Thursday, 29 June 2017

Learning Hebrew and PowerPoint

I went down to Abbie's house yesterday for the next stage in my training as a quiz master. I left feeling somewhat bewildered. Unfortunately, as a migrant to the computer age, there are still lots of things which someone younger than me would probably do instinctually which merely confuse me. I also have one of those brains which takes almost nothing in when things are being taught theoretically. In order for me to learn, I have to be doing it. I have to see what the point is. And whilst doing it, I will ask a million questions which I probably already should know the answers to, but that's the way information filters in! Old dogs. New tricks. 

This afternoon was hell as I tried to put things into practice. Abbie gave me a cable which enabled me to plug my computer into the TV and practice all the super-duper multi-media aspects, but it kept going wrong. Part of the problem is that I'm having to relearn how to use a PC, having gone Mac a few years ago. Buttons are in funny places. I keep randomly pressing the number lock which makes me die a little inside. I'm sure I'll get there, with time, but I'm just not hugely time rich right now!

Ho hum...

The other thing I have to learn is Hebrew pronunciation, as I've joined a choir which occasionally sings in a Synagogue. Obviously I'm there for the music rather than the religion, but I've always had a sneaking respect for the ancient, noble and, to me, mystical cultures of Judaism. There's obviously Jewish blood somewhere down the line in my mother's family history, so perhaps I'm simply embracing something which is latent in me. I've always written music which many people tell me can sound a bit Jewish, whatever that means. Arnold Wesker refused to believe I was anything else, "my dear boy" he'd say, "melodies like that don't come out of goys!" "No, they come out of gays" I'd say.

I suppose what I most like about Jewish people is that they don't proselytise. You're either Jewish or you're not. No one's gonna tell me I'll go to hell if I don't embrace God and accept him into my life. Born again Christianity is actually the reason why I'm a card carrying atheist. I had a friend called Sarah when I was about 16. We had a car crash, and I called her, feeling somewhat shaken: "I'm so pleased you didn't die" she said, "I wouldn't have been able to cope with the fact that you'd gone to hell." Bye bye Christianity. Go bother someone else.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017


There's not much to be said for yesterday. I sat at the kitchen table with the window wide open, the rain pouring down through the tree outside. The smell of rain on a summer's day is quite intoxicating. It's one of my favourite smells in the world. The tree's branches come right up to the window, and we've mooted the idea of hanging bags of nuts there to attract little birds. I would like to become Mary Poppins and feel I must be encouraged in my endeavours.

I worked solidly from 9 to 9 on my Nene composition. I was focussing on the Brass Band parts, trying to make sure that they all made sense. I sent about ten texts to my mate Harrison, who understands brass bands far better than me, to check I was on the right lines. I've always slightly fudged my brass band writing. It's taken me quite some time to understand the concept of a repiano cornet... and its point in a 21st Century composition.

At 9 o'clock I realised I'd become depressed. Sitting under headphones has a limited shelf life and my back was hurting. We decided therefore to take a trip to the large Tesco on Colney Hatch road, essentially to buy buttons, but also to buy something for our tea. We bought a cheap pizza base and covered it with feta, halloumi and mushrooms, and it tasted delicious. I took a photograph of it, I was so proud. I then took a picture of the bucket collecting rain water in our sitting room and felt a little sad again.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

New beginnings

Nathan's lovely Mum and her wonderful partner Ron came down yesterday. They knew Nathan was poorly, and furthermore that we were sinking in a mire of our own creation, so came to help us tidy the house. As Celia said, "it's always easier to clean when other people are about." She wasn't wrong. There was a bit of a party atmosphere. I had a thoroughly lovely time. Everything got spruced up. Ron focussed on the sitting room and spent hours polishing. Celia and I did the kitchen and bathroom. White goods got pulled out and cleaned behind. We mopped floors. I threw away stacks of food...

When I was about ten, I remember going into my Nana's pantry (yes, she had a proper pantry) and my brother and I taking great delight in finding out of date items on the shelves. We thought it was hysterical that she had tins of Carnation with best before dates in the eighties and couldn't believe that she'd allowed that to happen. We took it as a sign of decrepitude... Cut to me, yesterday, finding a bag of lentils with a best before date from 2010!

Nathan's Mum has a Bounty Bar from the 1960s in her freezer. It's apparently the first thing that David (Nathan's Dad) ever gave to her, and she's kept it all these years. Isn't that romantic? I can't wait to see it.

In the mid afternoon, Nathan was called by the doctor, and to cut a very long story short, there were more tests which needed to be done, so we schlepped down to the Whittington and spent a good few hours queuing. Ironically, Nathan was feeling rather well by the time we emerged. In the meantime, we'd given Islington Council a tenner in parking fees.

The feeling you get in a hospital these days is that all the doctors and nurses think the NHS is falling apart. They talk endlessly about things being restructured and entire departments closing down. It might be time for that dick splat May to realise that the majority of people who voted Brexit did so, not because they wanted Brexit, but because they wanted to save the NHS. That was, after all what the mop-haired cringe-pot Boris promised. Take Europe AND the NHS away from us and we're left with neither of the two things which, in my view, have contributed most in the last fifty years to the greatness of our nation. 

On retuning from the hospital, we discovered a lovely meal in the oven, courtesy of Nathan's Mum, which we ate hungrily. At that point I decided I needed to commune a little with nature, and, largely because I'd read that a cold front was coming in today, I took myself across Hampstead Heath as the sun set, marvelling at the sliver of a new moon hanging in a mackerel sky. I made a little private toast to new beginnings. A new job for me, please, an end to Nathan's poor health and true happiness for those I love.

Monday, 26 June 2017


Our house is catastrophe. I had an anxiety attack in the kitchen today. Every surface - ironing board included - is covered in unwashed mugs and crockery. The floor is liberally coated in a mix of dirty laundry and "clean" stuff which has been pulled out of the tumble drier and dumped. I opened the fridge and instantly realised that it was chock full of mouldy vegetables. I entered a cucumber with my finger. Tins of sweet corn and pears with a fine film of white fluffy mould on the top sat on one shelf. A vegetable tray with a rancid layer of petrified liquid at the bottom greeted me at one point. A pot on the stove was full of dried up pasta. It was all so depressing. The combination of Nathan being ill, me being busy and then ultra lazy and a heatwave has been almost catastrophic for the house. Nathan is at least now feeling a little better. He even managed to go out for a bit last night so he's certainly reached a point where his body has started to fight back. Baby steps...

We went to see Hampstead at the wonderful Everyman Cinema in Muswell Hill last night. Going to the Everyman is such a lovely night out. You sit on sofas to watch the films and there are even little footrests to make the experience as decadent as possible.

