm, when it was time to go to the gym, what had we achieved? Nothing. Nothing at all. I'd merely sat on a sofa, twiddling my thumbs, attempting to hatch plans for my English Counties composition. 

The complete lack of control that one experiences when dealing with PCs is deeply frustrating. At one point the Microsoft helpline was suggesting a charge of $99 for the privilege of helping us. That demand seemed to be retracted when I told Nathan to say he was from the BBC and wanted to talk to their press office, but not soon enough for me to change my view that Microsoft is a shoddy, money-grabbing company whose employees don't give a damn about the company they work for, or the customers who find themselves using their broken and rubbish products. 

To make the day seem even worse, a bit of Internet banking in the mid-afternoon established that neither of us are in a particularly good financial shape at the moment, so we've vowed to tighten every belt we can find. 

We did a big shop in Sainsbury's after the gym; lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and any two for one offers we could find. My Mum always used to say that she quite enjoyed making every penny count at the times in her life when she was poor, and the shopping expedition became quite good fun as we poured over price tags and tried to work out the difference between wanting food and needing it! 

This evening, whilst Nathan was at one of his knitting groups, I drove around the North Circular to the White City Estate, where I needed to pick up the stereo I'd left at Mustafa's Cafe on the last day of our shoot. 

The sun was setting and the most astonishing hot wind was buffeting its way around the estate. Getting out of the car was like stepping off a plane into a Mediterranean country. This weather is just insane!

Monday, 15 July 2013

I hate Windows Eight

It's been quite a frustrating day which started with Nathan and me, attempting, against hope, to move all my documents into the ghastly computer with the even more ghastly Windows 8, I bought earlier in the year. I've been putting it off. I knew the process was going to be frustrating beyond belief.The silly thing is full of glitches and non user-friendly nonsense and as a result, and because the damned thing nearly sent us mad, tomorrow morning starts with a visit to PC World to see if they can help to do a series of things that a Mac wouldn't even need to be told to do! We went at lunchtime today to find a little note on the help desk counter which read; "apologies. No technicians are in the building today." Apparently the enormous mega-store doesn't have anyone who can fix computers on a Monday! Imagine that in the Mac Store?!

We returned home and I sat, comatose, in front of the old computer all afternoon. It's the only place I can write Word documents at the moment. I apparently have too many instances of Word running on various defunct computers which have been taken back to PC World and are therefore not accessible for the necessary process of deactivation! Kids, if you change computers, don't forget to deactivate programmes like Word! It's impossible to get in touch with Microsoft to remedy the problem! 

We rehearsed with the Fleet Singers tonight and were joined by David from the Rebel Chorus who has come to bolster the bases. The existing bases in the choir have raised their games as well, helped largely the injection of confidence provided by bases around them who are singing more strongly, so we've gone from being the section which needed resuscitating to the power-house which motors the choir along! Bravo us! 

Before the rehearsal, Nathan and I sat on the Heath eating a mini-picnic from Marks and Spencer. We didn't have long, so rested in a pool of yellow light under a tree up near the pub where Ruth Ellis shot her lover. Two people, about 50 metres away, were having the mother of all arguments, which turned into the woman slapping the fella several times before storming off and screaming at him like a fish wife; "you f***ing Lithuanian Polish Jew poof!" He wouldn't have lasted long in the Second World War, I thought. He'd have been wearing a proper rainbow-coloured star in the camps!

Water fight!

We're driving down a series of country lanes in the area of the UK where Wales meets Shropshire. There's a deep, earthy, smokey, straw-like aroma in the air. The smell of a mid-summer evening in the countryside. A giant deep yellow crescent moon is glowing in the sky just above the horizon. Everything feels nostalgic, somehow. Heavy. Laden. 

We've been at Nathan's sister's house all day celebrating the fifteenth birthday of Nathan's nephew, Lewis. It was roasting hot, and we sat in the garden for most of the afternoon, eating burgers and dipping Doritos into pots of yoghurt. 

