Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy new year

Happy New Year to you all! We're hosting a little dinner party at our house in forty minutes' time. We're still in the car and we haven't tidied the house or cooked any food. Oh well!

We've been in Huntingdonshire all day. I refuse to acknowledge that Huntingdonshire no longer exists as an official entity. It was a perfectly decent county before it was brutally annexed by Cambridgeshire, so until it can do a Rutland and regain its independence I'm going to make out like I didn't get the memo that it was no longer a place!

We were in Huntington celebrating Nathan's god daughter's birthday, who is wildly unfortunate enough to have been born on New Year's Eve. She's 9 today. It only seems like yesterday that she was born. Where do the years go?

We had dinner in a Bella Italia. I had a veggie lasagne, which wasn't bad, all things considered. There was tea, cake and chatted back at Lisa and Mark's house.

Tonight's soirée will feature a select gathering of close friends. We'll play games, eat baked potatoes, and drink in the new year. I'm not altogether sure I'm ready for 2014 to leave us. It's been good for both of us.


We've just finished a 12-hour mammoth recording session for the Brass soundtrack and I am exhausted beyond words. We all are. I watched the musicians trekking out of the studio one by one, all pale-faced and under-nourished, having worked ludicrously hard.

Today was the turn of the string players. Two violins, two 'cellos and a double bassist, aged from about 14 to 19. None had ever recorded in a professional studio before, or, for that matter ever recorded music whilst wearing headphones.

They did a brilliant job. We managed 15 of the 16 songs on the album, which is beyond amazing, and they were patient and hugely well-behaved. There were, of course, the obligatory few moments when we found ourselves recording bars of absolute rubbish, but so much of what we did was inspired and I'm thrilled (and more than a little relieved.) I actually didn't know some of those players were capable of performing so beautifully. They recorded a sequence in I Make the Shells which is bordering on the sublime. It's astonishing what a recording studio will pull out of someone.

I think I have drunk 10 cups of tea today. We have a fabulous studio assistant who keeps throwing cups of tea in my direction. Tea calms me down. Then it makes me all jittery. Then I can't sleep...

A 1960s ventriloquist's doll has been watching me all day today. I don't know what it's doing in the studio, but people have obviously been moving it around because I keep seeing it staring at me from a variety of shelves and sofas. It's a creepy little fella. I'm told his name is Phil Jupiter...

We drove home in freezing temperatures. Our car's thermometer informs me that it's -0.5 degrees here in Willesden. It'll be colder yet at Highgate. Highgate is always 2 degrees colder than the rest of London.

We keep driving past curious towers of mist, which our headlights are lighting up like eerie cyphers. They appear to be coming from the man hole covers in the middle of the road. I've never seen that in tins country before. The sewers are obviously warmer than the air above them and the hot air is freezing like it does above the subways in New York.

The ponds in Hampstead have frozen solid. We got out to take a look as we drove past. I've only ever seen them freeze like this once before. I have to say, I'm rather loving this weather. I hope it snows.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Assault and battery

On my way to the studio this morning, I glanced at a poster on the tube: "Does your health insurer give you the chance to win football tickets?" It asked. And every fibre of me shuddered. Not just because I can't imagine anything worse than attending a football match, let alone simply getting the "chance" to win tickets to a game, but because insurance shouldn't be something which requires incentives. Frankly, if you're wealthy enough to be able to afford health insurance, I'd have thought you could afford a ticket to a football match. Sadly, posters like this do nothing but remind me of the fact that we're moving ever closer to a world where the NHS no longer exists.

I changed from the tube to the overground at Kentish Town. There is both a bus strike and planned engineering work on the travel network today, so I had to plan my route rather carefully! Kentish Town is one of those stations where they tend plants and play classical music to stop people from having hissy fits at the staff. Today's choice was a recorder concerto, which instantly made me feel like strangling the first person I saw!

Fortunately, I emerged from the station to the most joyous scene. The world was covered in a thick layer of white frost and the orange sun was making the ice crystals shimmer like sequins in a spotlight. A gayer sentence you may never read! I found myself staring in awe at tiny details; a little weed in a sea of gravel resembling a candied jelly tot, the top of a low brick wall looking like it had been dusted with a mixture of talcum powder and glitter. Nature certainly knows how to put on a show.

The Thameslink took me to West Hampstead, where I walked to the Jubilee line tube station and instantly got on a tube heading in the wrong direction! I ended up in Finchley Road surrounded by LU staff members shouting and barking. It turns out that Finchley Road is the gateway to hell today, where Jubilee line trains stop operating and everyone panics because they simply don't know how to travel any further south. Fortunately, I was heading North to Willesden, so stayed on the train as it u-turned at and continued its journey in the opposite direction. One poor woman was trying to get to Victoria, but seemed intent on traveling ever-further North in the hope she'd find a train that would take her South! The deep lack of logic people display when they're in a panic never ceases to astonish me!

The studio we were working in is called Assault and Battery, and is the home of the legendary record producer, Flood, who has worked with almost everyone who is anyone. There was a Grammy on a shelf behind me, which Flood won for the U2 album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. No pressure there then...

There were three Bens in the studio today. Ben Holder, who played piano, Ben Varnam, who played drums, and me. Brass has always been sponsored by the name Ben, but today was ridiculous. Phrase of the day became "which Ben?"

The day was an intense experience to say the least. We recorded sixteen piano-led songs. There are fewer than thirty bars in the whole show where the piano isn't playing in some form, which put a huge weight on Ben Holder's very capable shoulders.

The drums are perhaps the next busiest instrument in the show. The songs regularly change metre, tempo and genre and the drums are always expected to lead the drama. Ben V did an astonishing job. He's a very tidy little drummer who didn't seem to want to let anything phase him. I was astonished when he announced at the end that this had been his first professional session.

I'd say about 90% of what we recorded was as good as it could have been. We timed out towards the end of the session and rushed our way through Letters and the Prologue, which I'd rather foolishly left till last. I guess you've got to do something last, but not necessarily the longest and most complicated number in the show, and the first thing people will hear on the recording! Hey ho! It'll all come out in the wash.

We were inspired in the morning by the arrival of a very charming little film, which has been posted on Facebook, showing the mechanics of the production of Brass. Unbeknownst to me, a number of cameras had been set up back stage, on stage, and in the lighting box, and a wonderful package has been edited together of the last fifteen minutes of the show featuring  the actors backstage psyching themselves up for entrances and all sorts of technical shenanigans.  Anyone who is interested can see the piece here:

Year in review

It's Abbie's 30th birthday today. It strikes me that this is very much the year of the zero birthdays. My Mum was 70 yesterday. My Dad, and Nathan's father were 70 in July. Nathan and I, and just about everyone else we know were 40 at some stage this year. Abbie, of course, also got married in 2014, so it's rather nice to know that we'll always share that particular anniversary. If one of us forgets how long we've been married, we can always ask the other!

Everyone on Facebook is currently attaching a "Year in Review" post to their timeline. The nerds who run Facebook have found a way to extract the most talked-about moments of a person's online year, and have stuck them all in a fancy-looking bespoke document, which, unsurprisingly, people are sharing with the world. It's become the modern-day equivalent of the Christmas card "round Robin." Of course, its success rather depends on a person regularly posting self-congratulatory statuses and photographs on Facebook. I don't know how the good stuff gets siphoned away from the posts about doom and gloom. If certain friends of mine had their Facebook statuses analysed, their year in review would consist of nothing but desperate midnight screams for sympathy and oblique attention-grabbing statements like, "Now I understand the meaning of true misery..." These open-ended statements are usually followed by about ten "friends" offering up platitudes like, "hugs, babe, things will get better soon." No-one, of course, ever bothers to establish what was wrong in the first place, and a thread of mawkish, cliched sentiment is usually signed off by the original postee saying, "I'm so blessed to have such amazing friends. You guys are awesome. I feel completely humbled."

Here's a word of advice to actors reading this blog. People like me often check Facebook when contemplating whether or not to offer a person a role. I vetted the entire cast of Brass during the audition process. What you opt to publish on Facebook and Twitter says a great deal about your personality - and your levels of intelligence - so do watch what you write!

My 2014 started with a trip to Yorkshire to see Nathan in pantomime. I took the lovely Cindy with me, and simultaneously introduced her to the joys of Haworth, York and Leeds.

January continued with a glorious trip to the Dominican Republic which gave Nathan and me a blast of much-needed Caribbean sunshine and a shedload of laughter.

Two months later, on March 29th, we got married in a televised musical, which remains, to this day, the most significant single event of my life. The wedding was nominated as the Guardian newspaper's TV moment of 2014, and won a prestigious Grierson Award.

The wedding somehow morphed into Brass. There was a trip to France with the creative team, a workshop week, and then a flurry of intense and insane writing activity as I developed orchestrations and re-wrote the script over and over again.

Brass performed for a week in August at the Leeds City Varieties Theatre, and, completely against all odds, and with the support of theatre critic Mark Shenton, won the UK Theatre Award for best musical production. It was an extraordinary honour. I owe a great debt to Jeremy from the National Youth Music Theatre for not just giving me the opportunity to write the piece, but for trusting me to do it the way I felt it needed to be done.

There were summer holidays in Derbyshire with my surrogate family of university friends and 40th birthday celebrations in London, Avebury and Cambridge.

The autumn saw us honeymooning in San Francisco, with only a brief bout of pneumonia marring what was otherwise the most perfect trip.

I entered another intense period of writing in October and November, working on The Man in the Straw hat for the Fleet Singers, which will be performed in April.

December become about prepping the cast recording of Brass, the sessions for which begin first thing tomorrow morning and continue into 2015.

