Monday, 31 March 2014


We've been in the edit most of this evening, trying to make cuts to the overall length of our film for the broadcast tomorrow night. It's a fairly thankless task, because, when a film is overrunning by five minutes or so, there are some hefty cuts which need to be made, which feel just awful. Fortunately, I have pretty much been taken out of the equation when it comes to making these terrible decisions. Sometimes it's nice not to be completely in charge!

We had a day off today. The first since our stag do. Oddly we couldn't lie-in for love nor money, and were completely wide-eyed by about 9am, so we went into Muswell Hill where we met Cindy, Silvia and Llio for lunch before embarking on a very lovely walk around Highgate and then Queens Wood. It's very definitely spring and the birds were going crazy; a cacophony of happiness. Queens Wood is such a peculiar place. It has a very heavy atmosphere, and I wasn't surprised to learn recently that it is the focus of much Wiccan and Pagan activity.

There were two extraordinarily brightly-coloured ducks floating about on a newly-created frog pond in the wood. We looked at them for some time, marvelling at their colour, wondering what sort of ducks they were. The word "mandarin" suddenly popped into my head, and sure enough, when we googled "mandarin duck", we discovered that we were indeed staring at said type of duck!

I can't really believe that the day after I got married in a crazy landmark wedding, I'm writing about ducks! Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous. Or is it the other way round?

Stay tuned, however, because we're going on This Morning tomorrow! The circus continues...

Sunday, 30 March 2014

I got married today

It's very difficult to explain what happened to me today. Of course I can write down any number of words which explain in purely factual terms that I got married, and that the wedding took place in the form of a musical. These are all things that regular readers of this blog will already know. I don't know if I feel any different to how I felt this time yesterday. I feel relieved; like a great weight has been taken from my shoulders, but I'm still me. Nathan is still Nathan.

My friends all told me to take a series of mental snap shots of the day: moments where I should try to drink everything in.

I took as many as I could, and I shall attempt to list them. They may seem rather disjointed. I don't really have a sense of the narrative of the day, or the order that these memories occurred in, but they might offer a sense of the emotional roller coaster I've been riding.

Here goes;

Arriving at Alexandra Palace first thing this morning. Looking out across London at the sun burning through the mist. Blossom falling from the trees like confetti. Two magpies hopping about. A rainbow flag flying proudly. I understand that rainbow flags were flying outside every public building in England and Wales today. Feeling proud.

Walking into the theatre space at Ally Pally, and seeing the glorious twinkling lights inside. Watching choir members seeing the room for the first time and gasping.

Meeting Andy Bell, then hearing him singing Fiona's astonishing arrangement of A Little Respect.

Rehearsing our vows this morning, and rushing out of the theatre whilst Nathan practised his. Watching the skaters in the next door hall, whilst the spring sun glared through the atrium roof.

Walking down the aisle whilst The Feeling sang God Only Knows. Catching lead singer, Dan's eye, and then clocking Julian in the audience red-faced and laughing. Laughing because Julian was laughing.

A sea of candles during Love Conquers All. Llio and Julie forgetting to switch theirs on. God daughter Silver playing with her candle, noticing that Philippa was trying to get her to hold it still.

Hugging my mum to thank her for singing her song.

Listening to Nathan's vows in a sort of whirl. Feeling the tears prickling in my eyes and then running down my cheeks. Hearing him sing "my Benjy." Thinking how beautiful the song sounded. Feeling Fiona's presence through the orchestrations. Singing my own vows, as my legs started to feel all fizzy. Peering into Nathan's eyes as though no one else in the world existed.

Franschene, our delightful, beautiful, luminous registrar, standing bravely on the stage, singing her words so delicately, whispering in my ear just after I'd finished my vows that we were already married, even though we were only half way through the service!

A break in the service just after we were declared husband and husband, and feeling all silly, and doing a funny crab-like dance on the stage.

