Thursday, 30 June 2016

Better late than never

I entirely forgot to blog last night. Very strange. I think I'd been a bit dormant for most of the day, and then suddenly started working in the evening in a sort of frenzy, so it entirely slipped my mind.

I was dormant due to depression, I guess. I worked myself up into a terrible state about the referendum, reading quotes attributed to Boris Johnson, who was vociferously pro Clause 28, and anti gay marriage until it suited him not to be. There was a very distressing interview with him and Eddie Mair doing the rounds which shows him as an aggressive bully and a liar. It's desperate and all the worry is making me entirely lose perspective. It's also giving me the mother of all writers' blocks.

So I went to the gym and ran and ran and ran until I was exhausted, at which point I felt a little better.

Right, that's all for now. It's Nathan's birthday today and we're in Warwick, so there's going to be a lot more to write tomorrow (or tonight...)

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The power of musical theatre

I'm beginning to feel a little lost. I may be suffering from exhaustion after France and the build up to France, but I'm just so worried about what's happening in Britain at the moment, that I keep realising I'm crying. I'm not crying for no reason, like some sort of nut job, but pretty much anything is likely to set me off. My old boss, Shaheen got called a "fucking paki" on the bus today. Some idiot then told her to "go back to where she comes from." In Shaheen's case that is Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham. She was born in the UK. Her mother is white. The images of grotesque thugs on a tram in Manchester ranting and railing at someone they perceived as an immigrant made me even more upset, largely because all the other passengers remained passive throughout the ordeal, only shouting back at the louts when one of them realised there was a baby in the carriage.

Nigel Farage's display in the European Parliament today was beyond embarrassing, and troubling because I believe it has made it incredibly likely that there will be no chance of negotiating an exit strategy which works for the UK. He behaved like a puerile school bully, giggling, throwing insults, pretending he didn't give a stuff when the chamber started to boo him. My God, I felt ashamed. Add to that, the behaviour of Dominic Cummings, Brexit's Campaign Manager, in front of the Treasury Select Committee. This rancid turd, whom I'd not even heard of before, claimed that “accuracy is for snake-oil pussies" before launching into an insane rant about the people who would kill him if he told the truth about what is going in in Europe. We now have a situation where the lunatics are genuinely running the asylum and the people who voted Brexit still seem to think everything is okay. We have to get order back before there's some kind of Civil War.

If you're reading this and you voted for Brexit, LOOK WHAT YOU HAVE DONE! Look at your country sinking into the mire. A laughing stock around the world. Do you care yet? Are you still believing the bullshit you were told, nearly all of which has subsequently been retracted, or are we going to need to sink deeper into the shit before you start to stand up and say "I voted for Brexit, but I didn't understand what that meant, please can we have another referendum before it's too late." This is serious. It's not a game.

In the late afternoon we went to Trafalgar Square and stood in the rain with Brother Edward, Sascha and about three thousand other people demonstrating against the referendum. I don't think any of us truly knew what we were hoping for. Probably the most likely option would be another referendum in the light of what we now know that we didn't know then. Any campaigning this time would need to be monitored carefully to prevent the bare-faced lies we witnessed from Dick Farage. I felt very proud that we'd braved the rain to be there. Sascha had made two placards which they held with pride until the rain made all the colours run.

There were news crews from around the world. We were interviewed by Germans, Australians and Japanese, all of whom, if I'm honest, seemed to be taking great delight in our country's meteoric fall from grace.

The demo: Very Evita!
This evening I discovered why musical theatre in the UK took off so spectacularly in the recession-torn 1980s (and indeed in 1930s USA.) Maddie, who is playing the role of Rosaline in this year's production of Brass, is actually a trumpeter in the first year at The Guildhall, and invited us to see the third year production of On The Twentieth Century which she was playing in. It was so lovely to sit in a darkened theatre and allow all my worries and fears to temporarily disappear into a blaze of show tunes and sequins. The production was fabulous. A thirty piece orchestra and as many in the cast. The whole experience was utterly transporting. I really needed it.

I don't normally get star struck in the slightest, but Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter and Judi Dench were all in the audience, and afterwards, when they saw each other, went in for a three-way hug, which was really very lovely to see. Maddie came out of the theatre and walked right past, her eyes almost bulging out of their sockets. It truly was a luvvie sandwich!

Laughing Stock

We slept for eleven hours straight last night. Really heavy sleep. The sleep of the dead. I woke up in the night and felt like I was hallucinating. There was a very funny moment on the coach yesterday night when I was talking to Emma Barry. I asked her a question, which I was genuinely interested in, but I promptly fell asleep whilst she gave me the answer. I think the silence that followed must have woken me up again, and I managed to blurt out the word "yes" before waking up enough to continue with the conversation.

I spoke to my Mum today who told me that my Dad has been really depressed about the referendum results. He's not the only one. I was astounded to hear that there had been a considerable spike in hate crimes in the UK following the referendum which includes vandalism and a string of despicable letters aimed at the Polish community. Part of me thinks this nonsense would be more understandable if the Brexit campaign had lost, but to my mind it just goes to show how Twatty Johnson and Titty Farage have legitimised xenophobia in this country. It's also now very clear that they told half-truths and full on-lies during their campaign. They're even saying now that they don't think immigration is much of a problem. We're told that Boris didn't think for a moment that he'd win. He simply thought he'd give the "stay" campaign a run for their money then tell Cameron that his position was untenable. I feel like 51% of voters were stupid enough to fall for a little practical joke run by a set of Eton school boys. And more fool them. When the pensions start getting slashed due to austerity measures, they'll only have themselves to blame. When areas of Wales and Cornwall lose millions of pounds of investment, they'll only have themselves to blame.

...But then again we're all blaming everyone else at the moment, aren't we? And punishment always follows blame. The Europeans will punish us. We have lost all power to negotiate a decent exit. The Westminster politicians blame each other. I genuinely think that lily-livered bunch of time-wasters would actually rather punish Pudgy-faced Gove and Wig-head Johnson for their naughty prank by allowing us to exit Europe than step up to the mark and fight to have us stay in. We need them now more than ever. If they fail us, the country might genuinely enter a phase of anarchy.

Jeremy Corbyn's position looks utterly perilous. There seem to have been more resignations from the Shadow Cabinet than there are places in the shadow cabinet. I'm wondering if there have actually been examples of people being offered posts who have immediately resigned. It's like a revolving door of people wearing red ties. I like Corbyn enormously, and agree with him on most of his policies, but he appears to be too weak to be a leader. He should have been all over the Tories during their recent crisis, and should have been fighting to prevent traditional Labour folk from voting to leave Europe by acknowledging that some people are frightened of immigration. He did neither. Frankly, he just needed to make the right noises. If the people who go on about immigration are too stupid to know when a bunch of Posh Twats are pulling a fast one on them, they'd certainly not notice a Labour leader standing with his fingers crossed behind his back saying, "oh yes. Immigration. Big problem..." For the record, European immigration is not a big problem. Some people are just racist. How many Brexit voters does it take to change a light bulb? It doesn't matter, there's been another power cut.

So, we took ourselves off to Thaxted to cheer the parents up and watch the Great British Sewing Bee. We spent some time trying to work out if the Queen's Coronation Oath was at loggerheads with what was happening in Europe. If it is the Queen's duty to protect the Union, she would have to block any attempt to invoke Article 50 because it would almost certainly lead to the disintegration of the Union. I'd love to see the Brexiteers trying to get their heads around that. They could start sending the Queen hate male. After all, they're tired of being ruled by unelected Europeans. Not including the Queen? Fair enough... She's more of an immigrant than most of us!

So apparently we lost to Iceland in the football this evening? We're such a great nation aren't we? So proud. So strong. If we thought we were a laughing stick in the world this morning, we're like a terrible farce this evening. Oh well, we better get some world-renowned British scientists and literary figures to make us seem relevant again. What do you mean they've left the country? Human capital flight? I'll see you in Scotland.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The future is in safe hands with these wonderful people

Well, I haven't slept a single hour in the last 36 and I can barely focus on this blog, but I feel incredibly relieved, happy and upbeat. Spiritually renewed, almost...

Our trip to France couldn't really have started any less well: horrible thunder storms, and the car park flooded at Thurrock as we were trying to leave. But it was at Dover where the shit spattered itself all over the fan! I don't know who should take more responsibly. P and O suggest getting to the port 30 minutes before a crossing. We got there 1 hour and 20 minutes before ours. And sat. And sat. Apparently we were in a queue waiting for the French border police, who were taking their own sweet time. Maybe it was because of the European cup but I assumed we were being shown how difficult it's going to be from now on to get into Europe. The British police were just standing around saying there was nothing they could do. Blaming the French. And P and O couldn't have cared any less. Everything was someone else's fault. These days it's always someone else's fault. I spoke to a woman in hi viz: "you need to start telling people to get to the ports with two hours to spare..." I said. The response was bizarre, "we always tell people they should leave a reasonable amount of time..." "yes, you advise half an hour!" "And we have no control over how long the French police take..."

So we missed our ferry by seconds and had to sit in a dingy ferry terminal until the next crossing at 3.20am. We weren't the only ones. A large number of other coaches were booked in with different ferry companies and, because they'd missed the last crossing of the night, had to fork out hundreds of pounds for a ticket on the next P and O boat. This is a miserable glimpse into the post-Brexit world. I spoke to bus drivers who said it would no longer be tenable to do day trips to France because the waits at the ferry terminal would eat into their driving hours by too much.