Hampstead is a charming little film which has plainly been made with an American audience in mind. I could hear them, over the pond, screeching, "oh my God, how quaint!" The thing is, Hampstead Village IS quaint, preposterously so. So actually the film makers weren't that far off the truth. Obviously, a North London Heathite like me was always going to love seeing anything which was shot in my gaff, and there wasn't a single location featured that I didn't know intimately.

The story is based on the tale of Harry Hallowes, who lived in a shack on Hampstead Heath. I always thought he lived on the Highgate side of the open space rather than the Hampstead side, but I guess artistic license has to come into these things. Hallowes was able to prove that he'd lived on the plot for more than twelve years and was therefore given squatters rights which effectively made him a millionaire over night. That's about the sum total of where truth and fiction collide in this particular film. I'm not sure Hallowes had an affair with a local American widow and I'm certainly not sure he exchanged his land for a boat in a crazy "deus ex machina" plot device. I also remember locals being incredibly supportive of Hallowes when a development firm tried to evict him, so to suggest otherwise feels a little divisive.

Nevertheless, aside from the ludicrous ending, the film ticks along at a a gloriously slow English pace and is filled with wonderful acting performances headed by Brendan Gleason and Diane Keaton. If it's not a story that actually happened, it's a story that ought to have happened!

Saturday, 24 June 2017


I ended up at my old friend Vera's house today. I'd been on something of an epic journey which involved a trip to Primrose Hill which is a very lovely part of London. It's one of those fancy bits of town which is almost exclusively the reserve of pop musicians. Its beautiful Georgian streets hum with happening privilege! It's very cut off from its surroundings, "protected" by a railway line to the north, Camden Market to the east and Regents Park to the south. No one passes through Primrose Hill. It's a bit like Dartmouth Park in that regard. You go there if you live there or if you're the right sort of person to visit one of its fancy pubs or bars.

Vera suddenly popped into my head and it struck me that I was close enough to her house to pop in. I last saw her at Arnold's funeral last year and it was the first time I'd seen her in an age. I promised to visit her more regularly and have felt bad for some time for not yet popping by. I didn't want to drop in unannounced, so spent the longest time trying to dredge up her phone number from the dark recesses of my mind. A number sprung to mind and I decided that I'd call it. I wasn't at all convinced it would be the right one.

I was fairly astonished therefore when Vera's husband Bob answered and I immediately organised to pop in. Bob said that he'd talked about me only that morning, so I felt as though I'd made the right decision.

He opened the door. He looks fantastic. He must be way over 90, but he's incredibly upright and vital. If anything I think he looked younger than he had when I last saw him. Vera also looks well, but she doesn't talk much. I think she understands everything. She seemed thrilled to see me. Sometimes you get the impression that she's struggling a little to follow the gist of the conversation. Other times I felt perhaps that talking was just a bit too much effort. And God knows we've all been there!

We were joined by a very pleasant Chatty Cathy called Doris for the second half of the visit. She was a German journalist who'd know Vera since 1980 and didn't seem at all impressed that I'd known her for "just" 22 years!

The time flew. We had a cup of tea, and then I felt it was time to go home. I left the house with past memories crashing through my mind. It was at Vera's house that I first met my idol, Billie Whitelaw. I remember trying to tie knots in cherry stalks there with my partner Stephen Twigg. I remember learning the word "kedgeree"' there, and watching poor Nathan eating tripe, and reading poetry with Sam Becker. Days with Arnold and Dusty Wesker. And Hedi. And Fritz. And Sandy Lean. There was always something going on. Highbrow conversations. Wonderful roast dinners.

Whilst I'm in a wistful mood, I discovered yesterday that Doreen Brigham has died at the astonishingly ripe old age of 105. Yorkshire folk in particular will know Doreen as the wonderful Harrogate woman who provided lyrics for Sing a Song of Yorkshire, the last movement of my Symphony for Yorkshire. She was 98 at the time, and the good folk of the county absolutely took her to their hearts on account of the moving third verse of her poem, which I leave as a tribute to her:

"And when I’ve done my roaming, and when my step grows slow;
When heart and mind assure me that will soon be time to go,
Then let me rest in Yorkshire, for it’s there I want to lie
‘Neath the sun and the wind and the heather… and a gleaming Yorkshire sky."

Sleep well under the Yorkshire sky, Doreen.

Friday, 23 June 2017

A day away

I saw the front cover of the Guardian newspaper today which showed a group of lads at a school in the south west who'd decided to beat the heatwave by turning up to school in regulation skirts because they weren't allowed to wear shorts. The skirts actually looked quite woolly and probably, as a result, not the coolest items of clothing in the world, but they were making a protest, so the point was made. The story heartened me greatly. Obviously it would have been a far more glorious statement had the lads been supporting a trans girl or fighting for gender equality rather than simply putting a finger up to teachers, but certainly, in my day, no school boy would have been seen dead in a skirt, whatever beef he had with his teachers. We are entering an era, I hope, where men can express themselves visually however they choose. Young lads who want to wear skirts, either for comfort reasons or because they're not that bothered by gender stereotyping, should be free to do so, just as women should be able to wear trousers as and when it suits them.

I saw a young trans-woman on the tube yesterday who looked so fabulous I felt the need to congratulate her. She had a mountain of glorious, blonde, naturally-curly hair piled high on the top of her head, and was wearing a floor length black dress, cut daringly enough to accentuate the fact that she hadn't yet gone down the surgery or hormone route. Perhaps she never will. Part of me hopes she'll always feel happy with a gender fluid identity. The more androgynous that some people opt to look, the less pressure others will feel to be at the polarised ends of the gender spectrum. I personally want to live in a world where ten percent of people are hyper-masculine, ten percent are hyper-feminine and everyone else is happily somewhere in the middle. And one day, I suspect, the same will be true of sexuality.

I spent the entire day today out of the house. I had a meeting first with Wendy at Central School to talk about Em, before heading to Shepherds Bush where I met Michael. We had a gloriously long walk along the south side of the Thames from Hammersmith Bridge all the way to Chiswick and then back along the north side. We stopped for a drink in Barnes and had a little picnic on some steps leading down to the river. The Thames was incredibly high today and as we ate our picnic, a boat came past which created waves which came right over the bank, almost carrying our food back to Central London!

Some of the houses along that stretch of the river are to die for. I spent ages staring at them in awe, wishing I lived there. "You better get writing" said Michael, helpfully!

I took the North London line to Hampstead Heath from Shepherd's Bush. The train takes you right past the Grenfell Tower, which has become so iconic in the last week or so. We all know the shape that the fire made as it cut through the building. Seeing it in the flesh through a train window was a little like seeing it on a television screen: I was somehow still one step removed. But it's certainly a deeply chilling sight, one which I suspect West Londoners will need to get used to because I can't see them knocking it down any time soon.