Peter Tatchell hugging me at the end of the service; telling us how lovely the music was and feeling so proud that such an important luminary would even attend our wedding. Talking to Lynne Featherstone and being invited to dinner at her house.

The reception in an old church hall in Wood Green. Little Lily bravely singing a song she'd written for us. Telling me I was generous because I'd given her a set of rubbers in the shape of kittens on a trip to Northumberland. John Hay, commissioning editor at Channel 4, whispering in my ear that she was destined to be the next "you."

Philippa and my brother delivering astonishing, and beautifully-written speeches at the reception. A sense of great pride at them both. Squirming as the embarrassing stories were trotted out. Feeling joy as my brother described ABBA as my very reason for being.

Daniel, Ellie and Izzy forming an unlikely allegiance and searching for music to dance to at the reception in the absence of a cable to link our stereo to our iPods. The same trio sticking a microphone next to Daniel's telephone and dancing like loons. Ian and Harry Bolcombe doing Morris Dancing. Me taking a series of weird selfies.

Uncle Bill telling me that the Rebel Chorus had bought us a present and unveiling the mini-piano I'd fallen in love with when we were last in London together. Me bursting into uncontrollable tears and burying my head in Nathan's shoulder.

So you see, it's been magical, surreal, love-filled, emotional, terrifying, glorious and above all fabulous. I feel loved and a sense of great pride. Well done England and Wales.

Saturday, 29 March 2014


We received a beautiful bunch of roses today from Katie Melua! How mad and wonderful is that? I adore Katie Melua, and think her voice is just fabulous.

We also received a letter from Michael Stipe from REM! Another great thrill. It's absolutely insane to think how many people around the world support gay marriage and how special we feel to be the poster boys for March 29th.

Derren Brown just tweeted the news and, to quote the opening number of our musical, "twitter's gone crazy!"

Today was a day of wall-to-wall rehearsals, the odd mini-tantrum, a few muffins and a lot of very cold feet.

I'm not sure it could be classed as the best set of rehearsals in the world. We ran out of time before we got around to some of the stuff I was keen to get to... But we have a lot of time for rehearsals tomorrow before the wedding itself, and the venue looks remarkably beautiful. I mean, properly stunning. Awe-inspiringly amazing. I can't believe how hard the people from Wingspan must have worked to get everything looking that good. I think guests will gasp. They can't not!

Obviously we're shitting bricks, and sadly our state of mind has been really badly effected by Radio 5 Live, who requested an interview with us, firstly for 10pm, then for 11pm, then kept us waiting on the phone listening to a horrible debate which they wouldn't allow us to comment on for 45 minutes. It was a terrible waste of our time, and has really wound me up at a time when we should have been relaxing and thinking positive thoughts, not hearing the ghastly whinging of religious zealots saying that gay people shouldn't get married "because of the children." It's a flawed, rather tragic argument. It strikes me that people always "think about the children" when all other arguments are lost. Very shoddy work on behalf of the producer. Very shoddy.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Roller coaster

Life is a wonderful thing, isn't it? If you trust it and open yourself up to its infinite possibilities, you'll have an astonishing ride!

We're riding a very exciting roller-coaster right now. Quite where it will eventually take us, or how perilous it's going to be, remains to be seen, but at the moment we're having a huge amount of fun.

This afternoon we went up to the wedding venue and saw it beginning to take shape. The staging had been fitted, and loads of lights were being plugged in and tested. It was quite staggering, and a little frightening to think that everything was being done for our wedding. We're both still pinching ourselves, really. Neither of us really believe what's happening. It's like being in some sort of dream.

