Monday, 23 December 2013


I woke up deliberately early this morning. My purpose: to thoroughly clean the house before going home for Christmas. The irony suddenly struck me. I was cleaning a house so that it looked all nice whilst I was away!

I started in the kitchen and slowly worked my way through the house with terrible soggy feet as a result of washing the kitchen rather early in the scheme of things. By the time I was done, I had trench foot!

I had a seriously bizarre dream last night about my friend Ian. For some reason he and Jem were auditioning for an awful amateur choir which Nathan and I were already members of. We were sitting in a school hall, around a table, and the choirmaster was asking people in turn to sing a passage of music. When he got to Ian, he said, "well I know from Benjamin that you're an adept music reader, but can you improvise?" "Yes of course", said Ian, and proceeded to sing the music proudly, a smug look on his face which said, "check this out." The only improvising he did, however, consisted of singing "have a banana" at the end of every phrase! In the dream I was mortified. I woke up laughing my head off!

House tidying complete, the next stage of the epic day became about lumping two enormous suitcases filled with presents and a heavy computer bag from Highgate all the way to Thaxted, which involved a stupid number of interchanges and goodness only knows how many flights of stairs and escalators. It's only when you're holding heavy bags that you realise quite how badly designed tube stations are, particularly when it comes to changing tube lines. You go up 12 steps. You go down 8. You go up 6. You go down an escalator. Imagine being disabled with all that nonsense going on? Or blind? Trying to carry all that rubbish with a bad back was perilously close to being foolhardy, but I had no choice. It's amazing, when you're a bloke struggling with stuff, how no one offers to help! Quite the opposite in fact. I heard more than my fair share of tutting. Note to those reading this blog: it's not only pretty women and old people who could sometimes do with a hand!

I had a tiny moment of sadness upon leaving the house, when I realised there was no space in my bags for the presents that Nathan and his mother had given me. It would have been so lovely to open them on Christmas Day, surrounded by everyone, but instead, I sat watching another Christmas cookery programme on the telly and opened them alone. I called Nathan whilst opening his, and it was lovely to hear his voice, but it wasn't quite the same.

Still, I reached Bishop's Stortford soon enough. The train station is something of a building site. Heaven knows what they're doing, but the exit seemed to involve passing through a wooden board walkway and handing my ticket to a silly woman in hi viz who made a big deal about my needing to hand her the ticket "properly" rather than in two fingers wrapped around a suitcase strap!

I made it to Thaxted at about 4pm and my odyssey was rewarded with a plate of delicious soup.

This evening, we went to the town square in Thaxted to sing Christmas Carols. There were about eighty singers plus a little group of folk musicians who accompanied us. They brought mince pies and mulled wine around and afterwards we went to the pub to sing some more, although I wanted to throttle the accordionist who accompanied In the Bleak Midwinter without once playing that heart-breaking second minor chord. These folk musicians seem to favour the major chords!

I came home and decided to write, so say up til 1am doing just that. The Thaxted air seems to have inspired me. That plus watching songs on the telly from Sting's new musical, which is, quite frankly, astonishing. He's done it all properly; set out to write a musical with a respect for the art form. You can't ask for more than that, can you Ben Elton, Jennifer Saunders...

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