So I exit the year feeling upbeat and positive with my fingers firmly crossed that the new year will bring new adventures and successes. That said, I can't think there will ever be another year like 2014.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Made in Dagenham

We woke up a little too early this morning. I reckon I could have done at least another hour drifting in and out of sleep. I hit the Christmas brick wall today; the one where you long to hibernate for a week, not eating any more rubbish food, just staring, shell-shocked at a silent telly with no one else around.

Nathan's Dad and step mother, Liz, came to see us this morning and presented us with lovely jumpers and plates of cheese. They'd been greatly missed on Christmas Day itself and it was great to catch up with them and swap Yuletime tales.

It's my mother's 70th birthday today, so Nathan and I hot-footed it into Central London to meet the parents and Brother Edward at the Adelphi Theatre, where we were taken to see the musical version of Made In Dagenham.

The parents absolutely loved the show. It's such a wonderful story. My parents remembered the real-life events that the story is based on, and were thrilled by the authenticity of the costumes and sets. For those who don't know the film that the musical is based on, Made In Dagenham tells the tale of a group of female workers at the Dagenham Ford Car factory who, in the late 1960s, fought for equal pay for women. These women, in my view, are right up there with the Cable Street rioters and the Jarrow Marchers.

I was slightly horrified to note that the creative team of the show consisted entirely of men. It's not that I think men can't, or shouldn't write about female struggles - far from it - but I think, in this case, a bit of female energy wouldn't have gone a miss. The biggest, most powerful number was sung, for example, by the husband of the central female character, and the women characters in the show felt a little one-dimensional.

The book was good, the lyrics were passable, but the music was largely unsuccessful. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that, as a piece of musical theatre, David Arnold's score systematically managed to miss every dramatic and musical beat! It was like listening to a lengthy yawn. There were no stand-out melodies and it screamed of something which had been written in haste and without love, which upset me enormously, because the story is so profound and strong.

The show has been in development for a long time. It was workshopped several times and was in rehearsals for months, but it seems there was no-one on the show who had the balls to say, "this melody isn't strong enough. We don't need this pointless comedy number. This song hasn't been earned by this character." And so on. Most irritating of all was the way the words scanned. The strong musical beats were regularly placed on the wrong syllables of words which began to make my skin crawl. Wholly unacceptable.

To make matters worse, the orchestrations were synthetic, dense and hugely old-fashioned. Everything was scored for that Musical Theatre-cliche of a smattering of woodwind, a trumpet, a rock band and 97 synth sounds. It actually felt like a parody of musical theatre. I have massive respect for David Arnold as a film-writer, but musical theatre would appear not to be his forte. I'm not sure he respects the medium enough. That, or he wrote the work a little too speedily. If I were him I'd be heading back to the world of James Bond as quickly as possible...

It appears that Islington Council has done the unimaginable and given all of its roads a 20 mph speed limit. I have seldom witnessed such utter insanity. Of course the decision will be dressed up as a way of protecting pedestrians, but clearly, based on the sheer number of new cameras (one of which flashed Nathan last night) this is nothing but a money-making scheme.

...So my journeys through the borough are now a third longer than they were before, which is annoying enough, but driving at 20mph on a main road like Holloway Road is actually dangerous. It makes a driver get so bored he starts to think he can do other things at the same time like tweet and sleep! Honestly. I spent so much of my last journey looking at the mile-ometer that I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have noticed someone rushing out in front of me. It is so counter-intuitive.

Friday, 26 December 2014


We're in Kent. We drove all the way down here from North Wales this morning and arrived at about 3pm. It wasn't a bad journey, although I got caught short somewhere on the M6 where there are no service stations. I ended up having to take a wee on the hard shoulder whilst numerous cars beeped their horns at me! Mortifying.

We're at my cousin Neil's house, somewhere in the countryside near Maidstone. An enormous bunch of descendants of my grandparents have gathered to spend Boxing Day together and Nathan and I are representing the Till clan. We had a huge curry for lunch and a massive game of gender non-specific Mr and Mrs, which was won by my cousin's daughter and her step sister. Nathan and I came third. We were actually the highest place married couple. Second place went to the twins.

We sat down to watch cine footage of our family in the 1960s, including extended sequences of the much-fabled house my great grandmother lived in on the Isle of Wight. It had an eight-acre garden with lawns and woods and streams which stretched down to its own private beach. My Mum can't talk about Ventnor without going a little misty-eyed, and this is the first time I've ever seen film footage of it. It was really quite moving. And such a beautiful house.

There was also cine footage of my Grandparents at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. They were quite the adventurers in their middle age, and there were even shots of her meeting  the England players and wandering onto the pitch post game!

At the end of the night we watched Our Gay Wedding The Musical, which again felt rather special surrounded by four generations of my family.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

It's Chriiiiissssttmaaaaaas!

It's been a hugely pleasurable Christmas Day, filled with very special people, games, food, mulled wine, presents, and, crucially, no TV! None whatsoever.

The day started in Shropshire at Celia and Ron's house just outside Market Drayton. We attempted to make blueberry pancakes for breakfast, which Meriel, Celia and I managed to entirely destroy! Nathan tweeted a series of photographs as the situation descended into complete mayhem and the kitchen filled with smoke. The last picture was of a rather sad pile of charcoal sitting in a frying pan!

We travelled to Wales and arrived at Nathan's sister's house in Penley just before noon. There were fifteen of us at one point; my Mum and Dad, Brother Edward, Sam's lot, Meriel, Celia, Ron and various boyfriends, girlfriends and associated children.

We toasted absent friends and families across the world at 3pm in front of the Queen's Speech, which is a tradition Nathan's family have always upheld. I toasted Billy Whitelaw with my wine glass with the pretty on it.

We went for a walk down the hill into the countryside outside Penley, and sat on the little bridge where Wales becomes England, looking up at what Sam's daughter Jennie describes as the best sledging hill in carnation.

We ate a dinner with plates and plates of wonderful-coloured vegetables. It was like a rainbow on a plate. Purple cabbage, orange carrots, golden parsnips, yellow sweetcorn, bright green Brussels and every colour of every vegetable in between.

Meriel brought Christmas crackers filled with miniature (slightly out of) tuned whistles on which we played simple melodies, like The First Nowell, one note at a time.

There were indoor sparklers after lunch and we discovered it was possible to use a slow shutter speed to take photographs of people spelling out words, which we then realised we could do with considerably less effort on iPhone torches. Lovely little words like "happy" and "Xmas" became incredibly rude words with exclamation marks attached!

We played games in the evening with  pens and pieces of paper. It felt so special to have everyone together; four generations of an extended family of misfits all together. Meriel is definitely a keeper. We're going to try and encourage her to become an honorary aunt!

We're thrilled to note that we've become a question in the Guardian newspaper's quiz of the year. Question 20; "what did Nathan Taylor and Benjamin Till celebrate in musical form last April?" Obviously they meant March, but it's nice to be mentioned! I've never been the answer to a quiz question before. Actually, that's a lie. Whilst I was dating the MP Stephen Twigg, director Stephen Daldry asked a question about me at the Royal Court Theatre Christmas Party quiz.

The two sets of parents and Edward left at about 8, and we played another game, ate large quantities of cheese (and scored each block out of ten) and then settled down for a night of chatting, knitting and winding down.


It appears to be Christmas Eve, and we're all sitting in Celia and Ron's sitting room watching Julie Walters doing wonderful things on the television. Isn't it time she became a dame?

We were in Shrewsbury this afternoon. I was on a mission to find a wine glass with a "pretty" on it in honour of Billie Whitelaw. They're not the most fashionable things these days, but I managed to find a cocktail glass with a nice gold rim, which I decided was good enough. It's just something to remember her by.

We met Meriel in the car park down by the river. It took us an age to pay for her pay and display ticket by phone. First the voice-activated system refused to acknowledge Meriel's voice and then it registered the wrong number plate and we had to send a text message with all the correct information attached. Desperate, really.

Still, the town looked stunning in the orange wintery sunlight. There were a pair of weeping willows hanging over the river which were glowing positively orange just before it started to get dark. Shrewsbury is such a pretty town, and such a charming place to wander around in on a Christmas Eve.

The shops were mostly closed by about 4pm, so we drove in tandem to the Pizza Hut in Wrecsam where Nathan's family traditionally gather for a Christmas Eve meal. It was Christmas hats and meal deals all round, and an obscene amount of food passed our lips including trips to the ice cream factory where long spiralling dollops of white ice cream dropped out of the machine and onto our bowls like giant dog turds from the 1970s!

It's been so nice to have Meriel with us all day. She's entirely entered into the spirit and wore a cardigan earlier on adorned with tinsel and sparkly things.

Celia has taught me how to make a trifle today. What we've created is no doubt something I'll be stuffing into my mouth with great alacrity tomorrow...

We went to midnight mass in a church in the middle of the Shropshire countryside. It was one of the clearest nights I've known in years. The church was floodlight against the blackened sky with no other buildings for miles around. The stars were astonishingly bright. Londoners forget how black a night sky can actually be. It's a pleasure to look into a sky which isn't tinged with a sickening halogen glow.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The inequality of the UK

I read today about a worrying discussion which is currently happening in Northern Ireland. Some silly tit is attempting to create a bill which basically excuses bigotry on religious grounds.

The Independent newspaper reports: "Last month, a politician from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) unveiled plans to introduce a "conscience clause" into Northern Irish law which would make religious people exempt from equality legislation."

Two steps forward, one step back...