I met Philippa in a Turkish restaurant in South End Green. We worked out that it was the first time we'd been out,just the two of us, since before her second daughter Silver was born. I suggested we get pissed and then did magic mushrooms on Hampstead Heath but in the end we had a lovely two course meal, Philippa drank rosé, I had a sparkling mineral water and then we went for a lovely walk, at a nice slow pace because Philippa was wearing wedge heels.

We met a young woman, lost and wandering aimlessly by the tree with a hole in it. It was getting dark and I'm not sure it was a very good place to be lost. She was trying to find friends. They'd dropped a pin to show their location and sent it to her phone, but when she tried to put it in Google maps everything went wrong. In the end I asked to speak to her friend to ascertain what he could see in order to establish where he was, "grass, trees..." he said. Useless. "What can you see on the horizon?" I asked. "More grass and trees..." In the end, I managed to work out where he was from the dropped pin and, because I know the place so well, was able to take her to him. Turns out he hadn't noticed he was sitting next to Boudicca's Mount - an ancient tumulus surrounded by a fence. He'd also not noticed a pond at the bottom of the hill, or Highgate church looming large on the horizon. Frankly, he didn't deserve to be found!

Thursday, 22 June 2017


I read a report yesterday, which I'm sadly unable to find again, which said that a rather large percentage of British people didn't think the attack at Finsbury Park was an act of terrorism. There's been some sort of survey. God knows who these people are that provide the statistic-hungry media with figures they can spin for their own advantage. I've never been asked my views on anything like this. Anyway, the figures are being held up by left wing press as an indication that the British public are inherently Islamophobic. And, of course, this could well be true. The feeling is that the media almost immediately reported Manchester and London Bridge as terrorist attacks but that it took them way too long to report Finsbury Park in the same way. I'm not sure I entirely agree. I've not heard it described as anything other than terrorism. Almost pointedly so.

Islamophobia is undeniably a huge issue in the U.K. at the moment. But I believe we've mistakenly started to use the word "terrorism" as a catch-all to define anything which causes terror, rather than as the word was intended to be used.

It's a little unclear, but there does seem to be a basic universal definition of the word terrorism:

"Terrorism is the use of violence or threat of violence especially against civilians in the pursuit of political aims, religious, or ideological change."

By this definition, I would struggle to call Finsbury Park a terrorist attack. As previously stated in this blog, I believe we need to define it as a hate crime. This makes it no less terrifying. No less unacceptable. And, in fact, by describing it as a hate crime against Muslim people, I believe we're sending out a much clearer message that there's a specific problem with Islamophobia in this country.

I previously mentioned Orlando as an example of a crime against my own community which, in my view, people were too fast to describe as terrorism. By defining it this way, it somehow becomes a universal attack on us - an attack on Western values - and homophobia gets swept under the carpet. Yes the gunman may well have pledged allegiance to Isis. Isis merely gave him an excuse. The fact was that he was closeted gay, in deep turmoil, and took everything out on a community which he'd loosely been a member of. There was nothing remotely ideological about his actions.

Journalist Owen Jones famously walked away from a Sky News interview when the anchorwoman started to claim that this particular attacker could have chosen any bar, and just "happened" to pick a gay one. It was extremely insulting because it effectively denied that there was a specific issue with homo and trans phobia in the US.

So, look, I have every sympathy for those who want to call Finsbury Park a terrorist attack because they think it's a way of making this a universal issue. But actually, Finsbury Park was simply an attack on Muslim people by a white man with a grudge. And we have to remember that. There was nothing remotely ideological about his actions.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Audra and Billie

There is nothing like hot weather to zap every inch of energy out of a person. I woke up with chronic shoulder pain as a result of my pillow becoming so laden with sweat that I was forced to prop it up with my hand all night.

Nathan continues to be ill. We went to A and E yesterday and were, mercifully, told there was nothing untoward going on, so I suspect he's just going to have to sit it out and wait for the hell to pass. He seemed rather chipper this morning, but retired to bed this afternoon.

We seem to have an enormous problem with fly-tipping in the alleyway leading to our house. About a week ago, twenty black bin bags were dumped on the path, entirely blocking our way. Most are filled with leaves. Some are filled with masonry. There are no lights in the alley, so, at night, we trip over the bin bags and they split. Their contents have spilled out all over the pathway. Unfortunately for us, the footpath is privately owned by the owners of the properties which back onto it, none of whom actually live there because they're all rented out as shops and flats. Because it's not a public right of way, Haringey council refuses to help us. Today I spent hours trying to get through to the health and safety people. My neighbour tried yesterday and was held in a queue for an hour. When I phoned today, a recorded message informed me that the call volume was too high even for me to be placed in a queue. I'm not altogether sure how a Heath and Safety department in a council can operate like that. It's all very curious and incredibly frustrating.

This evening I came into town to meet Matt. The poor bloke couldn't get more than a few feet without being stopped and asked for a selfie. I'm not sure I'd ever have the gall to walk up to a complete stranger and ask for their photo, but I guess it's all part of the circus attached to stardom. Matt is always so gracious. I guess if you get snippy, people instantly call you a diva and take your picture anyway.

We were in town to see Audra McDonald's blistering performance as Billy Holiday in "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill." The show has transferred from Broadway where it won McDonald her sixth (count them) Tony award and there is no doubt in my mind that this particular award wasn't wholly deserved. The show is brutally painful and portrays Holiday in the last few months of her life: a nervous shell, high, drunk and not coping with life.

I didn't know much about Billie Holiday but didn't need to to enjoy the piece. All the information I needed was there. She had a pretty desperate life. She went to jail, she was raped as a child, she had a succession of bad egg husbands, she suffered untold prejudice. As a "coloured" performer, she was banned from going to the loo at one gig because there was only one loo in the building for black people, and that was for male staff members. We none of us know that we're born.

We went backstage to meet Audra afterwards, and she told us that Holiday used to really like coming to the UK because people treated her so much better over here. It was a real treat to meet her. She's a Broadway icon, one of the world's greatest singers, and this is the first time she's come to the West End to do a run of theatre shows. This was only her second preview. She's such a lovely woman. Warm. Interested. Intelligent. Her love and respect for Holiday shines through.

I wholeheartedly recommend this show. Move heaven and earth to see McDonald perform.

Monday, 19 June 2017


It's boiling hot today. Boiling hot. It was boiling hot yesterday as well. By the end of the day I'd almost melted. My pillow was solid with sweat when I woke up. I didn't do anything all day yesterday. I moped about a bit, feeling flat and a little sorry for myself, waiting for Nathan to get back from an interminable rehearsal. I should have found myself something to do. I should have been walking, swimming or picnicking on the Heath.