We tried to make the most of it. We rehearsed music. The four trumpeters stood in the car park against the darkened famous white cliffs, and then all the singers got together and sang. Our wonderful drivers, Paul and Cliff, from Abbott's of Leeming, swore they'd go hell for leather to get us to Serre for our ceremony at 7.30am. But at 3.20am, word got around that a "technical issue" involving a life boat on the ferry, meant that we'd be delayed. We eventually left Dover at 4am, with no hope of getting to Serre for 7.30am. Turns out the issue with the life boat was that they'd decided to launch a boat as a "test" at 3am which they couldn't get back onto the ferry. They'd had to cut the lifeboat free and then limit the number of passengers on the ferry accordingly.

I was so depressed. I'd dotted every i and crossed every t in organising this trip and had fallen at the last hurdle through no fault of my own. Instead of watching the sun rise at 6am on a French battlefield, we watched it rise from the ferry. It was the most beautiful sunrise. Bright red streaks across the sky. "Red sky in the morning, shepherds' warning," I thought, and called out to the universe to make the rain it promised hold off, at least for the morning.

The drivers were true to their word, and sped through France. Who knows if they broke the law for us. I was so so grateful.

We arrived in Serre at 8am. We'd missed the zero hour, but, we were all there safely, and, more crucially, there was still no rain.

As we walked up the dusty track towards the little cluster of cemeteries around the Sheffield Memorial Park, the air felt deeply charged. The young cast were soaking the atmosphere in, looking at every detail: the position of the sun in the sky, the gradient of No Man's Land... We stood in the first of the cemeteries looking at gravestone after gravestone belonging to Leeds Pals. A silence descended as they tried to comprehend.

We walked to the Queen's Road Cemetery which is where we ran our little ceremony. It's such a peaceful place. The only sounds we heard from nature were the rustling of trees and the noise of a blissfully happy skylark. The trumpeters played The Last Post in a glorious canon. They wore their banding uniforms proudly. The cast did wonderful readings. We sang "You'll Always Have a Friend" to the Pals as a sort of lullaby. And I know they were listening as they slept because the sun came our from behind a cloud and bathed everyone in the most beautiful light.

The Sheffield Memorial Park is a bitter-sweet place. It commemorates a number of the Pals regiments. Accrington, Barnsley, Sheffield... But the Leeds and Bradford Pals were apparently the "wrong regiment" despite having gone over the top in the vicinity. I have pleaded with the owners of the land to put up a little plaque for the Pals. Their response is that "we can't remember everyone" and that they have "standards to uphold." It makes me very angry.

We went to Serre Road cemetery number 2, where Robyn did a deeply moving reading and Ben Jones, now Mabberly, became incredibly emotional at the grave of my Great Uncle, William Mabberley, after whom I named the central character in the show, which Ben has portrayed so beautifully in two productions. God, it was moving.

And as we headed off to Beaumont Hamel, the promised rain still didn't fall. The Newfoundland Park at Beaumont Hamel is a lovely place. The area was purchased by Newfoundland immediately after the war because they knew it held the remains of so many of their people, who were slaughtered on the first day of the Somme. They left the area as it was, and, over the years, it has simply grassed over. We should all have a real sense of gratitude to the Newfoundlanders because, by purchasing this land, and leaving it the way it's been left, we can all gain a great deal of understanding about the layout of First World War battlefields, with their networks of support, front-line and communication trenches. Every year hundreds of Canadian students come over to the area to give visitors free educational tours, which are really very interesting.

The only issue I have with the set up, and, for some reason, I felt this acutely today, is that you'd think it was only Newfoundlanders who died on this hallowed turf on July 1st 1916, despite the fact that they weren't part of the first wave of the attack, which saw the massacre of countless other battalions, the majority of whom were British. Our tour guide mentioned the "British front line" once. She knew we were English. She didn't feel the need to tell us which battalions had died there and to make matters slightly worse, she talked about the Highlanders having the "relatively easy" task of taking the German lines a few months later when they were exhausted. The Highlanders were known as some of the fiercest and bravest fighters of the entire war, and to pass over their significance felt somewhat disingenuous. Our guide was from Newfoundland itself, so I completely understood her passion, but I think you sometimes need to know your audience and she came across as nationalists and naïve.

As we left the park, we all posed for a group photograph. When we'd taken a few pictures, I asked the kids to run at the camera to see if I could get a bit of a fun "action" shot. It was all vey lighthearted and silly, and it lasted about three seconds.

As we walked out of the park, I became aware that one of the Canadian guides was staring at me, so I thanked him. "What the hell were you doing?" He asked, humourlessly. "Asking people to charge? Have some respect." I instantly apologised but felt somewhat aggrieved, largely out of embarrassment because it was important for me not to upset anyone whilst we were in France. I was also more than a little surprised because we were simply having a little moment of fun and the young people I was there with had been utterly respectful and brilliantly behaved all day. But being told I had no respect for the men who had fallen in the First World War was very galling. I wondered how many musicals he'd written about the war. Whether he'd ever lobbied to have a plaque placed in a memorial park. I wished I'd told him that I felt he and his tour guides ought to show a little more respect for the non-Canadians who had died at Beaumont Hamel. Or that perhaps they might like to take themselves a little less seriously.

As we left Beaumont Hamel, we'd still not had any rain...

We did a little diversion to Thiepval Monument so the lovely Carol, our Barnbow expert who has been so much fun on the trip, could jump out, run across a car park and take a quick picture of the memorial. I don't know how old Carole is, but most women of her age wouldn't have been able to sprint the way she did. We cheered her from the coach!

The third and final part of our day took place at Bus Les Artois, which, I think, for some, was the most magical part of the day. The lads got a chance to walk into and explore an actual barn where the Leeds Pals were billeted. Ben and Oscar even climbed a ladder up into the hay loft. It's such an atmospheric place, which has plainly not changed at all since the war. Shafts of mysterious light were pouring through the roof.

The cast also got a chance to go to the tiny little private museum to the Pals in the town which is stacked full of curios including the little porcelain tea set which so inspired one of the story lines in Brass. I think a number of the girls were fascinated to see and hold a real life shell... Just like the ones their characters made at Barnbow.

As that was our special day. We returned to the UK without a great deal of issue and the first drops of rain we'd seen since leaving Dover fell on English soil.

I invited some of the cast of Brass who came on the trip today to write a "guest blog." The first is a joint enterprise by Maddie and Anna:

"Never did we think that at some point in our career we would be rehearsing at a coffee shop at 2am with an audience consisting of two anti-terrorist police men. All of us in the cast of Brass knew all too well that we could be sleeping, but instead we all agreed that it was more important to rehearse for what was going to be the most important few minutes of our time as a company so far. After an unplanned delay and sleepless night- or should we say morning- we arrived at Serre and walked onto what was once No Mans Land. The first thing that struck us was the deafening, but oddly peaceful silence that surrounded us. It seems strange to think that one hundred years ago this exact spot would have been deafeningly loud. As we prepared to pay our respects to the fallen, we realised how carefully the memorials have been maintained over the years- It was comforting to see how every individual solider was not going to be forgotten.

I (Maddie) had the honour to play the Last Post at the spot where my Great Great Uncle was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. While I was playing I became instantly aware of the silence that surrounded us and how vast the battlefields really were. I also experienced something that I had never felt before. Looking at the war graves around me made me feel angry. They never found his body and to me, he deserves a grave stone like every other solider, even though he is still out in No Mans Land. I also felt enormously proud to be standing when he fell representing my family. Even though I never met him, I feel as though I was with him at that moment. I felt the same when we sung the end of 'Letters'. We were no longer singing about them, we were singing to them.

After the ceremony we started to think about the events that have happened in recent days. The men that fell for our country gave their lives to ensure that we had a better, brighter future and quite frankly, with the the recent choice our country has made, we feel like we've let them down.

After an amazing and insightful day we began our journey home. As we were approaching the border at Calais, we noticed hundreds and hundreds of tents packed together on the side of the motorway. We were then informed that these were the homes of migrants fleeing their horrific situation. Never in our lives have we seen a sight quite like it and for us, this realisation came at a poignant time. Having just come from the war graves, we see how important it is for us to love and build bridges, not walls. As the younger generation we understand that it is us who have to change the way our world is, something that has become even more apparent because of our trip today. Thank you NYMT."


Emma Barry, who played Grimsby in the 2014 incarnation of Brass, wrote this about her experience at Sheffield Memorial Park:

"A thing that struck me most about today was the silence; the sense of peace and utter stillness that came from the absence of any sound bar the rustle of the wind and the birdsong. One area we visited in Serre had grown over into a miniature forest, and as soon as we entered the area (roughly on the spot of the British front line trenches) I couldn't help but notice how the trees seemed to guard the area like sentinels.
They reminded me of the soldiers, and it was almost as if the trees represented their souls - marking each spot where, an entire century ago now, a brave young man had fallen in battle, giving up his life to protect his country. It was a humbling thought, and somewhat comforting to think that even in a place which has known such chaos, new life can always flourish. When I think of Serre I will think of that forest: the final resting place of so many lives, yet the symbol of rejuvenation and peace."


