Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Sur le pont...

I sold a copy of the London Requiem today... to someone in France. It's exciting to think of the album
being played in the city of Avingnon, but a little distressing to think that I parted with £3.70 just to post it there! The CD price was, I believe, about £8, so even my basic maths informs me that I'm not exactly making money hand over fist here! Still, everyone who buys it represents another person whom my music is touching; something which can only be celebrated. If only lawyers and plumbers had the same attitude towards their work!

Today's sale - or lack there of - is a reminder that there's something of a crisis going on in the record industry at the moment. No one wants to buy CDs, or even pay for downloads any more. It's a very sad state of affairs. The delight with which I hear some people talking about how they managed to rip a CD for nothing sends daggers through my heart. If you're reading this, and you're partial to downloading music for nothing... Do think twice. It's people like me you're ripping off. Not just huge record labels! Perhaps Bob Geldof's next charity release can be on behalf of artists in the British music industry!

I took the first steps towards signing on today, which made me feel a little ashamed and sad. It turns out you can't actually pay rent with the awards on your mantlepiece, which I feel is a very sorry state of affairs! It's obviously dented my pride a little bit, but I always use these periods of signing on mega-productively. The last time I claimed benefits was in 2011, and during that time, I wrote The London Requiem. My only worry is that, now I'm married, signing on will involve Nathan's finances being raked over as well. It's hard enough to make sense of one self employed person's finances, let alone his husband's, who never earns the same amount two weeks running. I suspect I'm in for a bumpy ride!

I initially tried to log my details online, but my application was instantly rejected. I assumed this had something to do with my marital status, but when I spoke to someone official, in somewhere like Liverpool, I was informed that I'd been rejected due to a ludicrous glitch in their system, which meant if you ticked the box which said you also intended to apply for housing benefits, you were instantly turned down. The man on the phone then informed me that I'd need to reapply online, ticking the "no" box when asked about housing benefits. "But I DO want housing benefits," I argued. "The form has a glitch," I was told, bluntly. "So, because there's a problem with your software, I'm expected to lie? Can we not sort things out on the phone?" "Your age group is expected to be computer-literate, so I'm not permitted to give you telephone assistance with the filling in of forms." "But your system doesn't work, and I don't feel comfortable lying on an official form..." I then told him I was recording the conversation, and that he'd need to confirm to me that he was asking me to lie on a governmental form... At this point he hung up on me, telling me that if I was recording the call, it was his right to terminate it. I'm not sure there's a great deal of logic or truth in that. After all, how many times are we told the calls we make "may be recorded for training purposes...?" Ho hum. I try ever so hard to play the game when it comes to collecting benefits, but every so often you encounter such illogical behaviour, the only option is to raise a metaphorical eyebrow!

There was a delightful exchange between two middle-aged Italian blokes in the gym today. They obviously knew each other rather well, and immediately burst into animated conversation. Strangely, one was talking in Italian whilst the other spoke in English. Plainly both were understanding each other, but mid-way through the chat, the one speaking Italian suddenly said, "why are you speaking English?" At which point the one speaking English dissolved into hysterics and started speaking Italian. I suppose he's lived here for so long and become so used to speaking English that he hadn't realised he was doing so to a fellow country man! It made me chuckle.

The rest of the day was spent, you guessed it, filling in application forms for the Arts Council. That's four full days and counting...

In the early evening I ventured into central London to meet Nathan in his lunch break, before heading to The Farm edit suite in Soho Square to cut together an edit of Our Gay Wedding for another award entry. The journey involved alighting at the new Tottenham Court Road station which is rather disappointing if I'm honest; all clad in cheap metal and shiny blue plastic panels, with all of those delightful and iconic 1980s Edualdo Paolozzi murals gone. I couldn't help but think I was witnessing change for the sake of change! This was a real opportunity for the powers-that-be to breathe new life into a really grubby corner of London. Said to be permanently cursed, and once one of the most gruesome and lawless slums in the world, the area around Centre Point has always struggled to find an identity. Shops and bars open and close like flowers in the summer. It always feels just a little bit dowdy and sleazy, and I don't think the new tube is going to help the situation.

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