Tuesday, 31 January 2017

More fraud

There's an awful advert for Macdonald's on the telly at the moment which features two women stuck in a lift. They make the most of the terrible situation by bonding the way that only women with their precious ability to respect and love each other can. One says "what lovely shoes" and the other one responds "would you like to try them on?" That bit always makes Nathan feel sick. He has a pathological hatred of feet. They play the name game with post-its and show each other photos on their mobile phones. Finally the rescue men arrive (men, you'll note), and prize open the lift doors, passing the girls a bag full of chicken dippers, or something similar. At this point the women turn nasty and refuse to share their food with one another. The message of the advert is supposed to be that Macdonald's food is just too tasty to share, but actually they're saying women are dreadful, fickle creatures, who would stab their new best mate in the back for a plate of chemically-enhanced chicken. One wonders how an advert like that is conceived. And I'm not necessarily sure we can blame male advertising execs...

I spent the morning with young Josh at the greasy spoon round the corner. We put the world to rights, talking about theatre and politics, before returning home for me to finally pay my tax bill. In the process of paying I dared to look at my bank balance and discovered, to my great horror, that a whole heap of fraudulent activity has been taking place on my account, mostly in the form of someone going for regular meals at a Weatherspoon's... And when I say regular, we're talking sometimes five meals a day: £30 here, £25 there, but all adding up to well over a grand's worth of shitty food during the course of January. That's one hungry thief! Typical me, really, to attract a foodie with the least classy taste buds!

Obviously my card has instantly been cancelled, but I was somewhat distressed to learn that the fraudster had also tried to pay for hotels using my details, but that all this money had been reimbursed. The hotels had obviously (rightly) decided it was a dodgy transaction. Quite why my bank hadn't noticed and then notified me about this curious activity, I'm not sure. The man I spoke to seemed as non-plussed as I was. All in all there were 44 dodgy transactions. I wonder if the fraudsters have any concept of who I am. Do they know my name? Have they wondered what sort of person I am? Have they googled me? I wonder if they feel any guilt at all for what they're doing to people? I bet they consider this to be a victimless crime.

So it would appear that the coward, Theresa May, is hell bent on not condemning Trump for his catastrophic policies on immigration, which, I'm convinced, will single-handedly make Americans public enemy number one in the face of Islamic extremists. I don't just think he's going to end up with a problem on home soil. I'm pretty sure he's also going to make Americans abroad the target for all sorts of nastiness. And yet Theresa May is so desperate to be loved by everyone that she won't openly condemn him. She poo-poohed the petition which is currently doing the rounds - until it started hurtling up to the 2 million signatures mark, when suddenly she sat up, thought "oh shit" and asked Amber Rudd to pour some scorn on Trump. (Note how she gets Rudd to do it instead of Boris Johnson because she can't trust him to do anything but make himself look like a giant areola.) I loathe that woman. She's a dick.

Monday, 30 January 2017

The Dry Cleaner from DesMoines

I worked all day today and spent the morning in the local "orange" cafe. There was a really eclectic playlist coming over the sound system, which even included music from Joni Mitchell's seminal album, Mingus. I haven't heard any of those tracks for many years. I listened to it on repeat for much of my first year at University after being introduced to it by third year jazzers on the music course. There was a great snobbery attached to jazz music at York University. You were either a jazzer, or you weren't. I would love to have been one. The cool kids all did jazz. I became a "thesp" instead. In fact, they called me King Thesp. I used to walk around barefoot in a kaftan. Even in the snow. Philippa was Queen Thesp.

If you're interested in quirky jazz and funk, I would recommend a listen to Mingus. You can hear The Dry Cleaner From DesMoines here

York University would appear to be twice the size that it was in my day. There's a whole extra campus called Heslington East, which seems to be the new location of Goodricke and Langwith Colleges, both of which used to be situated on the main campus. There's a new lake and everything. I'm not sure how I'd feel if my old college had upped-sticks and made its way to a new location.

My accountant emailed me late tonight to say that she'd managed to average my earnings from the last two years, and, in the process, save me a considerable amount of tax liability, which is a heck of a relief. I heard a piece on the radio last night which suggested that the British tax system is the most complicated in the world. They're trying to change things, but, apparently, it's not going to get any easier for freelancers. I've heard we're now going to have to do tax returns four times a year. Just what we need.

I've been going though the script of Em today. Philippa has given me a few notes, and Clare, up at Edge Hill Univserity, gave me some pointers on Scouse dialect. I suspect I'm only really going to be titting about with the script until we do a reading and I get to hear whether the dialogue is effectively coming off the page.

Nathan has already gone to bed, and I am waiting up for Young Josh who is staying at ours tonight. It'll be lovely to see him.


Well I have to confess that the news from the States is slowly wearing me down. A petition from a Leeds-based solicitor is doing the rounds. It suggests that the Queen should not be forced to meet Donald Trump when he comes to the UK on a "State visit" because it would cause the monarch too much to embarrassment. It was Theresa May's idea to bring old Trumpy-bum over here, and she resolutely stands by the idea in the face of 1 million signatures suggesting she reconsider. Theresa May, we're told, has already infuriated the Queen by answering the monarch's question about what Brexit would actually mean for the country with the vapid, broken-record remark that "Brexit means Brexit." hate Theresa May almost as much as I hate Trump, which is almost as much as I hate Boris Johnson.

It comes to something when American friends are thanking us for signing the petition. My dear friend Christopher Sieber said things were getting "really hairy" over there. And yet people continue to remain apathetic, taking great delight in remaining neutral and burying their heads in the sand whilst the world falls apart. This "silent majority" were the ones who allowed Hitler to do his worst and don't you dare try to claim that this is somehow different. If you don't agree with what is going on at the moment, you have a duty as a human being to register protest before someone you love has their civil rights taken away from them. How long before gay marriage is repealed in the US I wonder? They did it in California, it's not beyond the realm of possibility.

I've been shafted by a tax bill which has meant I've not slept for days now. My accountant is currently in the process of seeing if there's any way of lowering it based on the fact that my earnings for 2017 are 1/6th of my earnings for 2016. It's utterly hopeless. UK tax regulations have always been profoundly complicated and unbalanced when it comes to freelancers with wavering incomes.

Sunday, 29 January 2017


The cast of the new Trainspotting film were on the Graham Norton show last night and it instantly struck me quite how era-defining the original film had been for my generation, right down to its music. I can't hear those two iconic chords from Born Slippy by Underworld without being transported to 1997, when I was 22. I think it's no co-incidence that the coming-of-age film for my generation was about listless drug addicts struggling to find a sense of identity. Lack of identify is the quintessential problem for Generation X. We didn't come of age in a blaze of Rock n Roll, New Romanticism or Punk. We were the generation whose pop stars were Neighbours and Eastenders cast members and the first manufactured bands. Victoria Beckham from the Spice Girls famously went on a twenty-year voyage to discover what it was that she was actually good at but, in the mean time, we still accepted her as a celebrity. We're all in our early forties these days and yet we've still not offered any truly iconic figures to the world. In my view, a lot of the problem originates in the fact that we grew up the children of Thatcherism, watching cycles of boom and bust where no-one cared about society and everyone cared about money. I haven't really thought about the issue a great deal more, but something awoke in me when I saw the cast of Trainspotting, and I think it and I think it was a sense of anger for my generation!

I learned yesterday that Westminster Council has decided to start penalising the drivers of diesel cars. From now on, parking in the Borough is going to be twice as expensive for diesel vehicles. Diesel has been utterly demonised of late and it seems everyone is jumping on this particular hate wagon. Ironically, we bought a diesel car because, at the time, it was meant to be better for the environment. Plainly this is no longer the case. Someone from the council was interviewed, and he was really hard line, "we want to make people think twice about their decision to buy vehicles which pollute the environment." That's me told.

The problem is that you're taxing the poor. Wealthy people don't care how much it costs to park. They just park. It's people like Nathan and me, who can't afford to replace our diesel vehicle, who will be shafted by this new rule. Apparently we're to expect a massive hike in what we pay to enter the congestion zone as well. I'll look forward to that.

I assisted Abbie at a quiz in a Synagogue last night. Every time I sit in a reform Synagogue, a sense of great calm wafts over me. It shouldn't matter, but it matters enormously to me that this is one of three British religions which supports gay marriage. Walking into a religious space where homosexuality is not just tolerated, but genuinely celebrated, always has a profound effect on me. I love visiting a place of worship where there's no sense that someone's going to come out of the woodwork and try to convert me. That's the joy about Judaism. There's no agenda of this description.

Abbie played the theme from Schindler's List as part of a "name the film" question. I was proud of her for doing so, particularly as the other assistant felt so strongly that she shouldn't have. People get so embarrassed by the concept of cultural faux pas. It was more than a little moving, to sit in a Synagogue listening to that particular piece of music. Aside from being one of the most beautiful pieces of film music ever written, it's also extraordinary to watch a group of people, happily taking part in a quiz, and think that, even in this country, in this era, anti-semitism still exists. It's always so depressing to go through so many high steel gates just to get into a place of worship. Imagine that in a church?

Friday, 27 January 2017

Stir crazy

I've officially gone stir-crazy today. The cold-man-'flu rumbles on, and, as a result, it's too tiring to leave the house for long periods of time. I feel like one of those Victorian children wearing a sailor suit who got carried about on a cushion because they were deemed to "sickly" to travel by their own steam. We went to the local Sainsbury's today, and the simple act of carrying two bags of shopping home exhausted us both.

I'm finding it almost impossible to concentrate on anything for long. Every time my brain is faced with a stumbling block, it caves in. I was trying to write music earlier - and it would go okay until the situation required a bit of thought, at which point, I'd get flustered and start something else.

