Thursday, 31 October 2013

Pumpkins

Meriel stayed the night last night and we went to Quarter's Cafe first thing for an early morning cup of tea. I stayed on to do some work on Brass before heading home for a rehearsal with Helen, the Rebel Chorus' new alto, who came round to go through  her part for tomorrow's recording.

She was, thankfully, incredibly well- prepared and rather sailed her way through the music without needing to stop. An hour later, she was gone, with only time to eat one Jaffa Cake!

I continued to work on Brass before heading off to the osteopath, who, realising I don't seem to feel pain when subjected to deep tissue massage, went at me like a psychopath. As a result I feel about three inches taller and very much ready to face the world, although I'm sure I'll ache in the morning!

It's Hallowe'en and almost everywhere I look there are curious little devils and ghosts and ghouls, some with the most amazing make-up and masks. I bumped into Alex, who was off to see Jo and Russel and their kids trick or treating in Hampstead Garden Suburb, where Hallowe'en, I'm told, is something of a legendary event. I rather suspect it's a festival that Jewish people don't mind celebrating!

As we travelled south on the tube, Alex opened his bag an showed me what he was going to be wearing; a crazy mask, which he put on, an even crazier wig... "You're not doing this for the sake of Russel and Jo's kids are you?" I said... He looked a little sheepish... "Hallowe'en's so much fun," he said...

I reckon we should introduce the concept of adults trick or treating... Mind you, I imagine that might get out of control rather quickly. When I was a child, trick or treating was regarded with great suspicion as something only bawdy Americans did. There were always rumours about people putting razor blades in apples which I never really understood. Surely it's the kids doing the tricking? So why would a householder accept an apple from someone he'd refused to give sweets to? Have I missed the point?

I came home and rehearsed with Abbie, before we all went out to Muswell Hill to buy chips and pumpkins to carve in front of the telly. Abbie and I went for rather traditional faces whilst Nathan created the silhouette of a little ghost. He's so visually creative, that one.

The Light Princess

I had a meeting with Alistair from the Kaleidoscope Trust at 11am in Soho this morning. I rather like Soho at this time of the day. It feels relaxed. A far cry from the gay mayhem (or gayhem) of an evening.

I decided to stay in town and take myself on something of a cafe cruise whilst working on Brass (for the first time in any real detail.) I'm very much enjoying the process. The first step is to get some wit into the piece. In the first pass, I just crudely wrote the skin and bones of what needed to be said. It was all shamefully "on the nose" and desperately humourless. It's good to be able to begin the profess of addressing this particular issue. Rather liberating, in fact.

I walked from Soho to the South Bank and went a bit low blood sugar outside the Royal Festival Hall. Mez arrived and hurried me off for some food, warning Julie and Michelle (our companions for the evening) that until I'd eaten I might not be much company! Now there's a good friend!

We were meeting up to see The Light Princess, Tori Amos' musical at the National Theatre. There are few people in the world who are greater Tori Amos fans than me and I went in determined to enjoy the piece.

The overall experience was quite a mixed bag; it lost me, it found me, it lost me again, and then ended like a pantomime, which felt hugely disappointing.

What was great about it? The songs were beautiful; really interesting rhythms and some devastatingly beautiful melodic lines. The highest marks of all have to go to the acrobats, however, who spent the entire show finding astonishingly intricate ways of creating the illusion that the central character was floating. There were some truly magical moments.

What was less good? The orchestrations were relentless and too dense (way too much woodwind honking for my taste), I wasn't sure about the book, I thought the show was lazily directed and I wasn't wild about the choreography in terms of what was distinct from the extraordinary acrobatics. Overall it felt patchy, I suspect, because too many people had thrown their hats into the ring over the five years the show has been in development. And too many creative cooks water down any of the decent flavours of a broth. I didn't feel there was a strong central vision in the show; merely a sense that lots of different aspects had been thrown at the piece, only some of which had stuck to the canvas. Five years of development is a luxury which most shows don't have. I was quite astonished to learn that 20 minutes of the piece was cut in previews and that many of the songs were being written during rehearsals. After five years I'd expect a complete score, workshopped to within an inch of perfection!

What I'd hoped for was the space that Amos usually injects into her recordings; the sparse orchestrations drifting over the stunning pentatonic piano figures. There was rather a disappointing lack of piano coming from the pit in general. Space, it strikes me, would have saved  the orchestrations from being so disappointingly generic.

After the show we went to the upper echelons of the National Theatre with some of the cast. They were being wined and dined by a corporate sponsor and the lure of canap├ęs is great for all starving creatives. The view over the river from up there is amazing, particularly at night, and I felt hugely privileged to be there.





Scene when she wills something

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Vomiting pumpkins

I arrived in Lewes at about midday today and had a lovely walk through the town to Meriel's house. The sun was shining, the air was thick with the smell of wood smoke and the ground was covered with autumn leaves, which I would happily have kicked like a child had it not been for them being somewhat mulchy on account of the storm and the biblical amount of rain which it brought!

We had lunch at Meriel's and caught up with my godson, Will, and his sister, Jeannie, (whom I'm now instructed to refer to as my "honorary god daughter.") Both have been staying with Meriel for a couple of days whilst their parents celebrate 40th birthdays in Berlin.

Both kids are becoming rather wonderful characters. Jeannie has a tendency to sulk a little, but the sun comes out when she's feeling happy! She's plainly going to be a very fine little film actress when she grows up. Her face seems to have the ability to silently express almost any emotion in the most refined and subtle way.

Will is bombastic and freakishly intelligent. His parents aren't the sort to go on about such things; when I ask them how he's doing at school they give me the impression that he's merely pottering along. His favourite subject is history (unsurprisingly as his parents are both historians) and his favourite period is the ancient Egyptians. "What do you know about the Egyptians?" I enquired, rather patronisingly. "Too much to tell you today, in fact, it would take a whole week to tell you how much I know. The only thing I don't know a great deal about is the Rosetta Stone. People know more than me about that!"

I should point out that he's eight! A few minutes later, he struck a rather pompous pose, pretending to hold a walking stick, and said, "look, I'm Howard Carter!"

Jeanie came down the stairs at one point holding something which she presented to Meriel very proudly; "Meriel, look what I found behind the sofa..." It was a tampon. I hasten to add a clean one, but it was hysterical!

After lunch we drove in Meriel's wonderful open-topped car to Sheffield Park and Garden, a local National Trust property with beautiful gardens sweeping down to a lake. We met Hilary, Rupert and Jago there and had a very lovely walk through glorious autumn trees. The kids had a blast. Who'd have thought a  rhododendron tree could provide such a brilliant climbing frame?

The sun melted into an orange fire on the horizon. And I vanished for a while to take photographs.

We returned to Meriel's for chips and beans and I got the kids carving out pumpkins. It's something I've done every year of my life for as long as I can remember, Hallowe'en being, without question, my favourite of all the festivals. Will and I made a terrible mess carving a pumpkin which we decided to make look like it was vomiting. We placed it proudly on Meriel's outdoor wood-burning stove with a trail of internal pumpkin matter spraying out of a wide open mouth! Great fun.

As I walked towards the train station, through the darkened streets of Lewes, a set of church bells starting ringing, just as I walked past. I'm sure the locals get sick to death of the sound, but to me, it was a mournful, deeply atmospheric rural sound, a sound which reminded me of home (wherever that is) and rounded off a really very lovely day.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Chaos


We’ve just spent a hugely gruelling day at Sonica Studios in Clapham, recording four movements of the Pepys Motet with the basses from the Rebel Chorus. Sometimes I think that the Pepys Motet was sent from hell to punish me. I have never known a project smack me so regularly in the chops! It nearly sent me mad in 2010 when it was first performed, and every subsequent incarnation has been fraught with complications and general hideousness!

Today’s hideousness started with the aftermath of the storm. Before leaving the house, I’d checked the internet and seen pictures of market stalls in South East London, twisted and mangled by high winds. As a result, I was expecting the Archway Road to be a post apocalyptic scene of smashed roof tiles and broken windows, but was quite disappointed to merely find a single upturned plastic dustbin and a few twigs and leaves scattered on the pavements. Certainly in Highgate there was nothing to justify the travel mayhem, but trains were cancelled, choir members got stranded on buses and it was subsequently more than an hour before we started recording music. I guess it could have been a great deal worse, but, frankly, any delay was always going to cause problems. The music is not easy by anyone’s standards, and is liberally sprinkled with the sorts of sequences which people think will “come out in the wash” in the studio; one noticeable section of movement one, henceforth known as the “6:8-9:8 zone” is a prime example of one of those bits which singers think is too complicated to rehearse! It’s a perverse logic, but if you’re no good at counting, sometimes the only thing you can hope for is that things will all sort of make more sense with everyone else there!  

Time ticked away. By the time we were meant to finish, we’d only done three of the four movements and so we epically overran, with one of the singers needing to go, which meant we had to rush him through his lines so that we at least had his voice on the recording. Honestly, it was horrible. The feeling of time rushing through your fingers, the dreadful realisation that you’re losing at least a hundred pounds which you’ll need to pay to the studio in over-time, the embarrassment of knowing you’re trying people’s patience; singers, studio engineers...

Afterwards the studio owner said, “catastrophic overrun, Mr Till, I’m surprised the singers didn’t mutiny” and the engineer shook his head and said “too many notes.” Frankly, I just want to crawl under a stone and hide. In fact, as the session came to a close, all I wanted to do was run away. I felt ridiculous, and ashamed. Running decent, professional sessions, is part and parcel of being a good composer, and I’m renowned for running chaotic ones!

