Thursday, 2 October 2014


My alarm went off at 6.30am and I was surprised to discover that it was still dark outside. The halogen street light outside our living room window has broken down and is permanently flashing on and off. On for two seconds. Off for two. On for two... It feels rather like one of those New York apartments you get in the movies, where a giant neon light outside gently strobes to show that the people who live there are poor but desperately cool!  I think it's rather romantic. Nathan hates it. This morning it simply felt surreal.

I stumbled around the house trying to make sense of what was going on. It felt as though someone had stuffed a layer of cotton wool into the crevices between my brain and face. I lay in the bath, trying to keep myself awake by thinking about all the people I know who would already have been awake. Brother Edward definitely. Ellie. Maybe Tina. I think Philippa once confused me by suggesting her crew were always up at 6.30am. At the time I didn't know there were two 6 o'clocks in a day!

I made the mistake of trying to trim my bushy, old man side burns in a bathroom mirror which was covered in steam. I was trying to use a pair of blunt, rusty scissors. Hack, hack, hack. Great chunks of pure white and orange fell into the sink. I managed to make myself look like someone with alopecia of the beard.

Matt Lucas sent us a lovely present through the post yesterday, a newly-released 35th anniversary CD version of ABBA's seminal Wembley Stadium concert. It's fairly bizarre to hear the girls singing live; a genuine demonstration of how much they pushed their voices in the studio. Frida's voice overwhelms Agnetha's when the two sing together, and both do a fair amount of copping out by popping into their head voices mid-phrase and using vocal timbres which put less pressure on their vocal chords, sometimes to a point that their uber-familiar voices become unrecognisable. I read in the CD notes that Frida was actually suffering from a sore throat and spent the days of the London gigs in Harley Street. This could explain why she wasn't taking any risks, although, perversely, it's Agnetha who sounds bunged up.

The sun was rising as I made my way to the tube. A great big smudge of yellow in the Eastern sky was throwing threads of light like marble across the sky. It struck me that the sunrise is God's wonderful reward for the early bird, although I think something similar about the stillness which a night owl like me experiences in the wee smalls.

By the time I'd reached kings cross it was pissing it down with rain. September may have been the driest ever on record, but October is bound to be the wettest!

My train for Bradford left at 8.03am and I was horrified upon collecting the tickets that they had cost the BBC £166! In my view there's not a justification in the world for a train which costs that much money. I wasn't in first class. I wasn't sitting on a gold-embossed chair. In fact, I didn't even have a table to work on. In a world where we're meant to avoid driving as much as possible, it seems almost ludicrous to charge these kind of amounts to sit in a train  for two hours.

I was in Bradford for a meeting with the BBC and David Wilson from Bradford Film to talk about a possible project in the city. It's very early days, and there will be nothing to report for some time, but Bradford is certainly a rather fascinating city.

After the meeting, David (whom I liked enormously) took me on a little tour of the city centre. It's much more attractive than I'd assumed, and his passion for the place was deeply infectious. I've actually only visited the city twice, and on both occasions the only place I saw was the national film and television museum. It was there, in fact, where I got to hold the Play School toys, in the process fulfilling a life time's ambition. Jemima the rag doll is every bit as fit in person as she is on screen!

I guess I have been guilty of stereotyping Bradford as "Bradistan" with its antisemitic MPs and racial tensions. What I actually saw was a bustling city centre, filled with stunning Victorian architecture, where everyone seemed incredibly friendly. I look forward to dispelling my own myths about the place if I get to work on the project.

This evening we held a little choir rehearsal at our house. It's Abbie's wedding in a week-and-a-half's time and a group of us are singing her a specially-composed setting of a Shakespeare sonnet. I often wonder what the neighbours must think when they hear live choral music drifting through the walls. Bloody bohemians.

On my way home from Bradford I had a phone call from my agent asking me to sing (yes sing) in a cabaret on Sunday night. The event is being organised by Bobby Cronin, a New York-based writer. He does something similar Stateside. The idea is for composers to sing a song which has inspired them and then perform one of their own compositions. It is, of course, terrifying for me to even contemplate sitting in front of an audience whilst singing, but I think it's a really important thing to do, not just because all proceeds from the evening go to a charity which rescues dogs, but because it establishes a community of British musical theatre writers.

So if anyone fancies coming along to say hello, and to support me, lots of other talented writers and, of course the sad dogs of Manchester, then the cabaret is at Freedom bar on Wardour Street at 7pm this coming Sunday. If you're lucky you might catch a little impromptu performance of something from our wedding...

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