The following comes from another collective:

"We feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to have gone to the place where the Leeds pals went over the top 100 years ago. It was an incredibly moving and emotional experience that will make our performance in Brass all the more real. We love this cast so much and when the sun shone brightly as we sang "Just remember my eyes and my chin and my smile" we were astounded with a sense of love and peace for all humanity for the sacrifices that so many of our own men made. Thank you for an incredible experience that we will take into our performance and will remember for the rest of our lives. All our love, Kitty Watson, Ben Jones and Oscar Garland
We love you benj!!! Xxx"


Ruby Ablett who plays Peggy in the show writes:

"Not had enough time to reflect and think this through, but feeling so strongly right now that I wanted to contribute to the blog (or at least just let you know how grateful I am for today). Too many bottles of wine so bare with me!

Right now I'm not really thinking about the show or even really about world war 1, but about humanity. We've really fucked some things up. But I also believe we have something very special as a human race. And yet last week people denied this connection, and chose, selfishly, and probably ignorantly, to think of themselves, and not the whole picture. Today I saw the whole picture; I saw the blessing of life and family and community destroyed by the pointlessness of politics and international war. We are so much more than this. As we sang today it was clear we shared so much with these men as fellow humans. Too many lives and for nothing but a few metres of field. I wish we could just pack up the weapons and collaborate. I don't know why this seems so irrational and idealistic.

Despite feeling deeply saddened by the results of the referendum, I do feel hope, because young people are seeing this now. The brass cast are wonderful and it's been an honour to spend this day with them. So thank you so much for the opportunity. It's been beautiful. Sorry if we've been loud at the back of the bus."


Tom Strang from the cast writes the following:

"Just wanted to say a huge thank you for organising one of the most insightful trips I'll probably ever experience, especially whilst being surrounded by such a fantastic group of people.

Probably the hardest part for me emotionally, was singing in the grave yard as the sun rose and shone down onto our faces whilst hearing the birds sing in the background. Also meeting all the graves of some of the characters in Brass really brought the stories to life and really hit home that these people were a similar age to most of us in the cast and from similar locations across the uk. I'm so glad that so much of it is caught on camera as I'm sure it's going to be a huge benefit for us to be able to picture everything we witnessed over the few hours whilst performing the piece on stage. A specific highlight which definitely made it that tiny bit more memorable was singing the end of 'letters' at 2am in the morning at the Dover ferry terminal. There was something very calming about that moment and at that point I think our focus really changed to why we were on our way to Serre and what we were going to do.

Again, a huge thanks for all your effort to make that a special trip for all of us. See you soon, Tom X"


And Charlie from the cast sent this to me late last night:

"I can't thank you enough for organising the special trip we've just experienced. I feel enormously privileged to have visited places that are so important (from all manner of perspectives) and to have learned from you, Nathan and Carol. The ceremony in the first cemetery we visited, in particular, shall live long in the memory. And to have stood where the Leeds Pals once stood, to have explored the real barn from the show and to have seen so much ephemera from life in the 1910s... just overwhelming. For me, seeing pictures of monstrous engines of war in the Newfoundland museum brought home just how mercilessly humans can view one of their own kind. I got much more of a sense of this from these monochrome photographs than I have ever got from images in the modern media. Perhaps this is due to my age: putting myself in the shoes of a young soldier from 1916 comes more naturally to me than doing the same with the generally more experienced soldiers of today in mind. (Nathan mentioned that you'd like reactions from us for your next blog - please feel free to use this if you want.) I (and I've no doubt everyone else, too) hugely appreciate the hard work that went into the trip. Thank you."

I would personally like to thank Karen Murgatroyd at Leeds City Council for assisting us financially with this trip, Voctoria Bracey and all of the relatives, friends and BBC people who have given us donations.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Going to France

I'm on a coach with 35 members of the combined casts of the two productions of Brass. We're going to France to stand where the Pals went over the top at the exact time in the morning they went over. 100 years on. The young people are behaving themselves very well. They're mostly singing songs from the '70s and sharing food. We have a Welsh flag flying at the back of the bus on account of the Welsh football team's triumph. We're joined on the trip by Tina, Nathan and Abbie, and the wonderful Carole Smithies who is the world expert on the Barnbow munitions factory in Leeds, which features so prominently in Brass.

The coach left Leeds at 3.30pm today and drove down to London via Watford Gap, picking up people en route. The cast seemed thrilled to see each other again and the lovely thing about the show is that it doesn't divide people into cliques. It's very much an ensemble piece. The cast of Brass wander around in a huge amorphous blob. I have always said that I want everyone who does my show not to see it as a show but as an era. Years of student drama and orchestral tours has taught me how important this is. These people will know each other for the rest of their lives and I feel very honoured to have brought them all together.

This trip promises to be very special indeed. Fingers crossed for the weather. And that the French don't hate us as much as we hate ourselves.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Rant. Rant. Rant.

There are few words to describe how I feel at the moment. That's a silly thing to say. Obviously I'm going to have a bash at using words to say how I feel, because this is a blog, and I'm feeling so MANY things at the moment, all of them with great intensity and many of them at loggerheads with themselves. I feel tired. Washed out. Angry. Frustrated. Hurt. Terrified. I feel ashamed at my brothers in Wales for putting their trust in Boris Johnson over the people of Europe who have pumped money into their most deprived areas. Boris Johnson epitomises the type of man who they should be railing at, and yet they've given that ghastly man a permanent smile. I thought, when Johnson shuffled his way down the street, that he looked like a character Matt might have played in Little Britain. I felt ashamed that the eyes of the world were on him. I feel proud of the cyclists who blocked Boris' fancy car from leaving his street in Islington chanting "you want to come out of Europe but you can't even get out of your own street." I feel proud to live in Haringey, the fifth most pro-Europe district in the country. I feel proud that the people of York, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Oxfordshire, Cambridge, Warwick, Leicester, Lewes and Brighton wanted to stay. Places I love. Places I can still visit without feeling angry. I am grateful to the Scots. I am angry that this ludicrous decision will mean that we no longer have a United Kingdom when the Scots say goodbye to us and switch the light out as they leave. I am grateful to the forward thinking, gracious, calm, stay campaigners for finding words of love through their pain this morning. I want to smash Nigel Farage's face in for instantly going back on his pledge to plough more money into the NHS if we exit Europe. I want to ask him if he thought the whole thing was a game. I want to shout at every single Brexit voter who has the audacity to say we should all be friends again now that "this ugly business is behind us". I want to shout even louder at the Brexit voters who voted out without expecting the vote to go that way. I want people to know that my industry could well fold in on itself as a result of this vote. I want people reading this who voted Brexit to know that I am frightened for my future. I want to know what people mean when they say they've "got Britain back." I want the woman from Barnsley who was interviewed on the news at lunchtime, the one who said she didn't know the EU had invested in her area after the pits closed down, to feel ashamed. I didn't want to be fleeced when I went into the post office this morning to get some Euros out for my trip to France tomorrow. I wanted to be able to take the kids of the National Youth Music Theatre to France with their heads held high. I wanted to show them the foreign field in Picardy where thousands of British men died to protect Europe and make them feel proud to still be part of that ancient, wonderful, forward-thinking continent. I do not want to feel like I need to apologise to every French man that I see. I want every single Brexit voter to have their passports removed. I don't want to see my European friends in tears, or receive Facebook messages from American friends saying "what the fuck?" I am ashamed to come from Northamptonshire. I don't want to hear crowing Brexiteers laughing at the concept of "bleeding heart Liberals "crying into their Prosecco." I want people to stop whinging about London and to have a bash at understanding what it feels like to live in a city where the transport is broken, where we're all living on top of one another, where the price of living is so high that people stay in most nights because they can't afford to go out, where Russian oligarchs and Chinese businessmen own beautiful houses which no one lives in. Do you think anti-immigration legislation is going to stop those bastards? Like fuck it is! Did Jo Cox die in vain? Yes. Do I give a shit about the people of Sunderland? Not any more. Do I wish that the hundreds of millions of pounds that the EU invests in the British film industry was still going to be invested in the British film industry? Of course. Do I think that this decision will have a crippling effect on musicians touring Europe? Yes. Do I wish I could turn back time? Yes. Do I blame anyone for removing all their friends on Facebook who posted racist nonsense to prove a point about Brexit? No. Have I removed anyone from Facebook in the last four weeks? Yes. Five people to be precise, all of whom offended me deeply with their views. Am I lucky not to have needed to remove any more people? Yes. Am I grateful that my family all voted to stay? Absolutely. But good will prevail. Now more than ever we need to shine every last drop of positive light into the darkest shadows. We need to tell our European friends not to be frightened. We need to shop in Polski Skleps. We need to support anyone who is suffering at the hands of xenophobes. We need to change the face of British politics, but above all else, we need to keep on loving. Love will triumph over hatred, fear, bigotry and paranoia and yesterday I learned something amazing: 16,141,240 British people agree with me. Love Is Everyone.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Not everyone who voted Brexit is a racist...

I got incredibly emotional in the polling station today. I found myself standing in the queue wondering who was going to do the right thing. I have never felt so passionately about casting my vote - and that includes my first ever general election. It was 1997, and bizarrely I was putting an X against my partner's name who went on to have the defining New Labour victory of the night! That was five years before Nathan came on the scene!

As I carefully drew my X next to the box which said "stay", I wondered what this ludicrous referendum has cost our nation. People have literally torn each other apart on the streets. A worrying tide of xenophobia has swept across our country. Families have rowed. People are settling old scores. And the awful thing is that none of us truly understand the implications of what we're doing. It's like a bizarre lottery, where I suspect no one will win a prize. I personally have my eye on just one prize. And that prize is simple. I want my country back. I want it back from those right wing bastards. I want to live in an inclusive country where fascists keep their nasty little paranoid conspiracy-laden thoughts to themselves. Of course not all of those who vote to come out of Europe are racists, but all racists will vote to come out of Europe. And that should be the warning sign for decent people.