We went down to the edit suite in the late afternoon to see the opening sequence and our mother's duet beautifully graded and colour-balanced. They looked absolutely exquisite! The guy doing the grading was wonderfully eccentric and filled with absolute excitement about the film. He was very open about the fact that when they'd told him he was doing the project, he was a little non-plussed and slightly unimpressed, but when he saw the footage, he'd become entranced. He'd graded the Mother's duet rather darkly. It was a brave choice which I rather liked, so I asked him about it. He went into the most extraordinary monologue about how in each of the shots he'd seen shafts of light which he'd interpreted as hope, and pools of darkness which he'd interpreted as sadness. I never knew a process like grading could be viewed in terms other than, "that shot's a bit grubby, let's make it zing..." and I loved the fact that he'd treated the process with such creativity and intellectual rigour. His attention to detail shows very much in his work, which is just excellent.

At 7pm, we went up to Gray's Inn Road to film a live debate about gay marriage on Channel 4 news. The debate was kicked off with a little film they'd shot on Monday, which seemed to consist of my looking bloated and crying a lot, followed by a second film about Grindr, which is a social media site for slightly more promiscuous gay men. The two pieces were supposed to represent the two sides of gay culture, but I'm not sure they entirely worked back-to-back!

We were in the studio with a young girl columnist from the Spectator and a turd of a man called Milo, who we all felt rather sorry for. He couldn't look any one in the eye and has obviously put himself in the professional role of someone who says shocking things about gay culture for effect (and money.) He's religious and claims to be struggling with his own sexuality, but the poor lad should be in therapy, not sitting in television studios spouting spurious nonsense. It's astonishing what people will do for a "career."

It was all great fun, although I was a little insulted at the way Nathan and I were credited on screen. The girl from the spectator got to be credited as a columnist, and Milo was whatever Milo is, but we were just credited as Benjamin Till and Nathan Taylor. Like being an actor and composer respectively was somehow not quite interesting enough!!

Kate, Tori, ABBA

We're speeding up the Victoria line from the King's Road where we've just watched Abbie doing a wonderful solo cabaret. She really was delightful, and very excitingly gave I Make The Shells from Brass its first public performance. She sang it beautifully and made a true emotional connection with the material. I was very proud.

She was pretty brilliant throughout the set but gave a couple of world-class performances which included a stoic rendition of Send In The Clowns and a deeply emotional performance of a song from Lord of The Rings, which she dedicated to her father who is currently rather ill in hospital. Nathan and I were in bits by the end.

Julie Clare and Little Michelle joined her on stage for a couple of guest slots. It's difficult to imagine three more different voices, but they blended together wonderfully. That'll be the work they've done together in the Rebel Chorus! Michelle has started to amaze me vocally. Something very special is happening there.

We've been in central London all day today, having hair cuts, doing shopping things, collecting rings, thinking all day that we'd be heading home at some point, but eventually acknowledging we were out for the duration.

The whole press and marketing campaign for the musical is in full swing. We're doing all sorts of telephone interviews and there's even a trailer being screened rather regularly on Channel 4. It features Shirley Bassey singing The Impossible Dream. It won't do anything to convince doubters that our show is anything other than camp nonsense, and as a direct result, the back-lash has already started on Facebook and such. It's a little hard not to care. You just want to shake the haters and say; "at least wait til you've seen it..." But then again, if they're complaining now, they're lost causes, and my work has always been like marmite. You hate it or you love it. Nothing could top some of the things they said about my Metro film, which was, I'm told, "the worst thing to happen to the North East since Thatcher" and "written by a gimp." If you're gonna diss, diss with class! Until you can come up with an insult wittier than the first of those two, I'm not interested!

I had a column in the Independent newspaper today, which was a little surreal. It says a fair amount about the quality of my friends that not one single person I know actually spotted it!  Our piece in the Standard, by contrast was spotted by the world and his wife!

We spent this afternoon in the edit suite looking at more sequences; primarily the messages of good will which have come in from famous people. The list is rather astonishing. I won't go into too many details but the most exciting for me, apart from a message from Sri Lanka, was Tori Amos. I actually flushed bright red when I saw it. There she was in front of a grand piano; an absolute heroine of mine actually saying my name. Gosh, there are few things in life sweeter than that! If this whole thing falls flat on its face, I'll always have the memory of that video clip!