I woke up this morning to the news that there's been another terrorist attack in London. This one seems to have been carried out by an Islamaphobe. I was incredibly moved to read that the attacker was protected from an angry mob by an Imam. For some reason I find myself wanting to refer to this particular attack as a hate crime rather than an act of terrorism. I think an element of planning and ideology is required for something to be defined as terrorism. By that token I wouldn't describe the Orlando attack as terrorism. It was a hate crime against gay people. I think the term terrorism actually waters down the essential facts, which in the case of Finsbury Park is that a man who hates Muslim people decided to kill Muslim people. It was specifically an act of Islamophobia and it's important that we treat it as such.

Obviously, we don't know any true information about the perpetrator. He may well have been part of some ghastly white supremacist group. However the attack is defined, it's ghastly and it shouldn't be happening and, I predict, it will do nothing other than bring Londoners further together.

True to form, The Sun newspaper didn't have news of the attack on its front page. I was actually fairly shocked, particular as their headline instead was about Ant from Ant and Dec going into rehab. Great to know these newspapers that are so pro Brexit and so right wing have such integrity when it comes to reporting news.

The other piece of news today was that the number of people killed in the Grenfell Tower has risen to 80. Those who have lost their homes are to be given £5500 by the government, which seems like a brutally small amount. These people have been treated in a disgusting way. I've read about one (relatively young) bloke being sent to an old people's home. Others are in hotels and have no idea whether they'll be rehoused in the area.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Done and dusted

I took my first ever night tube today at 3am. Celebrations after Em found me out west, and actually close enough to Grenfell Tower to see it, looming in the distance: a charred silhouette against the night sky. The housing blocks around it were lit up like Christmas trees. Scores of lights denoting scores of lives. But Grenfell was dead. Pitch black. Blacker than the sky. I was actually quite shocked by the sight of it. I think it's probably the knowledge that it's essentially a very public mausoleum. There are still goodness knows how many dead people in there and it feels somewhat brutal that they're suspended in mid-air rather than being with their families.

I suppose I'm in something of a reflective mood. Em is over. The run is complete. We went out on a corking, emotionally-charged performance. I actually ended up chatting to a lovely chap from the Royal Theatre in Northampton afterwards so didn't get a chance to see people leaving the theatre. It was incredibly hot in there, so it became a little difficult to know whether people were weeping or sweating profusely! The two performances today were accompanied by the sight and sound of audience members furiously wafting their programmes as fans. There's something about my shows which seem to generate inclemently hot weather conditions. Last year's performances of Brass took place in a mega heatwave and I remember a university production of The Crucible sending the audience into a complete torpor, largely because we'd creosoted half of the set the night before the show opened which meant dangerous petro-chemical fumes were dancing in the heavy, sweat-laden air.

Most of the films I've made have also been shot in heatwaves. I burned to a crisp making A Symphony for Yorkshire.

Theatre can be a brutal industry. You spend hours and hours rehearsing a show and then, just like that, everything comes to an end. Em is the product of a year of almost solid writing and probably another six months of fairly intensive research. It could well be that those six performances represent the only public outing for the show. Despite my best endeavours Brass has only been performed eight times despite some of the best reviews I've ever read for a piece of theatre. And yet a cheap and nasty jukebox show like Mowtown hurtles towards a thousand performances.

I nevertheless feel incredibly proud of Em. Various people have described it as epic, which I rather like, especially as I'd wondered whether it was a little "kitchen sink" in its outlook. Almost everyone has described it as highly moving. Some say it's more moving than Brass, despite no one actually dying in Em and my continued belief that it's a fairly light-hearted piece (until the end.) I was highly touched by one of the students from one of the lower years at Central sidling up to me and gushing his praise for the piece, "I'm a working class Northerner" he said, "it touched me like nothing has before..."

I feel so proud of the cast. Some of them have grown beyond all measure during the experience. I was thrilled with them all, and very honoured to have written the last show they'll ever perform together as a year group. I ducked out of their after show party. I'm a bit too old for student union antics and felt they probably needed to let their hair down without me cramping their style. They'd all dolled themselves up and were looking terribly glamorous when I last saw them. I bet they won't be looking quite as sharp when they get home tonight!!

Right! I'm at Archway. I think it's time for me to sign off. Night tubes are hugely efficient. I thought I'd be hanging about for hours. Actually I've sped my way home.

Night all. Look after your loved ones.

Saturday, 17 June 2017


Yesterday my family came to see Em. It was a somewhat surreal experience all round. Readers of this blog will already know that the story of Em is based on the experience of my own mother in Liverpool in 1965. To have her in the audience alongside the very child that she gave birth to in that dark period was extremely moving... for them, for me, for the cast, and, no doubt, for the rest of the audience. I made a little announcement at the end to say both "Fred" and "Em" were in the audience and there was a hugely respectful and lengthy applause for them.

Both dealt extremely well with what could have been a deeply troublesome experience. Though obviously very moved, and, at times, disturbed, they were gracious throughout. I think my Mum rather enjoyed the references to Warwickshire and seemed surprised both by how accurate the story was in places, and by how much artistic license I'd taken with it elsewhere. The character of Bron, for example, was an amalgam of two Welsh girls that my Mum lived with at the time. Illya, who, in the show is a working class Liverpudlian book shop owner, was actually a PHD student in real life! But then, periodically, she'd turn to me and say things like, "did I tell you that the landlady was a Shirley Bassey fan?"

The audience response was overwhelming. There were many tears, particularly during the matinee. My mate Michelle was in pieces. I think the show taps into all sorts of unresolved issues for people, largely relating to lost love in all of its forms.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Two down...

There was a horrible burning smell at Highgate tube this morning. I have no idea what it was, but it royally gave me the collywobbles. I think all Londoners have the right to feel a little jumpy at the moment. We've not had a good run of it of late.

...So we are two shows down now with four to go. I can't think what I'll do with myself when it's all over. I think last night was was fairy typical second night show. Nothing awful happened, but the cast were a tiny bit under-energised after the adrenaline injection of the first night which followed a day of rehearsals. An actor has to sort of psych his or her way back into performance mode when he's effectively had a day off.

There were some wonderful moments. In some cases the cast are literally ripping themselves apart for the pleasure of the audience. Because they're often less than a metre away from audience members, this can be a hugely exciting experience.

The response from the crowd was great. I had a lot of people in. Jake and Pippa, Michael and his crew, Matt Lucas, Anthony, Little Michelle and her dad, Julie, Sam, Nathan... the large numbers of friends abs colleague who are attending this show has made me feel very loved. I'm a little disappointed more producers and artistic directors haven't come, however. I hear time and time again from industry stalwarts that no one is putting on good, or innovative musical theatre, but they entirely base their remarks on the lamentable trash that's presently happening in the West End. It's incredibly depressing. I'm not trying to claim that Em is the greatest new musical of the 21st Century (it's the second best, after Brass) but I do feel it at least deserves to be seen! One of the problems with UK producers these days is that it always has to be their idea.