I made the mistake of feeding the trolls on Facebook this morning. I haven't done a great deal of arm-to-arm combat online but a good friend of mine from back home posted a comment about being in two minds about how to vote, and loads of people were predictably talking utter nonsense, including one woman who said "I'm for out! I can remember the days before we joined and as far as I am concerned...they were great!" to which I responded: "Those were the days of the 3 day week, when they called us the poor man of Europe." To which someone else responded, sarcastically, "Oh yeah we have such a bad history - our commonwealth covered half the world. Did Brussels guide us then? NO."

What I've always failed to understand is why these people seem to think Britain would make better decisions if it were governing itself. Frankly, the only reason I can see for coming out of Europe is to stop that twat Nigel Farage from having any form of a say. The bottom line is that I don't think Britain CAN govern itself until our political parties start to represent the shift which has happened in the way people think. Until we acknowledge that the old left vs right, rich vs poor model is broken, our major parties will be unable to unify behind a single ideology.

My brother Tim writes that he spoke to an old lady handing out "stay" fliers at Piccadilly station today, whom he felt he wanted to hug because she radiated such warmth and kindness. She apparently said that the young and the very old were the most positive about Europe: "the very old remember the war and the hardships and the young generally seem more in touch with a modern world." It is, apparently, mainly he 65-75 year olds who "reacted less positively." Tim says that he could tell by the tone of her voice and the look in her eye what she meant by "less positively." And I really have to say I'm not surprised. These baby boomers have really had it all. Council houses, good national health, holidays in the sun, no national service, decent pensions. Why do they care what the younger generation are left with? They'll be alright, Jack.

The weather has been shitty all day. It's worth remembering that the UKIP turds said that gay marriage would lead to devastating floods as an indication of the wrath of God. You may remember that the weather was actually beautiful without a drop of rain for the four weeks running up to the big day, and the four weeks following. God is obviously not so sure about the referendum, and showed his wrath with belting thunderstorms through the night. The wonderful head of NYMT's offices have been flooded at Westminster Under School and scores of precious instruments have been water damaged. Seeing images of guitars and harpsichords warped and buckling was utterly heart-breaking. Music staff were pathetically trying to wash the mud away.

This evening, as the skies turned blue again, a cloud formed above us which looked like the United Kingdom sailing away from a much larger cloud which we thought might have been Europe. As it drifted away, it disintegrated into nothingness. A little pictorial gift from the heavens if anyone needed anything spelling out.

If you voted Brexit. Keep that sordid little secret to yourself, eh?


Everywhere I've been today, I've seen a plethora of orthodox Jewish ladies. I'm wondering what that is all about. Those curious wigs and rather 1980s Laura Ashley dresses extending beyond the knee and covering the collar bones are a dead giveaway. I saw a number of ladies of this persuasion in Stratford and then, as I got off the tube at Kentish Town, I saw two more. I wonder what the universe is trying to tell me? Maybe I'm being reminded of my absolute duty to support immigrants in this country ahead of tomorrow's vote. Funnily enough I became very conscious of European immigrants in Westfield shopping centre as well today. I was served by a young woman who was plainly from Eastern Europe in the Apple Store. She was very charming and knowledgable. Later on I asked a Polish security chap where the PC World was, and he went out of his way to help me. Two people I spoke to this morning at Transport to London had faint accents as well, and I was so impressed by the way they helped me that I instantly got on the phone to their bosses to heap praise on them.

The bottom line is that we're all immigrants of one sort or another in this country, largely because Britain has a proud record of accepting refugees.... from Europe in particular. A flood of Belgian refugees, for example, came to the UK during World War One after the German invasion. In those days we saw it as our duty to accept them and they arrived in their thousands. Let us not forget that the Syrian refugees who are currently trudging across Europe are also fleeing war. It would have been unacceptable for us to turn our backs on those who tried to escape Nazi Germany. We are proud of the Kinder Transport operations we ran during World War Two. We're proud of the young Jewish children we saved. And yet now, in an era where we're not being torn apart by bombs, it's suddenly okay for us to ignore people in desperate straights? Come on! I don't care how precious we are about what we've "worked so hard to earn." We're human beings. And we're very lucky in the UK to have been born into wealth and good health. In my view we have a duty to help those in need.

This evening was the monthly new writers' cabaret at the Phoenix Artists' Club and Nathan and I did a little turn, giving the first public outing for a song from my new musical, Em. I've decided to perform a song from the show every month from now until Christmas. That ought to put enough pressure on me to write to a good standard. It's a genuinely lovely event. The crowd are all writers and performers and it doesn't matter if you mess stuff up. Everyone understands. My song was well-received. I think people were moved. When we arrived in the space we were asked where we wanted to go in the running order so suggested fourth. Five minutes later the organisers approached us and asked if we'd mind going on first, which was okay by me as it didn't give me any time to get nervous. I think it rather threw Nathan. I stood up, and made a rambling introduction, dedicated the song to Jo Cox (who would have been 42 today) and then got on with it. I accompanied from memory: an important step for me because I'm always worried my mind isn't capable of such feats. I had to make a decision whilst playing the first phrase whether to give in to the crippling nerves I was experiencing as a result of being on a stage playing the piano in front of people. The piano keys started to do that thing where they temporarily start undulating like waves in a sea, so I took a deep breath, regained control and played without any mistakes.

Young Josh came along with his mate Ellie, and it was fabulous to see them both. It was very good, in fact, to spend time with the other writers as well, all of whom come from very different backgrounds. One is an estate agent. One is the wife of a diplomat. Another is a doctor. There was a slightly embarrassing scene when one of the writers cornered Nathan and started talking about Beyond the Fence without realising he was one of the writers and basically went through all the cast saying what great performances they'd given before saying "but fucking hell, the show was shit." I think he had the decency to be somewhat mortified to discover that it wasn't just computers which had written the piece. Nathan found having to be gracious really difficult. I'm sure I would have been the same, but the problem with setting the show up as something that it wasn't - ie "entirely written by computers" - is that you end up in a situation where those who go to watch it hate it out of principal and look all the time for the things they know can't be computer generated in an attempt to justify the fact that their subconscious is quite enjoying the experience!

I found out something very disturbing today, namely that the National Theatre has a behind-closed-doors musical theatre writers' group which features a great many of their most promising playwrights. Sadly musical theatre composers are banned from the group because we will apparently prevent their precious writers from coming up with anything innovative. That's the sort of rubbish which instantly makes me want to throw in the towel.

On the way home I lost my debit card and managed to fail the security questions I was asked by the man from Barclays when reporting it missing. I couldn't remember how much money went into our joint account so asked Nathan. This was apparently a big no no: "sir, you are not allowed to ask for assistance." "But I'm talking to my husband. He's the one who shares the joint account with me." I think the concept of a man having a husband was perhaps a little too much for this poor bloke in an Indian call centre to deal with. He then asked another question about payments going into my account but because Nathan was still talking, he became even more suspicious. I finally remembered that I'd paid in a few cheques lately but couldn't remember which branch of Barclays I'd paid them into, so that was that. I failed. I now have to go into a branch with photo ID to get a new card issued.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Avoiding Stereotypes

I went for a meeting in Victoria today which I was enjoying so much that I forgot to look at the time. As I left the venue, I realised I only had forty minutes to get up to Wood Green, so there was much running through the streets, and a great deal of apologising to the passers by I was systematically bumping into. I changed trains at Finsbury Park, and inadvertently stumbled into the path of a group of twelve year-old Romany lads, whose faces were bashed-up and deeply care-worn. They were making a right old racket. It actually made me feel incredibly sad.

The saddest part was that I instantly knew they were Romany, and not just that, I knew that they would be exiting the tube at Wood Green, and making their way up to the gypsy encampment at Barratt Gardens. They ticked every gypsy stereotype. They had Irish accents. One of them was wearing a rosary around his neck. They were out and about, roaming the streets at an insanely young age like a pack of wild dogs and seemed to have no regard for their fellow passengers. I'm afraid they also had personal hygiene issues and their clothes were incredibly dirty.

It's very difficult for me to write about this in an era where our country is falling apart over the issue of immigration, but I believe there is a responsibility for communities to fight to eradicate any behaviour which might lead to negative stereotyping. I feel the same way about English football fans. If we want the world to stop accusing us of being hooligans, we almost need to behave twice as well as everyone else, perpetually turning our cheeks when the other fans make us angry. It shouldn't need to be the case, but right now this world is full of people who want to pass rather sweeping judgements on their fellow men and will push and push until they see the behaviour which makes them say "you see, I told you so!"

I think one of the most important steps my community made in changing the perception the world had of us following the dark years of HIV/AIDS/Clause 28 was demonstrating that we came in all sorts of shapes, sizes and types. Gay men weren't just lisping, sex-obsessed clones who snorted poppers and went cruising on the Heath, they were men who wanted long-term monogamous relationships. Men who wanted to be fathers. Men who worked as doctors and philosophers and builders and soldiers. There were even gay men who didn't seem gay in the slightest! Shock horror! When the public realised they couldn't spot a gay man just by looking at him, they realised there was nothing to be frightened of. Curiously this had the effect that it became okay to be ANY sort of gay man from a screaming, mincing queen to the butchest "straight acting" hill farmer in Wales. And then gay men suddenly stopped using the term "straight acting." In the olden days you couldn't see a lonely hearts/Gaydar profile without the two letters "SA" jumping out. Being "straight acting" was a thing many of us aspired to as we came to terms with our community. Those days have well and truly gone!