The biggest problem of all is that I feel claustrophobic and cooped-up like a silly little hen. I'm bored of my own thoughts. I'm getting ratty. The biggest treat of the day is to go down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea with the lovely new kettle Fiona gave us... The rest of the time, I just want to fall asleep, but when I try to sleep, I get woken up by the weird gurgling in my lungs which sounds a little bit like there's a tiny, angry man in my Å“sophagus trying to take delivery of something!

I saw a set of photographs today from a production of Madam Butterfly at the Scala. I'm sure the production sounded exquisite, but I have to say, in an era where so much is made about issues regarding authenticity and race, the time may have passed when it's appropriate to have non-Japanese women playing this enduring role. I don't know why it is that opera remains the final frontier when it comes to forcing audiences to suspend their disbeliefs. I get incredibly bored when people maintain that a 50-year old, rather dumpy opera singer, has "convinced" an audience "through clever acting" that they're a delicate ingenue. Opera singers are, in general, the poor cousins when it comes to acting in the visual arts, and frankly, what you lose vocally from hiring someone with the right look, or ethnicity to play a role, you gain ten times over in believability. Sorry to be hard line, but I can't think the art form will survive much longer if we don't start acknowledging some basic truths. Why would anyone believe that the following image is of a fragile 18 year-old Japanese woman with a fearless and vital American army general? It makes no sense to me.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Stink bomb

Don't you just hate it when London Underground publish posters which advertise "planned" closures of lines and stations. Like it would be possible to create a poster which advertised "unplanned" station closures!

The weather today was brutally cold. I haven't yet needed to wear a coat this winter, but today I rather wish I'd at least worn a scarf. I'm not really complaining. I love it when it gets really cold because it's the only time of the year when I don't overheat. I have a broken thermostat.

I went into town today to meet a lovely lady called Sharon who works in the alumni department at the University of York. She wanted to introduce me to Tom Cantrell who runs the (relatively new) theatre department there. We had lunch in a cafe called Note, which, when I last checked, was the classical record store attached to the Coliseum. I was a little sad to see that it's gone, but, let's face it, who goes shopping for CDs these days?

It was a lovely meeting. I was able to fill them both in on the career successes of some of the people I studied with at York, and they're keen to bring me up to the university to talk to some of the students about my own work, which would, of course, be a great honour. No one has to ask me twice to go to Yorkshire!

I bumped into Hannah Chissick on my way into the meeting. She looked haunted and confessed that she was on her way home from rehearsals, suffering from a ghastly 'flu. There's definitely something going round and I'm now convinced that what Nathan and I had definitely had the severity of a 'flu. She described herself as feeling "transparent" and I knew exactly what she meant. I'm personally a great deal better, but by no means out of the trees. I'm still finding most things, including the merest act of thinking, highly tiring. Even today, whilst sitting in the cafe, I suddenly became aware of having a desperately dry mouth, which no amount of water seemed to be able to touch. I'm also still making a slightly watery, gurgling noise when I breathe. It's a horrible sensation.

I went home via Leicester Square, which smelt of shit. Do people still let off stink bombs? If they don't, some old lady had a really rough journey down the escalators just before me!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Sallon in Soho

We slept until 11am this morning and I think we're both feeling a little better as a result. There's certainly a bit more colour in our cheeks. I looked like Zammo off of Grange Hill in the mirror yesterday!

It's been a very quiet day. We're still coughing, wheezing and spluttering, so have spent much of our time under duvets. Doing anything is exhausting. I've been out of the house twice, on both occasions to visit the local shop, and when I got back inside, I was panting like a fat person.

I managed to do a bit of work this evening. I worked on the Nene project, playing about with a few melodies, and developing lyrics for the sequence in the Cambridgeshire Fens, where I feel begrudgingly compelled to rhyme Nene with "been."

Our kettle broke in early December, so, for the last two months, I've been boiling water on a stove like a Victorian. Fiona took great pity on us during her last visit, and, discovering that we were ill, was kind enough to send us a kettle through the post so that we could have hot lemon and honey. It was deposited at 9.30pm tonight by a very confused Amazon delivery man. Everyone gets confused by the location of our front door.  It's the reason why we've never had anyone canvas us from a political party, or been trick or treated at Hallowe'en. I'm officially excited about the concept of honey and lemon.

It's a quiet news day, so if anyone reading this fancies a little blast from the past, I'd love you to have a look at a film we shot (massively guerrilla-style) about eight years ago in Soho. It features my dear friend, the eccentric, Philip Sallon, who was a 1980s club host and a founding father of both Punk and New Romanticism. We shot the film to demonstrate the fact that Soho was dying. Since this film was shot, huge areas of the district have closed down and are being replaced by fancy-brand shops, and sanitised, themed restaurants. Philip is nocturnal and, for most of his life, has spent the wee-small hours, wandering around Soho, talking to the rent boys, the trannies, the druggies, the prostitutes, the bouncers, the old school Soho-types and the club kids. This little film, which is rough as old boots, gives some sense of his adventures... Have a watch.  

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Linda Nolan

I woke up this morning, checked my Facebook feed, and was instantly greeted by a shedload of staggering news from America. I'm finding it very difficult to believe this stuff is actually happening in a "civilised" nation... in 2017. I am astounded that a press conference was called simply to address press "lies" which suggested fewer people had attended Trump's inauguration than had turned up for Obama's. The press officer who spoke was bullying and angry, but as his rant continued, it became more and more ludicrous. It was the first time, he said, that the White House had used white mats to protect the grass. Obama's inauguration had seemed busier because everyone was standing on dark-coloured grass which made the gaps between them less obvious. It's laughable to think that the leader of the free world could be so obsessed with popularity and media manipulation that he would order such an embarrassing press "dressing down." If Gadaffi or Mugabe had pulled a similar stunt, we would have passed it off as the ramblings of a narcissist. The fact that he's the American president makes it more worrying than funny. And the whole sorry thing is beginning to develop shades of 1930s Germany. How long is it before Trump starts to punish those who dispute his version of the truth? How long will it be before the crime of being "anti-American" allows people to dob in neighbours they don't like? I hardly need to say that I'm very concerned to read that the first thing Trump did upon entering the White House was to remove all references to climate change and LGBT rights from the White House website.

A photograph is doing the rounds today featuring Trump signing an executive order which cuts funding to health groups which advise on abortion. This, of course, instantly makes me wonder which decade of the 20th century that sinister little mop-head thinks we've returned to. The photograph shows Trump at a desk, pen in hand, with a group of ten or so Republicans gurning proudly behind him in a kind of "let's show these whores how to behave" sort of way. The irony is that not a SINGLE person in the picture is a woman.

Those who read this blog regularly will know that I've always been very clear about the importance of differentiating between the times when there's a need to cry prejudice and the times when it feels like we're shouting it just because there's nothing else to shout. This photograph is definitely an example of the former. Trump is clearly a misogynist. But worst than this, just as Brexit brought the racists out of the woodwork, Trump's blatant misogyny appears to have given scores of people around the world carte blanche to get their own hatred of women off their chests. The responses to the women's marches on Saturday have been astonishing. Comedian, Frankie Boyle wrote a rallying tweet to the marching women, which was instantly shot down in flames by countless trolls, making some of the most depressingly offensive statements I've read since the Daily Mail published a piece about our wedding and someone felt the need to write that, in the 1930s in Germany, the Nazis would have had the decency to send Nathan and me to a concentration camp.

And yet millions of American women voted for him. What the hell?

I checked my emails this morning to discover that someone had very generously (and glowingly) reviewed my Pepys Motet album on their blog. The review starts with some fascinating information about Samuel Pepys' wife, Elizabeth, before developing into a review the album. If you still haven't bought your copy (highly likely based on present sales!) perhaps reading the review will inspire you to head over to my website, www.benjamintill.com and order a copy. You can download the album as well, at all the usual places.


I'm pleased to see that the government has lost its High Court challenge regarding article 50. It sets a precedent which will temper the behaviour of future potential despotic leaders - particularly those, like May, with a phone line to God. Of course, the ghastly Brexiteers are accusing Labour of attempting to thwart the will of the people, but, let's be honest, Mrs May could have accepted the result of the first court hearing some 70 days ago, so if anyone's stalling for time, it's that lump of kitten-healed viscousness. Instead of knuckling down to debate in the commons, she decided to waste huge sums of tax payers' money.

I suppose I'm feeling a little more chipper today, health-wise, but I'm by no means out of the woods. I felt like death this morning (no doubt whilst my body tried to get used to antibiotics) and, this afternoon, I felt gloriously light-headed for a lengthy period of time. I had to leave the house and travel the length of the Northern Line for a meeting at the Musicians' Union. I'm back on their writers' committee after a four-year hiatus. It was lovely to return to the fold, even though we ended up discussing one of the very issues we'd been discussing when I was last on the committee! The wooziness kept coming over me in waves. On some instances, I was unable to process information properly. One poor lad was trying to discuss working "with an artist from the Netherlands." I'm hoping he was mumbling, because I heard him saying, "I was working with an artist, Linda Nolan." "Linda Nolan?" I asked. He looked at me blankly, "no, from the Netherlands." To which I responded, "yes, I know she's from the Nolans." The two people sitting between us were literally wetting themselves with laughter. And then I spilt my tea, and that was it for the next five minutes!

Monday, 23 January 2017


I went to the doctors today after feeling like absolute shite for the entire day. It turns out that the level of oxygen in my blood is really low, so I've been put on a course of antibiotics. It's really very boring. Poor Nathan is also struggling, so we're like a pair of those hairless dogs which do nothing but shiver.
I get hot. I get cold. I shake. I sweat.