The highlight of the day was almost certainly the enormous water fight which became something of a grudge match between me and Nathan's niece, Beckie. I was armed with an enormous water pistol. She was forced to fight back with two plastic cups. We stalked each other around the garden whilst the rest of the family took refuge in the conservatory. 

Nathan's entire family was present. His sister, her three children and their partners, his Dad and step Mum, his Mum and (might as well be) step Dad, and, of course, Little Renee.

The most amusing guest was Nathan's father's dog, Barney, who got overwhelmed by the numbers of people and started humping everything in sight! I think there is little in life more amusing than the sight of a dog trying to hump a human, particularly when the human in question is Nathan's mother holding her great grand daughter. Today proved rather conclusively (if proof were needed) that I am still a child at heart... And this makes me very happy. 

In the evening we did a general knowledge quiz and then sat around with a guitar, singing songs, before Beckie amazed us all by singing, word-for-word, inflection-for-inflection the whole of my Hampstead Heath: the Musical song.  Very flattering indeed. And a lot of fun. She knew it better than me! 

We've just had a bit of a nasty scare after realising we were rapidly running out of petrol in a part of the world where petrol stations are few and far between. With every closed garage, levels of anxiety rose a little higher, but eventually I found enough signal on my phone to download a "find a garage app", which took us into a little town called Newport off the A41, where we struck gold. 

There was a curious humming sound in the garage, which I recorded on my little zoom machine. I've started recording sounds across the country for a future project based around the ancient counties of England. It's long been a great obsession of mine to write an album of material which celebrates the beauty and history of England. Specifically England. I'm actually planning to write a work for string quartet and natural sounds recorded in the ancient counties. I've already recorded some fascinating sounds in Wiltshire, Warwickshire and East Sussex, but won't score anything until I've got a remarkable database of material. It's very much a long-term project. 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Reunions and anniversaries

It's obviously incredibly late and I'm only just arriving in London at the end of a day which seems to have lasted forever. In fact the only thing which has flown by was my journey from Thaxted (where I had a quick loo break) to London, which I did in a world record time of 51 minutes. Ah! The joys of motorway driving in the wee smalls. And in London every single traffic light was on my side. 

I am, however, tired to a point of panic! It may well be that I have to post this blog without any conclusion or any form of proof-reading. Apologies in advance for grammatastrophies! 

I spent the afternoon lazing in Soho Square; a sort of impromptu, and rather magical reunion of the cast of a play I was in for a couple of lazy Edinburgh festivals back in the mid-90s. We've stayed in touch over the years which meant the conversation was a pleasing mix of catch-up, nostalgia and planning for the future. There was always something very special about the group. We bonded like no cast I've ever been part of since. Four of the six of us present have now got children, but children and partners were left at home across the board... I think subconsciously we all wanted to feel like twenty year-olds again. We laughed a lot. And vowed not to leave it so long next time.

I hot-footed it back to Highgate on a series of rail replacement buses, jumped in a bath, grabbed my DJ, threw myself into the car and drove to Norwich, or more specifically the strangely-named town of Wymondham, where I attended the silver wedding of my first ever mentor. Catherine Stratford taught me from the age of 12 to the age of 18; history, mainly, before she became my sixth form tutor. She was a huge influence on me and a massive part of my formative years. We used to go and do her garden and she'd give us ginger bread and cloudy lemonade. She lent me my very first Charleston record and co-taught me GCSE history with my father. Urban myth has it that I got the highest mark in the country for that particular subject, so between them they must have done something right! That said, when you're the son of a history teacher, you tend to discover that you've been learning the syllabus from within the womb. I could never understand why the other kids couldn't date churches!  

Catherine is also the reason I went to York university, so without her, heaven knows who I'd now be. Her daughter has just finished her first year at Oxford, so is probably not dissimilar to the age Catherine was when I met her. They're identical. It was like talking to a memory! 

She came up to me half way though the dinner, flung her arms around me and announced that I was the only former student in the room. What an honour. 

