Tuesday, 31 December 2013


I've had a funny tummy all day; plainly a reaction to rich food, and the little bit of stress I've been under lately.

Nonetheless, I've been with the lovely Cindy, my Broadway producer friend from New York, all day... In Thaxted and Cambridge.

We woke up to some lovely food courtesy of my Mum, and then battled through the tail end of a cold front to a curious little church in darkest Essex where there are bizarre 17th Century anti-witch symbols scratched into the walls above the doors and windows. Why are they there? How paranoid were people back then when it came to witch craft? Who knows? What I do know is that it's one of the most bizarrely atmospheric places in the whole of East Anglia, and, in driving wind and rain, felt like the perfect way to start our day.

It's Cindy's 30th Birthday. She's 30 on the 30th... And on a blue moon to boot, which I'm told is very significant. Cambridge felt like a natural choice for the day. Cindy likes England, spiritual things, pretty buildings, shopping and glamour and Cambridge has all of those things in absolute spades. The sun came out as soon as we arrived and we got a sensational subset which Cindy described as "apricot" (except she pronounced the word "app-re-cott." Americans are weird!)

We even managed a little bit of punting; an hour or so along The Backs as the sun went down. Cindy sat like a queen in her big frock coat as I snaked the boat around groups of rather silly lads who plainly didn't understand the difference between the pole, the oar and, in fact, the punt itself!

I think many were somewhat emasculated by my punting prowess, and obviously assumed I was taking my girlfriend out on the water to impress her. If only they'd known the truth, it would probably have emasculated them even more! At one stage I offered to rescue a dropped pole belonging to one group of lads. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, they point blank refused the offer.  Way too embarrassing with a pretty lady present!

It was freezing. I was forced to use a metal pole which slipped through my hand and conducted the iciness of the water, giving me a terrible aching sensation, and to make matters worse, the wind was high and the current on the Cam during winter months is incredibly strong, which made returning upstream to the punt hire place rather hard work.

We returned to Thaxted for a birthday feast in the sitting room in front of an open fire. My Mum had even managed to find a gluten and dairy free birthday cake, which went down particularly well.

On the car journey to the train at Bishop's Stortford, Cindy's jet lag (and three mulled wines) kicked in and as we pulled into the station she started talking absolute jibberish... Cue me assuming she was having a stroke and going into hyper-mode. Turns out she'd simply nodded off and started talking in her sleep. It was curiously instantaneous, however. One moment she was chatting away happily. The next she'd briefly signed out!

The trains home to London were in disarray as a result of vandalism somewhere near Tottenham Hale, and we ended up being forced to join the tube network at Seven Sisters, which no decent human being should ever have to endure.

We stayed up late to read and listen to sequences from Brass, which Cindy feels is a very impressive work. She was crying within two minutes of hearing the first song, which I take to be a good sign!

Less good, however, is this funny, runny tummy which I feel it's imperative not to have when I wake up tomorrow. I have a party to cater, God dammit!

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