There's very little else to say about the day other than that, wrapped in a duvet on the sofa, I watched Neighbours for the first time in what has to be at least fifteen years. I was surprised that I recognised so many of the characters. Toadfish. One of the Scully sisters. Carl and Susan. And, most bizarrely, Stefan Dennis, who left the show whilst I was still at school! Heaven knows when he went back in. Curiously, he doesn't seem to have changed. I remember when he released a pop single. It was probably 1989. I think it was called "Don't it Make You Feel Good." I seem to recall it make great use of the "orchestra hit" sample!

Sunday, 22 January 2017


Wow! This cold is a humdinger! Nathan tells me I had a very restless night. I took a sleeping pill, but was aware that I was semi-hallucinating and tossing and turning. I eventually woke up at 11am, feeling no better than I'd felt the night before, and spent the early afternoon in a cycle of shivering and then sweating. My chest aches. I've barely any lung capacity. It hurts to cough.

Whatever this is has been duly passed on to Nathan, who is feeling really rough tonight. Two colds in two months? Come on! That's really not fair.

We had a text message just after lunch from the lovely Lisa, inviting us up to Huntingdon for a roast dinner. Plainly, two ill men would have been foolish to take her up on the offer, but it's always so wonderful to spend time with her, that we instantly jumped in our car and drove up the A1.

Mark was watching a gig in London, so it was just Lisa and the kids, plus our friend Tina Button (the coolest name in the world) who dropped in and was instantly cajoled into eating her second roast dinner of the day! Nathan reminded us of the Vicar of Dibley episode, where Dawn French double books herself and ends up eating four Christmas dinners. I remember a similar plot line in an episode of Hi-de-hi, with Gladys Pew going for several birthday dinners in the same Italian restaurant.

The kids were on great form. Both of them became utterly obsessed with the idea of playing with Nathan's beard. By the end of the evening, he was sporting a giant sparkly bow in it. I kept warm in front of the fire, dosed up to the nines on pretty much any cold and 'flu remedy I could get my hands on. I actually think I wouldn't have slept tonight had I spent the day indoors twiddling my thumbs, so I'm really pleased we were mad enough to drop everything and come up. I can't imagine I'll be starting the week tomorrow feeling rested and ready to rock, though. I think this cold has a few more days in it yet. Boo!

Dance dance dance

There's a programme on ITV at the moment called Dance Dance Dance, where celebrities, and their dancer mates try to recreate iconic dance routines from pop and rock videos. As such, it occupies the area between Let's Dance for Comic Relief and Strictly. It's actually my guilty pleasure. The dancing is actually really high quality. It's presented by Alesha Dixon, and, a somewhat jovial chap, who based on his little attempt at choreography in the opening show, really can't dance! Anyway, the hysterical thing is that the theme tune, which, unsurprisingly, is a setting of the words "Dance Dance Dance," features a group of singers who pronounce the word "dance" in such an American way that they almost sound like they're singing "daince, daince, daince." I'm always amused when they cut to Alesha whose first words are always "welcome to Dance, Dance, Dance" except her pronunciation of the word "dance" is so far into the realm of "daaaarnce" that she might as well be talking about a different show. I'm sorry. I've no idea what I'm writing. This cold is literally making my head swim about.

Why do weather people talk about "quiet" conditions? It seems to be a new adjective, and they're all using it. To me it's like talking about hearing images and seeing songs, which, of course, ABBA did to great effect on the Visitors album, but the last time I checked, weather forecasting was factual and not a form of poetry. Instead of quiet, I'd suggest "still" or "calm" instead.

I've been shivering under a duvet all day today. I feel rough as old boots. We went to Daniel and Matthew's this evening for the most amazing meal of aubergine Bake followed by an apple and almond pudding which was melt-in-the-mouth wonderful. It was lovely to see their twins as well. It's been a while since I last saw them. I just wish I could have sparkled more!

We came back home and watched the last two episodes of the Gilmore Girls, which made me a little sad, because I'm aware that Edward Hermann, who plays the father, died a few years ago, and therefore won't be coming back for the "ten years on" episodes. I have to go to bed. Nathan, for some reason, has turned the heating off in the house and I'm freezing cold.

Saturday, 21 January 2017


I sat in the cafe today behind a couple of young men who were spouting nothing but conspiracy theories. Jimmy Savile. David Cameron. Donald Trump. Aliens. They covered everything with theory after theory. I got exhausted simply listening to them. Imagine putting that much effort into being paranoid?! I can't really be doing with all that footle. If the world is run by lizards or people who "know shit that we don't," there's nothing I personally can do about it, so until I'm prevented from doing something I want to do by these invisible sources, I reckon I'm content to live in blissful ignorance. I certainly don't want the ground I stand on to seem any more unstable than it already does. I'm far happier trying to fight the evil that I CAN see.

I have a cold. There it is! The cough from last night mutated, and now I feel the need to quarantine myself from Nathan because I generously passed the last cold I had onto him and it was considerably more horrible for him than it had been for me.

The other person I delivered my last cold to was Abbie, so it was highly ironic that I'd been booked to do a quiz with her this evening!

The quiz was up the A1 in Barnet, and it was meant to take just forty minutes to get there, but apparently my satnav had different plans, and we ended up on the M25 in something of a panic, wondering why we were traveling in ever-decreasing circles.

We got there eventually, though, and the quiz went well. I largely felt like crap, and we were fed coriander, but Abbie was utterly brilliant and asked some really interesting questions. Did you know, for example, that the world record for female discus is actually a longer distance than the male record? The discuses women use are apparently lighter, but I'm still staggered by that particular statistic.

When we emerged from the quiz venue, the entire car park was covered in a thick layer of frost which glistened under the street lights. I had to run the engine for quite some time before starting my journey, just to clear the windscreen of ice.

We arrived back in Highgate at about 11.30 and I walked Abbie down to the tube to make sure trains hadn't stopped running and she wasn't going to be left in the lurch. I took the escalator exit back onto Archway Road, and as I emerged onto the pavement, two young women were passing, one of whom was plainly in the middle of a rant. What I heard was "fuck you" before they both looked at me, looked horrified, giggled and simultaneously said, "not you!"

Friday, 20 January 2017


The temperatures have plummeted in London and I've developed another tickly cough. I think I have to acknowledge that this is my body's weakness. Some people get headaches, some get tummy aches, I get pathetic coughs. I hope it's not going to turn into a cold.

I spent the day at the kitchen table creating a piano/ vocal score for a song in Em called The Cavern, which, unsurprisingly, features the central characters on a night out at Liverpool's premier club. The show is set in 1965, so there's more than a whiff of the Mersey Beats surrounding the song. It's funny writing a pop-based score. There's always a curious little voice in the back of your mind which says the music isn't somehow as serious or even as good as a more classically-inspired work like Brass. With a tiny pit band, you have to be incredibly inventive and really think out of the box to generate sonic variety.

I went to see Llio tonight and I helped her to structure a song she's been working on. It's an excellent piece: she simply needed an outsider's eye to polish the individual components and get them all in the right order. Structure and form is everything in music. It's only taken me 30 years to realise that!

There's not much else to say. I got a phone call from the manager of Toddington services today who informed me that there was no reason why the petrol pumps should have been closed for approaching half an hour on Tuesday night. Staff are "allowed" to close the garage whilst they cash up at the end of a shift, but this should take no more than five minutes and it's not allowed to take over ten. I don't get a great deal of enjoyment out of potentially getting two staff members in trouble, but if they're shirking, I refuse to feel too guilty. Had they been apologetic or empathetic instead of completely ignoring me, I might have felt a bit more sympathy.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Tap dancing and poisonous trees

It was very interesting observing the kids from Northamptonshire at the award ceremony last night. It's made me think a great deal about access to the arts, and I've come to the conclusion that opportunities in this field aren't reserved for people of one specific gender or creed, they're simply reserved for those who can pay for them. And if you can't pay, you enter a lottery which you're becoming increasingly less likely to win.

I've written about the "Northamptonshire malaise" before. The locals say that it's no coincidence that the first two letters of Northampton are "no." But I witnessed it last night in its rawest form. A group of young people sat in front of me who seemed to be almost crippled with embarrassment. Zero confidence. Zero swagger. Too scared to raise their heads above the parapet, in case they looked silly or, worse still, arrogant. And if this doesn't change, if there isn't a magical injection of confidence, how on earth will they convince anyone - a University, a work experience provider, an employer - to take them on? If you want to be a composer, or anything in the arts, you have to have guts, chutzpah and a genuine belief in your own ability. The thing that public school kids have in abundance, and the thing that manifests itself as street smarts in kids from the bigger cities.

Music is getting sucked out of state schools. I spoke to a lad yesterday who'd had to transfer to the local girl's school simply to do music A-level, because they stopped running it at his previous school. The same is happening in state schools across the county. Many schools these days don't even offer music as a GCSE subject. Decent music teachers are rapidly leaving the world of education and extra funds in schools are, these days, ploughed into English, maths and science.

Within the state sector, a lottery exists, which is based on how much the head teacher values music. We were shown a film last night made at Northampton School for Girls'. At this particular school, Friday afternoons are reserved for creative time. 200 of their students spend this period exploring expressive and performing arts, and the results are staggering and uplifting in equal measure which is, of course, great, if your daughter is a student at NSG. But what happens if your child is a boy? Which school does he go to in the county if he wants to play or study music? Of course there are still other schools which value the role music can play, but a sudden change of head, and the whole house of cards comes crashing down.