I genuinely don't have the energy to write much else. As I drove through it, Thetford Forest looked extraordinary in the early evening orange sunlight. That place is incredibly atmospheric. There's something about it which is both sinister and alluring. Something to do with witchcraft, which I can't put my finger on. The trees are odd, somehow. It's almost as if they're watching you... 

And on that spooky bombshell, I'll hit the sack! 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Climbing mountains

Getting home tonight is set to be something of an adventure. It seems I've missed the last direct train to London from West Worthing. I'm currently on a crawler train to Brighton hoping that I'll be able to make a connection which will get me into London before the last tube leaves either Victoria or London Bridge, but because the current train I'm on is already delayed, I'm not sure this is going to be possible. I hate it when timings go wrong like this. 

The day started brilliantly with a full veggie breakfast on Hove beach with Fiona. How wonderful to be able to emerge from your front door, and be on a beach within two minutes! Starting a day with a blast of salty sea air is surely the antidote to most illnesses?

I was with PK in Worthing by about 11, and we were deep in the world of Pepys after a cup of tea and a fistful of chocolate half-covereds. I thought today was going to be easier than yesterday. We were working on the third movement, the one about the Great Plague, which is slower and far less complicated than the one about the Great Fire. It very quickly emerged that we had our work cut out. Many, many mistakes had been made by the singers. Whole performances had to be melodyned and really surprising people, people with wonderful voices, had obviously struggled in the studio. It is, however, time for me to acknowledge that the Pepys Motet is a highly complicated composition which requires near-virtuoso singing skills, so I have to accept 90% of the responsibility for the difficulties we encountered today! 

We'll get there and it will be extraordinary; genuinely like nothing anyone will ever have heard before, but every CD we eventually press will have blood on its hands! Mine, PKs, all the singers...

I'm going to come back down to Worthing next week to finish off a rough mix. It's no hardship. I adore spending time with PK, and his wonderful partner, Liv, always cooks something spectacular. Today we were treated to noodles with tofu, avocado and cucumber. Just delicious. My only issue is that I feel bad for PK. I brought him onto this project to mix two pieces of music, not give them emergency surgery! 

Part of me longs to walk away from a project with nothing left to do on it. White City lingers on, with Louise the editor struggling to archive the film due to the antiquated programmes and formats she's been expected to use. I had grumpy texts from her yesterday informing me that the traumas continued, and once again I felt bad! 

Fiona's beautiful musical Postcards continue to haunt me today. As a writer, she truly understands the art of simplicity... and simplicity is my Holy Grail. She explained yesterday that she'd spent half an hour playing the same 3-note sequence over and over again until it felt perfect. Perfection! What a glorious word! When I'm in a recording studio a sort of mania descends which is created largely by the appearance of the most ridiculous musical mountain that I'm trying to get everyone to climb which only reveals itself in full as people approach the microphone. It looms from behind a sort of calm mist, and before they know it, they're hurtling towards its jagged peak in a rusty old aeroplane! What my music needs is a Zen master! 

Readers who have embroiled themselves in the saga of my journey home will be thrilled to hear that I've made my connecting train! I'm desperately hoping now that no one's going to come and sit anywhere near me. I long to sit in absolute peace and quiet; a state triggered by a pair of teenaged girls who sat behind me on the train from Worthing to Brighton, giggling and shrieking at almost everything. 

...Unfortunately, I've now been joined by a pair of sighing lovers who are eating wraps and staring longingly  whilst touching each others' bare knees with hummous-covered fingers. They're going to start snogging: I can feel it in my bones, and I'm going to self-defenestrate! 

I don't suppose I have a great deal more to write. I have another manic day earmarked for tomorrow; drinks in Soho at lunchtime followed by an insane trip to Norfolk for the 25th wedding anniversary of someone whose wedding I actually attended. This makes me feel ancient... And rather silly, as it's just dawned on me that I went to the wedding dressed in Charleston-dancing clobber. 

And yes, tragically, I can dance the Charleston. It's the only dance my dyspraxic, spazzy bones will allow me to do! 

Night night.