And guess what? This Saturday is officially world ABBA day. How's that?! We're getting married on world ABBA day! The world's two biggest ABBA fans are marrying on world ABBA day. God officially loves the gays!

To make matters even more exciting, Kate Bush is playing live this summer, and I have a ticket!

Can life get much better than that? All we need now is to win Eurovision!  Yeah, yeah. In my dreams!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The glorious Julie Hesmondhalgh

I picked up the trousers I'm going to be wearing for the wedding this afternoon, and, at the same time, across town, Nathan, picked up my waistcoat, which was made by Sally Livingston, who did all the costumes for Much Ado About Nothing last summer. It is beautiful with glorious golden buttons chosen by a committee of Nathan's closest friends, which makes me feel very special indeed. I now have a full set of clothes to wear, although I've not yet tried anything on, except the waistcoat, of course. I obviously had to put that on as soon as it arrived!

I had a bit of hassle in "A Child Of The Jago" where the trousers came from. The chap working in the boutique on Thursday was deeply gracious and went out of his way to help me. He got me to try on all sorts of different pairs of trousers to make sure the ones that were made in my size actually fitted. We had a discussion on the day, that the factory making me a new pair would only charge me the same price as the pair I'd seen in the shop in the wrong size, and frankly, seeing as they are being worn on prime time telly, I though this was a fairly good deal from their perspective!

When I arrived in the shop today, the man who had served me wasn't there, and his boss, a rather surly creature, immediately informed me that, because the trousers were "made specially", I'd have to pay her more money for them. I took out my receipt and showed her that I'd already paid. "That was a deposit," she said, "but you're only asking for £40 more. Why would I have paid a deposit for 75% of the cost of the trousers?" "Some customers," she barked "like to pay most of the amount up front." "But it doesn't say that this is a deposit anywhere on the receipt." "In which case the difference will be coming out of the wages of the man who served you!"

How ghastly! I went a little ballistic and told her I'd never heard anything so cruel. What a terrible way to treat your staff who've been nothing but polite and eager to help. If it weren't for her employee, I wouldn't have bought the trousers at all, and frankly, how dreadfully short-sighted to treat a customer like that who's about to go on telly wearing your lovely trousers!

Now of course if someone asks me where I got them, instead of saying "a lovely shop with helpful staff called A Child Of The Jago" I'll be more likely to say, "A Child of the Jago," but try to avoid the nasty woman with bleach blonde hair. She's a proper piece of work!

I should say, however, that they have some lovely pieces of clothing in the shop, so don't boycott them!

This morning we did an interview at our house for Channel 4 news. At least I think it was for Channel 4 news. It was all a little emotional for me. I don't know why. Probably because I can finally see the end in sight. I started talking about growing up gay, and the whole terror we felt about HIV/AIDS and the tears started to flow. It was a little embarrassing, of course, but I guess it might have made good telly! The most important thing for us both is that this piece is viewed as political and moving as well as silly and fun.

We went on to the edit suite later and recorded Julie Hesmondhalgh singing her solo line. How blinking lucky do I feel to have that epically wonderful woman in our film? She is exquisitely charming, desperately polite, witty and amusing and has a beautiful, beautiful soul.

From the sound suite we went to a row of edit suites, each of them with another part of the film inside. We walked along the line of doors, being shown into each to see another part of our film, and OMG they look brilliant! It's so exciting. My little duet with Philippa, Llio glowing, Julie coquettishly looking at camera, Ian and Jem drinking champagne and looking gloriously handsome, Ted and his enormous sausage! We almost floated away from the studio.

And that's about it for the day. Time to watch a bit of telly before bed. Nighty night!