Some teachers won't even allow kids out of lessons for 20-minute music tuition once a week. A perfect storm is brewing, which, I'm afraid, has its roots in that ghastly swine, Michael Gove, who downgraded music in schools to the level of a "soft subject" in amongst a set of other sweeping reforms, which were about as welcome in the education sector as his pudgy little face in a Conservative club after he'd screwed Boris over, which, I hasten to add, aside from a surprisingly good track record on supporting gay rights, is about the only thing I think he's done which is worthy of applause!

So why was Gove so wrong? Obviously music as an academic subject in schools is a fairly niche area. There are many brilliant musicians who simply enjoy playing music in their spare time and don't want to study the subject formally. It's hard to evaluate what a music teacher is bringing to a school if your only way of judging these things is based entirely on results. But music in schools ticks so many other boxes. It gives kids confidence. It teaches them to listen. It improves their linguistic ear. They learn to collaborate. To share. To count. To focus. It gives them a release from the high pressure of traditional subjects. It enables kids to let off steam.

And the biggest irony of all, of course, is that prospective parents often judge a school by its outward-facing extra-curricular activities. The school choir. The school productions. The orchestra. It genuinely seems to me to be a no-brainer.

If we don't do something now, music provision will become the preserve of people in public schools, and this mustn't be allowed to happen.

I went into Angel this evening to attend a speed awareness course. It was an odd experience. What I found noteworthy was the absolute diversity of people attending the course. Being a felon is a great leveller. There were women who looked like housewives, boy racers, a Polish lorry driver, a couple of city gents and a man dressed from head to toe in plaid. As I came in, the afternoon's cohort of speeders were exiting. A fairly well-known BBC journalist was in their number.

At four hours, it's a long-old course. The Chinese man next to me kept falling asleep. Another man kept asking ridiculous questions. There are no cafes or shops in the vicinity, which meant we had to use the vending machine. My tea was the colour of 1970s orange squash. I half expected it to make me hyperactive.

The information contained in the course was very interesting and I'm pretty sure I'll be a better driver as a result of doing it. The course leaders, who are lovely, have a habit of asking direct questions to the attendees. It keeps everyone on their toes, I guess, but unfortunately I know my mind, and the problem is that my tendency, under pressure, is to say the first thing that comes into my head, however surreal. I kept my head down and avoided all but one question which rather caught me off guard. The course leader had just flashed a photograph up on the screen of a road in a Hertfordshire town. He looked at me and before I could look away, asked, "what hazards can you see on this picture?" I found myself answering "tap dancers. Poisonous trees." Christ, I'm insane!

Northampton and the Somme

I wish Theresa May would just shut up. All this rabbiting on about a "clean" Brexit. No "half in, half out" measures from the turncoat who campaigned to stay in Europe during the referendum. I am far more respectful of a politician who understands the power of their convictions and doesn't cave in to the whims of the media-led masses. Many of the reasons why certain laws exist are to protect the common man from the braying mob. The majority of people in this country would still bring back the death penalty (naturally for kiddy-fiddlers rather than murderers, because we all know that Rolf Harris is far more of a danger to society than Denis Nilson ever was.) In my opinion we need politicians who are ahead of the game, not reacting to it. We need politicians who forecast high winds rather than allow themselves to be buffeted by them. We need to ditch the politicians who don't care how gormless and destructive the people who follow them are, just as long as there's marginally more of them left when the war of attrition is over...

It was a beautifully, crisp, sunshine-laden day today which started, for me, with a glorious walk from Camden to Chalk Farm. Now is as good a time as any to announce that third year musical theatre students at Central School are performing Em as their third term show in June this year. I'm thrilled to announce that Hannah Chissick will be directing. Hannah directed the most recent production of Brass and I've been itching to work on another project with her ever since. I am, of course, also hugely excited about the prospect of working with Central students. There could be no better way, in my view, of launching this hugely personal show.

I drove up to Northampton this afternoon, straight up the M1, with a glorious amber sun setting on my left hand side and creating a strobing effect in the trees. I was listening to the epic, mystical masterpiece, Eagle, by ABBA. It was a truly wonderful moment. As the wintry sun sank into the flat, dark green fields of Buckinghamshire, I was reminded of the front cover of the Arrival album. And, sure enough, just as this particular thought occurred to me, a helicopter came hurtling through the sky. I wondered if ABBA were on board (and before you all start writing in, demanding I return my ABBA fan club card, I'm aware that Eagle isn't on the Arrival album.) Actually, the original concept for the Arrival front cover involved the band flying up to the Arctic Circle - it's why they're all dressed in white - but when it came to it, Agnetha was too scared to get into the helicopter. Or so the story goes...

I was in Northampton to give out awards for a composition competition which I'd judged. It was a brilliant initiative which gave school pupils from the county the opportunity to set sequences to music from some of the silent documentary films made during the Battle of the Somme. The project was run by the charming Laura Rossi, who was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum in 2006 to write an orchestral accompaniment to the most famous of the Battle of the Somme films, which, I learned today, was seen by 20 million British people, all, no doubt, trying to catch sight of a loved one on the front line. Many of them will have been grief-stricken at the time. The film held the record for the most watched film in UK film history until Star Wars was released some sixty years later. I've still not seen Star Wars! It was released in the same year as Grease, Saturday Night Fever and ABBA: The Movie. What do you think I was doing?

The standard of the entries in today's competition was brilliant. There were some incredibly well-considered and mature compositions. Laura ran an excellent workshop beforehand, talking about writing music for film. All in all, it was a hugely inspiring day.

Fiona was decorating her parents' house in Northampton, so was able to pop up to the music school to say hello and watch the ceremony. Debbie was also there. Some of her students at Guilsborough School had entered the competition. It was fabulous to see them both, in the very room where, twenty-four years before, all three of us had had compositions performed by a scratch orchestra we'd assembled. It was good to catch up with Peter and Beth at NMPAT as well. The last time I saw them was in Peterborough, mid-way through my epic walk. I actually drove over the Nene on my way into Northampton today. It was a section of the river I'd walked along on my first day. I was exhausted at the time, and seeing the spot again made me feel very odd indeed!

I went for chips after the ceremony with Fiona, and we talked about how inspiring the Upper Hall at the music school is, and whether it was possible for a building to somehow generate inspiration. That's the room where we rehearsed the Mendelssohn octet for an entire year. The room where saxophonist, John Harle played music I'd written. The room where we rehearsed the youth choir, the room where composer, James MacMillan taught me about heterophony. Surely some of that positive energy has seeped into the walls? I've always felt that energy somehow remains in a space. When I worked as a stage door keeper I could always tell whether a show had been happy or sad by the energy in the auditorium. An echo, in our view, only continues as long as it can be heard by us, but surely it continues for a great deal longer getting quieter and quieter. What if it lasts forever? What if the Upper Hall at the music school vibrates with every chord which ever sounded in there? I think perhaps it must do.

I shan't talk about my journey home; about the twenty minutes I was forced to sit on a petrol forecourt at Toddington Services whilst the staff there "changed shift." Who would have thought, in this day and age, on the M1, that they could refuse to serve petrol for that long a period? It's apparently company policy, which apparently means the staff are allowed to get belligerent with anyone trying to fathom what's going on... I filmed a woman for four minutes whilst she studiously ignored me!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017


I didn't sleep much last night, so I've been a bit distant for much of the day. Tiredness aside, it's unacceptable to start a new week with laziness, so I worked like the clappers, first on yet another application for funding - get back on that horse - and then on my website which is a pitiful mess at the moment: completely out of date. I think I must have expected it to magically update itself because I've been blithely attaching it to all kinds of applications, despite the fact that I've not touched it for two years! Self-promotion has never exactly been my strong point.

We went to the gym. They're still repairing holes in the road on all the streets around us, so the car journey up into Highgate Village and back down the other side is twice the length that it used to be.

After returning from the gym, I worked on Em and then on the Nene project. I spent the evening listening to, and logging the various field recordings I made on my journey, which include all sorts of bird noises, trains, military jets and tolling bells in Wisbech. I also did a fair amount of composing as I walked, so there's a lot of me trying out little melodies. Singing, in the main, really badly and then giggling away like a lunatic. Listening back to the sounds of the epic walk was rather comforting. It was a safe space in a funny sort of way. I didn't have to think about anything other than getting from A to B. I looked forward to simple things like sitting on a bench or having a sip of tea. My mind has already started playing tricks on me. Because I walked during a period of unseasonably sunny weather, I've started imagining I did the walk in the summer! I'm surprised to hear myself on the recordings chatting away to myself in rather good spirits. Even the day after the awful trip to A and E. The recordings are hugely atmospheric, right down to everything suddenly sounding echoey on the mist-bedecked fens. I still find it difficult to believe I actually completed the walk. I still feel an immense sense of pride in myself for doing so.

We had a vegetarian stew today to use the lovely vegetables Little Welsh Nathalie left on our stairs. It was unbelievably delicious. 

Is it weird that I've eaten half a tin of pears after tea every night this year so far? Does that count as one of my five a day, I wonder?

Monday, 16 January 2017

Who put the great in Great Britain?

I can't sleep. I'm sitting in the living room looking out across a misty London, wondering if I should acknowledge that I'm not going to sleep, and head up into the loft to write some music, or whether, after finishing this blog, I should try to go back to bed. I did actually manage to fall asleep at a decent hour, but Nathan dropped the alarm clock, and it made such a clatter that I instantly woke up, and then immediately started worrying about money. So that was that...