So, I need to do some serious thinking. Do we put the project on hold? Do we (yet again) only record five out of six movements? We certainly need a contingency plan because I can’t assume that all the singers will come into the studio as well prepared as they’ll need to be in order to go at the pace we need to travel at.

It’s a horrible situation and I’m too tired to think about it right now. I actually need a day off... Cue tomorrow. I’m going to Lewes. I’m sure everything will seem very different when I’ve had a bit of time with the godchildren.

Speedy Gonzales

This needs to be the speediest of speedy blogs. It's 2am and I've just driven all the way back from Bristol in pretty heavy rain which turned the car into a little box of condensation.

We had our final gig with Roy at the Colston Hall, a curious, rather dilapidated 1950s sort of venue with a really eerie basement. In the interval I took all the string players down there on a ghost tour. Great fun.

The gig itself went very well. We had an awful blip in Heaven Is Here, but otherwise I thought everything was excellent. Roy was on great form. The audience was very vocal - particularly towards the end. I got the impression that a number of people there had seen the show all three times.

I felt quote emotional at the end. When Roy plays When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease, I don't think there's a single person who doesn't think about death in some way. I guess Roy himself must sometimes wonder how many more times he himself will play it. It's a hugely mournful song.

Well, they say the hurricane has touched down in the south west. Fortunately Gillon and I were ahead of it as we drove along the M4, but the winds have picked up even since I got home. The windows are rattling. I have a full day in the studio tomorrow (bad planning)... I must go to bed.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Corona

I met Ellen at the train station in Manchester this morning (which seems like forever ago) and we had a fifty-minute, rapid-fire catch-up chat. It was so lovely to see her. She's up for an award for her writing work on Corrie, which is undoubtedly much deserved.

I got on the train to London, and became rather concerned when the train started stopping at fairly random places in Cheshire like Wilmslow. A quick look at google maps on my phone gave me the impression that we were actually lheading due north until I realised I had activated some kind of insane setting on my phone which showed me an upside down map! What's all that about? Why would there ever be a need to show due north at the lower end of a map?

The news is full of the hurricane which we're told is heading our way with gusts of wind up to 100 miles per hour. It's due to hit the West of the country, some time tomorrow, most likely whilst we're performing in Bristol... Which I reckon is fairly comprehensively west!

Unfortunately, necessity dictates that I have to drive through the storm when returning to London although Nathan seems to think I'll be fine on the M4.

We discovered that my train seat had been double-booked, when, at Crewe, a family arrived and flashed their tickets at me. Under any other circumstance I would have moved, but I was writing at my computer and had a table seat (which I'd requested) and didn't fancy wandering off down the train like Moses in search of Israel. I instantly regretted my decision, however, as three of the family piled in next to me, one of whom, a 5 year-old lad, insisted on climbing underneath the table where he started tapping me on my foot. Daddy was wearing a hearing aid and seemed rather ensconced in his own work, so no one said anything, and I merely sat there, trying to hope the tapping sensation would go away!!

I think it was when the lad decided to climb back onto the chair and use me as a pillow that I began to wish I were invisible. I mean... What do you do when Daddy doesn't notice? It's surely rude to tell the lad to sit up straight, is it?

I returned to London, had some spaghetti on toast and then jumped in the car to drive to Bristol, chasing a remarkable sunset for most of the journey, which at one point seemed only to be lighting the very tops of the trees. At one stage, just as I drove past Windsor Castle and Abba's Arrival came on my iPod, one of the cloud edges developed a crazy rainbow corona, which was rather pleasing, especially when a flock of tarty birds decided they'd do a fly by in silhouette!

I've been in my hotel room all night, watching telly, writing Brass and eating soup. Wind's up, and I've decided I don't like Bristol, based almost entirely on my getting horrifically lost on my way here, and the ghastly mess of a shopping centre where we seem to be staying.

Here's a confession: I've never been to Liverpool.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Virtuoso

I had a rather dreadful start to the day. I barely slept last night and woke up full of cold and realising there were loads of things to do before I went to Manchester. I now have no time for myself between now and the first two sessions on Pepys, and yet in the midst of all this I appear to have agreed to help someone organise an evening of cabaret, loosely affiliated to the Kaleidoscope Trust.

Crumbs.

Matt wrote to me yesterday and said something rather telling at the end of the email; "don't end up doing so much charity work that you become a charity case yourself." The advice hit me like a bullet. I realise now that it's very possible to get sucked into a cycle of doing charity work often at a cost to your own career and or relationships. And what for?

Anyway, I've been in Manchester all day, rehearsing and then performing with Roy Harper at the extraordinary Bridgewater Hall. What a sensational venue. So beautiful and intimate... Although properly echoey, particularly without an audience to deaden the sound.

The concert itself was packed, and as usual, Roy made every single audience member feel like he was sitting in their front room having a little chat between numbers.

The first half was a blinder. Everything came together. Roy, me, the band, it just felt like we were breathing as one.

The second half was a little more complicated and we sailed off into a few musical cul-de-sacs which was fairly frustrating as the whole thing could have been just magnificent.

Roy continues to astonish me, however. He's in his 70s and yet his voice is as vibrant and youthful as it ever was. I was able to enjoy the concert much more, and really listen to what he was doing. Some of his vocal theatrics are both moving and virtuoso.

As has become customary on this tour, I conducted in bare feet. Roy rather encourages heckling from the audience and at one point a Glaswegian voice shouted "hey Roy! Why don't you buy your conductor a pair of shoes!?"

Afterwards a woman came up to me, her face all flushed, saying she'd spent the entire performance taking pictures of my feet and hands; "I'd never sat so close to a real conductor before." I am, of course, not a real conductor, but I was genuinely touched that she came to say hello.

A rather curious thing happened in the green room back stage during the interval. Salisbury Hill by Peter Gabriel was playing on the tannoy and as we stood talking, it got louder and louder and then so loud that we we had to block our ears and vacate the room. It was like someone was fading out our Oscar speech! I realise now, as I write it down, that this is a non story - a nory - a borey - but I leave it in to remind myself of what was a rather amusing little occurrence.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Hundreds and Thousands

It's been a very long day and I'm incredibly tired, thank you, please! I did a morning's work and then staggered off to the osteopath, who finally did some work on me which involved making my back crack, which I absolutely knew was what it was waiting for. I feel so much better as a result and sort of floated out of the building. Joy!

I did a few more hours on the Brass script in a cafe somewhere in Borough and then came home to work through sequences of the Pepys Motet with Llio. I was actually rather surprised at how quickly she seemed to pick things up. I've certainly never written a more complicated piece of music and had begun to think it was unperformable! There are some absolutely nightmarish rhythms in the first movement, which I'm not sure even I understand! Is that the sort of thing a composer ought to own up to?

Carmen yesterday said that her boyfriend, Joel, had listened to the practise MP3s I'd made for her and instantly said, "that's by Ben Till, isn't it?" "How do you know?" asked Carmen, "because his music is so dense, there's always so much going on!" That's it! The next thing I write is going to be absolutely minimal... Well apart from Brass, which has 17 musicians in the pit. Oh my God, I'm out of control. I'm like a rubbish version of Mahler! I'm the musical equivalent of trifle! In fact, I'm a trifle with hundreds and thousands and almonds on the top in a bowl with a piece of chocolate cake!

We had lovely chats with Lli after the rehearsal and put the world to rights before taking ourselves off to the kebab shop for a takeaway to eat in front of the final of The Great British Bake Off final, which I found a distinctly moving experience. I've stuck to that series like glue.

I'm pleased the winner won. Frances is a true creative and I can only applaud someone whose mind works the way that hers does. There was something she said very early in the episode which made me suddenly view her as something of a kindred spirit. And she's a Midlander. Nathan's supported her throughout, of course. He can pick a reality TV show winner at 20 paces,  but I've always been more of a Kimberley fan. I like the way she talks to the camera and I like the fact that she owns up when she feels confident rather than doing the pretend "gosh, I'm so rubbish at this, please let me be your underdog" nauseating British thing, which I'm as guilty of as the next person.

My enjoyment of the show was only slightly hindered by the fact that I already new the result. It's almost impossible not to find out the result of a reality show this days. You think you're doing well by going "la la la" when people are talking about it, and avoiding all day time television, but you take your eye of the ball for a split second and there's the winner's grinning face nestling at the bottom of some home page. I've also heard that some big cheffy type let the cat out of the bag even before it was screened. Now that's not cricket, is it?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A missing quarter


Today was meant to be split into four quarters, the first of which was spent in Quarters Cafe, my local coffee joint, sending out copious emails and texts messages about Four Colours, which was officially released today. Or meant to be... more of that later.

Background chatter in the cafe was mostly about the wallaby which has been spotted in Highgate cemetery. Quite how a wallaby has managed to find its way there, I’m not sure. These crazy Highgate kids are probably rich and daft enough to have bizarre pets like that, but you’d think one of them might have reported a missing creature of that size. There are obviously several gangs of wild wallabies living in the UK, mostly escapees from places like Woburn Abbey. In fact, there’s a whole load of the creatures living near Thaxted in Essex. My mother claims to have done several emergency stops for them in the past, but in the middle of London? How does a wallaby hop, unnoticed, to a graveyard in zone three? In order to reach the cemetery, he’ll have had to have negotiated many roads. I’m intrigued.

I left the cafe at mid day and came home to rehearse the lovely Carmen, first soprano from the Rebel Chorus. She wanted to go over her lines in the Pepys Motet, which we start recording on Monday. It’s slightly terrifying. I don’t feel at all ready. The music’s ready, but the session this morning showed me how little I know all the individual internal parts. I was mortified when Carmen walked in. The house looked so untidy. I’d thrown all sorts of things into little piles and only managed to properly clean the bathroom because I didn’t want her to think I was a complete slob!