Monday, 24 March 2014

To beard or not to beard

So it would appear that the powers-that-be are not altogether convinced I made the right decision to shave off my beard. I know my mother will be happy I've done it. And Nathan's mother. Jon Snow will surely similarly be glad I no longer look ten years older than my (older) partner. But others, well, perhaps mostly those who have met me more recently, must have become rather used to the hairy-polar-beary look and decided they rather like it. Perhaps a beard gave me gravitas. Or a sort of bloke-next-door charm. I for one thought it merely made me look even more like Captain Caveman. Or a hedgehog in snow.

Beards are "in" right now, however. Even my long-legged, model-esque Tai Kwando-fighting osteopath is sporting a beard. Beards remain the one physical attribute, apart from tattoos, that straight men feel okay to comment on. You'd never hear a straight boy complimenting a bloke on his hair or eyes, but his beard? That's a different matter.

Today was manic... Again! I had osteopathy first thing and then we went into Muswell Hill to buy card onto which I printed all our musical scores. I went for a cream colour. It's less reflective and looks classic and classy on camera. It took about three hours to glue them all together down at Archie's office, whilst around us the office buzzed with wedding activity. It's not just Nathan and me who are working flat out. The wingspanners are knee-deep in spread-sheets, edit suites, press releases and guest lists. It's an absolute hive of activity down there. They're an incredibly hard-working bunch. It just seems rather surreal that it's all for our wedding.

I think everything was rather put into perspective today by the emergence of a very well-written two-page spread about the wedding in The London Standard today. I think it reminded us all that we're doing something rather remarkable. And, more to the point, something remarkable which is happening in five days!

We went from Achie's to Camden where Sharon D Clarke was rehearsing with the London Gay Men's Chorus at Cecil Sharp House, that glorious ode to Arts and Crafts architecture just next to Regent's Park. We're lucky enough to have both of these acts singing at our wedding. Sharon D Clarke, in my view, is a living legend. She won't remember it, but our history goes back to 1998, when she gave a private audience to Julie Clare singing songs from my show, Letter to a Daughter. I remember watching her nodding her head to the groove of one of the numbers and feeling proud as punch. Sharon D Clarke was nodding her head to my music! It was the ultimate accolade, even then.

Those London Gay Men's Chorus boys really know how to raise the proverbial roof. The wall of sound that comes off them catches you in the pit of your stomach, like only a decent-quality male voice choir has the ability to do.

Yellow rainbows

It's been another long and arduous day, which started at dawn, and seems to be going on well into the evening.

We did our last day of pre-wedding filming today, in and around Alexandra Palace with members of the Rebel Chorus. It was tiring but hugely rewarding. I love my choir so much. Every day spent with them is remarkable fun, like a big family party. But somehow even better because we don't argue and we make music instead of babies!

The weather threw all sorts of craziness at is. Rain storms, high winds. Apparently it hailed everywhere else in London. But every shot we filmed was blessed with golden, blossom-scented sunshine. In fact, the last thing that was sent to us before darkness descended was a glorious double-rainbow. Proof if proof were ever needed that someone upstairs thinks it's good to be gay! Uncle Bill sent us a text as she left the rehearsal; "I can see a giant double rainbow. One for you and one for Nathan." I shall cherish that text.

So the choir marched, jumped, gestured and screeched their way through a series of shots, before we were joined by Dame Kestelman, who performed in a sea of blossom, and Meriel, who, as I was leaving, was spinning around like Julie Andrews in a field! Elsewhere in London, various other friends were standing in front of a green screen filming another sequence. It will be strange to see everything cut together.

This afternoon the choir rehearsed the song Yellow; choreography and all. How proud I am to be having that particular song sung at my wedding! This was the piece of music which was dragged through the courts by the Choir Invisible. The piece of music which almost crippled me financially. It was described as every awful word under the sun; unsingable, unsoulful, badly written, filled with arbitrary key changes... And here we are singing it with wonderful new lyrics written by my husband-to-be at one of the first ever UK gay weddings! How glorious to finally reclaim the joy which someone tried to suck out of the song!