I switched the Antiques Roadshow on this evening. It was, without question, one of the most moving television programmes I've seen for a long while. I'm not sure why the show was allowed to deviate so spectacularly from its usual format, but I'm pleased it did. The programme was a celebration of Holocaust Memorial Day and all the objects brought in were related to concentration camps and Kinder Transport. I suspect very few of the items had a great deal of actual financial value, so I was rather pleased that the BBC decided not to underplay their importance by valuing them. After all, who can put financial value on a story which simply has to be heard? All of the stories associated with the treasures were utterly heartbreaking and deeply compelling.

You know, I feel very proud to be British when I think about what this nation did to combat fascism. The scores of Jewish refugees we welcomed into this country during, and immediately after the war, were but a tiny part of the overall story. I can't help but think Brexit has potentially thrown all that pride away. I never thought I'd live to see a day when Brits started shirking their responsibilities as human beings, blithely turning their backs on 21st Century refugees in need. There's been so much ghastly talk recently about turning the clocks back to the "time when Britain was great", but, in my view, the last time this country was truly great was during the war, and then immediately afterwards when the Labour government provided us with the Welfare State. (You could probably argue that there was a secondary moment of greatness at the end of the 60s when another Labour government brought in a succession of human rights bills including the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the abolition of the death penalty and a change in abortion and adoption procedures...)

Anyway, it seems to me that the things which made Britain great are the very things that the dreadful Tories are currently throwing back in our faces.

It's been a quiet day and I've spent most of it inside, suffering a degree of cabin fever. I haven't been to the gym. I haven't experienced any fresh air. I ended up having to drag Nathan out for an evening walk around the block just to combat the fact that I was feeling so deeply claustrophobic. We went down to the Sainsbury's Local on Archway Road to buy soup and vegetables and ended up having to use a cardboard box because they'd run out of shopping baskets. It felt a bit weird, like we were in some sort of health food collective in the late 1970s. All that was missing was an overwhelming smell of vitamin B12 and an assortment of staff members with varying degrees of special needs.

I've been working a little on a song from Em called "The Cavern." It's the only thing I've got to show for an otherwise very lazy day. I have a target of finishing a song a week in first draft form over the next few months. I want everything down on paper as soon as possible, so I know the nature of the beast, and I've got a framework to slowly chip away at.

Right. I'm going to give bed a chance...

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Dear Mrs May

Dear Mrs May,

When are you going to realise that a number of the deluded fools who voted Brexit did so merely because they wanted a better NHS? The leaders of the Brexit campaign, whose great work you seem so keen to continue, made a big deal about their desire to spend the money we save on Europe on the NHS, and in the light of the Red Cross - the actual Red Cross - describing the British NHS as a humanitarian crisis, it might be time for you to stop pooh-poohing this deeply well-respected organisation, get off your sparkly harris and actually do something about it. Your task is to protect the nation. Stop saying Brexit means Brexit, cus shit means shit, and start listening and interpreting.

Love from one of the 48%, all of whom saw this nonsense coming.

We went to an industrial estate in Woolwich today which I subsequently found out was right next to the Thames Flood Barrier. I'm disappointed that I only found out this fact after I'd left the area because I've never seen the Thames Barrier and have always wanted to. I wonder if they raised it in the recent storm. They certainly got a bit over-cautious when it came to evacuating most of the coastal inhabitants of East Anglia, whom, I hear, are all heading back to their homes today, no doubt feeling somewhat bemused.

We were celebrating Tina's 50th birthday today at Jon Dunn-Balham's yarn dyeing studios, which happen to be just opposite Alex and Moira's Circus Space. Jon is known for dyeing the most gloriously vivid colours into wool, and in a woollen world saturated (or not so saturated as it happens) by girlie pastel colours, it's rather wonderful to see a wall lined with skeins of yarn in bright, vibrant colours. And if anyone reading this likes the sound of this, check out Jon's website at:


Tina had invited lots of her crafty friends, and we sat for much of the afternoon eating party food and knitting. Obviously I didn't knit. I'm the knitting widow. The bloke that hangs about with knitters, like the proverbial drummer hanging out with musicians!

The highlight for me was Jon and his partner Roy's little short-haired miniature dachshund, Sweep. Obviously, I prefer the long-haired variety, and preferably a female dog, because I've never been that keen on seeing a dog's willy bouncing about everywhere. That said, Sweep is a deeply charming creature. He's actually fed on a diet of raw meat, which, apparently, is why his coat is so shiny. I still maintain that if I had a small dog like a dachshund, I'd probably want to feed it a strictly vegetarian diet. I've heard that vegetarian dogs have good, calm temperaments, but maybe that's because they're zonked out from not having enough energy! I would be interested to hear from someone who actually knows about vegetarian diets for dogs, and is in possession of scientifically-proven reasons for or against. Forgive me for not being terribly interested in the instinct of a die-hard meat eater who merely has a hunch that being vegetarian is not fair on a dog! People used to make those sorts of statements about me when I was a non-meat-eating child, and believe me, it can get a little boring!

We spent the evening with Tina at her house in Canary Wharf, watching The Voice and the Gary Barlow Show. When Barlow is interviewed and says things like, "ever since I've been working in theatre, I've wanted to develop a musical using the songs of Take That" I just want it to be acknowledged that someone has already been there and done that. It was called Never Forget and it tanked. Quite how the BBC can justify promoting yet another cynical money-making production using the same material I'm not sure. I'm also not sure how they can justify hiring a panel of judges who can probably only claim to have been in a handful of West End shows between them. They demonstrate a woeful lack of knowledge about musical theatre. Gary Barlow actually asked one lad who'd understudied a role in Mama Mia whether he'd minded sitting in a dressing room every night. Any self-respecting musical theatre writer would realise that all covers come from the ensemble unless they're swings. Barlow also opted to raise the stakes by telling one auditionee that this new show will demand more of its actors than any other show in the history of musical theatre, "you have to be able to sing, dance, act and move people." Welcome to musical theatre Mr Barlow! And if you want someone who can do all of those things for eight shows a week, then you need to find musical theatre performers with stamina and stop telling lads with vocal damage, who simply can't sing in tune, that they have soul!

We keep getting tantalising glimpses of NYMT kids, however, whom, I assume, will be auditioning sooner or later. Both Callum from Brass and Sario, who was in Spring Awakening, have been spotted hanging out in the "green room" which never seems to show the same crowd of lads in back-to-back shots! Ah! The artifice of telly!

We returned home to find a bag of vegetables on the top of the stairs running up to our flat. I assume they've come from Little Welsh Nathalie downstairs, but there is no note. It's a lovely thing to find on our steps whoever it's from!

La la Land

I booked myself in for a speed awareness course this morning. Unfortunately, I got flashed on my way back from a quiz in Milton Keynes a few weeks before Christmas. Doing the course means I won't end up with 3 more points on my driving license, however, and bizarrely that I also won't have to pay a fine - although, cleverly, the course costs exactly the same as a speeding ticket! I'm actually quite keen to go. I was driving too quickly because I hadn't noticed the speed limit dropping to 50mph on the section of the dual carriageway I was driving along. If the chap running the course can give me a sense of why these roads suddenly change tempo, seemingly so randomly, I might learn what to look out for in the future! The course is next Wednesday.

There was a light dusting of snow on the rooftops of Highgate when I woke up this morning, but, despite a secondary flurry later on, the whole lot had cleared by mid day. So much for this so-called thunder snow!

Far more interesting was Nathan's experience, whilst at work yesterday, when he witnessed an underground explosion beneath High Holborn! Apparently the lights in the theatre went out for five seconds, accompanied by the strangest sound, which he said could only be described as "loud white noise." At the same time, he saw a burst of flames coming from a drain! Underground electrical fires and explosions are apparently not that unusual in central London. There was a massive one back in April in the same sort of area which lead to hundreds of people being evacuated.

I finished my song Delusion today, and Nathan has given me a set of notes which I shall implement after putting the song away for a few days. These things need a bit of down time. In other composing news, I put pen to paper for the first time last night on the Nene piece, which feels like an exciting milestone. I'm obsessed with the idea of the babbling source of the river being represented by laughter, because I feel rivers in their early stages have a sort of child-like innocence. I'm just not altogether sure how practical laughter is for performers. Once you start, it's quite hard to stop. String players go all floppy and Brass players lose their embouchures!

We visited the shrine outside George Michael's house in Highgate Village on our way back from the gym this evening. It's much larger than I'd originally thought. There are literally thousands of bouquets of flowers and hundreds of heartfelt messages. He was very obviously a much-loved man. A camera crew was there. I think the size of the shrine has surprised many people.

We went to the cinema to watch La La Land this evening. With one or two caveats I would say it was a very wonderful piece. I found it transporting, engaging, atmospheric, inspiring and really rather moving in places. The central performances were excellent. Ryan Gosling is a very lovely and charismatic actor. The singing was a bit ropey all round, with some horrible breathy noises coming from Emma Stone. They also made a bit of a weird choice to turn ensemble vocals down really low in the mix. The songs themselves were lovely, however, and I can almost guarantee that this year's Oscar for Best Song will go to City Lights, which instantly pulled me in with its simplicity and mournfulness. As my good friend Abbie said of the film, "its well worth a watch."

Happy Friday 13th to you all.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Thunder snow!

I woke up this morning to the news that Trump has caused mayhem at his inaugural press conference as president of the US. He's started to remind me of one of those mad African dictators like Gadaffi: Paranoid. Not very bright. Narcissistic. Bordering on psychopathic. Saying astounding things that you can't believe even he agrees with. Visibly perking up when someone asks the sycophantic question which allows him to spout more nonsense. It's like talking to a religious nut, who won't listen to sense, and merely glazes over and spouts dogma when challenged with rationality. Watching him at the press conference, refusing to take questions from certain journalists because they come from "rubbish organisations," was astounding. He's like a child in a playground, "you shut up, no you shut up, no you shut up, it wasn't my fault, Meryl's a slag..."