My prediction is that today's matinee will be good and that tonight's show will properly take off as the cast begin to find their feet.

I once worked with a director who believed the optimum performance in a show's run is the 40th. Up until this point everyone is learning the show and discovering what works, and beyond then, things begin to go stale. I think perhaps there's mileage in the idea. There's nothing worse than watching a long running show when it feels like actors are phoning their performances in.

Right. Back to the grindstone.

Thursday, 15 June 2017


Yesterday marked the world premiere of Em. Hannah spoke to the cast, just after the dress rehearsal, and told them all to enjoy the experience of telling a story for the first time because there would be so few moments in their lives where they'd get that particular opportunity. In the case of Em there haven't even been any workshops, so yesterday night was the first opportunity anyone got to see how an audience would react to the show. Which lines would land? Would people laugh? Cry? Look bored?

Young Josh became my personal first pair of ears and eyes after coming to the dress rehearsal. We met beforehand and sat, drinking tea, outside the venue. "I can't believe how laid back you are" he said. Josh remembers the mayhem surrounding the first production of Brass up in Leeds. I've never known a more stressful couple of days!

By comparison, Em has been a breeze. The creative team has been brilliant to work with but I guess I've also slightly changed the way I deal with these things and am far more of a mind where I think it will be what it is and all I can do is do my best (without actually losing my mind!)

The show went incredibly well. There were some wonderfully friendly faces in the audience. Little Welsh Nathalie, friends from student drama (some of whom had done the reading a few weeks ago), Adam Jay from New York, Jeremy Walker, Ben Mabberley, my agent...

They all made the right noises, as did the audience in general. I tend to run away a bit during an interval as it's actually a little disconcerting to hear audience members discussing your piece without knowing that you're actually the writer. The cast were buzzing at the end of the show. I think they've suddenly realised they have a show which is worth doing well. A show that people love.

The day was, of course, marred by the terrible fire in the housing block in West London, which is probably only a couple of miles from Central School. An acrid smell drifted across the district at one point which I'm pretty sure was attached to the incident. Friends closer to the area say the smell was unbearable.

I watched the news for the first time this morning and was utterly devastated by the stories. I can't imagine how terrified people must have been on the upper floors, literally waiting to die. The stories of people throwing their babies out of windows are utterly soul-destroying. I can't actually bear it. I was intrigued to see pictures of visits to the area by May and Corbyn. May looked aloof and uncomfortable as she talked to emergency services. Jeremy Corbyn was hugging people. He seems so much more natural. He feels like one of us whilst she seems like a ghastly robot. Totally out of touch.

I feel a change within this country. People are rallying around one another. Terrorist attacks are unifying people: making people care more about one another and watch out for each other. I think the days are numbered where the rich get richer and the little people get shat on. People are rallying. A man on the telly today was highly critical of the (highly-wealthy) Kensington council: "they can find 200 extra people for a pointless recount to try to keep a Tory MP in power, but they can't find 200 people to co-ordinate the distribution of the perishable goods which people are dropping off at the help centres."

Hannah pointed out yesterday that we're probably all going to remember the rehearsal period of Em as a period of great unrest. Since rehearsals started we've had two major terrorist attacks, a snap general election and a this dreadful fire. The UK has been almost continually in world news.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Nearly there

Yesterday started with a charming breakfast with Jem who's over from New York where he's been living for four years. He looks extraordinary; he's lost a load of weight and is radiating happiness and confidence. New York agrees with him. We spoke for some time about the musical theatre industry over there. The fact that it just works. There are countless opportunities for performers and a huge amount of investment in new musical theatre writing. There are scores of professional theatres in every State who only want to put on musicals. People genuinely care about the art form. It makes me weep when I think about what's going on over here by comparison. The Equity minimum for a performer on Broadway is $1900 a week (probably about £1300.) Over here it's about £500.

Nevertheless Jem says that the moment he touched down in London he realised how much he's missed living here. He mentioned how happy the accents make him feel, and how he'd forgotten how lovely it is to sit in a quiet train compartment. Not sure that's quite my own experience of British train travel, but I'll take any compliment about this country right now.

Anyway, aside from making me feel almost sick with envy, seeing Jem was an absolute buzz. I've missed him.

The last session of the technical rehearsal took place in the late morning and afternoon, and everything went slowly, but surely. I'm beginning to get a sense that we're sitting on something rather special and am excited to see how the cast respond to the energy of an audience. It feels rather odd to think that we're almost done now.

In the late morning I had an offer to attend the Jerusalem film festival next month, which feels like an incredibly good idea in the light of the fact that I'm presently working with Michael to try to pitch a film about Tel Aviv to Israeli producers. An hour later I'd impetuously booked a flight to Israel, knowing that you sometimes have to do these things straight away before the sensible part of your brain tells you what a silly idea it is because you're poor! I've obviously made the right decision as a series of meetings have already been fixed. Also: how exciting to go to Israel!

In the evening we were meant to have a dress rehearsal, but Hannah felt time would much better be spent running all of the numbers for sound. We have another dress this afternoon, and she rightly felt that it could be really demoralising if we had to keep ploughing on regardless, knowing that huge mistakes were happening that it would be almost impossible to fix without stopping and starting again. Her instincts were absolutely right and I left the rehearsal feeling much more upbeat about things. So much, in fact, that my legs started to feel a bit fizzy and I decided to walk all the way home. Across the Heath! It took an hour and a half. Nathan forced me to have a bath when I got home. I think I smelt a bit!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Pulling together?

I find myself incredibly moved by the large-scale political mobilisation of young people which is taking place at the moment. Finally, a vociferous and powerful collective voice to rise up against pointless austerity measures and the complacency and "I'm-alright-Jackness" of many of the Baby Boomers, whose total disregard for anyone but themselves is tasteless in the extreme. 

For the record, it is NOT okay to have a really decent pension deal for yourself and then block the younger generation from having the same privilege. It is NOT okay to buy your council house and then stand by, tutting at poor people and calling them lazy, when the government says it can't afford more social housing. And it is certainly not okay to vote Brexit when your children and grandchildren urge you not to because they are the ones who have to live with the fall out. Being old does not inherently make you wise, it simply makes you more. The older I get, the more I realise this. So, frankly, if older people aren't prepared to take responsibility for the young, then young people need to take it for themselves. And these Baby Boomers would only have themselves to blame if young people got into power and immediately cut pensioner benefits, arguing that this particular generation has done well enough out of benefits. Of course they won't do that, because young people appear to have a better grasp of social responsibility... and that makes me happy.

