Thursday, 23 June 2016

Jewesses

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.

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