I went to the orange cafe today. I don't often go there, despite it being just below my house on the Archway Road. I tend to work in cafes further from home because I like a little commute to work! I call it the orange cafe because it sits underneath a giant orange awning. I have no idea if the cafe actually has a name but it seems to serve lovely croissants and panini.

I stayed close to home this morning because London was bracing itself for dreadful weather. They always make such a big deal about these sorts of things in the media, with yellow and red warnings and crazy faux scientific phrases like "Polar Vortex." Today's weather was described as "Thunder Snow." You'd think Armageddon was on its way.

The lady who works at the cafe is French, and, during the morning, one of her friends dropped by for a cappuccino and a natter. They chatted for ages, and I very much enjoyed listening to the sing-song quality of their language. I reckon that French women talk higher than the women of any other nationality. They go right up into their head voices, like little theremins. I joined the conversation later on, after a singer songwriter of some description walked into the cafe and saw the manuscript in front of me. He lives four doors down. Londoners very rarely know the people with whom they share postcodes and, well, air. He's given me his album and I'm looking forward to hearing it. He rents on the Archway Road after a messy divorce robbed him of a two-bedroom flat in Camden. 

Anyway, it turns out that the French lady behind the counter was an architect who had been brought up in Chile before moving to Paris and then London. She told me all about Chile's capital, Santiago, which is, apparently, polycentric, meaning it doesn't just have one central business district. You learn something new every day!

The sheeting rain came at midday, followed by fairly heavy snow, which has settled in a "here-today-gone-tomorrow" kind of way. One assumes it will freeze solid tonight and create mayhem for commuters tomorrow morning. I'll be awoken by the sound of cars spinning out of control on their way down the A1. Or it will simply be fine... I am certainly no more aware of what thunder snow is this evening, having lived through the phenomenon.

The road where we park has effectively been marooned by road closures set up whilst they repair the broken pipe which turned the road into a river last week. There's a giant hole in the middle of Southwood Lane now, which looks a bit like it might have been created by work men who have given up on the notion of fixing a leak and decided instead to dig down to Australia!

Thursday, 12 January 2017

George Michael's house

On our way back from the gym today, we passed George Michael's house up in Highgate Village. The entire front garden and pavement outside has become a shrine of flowers, candles and Cypriot flags. A car parked in the drive is similarly bedecked with ephemera. That man was well loved. It's rather strange to think he lived just up the road. I never saw him wandering about on the streets, as we'd often see Victoria Wood. 

I spent so much of the day doing admin that I think I've turned into some sort of hermit-like accountant. I didn't sleep much last night. I woke up in the middle of the night yelling, and realised I'd been dreaming about money! It was impossible to go back to sleep, so I sat in the sitting room through the wee smalls, working on another application. I rather like being awake at that time in the morning. A stillness descends and the air becomes thick with a speckled wall which looks a little bit like a translucent version of one of those snow storms you used to get with old-fashioned tellies.

There's not a lot else to say. I'm so astonished by what Donald Trump is doing and saying in the US. I just can't quite believe he's for real, and this isn't some extraordinary episode of Candid Camera. He is clearly a narcissist who sets out to punish anyone who disagrees with him or crosses him. Heaven knows how this is going to pan out on the world stage. Not very well, one assumes.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Down the line

Today's been a bit of a trial. I discovered at about 3pm that I'd failed in another attempt to get funding, on this occasion from the PRS Foundation. That's the fifth time they've now turned me down for a grant. After the fourth, I actually decided to give up on them, and only reapplied when they announced they were now prioritising musical theatre applications. They told us very proudly in a meeting that they'd funded Tim Minchin to write Matilda. Like he needed funding! It's so destabilising when you miss out on a grant that you thought you were quids in on. I have to reappraise a great many things as a result and am actually not quite sure I know how I'm going to survive the year. God it's frustrating out there in the world of musical theatre. Closed door after closed door... It's as though Brass never happened. What I need is a wealthy benefactor...

Fiona was with us this morning, which was fabulous. I sat in the bedroom writing at the piano. One of my neighbours tumbled down a flight of steps. I heard the clatter and a scream and then repeated expletives. I opened the window and looked out to find her lying in a heap on the path. She assured me she was okay. And then was forced to do the same for the other four neighbours who'd opened their windows at the same time.

We went into town for an interview about Beyond The Fence with an American radio station. They'd booked us in at the BBC Studios at Wogan House. I was trying to remember if it was always called Wogan House, or whether it had somehow been re-named after our beloved Sir Terry. I've certainly done several down-the-line interviews there before. It's a funny experience: you sit, with headphones on, in a hessian-lined room, and then suddenly a little distant voice starts asking you questions. I didn't enjoy talking about Beyond The Fence after all these months, particularly after the news from PRS.

We worked in a cafe for a few hours, before meeting our old friend Carey for a drink and a lovely spot of food at a little Mediterranean cafe on Berwick Street, where the borek feta parcels are to die for. Carey is from New York and talk for a long time centred around Trump and Brexit as we tried to work out who lives in the shittiest county right now. I think the Americans might just edge it. I've taken great delight in recent days in hearing that Trump's campaign was pretty-much sponsored by the Russians. It's almost too deliciously ironic. Senator McCarthy will be spinning in his grave!

We were joined at the end of the evening by one of Carey's friends who's currently working as a producer on the Mary Poppins sequel. We probably asked him way too many questions because you could see him visually trying to work out if the information he was telling us was stuff it was safe to say because it was in the public domain. I don't think we managed to get an exclusive out of him, but I did leave the dinner feeling pretty sure that it's going to be a very lovely film. Shot entirely in the UK. Well why not? The pound's worth jack shite at the moment.


The man who lives in the basement of our building wears Brut. I followed him along the alleyway behind our house and great wafts of the 1970s washed over me. I didn't realise you could still buy the stuff. It's not actually an unpleasant smell. In fact it has a familiarity to it which I find rather comforting. I wonder whether it's due a revival. After all, there's probably not a 20 year-old in this country who knows what Brut actually smells of, or knows that, in 1982, everyone smelt of it. It might become retro cool like Trio bars and flying saucer sweets.

It's been raining all day. Ghastly, gloomy weather. To add insult to injury there's also been a tube strike in London, which meant it took poor Nathan 2 1/2 hours to get into work by bus this morning. London simply doesn't work when one aspect of its infrastructure is taken out of the equation. The A1 outside our window was at a standstill. A veritable car park.

I worked through the morning, finishing work on a song called Delusion from Em whilst tidying the house. Fiona arrived at about 1pm and we took a stroll through the wood to Muswell Hill and then beyond into Alexandra Palace Park. Fiona tells me we walked three and a half miles. I probably did as many running up and down the stairs whilst tidying the house this morning.

We came home and roasted an entire rainbow of vegetables with some halloumi and feta cheese and ate it all with rice and a beetroot gravy when Nathan (eventually) returned from work. I've become a whizz at making vegetarian gravies and reductions by the way. Just saying!

Monday, 9 January 2017

Dutch pancakes and Let It Shine

I went to Columbia Road yesterday to spend time with Philippa, Dylan and my two God daughters, who made really very lovely pancakes which we ate with lemon, raspberries and some weird Dutch goo which seemed to be a cross between maple syrup and the sort of thing you squirt on ice cream. Dylan is half Dutch, and, what with having a Dutch brother-in-law and a brother who was a Dutch citizen for the best part of 20 years, I find myself surrounded by all things Holland. Curiously, when I was a child, Holland was my favourite country. I was obsessed with the place. I used to look at pictures of Amsterdam and dream, and I always supported Holland in Eurovision. I even spent a period wearing wooden clogs! 

We went to a bowling alley on Brick Lane. I didn't know such a thing existed. We ate in the diner: a delicious plate of macaroni cheese. Everyone's serving macaroni cheese at the moment, except they're all calling it mac 'n cheese to make it sound cool and American. Evidence, if you want my opinion, of a growing lack of British pride! I remember the early 80s when all cultural references seemed to need to have a French word in them. We had no pride back then. Just a right wing government, recession and a hugely divided nation. Does that sound familiar? Cool Britannia and the Swinging Sixties both happened under Labour governments. Just saying...

Today has been very relaxing. We did some washing up. I did some admin. We went into Muswell Hill to eat, but couldn't find a parking space, so went to the gym instead, came home, cooked pasta and watched the BBC's new Let It Shine programme, where they're using the reality TV format to cast a new West End musical. It's funny, I've been saying for years that we need another musical about Take That in the West End. The first one, Never Forget, went down so well, and Barry Garlow is such a talented musical theatre writer. Thank God the BBC have decided to line his pockets by promoting this fabulous endeavour.

I actually have no objections to casting shows in this manner. I very much enjoyed all those searches for Marias and Nancys. It's a bit hideous that performers have to have their auditions filmed, but if it raises their profiles, so be it. What I do have an issue with is this assumption that any old person has the talent and stamina to perform on a West End stage eight times a week. So you sit through all these Essex boy firemen and Scarborough cafe workers before the real deal tips up in the shape of someone from the cast of Thriller Live, who basically shits on them all and reminds everyone that being a musical theatre performer is not something that anyone can do. Interestingly, when they asked the turn who he'd brought with him, he said "uh, no one," and the audience went "ah" like he didn't have any mates. I was desperate for him to say, "I don't actually tend to bring my Mum to professional auditions with me. Is that okay?"

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Why we complain

My name is Benjamin and I am an inveterate complainer!

