Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Are you Benjamin Till?

An hour in the morning is all it takes for Highgate Tube, and the entire underground network, to convert themselves from hell-mouths into something pleasurable to use again. I walked down the steep slope to the station at just after 9am this morning next to a girl holding a camera tripod, and a young lad who was plainly some sort of designer. Everything was still and calm. An hour earlier, everyone would have been pushing and shoving their way down the path, swearing and cursing and bracing themselves for the deeply unpleasant journey ahead.

I traveled to Old Street worrying what the rush hour was going to be like for commuters tonight after temperatures reached 30 degrees. Hell on earth I should imagine.

I changed trains at Camden and waited for a few rather full trains to pass through the station. I got into the third, sat down, opened my lap top, created a new document and typed "Em: a musical by Benjamin Till" in large letters. That's it. I've faffed about with the synopsis for plenty long enough, and now I've started writing. It's daunting to think that one day, what I wrote today will find its way onto a stage - except it won't cus what I was scrawling will never find its way into the show because it was rubbish!

Anyway, whilst sitting on the tube, I got one line into the character description of the show's lead role before the bloke sitting next to he nudged me and said, "excuse me, are you Benjamin Till?" "Um, yes..." I rather wondered what was coming. "So you're not writing a critique of an existing show? You're actually writing a musical? The tube is not quite the environment I imagined that sort of thing would happen in. I imagined a writer of musicals would be need to be surrounded by trees and fields." I laughed, remembering a lunatic woman who'd once tried to argue that the music I'd written was rubbish because she'd read in my blog that I'd written it in a cafe!

It made me realise what an urbanite I've become! All of my stage musicals have been set in gritty city environments. I don't suppose I'm a great one for rolling hills and solitude like dear Sir Arnold, who was never happier than writing in the sheep-filled silence of the Black Mountains.

Speaking of writing in cafes, I did a morning's work siting opposite Philippa in a place on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch. It was a curious concrete barn of a place. Very cool. Very Shoreditch. The cafe also sells rather eccentric curios like rustic photo frames and old-school reproduction metal tool boxes. They also sold popcorn making pans, which of course is the sort of thing you'd never use, but that didn't stop me instantly wanting one! The other bizarre aspect of the space is that it's also a male hairdressers. Two very-cool-looking barbers occupy a little alcove in the corner, and trim the braids of bearded Hoxton hipsters. It seems it takes a hell of a lot of work to make someone look like they don't give a damn about how they look!

I wrote rubbish for the best part of three hours. It's a prerequisite of a first day on a project, probably of the first few weeks, when you're getting the shape of the piece, a sense of where the beats need to be and of the detailed research you'll ultimately need to do. It's only then that you can start slowly tidying things up, chipping away at clunky corners. Well, that's how I write at least. That way, if the muse doesn't strike, or is otherwise occupied, you're still moving forward. The muse will come when she's needed...

The cafe was air-conditioned, so when we emerged onto the street at 2pm, we were almost engulfed by waves of what can only be described as Mediterranean heat. It was literally like walking into a fan-assisted oven. It's years, I think, since I've felt heat like that in the UK. I walked at a snail's pace to Old Street tube, suddenly understanding exactly why everything moves so slowly in the Caribbean!

I went from Old Street to my gym in Kentish Town, which, unsurprisingly, was empty. On my way there I was forced to deal with yet another level of intrigue regarding the whole Loose-Women-Thingie-Nolan debacle, which I thought had gone away. I'm not sure for legal reasons I'm allowed to mention the latest incident, but it's a bit of a corker, which I shall be intrigued to watch as it develops!

They were in meltdown at Starbucks near the BBC on Lancaster Place later on in the day. There was no air con and they'd even had to remove the milk from the side counter because it was plainly overheating. The staff were trying as hard as they could to stay calm and friendly, but sweat was dripping down their foreheads. One poor woman was red like a beetroot. It was no way to work. Surely there are work-place laws which ought to have sent those poor kids home.

I met Ellie at the BBC after work and we shuffled our way through the heat into Soho where we sat on the street, outside the Pizza Express where they play a lot of jazz, watching the world going past and talking about our days at York University. I'm feeling very nostalgic at the moment. I suppose that's fairly natural for someone who's 40. Maybe when I'm 41, in about six weeks' time, I'll suddenly start fixating on the future again. It certainly looks like I'll be achieving a great deal more as a 41 year old than I did as a 40 year old.

For old time's sake... why don't you take a look at this pop video! If you're British and about my age, you'll instantly be transported back to 1987. Guaranteed. 

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