Of course it's not all Baby Boomers. Of course it's not. I feel incredibly proud of my parents, for example, who displayed a Labour poster in their window despite the impossibility of a Labour MP ever representing constituency. And there are many other people of their generation who care just as much, and my thanks go to anyone reading this blog aged over 70 who has given thought to how hard it is to be young at the moment. You are the people with nothing to gain out of being generous. And that, in my view, is true altruism.

Frankly, anyone who is still supporting the Tories as they climb into bed with nutters of the DUP and dangerously undermine the Good Friday agreement, needs to have their head examined. If there's a sudden surge of Irish-related violence, then you will all have blood on your hands. If you genuinely have more interest in ripping us away from Europe then you do the peace of our own union then please delete me from your lives. I have nothing to say to you without getting into an argument.

We went to a coffee shop today where two newspapers, The Mirror and The Express were sitting at the same table. Obviously both of these comics have very different political outlooks, and the way that both were dealing with the recent election told me as much as I needed to know about the reason why the country is so polarised. The (left-leaning) Mirror showed a photograph of Corbyn looking presidential with the headline "we will evict Number 10 squatters" whilst the right-wing Express opined, "we need to calm down and pull together, says Boris."

What hope do we ever have of pulling together if newspapers aren't responsible enough to state fact without hyperbole?

Monday, 12 June 2017

Best songs and singing

Nathan and I headed down to central London this afternoon to attend the Stephen Sondheim Society's Student Performer of the Year competition at the Noel Coward Theatre. The competition is run in conjunction with the Stiles and Drewe Prize for best new song, for which Brass had been shortlisted.

The idea is that twelve students cherry-picked from drama schools across the country compete for the award of performer of the year, by singing a Sondheim song and a song by a new British writer. I was lucky enough to have a young lad called Rob Peacock singing Brass, and he did a stunning job of it. In the end it didn't win. I think perhaps my song came close as it was singled out for a shedload of praise from George Stiles who said "it was a really beautiful song with such reach and melodic power." The team from Rogers and Hammerstein were there. They publish Brass and came bounding up to me afterwards to say how beautiful the song had sounded. I think a fair number of people were surprised that the piece worked so well with just a piano.

Bizarrely, I knew all the judges, who included Dan Gillespie Sells, lead singer from The Feeling who, of course, sang us up the aisle.

In the end the contest was won by a very charming song called Gerry and Me, which was beautifully written, despite perhaps owing quite a lot to Jason Robert Brown.

The performer prize was won by Izuka Hoyle, who is plainly destined for great things. She's stunningly beautiful, and has one of the best sets of pipes I've heard in ages.

There was an after show in the penthouse in a swanky hotel on Leicester Square where two cokes cost an outrageous £7.70! The views over London were, however, stunning.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

The DUP?!

So it would appear that Theresa May has got into bed with the ghastly DUP in a last-ditched attempt to stop her house of cards from tumbling down. It beggars belief to learn what that dreadful person will do simply to remain in power. Who else will she screw over in this increasingly bizarre one-woman mission to gain a "hard Brexit"? What even is hard Brexit? She claims it's the will of the people and yet she refuses to tell us what it is. One assumes that's because she knows it's something the people won't want. What the hell is that nut job planning?

Now I don't pretend to be an expert in the DUP. Rumour has it they're anti-abortion and that some of them are creationists, which is just the sort of lunacy you need in politics particularly to prop up a prime minister who, by her own admission regularly asks for God's assistance when making decisions. What's certainly not in doubt is the DUP's utterly backward views on gay marriage. Because of them, Northern Ireland remains the last corner of the British Isles where LGBT people are not equal. In my mind you would have to be a fairly unpleasant person to continue to back a prime minister who would be prepared to cynically form an alliance with people like that, particularly in the light of the fact that May is only in Parliament right now because of the surge in support for her party in Scotland, a phenomenon largely attributed to Ruth Davidson, a gay woman, who is about to get married to her long term partner!


I'm finally at the stage with Em where I've done all the work I need to do as writer and can leave a rehearsal at the end of a day without worrying about what I need to do when I get home. It's been a long time coming! Of course, I get home at night far too tired to do anything other than sleep, but it's a relief to know somehow that, if I went into a coma tomorrow, the show would still go on. It's floating. I've done my bit. And, furthermore, the creative team is so strong that I don't need to do anything in rehearsals now except sit at the back of the theatre drinking tea and trying to keep everyone chipper through the long tech.

The show has suddenly started to feel coherent and exciting. I realise I've spent much of the rehearsal period feeling a little distanced from the material I've written. I'm not quite sure why that is. I had the crap kicked out of me on Beyond the Fence, so there's probably an element of self-preservation in play. It's possible too that my subconscious, knowing how close I am to the material, has forced me to remain a little more detached and aloof. It may simply be that I've become old and jaded. It's probably quite healthy for a writer to stay on the outside of his work, however, and not to be as profoundly engulfed by it as I was with Brass. The most peculiar thing about Brass is that I actually ended up feeling like I was dealing with my own memories to the extent that it never even occurred to me to wonder, for example, whether the language I was using was authentic. It was probably something to do with my life long obsession with the First World War. All kinds of little stories and accounts that I'd read over the years had become so lodged in my mind that it sometimes ended up feeling like I was telling my own story! That, or that, in a previous life, I was some sort of Tommy!

Friday, 9 June 2017


I went to bed last night daring to hope that there'd be a hung parliament this morning and woke up to the news that we'd got one. Theresa May has had that ghastly, smug, somewhat insane smirk wiped off her face. And that'll do for me. Of course she's telling us all that the country now needs a period of stability. But the country ain't listening, babe, because we all know that you divided us and made us miserable all over again by calling this general election purely for your own political gain and to prove how popular you are. Spectacular own goal! And now, to make matters worse for her, she's going to have to start kissing Scotland's arse, because if it wasn't for the Conservative gains in Scotland (in a heartening display of a Scottish desire to remain in the union) she would be entirely incapable of forming a government.

On and on the Brexiteers went about Remainers needing to shut up and accept the will of the people. And I say one thing. Last night has proved that the will of the people is an ever-moving and complicated thing. No one should ever feel forced to lie down and give in.

I woke up with clarity this morning about one thing. If the Brexit vote and this subsequent election have taught us nothing else it's that the British people are rebels. It's part of our spirit. We don't want anyone telling us what to do and will go to almost any length to prove this fact. And that actually makes me feel rather proud.

Thursday, 8 June 2017


I rather grumpily cast my vote first thing this morning. I went into Jackson's Lane Community Centre, half expecting to have been disenfranchised by Haringey Council for the third time, after we discovered last night that we hadn't been sent a polling card. I don't know how many times one can be expected to register oneself to vote at the same address before something officially sticks, but plainly it's more times than one would assume!