I never used to be. I don't really know what's happened to me, but I put it down to a shift in society, succinctly summed up by my father who suggests that "we all know what our rights are these days, but very few of us are actually aware of our responsibilities."

The complaint complains because he knows his rights. The complainee gets shirty because he knows his rights, which include not having someone rail at him unnecessarily. He greet the complainant with sarcasm and disinterest and so the vicious vortex begins to spin. The complainant gets increasingly stressed, his complaint gets escalated, management is brought in, and sooner or later someone who is paid to make apologies gives the apology which, frankly, should have been offered at the coal-face by a person who should have been aware of his customer-facing responsibilities! Everyone's time, in the meantime, has been wasted.

The shift towards a society which knows its rights is largely, of course, a positive one. In the olden days we put up and shut up. Mysterious things happened behind closed doors which we were helpless to alter. People pulled rank. Whistle blowers were demoted. People disappeared. Men marched off to war. My parents' generation are far less likely to complain when things go wrong, and actually get quite embarrassed when they witness people rocking the boat unnecessarily.

I sometimes wonder whether this approach to life is more liberating because it means there's no point in getting our knickers in a twist about the things we perceive we can't control. Maybe our collective responsibility is not to complain as much because by complaining we're triggering the aforementioned vortex and bringing more anger into the world.

That said, I have never personally felt guilty for complaining. I have a very strong sense of my own responsibilities and if something I'm doing or have done is causing distress, it's vital I'm told so I can try to make sure it doesn't happen again.

There is, however, one instance in my life where I utterly regret not causing an absolute stink. My degree at York University was very much compromised by a personality clash with one of my lecturers. I said nothing at the time because I thought, if I did, the other lecturers would pull rank and things would turn nasty for me.

I actually went to university woefully unprepared for anything even remotely resembling musicology. I very carefully chose units which I knew would play to my strengths as a composer and performer, but came entirely unstitched when faced with an entire term studying the music of Sibelius. In the early days of this particular set of lectures, utterly confused by what was going on, I inadvertently asked one or two really stupid questions, which the lecturer thought so dumb, he concluded I could only have been messing about. His response made me feel so stupid that I immediately started goofing about to save face, and thus a class clown was born. Unsurprisingly, I tanked my Sibelius unit, and was handed a somewhat legendary report which was framed on my wall for many years. I've never blamed the lecturer for failing me on this particular unit. It was a disaster which I think we all needed to move on from...

Anyway, that all feels like a massive digression, but the point of the story is that I subsequently did a chamber music unit as part of my degree. Unsurprisingly, I didn't do very well on the essay part, which was worth 40% of the mark, but I worked very hard performing as part of a string quartet by Samuel Barber, which would account for the remaining 60%. Anyway, the professor who marked my essay, a lovely bloke, called me into his office to tell me, politely, that he thought my essay stank. He could see that I was upset but told me that I didn't need to worry because the performance of the Barber quartet had been terrific and he was certain I'd be getting a really high marks. Unfortunately, the chief marker on the practical side of the unit was the same lecturer who I'd so royally pissed off on the Sibelius course. When the marks came in, he'd given the violinists firsts, the viola player a 2:2 and me a 3rd because he said he'd heard that the two of us had "spoken in silly accents during rehearsals." It was fairly shocking to discover that he'd opted to judge me, not on the performance I'd given, but the way I was rumoured to have conducted myself in rehearsals. It was plain, from the big smile on his angry face, that he was avenging a past grievance, for which I'd already been punished.

These days, of course, I would have marched straight to the vice chancellor of the university and vociferously complained. Back then, of course, I simply skulked away. I felt helpless. I felt perhaps my 'cello playing hadn't been up to scratch. I pulled out of the university orchestra, swapped to being a first study singer and never played the 'cello properly again.

I often wonder what happened to that lecturer and whether he ever realised how close he'd come to changing the course of my future. And if he had, whether he'd have cared.

Friday, 6 January 2017


I emerged from my house today to find a river of water flowing down Southwood Lane. It was a pretty major deal which had obviously been caused by yet another broken water pipe: a regular occurrence in these parts. A huge geyser of water was spewing out from underneath a plastic traffic bollard and there were massive holes in the tarmac along the road where the water had swept the surface away. I stood next to a woman for some time, trying to ascertain the way to cross the road. We both agreed to save the other if we were swept away!

I came back later to find the river gone, but all the streets in my area sealed off, to the extent that I was effectively marooned. It took me half an hour to get to the gym, snaking my way around the streets, using every ounce of local knowledge I possess. Fortunately our water supply hadn't been cut off.

I was pleased with myself today. I finished another draft of Em and sent it out to Philippa to read who's going to give me a set of notes. I spent the afternoon doing admin, tidying up an application and working my way through a list of things to do which had built through the Christmas period. Tax went off yesterday. Fingers crossed I won't be hit by a shocking bill.

I switched the telly on whilst eating my tea. Adverts as usual. I can't ever seem to time turning the telly on to see anything other than adverts. Today's selection were particularly galling, the worst of which was for Disneyland Paris. The theme of the advert was sparkle. I kid you not. They know their institution is built on the pink, shiny dreams of 8 year-old girls. The advert is filled with all sorts of images of shiny things. Dresses. Fireworks. Shooting stars. Magic wands. Jewels. It looks like the Blue Peter studio at Christmas time. And the tag-line? "The one thing that shines brighter than anything else is the sparkle in your children's eyes." Barf

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Palladium Panto

We went into central London this evening to see the pantomime at the Palladium. It's the first West End panto in many years and it was an absolute pleasure to watch.

We took the tube in. Nathan sat down and I stood in one of the vestibules near the doors, minding my own business, reading a newspaper. I was quite engrossed in a piece in the Metro about Charles Manson, who is apparently about to shuffle off into the wilderness. Probably about time. Anyway, I was vaguely aware that the tube had pulled into a station and moments later I felt the most enormous slap on my arse which made me yell out loud through shock. I composed myself and assumed I'd turn around to see someone I knew, but was astonished to find a little old lady standing there looking rather sheepish. People sitting opposite me on the tube were laughing hysterically. It seems the old lady had tripped whilst getting onto the tube and slapped my arse in an attempt to keep herself upright, which she'd managed to do! It was utterly surreal. I haven't had my arse slapped a great many times in my life, but this was certainly the biggest wallop it's ever received!

Speaking of smut, the panto was wonderful. Utterly diverting. It transported us both into a 1970s world of glitter, double entendre, spinning lights, swirling costumes and pyrotechnics. The cast was stellar. Where else would you get to see Paul O'Grady and Julian Clary sharing top billing. I believe they're good friends in real life, and they certainly seemed to have a great rapport on stage. Surprisingly, their comedy alter egos don't cancel each other out. O'Grady is the housewives' choice and kept it sardonic and relatively clean. Clary did the filthy double entendres, in fact, quite a lot of the time, double became single and I found myself gasping and checking around to see how the parents of the children in the audience were responding. Thing is, Clary is a master, so I'm quite convinced the kids would simply have thought he was goofing around and saying rude things which only parents would understand.

As it happened there were surprisingly few children in the capacity audience. I have never sat in a theatre where every seat was filled like that. We almost had to fight our way in. 

The cast also included Nigel Havers, Amanda Holden and Lee Mead, who has started singing with a very strange, somewhat strangled American accent. Surely when you play Prince Charming you have to keep the vocals plummy and even if you go for an American accent when you sing, it has to sound nice! If he's the best we've got in terms of West End talent, then we're done for.

That said, by early January, pantomime performers have usually sung themselves ragged and are doing anything they can simply to generate sound. Paul O'Grady was suffering from a cold, which, I assume, explained the arrival on stage of a hitherto unintroduced ensemble member, brilliantly fronting a massive gospel number. One assumes this was O'Grady's understudy.

One of the stars of the show was ventriloquist, Paul Zerdin, whom, I read, won America's Got Talent (despite being a Brit.)

As is often the case with panto, the music was a mixture of original songs and well-known pop with new lyrics. As such it ticked all the boxes, but I'd have shot the lyricist for his almost inveterate inability to scan lyrics properly. I'm witnessing this increasingly in West End shows. It is vital to stress words in music in a natural way, or your singers sound retarded and no one in the audience knows what's being said!

The audience seemed to have a wonderful time, although every time something big happened on stage, the mobile phones all came out and everyone started filming. At one point I just wanted to shout "enjoy the moment, people!" I looked at the guy to my left, and discovered he was on Facebook posting pictures of himself watching the action. It was almost too meta. Minutes later, he was on an online gambling site. Plainly he'd paid £40 merely to be able to say that he'd sat in the Palladium whilst a show happened in the background!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Brunch in the hill

I was meant to work today but slept in late. Nathan finished his job at the Royal Festival Hall last night and went out to celebrate, and I stayed up late writing. Before I knew it, it was 3am, and then it was 10.30am!

Llio texted to ask if I was free for brunch with her Mum in Muswell Hill, and I jumped in the bath, got dressed and walked up through Highgate Woods to meet them. It's been cold and damp today. I could feel it in my ankles. I met a lovely Danish woman en route who asked me the way to Queen's Wood. (We have a lot of woods in Highgate!) I dutifully pointed her in the right direction and asked if she was off to the vegetarian cafe there. "No" she said, "I'm going to the playground..." I was very pleased to be able to tell her that there was a world class adventure playground in the very wood in which she was walking. I can't actually think there's any type of playground in Queen's Wood. It's a darker, altogether less child-friendly place. Local people: was I wrong?