I am actually shocked to discover that this kind of nonsense is being considered in the United Kingdom. Religion should not be allowed to get in the way of a) politics and b) human rights. This is about as fundamental as anything can get. It should be the very principal of existence, and can only be ignored at our collective peril. Sharia Law is the consequence of religion dictating law, as are some of the draconian abortion laws that exist in the US. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Religion is a choice and sexuality is not. Those boring, whinging, tragic, buttoned-up, doubled-standarded Christians and Catholics should get on with searching for sin in their own lives and stop judging and persecuting others.

...And if the good people of Northern Ireland want to be treated like anything other than a bunch of violent simpletons, they might want to start behaving like human beings.

I think it might be time for English, Welsh and Scottish people to boycott Northern Ireland until they can sort themselves out. That, or we encourage the enlightened Northern Irish people to move South or to this side of the Irish Sea, so we can cut the rest of them off and let the bastards bomb the crap out of one another.

In all seriousness, there are online petitions to sign that might stop this insanity, so do what you can to help. And if you're Northern Irish and gay. IT WILL GET BETTER.

I'm currently in Shropshire at Nathan's Mum's house. We drove here in time for a late lunch - a fabulous vegetarian stew with dumplings - and have basically sat on sofas watching telly and eating chocolate ever since. I feel like a lump of lard... All be it a rather relaxed one!

I am fairly horrified to see the listings for the BBC for this evening. Apart from a couple of long-running soaps, everything they're showing is a repeat. This is wholly unacceptable for a public service broadcaster just two days before Christmas. I usually loathe people who ask why we pay our licence fee, but in this instance I think we'd be well within our rights to know why we have to watch last year's Great British Bake Off master class with Paul and Mary Berry.

Monday, 22 December 2014

No wool

An alarm went off at 8.15am this morning and I was thrilled to realise it was Nathan's phone and not mine. I settled back down with a smile on my face, but two minutes later my own alarm went off and it took me a split second to realise why. For some ludicrous reason, when I was last with my osteopath, I'd booked myself in for his earliest appointment today. I think I'd told myself that I couldn't be sure what I'd be doing on a date so close to Christmas, so figured it was best to get osteopathy out of the way in case it was at loggerheads with travel plans or potential work.

It turns out that I could have had a lie-in and furthermore that I've a painful wisdom tooth coming through which makes my jaw ache, so a bit of extra time in bed would have been a very lovely experience. To make matters slightly worse, we went home from the carol concert last night and watched the final of Strictly Come Dancing rather late into the night, so frankly I feel like an old dish cloth today, still deeply de-hydrated as a result of spending hours in a church yesterday without drinking nearly enough water.

The osteopath went a bit easy on me, which I found quite disappointing. I would far rather be pummelled and abused.

I went to Angel to try and buy Nathan a Christmas present from Loop, the knitting shop, and realised,  as soon as I'd arrived, that it was closed on a Monday. At the same time I discovered that there wasn't a shop in Angel which sold DVDs. What there was, however, was a whole heap of people in red tabards carrying clipboards, every one of whom opted to pursue me down the street asking if I wanted to donate to their charity. Well, that's not entirely true, they're never that up front. They rush after you complimenting you on your odd socks, or asking you if you're having a nice day, or if you've finished your Christmas shopping. Reel 'em in, then go for the jugular.  If a beggar did this, the police would ask him to move on. It's harassment and it's deeply inappropriate. I don't care if it's for charity. There are too many charities out there for this to be an appropriate way of behaving. What makes matters worse is that the people who rush after you are plainly out-of-work actors. I can spot an actor's insincerity a mile off. I see it way too often when I'm in audition situations telling an actor about a show or film I'm casting, and they're nodding and shimmering and opening their eyes all wide because they think that's what listening looks like!

I took myself to Crouch End and then Muswell Hill and did a bit of panic buying which included a trip to a baker's on the Broadway. I keep giving it the benefit of the doubt because I always want independent shops to do well, but really the place is quite horrific. Everything tastes like MDF and the Eastern European women who work there seem almost incapable of smiling. I've no doubt that the little iced bun I bought there will be wholly inedible.

I came home and wrapped Christmas presents whilst watching The Railway Children, and was instantly drawn entirely into its West-Yorkshire-feel-good world. That scene, when Jenny Agguter screams "Daddy, my Daddy" as the steam train's smoke clears, still chokes me. Of course this film could never be made these days: the interest both the elderly gentleman and the station master have in the children would be seem as paedophilic in the extreme. A similar piece these days would feature Agguter screaming rape (anonymously) whilst Bernard Cribbins' photograph was plastered all over the Haworth Gazette!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The greatest Billie

The day started rather wearily. It's really time I had myself a lie-in, because I haven't woken up naturally for what seems like an age. My internal computer has calculated that the next actual lie-in could well be December 28th, which is far too long from now.

It was the NYMT Christmas Carol concert today and there were rehearsals planned from 11.30am. I took the tube down to Charing Cross and exited the station via that curiously grotty underground mini-shopping centre which is filled with terrible clothing boutiques and tacky souvenir stalls. I genuinely don't know how it exists. I have never seen anyone in it, not have I seen any of the shops actually open!

We used the area as a set for the film 28 Weeks Later in the sequence where the two kids go underground and meet Robert Carlisle in zombie (or more specifically "infected") form.

In a previous life, I worked as the acting coach and associate casting director on that film, specifically engaged to work with the child actors on the film, one of whom was the luminous Imogen Poots, who needed very little help! I'm proud to say I actually put Imogen on the casting list for that film, because I had an empty audition slot, and liked her spotlight photo. 28 Weeks Later turned out to be her big break!

The carol concert went remarkably well. We rehearsed in the afternoon and I sat in the church with Uncle Bill, nattering and drinking cups of tea from Pret A Manger, whilst the cast and musicians rehearsed their numbers. It was so lovely to see her. I adore her son, Jago, but it's also really great to spend some time with her talking about herself, and her plans for the second half of her life. Many of the women I know are now coming out the other side of child-rearing, wondering, for the first time in four years who they actually are, or want to be.

We met the parentals and Brother Edward on the South Bank. They'd just been chucked out of the National Theatre restaurant, which unhelpfully closed just after they'd ordered a bottle of wine!

The concert took place at St John's in Smith Square, that curiously quiet, and highly beautiful corner of London which sits between Parliament and the back of Victoria. I associate the area with Mrs Dalloway, whom I think was meant to live somewhere close by. The church sits grandly in the middle of a Georgian Square. I learned today that it was built in 1714. 300 years old.

Highlights of the carol concert definitely included Pippa Cleary's carol about Snow. Pippa and her partner, Jake, are writing next year's new commission for the NYMT, and from the strength of what I've heard of their work, I'm passing the baton on to a very safe pair of hands.

Billy Whistle from Brass went down an absolute storm. The cast performed it with absolute panache, taking my music right into the laps of the audience. There was an extended and very vocal applause. I told the cast afterwards that they'd won the concert!

I was asked to give a little thank you speech at the end, standing in for Jude Law who sadly wasn't able to attend at the last moment. It seemed to go down well, and in fact, when I introduced myself as the writer of Billy Whistle, I received another rather lengthy applause. Nathan later told me I'd shuffled about the stage like a baby dinosaur with ADHD. It does seem I'm quite unable to stand still!

As the concert ended, Brother Edward handed me his phone, with a newsfeed telling me the very sad news that my great heroine, Billie Whitelaw had died. Billie was one of the greatest actresses in the world in my view. I studied her performances of Beckett shorts at university, and wrote to her whilst I was at drama school. She was gracious enough to write back, and a few years later I was lucky enough to spend a large number of Sunday lunches with her at our mutual friend, Vera's house. I took a large number of photographs of her at that time which still proudly hang on my walls.

It may take me a while to process the news. I hadn't seen her for about ten years, so she didn't feel like she was present in my life, but she was a large part of my past, somehow, and I mourn those happy lunches in Hampstead.

Billie liked a glass or two of wine, and used to ask me to "fill her glass up to the pretty", a reference to the little fancy engraving which old-fashioned wine glasses would often have around the rim. Well, Billie, I hope you're with your beloved husband, Robert again, and that, Samuel Beckett is taking you both out for a glass of vino. Rest in peace, you darling woman. I shall buy a wine glass with a pretty on it tomorrow and raise a glass to you on Christmas Day.

Which county wedding?

I've been in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire all day today, never quite sure, as I roamed about, which of the three counties I was actually in!

It was Viktoria, Fiona's sister's wedding today. The ceremony happened in a church in Newport Pagnell, which is a charming little place, surrounded by rivers, just off the M1. We used to go there from time to time when I was a kid. I remembered a fascinating shop in the town which sold old newspapers and magazines. I was pleased to see it still existed.

The weather was almost perfect for a winter wedding; blue skies, bright sunshine. It was perhaps a little breezy at times. The wind was pretty cold, and everyone seemed to be slightly underdressed, one assumes because they saw the sun shining so bravely!

The service was slightly over-the-top in its relentless references to god. A vicar, in my view, has entirely failed in his or her mission when the word god is said more often than the word love. Vik, who is a card-carrying pagan, justified the repeated mention of the G bomb by adding "and goddesses" in her head every time the almighty was mentioned. Fair enough, I say. God is but a concept which can mean different things to different people. Besides, the vicar was a woman called Mandy, which is such an un-vicary name that I would forgive her almost anything. In any case, a female vicar by her very nature ought to be more open-minded than most! I left a message in her prayer basket asking her to pray for members of the African LGBT community who are persecuted in the name of Jesus. I felt this might give her some food for thought.