I was meant to head into town in the third quarter of the day to meet Jodie Prenger and the people from the Kaleidoscope charity who were being interviewed by Ian Dale on LBC Radio. Unfortunately Ian was ill today, and his producer rather incredibly decided the interview couldn’t take place without him because Ian is gay, and the replacement presenter isn’t. What? So I couldn’t talk to a black person about being black?! The hideous thing was that Jodie had come all the way from Blackpool on a train specifically so that she could do the interview face-to-face, and had to go all the way back home again for absolutely no reason. I am absolutely livid at the decision and would very much like to get to the bottom of why it happened.

I stayed at home, and saw Nathan briefly, who’d been teaching all day in Watford. He disappeared to see the official premiere of From Here to Eternity, and I stayed home to rehearse Matt, our new bass in the Pepys Motet. I came rather unstuck during the rehearsal, particularly during movement one, where there are a number of rather complicated rhythmic changes. It felt rather like the blind leading the blind and I felt very bad that I wasn’t able to be more helpful. My mind was still in an angry space about the fiasco with Jodie and I kept wondering what I should do. Plainly it would be inappropriate to go in guns blazing, but I just don’t understand how someone as well-known and likeable as Jodie could be dropped so spectacularly at such a late stage. She wanted to discuss something really important, and frankly, any presenter could have prompted her to say the right things. I can’t imagine that the producer, faced with the thought that Jodie was already in town to do the interview, would have done anything other than make it happen in some way. But then again, producers are not exactly renowned for their empathy. It’s all about the story and nothing about the people who actually create the story. There must be a logical and reasonable explanation. I genuinely hope that Ian Dale will be mortified about what has happened, and do everything he can to smooth things over on his return. It is an angry man who goes to sleep this evening!

Ghosts

On my way to the Royal Festival Hall early this afternoon, I made a last minute decision to exit the tube at Embankment rather than Waterloo. I decided the walk across the Thames would be better for my brain than the misery of the underpasses south of the river.  My mind was very much in the world of Brass, and I was thinking about the lyric for a song where a group of soldiers, sitting in a trench, sing about how badly they miss music.

I emerged from the tube into a rather misty, drizzly, murky London, but as I walked up the steps to Hungerford bridge, I heard a lone trumpeter playing a gentle hymn in the old school style of a Salvation Army band.

There was something rather remarkable about the moment. Something timeless, something Great War-like; a hymn of hope drowned out by rattling trains and the occasional fog horn on the Thames below. A hymn of bravery. This somehow felt like the answer to the question I'd been asking in my lyric. What was the sound that my men in the trench were longing to hear? This.

If there is such a thing as synchronicity, I experienced it right there. I stopped for a few moments and listened, before emptying my pockets into the trumpeter's case. He finished the hymn, promptly stopped what he was doing, packed up and disappeared. It almost felt as though he'd been there purely for my benefit and I started to think how beautiful it would be to discover that there were ghostly buskers all over London who'd been sent back to us to resolve issues and answer questions... Or simply to bring hope and joy into our humdrum lives. That, my friends, is the power of music. Right there. In a nutshell.

I met Fiona the other side of the bridge and told her the story, almost starting to doubt that I'd seen the busker at all. Fortunately, she'd crossed the river seconds before me and had thought the busker so suitably unusual that she'd taken his photograph on her phone.

The Roy Harper gig was astonishing. Terrifying, deeply moving, exhausting, invigorating, stimulating, overwhelming, amusing and uplifting. We sound-checked and rehearsed all afternoon and then performed in the evening.

Sitting on the stage at the Royal Festival Hall in front of the musicians of the band, I was aware of another ghost, that of David Bedford, Roy Harper's collaborator for forty years, the man who, in every other major live gig but the one I conducted two years ago, would have been sitting in my chair. David very sadly died just before the last concert and his presence was felt thoroughly; in every one of the songs he orchestrated. Roy became deeply emotional just before singing Another Day, and had to start all over again. I felt rather honoured to be there.

I was nervy in the first half. I think Roy was as well. There was a lot of new material, and it was all rather complicated. There were a couple of gaffs which made me a little angry because I felt that I should have seen them coming even though no one seemed to particularly notice. Maybe they knew something wasn't quite right.

The second half was a different show. Gillon the violinist, Jonathan the guitarist and I all took our shoes and socks off and went on stage bare-footed which felt somehow liberating and rather folky-appropriate! We sailed through the music, barely a semiaquaver out of tune or time, and had a corker of a "Me and My Woman" which had the audience on its feet. Looking out into a standing ovation from a Royal Festival Hall audience is quite a remarkable experience, particularly when you've had your backs to them for the whole night!

I have come home and am buzzing a little, so have made myself a cup of decaf tea and am having two little pieces of the fridge cake which I made with 'cello Vicky's recipe yesterday. How rock and roll am I, eh?

Monday, 21 October 2013

Fancy cakes?


I’ve just made it to the end of Act One of the first draft of Brass! I finished it, rather eccentrically, whilst sitting on a bench at Highgate station. I’d got into a bit of a roll on my tube journey home, and wanting to remain in the moment. I’m still writing absolute rubbish, of course, but this feels like the first of many milestones. I saw Sam earlier on and wondered how I’d feel if I died and someone decided to take the project on. Obviously I’d feel nothing because I’d be dead, but the person tasked with piecing together the work might wonder why I thought it was going to be so good. That’s how I always feel about these little scraps of manuscript they find from great composers which are duly turned into epic symphonies by musicologists. Surely the composer had many more drafts planned and would be horrified that it was being heard before it was ready? Depends on the composer, I guess.

I met Sam in the most expensive tea shop in the world. It’s a fancy French place on Greek Street, or is it Dean? £15 for a pot of tea for two and a couple of mediocre cakes strikes me as a little pricey! My chocolate croissant was decidedly stale. A quid’s worth of stale is one thing but four quid’s worth is a little annoying.  Still, the place had a lovely ambience, and, as Sam says, you pay a healthy mark-up for the bohemian surroundings and the feeling that you’ve time-slipped to the 1950s. We were there with Stephen West, who I last saw on holiday in Italy about a year ago. He was decked out in bright orange Vivienne Westwood; the knit-wear designing must be going very well. It’s good to know someone can make it in that particular field. He apparently tweeted a picture of Nathan’s latest scarf which got something like 500 likes. Ah! The power of fame and knitting!

I walked home via Oxford Street and was horrified to see what can only be the beginnings of the Christmas lights. Giant glowing snowballs were hovering over the street and the windows of many of the shops were bursting with winter wonderlands with many of the mannequins sporting Santa hats. It all looks very lovely, and I’m sure the lights will be a roaring success if they’re not sponsored by Tango, but I don’t know, it all makes me a little sad.

To quote Sam again, the trouble with announcing Christmas in the middle of October is that it takes away from the wonderful pagan festivals we have coming up; Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night, Harvest festival, All Souls’ Day... These are the most mysterious and potentially the most exciting of all the annual events, and denying them in the rush to start the Christmas ball rolling feels so sad. The year’s not dead yet. Let’s not kill it just off for the sake of consumerism.

I spent last night dreaming, yet again, about Roy Harper’s music. My brain was going over every corner of “Me and My Woman”, which is one of his seminal 20-minute epic tracks and one of the more challenging sequences from my perspective. I wonder if it will ever leave my brain!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Roy's rehearsal

I'm on a rail replacement bus from King's Cross to Highgate. It's one of the most uncomfortable journeys I've ever made. The bus seems to have no functioning suspension system and we're all being buffeted around like little rag dolls.

I've spent the entire day rehearsing the Roy Harper concert, and it is so delightful to take a dive into such extraordinary music accompanied by such amazing musicians. Apart from me, there are ten of us on stage. Roy and Jonathan Wilson who plays all manner of instruments; banjos and mandolins mostly, five string players and three brass. We've worked incredibly hard and I think the gig is going to be a corker.

I am, however, hugely dehydrated and just had to endure one of those conversations where a shop keeper, just trying to be friendly, doesn't seem to understand that small talk is not always welcome. I walked in wheeling my little "I've got back issues" suitcase. "Heathrow Express?"he asked. "What? No! Oh you mean the bag?" I explained I was having back troubles and that the wheelie suitcase prevented me from carrying my laptop on my shoulder. There was a silence. I thought I'd got away with it.

"So you have a bad back?"

I wanted to scream and tell him I'd just told him that very piece of information. "You wheel the bag so you don't need to carry it on your shoulder?" "Yes, that's right."

"Have you been on holiday?"

I couldn't think of anything to say which wouldn't involve repeating everything we'd just said to one another so just said no.

I yawned. "Tired?" he asked. "Yes," I said, "it's been a long day. I was rehearsing." "Holiday?" He asked. Sometimes life feels to short to enter into a ground hog day scenario, so I made a dash for it. As I left the shop, I swear I could hear him saying "Heathrow Express?"

I got home and started heating up some food I'd left on the cooker. Perfect food for a weary traveller. I could see the shadow of a large moth flickering around in my peripheral vision and then realised to my horror that I was actually staring at a mouse. It ran along the back of the cooker, all the way around the sink and darted off towards the litter bin. Perhaps more horrifyingly, I actually yelled. Yes me, the lover of all things rodent-like, screaming like a girl at a mouse.

My dinner went straight in the bin of course. Plainly someone else had got there first! Nasty business!


Saturday, 19 October 2013

FTB!