Anyway, as it happened I was on their list and the woman was able to get her ruler and pencil out and put a line through my name. I wasn't asked for ID. I could have looked over her shoulder and claimed to be the first name on her list that I could read without a line through it. Turn-out is likely to be so low on this election that I doubt anyone would actually have noticed. It demonstrates how genuinely easy it is to commit election fraud in this manner. It seems we spend all our time trying to prevent online fraud, and yet, when it comes to voting in person, there's a woman with a pencil asking for your address!

For the record, I voted Lib Dem, really as a thank you to Lynne Featherstone, who was a great constituency MP and was almost single-handedly responsible for the LGBT marriage act. I didn't much care for the campaign the Labour woman Catherine West ran to oust Lynne from office. It felt underhand and cynical and she's turned out to be a very crummy MP who hasn't bothered to respond to any emails I've sent her about either Brexit or Corbyn. So it was middle for diddle for me.

I was hugely unimpressed by both the Workers' Revolutionary Party and the Women's Equality Party for forwarding candidates who didn't even have addresses in the constituency. Also, my constituency has been exclusively represented by women MPs since Barbara Roche in 1992. I have to believe that they will be fighting for women's equality where they see it's necessary. The Lib Dem person I voted for was also a woman. Actually, so was the Tory!

As I came out of the polling station a woman was literally doing cartwheels. "I've voted for the first time!" She was yelling to a friend the other side of the street. "I've voted for the first time in this country!" She was so excited. One assumes she'd recent been granted full citizenship or something, because she didn't look far off my age. And at that moment I understood the importance of the vote.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Rain and more rain

Rain poured through the roof throughout the night yesterday. We could hear it steadily dripping into a bucket through one of the skylights in the loft. It was a hollow, surprisingly rhythmic sound. Our landlord is aware of the problem. Men keep coming round to "fix it", but none have so far had any impact on the problem. They arrive during dry periods, crawl out on the roof for a few minutes, spend hours telling us the nature of the problem as they see it, and then, when the rain returns, we're back to square one. It's a curiously depressing do-si-do. We have a wonderfully reasonable rent, and a great relationship with our landlord, and just don't want to be the people who whine about this sort of thing. So it's catch 22.

The walk to the tube yesterday morning in driving rain was supremely bizarre. It was falling at an angle which meant the tiny umbrella I'd found in our kitchen drawer was only actually able to keep my head dry. My trousers were damp. My back was soaked. Then it was so muggy and warm on the tube that I started sweating profusely, so then everything was wet, and I smelt like a wet dog and felt profoundly sorry for myself.

Nothing could top my walk in Camden, however, where, on top of the rain, there was some sort of profound gale going on which instantly turned my umbrella inside out and made me want to weep. My shoes at that point started taking in water. It was happening to everyone. Everywhere I looked, people were being buffeted about. Branches of trees were scattered on the pavements. June it wasn't!

News seems to be filtering in rather slowly from London Bridge. The headline story is that quite a lot of the injured and dead are foreign nationals. It's hardly surprising. London is an international city, and wears its love for outsiders on its sleeve. Stab London through the heart and the ripples reverberate across the world. The other major story appears to be that a huge amount of the bravery and heroism in the face of the attackers came from people born in mainland European countries. A Romanian, called Florin Morariu, threw crates at the attacker's head. Giovanni Sagristani and his partner, Carlos Pinto, a nurse, fought the man out of a cafe and delivered crucial first aid to one of the wounded. None of this to me is reading particularly like a reason to throw all the Europeans out of our country. And yet, almost immediately after the attack, a rush of people took to Twitter demanding a swifter and harsher Brexit. Back off. This is a London thing. And Londoners overwhelmingly voted to remain.

We did a minute's silence in the rehearsal room at 11am. People across London were marking the moment and it felt hugely appropriate to do the same thing.

Other than this my day was spent under headphones orchestrating. Right up against it. Panicking wildly. I'm now so tired that I have deep black lines under my eyes. I didn't notice them until the head of musical theatre (who hasn't seen me for a bit) pointed them out. I immediately went to a mirror and couldn't quite believe what I was seeing!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017


It felt incredibly muted on the tubes today. Everyone seemed a bit low energy. A bit sad, perhaps. Maybe I was imagining things. But even the buskers seemed to be playing rather gentle, mournful, respectful music. I travelled to Oval this afternoon for a meeting of the Musicians Union's Writers' Committee and a quirk of fate meant I ended up on the wrong branch of the Northern Line, having to change lines at London Bridge, which was deathly silent.

The LU staff were highly chipper. I think perhaps they'd all decided to be as jovial and upbeat as possible. A woman speaking into one of those hand-held speaker things, said "stand clear of the closing doors. Beep. Beep. Beep..." Bless her soul.

We've moved rehearsal venue from Borough up to Central School itself in Swiss Cottage, so the commute is a little shorter. If I were driving it would be considerably shorter still, but Highgate to Swiss Cottage is a bit of a faff on public transport because it involves taking a tube to Camden and then a "31 bus to White City." Obviously I don't go all the way to White City. That would be silly. Although I'm always amused by the bus announcements which report only the final destination.

A child had a tantrum on the bus today. A major, major tantrum. His mother, in desperation, plonked him down on the nearest empty seat, which happened to be next to me, and for the next few minutes my ears were ringing from the sound of high-pitched screaming. The child eventually yelled himself into a torpor, slowly deflating, like a burst beach ball, into a corner of the bus where he shivered like an addict, his sallow eyes peering at me. Spent.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

No words

There are no real words to describe how I felt when I heard about the terrorist attack on London Bridge last night. Philippa texted me: "You're not near London Bridge are you?" I'd gone for an evening stroll on the Heath. I'd heard a few sirens and a couple of helicopters, but nothing particularly untoward.

I instantly texted Brother Edward - who is more likely to be in that part of town - and then emailed my Mum to say I was okay. There's very little else you can do.

Nathan was out for the evening, with friends in East London, but I couldn't get through to him. Instinctively I knew he'd be fine. As he was. But I kept thinking "what if he went off piste? What if he ended up in Borough Market for some reason?"

There's nothing else to say. London will carry on like nothing's happened. War time spirit, and all that...

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Diva strops

It was so humid yesterday. I'm told there was a giant thunder storm whilst we were in rehearsals. Hannah got caught in it. Emerging from the building was like stepping into a shower cubical. Absolutely no breeze. It was bizarre.

