Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Youth Proms, quizzes and colds

You see and hear the strangest things whilst walking about in London. Bonkers people don't usually migrate as far North as Highgate, but this morning, I was treated to a proper display of eccentricity! As I walked down to the tube, I passed a young Asian man, who’d managed to contort his body to fit inside one of the metal railings which prevent people from stacking it as they go down the steep footpath there. He was sitting astride a metal pole, with his back pushed up against the bar above him, and he was talking incessantly. At first I assumed he was on the telephone, but I quickly realised he was delivering what can only be described as his internal dialogue, which I couldn't help but tune into: "my prostate's on fire. Repeat. My prostate's on fire.” Very strange.

As I took the tube into town, I glanced down at the woman sitting below me and noticed she was reading the Daily Mail. I wondered what went through her head when she reads the bile which that particular paper prints. Is she taken in by it all? Does she take it with a pinch of salt and skip over the vile editorial because she likes the cookery pages or the horoscopes? I was genuinely interested. She looked a bit pinched and angry, so I wondered if she had a heart of stone…

Victoria station was a joke. It was abnormally crowded, so they diverted those of us changing lines out of the tube station and back in again instead of allowing us to make the two-minute underground walk, which prompted me to wonder why doesn't London work

I had a meeting at the Natural History Museum this morning. We thought it might be fun to discuss the Nene project underneath a giant fibre glass brontosaurus! The Northamptonshire Youth Orchestra are in town, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to hook up with Peter and Beth to kick some ideas about... and let me tell you: it's going to be epic!

I did some work in a Soho cafe around lunchtime before heading off towards The City to help out with a quiz, which was a deeply distressing experience. My cold was doing its best to make me feel like I was high on drugs, and the quiz was for 150 fourteen-year olds who essentially had no interest in being there, and weren't being controlled by any of the adults present. There was a constant squeal of high-pitched noise, which certainly wasn't the sound of young people trying to work out the answer to questions. After they'd been fed, most got up from their tables and started walking around the room, talking to their friends. The teams gradually got larger and larger as the kids brought their tables together to chat more. I had seven fewer teams at the end of the quiz than I'd had at the beginning. It was almost impossible to keep up. Cans of drink burst, kids were lobbing paper aeroplanes and crisps at each other, most were blatantly using their mobile phones to cheat, and I was slightly left wondering why we were there because child minding isn't one of my skills. I just wanted it all to end so that I could get on with the next part of my epic day.

This evening I was lucky enough to be invited to one of the Music for Youth junior prom concerts at the Albert Hall. I was there in a very glamorous box, being hosted by NMPAT, the Northamptonshire Music School. There were twelve or so ensembles performing from across the UK, representing every conceivable musical genre from jazz orchestras and African choirs to pop bands and koto-drumming groups. The crowning glory was plainly the Northamptonshire Youth Orchestra who played a fiendish suite of music with dexterity and panache. Yet again, I felt a great rush of pride to be associated with them. I was also touched to see that Northamptonshire has finally had its own flag designed, which some of the dignitaries in the box were proudly waving. I’m going to try and get hold of one to display in my attic with my flags from Wales and Yorkshire. We still fly the rainbow flag from our window. I like flags.

It was very exciting to see one of the large ensemble performance slots which we’ll be doing this time next year. The group who had been chosen to do it this time came from Croydon, I think, and performed a piece by Howard Goodall. There was a bit of dancing, and they all wore sashes and wafted large pieces of fabric around, which looked quite Top-of-the-Pops-circa-1979. It was a stunningly beautiful piece of writing - as always with Goodall. I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the lyric content of the piece, however; “it doesn’t matter what you do, or what happens on earth, it’s how you go up to heaven that matters.” Blimey.

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