I'm currently struggling my way back from Canary Wharf to Highgate. The Piccadilly line was obscenely crowded and I over-heated rather dangerously. The Northern Line has been closed for the day, "for my own good," said the dismissive man in charge of bus replacement services this morning, "we're improving the safety of YOUR service." Hurrah! Or do I mean "f**k you?" Whatever I mean, I'm sure I'll be incredibly unlikely to notice any difference at all to my journeys around the capital! Besides, I can't remember the last time the tube has gone to Highgate on a weekend, and I'm now so used to hauling myself up the hill as a result of the escalator being broken that I barely notice the pain!

I left good and early this morning to take myself to King's Cross for my rehearsal with Roy Harper, but by the time I'd taken the necessary two separate buses which trundled through the streets like a milk float, I was almost late.

The rehearsal with Roy went incredibly well. The new material we're performing is sounding rather excellent. It's going to be an amazing gig.

I felt a little guilty for throwing a bit of a spanner in the works, however. There's a song called I'll See You Again which we performed last time round and it happens to be my favourite of all Roy's songs. It's anthemic and deeply moving. The musicians have the dots in their folders but it's not been selected for performance in this tour. I made a passionate plea for it it go back into the running order, but for Roy this will mean dusting off another song and it's quite late in the day to put that sort of pressure on his shoulders. Fingers crossed it'll be in his musical muscle memory because it's so so beautiful and I'd feel so excited to sit on stage waving my arms about whilst it's performed.

I went from Kings Cross via bus to Highbury to meet my parents, and we walked towards Old Street to find Sam and some mutual friends in a pub by the canal celebrating Sam's 40th birthday. Eek! The first of my school friends to pass the big milestone. The march to the scaffold is well underway.

From Old Street we staggered to Canary Wharf; a bus to Bank, a phenomenally long underground walk to the DLR, and then a walk from some curious Quay to Brother Edward's house, where we watched Strictly Come Dancing and ate the most stunning plates of food courtesy of Sascha who is an extraordinary cook.

Sadly, with the London transport network being official FTB, my joy was short-lived. One DLR, one tube and one astonishingly crowded and ferociously stinky bus journey later I'm in somewhere near Archway about an hour and a half after leaving Edward's. One man's BO on the bus smelt like vinegar sprinkled on a pink wafer biscuit. Sweet and sour all wrapped up in a package which made me want to chunder.

And it all starts again tomorrow... I'll have to get up 45 minutes early simply to deal with getting to my rehearsal on time! Well I guess at least the bankers don't suffer if they close all transport links on a weekend. Small mercies and all that!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Prep and sweat

Today's been a rather bitty day. One of those days when a blog entry seems almost fraudulent on account of there being so little to write about. I wrote in the cafe all morning, slowly wending my way towards the interval of Brass, making myself so upset at one point I had to stop writing for a while and stare at the yummy mummies on the street outside. 

I came home for lunch, frittered away a couple of hours doing admin and chatting on the phone to Fiona, before running into Muswell Hill to pick up some photographs. Combining an errand and a fitness mission seemed like a good idea when I set off, but by the time I'd reached Snappy Snaps, I was sweating so profusely that I was unable to check the photographs they'd printed. I returned home to find quite a number of them with curious marks and scuffs, so was angry with myself for trying to kill two birds with one stone. 

I had a bath and did another three hours' prep on the Roy Harper gig. The first rehearsal is tomorrow, and today's task was reminding myself of the music I'd conducted in the last concert I did with him, almost exactly two years ago, when I had whooping cough! 

Despite being catastrophically poorly, I have such fond memories of the trip Fiona and I made to Ireland to visit Roy for the first time. It really was rather magical. We kissed the Blarney Stone, visited ruined houses and standing stones and heard ghost stories in an ancient folk club, all the time buffeted by heavy winds and Biblical rain showers!   

That's all I have to say. Nathan's back from work and I'm determined to eat and watch a bit a telly without anything like a blog entry hanging over my head! 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Poor

It would appear that the first task for me, in terms of the creation of the book for Brass, is to write a load of absolute nonsense! I guess I just need to get the shape of the piece, a sense of where I'm heading, before I focus on the detail. This includes lyrics. I'm turning out some shocking rubbish in that department. I console myself with the thought that ABBA's 1981 masterpiece, Like An Angel Passing Through My Room started life as a setting of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!

Furthermore, I'm still constantly  having to remind myself that the working title of the piece is Brass and not Blast, but it seems to be working. This morning, for example, I sent an email to Roy Harper, telling him I felt sure that his gigs, which I shall be conducting next week, would be an "absolute brass!"

By the way, if anyone is interested in Roy's astonishing, seminal, masterpiece music (which has influenced everyone from Kate Bush to Led Zep) performances are next week in London (on Tuesday) at the Royal Festival Hall, in Manchester on Friday and in Bristol on Sunday. Brilliant musical arrangements curtesy of Fiona.

I was sitting on the tube today, laptop open, writing a load of absolute tosh, when I noticed a woman looking over my shoulder. I suddenly felt devastatingly self-conscious. Would she think I was actually writing the best words that came into my head? I wanted to tap her knee and say, "I know it's rubbish, I just need to make a start..."

I'm obviously much more used to writing music on the tube where the assumption is that 99.9% of the sticky beaks around you won't have a clue how the music you're writing sounds.

It's my own fault. I shouldn't expect people not to look. When I'm bored on the tube I find myself staring at anything that'll distract me; terrible cartoon adverts for portable air conditioning units, facial anomalies, other people's newspapers, children with crusty mouths and in one case a single hair louse making its way through a blonde woman's roots. Fascinating in a grotesque sort of way, as everything on the tube tends to be!

There was a terrible crisis today at the osteopath where the refusal of my card made it dawn on me that I've completely run out of money! The White City project was a wonderful experience, but I was paid the tiniest sum of money to do it, and I ended up hugely subsidising the project with my own savings. I'm about to do the same with the Pepys Motet - my choice of course - but, at 4pm this afternoon I realised that I had just £300 in my bank account... At least I'm not in debt. I've never been in debt, but I've also never had no savings. I'm sure plenty of people will recognise this feeling after the recession we've had, but it's an all-time low for me! I'm therefore thrilled, with a huge dose of sarcasm, to read that energy prices are going up again. I'm glad the energy companies are taking a hit like the rest of us! We're all in this together, after all.

Fortunately, just as I'd started looking into selling a kidney, I was contacted by the NYMT to tell me my first instalment for Brass was winging its way over. This ought to keep the wolf from the door for a few months, but it's going to be a very lean period for me. No meals out. No new shoes. Quite terrifying, really, to march towards forty being poorer than you've ever been before! The older we get, the nicer the clothes need to be!

We drove into Muswell Hill - ironically it's cheaper to do this than to take a bus - and as we reached the car, we realised it had been unlocked since Sunday night! Thank God we live in Highgate... And have a car which obviously no one wants to pinch! Thank God we still have a car, in fact! That won't last long in this climate!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Tingley

I had a breakfast of beans on toast in the cafe opposite Leeds Market this morning. A law enforcement officer from Leeds Council was chatting to the cafe owner. He came across as a fairly unpleasant creature. His testosterone-fuelled conversation centred on the terrible things he'd done to people who'd given him lip. He broke off his tall story midway, his mean eyes darted to the window and he jumped to his feet. "Do you wanna see me in action?" He shouted to the room and rushed over to the door like a demented superman.

A customer was making his way into the cafe and the law enforcer pushed him back out again, suggesting, in that threateningly calm voice that only a psychopath can pull off, that they should "have a little chat outside."

The customer's crime? He'd dropped a cigarette butt on the pavement before entering the cafe and was given a £60 fine for his troubles. Needless to say, the customer didn't return to the cafe, and the cafe owner, who was fuming, lost potential revenue.

I personally think, if you're gonna ban smoking in public places, thereby creating the need for people to extinguish cigarettes on the street, you either have to fit ashtrays to the outside of all buildings, or you have to go a bit easy on those who drop their butts on the pavement. The way the enforcement officer jumped up, you'd think the poor customer had been caught doing drugs. As one of the girls in the cafe later pointed out, "he probably has daily targets." I tell you, in times of recession, councils will do everything in their power to make money...

I arrived at BBC Leeds at ten o'clock. The lovely lady on reception knew my name and told me they're still getting phone calls requesting copies of "A Symphony for Yorkshire". She tells me they've now officially run out, but that they'd managed to find a copy "from upstairs" which they were able to give to the last person who'd asked, (who'd wanted to send the film to her relatives in Canada.)

I felt proud as punch. It's so nice to know that my work has created a legacy. About 10,000 DVDs have apparently now been sold. That's an awful lot of money raised for children in need. Shame I declined a royalty!

I was interviewed by Wes on the mid morning show. I plugged Brass and said we were looking for young people to audition for roles in the show. Wes asked about the little museum we'd visited in Bus-les-Artois and as I started to talk about the little doll's tea set I'd found there I felt my eyes starting to prickle and then got entirely choked up. It's the first time this has ever happened to me on live radio. I'm sure it was brilliantly moving for the listeners, but I felt like a complete pranny!

I got on a bus to go to a place called Tingley in the late morning. It was something of an adventure because there are no train stations anywhere near the place. It later transpired that the nearest bus stop was more than a mile away from where I was going, but it's all good fun.

The central bus station at Leeds smelt of sick and was full of all sorts of sad types, yellow-faced, hacking at their smoke-addled lungs and staggering along in mobility vehicles. One old chap was sitting on a bench. I looked down at him and realised he'd wet himself. A train of wee was going all the way down the leg of his trousers. Poor bloke.