This evening Llio, Nathan and I went to see a show directed by our good friend Jill in one of the buildings round the back of Mountview Drama School, which was, of course, my old stomping ground. It was a lovely piece for three male actors (one gay, one straight, one bi) based on a Portuguese blog post. The show was called My Boyfriend, Jesus Christ. It shouldn't have worked, but all three of us were very speedily won over. It had a good energy, a good heart, and some wonderful uses of film and music which transported me into another reality, I guess... Bravo Jill.

The day finished drinking lemonade sitting in the garden of the pub on the corner of Coburg Street, where I spent many an hour as a student at the drama school.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Bloody Getty Images

The weather is really beginning to get me down. Endless rain is not a great deal of fun at the best of times but of course, in our case, there's the added fear that it might make our roof collapse. Fiona texted this morning to say that it had done nothing but chuck it down in Brighton last night and Brother Edward yesterday stared wistfully at the bruised, heavy sky behind the O2 whilst talking about his Spanish lesson on Skype with a bloke in Spain where the weather looked beautiful. Warm, summery light was apparently pouring through the windows. I long for summer...

We've borrowed a de-humidifier from the parents to see if we can suck a bit of moisture out of our flood-damaged flat. I don't know whether to believe the figure on the machine which seemed to suggest we had a humidity level in the sitting room of 80. Is that 80%? Surely not! Anyway, over night it's gone down to 60, which implies a 25% improvement whatever the figures represent.

The water-logged air merged with fairly high temperatures is causing all sorts of issues. People stink on the tube, and my new osteopath, obviously a bit of a sweater, had to treat me with an electric fan blowing cool air into the space.

I read today that Getty Images provided Nigel Farage with the image of the queue of migrants he used for his deeply disturbing "Rivers of Blood" poster. This has made me feel really very angry. A respectable news-gathering organisation like Getty should NOT be thinking with their wallets and selling their images to be used cynically like this. It is wholly unacceptable, and I would even go as far as to suggest that Getty think about donating whatever amount they made from licensing the photograph to one of Jo Cox' charities.

The same newspaper informed me that members of the ghastly Westboro Baptist Church have been picketing the funerals of people who died in the Orlando shooting. That's right. That's how low and fundamentally lacking in humanity those nasty little so-called Christians are. Sometimes I wish there were a God, so that he could condemn those pricks to eternal damnation. Imagine the looks on their smug faces. Talk about adding religion-fuelled misery to religion-fuelled misery. How about these people take a look at their own lives before condemning others?

I am proud to say that the "handful" of protestors from Westboro were "blocked from view" by 200 counter protestors with large angel wings hired from a local theatre! I bloody love my community. We always seem to turn hatred into love and throw a bit of humour into the bargain.

Speaking of Orlando, I also read today that Noor Salman, the murderer's drudge of a second wife, actually knew about his intentions to kill people and that police are still deciding whether to press charges. Press away, I say. Teach that hate-filled brainwashed, sack of nothingness to value humanity.

All this said, I feel a sense of optimism in the air tonight. I went into central London to meet an old friend and when I emerged from Compton's, the lovely shrine to Orlando was still there, still covered in flowers and candles and the sky was a brilliant blue. There were glorious fluffy clouds in the sky and the buildings around Tottenham Court Road were glowing like they'd been dipped in golden syrup. I passed a sandwich board which reported that the football association had "put the boot in on Brexit." I don't know what the story is, but I'm hoping it's another vote for sense and kindness over paranoia, racism and bitterness. The pound is strengthening in the light of recent polls which suggest that the Brexit campaign is losing its grip, and Jo Cox is being talked up as a martyr. Kindness is winning. Last week was one of the darkest of many people's lives. Could there be a glimmer of hope on the horizon?

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Criticising beards!

Nathan said something today which made me think. As observant people will have no doubt noticed, he is currently sporting shaved hair and a massive beard, and I am wearing what can only be described as a handlebar moustache. Here's the issue: there seems to be a tendency for women in this country to see a man with a changed look and think it's appropriate to tell him how awful he looks. If I had a pound for every time a woman has negatively commented on my hair, the clothes I wear, or the length of my beard, I'd be a very wealthy man. I don't really mind, of course. It used to upset me enormously and make me feel really shy, but I got so used to it, it became water off a duck's back! You learn very quickly as a man that vulnerability is something to be suppressed at all costs.

Can you imagine if every time a female friend had dreadful caramel slices or a dodgy perm put in her hair, all her male friends told her how ridiculous she looked? And yes, I know that women on the telly get unfairly and routinely criticised for their taste in clothing, but I'm more talking about the things that I've noticed happening on a domestic level.

As an outsider looking in to the murky world of heterosexuality, I sometimes wonder how men and women ever manage to forge decent relationships! Perhaps a little too much thought goes in to identifying the differences between men and women when we ought to be trying to work out what actually makes us similar: what upsets us both.

We're at Brother Edward's house listening to the Thames crashing against the wall below his flat every time a boat passes by. There's a lovely breeze coming off the river which is tickling the back of my neck. We're watching Eurovision again. Don't judge us! Edward and Sascha were there in Stockholm and haven't yet seen it on telly, and Nathan and I are obviously more than happy to watch it again, particularly with a pair of people giving us the inside scoop, telling us how affable some of the contestants were in the flesh, and how certain performances came across in the room. One of their friends was the man holding the Welsh flag which seemed to be prominent in most shots of the arena. The ludicrous Eurovision ban on the Welsh flag was lifted at the last moment, just as said friend was wondering if he needed to wear a onesie with a Welsh dragon on it to express his nationality. On that note, if we exit Europe, I have decided to henceforth refer to myself as Welsh. I shall be ashamed to call myself British.


Last night we went to Thaxted to see my parents. Nathan realised he was finishing work at six, and because we've had such an astoundingly awful week, we thought it might be good to visit the folks for a bit of TLC and one of my Mum's now famous "cold collations." It was a lovely evening, and we took ourselves down the road to Sally and Stuart's house to drink a few cups of tea and watch their new chickens finding places to roost for the night. Chickens are curious beasts. As soon as the light begins to fade, they find an elevated spot and instantly fall asleep...

The journey home was plagued by rain storms, the sickening flash of a speed camera on the M11, and the mother of all midnight traffic jams on the North Circular. We arrived in Highgate at 1am, and it instantly became rather clear that the rain had been particularly heavy in these parts. There were strange piles of sediment on the pavements, almost as though there'd been some sort of dramatic flash flood.

On entering our house, the smell of damp immediately told us something wasn't right, and, sure enough, when we walked into the living room, the full extent of the mayhem became apparent. The carpet was soaked through. I walked across it with bare feet and the moisture flooded over the tops of my feet. The ceiling was a mass of soggy brown wall paper, but worst of all, my camera, a pair of high quality headphones, our music chest and Nathan's computer were sitting in the middle of an enormous pool of water. The music in our chest is now all warped and water damaged, the camera and the head phones were in water proof cases and seem to have survived, but Nathan's computer was utterly fried. He'd forgotten to back it up for some time, so has lost weeks of work on knitting patterns.

You simply don't expect to return to your third floor flat and find your belongings under water. We have, of course, been experiencing problems when it rains for some years. Our landlord keeps bringing work men in to fix it, but there seems to be an issue with drainage on the roof which becomes catastrophic when the rain is heavy. It has, however, never been like this before. We've often needed to put a bucket out to catch a few drops here and there but the area this flood covered was six times that of any other previous water damage. It is really very depressing. Nathan's heart instantly broke. He's been holding it together all week, and this just seemed like the final straw.

We went to bed utterly disconsolate.

We woke up today determined to remedy the situation and spent the morning with the heating on and the windows open whilst making phone calls to various insurance people. Our landlord was genuinely and touchingly upset and promises to remedy the situation decisively. It seems that the carpet will need to be ripped out and that the ceiling will need to be re-plastered and re-painted. I have a horrible feeling that the very beautiful Edwardian window casements will also need to come out. I don't want to think about it, it's too horrible.

Fortunately it was Craft and Cake today, so we crawled through the streets of London to Catford to see Julie, Sam, Abbie, Tina, Uncle Bill and the lovely Kate Jarman who had her delightfully hirsute three week-old baby, Jessica in tow. The girls took it in turns to hold her whilst making cooing noises, but kids for me only become fascinating when they are able to talk. Jessica is definitely one of the prettiest babies I've seen in a while, however, and if she turns out like Kate, she'll have a brilliantly naughty sense of humour. She was perfectly behaved and spent the entire time sleeping.

It was chocolate cake and scones today, and a wonderful stir fry made with Sam's new rice cooker.

We have finally tracked down Ru Paul's Drag Race Season Seven and are watching it before bed with Nathan wearing an eye mask. Just in case there was a sense that the poor bloke wasn't suffering enough, he now has blepharitis. I shall be glad when this week limps to a close.

Friday, 17 June 2016

How do we make Britain better?

I had a long chat with my Dad earlier today who made some incredibly interesting points about the state of the world today. His over-arching belief is that it is the duty of my generation (and the generation below us) to re-invent the way that democracy works. It sounds highfalutin in the extreme, but I sincerely feel he has a point.