Brunch with Llio and her Mum became lunch and then a lovely afternoon of chatting back at Till-Taylor-Towers. They were both on superb form, and we had a lot of fun. Silvia was wearing an amazing 1960s-inspired, Joan-Littlewood-esque cap. On Silvia it looked incredibly glamorous. It was as though she'd just popped up to Muswell Hill from Carnaby Street. In the era when Carnaby Street was cool, cause god knows it's a shite-hole these days!

We had another altercation at the gym today which ended with a death stare from another angry young man who really didn't want to hear it when we politely pointed out what a complete arse he was being. I won't bore you with the story. It would merely remind me how bored I'm getting with this sort of behaviour. Or how old I am these days! #GrumpyOldMan #Wasn'tLikeThisInMyDay

New art

I got stranded in a queue in the post office yesterday which involved standing behind a pair of the noisiest little children I've ever encountered. They were making noises the like of which I've never heard. Mummy was trying to reason with them, but they thought she was playing a game. In the end she suggested they play in the photo booth, which created a really fun game involving pulling the curtain back and screaming "hello" at the tops of their lungs. When Mummy said "shh," the game became to scream louder. It was one of those ear-shattering noises which instantly made me want to either scream, dig my nails into the back of my hand or immediately burst into tears. I actually felt very sorry for the Mum. Two young lads under five? No thank you!

The rest of the day was all about continuing to plough through Em. I stumbled upon another lyric which I'd plainly deserted after about an hour's work. Half of it made no sense whatsoever and the rest of the words were an assortment of desperate cliches and platitudes. I felt deeply in ashamed. Note to self: must do better.

PK emailed later on to share with me the art project that his wife, Olivia and son, Antoine have been working on recently. The project focusses on female leaders from the 16th Century. Olivia has composed, performed and produced the music, and Antoine has provided the animation, which is stylised and really very quirky. Olivia's music is wonderfully challenging: confrontational electronica, stunningly layered. The third track, My Crown, is my favourite and features some glorious violin playing courtesy of my best mate, Fiona.

I enclose it here because I want to make it clear to some of these arts administrators that highly innovative and thought-provoking work IS being done by many artists who have simply been honing their craft under the radar. There's a hideous arrogance within my industry where leading figures appear to be more interested in creating new artists from scratch based on the type of person they feel OUGHT to be making art, rather than promoting what is already there just under the surface, or the glass ceiling, or whatever else we want to call it. It's a slightly subtle point that I'm making, but, if you take nothing else from this blog, you may find yourself discovering a new writing talent. But, for heaven's sake, if you do like what Olivia's done: get out there and share it with the world. It's almost impossible for a recording artist to get their work out there these days without the backing of a major record label. Enjoy!


Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The air of entitlement

I went up to Costa Coffee this morning to do some writing. I have a huge penchant for writing on Bank Holidays. It makes me feel unbelievably virtuous, and I rather like the different pace of life. No posh school children, no travelling salesmen and no yummy mummies plotting charity fundraising galas. (Ah! Highgate!)

What I DID find myself tuning into, however, was the sound of two five-year olds chanting, "baby-ccino, baby-ccino, hurry up, hurry up" ad nauseam. A baby-ccino (for those without children born in the last ten years) is a license to print money at the expense of indulgent parents. It's a cappuccino for babies. Another ghastly portmanteau. Hot milk with a few sprinkles of chocolate. Rip off Britain. 

I went back to the gym just before lunch. I'm officially back in the saddle. It went rather smoothly and I feel so much better as a result, almost as though my arteries are no longer clogged up with Quality Street.

There was a bloke in the changing room who plainly considered his personal music to be so important that he felt the rest of the changing room ought to listen to it whilst he cooled down from his work out. And and it wasn't just any sort of music. It was rap music where every other word was either f**k or s**t. I tuned in at one point to hear the phrase, "the only thing you can count on in life are taxes, death and rape." Charming. He was happily joining in with the last word of every line, which brought even more attention to the foulness of language.

The lad had a distinct air of entitlement about him which suggested that there was no point in telling him to turn his mucus (no typo there) down or off. There is an aggression present in some young black men which can sometimes be staggering. Yes, I am aware that the same arrogance and aggression can be present in young men (and women) of all colours and creeds and furthermore that there could be some kind of innate fear in me which is somehow more likely to spot this sort of behaviour in young black men.

I don't feel like a racist, but I'm certainly aware that I respond negatively to those who delight in aggressive behaviour be they black or white. I have extremely liberal morals. If it doesn't cause anyone else unwanted pain, I pretty much think it's fair game, but what I find difficult in society at the moment, is that if you try to suggest that there are specific problems lurking within a minority group, there's always someone on standby to scream racism.

Plainly not all young black men behave aggressively, and it would be wholly unacceptable to claim as much, but if there is evidence which suggests that young black men are more likely to behave in an antisocially aggressive manner, for whatever reason, I would argue that there's an obligation to look into the issue. The problem is that no one is brave enough to suggest this particular thesis be tested. The only people who stick their heads above the parapet in this argument are ghastly right wing self-publicists, like Katie Hopkins, who say everything for shock value and, quite rightly, get torn apart by the world.

As a gay man, of course, I am only allowed to talk with any degree of authority about my own community. But there is a parallel. Gay men of my generation tend to be more promiscuous. I use my words carefully. Not all gay men of my generation are promiscuous, but a larger percentage are. Promiscuity is not a bad thing in my books, but the spread of AIDS was, and it was important to find ways to stop it. Homophobia, lack of role models and simply being men, forced gay men into the fringes of society, where, for countless generations, they developed their own codes of conduct and concepts of morality. And though it's incredibly controversial to say, promiscuity almost certainly led to a faster spread of HIV/AIDS within the gay community. Thatcher's government set out to make gay men feel even more isolated, and it was only when we were welcomed in from the cold with the annulment of laws which promoted homophobia, that the behaviour of gay men started to change and the stigma was reversed. I would say most young gay men these days have remarkably similar morals to their straight counterparts.

So, I suppose the important question to ask is whether we NEED a situation to change. It could be that I am simply old and out of touch, and that this sort of vaguely aggressive behaviour is the shape of things to come and a thoroughly acceptable development for society. But if there is an issue developing, I suggest it might be worth some form of open-minded discussion.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Million Dollar Quartet

Last night was great. We went to my friend Matt's house and stayed there until 2am with the old gang who I haven't seen for way too long. Philip Sallon was there in sparkling, utterly outrageous form. We ate Chinese food and watched a giant TV screen with a multitude of pop videos from the 60s, 70s and 80s on it. At Midnight, as is the custom, Nathan and I had a private moment listening to ABBA's Happy New Year.

Today went in a slightly different direction from the one I assumed it was going to go in. The plan had been for my parents and me to see the matinee of Million Dollar Quartet, the show Nathan's been ticketing at the Royal Festival Hall for the past couple of months. I was going to spend the morning writing and then drift into town for a late lunch.

Just before Nathan trotted off to work, however, I received a panicked email from the parents telling me that all the trains in their neck of the woods had been cancelled and that they had no way of getting into central London. My Mum was devastated and broke my heart by telling me she'd laid all the clothes out on the bed that she was planning to wear. So, to cut a long story short, I jumped in the car and, without so much as a bowl of cornflakes in my belly, drove up to Thaxted to pick them up. It seemed the least I could do. And frankly, my Mum's top deserved an outing. She looked fabulous.

The journey up to Thaxted and back was very speedy. There was very little traffic on the roads, so I was up and back to Highgate within two and a half hours. It was raining horribly when we got back in to London, however, and a car sailed through a puddle right next to me as we were waiting to cross the road. A great wave of water covered my legs in muddy wetness.

The area around the South Bank must have been brutally pelted with rain because we were having to jump over giant puddles and little rivers in the road.

It was worth it, however. I wasn't altogether sure Million Dollar Quartet was going to be my cup of tea. I have limited tolerance for both rock n roll music and juke box musicals, but the quality of musicianship from the performers was absolutely extraordinary. Martin Kaye, as Jerry Lee Lewis absolutely stole the show, with effortlessly charismatic acting and virtuosic piano playing. The moment he walked onto the stage, I found myself wondering where on earth they'd found him. Answer: America, where they revere musical theatre.

The parents loved the show. Rock n Roll was my Dad's first great passion and seeing the raw energy on stage, I was suddenly able to see the genre as something more than a set of simplistic chords crudely banged together by part-time musos. Rock n roll was a movement, a lifestyle, which was probably far more shocking to the older generation than punk became twenty years later. As we left the theatre, my Dad asked if I'd finally understood what it was which made rock n roll so compelling to his generation, and I was able to answer, with absolute honesty, that I did.

We walked across a hugely windy Hungerford Bridge for a delicious meal in one of the Italian restaurants on Villiers Street. Free panettone? Result.

I've been very sad to read about the mass shooting in Turkey. With each new atrocity of this nature, however, I find myself becoming more and more desensitised and this worries me enormously. I was, however, somewhat horrified to see the BBC using a stock image of the club which appears to show hundreds of staff with their hands in the air as though surrendering to someone holding a gun. I think they might all be waving, but perhaps a little more thought could have gone into deciding which picture to use. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-38484029

For me the most unusual aspect in this particular story are the reports about how many women apparently instantly fainted when they heard the gunshots. This surely can't have helped the mayhem, and may well explain why those who survived the attack felt sure the death toll was far higher than the figure of 39 which is presently being bandied about. I'm not sure that women in the UK would have fainted under similar circumstances, and this sort of makes me wonder if a kind of fragility emerges in Muslim women as a result of how they are treated/ expected to behave in society.

I'm not sure if what I'm writing is particularly appropriate so soon after such an awful tragedy, but the image struck me as noteworthy.