Vic and her new husband Chris entered the church to the exquisite Winter by Tori Amos and exited to Loud Like Love by Placebo. There was a fabulously surreal moment, as we all ambled out of the church, when we could see - but not hear - the eight bell ringers in the belfry, tugging frantically at their ropes with all their might. There was something about the potency of the rocky Placebo number which somehow made it look like the bell ringers were in a music video. As we left the church the rock music gradually gave way to the actual sound of the bells. It was a rather extraordinary effect.

Fiona had arranged all the hymns, and a brilliant 1960s Western Film soundtrack (a request from Vic), for string quartet. She chose local players,  two of whom were people I recognised from my days at the music school. One of them, Richard, was the kid with cancer, who always seemed to be wearing a hat to cover his lack of hair. I was thrilled to see him all grown up, and to find out that he'd had three children of his own. The radiation therapy obviously didn't effect him too adversely!

We threw rice and flower petals at the happy couple. I stood down-wind of the bride and ended up with a face full. I was picking bits of petal out of my waistcoat for hours afterwards! I once went to a wedding where they'd cooked the rice by mistake...

The wedding breakfast happened in a country pub outside Olney. Most of Fiona's family are from the area, and it was really rather lovely to hear those old town names like Bozeat, Rushden and Raunds said properly. It made me feel a little homesick in fact, quite what for, I'm not sure. I haven't lived in those parts for over twenty years.

We drove from Olney to Yardley Hastings for the after party, passing en route a large piece of road kill, which Fiona's father, Uncle and I all noticed independently. It was the size of a small deer, but rather fury and a sort of sandy colour. Malcolm thought it was an enormous fox. I decided it was one of the legendary wild wallabies which are said to roam the countryside around Bedford. Fiona, who didn't see it, felt it was more likely to be a dog, which, in retrospect, makes a little more sense, although quite what a dog without an owner was doing on a winding B road two miles from the nearest town I've no idea.

We spent a couple of hours decorating a village hall for the evening do. It was great fun. Viktoria has a very good eye for interior design, and we managed to make the place look like a wonderful pagan grotto.

The band helped to bring the theme even more to life. They were a brilliant four-piece folk group who played original material. I was thrilled to discover that the 'cellist was my old, dear friend Helen, whom I shared many a desk with in my youth orchestra days, probably from about the age of 12. It was so phenomenally lovely to see her again, and hear her playing so well.

The two of us spent a good long time with Fiona reminiscing about various trips. Helen told me how embarrassed she'd been when I refused to stand up for the queen after we'd played for her at St James' Palace. I'd forgotten all about that particularly incident. I had very republican views in those days, which have softened enormously in my old age as a result of seeing the ludicrousness of presidential systems around the world. If being a leader is a birth right, then it's something you can't aspire to, and therefore, something which ought to be fairly incorruptible. I have more respect for the queen than I have every prime minister I've ever lived under. If my Dad were dead, he'd be turning in his grave to hear me say that!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Too many bags

I entered my house at 5pm today carrying altogether too many bags which were filled with wrapping paper, Christmas presents, photo frames, ten blocks of cheese and a Grierson award. It struck me that there would be people all over the world similarly weighed down at the end of the last major working day before Christmas.

I spent the morning ticking off a mercifully short list of things to do for the Brass recording. At this time of year, everyone is engulfed by the same panic; the panic which tells us that if it's not achieved before Christmas Eve it will remain undone, probably for ever. That's because all communication in the Western world ends on December 22nd and isn't reestablished until the middle of January! Never ever try to contact somebody from the BBC between now and then!

The Christmas tree went up this morning. It's a charmingly mangey affair, which Nathan tells me is 20 years old. We draped it with a riotous assortment of baubles of different colours and textures. My favourite are almost certainly the scary pin-cushion clown heads we won at a party in New York!

We had lunch with Uncle Archie in Kentish Town, and discussed a few rather exciting ideas for future documentaries. We ate omelettes and stale cake and he presented us with our Grierson Award, which is now sitting proudly on our mantlepiece next to my RTS Award and a load of Christmas cards.

We went from Kentish Town to Camden to buy lashings of Christmas cheese and enough wrapping paper to stretch from Highgate to the moon!

We stumbled upon a little barber shop and decided to give it a whirl, having suffered one or two too many butcher jobs at the hands of various branches of Mr Toppers. The barbers, a highly friendly bunch, were all Turkish and North African, and did a lot of work with cut throat razors, which I found terrifying and exciting in equal measure! They actually offer a shaving service there, with hot towels and things. It's something I think I might try for a special treat one time. Being shaved by someone else is a rather extraordinary sensation. You're forced to place your entire trust in a complete stranger, whilst your subconscious screams "get the f**k out of this chair!" When it's done well, however, it's like being tickled by a master painter!

Dodgy names

Nathan was watching This Morning on the telly today. They came to the ghastly bit where the children from regional schools re-enact the Nativity scene and then sing a carol rather badly. At the end of this particular sequence, they always scroll up some mini-credits displaying the names of the kids who have taken part. I have seldom heard such shrieks of disapproval as Nathan read the names! "Chloë with a K?! Who ARE these parents?!" It did seem that many of the kids in that particular school had genuinely ridiculous names. Most of them were bastardisations of perfectly decent names. Mummy obviously decided that a normal name was too good for her child, she wanted something a bit different, and in the process opened her child up to a lifetime of ridicule. The sad fact is that, if you're going to spell Chloë with a K, people will judge you!

There was a shock headline in the Daily Mail yesterday which suggested a staggering 4 out of 5 nurses were foreign (whatever foreign means in a country where most people have a bit of something else in us.) I wasn't sure what the fuss was about. If 4/5ths of nurses are foreign, then thank God for immigration, else there'd be no one to look after us! Let's not forget that many of those wonderful West Indian people who came over here on the Windrush were health workers, invited here because we simply didn't have enough nurses of our own. I honestly wish people would shut up about immigration. Obviously I think it wouldn't harm to tighten the rules on people coming here. I am not sure someone coming here should instantly be able to claim British benefits, but I suspect the prannies of UKIP won't stop whinging until we've entirely closed our doors, at which point they'll start looking for someone else to blame for our country's woes. What do they want? A full-scale pogrom?

I've spent the day single-mindedly producing parts for the Brass recordings. It's utterly mind-numbing, and I'm going cross-eyed. You just have to keep ploughing forward, always assuming there's a million more parts to format. Eventually you'll suddenly realise there are no more to do, and that's when the sun comes out. I'm still on target to finish everything by the close of business tomorrow, which fills me with a great sense of relief.

It's not easy trying to work with a computer which is on a permanent go slow. I left the house this evening uploading 1.44Gb of music, which I'm told will take the computer over 3 hours to process. Boo!

We went to see Philip and Daryl last night, and ate large quantities of delicious macaroni cheese whilst talking about the death of one of their close friends. Words cannot describe how lucky I feel not to have suffered a major loss in my life. I think about people like Tina and Sam and sometimes wonder how they get out of bed in the morning. Sadly, I think I'm entering an age where losing someone dear to me is probably inevitable and it's the thing I dread most of all.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Pantos and Phantoms

Last night became a fairly unpleasant evening, with Nathan almost constantly on the phone to Talk Talk, who weren't able (or perhaps couldn't be bothered) to ascertain why my computer seemed to have suddenly become incompatible with our rooter. The raised stress levels caused us to row, and I ended up sulkily watching episodes of Time Team late into the night.

When I finally got into bed there was a rather peculiar atmosphere in the house; nothing to do with Nathan, who was sound asleep, but a slightly eerie quality. I must have drifted off to sleep, because a few minutes later I woke up screaming. I was aware that I'd been dreaming about my Mum, and trying to shout something at her.

When I got up this morning, an email arrived from Nell at Wingspan saying what a shame it was that we'd missed their Christmas party yesterday night. My blood immediately ran cold. Instead of rowing like petulant children last night, Nathan and I should have been at a lovey Christmas party, where there was a quiz, and a beautiful dinner (the menu for which I'd chosen), and where we were meant to be presented with our Grierson Award. I had been looking forward to the event all week, and then, suddenly, both Nathan and I forgot all about it. I felt awful: rude, angry, sad, embarrassed. I can only think that the visit to Bagshot House and the sheer amount of work I've been doing on Brass, dislodged it from my mind. I'm just not normally that person. I pride myself on not letting people down. For the first time in recent years I felt truly ashamed of my behaviour.

The day picked up somewhat with a journey up to North Wales to watch Nathan's nephew, Lewis, in a school pantomime. The journey up was insane. The M6 was a disaster zone, with road works and burning lorries (I kid you not.) We arrived at least an hour later than expected, but there was a lovely plate of pasta waiting for us, along with a full compliment of in-laws, and a delicious Tiramisu care of Nathan's Wicked Step Mother (WSM) who currently lives in Weston Super Mare (WSM!)

Lewis was brilliant in the show, and smiled like a superstar through all of his songs. One of the teachers made a hugely convincing dame, and another lad put in a cracking performance as a monkey! Some of the chorus girls were a bit under-energised. I'd have knocked the self-consciousness out of them within seconds, largely by mocking them mercilessly until they remembered to perform!

I texted Michelle of the Turkie mid-way through. Bizarrely, she went to the same school as Nathan's nephew and nieces, and I thought she might enjoy the idea that I was sitting in her old school hall. I love little coincidences like that. My father also tells me that we have distant relatives in that same little Welsh village. I guess this is not so surprising. I was born within a stone's throw of the place, and we've always had relatives in Rhiwabon and Rhos. What I don't quite understand is why none of the kids in the Panto sounded like my Nana! The kids actually all sounded disappointingly English, whereas my Nana very much didn't. Maybe there are two discrete accents up there, depending on whether your first language is Welsh or English. My Nana's was very definitely Welsh...