I think almost everyone in this country would agree that politicians feel out of touch, and that part of the reason for the hell we’re currently experiencing is the desire of the British people to punish those in power. There is a reason why Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, and this was because we were sick of preening, shiny, media-savvy leaders who didn’t understand us, and seemed more interested in understanding how to stay in power at all costs. I personally entirely lost interest in Miliband when he allowed his loyal friend, Emily Thornberry to resign after making a disparaging comments about an English flag in Rochester. Many politicians, particularly on the right, are the product of boarding school educations. They’re pulled away from their mothers at too young an age and expected to fend for themselves without showing emotional weaknesses. They go to university after school and then immediately enter student politics and then Westminster politics without any experience of the real world or of those of us who haven’t been journeying on the same trajectory. How can we expect a professional politician with this kind of background to take charge of social policy? Even those of us with cosmopolitan values who spend our lives worrying about racists and bigots will never truly understand how it feels to live in Boston, Lincolnshire, for example, where 1 in 9 of the residents are Eastern European, or a suburb of Bradford where you’re one of a handful of native English speakers. For whatever reason there are many British people feeling utterly disenfranchised at the moment. And all of them feel that Westminster politicians have no idea what it actually feels like to be them.

This absolutely has to change. And now is the time for it to do so before we enter Civil War and they start sending the intelligentsia away to concentration camps.

We are still living with the consequences of Thatcherism: divide and rule politics, greed, an “I’m alright, Jack” tendency, a desire for status and money outweighing a desire to do good or help. This will always lead to large groups of people feeling overlooked.

But why is this? And more crucially, what can we do about it?

Ironically, what we need is more MPs to enter parliament who are like Jo Cox. Cox was elected to Parliament in her very early 40s and lived in the real world for the best part of 20 years. She worked for Oxfam and other charities. She understood the plight of people in Yorkshire…

Personally, I feel we need to immediately end the era of professional politics. No one should be able to stand for Parliament below the age of 40, and they should be forced to retire at 70. This will ensure that there are no out of touch fusty people hanging around, and that those who stand for Parliament have done something in the real world first. I’d possibly go one step further and make it pretty difficult for anyone but a former educationalist to head up the Department of Education and anyone but a health worker to head up the Department for Heath. We need politicians who understand life.

Secondly, and more importantly, we have to do something about the media. This is vital. We can’t have them whipping everyone up into a frenzy like this. It is wholly inappropriate for them to turn us all into baying harpies and then cry crocodile tears when someone like Jo Cox is murdered. We need a wake up call which makes us understand what the newspapers are doing in their quest for column inches, and learn quite how powerful they have become in shaping the way we think and behave.

Britain isn’t going to become better by cutting ourselves off from the world, or a sudden and irreversible shift to the right. Nor will we achieve anything by slinging every migrant out of this country because the newspapers are telling us that they’re steeling our jobs. A country ruled by those who understand life would be open to debates on immigration. There are problems with immigration which we can’t sweet under the carpet, but don’t seem to be able to discuss in a climate where anyone who says anything negative about immigration is branded a racist. The press allows us to be all too easily offended. They turn the wonderful colours and shades of the world black and white. There’s a major issue in this country with white, working class men of retirement age who feel utterly ignored by politicians. They’re angry and there are way too many of them to blithely ignore. A better Britain will be discovered through being better at listening to and understanding people, and not through holding knee-jerk referendums which we, as a nation, are not yet mature enough to cope with.

I leave you with one quote, which very much picked me up today.

A letter to a man who had lost faith in humanity:

Dear Mr Nadeau, 

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.


E. B. White

Thursday, 16 June 2016

The devil is amongst us

It is 16.06.16, a date which appears to have three sixes in it, and I'd say the devil was almost certainly now amongst us. A Pandora's Box has been opened and it's become clear to me that a great many people in the UK need to take a good hard look at the bigoted filth they are posting, believing, repeating and promulgating.

There are few words to describe my shock, anger and sadness about the death of MP, Jo Cox, who was assassinated whilst doing her job, in her own constituency, by one of the nut job, Britain First supporters who have screamed and wailed their evil hatred for far too long now.

It is time the British people started to refuse to be dragged into politics based on divide and rule. It's time for us to see through the layers of propaganda. It's time for the anger and hatred to end.

I didn't know Jo Cox. She was elected a long time after my involvement with the Labour Party ended, but she was considered to be one of the good ones. She was a proud, popular, brave Yorkshire lass who fought to support Syrian refugees. She worked for anti-Slavery campaigns and spent her Christmasses working with underprivileged kids in the Balkans. She was a kind woman who believed that Britain ought to remain in Europe. The image which just about finished me off was the sight of her handbag lying on the pavement. I don't quite know why it hit me so hard. I suppose it felt like a relic of a life.

To think that the last thing she heard were the repellent words "Put Britain First" is both insulting and ironic.

I sincerely hope her death will not turn out to have happened in vain.

Bush hall and bastards

I spent all of yesterday and most of today unsuccessfully attempting to dodge showers. I had two meetings yesterday, and smelt like a wet dog in both of them. There's plainly something wrong with my tumble drier. It doesn't matter how many times I wash my T-shirts, they always smell like biscuits when I start to get hot. I guess it's not the worst smell in the world, but it makes me hugely self conscious. I worked with a woman in a community project once who smelt so bad that, we had to Fabreeze and wash down every seat she'd sat on after she'd left. We used to make notes about where she'd been so that we could take appropriate action! Quite why I felt the need to share that, I've no idea...

I feel sorry for the Tennis Championship at Queen's. By the end of yesterday, the rain had stopped play so many times that I think only one player had made it through to the second round! Every time I switched the telly on, they were playing repeats of cookery shows. Sue Barker's voice would periodically pipe up between programmes, and we'd see a live feed of a rain-sodden tennis court and lots of miserable people sitting underneath umbrellas. Obviously I've started to believe that a hell-mouth is opening somewhere in the world, so the unrelenting rain we've been experiencing of late makes pretty good sense to me. I also feel it's now clear why all these celebrities have been checking out on us. They knew this nonsense was coming...

I note that the BBC is still struggling to come to terms with the fact that the attacks in Orlando were a hate crime, despite the fact that all evidence points to the fact that the bastard who did the shooting was grappling with his own sexuality. Please note that this doesn't mean that these attacks were just a "gay matter." It seems very likely to me that the father of the killer has quite a lot to answer for. His initial response to the tragedy, apparently, went something along the lines of saying "my son had no right to bring violent judgement down on gay people, that is God's duty." Plainly, this lad's upbringing was fuelled by great intolerance, which, in my view, is a form of abuse which is not too far away from physical or sexual abuse. I get incredibly irritated when parents of these mass killers or radicalised religious nut-jobs say they had no idea what was going on. Pay better attention to your kids and bring them up to value peace and tolerance, or face prison, you dick! Look at me preaching tolerance with desperate intolerance!

This evening I went to see Fiona doing a pretty amazing gig as the warm-up to The Anchorist, who are fronted by a sort of Tori-Amos-meets-Paloma-Faith artiste who wore a fabulous auburn floral head dress in her fabulously sleek auburn hair.

Fiona was brilliant, and so so brave, basically performing much of her "Postcards from..." album with just a violin and a multitude of pedals with which she created a series of loops, drones and some extraordinarily atmospheric and scrunchy harmonies. The album is well worth purchasing. It's epically filmic.

Afterwards Fiona stood at the back of Bush Hall signing albums. One chap came up to her looking incredibly nervous and asked if she would sign his. It suddenly made me realise how much courage it takes to ask for someone's autograph, and how so many people in our industry forget this fact when they run out of stage doors with dark glasses on, or treat fans like terrible scourges. There's a horrible sense of entitlement which sometimes descends in these instances, like performers believe it is their right to have fans, but, as Fiona rightly pointed out as the shaking man walked away with a smile on his face; "these people paid for your houses." The lovely Barbara Windsor always impressed me in the way she responded to her fans. I went to a football match at the Arsenal with her once and a young lad came over and asked if he could take her photo: "I was hoping you'd ask me," she said, throwing her arm around the lad and smiling for the camera. And I thought how lovely that was.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Are we being manipulated?

It struck me today that all of us are being manipulated at the moment. All of us. I'm not sure if we should be blaming the media or the politicians, but I'm entirely convinced that the forthcoming referendum has been designed to divide us. In my view there is no way on earth that the European issue should be settled in this manner: A referendum should never be based around taking something away, or presenting people with two options which no one can get their heads around without resorting to general hysteria and panic. If there are genuine economic issues at stake, the experts need to be sorting them out, rather than us from our sitting room arm chairs.

Wherever the truth in the European question lies (probably somewhere in the middle) the fact remains that this country has allowed itself to become divided. Bitterly so. And it's reaching fever pitch. People have stopped posting pictures of kittens on Facebook and are suddenly discussing issues, which ought to be good, but we're all so entrenched in our views that we can't bring ourselves to respect the other side. I'm more guilty of this than almost anyone. A friend of mine today posted with horror that she'd called a complete stranger a "silly bitch" because of her intolerable views on immigrants. People are rowing with their own families. Everything that comes up in the news will suddenly come back round to to Brexit. It's like we've all decided that there are just two tribes in this country and we have to join one or the other to avoid catastrophe.

...And I guess there's nothing entirely new here, except that the battle lines that we've drawn up for ourselves are on new ground. This country is no longer divided into the old-fashioned right and left wings. The new divide is between the cosmopolitans and the conservatives (with a small c.)

The cosmopolitans tend to be younger. They tend to see the benefits of immigration. They are more likely to be atheist and bothered about environment issues. They are forward-thinking have a more global view of the world. They tend to be less concerned about what the other side might call "permissiveness." (Gay marriage, sexual liberation etc.)

