Sunday, 29 June 2014


What a glorious day it is today. As I left the house I passed my neighbours who were looking all summery and heading off to Alexandra Palace. What a fabulous place to visit on a sunny day.

Ben Holder, the musical director of Brass, and one of five Bens working on the show, came over at noon today, and we listened to every single one of my arrangements. It was a fairly mammoth session, as you can imagine, but it made me realise how much I've achieved. He has kindly stepped in to offer help on some of the latter stages of prep, and this takes a great weight off my mind.

There were a couple of moments as I was trying to write on the train yesterday when I realised I was hideously stressed. Close friends will not consider this news. Only last week I spent ages trying to convince Fiona I wasn't stressed when she accused me of being so. But the stress symptoms are here. Heart palpitations, dizziness, inability to sleep. Every time I drifted off last night, I woke up panicking. I haven't had these particular symptoms since working on the 40-part version of the Pepys Motet, which essentially remains the most stressed I reckon I've ever been. Plainly my body is telling me that I can't continue at this pace, which is slightly odd as I wouldn't necessarily say I'm working that hard! Maybe it's a cumulative thing?

I watched Top of the Pops 2 on the television last night. They were screening an episode of the cult show from 1979, with a rather peculiar selection of songs including Janet Kay singing Silly Games, which, structurally speaking, is one of the most eccentric pop songs ever released.

There's a limit to the number of Top of the Pops shows they can broadcast these days because a large swathe of the DJs who presented the show have subsequently been arrested on paedophilia charges.

The (relatively safe) Mike Reid was the man with the mic in this particular show, but seeing very young girls, plastered in make up and pouting for Britain made me incredibly uncomfortable. It also made me realise that, like it or not, this was the way of things back then. Girls were trophies. Sex objects. The more youthful and fecund the girl, the more virile the older the man standing next to her looked.

And those girls were definitely playing the game. At one stage Mike Reid said, "the worst part of this job is having to stand up here with all these devastatingly attractive ladies." Cue the girls around him laughing as seductively as a group of sixteen year-old girls could. Five seconds later, Legs and Co, that dreadful dance troop, appeared wearing sexy lingerie and blowing kisses at a Vaseline-smeared camera.

We worry about the sexualisation of today's kids but back then, I think, the world that was presented on television was a great deal more sinister and unhealthy. Even as a child I used to wonder why all the young girls were draped over these old, hairy men. It was endemic to the BBC and I'm not sure we should be looking at scapegoating the presenters. What about the producers and floor managers who chose the girls to stand behind the DJs.

Sometimes I think it's important simply to draw a line under a particularly unsavoury period, like slavery, the imprisonment of gay people, or the oppression of women and say "it wasn't illegal then, it is now, so let's focus on today's problems."

Speaking of older, hairy blokes, I was speaking to my cousin yesterday about our wedding. His friends had apparently all been coming up to him and asking which one of the grooms he was related to; "the older one or the younger one?!" It didn't take long to establish that I was the older one. Not the smarter one, the one with the curlier hair, the one that cried or the one in the bow tie... The older one. Thanks!!

I am still a man in my 30s, yet in half an hour's time, my "younger partner Nathan" will be a man in his forties. Take that!

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