The opera company continue to rehearse in the space next to us. I have to say, I find the performers a funny old bunch to say the least. One of the performers wafted into the green room yesterday morning and, instead of talking to the person behind the desk about the possibility of turning the air conditioning on, she decided instead to stand in the middle of the room asking everyone who caught her eye if they were feeling hot as well. It was a dramatic display of somewhat desperate passive aggression. You'd think she was being boiled alive. Eventually she sat down and started chowing down on some kind of herbal tea. A few minutes later a stage manager popped into the room and asked if she'd mind stepping into the rehearsal space. She looked appalled: "You want me ten minutes early? I'm not called for ten minutes..." "Well, we thought we'd crack on." "Well if I'm coming in now, I'll have to leave the rehearsal ten minutes early. No, I mean it. I need my rest." Poor love.

Over the course of the morning, I heard a veritable litany of complaints from the opera singers. None of them seemed to want to actually rehearse. I'm sure they're simply happy to park and bark centre stage, thinking only about their vocal projection without any of the pesky extra hassle of actually acting. It was almost as though they were wearing their diva behaviour as a badge of honour: As though stroppiness was part and parcel of being taken seriously as an artist. The shirtier you are, the better singer they'll think you are.

Later still I overheard one of the male singers chewing the ear off one of the stage managers; "the director can't do that. He really can't. For my sanity." He wasn't joking.

Of course I remember all this nonsense from my time in opera in the late '90s. I remember working on a production of Madam Butterfly and rehearsing in deepest, darkest East London on a Saturday. We had two tin pot Asian divas alternating the title role, and they used to compete for the spotlight. On one occasion, we were auditioning children to play the role of Sorrow, Madam Butterfly's son. The children were aged about five and the audition entailed Butterfly singing to them full out so that we could tell if the loud noises were going to freak them out. One poor lad arrived on set only to be told that the Butterfly wasn't prepared to sing to him. "He's too ugly to be my child" she shouted. Then she stormed away.

The stage manager asked if she'd like a sandwich for lunch. "I want sushi" she demanded. Let's bear in mind that this was 1998, and Sushi wasn't exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to buy in a sandwich shop in the East End on a Saturday. "I'm not sure I'll be able to find any sushi around here" said the stage manager, "then I go home" said the tin pot diva. He sighed, and went up to the other Madam Butterfly to ask if she was hungry. She said she wasn't. So he trekked off to Liverpool Street station, and, an hour later, reappeared with sushi for the soprano. She barely thanked him. At that moment, the other Butterfly appeared. "I am hungry now." The stage manager smiled politely, "okay, what can I get you?" "Sushi..." So off he trudged to Liverpool Street... Again.

Opera singers can be really quite horrible people!

Friday, 2 June 2017

Crashing into the Groucho

God I hate opera! They're rehearsing opera in the next door room to us, and whenever I pass, I get a chilly blast of what's going on. It's always slightly out of tune. Huge wavering vibrato covers up any sense of an actual pitch and there's a desperate over-the-topness about it. Terrible terrible acting: like in the silent movies, with performers papering their faces with emotion, showing their feelings rather than convincing me that they're feeling those feelings...

I went to Pam Gilby's funeral yesterday afternoon up at the beautiful crematorium in Hampstead Garden Suburb. I was very pleased to have gone. Lots of the Fleet Singers were there. I hadn't realised that she'd actually formed the choir, so I'm really hoping they'll be able to carry on in her absence. I was incredibly moved to be introduced to Pam's son, Robin. He gave me a big hug and said "Pam thought so highly of you." It was rather wonderful to be able to tell him that I'd thought just as highly of her.

After the service, as the doors opened, and we filed out into the gloriously beautiful garden behind the chapel, the wind whipped up and thousands of pieces of thistle down started dancing in the air, to the extent that I wondered for a spilt second if it was snowing. At the same moment, a fox sauntered its way across the lawn and sat, no more than fifteen meters away from us, happily minding its own business, seemingly completely unconcerned about the groups of people milling around near by.

I went home to continue to orchestrate, but the mother of all computer crashes meant I catastrophically and irreparably lost three hours work. Just like that. Bam. Under normal circumstances I'm almost obsessive about saving my work, but the system was glitchy, and I must have been so focussed on working around the problems I was encountering that I simply forgot. Just what you need.

I ended up at the Groucho Club last night with Philip Sallon, Michael and a truck-load of Jewish people. It's a long story, which would be way too boring to put in print but it was a fun night and a much-needed bit of time off.

I was a little perturbed to pass through Soho Square en route to find it teaming with straight people. The Edge is no longer a gay bar and the square itself no longer seems to be a place where gay folk sit on summer nights. It's not so much a shame as simply something this old man needs to get used to. Soho is just not a gay Mecca any more. With the advent of online chat rooms and the growth of social media, gay men no longer need to hang out in gay bars. It's probably also the case that young gay men no longer want to be pigeon-holed in this manner and would rather drink in mixed establishments. Fair play to them. The usualisation of homosexuality is, after all, the thing we all fought for and a bi-product of that has to be the loss of ghettoisation.

I suppose my sadness is associated with The Edge being the first gay bar I ever visited. I went there with Philippa and Moira in 1994 and met the curiously-named Maximilian William Flowers. The fact that I still remember the (albeit unusual) name of someone I met in passing on that particular night shows quite how much of an impact it had on me. It was profoundly exciting. I was in the legendary Soho. The place I'd read about. And I was surrounded by people like me! I could be myself without worrying about getting beaten up. Ah! The good old days!

Thursday, 1 June 2017


It's all feeling a little like Groundhog Day at the moment. All the days are bleeding into one another. I'm in and out of pairs of headphones. Half my mind is on the task of orchestration, the other half is in the rehearsal room, trying to focus on what's going on there. I suspect I'm not doing either particularly well, but I chug onwards regardless. I have now completed twelve of the seventeen songs. Well, at least, I have done the first pass of twelve arrangements. I am excruciatingly bored of working until eleven most evenings. I think the first band call is in seven days, and, at the moment, I'm finishing one orchestration per day. I have five left. I'm right up to the wire!

The fact that the weather is so nice at the moment is making me feel a little like the world is sort of passing me by. I haven't seen friends for ages, or sat on the Heath. The little area where we work is full of cafes and lovely spots to while away the hours, but we're always indoors. And I'm always under headphones! It's a harsh old life!

I didn't watch the election TV debate last night. In general I've absolutely no interest in watching a bunch of bad actors posturing and squabbling. I don't have any interest in what any of them are saying, largely, I think, because they don't have any interest in what I or any of us have to say, unless it's going to have an effect on their electability. It's terrible. What is, of course, even more desperate is that Theresa May was too "busy" (read arrogant... or scared) to turn up and fight her corner. I genuinely don't know what kind of a message she's trying to send out, but I'm sure the baby boomers will find it in their hearts to forgive her. She reminds them all of Thatcher. Those good old days of divide and conquer where people could lord it over their own relatives and where the perverts, the poor and the scroungers got their just desserts. Yeah, let's called Corbyn "comrade" and tragically try to make everyone really scared of the left.