The conservatives are older and more inward-looking. They are scared of immigration and are more likely to be religious. They have issues with permissiveness and tend to believe that the future of this country should be based on models from the past.

The Brexit vote, for the first time, divides us exactly along these lines. The Brexiteers (conservatives) are terrified of immigration and convinced that there was a golden British era somewhere between the war and 1974 which no one from the younger generation could possibly ever know about or understand the importance of. This utopia is so golden that all other issues simply float out of the window. The cosmopolitans, on the other hand, scour the Brexit politicians for their views on OTHER issues which matter to them. What kind of a country will we be living in if the Brexiteers win? What's Boris' stance on the environment? On gay marriage? If he doesn't change his mind that is...

A divided Britain, of course, was the central feature of Thatcher's utopia. Unlike Blair, who just wanted to be loved by everyone, she realised it didn't matter if half the country hated her with a passion. Who cared if the miners were starving? They wouldn't have voted for her anyway. Who cared if Liverpool went down the shitter? The Scousers already hated her. She used the mass media and propaganda to promulgate fear and to encourage those who were doing okay under her that she was protecting them from the horrors of communism, or permissiveness (HIV) or state scroungers, or criminals or anything that she knew people were scared of. Exactly what the Brexiteers are currently up to. Just different battle lines.

Of course the big issue is that politics hasn't yet caught up with this new shift in the way that people perceive themselves, which is why both major parties are presently in meltdown. As many traditional Labour voters are in favour of Brexit as Tories are in favour of staying in. We don't have political parties which represent our views any more. Sure, UKIP have more policies which appeal to the conservatives, just as the Greens have marginally more which appeal to the cosmopolitans, but both parties are seen as deeply flawed, somewhat jokey, single-issue alternatives. So almost all of us are presently standing on one or other side of this very tall fence with no leadership whatsoever. The vote on Europe won't suddenly make these differences go away, so British politicians have no option than to decide which side of the fence they want to be in, or else they will continue to be in free fall, and the British people will continue to tear each other apart.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Don't read this if you don't like swear words

It's been an incredibly emotional day. A day of disbelief. A day spent wondering whether the gates of hell are about to open. Llio described it in a text message: "It's like the world is missing a layer of skin today and everything and everyone is red raw."

The day started with a little blast of happiness. I got a message from Jem in New York telling me that Arnold's picture had appeared on the screens in the "In Memoriam" sequence at the Tony Awards. I feel incredibly proud that he has been recognised in this manner, particularly as his biggest career catastrophe actually happened on the hallowed turf of Broadway. His show, Shylock, which would have starred Zero Mostel, sank without trace when the aforementioned actor died in previews.

Within about five minutes of Jem's message, I received a text from Matt Lucas with a YouTube clip which proved there was truth in the rumours which suggest that ABBA reformed for a one-off performance of The Way Old Friends Do at an intimate gig. And there they were together on stage wearing flowing white gowns. Frida's voice appears to have barely changed. Agnetha seemed nervous and a little shaky. But the sight of them performing together for the first time since 1983, made my heart almost almost burst with joy.

The news from Orlando, however, is heartbreaking. It appears one young lad was hiding in the loo for some time texting his mother. I can't even write about it without crying. His mother was helplessly texting back. Then the texts stopped. He was terrified. Terrified. The best part of two days later, the mother is still hoping they'll find him alive. But where would he be? Shot to pieces, that's where, whilst cowering in a toilet cubical texting his mother for comfort. Killed by a fucking coward.

A lot of stuff is being written today about the fact that there hasn't been the same outpouring of love on social media sites as there was after the attacks in France. In fact, baring a number of notable exceptions, the majority of people expressing their sadness on my time lines have been members of the LGBT community. Whether this is a result of sympathy fatigue, or the fact that we don't identify as much with the Americans, I've no idea. I dread to think that it's an indication of the fact that people aren't that fussed when a bunch of gay people are killed. And if you're reading this, don't you dare roll your eyes. The way people talk about immigrants at the moment, as though they're worthless animals, has made me start to entirely lose faith in the human race.

What does seem to be the case is that getting people to acknowledge that this is a homophobic hate crime is tantamount to getting blood out of a stone. Guardian columnist, Owen Jones, stormed out of a Sky News interview last night because the news anchor refused to describe what had happened in those terms. The (w)anchor felt it was important to repeatedly note that the tragedy was a "terrorist attack" against the West. The fact that it took place in a gay club was largely irrelevant. Jones continued, "this is the largest massacre of LGBT people since the Hollocaust. If this had happened in a synagogue we'd undoubtedly be calling it an act of anti-Semitism." The anchor rolled his eyes as though to say "troublesome gays."

Other people are using the tragedy to goad America about its gun laws. These laws will not change. If the deaths of scores of children in a primary school can't make the Americans change their minds, then the death of a load of gay men certainly won't. Also, the American gun laws aren't the REASON why that worthless piece of shit went into that gay club. They're the reason that more people died than were killed at the Admiral Duncan pub when a similar worthless piece of shit full of hatred walked in with a nail bomb. Blaming American gun laws won't make my community feel any safer.

One woman on Twitter decided to use the Owen Jones affair as an excuse to talk about the fact that she thinks he's a misogynist, thereby entirely proving the point that he was making. Donald Trump has used the attacks to score points against Obama and congratulate himself on predicting such an atrocity would happen at the hands of a Muslim (one who was born in the States, but why let the facts get in the way.) None of these arguments make my community feel any safer.

Trying to call homophobia anything other than homophobia tries to pretend that it no longer exists. Yes, we have gay marriage. Yes, we're equal in law, but if that genuinely makes us believe that homophobia is dead then we've failed in our duty to protect my community properly. We can't sweep this attack under the carpet by calling it an attack on all of us, however much that appeases our middle class guilt.

So, this evening I went into central London to the vigil on Old Compton Street in support of the victims' families. I was surprised and hurt that so few of my friends saw this as an important gesture, although I was hugely touched to discover Tina and my old friend JP from university there. Both straight as it happens.

So, it would seem that football fans riot when they get angry, but that the gay community takes hatred and converts into big dollops of beautiful, shimmering love. I don't know how many of us were there. 8,000? 10,000? They released rainbow-coloured helium balloons, we cheered and clapped for two minutes, we fell silent for two minutes and then we cheered and clapped again like our lives depended on it.

The masses departed and left a street party in their wake. Little clusters of people chalked messages on the pavements. The London Gay Men's chorus sang The Way Old Friends Do - the very song which I'd watched ABBA singing this morning. Other groups of people gathered to sing spontaneous songs like Imagine whilst a woman with an iPhone called out all the words before everyone sang them. Newsreader Jon Snow was wandering around chatting to people, loving the atmosphere. He threw his arms around us when he saw us: "I've dined out on your wedding ever since it happened! Let's plot to do something else!" He said...

We had tea with Tina in a little trattoria off Berwick Street. She was very excited to have seen Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan. Note that it's the LEFT wing politicians who support my community. Was Boris there? Was he f**k! Boris, incidentally, has still not commented on the attack in social media. So if the Brexiteers get in then we can assume the gay community won't be getting much support. Perhaps he'll do a U-turn on gay marriage too. That muppet-haired tit-sack has done a u-turn on everything else.

As the night drew in, the candles on the streets started to glow and shimmer. The police were chatting merrily to the crowd. Their presence wasn't needed for anything other than stopping traffic so that people could cross over Dean Street. God I felt proud to be gay. I didn't just feel proud. I felt enlightened. My community might be scared, but, my God, we're not showing it!

Sunday, 12 June 2016

News from Orlando

Waking up this morning to the news that there had been a shooting in a gay club in Florida was not a great deal of fun, particularly when, as the news began to unfold, we learned how horrifying the events had been. There was an awful interview with a woman in a desperate panic who knew her son had been in the club, but hadn't been able to get in touch with him. The likelihood, of course, has to be that he's dead. There will be fifty mothers grieving tonight. That impenetrable bond a gay man has with his mother torn apart fifty times by hatred and religion. We may have come a long way in the field of LGBT rights, but I suspect there will always be people who despise us.

Do me a favour. Don't pray. Don't pray for my community. We don't need prayers. If you want to help, just get out there in the big wide world and make sure homophobia and transphobia is eradicated from your personal circle of friends. If you have kids, explain to them that men can love men, women can love women and that sometimes people aren't born in the body of a gender which suits them, because they sure as hell won't hear this message in fairy tales and Disney films.

The quote which really stuck out today was on the BBC website: "Images show hundreds of Florida residents in long queues as they wait to donate blood and help in the worst mass shooting in recent US history. Gay people in the US are banned from giving blood if they have sex in the last year, but that ban has temporarily been lifted in the Orlando area."

And with that I felt both angry and moved. Angry that gay men aren't allowed to give blood. Moved that people are queuing around the block to do so. Furious that the ban can be lifted temporarily so that gay men can pump their filthy blood into other gay men...

Speaking of violence, the other big piece of news today concerns the dreadful behaviour of football fans in the European Football Championship. We're told UEFA is launching disciplinary charges against Russia for the behaviour of their fans, and that Russia expects to pay a fine. So the Russians have to pay a fine? So what? It's only money. Russia were sanctioned for the behaviour of their fans in all three games they played in Euro 2012. What good did that do? They're still behaving like animals.

Actually what UEFA needs to do is send a national team home for the behaviour of its fans. If that's England, so be it. It sends out a clear and decisive message: Misbehave and the party's over, lads.

