Friday, 29 April 2016


I drove to Leeds and back today in the most miserable weather. I'm told a snow storm is currently ravaging Scotland and I guess I was driving through its tail end... For the entire length of my journey!

The M1 is a mass of 50 mph speed limits and weird dot matrix signs which flash up with the message "reduce speed to 40! Incident." Then more exclamation marks flash up. Said incidents were almost systematic in their non-appearance!

But it was great to be in Leeds. I love Leeds. I had a lovely moment on Briggate listening to a busker playing Time To Say Goodbye on an electric violin, to a Bossa Nova beat, which felt eccentric in a wonderfully Yorkshire kind of way.

I was in Leeds, cap in my hand, talking to the BBC and Leeds Council about my plan to take the cast of Brass down to the place where the real Leeds Pals went over the top. Both parties were incredibly friendly and love the idea of a group of young Yorkshire folk on the trail of the Leeds Pals. The council people even offered us a donation towards the coach hire, which is incredibly generous of them. We have a coach company willing to take us to France, but they're a little pricey, so unless I can subsidise the trip with financial good will gestures from kind folk, we still may not be able to do it. I don't know why everything in my life tends to take on the quality of an uphill climb. Nothing ever seems to come without struggle or drama. It's plainly the path I've chosen for myself. Sometimes I wish someone would wade in with a magic wand and say "thank you for this fabulous idea. Step aside and I'll make everything brilliant!" I even found myself wishing for good luck on every hay lorry that passed me on the road today. I don't know what was more bizarre: me wishing on hay trucks or hay trucks in April driving through sleet!

I'd never been to the civic building in Leeds before. It's a stunning Italianate art-deco blog, built during the Great Depression as part of an initiative to get unemployed people back into work. The Leeds Motto, "pro Rege et lege" ("for King and law") is inscribed in giant letters on the building's portico and huge golden owls (also a symbol of the city) sit proudly at every entrance. I also discovered today that the "rege" part of the motto is most likely to have been pronounced with a hard "g" rather than a "zh" (which is how we sing it on the cast album.) So from now on in we'll be talking about "reggae"... Man.

The BBC look like they're going to make a few little films about the trip. Nothing, of course, is ever set in stone when it comes to the media. The week before our trip, Britain goes to the polls. If we vote to stay in Europe, all will be fine, but if the fascists get their way, and the government goes into meltdown, there might not be much room for a little TV piece about a group of musical theatre actors. Frankly, heading to France two days after the referendum might open us up to having our coach pelted with eggs if we vote to leave. The French don't tend to need an excuse!

The journey home was ghastly. Heavy traffic. Solid rain. When I got to Highgate, they'd closed off the road we normally turn onto. They're building fancy flats where once there was a magistrates' court. In the end I went on a fifteen minute detour practically via Crouch End AND Muswell Hill just to beat the ludicrous traffic chaos that this single road closure generates. Even more horrifyingly, I got flashed at the traffic lights on the corner of our road. (By a camera, not by a pervert in a rain Mac you understand.)

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