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Tea with a prince

An intensely blue light was rolling in through our sitting room window when I got up this morning. Cutting through the blueness was a contrasting strip of orange which came from the halogen light outside. It was really quite beautiful in an intensely urban sort of way. I went to get my breakfast, and by the time I'd returned, the lamp had gone out and been replaced by an even brighter orange light, which I suddenly realised was the rising sun. A spectacular sight.

Highgate Station was in a hopeless mess when I passed through, with a queue of people snaking around the ticket hall, attempting to top up their Oyster cards. A sign in the window of the ticket office informed the passing world that no one was manning the decks due to a "shortage of staff," and, to add a sprinkling of gold dust to the catastrophe, only one of the three ticket machines was working. I've no idea how the station coped at the peak of rush hour. Chivalrously and with great panache, probably. People don't tend to go for angry displays in Highgate. A well-placed tut, or a carefully considered philosophical one-liner is enough to make one's feelings more than felt in this part of the world!

If I thought Highgate was crowded, my experience of the Victoria line from Euston to Oxford Circus was hopeless beyond words. I ended up on a crowded platform perilously close to the tracks. At one stage, some sort of surge pushed me within about an inch of falling into the path of a tube train. It suddenly struck me how likely it is that at least some of the people who are regularly reported as a "person under a train" are people who were actually pushed or tripped in these sorts of situations. My previous assumption was that they were always suicides which felt a little easier to accept.

We were sandwiched into the tube carriage itself like olives in a jar. The politeness of Highgate had melted away and was replaced by people shoving, nudging and elbowing, and the odd sex addict having a subtle little grope of a conveniently-placed thigh!

Every time I get onto a rush hour tube I think about 7/7, and the panic which must have passed through the tube trains which were bombed on that dreadful day. The underground system is almost certainly going to be the scene of the next awful terrorist attack and the thought upsets me greatly.

I had a meeting with Prince Edward again today in the sitting room at his home in Berkshire. Both NYMT Jeremys were present, alongside the wonderful poet, Ian Macmillan, for whom I have almost endless respect.

The meeting, which lasted about an hour, went really well. Prince Edward is a kind man: erudite, charming and really rather witty. The surroundings were beyond surreal, however. I found myself at one stage staring at two enormous portraits on the wall, which I suddenly realised were his great grandparents. On the side board sat a lovely informal photograph of Edward's children on two little horses, flanked by an older lady with a great big smile on her face. The Queen. The whole experience was an extraordinary blend of the informal and the ultra formal; a lovely reminder that people are people regardless of which social echelon they were born into.

The house itself continues to intrigue  me with its Indian oak panels and dark, winding corridors. I complimented HRH on the glass work in some of the doors leading off the central hall, and he took me for a closer look to demonstrate that they were actually all the stems of wine glasses.

I spent the afternoon working in cafés in Soho, and in the process heard every cover version of every single Christmas song ever written. One version of Jingle Bells was so insanely upbeat that I thought I might be having some kind of seizure!

We had a late lunch in Stock Pot, having discovered that the other actor-friendly cheap-grub institution, West End Kitchen, has closed down. Stock Pot itself had been closed for restoration for some weeks. Oddly nothing in there had been repainted or rebranded in any way, begging me to wonder whether the "refurbishment" was actually some kind of environmental health issue.

I returned home in my second rush hour of the day to find our internet not working. Nathan is still on the phone to them right now trying to sort the matter out. Tonight was meant to be the night we put our Christmas Tree up. Bah Humbug Talk Talk!!


I had a massage today, and got chatting to the masseur afterwards, who has spent much of the past year  travelling to Yorkshire and back to tend to his elderly, semi-senile mother. He told me that they were driving along in the car last week and that she'd said to him, "I think me and you will stay friends. I don't think we'll get married." It's both hysterically funny and really unnerving. How genuinely distressing must it be to have your own mother say something like that to you? All I can hope is that his mother is at least happy, and that she's unaware of or unbothered by the confusion which is engulfing her brain. The concept of losing my sense of self is the thing which keeps me awake at night.

The massage was a lovely change of scenery, however, and hugely relaxing despite the fact that I got pummelled like a piece of mutton. There was a lovely moment when I was lying on my back, having my feet massaged, when I found myself staring up at the skylight, watching the sky very subtly changing from blue to black. There was a magical moment when all the clouds floating past were a different shades of pink.

It's 11.30pm and I've just finished work for the day. I was determined to get the score of Oranges and Lemons off to the Rebel Chorus by hook or by crook today, which gives me the rest of the week to focus on music for the Brass soundtrack.

My goal is to have everything done by Saturday so that I can have a few days thinking about Christmas, but I think this is fairly unlikely! I'll probably be working on Christmas Day itself!

Golly. I genuinely don't think there's anything else to say about the day. I am horrified to read the news from Sidney today, and my heart and thoughts go out to Australian readers of this blog. The fact that the dreadful man who was responsible for the terrible events was an asylum seeker, who was given sanctuary in Australia twenty years ago when he fled Iran, just makes the whole thing even less easy to swallow. I've never been prouder to be an atheist!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Guiness cake

We've been at Craft and Cake at Julie and Sam's for much of the day. Most people knitted. In fact everyone seemed to be knitting enormous shawls with great long rows, which took hours to complete. Periodically someone would shout out that they'd finished another row and everyone would cheer! Kate was carefully removing little eiderdown feathers from a cushion and stuffing them into a sock owl. I stuck photographs into one of my albums. In fact, I completed the album and was able to sit back and look through it, fondly enjoying the memories that the pictures stirred. It starts with photographs taken at our wedding reception. It's been a busy and rather wonderful year!

Julie made a Guiness cake. Delicious. And a massive vat of macaroni cheese. Beyond delicious. We talked about theatre, religion, paedophilia, the state of the record industry, marriage and Stephen West knitwear designs. Life in all its guises...

On our way to Catford, we stopped off at Spitalfields Market to buy Christmas presents. I recommend that place for anyone short of ideas and still needing stocking fillers. Nothing in that market is made in China, or sold on behalf of ghastly multinational companies. It's just a little corner of London full of people making a humble living out of arts and crafts, and some of the things they're selling are beautiful and hugely inventive. The atmosphere is terrific. There was a wind band playing Christmas songs and loads of food stalls and people with smiles on their faces milling around with nowhere specific to be.

Fiona just texted to say she was at a charity gala this evening where The Feeling, who we were so lucky to have performing at our wedding, played God Only Knows, the song they sang at our wedding. Apparently they referenced this particular fact before performing it, which feels very special indeed.

High ceilings

Michelle and I are currently at Brother Edward and Sascha's house watching the X Faxtor final. We're enjoying the concept of battle buses emblazoned with the images of the finalists. There seem to be one or two too many subliminal messages knocking around, however, suggesting we vote for Fleur. I was half expecting to see her battle bus driving through the background of shots where her competitors were visiting their families in Croydon and places.

The poor Italian contestant (largely tipped to come third) didn't get to go back to Rome. He was sent instead to an Italian Restaurant in Soho, and when it came to the round where the contestants duet with famous pop artists, he had to make do with the low-rent Ella Henderson. The poor lad's mentor, Spice Girl Mel B, was apparently too ill to be there to unreservedly gush about him, so the poor lad looked utterly abandoned.

We're counting the cliches; "you don't know how good you are," "you gave it 110 per cent," "you look like a star, you sing like a star..."

Michelle has been with us for much of the day, which was, by all accounts, a very lovely sunny one. This is the sort of weather I believe the Germans would call Kaiser Wetter. Crisp blue skies, a watery sun and a hint of frost in the air. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, which meant the temperatures plummeted as night fell, and as we walked to the local Sainsbury's to buy mince pies, the roofs of cars were all covered in a thick layer of ice.

The Greenwich peninsular opposite Edward and Sascha's house is a hive of activity right now. Every time I come here it seems there's another skyscraper being built. Apparently there's a massive development of hexagon-shaped buildings planned for the area of scrubland on the other side of The Dome. Perhaps the ludicrous cable cars they've built from nowhere to nowhere in this part of the world will finally prove useful for someone. My friend Rupert tells me it's the most terrifying ride he's ever had.

I dropped Michelle off at Canary Wharf tube. Seldom have I visited a less welcoming part of town. There are checkpoints on every corner searching for bombs and god knows what. And every road is closed or inaccessible due to building works. We snaked our way through traffic cones and walled-off streets, with little faces of men in hi-viz peering suspiciously at us. No city of mine should be this unaccommodating. The Gaza Strip is a friendlier spot!

I went home via Hackney, where I was picking Nathan up from the party of a mutual friend. What a god forsaken dump Hackney is. That said, the flat where our friend lives is one that I deeply covet. It's a beautiful, tall-ceilinged artistic pad with enormous windows with sills big enough to sit on. The party was a rather fabulous affair as well. It was peopled almost exclusively by members of the box-office/ ticket seller fraternity. An entire table in the kitchen had been dedicated to the making of cocktails with almost every alcoholic drink, mixer, chaser and shot that you could imagine lined up, and books floating about which dealt with how to make the perfect drink. We stayed a great deal longer than expected, largely because it was so much fun.

We drove back home and I was asleep before my head touched the pillow!

Saturday, 13 December 2014


I decided to finish my accounts today. I have a million and one other things to achieve before Christmas, but this particular task was the one which has been nagging me all year. 

I spent the morning photocopying, adding things up and writing cover letters. At 3.30pm, when I finally finished, I'd still not had my lunch, so took myself off to the local cafe for beans on toast. I decided to visit the post office en route, where the plan was to buy an envelope and send the accounts off to my accountant so that I could spend the rest of the day feeling rather smug. 

