I had a fairly nasty start to the day, largely, I suspect, because my body was just not ready to he back in the smoke. Everything seemed crass and incredibly loud. The lorries trundling up the Archway Road sounded like heavy artillery being fired in the height of battle, and even the air conditioning unit in the shop below - a sound I've become almost deadened to - was suddenly the noise of a Boeing jet engine in the midst of a bird strike! I suddenly realised how much sound us city dwellers manage to filter out, largely out of complete necessity. I'll be used to it in a couple of days, of course, and silence will be no more pleasant than the tinnitus it brings!
To compound my bad mood, I had hoped to very speedily finish the song arrangement from Brass I'd dipped in and out of throughout the holiday, but there was a lot more to do than I'd realised and, at about mid day, I had a 1990's style computer crash which effectively meant I'd lost a morning's work.
My plan to start (and finish) another song vanished into cyber space and I felt considerably rattier than I'm sure I would have done had I not just returned from a lovely holiday.
It struck me that my only real hope was to ease myself into the day by somehow pretending I was still on holiday, so took myself to Camden Town for some male grooming.
On the tube on the way there I felt the bloke two seats along prodding my arm. He pointed at the open computer on my lap and grinned a toothless grin; "is that music?" He asked. I nodded and in the process opened up a conversation about piano playing. "Do you have your grade eight?" He asked. I felt sad. He seemed lonely.
It did, however, remind me that there's a certain sort of conversation a musician has to put up with which results from people feeling the need to proudly tell you the musical vocabulary they've accumulated over the years. So often when I tell people I'm a composer, they say things like "so you know a crotchet from a quaver then? Ha ha ha." Or more bizarrely, they simply list off the musical terms they know. Out of context, "crescendo, adagio, treble clef..."
I've no idea why people do it. It's the equivalent of me finding out someone's a lawyer and saying, "litigation, mediation, articles!" Nathan tells me that when people see him knitting, they invariably say, "knit one, purl one, drop one..." so I guess it's not just musicians!
Anyway, I took myself to a barber in Camden Town, and, for a hugely reasonable £23, had my hair cut and face wet shaved. I was given the full works: hot towels, warm shaving foam, a facial massage, all kinds of lotions and potions. Right at the end, he took a little metal stick out of his draw with a fabric swab attached to the end which he proceeded to dip into Paraffin. He then set fire to it and rubbed the flame all over my ears to burn off excess hair. It was fairly extraordinary. And a bit scary!
I have to say, there is something rather wonderful about having a wet shave with a cut throat razor, delivered by a stranger. Firstly, you're forced to entirely place your trust in someone else's hands, which is, I think, rather good for control freaks like me, but it's also an incredibly intimate, highly sensual experience which simultaneously feels extraordinarily masculine. It's the one bit of male grooming which is acceptable for those whose bodies buzz with testosterone. I don't think a straight male Afghani bloke would give another man a tender facial massage under any other circumstance!
The barber said my beard was "challenging". Apparently the hairs all grow in different directions. I probably could have guessed as much. Shaving's always been quite an event for me!
I went into town to meet Nathan for a late lunch. We ate at Stockpot on Old Compton Street, before I returned home to finish my arrangement and make a cursory start on the next one.