Tingley itself is a funny old place which seems to be neither Leeds nor Wakefield nor its own entity. It felt like nothing but a sprawling housing estate surrounded by trees. It very much reminded me of Milton Keynes. Who knows what goes on behind the walls of these inaccessible houses. I passed a group of men who were carrying something into someone's back garden. A low wall obscured any view of what they might have been holding, but it was the length and obvious weight of a coffin. I shudder!

Autumn had definitely come to Tingley, however. The leaves were all on the change and there was a thin layer of mist in the way, which ominously threatened torrential rain. It was cold as well.

I was in Tingley to meet a wonderful woman called Jacqueline, whose uncle Clifford was one of the Leeds Pals. Strangely, it turns out that he was one of the Pals that I'd already read a fair amount about. He features prominently in Laurie Taylor's excellent book about the battalion. I guess there were relatively few Pals who made it back home unscathed and those that did were encouraged to reminisce as much as possible.

That said, Jacqueline, who was as good as brought up by Clifford and his wife, Blanche, said that he never talked about his experiences.

The only thing he'd kept from the war was a bugle, which he gave to his niece just before he died (he had no children of his own.) The bugle was played by the Pals in Egypt and France, and was apparently played at the funeral of the first of the Pals to fall in action.

It is an instrument with a overwhelmingly significant heritage and I will do everything in my power to see that it is played by one of the cast in the show, which I can officially announce will play at the Leeds City Varieties theatre from August 20th to August 23rd.

I got horribly caught out in heavy rain whilst attempting to make my way back from Tingley to Leeds. I didn't have an umbrella or a coat, and there was no cover anywhere. I arrived back in the city looking and smelling like a wet dog, and sat in a cafe working for three hours, feeling utterly wretched. My feet, hat and jacket are still soaking wet, despite my having spent at least twenty minutes running them under a hand dryer.

I return to London on a train with no buffet service... That's not entirely correct. At every stop we're informed that First Class passengers are being  served an "at seat" buffet service, but that, until further notice there will be nothing for standard class passengers. I dunno. You pay £100 quid to travel from Leeds to London, and you certainly shouldn't expect a buffet service to be an optional extra. I'm getting very bored with service culture in this county. It seems like anything can be passed off as a "luxury" and therefore not a requirement, from baths in hotel rooms through to decent service on East Coast trains.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Steam punk

It turns out it's rather good to have an Oyster card. This morning, I needed to travel to Kew Bridge station from Waterloo, and if I hadn't thought to use the Oyster, would have shelled out £7 on a return fare. No one tells you these things. My assumption was that if I went anywhere from a mainline London train station, I'd need to buy a separate ticket, but they obviously changed the rules at some point! There'll be South Londoners who go to those funny stations which are only accessible from London Bridge screaming at my stupidity!

Anyway, this morning I was lucky enough to visit the Kew Bridge Steam Museum. I went in to talk to them about what could be an astonishing project, which fills me with great excitement.

I'm afraid that I didn't even know the museum existed and had always thought its rather iconic, ornate water tower, which is clearly visible from the M4, was something to do with Kew Gardens.

The museum was once a water pumping station and some of the larger engines in the collection were used as part of the pumping process. They date back to the mid 19th century; huge iron structures which stretch over several floors. They must have seemed astonishingly futuristic in Victorian times - in a way they still do - and it's little wonder that the steam punk movement incorporates such strong elements of science fiction. I felt like an extra in a scene from War of the Worlds!

I was struck by an astonishingly dark energy when we climbed the balcony to look down on one of the machines  and commented on the fact to the lady I was with. I didn't want her to think I was a lunatic, or worse still, one of those conceptual artists who "feels" everything, but felt sure something rather awful must have happened there. It turns out that one of the machinists had fallen to his death from that very spot, crushed by the giant machine below! Extraordinary!

I took the 4.05pmtrain up to Leeds and marvelled at the countryside as I passed through Huntingdonshire. The sun was low in the sky, making the fields and pastures look the most ridiculously vivid shade of lime green. The sky formed blocks of colour from dark black and then brown storm clouds through to the brightest blue. The air looked fresh and clean, but a few minutes later, the sun dipped behind a cloud and everything took on a hazy, dusty purple impressionist quality; and yet the leaves have resolutely remained green, yet a glorious haze of death surely hovers over them.

It's a bit parky in Leeds and I'm a bit disappointed with my hotel room. I requested a bath in the room but when I arrived was told that a bath was considered "a luxury extra" which could only be offered if a room with a bath was available. Apparently the same applies for double rooms. They've given me a family room instead. The telly on the wall is so small that I can't see it from the bed, and there's a single bed in the way! Miserere!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Getting better

I wrote my first line of dialogue for Brass today. It felt a little weird if I'm being honest. Philippa said she always hates putting pen to paper for the first time when writing her screen plays but usually consoles herself with the thought that she can delete everything she writes when the muse begins to flow more effectively!

It's most off-putting to stare at a blank word document wondering how on earth you're going to craft an entire script; far more distressing than it is to sit down in front of a piece of blank manuscript paper. That's exciting. Writing words is terrifying!

It started badly. I typed the musical's title at the top of the page, and realised instantly that I'd written the word Blast, which was my previous musical! I then saved the file with a typo in the file name. It can only improve!

I did my godparent bit by looking after both Deia and Silver all on my own at lunch time today. Only for an hour in Waterlow Park whilst Philippa had an appointment with the dentist, mind. Looking after two children is exhausting! Silver essentially sat in her pram, but as I rushed after Deia on a sort of wooden climbing frame, I kept worrying that someone was going to come along and steel her. What if her pram rolled into the lake whilst I was trying to protect Deia from dive-bombing pigeons? What if I dropped her whilst carrying her on my shoulders like Daddy does? The line from Sex In The City kept going trough my head, "Steve, we all think we're going to kill the baby!" Absolutely terrifying, but hugely rewarding... And I guess, like writing musicals, it gets easier with practice.

Deia was great fun. She started school this year and seems to have rather suddenly become a young lady. I guess the external influence of other children is likely to start to consolidate burgeoning character traits. Deia is wilful, amusing and sardonic and has perfected the art of the hugely convincing withering look!

The heavens suddenly opened as we were making our way back to Highgate Village, and when Philippa eventually caught up with us, the three of us were cowering under a holly tree, and Silver was crying because I'd just shocked her by saying "boo!"

We had tea in Costa and I bought Deia a little pumpkin-shaped biscuit, which she took forever to eat. I'm astonished at the way that little girls seem to be able to make food last an eternity by taking the tiniest little nibbles at great intervals. I'm sure I always used to eat any food that I was given as quickly as possible. At least I do now!



Sunday, 13 October 2013

Too much cake

We're returning from Julie's house after an afternoon of craft and more cake than I've ever set my eyes on!

I left the knitters knitting a variety of shawls and blankets mid afternoon and took myself back north of the river to Philippa's house, where my goddaughter, Silver, was celebrating her first birthday party.

I basically replaced one cake party for another, and helped to decorate two enormous birthday cakes with strawberries, jam and a stomach-churning amount of cream.

We watched the most curious viral video on YouTube, which seemed to involve a Norwegian man dressed as a fox, jumping up and down whilst making a series of bizarre noises. It's apparently all the rage with 4 1/2 year olds, and would appear to have millions of hits. It's plainly an indication of where I'm going wrong with my career. Note to self: must write more surreal children's songs with lamentably low production standards!

Alex and Moira were there and we discovered, much to our great amusement, that Alex had helped to choreograph one of the routines we'd seen in Huntingdon last night. The entertainment world is so so small.

Uncle Bill, Rupert and Jago drifted into the party just after we'd realised that they were, by chance, just around the corner. It was lovely to see them all. Deia had two friends in tow, who sat at the conservatory table creating little pictures out of special brightly-coloured beads which you iron to turn into three-dimensional works of art. Every time I see Deia, I bring her a few more beads. You can buy them in bags of about 500.

Philippa stores them in a big glass bowl and we played a fun game today where everyone present tried to guess how many beads were in the bowl. Guesses ranged from 101 (two of the children) and 10,000. We weighed the beads to find the true number; 9,120. I was quite chuffed with my guess of 7.5k.

I drove back to Julie's for the evening and we watched the X Factor, which seems, if such a thing is possible, even more phoney than the other nine series. At one point a group of contestants were all being interviewed "back stage" in a "hair and makeup area" where scores of warm props were spraying cans of hairspray into the air and pointlessly preening the show's other acts in the most tragic display of "X Factor is so cool, even the backstage area is a filmic hive of activity."

All the acts were, of course, mediocre. How could they be anything else whilst singing to prerecorded tracks? It's glorified karaoke! Get some live musicians in there and watch the performers coming alive (well, those of them with a modicum of talent, which rather limits the list.)

As always with the X Factor, we end up judging it by its own standards. When the judges call an act "world class", which they do with frightening alacrity, we agree because they're world class by X Factor standards, which is substantially less classy than nearly all the West End singers I know. Every single member of the Rebel Chorus would do a better job. I find this a comforting yet curiously unsettling thought!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Argy bargy

We've been in the Midlands all day with Lisa and Mark and various members of their extended family.

The day started in a traffic jam. North London on a Saturday is never a good place to be if you want to get anywhere and we stuttered and stammered our way out of town.

We had to be in a village just north of Letchworth on the dot of 2.30, so once the traffic had cleared, Nathan went absolutely hell for leather up the A1.