Sadly the queue at the post office was stretching out into the street. The thought of standing there with no food in my stomach was a deeply miserable one, so I went to the cafe, clutching all the papers in my gloved hand which I subsequently dropped all over the floor. The woman behind the counter grossly over-reacted and let out a yelp, which caused other customers to try and help me to pick them up again and everything instantly became a little unnecessary and embarrassing. 

They played Gimme Gimme Gimme in the cafe, which was a wonderful treat, particularly when four of the cafe customers decided to whistle along to the famous flute-synth instrumental (the one that Madonna sampled in Hung Up.) The result was sonic carnage. Whistling a fast arpeggio is never to be recommended! The room suddenly sounded like a aviary filled with drunken robins! 

Speaking of which, I find myself amused by this year's fashion for tasteless Christmas jumpers. I even walked past a postman yesterday who was wearing one under his hi-viz jacket.

When we got to the theatre this evening, all the ushers were wearing Christmas jumpers. I mean, where do they all come from? I've subsequently been told that today was an official "wear a Christmas jumper" day in aid of a charity. Possibly Save the Children... Or F**k the Parents, as I like to call them.

This evening we went to see the show Julie has produced at the Trafalgar Studios. Miss Havisham's Expectations is a one-woman show performed by Linda Marlowe and written by my mate Di Sherlock. I'd normally avoid a one-woman show like the plague, but this piece cracked along at a very decent pace and was filled with wonderful word play and brilliant visual illusions. Marlowe is a staggeringly good actress. My over-arching emotion, however, was one of great pride. Julie worked her arse off to bring that show to the stage and she did so with great aplomb. I hope it sells tremendously well. These things are always big risks to take. And risk takers deserve great rewards. 


Thursday, 11 December 2014

Lemon meringue

I'm heading back to London. The little trundling train which took me from Worthing to Hove has suddenly become a high speed express, and I'll be at Victoria in just over an hour. I can't wait to get home. The last few days have been wonderful, but incredibly tiring, and I have promised myself a lie-in tomorrow.  I've scheduled a cold to kick in at about 11pm tonight, and fully expect to wake up tomorrow morning coughing and spluttering.

I do feel like a massive weight is now off my shoulders, however. On any project, there are a series of key moments, and this was the first on the journey to the release of the Brass soundtrack. So far, so good... Next, we have to hope that all the musicians and performers will arrive in the studio well-prepared and ready to make serious magic.

I have little stubs of tunes from the show bouncing around in my head alongside the echoes of the various keyboard sounds we've grown rather fond of recently.

PK's computer behaved itself today. I believe it received a firm talking to from its master last night, who then, very kindly, did a whole heap of homework which meant we were able to sail triumphantly through today, with only one or two moments where it felt like we were in murky waters.

We had a delicious bowl of pasta for lunch. What is it about food in someone else's house which is always so much more tasty? Fiona cooked bread last night which was so lovely I could have stuffed it in a suitcase for an elderly relative (Heidi-style) right then and there!

We had a great walk after I'd returned to Hove yesterday, from Fiona's house along the seafront all the way to Brighton pier and back via the high road. It was brilliantly blustery. The sea was foaming and frothing and I was glad of my gloves and scarf. I do sometimes envy the people who live in Brighton and Hove. The pace of life is considerably more laid back and there doesn't seem to be the same amount of anger and dissatisfaction on the streets.

I was, however, slightly perturbed to read, in Worthing's premier local newspaper, that there are an increasing number of False Widow spiders in Sussex, which, I'm told, can give you a bite more painful than a bee sting, which can blister and get infected. One poor woman on the front of the newspaper had been bitten by one in her sleep. Apparently they're easy to spot because of their "distinctive" markings. Sadly, the newspaper didn't think it necessary to describe what these distinctive markings actually look like... *quickly googles* Christ, they're gross! Like coffee beans with beige moths drawn on their backs.

I went home via Marks and Spencer where I bought a lemon meringue pie. As I got to the counter, the woman asked whether I'd like a bag. I said yes. "Small or large?" She asked. "Well that rather depends on which of the two my pie box will fit into. How big is small? You probably have more idea than me." She picked up a small bag, turned the pie upside down, and shook it violently as she started cramming it into a small bag, which immediately ripped like a flimsy piece of tissue paper. It all seemed such a pointless exercise, and now my pie has been shaken into a mass of its constituent parts. The lass behind me in the queue had a basket full of shopping and was asked the same question. She looked as genuinely perplexed as I'd felt!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Bless Brass, Blast technology and the media

I slept like the dead last night as a storm swirled around Fiona's house. I remember getting into bed and thinking "this is nice" and then waking up about eight hours later. Perfect! Fiona cooked me breakfast - like mother like daughter - and I was on the little coastal train to Worthing by 10.

PK and I made very good progress in the morning and found all sorts of really interesting sounds to use in the Brass recording. There was soup and ciabatta for lunch, which PK's adorable wife, Olivia had left out before heading off to Paris for a few days.

The afternoon was less successful, largely because the computer melted down. Why are we all so blinkin' reliant on technology?! I genuinely spend most of my life in a perpetual state of being just one computer crash away from nervous breakdown. When I finally lose my mind, it will almost certainly have been triggered by faulty technology. Nathan thinks that computer issues are only sorted by calmness and logic, but the ONE thing computers cannot be described as is logical. Personally I think all computers need to be punished because their refusal to play ball turns humans into snivelling lunatics. Treat computers with disdain and they'll eventually behave. Or they'll get reconditioned and sent to Africa where they'll get Ebola.

We ended the day one song short of where we might have been had the crash not happened. This will pile a little pressure on us for tomorrow, but hopefully not send us spinning into the ether!

I went back to Fiona's, reading a copy of the Standard on the way home which was buzzing with the news of the suicide of a property tycoon, who was apparently so wealthy he had a special car for taking his dogs to the vets! His ex-wife, who, predictably took him to the cleaners when they divorced, apparently wrote publicly and in detail about the lavish lifestyle they enjoyed together. Meanwhile, he went to jail for attempting to "diddle" her out of half his wealth. The whole thing sounds utterly grotesque. Almost as grotesque as his death. He ended his days, Mrs Dalloway-style, impaled on iron railings. A messy public life. A messy public death. And not exactly a bundle of fun for passers by and emergency services who had to deal with the carnage. If I were his wife, I'd be thinking about offering a little cash gift from his fortune as compensation for those people who were innocently dragged into the sorry story.

The other story I read, with a face of abject boredom, was the one about the Indian businessman who has just been found not guilty of contracting thugs to kill his wife on their honeymoon in South Africa. As with all sex crimes, the views of an eminent female judge, who threw the case out of court, are considered irrelevant by the media. Even the BBC's coverage of the man's release was clearly designed to question the verdict. The family of the dead woman were interviewed, and asked leading questions like "do you think justice has been done for your dead sister?" That question is, of course, irrelevant. The man has been found innocent by a court of law. It is not the media's job to disagree. It is certainly inappropriate for the BBC to subtly qualify the word "innocent," or to give a platform for grieving relatives to discuss the confused sexuality of said man as a possible motive for his guilt. I despair. I genuinely do.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Click track

...In the end I went to bed at 3.15am. I was at least able to fall asleep with a sense of achievement, having managed to wrestle my computer into shape.

I'm currently walking down a very windy street in Hove. It's spitting with rain, which at least means it's not as icy cold as it was in London when I left this morning.

It appears to have snowed very heavily in Wales. At least, I think it must have snowed heavily, based on a photograph Brother Tim posted on Facebook this afternoon. I can find no evidence of the fact on the BBC website, which rather bails out his theory that if it's weather, and it ain't happening in London, it ain't news.

I am now so shattered that I can barely put one foot in front of the other. I've been in PK's cozy attic all day today prepping files for Brass; selecting the keyboard sounds that will underpin the real instruments we'll be recording in January, and painstakingly creating tempo maps so that all the elements that we record separately in the studio are spot on in time. The most important tool is the click track: a sort of metronome, which everyone will hear through headphones as they perform. A click works really well for pop music, where the very essence of the genre relies on precision and regularity of tempo. Dramatic music, however, is all about the ebb and flow, so one of the things Nathan and I were trying to do last night was emulate the tempi and phrasing that Ben Holder and the cast and musicians developed in performance, whilst simultaneously remembering that an audio-only experience is very different to one which comes with visuals, and tends to be slower and more emotionally indulgent! It's a complicated jigsaw alright!

Jack Frost

It's 1.15am and I'm desperately trying to sort out the midi files which I'm going to be taking with me to PK's studio in the morning. Sadly, none of the computers in the house are playing ball, and, having worked on these blessed scores all day, I'm no closer to being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This could be a very late night indeed.

I stopped working for long enough this afternoon to be able to take myself to the gym. The headphones I took with me for the treadmill fell out of my ears every ten paces which became so irritating that, as a punishment, I threw them across the gym floor and left them where they fell for the cleaners. I put the iPod itself in my shorts pocket for safe keeping. An iPod Nano is a stupidly tiny device, which gets lost whenever it's left for more than a few seconds without an enormous pair of headphones attached.

My running shorts are also suitable for swimming in, so after jogging for a bit, I took myself to the pool area, swam ten lengths, had a sauna and a shower and only remembered (with horror) that I'd left the iPod in the pocket of the shorts when I took the soaking things off to change back into my normal clothes! Oddly the iPod was still working at that stage, but electronic products are renowned for working for a few hours after these sorts of calamities and then promptly falling apart. Anyway, I dried the thing with a hairdryer - prompting some rather strange looks from the Kentish Town gym bunnies - and the iPod is now sitting on the radiator in my kitchen in a bag of rice!