The shoot ended in a Chinese nail bar! What a curious and wonderful place to wrap a curious and wonderful film. It's owner, who spoke very little English, and was hopelessly lactating because it was her baby's feeding time, wished us the very best of luck as we left the shop. And here was me thinking she probably wouldn't approve. Never judge a book by its cover!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

To tired

It's very late, and we're both utterly exhausted at the end of a day, which still isn't over! I have parts to transcribe, which I'm pretty sure will take me well into the wee smalls. And then it's up again at 7.30am for another day of filming.

We've been going up and down like yoyos all day. Since 7.30am, really, when we got up this morning.

The day started with my old chum Ted, who was filmed shoving a sausage in a poached egg in a greasy spoon down by Ally Pali.

Wingspan had split their production team in half today, and two whole film crews, filming two separate songs, were floating around in North London. Nathan and I had to oscillate between both filming teams, sometimes together, sometimes apart.

Heaven knows how it happened, but by about 7pm everything we needed to do in terms of pre-shot film packages was in the can, including my little duet with Philippa, which we filmed in her bedroom in Columbia Road. It was a little surreal, but felt incredibly special. Philippa was wearing her old wedding dress and I was wearing the few pieces of my wedding clothes that I already have. The conversation turned very quickly to the old days. The last time Philippa and I acted together was at university in a production of Dangerous Liaisons. I played Valmont and she was Glen Close. My friend Helen came into rehearsals once and took me aside afterwards to say I was the worst actor she'd ever seen. I was so mortified that I instantly pulled out of the show and never acted in anything from that day forward! It's funny what a profound effect a single moment in time can have on you. I have always considered myself to be an awful actor, but when I think back, this entire belief is based on that one incident.

The same is true of many singers. The amount of times someone tells me they can't sing, and when you start to ask why, they reveal that a teacher once told them to mime in the choir, or a parent once said something desperately cruel. I quote my great mentor Arnold Wesker so often in this respect, but he very much hits the nail on the head by saying;

"Never stop anyone from singing. Stop their singing and you stop up their joy."

Anyway, it's odd for me to be in front of a camera. People treat you rather differently when you're the "talent." I don't know if any of the film crew knew I was one of their sort. Relinquishing control and not continually asking to look at the monitor is something I always knew would be hard on this project. It's a very strange thought though. You have to trust so many different people.

The weather added to the surrealness of the occasion. It threw everything at us from golden sunshine to extraordinary hail. I was desperate for the hail to make an appearance, but it wasn't to be. It will, however, remain in my memory for some time.

All hell broke lose right at the end of the shoot when two... Count them... blinking tenors from the choir told us they couldn't do the wedding. They were deps of deps who no doubt threw in the towel when they realised the gig wasn't going to make them rich, but the experience was horrible. Whilst I scored yet more music for the live aspect of the film, Nathan emailed, phoned and begged everyone he knew. We think we're there now, but God knows, it got dark and depressing along the way.

Now Nathan is asleep next to me on the sofa, yet I have no option but to continue to work. There's been a power cut on the street outside, which adds a slight loneliness to the occasion. We'll get there.

Friday, 21 March 2014


Today we spent a very pleasurable couple of hours in the presence of newsreader, Jon Snow, who tells me, in two days' time, that he will have been working on Channel 4 news for twenty five years. What a legend!

I probably shouldn't tell you what we were up to. You'll have to see the film to find out, but I can reveal he was wearing a very snazzy tie, and that we were with him in the Channel 4 news studios and at Alexandra Palace, which looked absolutely stunning in the sunshine.

The blossoms are very much blooming, and the daffodils have not yet gone over. It was a riot of colour; the deep blue sky, the green green grass, the bright sandy hue of the Palace itself, and, as if CGI'd to make the scene even more perfect, first two, then four and then ten glorious magpies, hopping around on the grass, appearing in pairs to wish the project the best of luck.