We went to the gym this afternoon and Nathan dropped me off in Kentish Town afterwards, which involved passing those two iconic music venues, The Forum and The Bull and Gate, both of which have recently been done up. The Forum still looks suitably grotty, but the Bull and Gate seems to have gone a bit "gastro pub", which I'm not sure particularly fits its vibe as one of London's most important rock and roll haunts. I spent many a night there in the 1990s listening to mates playing in bands; the black walls dripping with sweat and little pieces of loo roll stuffed in my ears because it was all too loud. In those days you used to have to pass through the men's loos to get from the pub to the live room. There would always be this row of men weeing at urinals with everyone else passing through the little corridor behind them. Men, women, children... I'm not sure that would be justifiable in today's world of health and safety!

I went into town this afternoon to meet some of the Brass cast who are currently working very hard to invite agents to the show in the summer. Two of them are students at drama school, so now is a great time for them to be forging links with casting directors, agents and the movers and shakers within the business. They asked me if I would give them some advice. I'm not sure I helped that much, but I think the meeting focussed their minds, which is just as important. It absolutely blasted it down with rain as we sat in our little cafe on Old Compton Street, which made me very worried for the queen and her lovely birthday celebrations. She's rather rocking the neon colours at the moment isn't she?

Reasons to be cheerful

We went to deepest, darkest Kent today, to a charming little village called Headcorn, which, for the geographically challenged, is the next village along from Leeds. Not Leeds in Yorkshire, you understand. Leeds in Kent. It's where the famous Leeds Castle is. I'm not actually sure Leeds in Yorkshire even has a castle. Anyway, it's rather bizarre to enter a tiny village on a little lane and find a sign which says "welcome to Leeds. Please drive carefully."

Headcorn seems to be nothing but a long row of beautifully maintained Victorian and medieval houses, many of which are gift shops and fancy eating establishments. I don't think you move to Headcorn if you're poor!

We had lunch in a very lovely tea room which offered my parents sandwiches and me a delicious omelette. We sat outside in the garden, bantering with the waitresses, who provided us with a running gag revolving around their pronunciation of the word "three" and its similarity to the word "free." How we laughed!

We went into an antique shop where I found a velvet jacket which fitted me so perfectly I had to buy it. As we left the shop, Vic Reeves walked in with his family. It was plainly the place where all the cool kids in Headcorn were hanging out!

We were in the village to attend my cousin's fiftieth birthday, who was calling his do a "reasons to be cheerful" party. It was a fabulous party. I have seldom seen so many tents and marquees in a single garden. They even had portaloos!

It turns out that a "reasons to be cheerful" party tempts the universe into liberally sprinkling a few bags of glittery irony. My aunt was too ill to attend and various other relatives are at various stages of dealing with diseases. More horrifyingly, as we drove to Kent, Nathan's sister called to say that their uncle had died. He was found this morning by his daughter. I met him about a year ago when Nathan's Dad took us on a tour of his home town of Exeter. He seemed an incredibly friendly and jovial chap who had a particularly wonderful friendship with his granddaughter. I'm sure he will be bitterly missed by everyone.

Cousin Neil, whose party it was, ran a little open mic spot, in honour of our Grandmother who so liked it when her children and grandchildren got up and did a little turn. I was always expected to play The Swan on my 'cello, but today it was lovely to just observe whilst drinking a cup of tea. Neil sang a Billy Bragg song about the A13, pointing out in his opening pre-amble that his cousin, Ben, had written a musical about the A1. The name check touched me. I only have four cousins in the world so it's good to know they take an interest in my work. Neil's three children then took it in turns to sing songs by Adele, Paul Simon, Queen and Bowie. I was rather impressed. It's good to see music permeating down through the generations of our family.

We left at gone 11, and made fairly swift progress home.

And that's that, really. It's nearly 2am, and I can hear a very noisy owl in the trees above the tube station. That surely means it's time to go to bed.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Painfully trendy chocolate

Here's a little factoid: the UK pop charts were absolutely identical in the weeks that ended 25th December, 1982 and the 1st January, 1983. Not a single song went either up or down. There must be a reason for this, which, if anyone reading is aware of, I would love to know. Perhaps it's because the charts came in on Christmas Day and New Year's Day and no one was in the office to process the information. It's certainly a bizarre anomaly. And why do I know this staggeringly interesting fact? I have a very special (and very shiny) red book which includes every top 40 rundown in chart history. You can flick through it and see the number at which any song entered the charts, and follow it's progress on a week-by-week basis, very much as we used to do when listening to the "Hit Parade" on a Sunday afternoon in the 1980s.

My friend Tammy and I used to walk down to an estate on the edge of Higham where there was a little newsagents which opened on a Sunday. A Sunday! This was totally unheard of in those days. I would buy a copy of Smash Hits magazine, and we'd grab some sweeties and a tin of own brand coke for 10p. On our way back home, we'd go down the rec, and throw the can of coke at each other over a small ditch until it exploded dramatically, which made us howl with laughter. We'd then go back to ours, suffer the end of Sing Something Simple and then listen to the chats. This was the era of Mel and Kim and Bros... I loved Mel and Kim and cheered when their dreadful song That's The Way It Is limped to number 10! I cried bitter tears when Mel died.

So, anyway, I'm dipping into this fabulous chart book and very much enjoying the stats I'm discovering. In 1982, for example, was notable for two songs making extraordinary jumps to number 1 in the charts. Happy Talk by Captain Sensible (who remembers that?) leapt from 33 to number one. And Pass De Dutchie by Musical Youth jumped to the top of the charts from number 26.

I travelled to Old Street to meet Philippa this morning and the two of us sat for the entire day working in a series of cafes. I had letters and emails to write and a big application to fill in, which I spent much of the afternoon on. Unfortunately, when it came to hitting send, the computer froze and took with it every last word that I'd written. Three hours of frantic typing and uploading MP3s for nothing. A little piece of me died forever at that point. It took 2 1/2 hours to remedy the situation tonight.

To cheer me up, Philippa took me on a tour of Shoreditch and Spitalfields. We went into a painfully trendy boutique chocolate factory where they were selling twelve small bars of chocolate for seventy pounds. That's right. Seventy pounds. The chocolate was beautifully packaged and I'm sure it was almost as tasty as a bar of Galaxy, but that's almost six quid a bar! As she whisked me out of the place, Philippa was whispering in my ear: "they're seventy pounds! Shhh now. Don't laugh. Let's leave as quickly as we can..." Who are the mugs who buy that?!

We sought refuge in Spitalfields Market, which is a genuinely lovely place to visit on a Friday afternoon. It's bustling, but not over-crowded, like it can get at weekends, and most of stalls are set out. It's a great place to browse and graze, until, of course, one of the stallholders does the thing when she asks if you'd like any help. I do hate that when I'm shopping. It invariably makes me feel so uncomfortable that I immediately rush in the opposite direction. It must be a sales technique that works. They'd soon stop doing it if it had the same effect on everyone else as it does on me!

Waterlow Park

We came to Waterlow Park this afternoon and sat in the extraordinary sunshine, which the weather app on my phone assured me was heavy cloud. A man sat on the bench next to us softly strumming his guitar whilst kids from Channing School were doing handstands within the buttercups. Everything for a moment felt very warm and calm. Until, of course, someone nearby decided to put the person she was talking to on speaker phone and proceeded to start shouting her side of the conversation. We are both agreed that using a speaker phone in public is one of the most anti social things you can do. It's all part of that ghastly "I'm going to live my life the way that I want to, and screw anyone who that might inconvenience."

I then realised that I'm not very good at doing nothing. I got back ache from sitting on the bench, got really fidgety, and then decided to lie down on the grass which was still a bit damp from yesterday's deluge. I suddenly realised at that point that I was lying in an ants' nest and jumped up, having to acknowledge that the enforced stillness wasn't working that well for me. I had started reading a book, however, which Sam Becker found. It's the most amazing glossary of slang and parody songs of the First World War, meticulously collected the same way that all those wonderful men on bicycles in rural areas collated folk songs in the same era. The foreword talks about quite how seriously they took their task, pointing out that we have no idea what Napoleon's armies sang as they marched through Europe, largely because someone hadn't bothered to write it down. I wish, wish, wish that I'd had this book whilst writing Brass. Mind you, it is possible that I would have vanished into a pool of authenticity. Sometimes a writer can be guilty of showing off his knowledge to the exclusion of his audience. There were one or two instances where Sara Kestleman picked me up on authentic terminology I'd used which had no resonance in the modern day. There's no point using a word simply to show off that you know it! In fact, that's the sort of pretentiousness which I have spent my career railing against!

Speaking of railing against stuff, I finally heard back from a foundation in Leeds today who told me they wouldn't be sponsoring our trip to the Somme region, having literally kept me dangling on the end of a string for three months. Every time I contacted them, they told me they'd get back with an answer the following day. They were always waiting to talk to a man called Edward whom I started to suspect was someone's imaginary friend. I'd hear nothing, wait two more weeks, call back again and be told they were still waiting to hear from Edward. Apparently Edward finally spoke today, and Edward, he say no. In fairness I feel he might have said no three months ago. It might have been polite or kind. But I guess giving money to deserving cases is only fun when the deserving case is literally on the ground begging.

So, it's back to the drawing board for the last injection of cash we need to get ourselves off to France. There's £760 left to find! We'll get there! Again, if anyone reading this blog feels like making a tiny donation, please only do so if you've had a good month at work! Or if you're Edward and you've changed your mind!