I went out of the house for a final time at about 8pm to buy some halloumi cheese for tea. A tree under a lamppost was casting the most eerie shadows on a brick wall at the end of our alley. One particular leaf, which must have been right next to the light itself looked like the silhouette of an enormous bat, fluttering about under the eaves of a house.

The sight took me back to my childhood. I used to lie awake in my bedroom terrified by a similar phenomena which was often projected onto my own window. Our garden was very dark, so I'm not sure where the back light was coming from which caused our apple tree to turn into a terrifying monster with sinister long sinewy fingers which seemed to caress the window, but for many a night the monster kept me awake, particularly when he was accompanied by the hollow moan of wind. I used to rush into my brother's bedroom and sleep on the floor in there.

My bedroom window used to freeze over in winter. I'd sometimes wake up in the morning and find Jack Frost had paid me a visit, and left beautiful trails of ice, like prehistoric ferns, on the actual inside of the glass. I used to get a tuppence, heat it up on the radiator and make a peep hole so that I could peek out and catch my first glimpse of whatever winter wonderland lay waiting for me.

Right. Back to the dreadful business of creating midi files. It's almost 2am. I'm going to do another hour and then knock things on the head. I'm not a student anymore! I can't do an all-nighter without losing my mind.

Sunday, 7 December 2014


We've been in Thaxted all day, and I've pretty much spent every moment of my spare time plugged into a laptop working on Brass. I'm now 3/4 of the way through this particular process with D-day arriving on Tuesday when I go down to Worthing to do some pre-production work with PK. The clock is ticking down and I could really do with an extra day, to stop me needing to work evenings whilst I'm down there. Tomorrow's going to be like an episode of Challenge Anneka.  Will he or won't he get the four remaining arrangements finished? I'm sure I've been fairly aloof all day, and not particularly good company. There's nothing quite as irritating as someone with their head in another world, periodically coming up for air and saying "what was that? What are we all laughing about?" Talk about ramming a stick into the gently revolving spokes of pleasant conversation. My Grannie used to do something rather similar when she was going deaf.

The purpose of today's trip was to have a faux-Christmas meal at Till Towers because Edward's Sascha will be in Australia on the big day this year and the rest of us will all be with Nathan's lot in Wales.

Our family have always gone quite big on the four advents, which, for an almost entirely atheist bunch, is a fairly surprising admission. We've done it for as long as I can remember. On the morning of the first advent, we'd go for a long walk, collecting holly, ivy, ferns and berries to create an advent crown. We used to stick all the undergrowth into oasis, and then place four red candles in the middle. It was such an exciting tradition. On each Sunday before Christmas, whilst eating our roast dinner, we'd light a candle. On the second advent there'd be two candles blazing through the meal and so on. On the fourth advent we'd light all four, by which point the first candle had often burned down to a stump. The thrill of it being your turn to light the candles was almost too much. Such a tiny thing, yet so unbelievably special...

My Mum continues the tradition to this day. The advent crowns don't come bedecked in juvenile piles of undergrowth, but the candles still burn. At some point along the line, a white one was introduced in the middle to be lit on Christmas Day itself. I think that one's called the natal candle.

Plainly we ate too much today, although we did have a pleasant walk around the town in an attempt to at least pretend to be healthy.

The other family Christmas tradition usually takes place on Christmas Eve, but was brought forward to this afternoon. My Mum makes a chocolate log, and for some reason we all take it in turns to give it a stir, and whilst stirring, we make a wish. Family legend has it that the wishes always come true, but, bizarrely, they only come true if they're selfish in nature! There's no point in wishing for world peace, or happiness for someone else, this is the chance to wish for something you yourself need, and furthermore, my mother says it needs to be über-specific! Last year, we were waiting to hear about the wedding, and it was all seeming rather unlikely, so I'll confess, I wished that the wedding would happen... And, well, we all know that it did. Two years ago I wished for the funding to make the requiem and that happened as well. So, maybe. Just maybe...

Oh Geffrye!

They've turned the garden of the Woodman pub into a Christmas tree shop. It's like a winter wonderland in there, full of families walking between the trees, trying to decide which one is going to accompany them through the Yuletide period. It made me feel very Christmassy.

I was a little less thrilled to turn the corner and find they were chopping trees down in the copse behind the tube station. This rather unremarkable little corner of London has long been a haven for wildlife, and on many occasions I've stared out of my sitting room window, watching the squirrels and magpies hopping from branch to branch. I didn't stop to ask the tree surgeons what the plan was; why they were chopping trees down, and how many had been condemned. There's nothing I can do about, just as I was helpless to protect the trees they chopped down behind our house five or so years ago.

It was Raily's birthday today, so a gang of us descended on the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch. I took the tube to Old Street which is looks entirely different every time I visit. The roundabout is now surrounded by gleaming modern mini-skyscrapers, some of which are incredibly bold in design. I actually lost my bearings for about a minute, because most of the landmarks I usually navigate by had vanished! This must be how old ladies feel when they return to their city of birth after seventy years of being away.

Shoreditch is one of those ghastly places where cash machines all charge £1.88 for withdrawals. I think we need to start getting tough with these sorts of rip-offs. I read somewhere that there's a correlation between the poor areas in the country and a lack of ATMs providing residents with free money withdrawals. This is plainly bordering on criminal. Talk about unnecessary taxes on the poor. I don't think anyone would mind a ten pence charge, simply for the upkeep of a privately owned facility, but £1.88 is ludicrous.

On that note, I hope they hurry up and repair our local post office's ATM. Two weeks ago a group of thieves blew it up and took half of the front of the building with it. Silly buggers. I'm told the enterprise failed spectacularly and they ran off empty-handed.

The Geffrye Museum focusses on interior design through the ages. You enter at one end and wander through a series of rooms which have been decked out to resemble different homes through the ages, starting in the days of Pepys, which I think is when the museum buildings were built (as alms houses.)

The highlight of the entire experience was undoubtedly stumbling upon a mini carol service which was taking place within one of the rooms. It was being led by a lass with big brown eyes and a chap at a piano. They handed out song sheets with all the words written on them, and we sang for at least forty minutes. Carols, Christmas songs... I think we were all agreed that the most magical moment was singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." It's always been one of my favourite songs, but I think all of us; Meriel, Sam, Raily and me, had a rather emotional moment whilst singing the words,  "through the years we all will be together if the fates allow." I've known Sam since I was fifteen, and Meriel, Raily and Hils from the age of eighteen. That's a lot of silly seasons to nurse each other through. And one day, one of us won't be there any more...

I was very taken by one of the paintings on the wall in the museum entitled "The Arrival of the Jarrow Marchers." It depicts a middle class pair of Londoners, rather passively  watching those heroic men and women marching down a London street. The man in the room has his back to the window and is smoking a cigar whilst blowing smoke rings. It's a bold statement which demonstrates middle class London's lack of interest in the plight of Northern working class folk. Sadly, it's an attitude which prevails today. We owe such an astonishing debt to the Jarrow Marchers and their East End counterparts, the Cable Street Rioters, and yet, I've no doubt that most of these brave people died in relative poverty and remained unrecognised for their bravery. Every single one of them should have been knighted in my view.

We went from the Geffrye Museum to a really lovely restaurant-cafe in the De Beauvoir area of London. The restaurant sits on the canal, and the only access is via the towpath, which was pitch black and wonderfully spooky. The brightly lit windows from warehouse conversions were reflected in the indigo water.

On our way back, we happened upon a little choir singing Something Inside So Strong; busking for charity. I think they called themselves the Housewife's Choir. Christmas really does seem to bring the best out in people.

I came home and worked until 1am with Strictly Come Dancing on in the background. It may well be time for bed!

Friday, 5 December 2014

How do they cope?

What a difference a day makes. I left the house early this morning to buy milk, and was met by a powder blue sky and a low watery sun which was turning the tops of the trees the colour of copper and brass. The birds were singing. The squirrels were stock-piling. The balance of the world had been reconfigured!

I started working on Brass at 8.45am, and the task instantly became so mind-numbing, that I started to give myself little treats as incentives for completing another section of the score. The incentives were tragic. On one occasion I allowed myself to wash up a cup on the draining board, on another, I cleaned the bathroom sink! I was talking to myself at one stage, offering up words of encouragement. I believe this is one of the curses of a freelancer who sits on his own for much of the day. Heaven knows what I'll be like when I'm 80.

I took myself out for lunch, by which point the whether had turned nasty. It was raining great blobs of freezing water and the birds had definitely stopped singing in my garden!

Whilst sitting in the cafe, The Name of the Game came on the radio. It was a treat to hear because it's not one of ABBA's most famous hits. I think many people would actually be surprised to know that it reached number one, particularly in the light of the fact that Thank For the Music and Money, Money, Money didn't.

This got me thinking about that very select group of pop artists who have had multiple number one hits, so I had a quick shufty at the Guiness Book of Records to see who'd had more British number one's than ABBA (who had 9. I'm such a chart geek...) I wasn't at all surprised to find the top three were Elvis, The Beatles and Cliff Richard, or that the top six included Madonna and Take That, but what astonished me was that Westlife equalled Cliff in 3rd place! What kind of insanity is that? I looked at the list of their number one singles; a tragic mish-mash of over-produced, asinine pop pastiches and cover versions (including a song by ABBA which ABBA hadn't even managed to take to number one.) I started to wonder what on earth went wrong with pop music in the late nineties and early naughties, and realised that everything generated in the name of pop in those days was cynically manufactured. The songs, the bands, the looks, the marketing, the blonde women playing their violins, even the chart performances, when the record labels discovered they could even manipulate that! It didn't even matter if you couldn't sing. Formulas took over. Experimentation died. For an entire decade the record-buying public was sucked into the scam. Fortunately, I get the sense that this trend is now coming to an end, but the days of cutting-edge sound experimentation at Abbey Road are over. Sadly, Abbey Road is now the place the oligarchs book for a fancy office karaoke party.