Jon himself is a wonderful sport, and hugely entertaining. I bet he gets invited to hundreds of dinner parties.

It thought we were getting on famously until he made the shocking assumption that I was ten years older than Nathan, comically using the phrase "cradle snatcher!" For the record, Nathan is much much older than me. Six whole weeks! That's six whole weeks this summer I'll get to crow that he's 40 and I'm still 39! It doesn't help if you look 50, however... My mother has been telling me for weeks that the beard makes me look ten years older. It looks like she might be right!

This evening we went to the O2 to meet housewives' choice, Michael Ball, and those other housewives' choices, The Overtones. What a lovely bunch they turned out to be. Michael Ball was charming in the extreme, and the Overtones were just great; really into the project, really keen to help us and congratulate us. They also looked remarkably dapper in their suits.

They invited us to stay and watch the show, which we did with great pleasure. For those who are unfamiliar with the band's work, they're a sort of dream-boat cross between the Flying Pickets and Shawoddywoddy. They make ladies of a certain age go weak at the knees with all of that sort of do-be-do-wop repertoire, which my Mum would absolutely adore. I must buy her an album for Christmas. I have, however, never seen so many disabled people at one gig. A whole rack of wheelchairs was sitting up on a platform. There were maybe 40 or 50 chairs, which in a venue which seats no more than 800 feel like rather a high percentage!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Rain scent

Being in Old Street during rush hour is no laughing matter. The tube has been closed down as a result of the high volume of customers and the roads are completely gridlocked. I'm on a bus which is literally crawling its way back to Highgate. I'm sitting down but I have an arse in my face!

I was in Old Street to do some trouser shopping and was thankfully successful. The shop didn't have the pair I wanted in my enormous weeble-like size, so they're making me up a pair specially. The power of telly!

I've spent the rest of the day working on my vows and in meetings with the production company. We're slowly getting there, although the weekend is going to be spent filming and rehearsing 10-10pm, and then suddenly it will be the wedding week and all manner of stuff will no doubt suddenly crop up.

On my way East on the tube I overheard the most surreal conversation. Two young, sharp-suited geezers were talking in those loud Essex accents which only sharply-suited geezers can talk in. One of them suddenly said. "I'm not looking forward to going in tomorrow, but I am looking forward to going in even though I'm not. Do you know what I mean?"

His mate's dry delivery made me snort out loud; "Not really mate..."

To make matters more bizarre, his mate didn't elaborate. There was a lengthy pause, before the mate spoke again:

"God, you're thick!"

It's rained today. Good for the flowers, I suppose, but I'm plainly hoping for something a little nicer next weekend. That said, the rain has brought with it the most delicious scents. The combination of rain and blossom, I discovered today, is a long-lost scent from my childhood. The smell of playing out in damp sand pits, and having to get back home before dusk, or tea.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

It appears to have been another very pleasant early spring day today. Nathan and I were a little housebound, although we ventured into town at 4pm to do a bit of shopping for our wedding.

It was a fairly stressful morning. I continued to stumble my way through setting the registrar's words, and Nathan rejected one of my efforts. He was right to. It wasn't very good, but it caused a degree of friction for a short while. I took out my frustration on a pair of headphones which were flung across the room in disgust!

Quite a lot of my anxiety, I maintain, can be put down to hunger, but that's no excuse...

Still, I'm heading towards a rather magical moment when I can down the quill and say the writing is complete. Gosh, won't that feel good!?

Fiona in Brighton is simultaneously doing an arrangement of one of the songs that our special guests are singing. It's lovely to be able to relax in the knowledge that this particular number is in safe hands.

We came into town with hopes of ticking six things off on a list of wedding necessities; rings, shirt, shoes, belt, bow tie, trousers. We sorted rings, shoes and (sort of) shirts. I realise I'm being too specific with my bow tie requirements, but our search took us to the web and a site called Mrs Bow Tie, where I found something the right colour, but the wrong shape. And yes, bow ties come in myriad shapes. I ended up buying three, in different shades of purple, so we'll see which one suits the ensemble the best!