It is Lisa and Mark's 10th wedding anniversary today and the plan was for Nathan to surprise Lisa with a rendition of the song (Unusual Way from Nine) which he'd sung at their wedding in the very church where the wedding had taken place.

Mark organised it all. It was a hugely romantic gesture. We were to turn up  five minutes before them and, with the blessing of the church warden, hide in the belfry. Lisa and Mark would come through the door of the church, have a little cuddle and a weep on seeing the place for the first time since they got married, and then Nathan would sing from the balcony, allowing the sweet music to drift down onto them.

It went like a dream, the only issue was that the belfry was highly exposed, so the two of us were forced to hide behind bell ringing plinths, lying on the carpet like giggling school boys whilst we waited for them to arrive.

It was so much fun. Nathan sang beautifully. Lisa and Mark cried like babies. I looked on proudly. Job's a good 'un.

We went on to Spaldwick for some food in the local pub. The village smelt strongly of wood smoke, which I realise is one of my favourite smells. I'm smelling it all over the place this autumn.

Sadly the weather turned at some point in the afternoon. It was beautiful in London this morning but as we drive home back down the A1, it's absolutely chucking it down.

This evening we went to Huntingdon, or more specifically Brampton, to watch Lisa and Mark's daughter, Poppy, performing in a big old dance and gymnastics spectacular in the gym at Hinchingbrooke School.

It was a hugely impressive concert. Huntingdon gymnastics school is world famous, and its students were flip-flopping like daemons all over the place. We were also rather fortunate to be graced by the presence of Olympian (and let's not forget Strictly Come Dancing winner) Louis Smith, a former student of the school, who did a number of mini-routines including some nimble trampolining.

There was some fabulous argy-bargy during the show, the like of which I never expected to see in a genteel place like Huntingdon. The flare-up seemed to involve the husband of one of the belly dancers, who was asked to stop filming them mid-way through the show. There was a lot of shouting; "I'm their manager, I'll film them if I want to..." before someone got head-butted, the man got ejected and the police got called! When we exited the auditorium for the interval, the scene was carrying on in the foyer, where someone was standing with their hands over the ears of a small child, who'd obviously heard way more than his weekly quota of swear words! Exciting biting, as my Dad would say.

It was a particular treat for me to visit Hinchingbrooke School, as it sits in the shadow of Hinchingbrooke House, the erstwhile home of Lord Sandwich, Samuel Pepys' cousin and patron.

A great day all round.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Soap dispenser

I banged my head in the gym showers today whilst trying to do a stretch. I was surprised by my own flexibility and ended up thumping my crown on the soap dispenser. Five hours later, it still hurts.

I've spent yet another day story-boarding Brass. On and on this process goes, to the extent that it's making me a little antsy, but I can't cut corners. I have to make sure the story makes sense. Although, the moment you start cutting scenes and moving things around, you open up a mathematical puzzle which can make a head hurt even more than a soap dispenser!

This evening we went to the Rosemary Branch to see our friend Anthony performing puppet opera, which is one of those hybrid art forms which screams for funding from the Arts Council. Tour Scotland with it, and commission a composer from the Orkneys, and you've got yourself core funding for years! I genuinely can't wait to shake Scotland out of the British Union. They get such an extraordinarily large share of the arts funding pot!

This evening's show consisted of three mini works of contemporary classical music theatre. The first of them, a sort of masque drama by De Falla, was an absolute turkey. It was one of those pieces where you feel desperately sorry for the performers because they're being given nothing to work with. The overwhelming question afterwards? Why? Why, why, why? Why did De Falla set the story? Why did he write the music on the back of a cornflakes packet? Why did the producer think anyone would want to see it? Why did the director allow the little tenor fella to play the role so camp? Why was I in the audience?

The other two pieces were massive improvements. There was a new commission - an alluring, rather magical setting of the story of an old man who falls in love with a young woman's reflection - and a version of Stravinsky's Renard, rather cleverly set in a kitchen, with puppets created out of kitchen utensils. Great fun.

Julie came, and we dropped her off at her mother's Barbican flat after a post-show drink with Anthony. It's about time I slowed down, however. We've been out most nights this week.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Forever Autumn

I went to the osteopath again today. My back pains are apparently being caused by a block of muscles tightening around my mid-spine as a result of bad posture when working at my laptop. When the osteopath asked how many hours a day I usually spend at my computer and I said "twelve" he laughed hysterically!

Diagnosis took a long time, mostly because, upon entering the clinic I immediately stopped displaying any symptoms. Sod's law. I felt like a total fraud. By the time we'd established the root of the pain, we'd sort of timed out on treatment, but he did manage some deep massage and a "soft roll up" or something which sounded a little rude and made me think of condoms.

As ever, I visited the British School of Osteopathy in Borough, where, in the interests of being thorough, all manner of processes need to take place involving tutors and things before any treatment can be done.

On my way there, I encountered an astonishingly annoying group of musical theatre students, all girls, all late for some kind of gig. One of them, a great tall lump of a creature, decided the tube aisle was a really practical place to practice her devellopes. I wouldn't have minded, but she was repeatedly kicking my laptop in the process.

The group reminded me of scenes from my youth. As a drama student we were always playing "look at me" games like that. Me and my mate Jo used to stage the most awful rows on the tube to see what people would do. There were proposals and split ups and "why are you sleeping with my sister?" role plays. Another friend of mine, with a cushion under her jumper, went into fake labour, and on another occasion we decided to see how many commuters we could get to join us singing "Kum Bye Ah." Desperate! I'd have smashed my mate's guitar!

So, when a nutter next approaches you in a public space, it's always worth wondering if they're a drama student doing character "research."

The weather has turned bitter and  freezing high winds and a smattering of icy rain remind us that the slow march towards Christmas has begun. I was beginning to worry a little that the trees we still surprisingly green for the time of year, but I'm sure weather like this will soon sort things out. Welcome autumn. It's rather nice to see you again!

The air was thick with the smell of wood smoke.

I'm now in a Starbucks on the Kings Road waiting to see my mate Abbie in cabaret. A group of modern day Sloane Rangers are sitting next to me. I genuinely thought they were taking the piss. They sound exactly like the character Jessica Hynes plays in 2012. "Totes chillax, peeps, ya ya. Daddy daddy. Horses. Ya ya. I don't have money for food because I keep buying art." I genuinely didn't think anyone spoke like that. Or had those morals. Or existed.
I went to the osteopath again today. My back pains are apparently being caused by a block of muscles tightening around my mid-spine as a result of bad posture when working at my laptop. When the osteopath asked how many hours a day I usually spend at my computer and I said "twelve" he laughed hysterically!

Diagnosis took a long time, mostly because, upon entering the clinic I immediately stopped displaying any symptoms. Sod's law. I felt like a total fraud. By the time we'd established the root of the pain, we'd sort of timed out on treatment, but he did manage some deep massage and a "soft roll up" or something which sounded a little rude and made me think of condoms.

As ever, I visited the British School of Osteopathy in Borough, where, in the interests of being thorough, all manner of processes need to take place involving tutors and things before any treatment can be done.

On my way there, I encountered an astonishingly annoying group of musical theatre students, all girls, all late for some kind of gig. One of them, a great tall lump of a creature, decided the tube aisle was a really practical place to practice her devellopes. I wouldn't have minded, but she was repeatedly kicking my laptop in the process.

The group reminded me of scenes from my youth. As a drama student we were always playing "look at me" games like that. Me and my mate Jo used to stage the most awful rows on the tube to see what people would do. There were proposals and split ups and "why are you sleeping with my sister?" role plays. Another friend of mine, with a cushion under her jumper, went into fake labour, and on another occasion we decided to see how many commuters we could get to join us singing "Kum Bye Ah." Desperate! I'd have smashed my mate's guitar!

So, when a nutter next approaches you in a public space, it's always worth wondering if they're a drama student doing character "research."

The weather has turned bitter and  freezing high winds and a smattering of icy rain remind us that the slow march towards Christmas has begun. I was beginning to worry a little that the trees we still surprisingly green for the time of year, but I'm sure weather like this will soon sort things out. Welcome autumn. It's rather nice to see you again!

The air was thick with the smell of wood smoke.

I'm now in a Starbucks on the Kings Road waiting to see my mate Abbie in cabaret. A group of modern day Sloane Rangers are sitting next to me. I genuinely thought they were taking the piss. They sound exactly like the character Jessica Hynes plays in 2012. "Totes chillax, peeps, ya ya. Daddy daddy. Horses. Ya ya. I don't have money for food because I keep buying art." I genuinely didn't think anyone spoke like that. Or had those morals. Or existed.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Make up

I watched a woman applying makeup on the tube this morning. I've never seen anyone paint so many shades of brown onto herself. At one point I wondered if she was actually applying varnish. First came the rouge, which was plastered liberally onto her cheeks and swept across the forehead before being dragged down her nose. Then came the eyeshadow in the same shade as the rouge, before a pot of darker brown powder was dabbed
under her eyes, like someone artificially pollinating a pumpkin flower. She'd already done her eye lashes. They looked like giant spiders. She then smothered herself in lipstick, painted some kind of dark ring disguiser under her eyes, and then used some more bronzer to finish the look off. I have seldom seen such a variety of brushes and dabbers and sponges being used in a ten minute make up
session. I used to get told off at school for applying too many layers of paint to my pictures. The rice paper always used to go soggy. She'd have done well to remember this, because by the time she'd finished, the poor girl looked like a freshly creosoted fence!

