Monday, 18 May 2015

I've finished!

Waking up at 7.30am this morning was deeply distressing. I was aching all over and for the first time in this manic period, I can feel my body screaming at me to stop. It is, however, the final day of mayhem. As of tomorrow I can start reclaiming my life.

The house was a pitiful mess. I found a loaf of bread under a pile of Union Jack bunting this morning and realised my creative life had completely engulfed my ordinary existence! Last night I put some washing on and then realised I was too sleepy to stay awake until it was done. Sadly, I knew I needed to turn the washing around in order to have something clean to wear for this morning, so I turned in, set my alarm for an hour's time and duly woke up and went down to the kitchen when it went off. Sadly, the load was still spinning around, so I went back to bed and set my alarm to go off in another hour. Imagine my horror, therefore, when I discovered, nearly three hours after putting the load on, that the machine was STILL going! It never usually takes that long. What on earth was I doing wrong? Is there some sort of AI function in my washing machine which is capable of identifying that I spent a full week away from home and therefore that my washing might be considered to be "heavily soiled..?" (I learned that phrase from Daz adverts...)

Anyway, at 4am, I finally got up to turn the load around, and felt pretty sure I was doing it in my sleep.

Still, getting up at shit o'clock on a Sunday was rewarded by beautiful spring sunshine. I walked down the little causeway to the tube and found a rather charming scene: The cafe kiosk was open, and a number of people were sitting, very calmly drinking coffee and reading newspapers on the chairs outside, in a most glorious sun-trap. I don't see many early mornings, but part of me wonders what I'm missing out on. I probably ought to have joined the Highgate early risers for a few minutes because I reached Euston supremely early and had to mill about for the best part of an hour.

The train to Manchester was unnaturally crowded and rather noisy. I forget that Sunday, at this time, is when pissed-up, aggressive Midlanders, who've had a night out in London return home, and often use the journey as an excuse to keep drinking beer! Someone behind me reeked to the high heavens of curry! I got really quite claustrophobic at one point.

There aren't enough loos on Virgin trains these days, and the queues were six or seven deep. The loos themselves smelt of cider and yeast. Ghastly!

At one stage I went to try and buy a cup of tea only to find a buffet compartment which resembled some kind of rugby changing room with a light film of sweat hanging in the air and about fifty people trying to buy alcohol. I withdrew to my seat and tried to pretend I wasn't there.

At the end of the journey, the train guard apologised to everyone for the over-crowded train. It turns out that the large majority of passengers were football fans. The guard said he hoped the next time we took the train we'd be able to travel with people who were being more polite to their fellow travellers.

Pulling into Manchester itself was a somewhat significant moment.  The last time I was here was to do auditions for Brass. It was February 2014. At that stage Brass was a mere embryo. I'd written a couple of songs, and most of the script. It was Manchester where we first met Hannah Lawson who was destined to play Titty in the show, and, of course, Ben Jones, now Mabberly, who became our Alf. I will probably never forget his audition. Hearing him play the Concierto de Naranjuez on his cornet was a deeply moving moment which actually inspired the show's title track, Brass.

I went for lunch on Canal Street which was rammed with trannies. I think there was some sort of event going on, although the presence of trannies on Canal Street is always something I notice.

I had a horrible sandwich in Via. The food in there always used to be so tasty, but today the bread was stale, the salad was limp and the cheese was suspiciously hard...

I took the tram to the BBC at Media City in Salford and found myself lodged like a sardine into a carriage, surrounded by more football fans heading to Old Trafford. I wanted to run in the opposite direction, but decided it was better to arrive on time stinking of soggy football scarves than not arriving at all. So I stood with my face pressed against the window, breathing deeply and wondering what would happen if the tram went up in flames whilst the peculiar bloke next to me kept nudging me and pointing out the window to say "funny tractor." After engaging him in conversation I ascertained that Manchester United were playing Arsenal, which explains why my entire journey was peopled by fans. I also ascertained that, despite being from North London, my new friend was actually a Man U supporter.  He also had an enormous dent in his forehead, which may well have explained the curious tractor obsession!

This is the first time I've been to Manchester in a long time, possibly ever - when it's not been raining, although there were some suspiciously grey clouds which threatened to revert the place to type. In the sunshine, the city looks rather grand and attractive, although I still find it rather pleased with itself. I've never really taken to Manchester.  They're not my tribe up here.

I love working at the BBC, however... Particularly at night or on a Sunday when it's quiet and relaxed, and people don't feel the need to rush about looking important and too busy to smile. At one stage there was a late-night show from BBC Manchester playing out in the atrium; old-school songs from the shows, like On The Street Where You Live. I rather enjoyed listening to it whilst making myself a cup of tea.

I was at the BBC editing our Billy Whistle film... This was the last of the major tasks I have to do this month before I can kick off my shoes and take a few days to do nothing but sleep.

I've been editing with a chap called Phill, who also edited my Hattersley film. He's a brilliant editor and a Leicester lad, so we had a lot to chat about. Even more brilliantly, one of the graphics guys here is a Kenilworth kid, so it's been a Midlands-tastic evening.

We finished at midnight, which was rather respectable for a day which had started at 4pm. Phill even did a grade of the film, which we've done in incredibly muted colours... Almost sepia.

As I walk back to the hotel, Manchester is raining, which isn't at all surprising.

I cannot believe I've managed to get through the last two weeks with my sanity intact. I genuinely feel the most astonishing sense of achievement, having pulled off the impossible. I've written and produced an original cast album and produced and directed and two promotional videos to accompany it. It's not often I feel really proud of myself, but I'm just going to take five minutes to allow myself that indulgence.

I am, of course, mindful of the people who have helped me along the way on this particular journey. Victoria and Jezza from the NYMT sprung into action and kept me buoyant when I thought I couldn't take another step forward. The amazing, fabulous, talented young people of the NYMT whose enthusiasm for Brass would light up the marquees of a million theatres. PK, whose attention to detail nearly killed him, but he's created magic... Genuine magic. Olivia, PK's wife, who cooked for me every single day and slept in the sitting room so that we could continue to work at night. Keith the cameraman who nicked equipment and slashed his rates so that the NYMT could have only the best... and of course, my darling husband, Nathan, who never fails to pick up the pieces when my heart breaks.

Thank you to you all. And goodnight! I may sleep for some time!

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