Tuesday, 7 March 2017


It's been one of those incredibly bitty days, where I've permanently felt like I'm behind the pace, rushing about, yet frantically unable to catch up. There's always been something else to do, and I feel as though I've achieved very little. I worked through the morning on the Nene project up in Highgate Village. I've found a new favourite seat in the cafe, which is right by the window, but tucked away in the corner, far away from the hustle and bustle of the main part of the cafe. Peering out of the window onto Pond Square is a real treat. Whilst searching for inspiration, I can look at people on the street rushing to and fro. There are many characters in the villages and the spring flowers have come to Highgate. The crocuses and daffodils were a riot of colour in today's watery sunlight.

I met Julie at Finsbury Park for a coffee and catch up in the afternoon and then, because it's very difficult to travel in an East-West direction across the North of London, was forced to come all the way into town to change onto a tube line that would take me back out again. It probably would have been quicker to walk.

I decided to venture into Soho to do some work in a cafe on Wardour Street. I ordered a cup of tea, but the music was playing really loudly, to the extent that I couldn't focus on the task in hand. I was planning then to go to the gym, but I'd promised myself to stop my day at 8pm to spend a much-needed night at home with my husband, so that too went out of the window. I've got all sorts of nonsense bashing about in my head at the moment like a cheap arcade game. I have applications to fill in, references to write. I've also been asked to be a judge for a prestigious award, and this involves a great amount of ground work, so things feel like they're stacking up, and I'm panicking a little.

I'm also having a spot of bother thinking of anything for the clarinets or oboes to play in the Nene composition. Funnily enough, having slammed flutes as horrible things played by little vapid, blonde girls, I have to acknowledge they have their uses. The squawking of oboes and the fruity, bowl-like awfulness of clarinets, however, continue to elude me. I am trying desperately to remedy the situation. Of course the fault is all mine. I'm not a wind specialist and know there are timbres and amazing effects which these instruments can achieve. I can think of plenty of uses for a clarinet in jazz and big band, but I'm not writing in those styles. People are always shocked by my hatred of the oboe. They always cite the cor anglais solo in Dvorak's New World Symphony, and the moment the barricade revolves in Les Mis, but for me the beauty of these moments has led to the oboe becoming a somewhat cliched one-trick pony!

Meanwhile, of course, I'm loving writing for percussion, strings and brass. I'm working on a giant steam train sequence at the moment to represent the Nene Valley Railway, which became such a strong presence in my fourth day of walking. In terms of the timeline of the piece, I've just crossed the border between Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire. I'm about to start the sequence which represents the moody, echoey fens.

I still have no idea how the piece starts!

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