As I looked around the tube (such an unforgiving light) I was aware of quite how much make-up I could see. The beautiful-skinned Asian woman next to me had painted her cheeks with deep pink circles which looked like terrible bruises, the girl who stood up to my left was so desperate to look pale, that she'd bedecked her face in something which looked like dry toothpaste. I could see every brush mark, every neck line, every open pour, every spot "concealed" with a big dollop of something. The overall effect was either incredible greasiness or flaky dryness, and I thought how weird it must be to be so unhappy with the way you naturally look, to want to, or be expected to, change things so profoundly and so unnaturally. The first woman, the teak sideboard, looked so much more attractive before she caked it on. What on earth's going on?

I am, of course, not anti-makeup. Drag queens look fantastic in make up, and I understand why anyone would want to make their eyes stand out, or go to town on the whole face to create a vampy character for a night out, but in the harsh light of day, and when it's so badly and obviously applied, I find myself questioning why it's done.

I can only assume that the majority of straight men are either not attracted by natural beauty or, more worryingly, that some women THINK they're not, and feel that men would actually prefer the chicken fillets, the blob-busting pants and the fake tans to the actual truth.

Perhaps this view is somewhat coloured by my sexuality, and the fact that I find imperfection a great deal more alluring than unnatural beauty, but surely all of these deceptions must ultimately lead to huge disappointment, when the man finds his woman's face smeared onto the pillow next to him, or when he cups her face to kiss her goodnight and his finger tips sink into something altogether too gooey. When he realises his girlfriend's sultry fat lips and generous cleavage are an optical illusion; a bodily trump l'oeil.

I was on my way to Shoreditch to see Philippa for my first dramaturgy session on Brass. It was a hugely rewarding experience. We went through my treatment with a fine tooth comb and Philippa was able to point out all the places where she felt I'd missed a beat or not quite developed a character's story. I think the musical will be a great deal stronger as a result. We even managed to brainstorm a new ending for the piece, which I'm a great deal happier about.

From Shoreditch I buzzed along the central line to White City for a "thank you" meal with some of the people who'd worked on our recent film. I discovered many interesting things, a few that surprised me, a few that shocked me (the BBC is a wonderful and frustrating organisation in pretty much equal measure) but most interesting of all was the fact that one of the community champions on the White City estate had once been a highly successful actor, who'd had a starring role in some of the early episodes of the seminal Robin of Sherwood series in the early 1980s. The one with the Clannad music; "Rhaaaabin (bling blong) the hooded man... (Dum dum.)"

And now I'm heading home. I'm gonna kick off my shoes, sink into a sofa and do nothing but watch telly for the rest of the evening. Bliss!

Release

So, today, after making my fourth call to EE about having no phone reception in my own home for the past three weeks, I finally snapped, and instead of asking politely for them to try and remedy the situation, I pointed out that, as a man who works from home, a man who desperately needs his mobile phone, I no longer considered EE to be fulfilling their side of our contract and that I expected them to release me from said contract with absolutely no financial implications. That could well be the longest sentence I have ever written.

The woman on the phone said there was very little chance that they'd be able to meet my demands, so I asked to speak to the EE press office and she immediately capitulated.  So, after fifteen years as a loyal Orange customer, I find myself a free agent again, looking around for the best deal, searching for another multi-national to lure me in with the promise of a shiny new phone.

I was quite surprised at how easily they allowed a long-term customer to throw in the towel, but then again, it's astonishing how rapidly everything went down hill when Orange became EE. Their arrogance and lack of interest in my problem was breathtaking, as was the sheer ineptitude of its staff. I made a note every time I called them over the last week as to how long, in four separate calls, I was kept on hold. The total? 1 hour and 12 minutes! That's a lot of "Prima Donna" by Marina and the Diamonds!

I've spent the entire afternoon in Central London. The lovely Siobhan texted at about 3pm to say she was down from Cov, so I stuck my computer in a bag and rushed down to Soho for tea and a natter, and lovely it was to see her. I walked her to Charing Cross and then sat in another cafe for a couple of hours doing some more work on Brass. I have a meeting with Philippa in the morning who is working as a dramaturg on the project.

I met Nathan out of the theatre and we went into Soho for drinks with our friend Carey and his partner, John, both of whom are very successful writers in the States. Every time I talk to Carey, I realise how much more seriously the Americans take their musical theatre. It is a TRUE industry over there, where even rank and file creatives can make huge sums of money.

Yanks invest in musicals because they revere the art form. The previews for all new shows are sold out weeks in advance. By comparison, the first preview for From Here to Eternity, was half empty. I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that if Brass takes off in any meaningful way, I'd be foolish not to haul myself over to the States to at least see how things go... There's a limit to how long one can feel ignored!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Pride

I worked like mad today to get all the remaining parts delivered to the singers of the Pepys Motet. I felt like a machine, generating scores and individual, specially-tailored learning files for 20 singers. It's not taxing work, but, when sending them off, it's all-too easy to make mistakes.

Fiona stayed with us last night, so we went down to the cafe to work together. I got project envy. She's currently composing and arranging music for string orchestra and percussion, which is just about my favourite line-up of instruments. In fact, I sometimes wonder why anyone bothers to score music for anything else!

I reached a natural hiatus in my list of things to do this week, and have made the brave decision to travel into town without taking work to do on the tube. This is incredibly rare and I'm blogging because I don't know what else to do with my hands!

I'm meeting Nathan and Julie to see a play called "The Pride". These gay plays tend to be given the least imaginative titles, don't they? I reckon you can spot any "gay" play from its title alone; "Bent" "La Cage" "Torch Song Trilogy" "Blowing Whistles" "Edward II" (well, alright, that last one was the exception which proves the rule; "Sandy II" would have more eloquently given the game away!)

Isn't it amazing how fashions come back around? Out of the ten men currently sitting on my carriage, eight have what I'd describe as a World War One hair cut; the short back and sides" with low parting. Men's fashions seem to almost continually return to this old standard, largely because it's genuinely the neatest and most flattering cut of them all. I welcome it with open arms and would have it myself if my hair weren't a curly mop.

When I used to do film casting, the young lads would arrive looking like they'd been dragged through hedges made of hair straighteners. A clump here, a wedge there, a big block dragged across the forehead or cheek to disguise the actual shape of the face. I used to go into castings with a big pot of Brylcreem, beckoning for the young, fashion-conscious actors to come to me before they read to have their damaged, straw-like hair scraped out of their eyes.

I'm actually wondering if there's some sort of connection between the fashion for "short back and sides" and people emerging from recession with a work-like attitude, but perhaps I'm taking things a bit far!

It's 11pm and we've just watched The Pride at the Trafalgar Studios. It's a long time since I saw such fine words spoken by such genuinely excellent actors. I felt privileged to be in the audience.

The piece tells the story of a love triangle - two men and a women - in the present day and in the 1950s. The characters share the same names in both eras, one assumes they're representations of the same "sorts" of people, with similar passions and similar battles trying to move forward within two contrasting eras. Whilst the ghosts of the past and future hovered in the ether. It was particularly interesting to see the female role moving from a woman in a loveless marriage to a gay man in the 50s becoming a sort of fag hag in 2012 who almost needs to "break up" with her gay best fiend in order to give love a chance with a legitimate boyfriend. Fascinating stuff.

Rather beautifully, as they actors, who included Gavin and Stacey's Matthew Horne, arrived for their second bow, they whipped out little rainbow flags which simply read "From Russia With Love" on them. A more impressive, yet subtle show of solidarity it would be hard to find.






Pride

I worked like mad today to get all the remaining parts delivered to the singers of the Pepys Motet. I felt like a machine, generating scores and individual, specially-tailored learning files for 20 singers. It's not taxing work, but, when sending them off, it's all-too easy to make mistakes.

Fiona stayed with us last night, so we went down to the cafe to work together. I got project envy. She's currently composing and arranging music for string orchestra and percussion, which is just about my favourite line-up of instruments. In fact, I sometimes wonder why anyone bothers to score music for anything else!

I reached a natural hiatus in my list of things to do this week, and have made the brave decision to travel into town without taking work to do on the tube. This is incredibly rare and I'm blogging because I don't know what else to do with my hands!

I'm meeting Nathan and Julie to see a play called "The Pride". These gay plays tend to be given the least imaginative titles, don't they? I reckon you can spot any "gay" play from its title alone; "Bent" "La Cage" "Torch Song Trilogy" "Blowing Whistles" "Edward II" (well, alright, that last one was the exception which proves the rule; "Sandy II" would have more eloquently given the game away!)

Isn't it amazing how fashions come back around? Out of the ten men currently sitting on my carriage, eight have what I'd describe as a World War One hair cut; the short back and sides" with low parting. Men's fashions seem to almost continually return to this old standard, largely because it's genuinely the neatest and most flattering cut of them all. I welcome it with open arms and would have it myself if my hair weren't a curly mop.

When I used to do film casting, the young lads would arrive looking like they'd been dragged through hedges made of hair straighteners. A clump here, a wedge there, a big block dragged across the forehead or cheek to disguise the actual shape of the face. I used to go into castings with a big pot of Brylcreem, beckoning for the young, fashion-conscious actors to come to me before they read to have their damaged, straw-like hair scraped out of their eyes.

I'm actually wondering if there's some sort of connection between the fashion for "short back and sides" and people emerging from recession with a work-like attitude, but perhaps I'm taking things a bit far!

It's 11pm and we've just watched The Pride at the Trafalgar Studios. It's a long time since I saw such fine words spoken by such genuinely excellent actors. I felt privileged to be in the audience.

