Monday, 20 October 2014

Poppies

I did a morning's work today, prepping music for a little demo  recording we're doing at Julian's studio on Friday. At the same time I found myself replying to scores of tweets and Facebook messages from friends and colleagues about our surprise win at yesterday's UK Theatre Awards. I'm fairly surprised by how many people seem to know about it, and furthermore by how lovely and encouraging some of the messages have been.

Cindy, who's staying with us at the moment, accused me of being over-nonchalant about the award. I guess I probably am being. I've spent so long riding the ups and downs of this industry that I've become a little jaded and lost the ability to dare to hope for specific outcomes. My philosophy has always been to simply continue to create, and enjoy the process of creating. If you place too much emphasis on success, or even stop for long enough to define what you consider to be the definition of success, then you'll invariably be disappointed.

...Anyway, at 1pm, Cindy and I jumped on the tube and headed down to Charing Cross, and then by foot to Somerset House where we met Ted Thornhill for lunch. Ted and I have known each other since we were fifteen, and we spent our later teenaged years in each other's pockets, busking with Fiona in shopping centres in various Midlands town and cities. Our parents ought to have been thrilled. Whilst other Northamptonshire teenagers were sniffing glue and joyriding, the three of us were drinking tea from a giant brown teapot, eating my Mum's chocolate chip cookies and playing string trios. Rock on!

Cindy, Ted and I took ourselves on a river-side walk along the North of the Thames. It turns out that the South Bank is by far the better option if you're wanting a charming stroll. There's very little opportunity on the North Bank to enjoy the river, and the Thames path continually diverts a walker onto busy, exhausted-smutted roads where ugly concrete buildings block any potential views.

Still, it was lovely to be spending time with Cindy and Ted, and our end destination, The Tower of London, was well worth the walk. We'd gone there to see the porcelain poppies. For those reading this from outside of the UK, an intriguing art installation has been set up in the former moat around this iconic building. The installation features 900,000 ceramic poppies, all of which appear to be growing out of the dark green grass. Unsurprisingly the 900,000 poppies represent the British men who were killed in the First World War, exactly one poppy for every man (or woman) killed in battle.

It's a deeply arresting and beautiful sight. In two places, the poppies tumble over the walls and out of windows, almost as though the bloody tower itself were crying tears of red flowers. The poppies are planted in very close proximity, so that from a distance they appear as a sea of red, the edges sculpted like waves softly lapping onto a grassy beach.

As we stood there, staring wistfully, Ted said, "one for every man killed. Thousands of marriages that never happened. Thousands of kids growing up without a dad." It's impossible to even begin to quantify such enormous numbers, but somehow this astonishing spectacle made it just that little bit easier to comprehend. And therefore, I suppose, just that little bit more horrifying. Within that sea of red, however, were the souls of 1000 Leeds Pals, without whom, Brass would never have existed. I thought about the Pals a lot as I stood there. And right on cue, it started to rain. From the sky, and, I confess, a little from my eyes.

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