I sat in the cafe at Jackson's Lane this afternoon. Anything for a change of scenery! There was a children's ballet class going on in the room next to me. Periodically the door would fly open and a mother would rush out clutching a child clad in pink Lycra, who'd either wet itself or couldn't stand because it had such a terrible tummy ache. The noise coming from within the room was plainly something from a horror movie. A tinkling piano, the almost constant roar of weeping, wailing and the general gnashing of teeth. Would it be safe to say that little girls don't actually like ballet? I mean, that certainly wasn't the sound of pleasure, it was the massacre of the flamin' innocents! I really don't understand how mothers cope with this. I mean, that's your life for five years isn't it? Noise. Snot. Tears. Wee. Vomit.

All manner of technical things went wrong as I sat in the cafe. Then I spilt coke on my computer. Then I dropped a glass and cut my finger. Then I got so frantically stressed that I took myself to the gym and ran 5km without noticing! When I left the gym I saw the full moon, like a huge evil torch in the sky. No one's gonna tell me that this wasn't a factor in the mayhem!

Has the sun forgotten to get up?

It was so dark in the kitchen when I woke up this morning that I entirely missed the cereal bowl and poured Shreddies all over the work surface. To make matters worse, I only noticed two hours later, and spent ages clearing up the mess.

It's been gloomy, drizzly and murky all day: '"Has the sun forgotten to get up this morning?" asked Topsy. "No" said Mummy, "it's just a nasty foggy day."'

I went to the gym after lunch and was horrified by how cold it was. Cold and wet. It got right into my bones within seconds. People seemed miserable everywhere I looked.

My two favourite gentlemen were at the gym again today, having their usual "word-association" cyclic conversation, which I was thrilled Nathan finally got the opportunity to hear. For those who didn't read my post about it a few weeks ago, these particular two men are always heard having a conversation across the changing room, which starts with a name - today's was "Steve" - and always goes in the same direction... "Is that the Steve who lives above the motorbike shop?" "No, that one's Steve Brown, this one lives down near the Pineapple pub.""I tell you who used to go down that Pineapple pub. Maureen's son... What's his name?" "Steve?" "He ain't called Steve..." "John?" "John Palmer?" "No, Maureen's John..." And so it goes on. It's clear from their chatter that they've lived in these parts all their lives, but they never talk about the same person for more than a few seconds... And then the cycle takes them onto the next name. I think they're both a little deaf, as they shout very loudly.

I came back from the gym and basically went insane, almost grinding myself into the ground on these blessed Brass scores! There's a huge amount of work to do on them, and I've put twelve solid hours in already today. There's something rather unnerving and disorientating about the experience of spending long hours plugged into headphones. It's rather like being under water.

I stopped working at 10 and ate a rather late tea before watching Penelope Keith's fascinating Channel 4 documentary series about villages, whilst Nathan slept on my shoulder. Bless.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Stranger danger

I've been sitting at the kitchen table for much of the day, re-scoring and reformatting the songs from Brass. I'm not going fast enough and am panicking somewhat. Tomorrow may well be a really early start, just so that I can get some serious bars of music behind me.

I've been simultaneously dipping into my pile of receipts, and trying to work out what I actually earned in 2013-14. A large amount of money was spent on osteopathy, which, fortunately, counts as a legitimate expense. And so it ought to; my back got knackered by years of sitting at pianos and laptops.

Probably the most interesting part of the day was a visit to the gym. I still find it a little bit odd when a father brings his little girl into the changing rooms. The gym has started running swimming classes, which means there are often children floating about in the early afternoon. It's always been a fairly aggressively testosterone-fuelled environment with guys wandering about naked, flexing their muscles and preparing their energy drinks. I don't really think this is the place for a child - particularly a girl...

Part of the problem is that children tend to stare at anything they find intriguing, and this can be immensely disconcerting. I am an hairy man! Over the years I have reconciled myself to this fact. Sometimes I even use a hair dryer to dry my hairy chest! Not all daddies are hairy, however, and one little girl made me feel like a proper freak by staring at me like I was some kind of animal in a zoo, which made me rush to put my clothes on, which meant I left the gym all damp, which meant I ended up chafing!

What's the way forward here? Do I embrace my masculinity and continue to stand entirely naked, tending to my body hair with a hairdryer? Do I tell the father that his daughter's staring makes me uncomfortable? Do I hope he'll notice himself and deal with the issue? Or do I do the über English thing and sign up with another gym?!!

In the olden days I would have simply stared back until she felt embarrassed and stopped, but I decided some years ago only ever to look at children whose parents I know, or have at least been introduced to. The way society over-reacts to all issues pertaining to the protection of children has forced me to consider this to be the best option. So if a child waves at me on the tube or tries to catch my eye, I will point blank ignore it, unless I'm on a passing boat or something, where etiquette dictates I have to wave like a loon.

It's sad, really, because I'm sure I'm missing out on all sorts of charming encounters, but I think the line in the sand has to be drawn somewhere, and if stranger danger is as large a threat to society as some would believe, I'm quite happy for children to learn that strange men ought to be aloof and disinterested, so they know to run like crazy if someone offers them a sweetie!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Never had it so good

At 9.40am this morning, the Bank train I was on was mysteriously diverted via Charing Cross. An announcement was made at Camden Station, which meant an entire trainload of people suddenly had to alight onto the platform and wait for the next train to come in. Two middle-aged, über posh women were standing next to me and were increasingly incensed by what was going on. "Well, this is ridiculous!" "It's disgusting!" "It's intolerably rude!" They were like those two old men in the Muppets! By the time we got onto the next train, they'd decided that the last-minute change of route was "generational... The younger generation can't stick to anything these days..." I sort of agree with them on that particular point, but am not sure the re-routing of a tube train could be put down to a flibbertigibbet teenaged driver!

It struck me that upper middle class people of the post-war baby boomer generation have had it easy all their lives, and as such always expect things to go their way. They are a lucky bunch. This will be the last generation of people who retire with healthy pensions and potentially spend more of their adult lives retired than they ever have working. The NHS will serve them properly until they die, by which point they will have long since paid off their mortgages. The "we've never had it so good" motto has always applied to them.

The same is not true for my generation, where I'm pretty sure there's a great deal less security and certainty. I see it with most of my friends, even those in good jobs have struggled to put deposits down on mortgages, and ten years into buying houses, are still only paying off the interest on their loans.

In the space of about 24 hours, winter has arrived. I couldn't quite believe the wind growling down Oxford Street this afternoon. One particularly large gust took down two signs outside a Subway store. One had a flag attached to it which worked as a sail as the sign bounced its way down the street.

I worked in Soho through the afternoon, before meeting Nathan for a late lunch. By the time we'd emerged from our little pizza restaurant on Drury Lane, the weather had turned even nastier, with bitterly cold rain flying through the air like arctic ball bearings.

Fiona texted to say she was still on the sofa. She'd popped out to the shops and decided the concept of heading back to Brighton in such dreadful weather was foolish beyond words. She was correct!

At Tottenham Court Road they were plainly going for the record of how many announcements they could make in the shortest period of time. Every one seemed to be in a different voice, each duller than the next. We heard about "double-tapping" - which has apparently started happening now that people can pay for journeys on their debit cards as well as their Oysters - and all sorts of planned engineering and wet weather warnings. By the time the recorded voice from the tube itself had joined in on the act with its "this station is Tottenham Court Road", I was ready to scream.

I came home and ate baked potatoes with Fiona whilst continuing to sift through my ghastly pile of tax receipts. Fortunately they are now in neat little piles and I feel less stressed about things.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Second post

It appears we've had two posts today. Can this be possible? I thought they stopped doing a second post some years ago. Unless they've re-introduced the concept for December and the Christmas post?

Nathan and I returned to the house at 4pm today after a visit to the gym and found a post man walking up the steps to our house. Perhaps he was a curious imposter. Maybe he wanted to nick our washing?

I made a start on the Brass songs this morning, returning to my scores and making sure they were marked up with all the mega-cuts I'd made in the technical rehearsal. Once all these cuts have been put into the scores, I can then start thinking about what the musicians will play in the recording sessions in early January.

Fiona arrived at lunchtime today. I received a text from her saying, "I'm in the Woodman pub drinking a Bloody Mary... Because I can!" She's finally finished all her touring commitments for the year, and is determined to wind down.

I sort of feel the same way, but the Oranges and Lemons and Brass recordings mean I'm going to need to work even harder through December than I probably would have done had I had a full-time job! It's a little insane.

I realise I'm a bit stressed as I go to bed. I sat down this evening to go through my receipts for last year's tax, which has been hanging over me like a bad smell for some months now. I emptied my receipt drawer onto the sitting room carpet and thousands of pieces of flimsy paper fell out, which I spent the next four hours sifting through, until the repetition of picking up a receipt, circling the date and the amount, and putting them in one of about 90 piles, started to make me panic!

I've downed tools for the night now and am determined to spend the last hour before bed not thinking about receipts, or Oranges and Lemons or anything for that matter!

Where's a Sue Perkins documentary about the Mekong River when you need one?!