The piece tells the story of a love triangle - two men and a women - in the present day and in the 1950s. The characters share the same names in both eras, one assumes they're representations of the same "sorts" of people, with similar passions and similar battles trying to move forward within two contrasting eras. Whilst the ghosts of the past and future hovered in the ether. It was particularly interesting to see the female role moving from a woman in a loveless marriage to a gay man in the 50s becoming a sort of fag hag in 2012 who almost needs to "break up" with her gay best fiend in order to give love a chance with a legitimate boyfriend. Fascinating stuff.

Rather beautifully, as they actors, who included Gavin and Stacey's Matthew Horne, arrived for their second bow, they whipped out little rainbow flags which simply read "From Russia With Love" on them. A more impressive, yet subtle show of solidarity it would be hard to find.






Sunday, 6 October 2013

Barge

I've been with Fiona all afternoon, calmly floating down the Regent's Canal from Paddington to Camden in a charming converted barge.

The occasion was the 50th birthday of the partner of one of Fiona's bandmates. It strikes me, in retrospect, that I was there under hugely tenuous circumstances, but I had a blast and met some lovely people.

It's such a calming thing to glide down a canal surrounded by trees and glinting sunlight. The most exciting aspect was undoubtedly going through a long tunnel, a beautiful ever-growing green window at the opposite end.

The canal cuts through the middle of London Zoo, an aviary on one bank filled with all sorts of bizarre birds, and a pen on the other filled with comedy warthogs!

Periodically, a curious klaxon would sound from the front of our barge and we'd pass another vehicle on the water. At one point I was astonished to drift past a punt load of people. I had no idea that one could actually punt in London. It strikes me that punting along a canal is probably quite a bad idea. Motorised boats have a habit of creating all sorts of crazy ripples and waves in their wake and they don't tend to notice things like punts which float so close to the river surface.

We sailed past the zoo and into Camden town where the banks were filled with hippies, punks, stoners and bemused-looking tourists. I think everyone has decided it's the last day of summer. People were trying to soak up the last few rays of decent sunlight. I doubt the temperatures will make it into the 20s again this year.

Fiona and I walked home from Paddington to Kentish Town via Regent's Park and back along the canal, this time after dark. One of the bridges was lit very beautifully and was reflected like a giant moon in the raven black water.

We walked past the aviary again and looked up at the weird birds with curiously long necks settling down to roost for the night. A giant heron seemed to be stalking around the floor of the pen, it stopped for a moment to peer out at us rather superciliously.

Camden Lock is such a lovely-looking place at night. A thousand twinkly lights reflected on the canal surface. The rich, tempting smells of food from every corner of the world. A great sense of people feeling relaxed and doing their own thing.

We've come home and Fiona is helping me to create Pro-tools sessions for the Pepys recordings at the end of the month. It's amazing how much preparation is necessary for these things! It seems to be takin forever!

Quizteama Aguilera

We've just come second in the Thaxted Tennis Club annual quiz. It was a nail-biting climax and we lost by just 3 points, largely because I refused to acknowledge that Hades was the God of the underworld. I'd forgotten that the ancient Greeks view the homes of their Gods as the same thing as the Gods themselves.

It's amazing what one learns and then instantly forgets during the course of a quiz. It's also fairly amusing to see village life on display; the little squabbles, the hierarchies, the women who enter the space with an aura of royalty...

I'm told the quiz master, usually quite a flamboyant individual, was asked to "tone down" his appearance for the good people of the tennis club and the man who thanked us all at the end didn't seem to open his mouth when he spoke. He grinned a lot, however, and managed to make himself look like a ventriloquist! I wanted to ask where Orville was, but I'm slowly learning how to tell the difference between my internal and external voices!

We had cream teas in Poppy's Tearoom in Thaxted this afternoon; a genuinely lovely experience, which never lets you down. Brilliant cakes, friendly staff, wonderful ambience. If you ever find yourself going cross county to Cambridge, you must pop in.

It's suddenly started feeling autumnal. The Virginia creepers are now a deep shade of scarlet, and one of the trees on the outskirts of Thaxted was looking decidedly colourful. Driving home, through the dark North Essex country lanes, I'd periodically pass through a little wisp of mist and as we emerged from the village hall after the quiz, we could see our breath in the air. I like autumn. I find it deeply inspiring, although when I begin to consider everything that needs to be done before Christmas, I start to feel a little panicky!



Friday, 4 October 2013

Acarnage!

As I walked towards Highgate Tube today, an extraordinary thing happened... I was machine-gunned by acorns! It's obviously the period of this year which Mother Nature's designated for the acorn drop, and a memo must have gone round to all oak trees. To ensure speedy shedding, high winds have been ordered and the trees are all going for it. I've never known anything like it. It was like something from a Hitchcock film!

My mistake was halting at the entrance to the tube to finish writing a text. I must have been hit about four times, but there were acorns dropping all around me, making a sickening popping sound on the ground. And let me tell you something. Acorns sting when they hit you on the hand! Someone call health and safety!!

I spent much of the day formatting scores for the fifth movement of the Pepys Motet, which has to be the most over-worked composition I've ever written... And yet still I find mistakes! In fact, I found rather too many today, some of which I felt sure I'd remedied in the past... And then, at 6pm, the penny dropped. I was formatting a previous draft of the blinking piece. Ahhhhhh! That's the equivalent of a computer crashing on un-backed-up material. A full day's work wasted! Extraordinary.

I went into town for lunch at the Stock Pot with Nathan before a meeting with a group of people who are wanting to put on a charity gala for the Kaleidoscope Trust. They're looking at the first week of December, which could well prove problematic in terms of performer availabilities, and for that matter, audiences. The run-up to Christmas is already blocked out in a lot of diaries. It's also a highly lucrative period for singers and musicians. I avoid December like the plague!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

One foot in the past

I spent the whole day working on the synopsis of Brass and sent it off to Philippa - who is working as dramaturg on the piece - full of trepidation and fear. What if it makes no sense? What if it's just one long flight of fancy on my part with no discernible structure? Ah, the terror of starting out on a creative journey! Still, I'd much rather the criticism came at this stage than further down the road when I've written beautiful songs which belong in scenes which need to be cut!

I worked through lunch and all the way till six o'clock and then took myself for a jog to see if I could shake the back ache which has been threatening to become an issue for the last week.

I ran around Highgate Woods. The air felt rather sticky but there was a glorious orange sunset which looked a little like someone had thrown up in a giant porcelain sink!

I came home and we ate pizza whilst watching Sarah Millican on iPlayer. Nathan is now winding hand-spun wool onto a swift. What with half of my brain lodged in the First World War, it's like we're bridging 100 years in a single evening: modern technology colliding with the ancient world. Now pass me a candle...

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Window ledge

Nathan left the house bright and early this morning to go to work at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Within minutes he called to say that he'd left his oyster card by the bed, and to save him coming round the back of the house, could I throw the card out of the sitting room window? I opened the window and found Nathan standing expectantly on the street below. 

I threw the card down but it turned into some kind of crazy helicopter and the damned thing gently circled its way down to the widow ledge of the flat next door! And there it sat, staring up at me. Going absolutely nowhere! Nathan merely shrugged his shoulders and walked off down the street, absolutely disgusted. 

I threw some clothes on and rushed next door. Fortunately my next door neighbour, whom I discovered is called Tom, was in. He appeared at the back window looking decidedly naked from the waist down, but was extremely helpful, and soon I was able to call Nathan to say that I'd recovered the card. Sadly it was a little too late. He'd already bought himself a new one. 

I spent long hours on the telephone to EE, which is the name that Orange masquerades under these days. I have no idea what EE stands for. There used to be a chain of Internet cafes called EE, which stood for Easy Everything, and was run by the same people who did Easy Jet. They had orange branding and were open through the night. It cost a quid to "surf" for an hour. People would sit in long lines checking their hotmail accounts and looking at porn in weird balsa wood booths. I guess they went out of business when people started getting lap tops and smart phones. 

Anyway, there's something wrong with my iPhone and I wanted to talk to someone about it, but the customer services people took 22 1/2 minutes to answer, which I feel is an all-time record. Bottom line is that EE don't give a s**t about their customers. Fact!

I went to Westminster for a meeting with the Arts Council today to talk about Brass and things went very well. There's a genuine sense of excitement building about the piece. I just hope I can nail it.

I went to Highbury on my way home and sat in a chip shop with Fiona who's up in London for a gig. The only chip shop in London, it seems, too arrogant to offer a vegetarian alternative. Still, the chips were nice... And Fiona paid! 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The shoulders say yes!

I went to Pimlico today for a lunchtime meeting in one of the town house on Vincent Square. It's astonishing to think that people actually own whole houses in fancy locations like that! We were discussing Brass, my musical about the First World War, in advance of a meeting tomorrow with people from the Arts Council. 

I arrived early, as usual, and sat in a pub for half an hour, busily writing a synopsis for the piece, still buzzing from our trip to France. The pub was playing a highly eclectic, slightly random set of songs from all eras of pop music. I assume someone's iPod was on shuffle because what else unifies an obscure song by the Beatles, the Fine Young Cannibals, Rhianna and, most bizarrely, I'm in the Mood for Dancing by the Nolan Sisters!? I'd forgotten what a camp classic that song is. First the shoulders said yes, then my head started nodding and before long I was making a right tit of myself! I caught the eye of the woman behind the bar. She looked at me with pity.

I came home and took myself for a much-needed massage. I'd woken up in the night in considerable pain from my back but am rather pleased to say that the massage seems to have nipped things in the bud.

I'd like to say I'm taking things easy this evening but it still feels like there's half a tonne of stuff to do. 

Perhaps I'll watch Eastenders and then get on with my work. Is it me, or is Sharon's  hair a weird shade of green? Too much peroxide in the swimming pool, I suspect!