Speaking of ensemble, we went to see our wonderful friend Ian in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Savoy Theatre tonight. It was a most enjoyable experience, and a real treat to get away from the wedding and immerse ourselves in a fantasy world for a short time. Ian is covering the fabulous Robert Lindsay, which means he's not that well-featured in the ensemble sequences, but it's so lovely to see him doing his thing on a West End stage.

I see the government are bringing in a new 12-sided £1 coin. Apparently 3% of all current quid coins in circulation are fakes - a quite staggering statistic - and the new shape and design will make this coin the most difficult in the world to counterfeit.

I'm slightly horrified to learn that the coin arrived in the UK in 1983. 30 years ago! I'm horrified because I remember it so well. My Mum came into our school and gave one to each of us (Brother Edward and me, obviously, rather than each of the students at the school.) All the kids in my form gathered around and started staring at it. I, of course, felt rich more than privileged to be looking at a monetary first!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


Waking along Parkland Walk with a clear head this morning gave me a chance to ruminate on life and the general events of the last few days. I'm reminded of little moments. The way my Mum's silk top billowed on the washing line as she sang the last line of her song, how watery and blue her eyes looked in direct sunlight, the way the morning light lit up the daffodils in the window of my parents' sitting room, laughter as Celia's Ron took delivery of a second broken toilet seat whilst his wife sang in the kitchen. The most priceless memory of all was at the end of the day, just as Celia had finished singing her last line, Nathan's sister asked, "do you feel like a film star, Mummy?" To which she responded, quick as a flash; "No I feel like a gin and tonic!" Ah, the joys of filming...

It's crash diet for me and fitness regime over the next two weeks. I think I've left it a little too late to achieve an entirely new silhouette, but I'm determined to walk down the aisle not looking bloated and weird. I ran this evening all the way to Finchley and back, but I must have been going awfully slowly, because a girl overtook me, flapping her arms about like some sort of spazzy windmill. I felt very ashamed to be out run by something that ineffectual. Her curious running reminded me of one of the comments I read on the choreography portion of one of the NYMT audition forms. The comment simply said. "Dance. 0/10. I'm surprised she can even walk." Ouch.

Today's been a hugely frustrating day. There were all sorts of misunderstandings floating around the office, which seemed to land on my lap at about lunchtime. Nathan's been in Central London all day, so I've very much been dealing with things on my own.

We did at least finish the music mixing, but the process of trying to write music for the vows is providing me with headache upon headache. Setting legalese to music is not a great deal of fun, however important to your future that legalese is. The whole thing has left me with a cracking writers' block. I know this because, at about ten o'clock I went into the loft to see if I could write another song for Brass, and everything which came out seemed hackneyed and un-refreshing. I hope this doesn't last, but with the stress I'm feeling right now, and the pressure I'm under to write music for our registrar in time for her to learn it, I suspect I may be on for a turbulent few days.

Changing Expectations 2

It's been another very long day, which started at the crack of dawn in Shropshire and finished in London with a midnight jog. We've been filming Nathan's mother, Celia, all day with the same rather lovely four-person crew as yesterday. It was a fun shoot, an almost shot-for-shot repeat of yesterday, but because Nathan was there today, I was able to vanish and get on with writing some of the live music, which the rush to complete all the recorded music has meant I've rather neglected. We're still rather stupidly stressed, but every day brings new reliefs.

Celia was brilliant. Very different from my mother, but just as good. Celia has more of a show-queen to her performance whilst my mother feels like a theatrical grand dame. One is Angela Landsbury. The other, Judi Dench. One light, charming. The other full of pain and gravitas. Both are infinitely watchable. We were both incredibly proud. The film will look spectacular and cut together brilliantly.

Nathan's sister, nieces, nephews and great niece joined us later in the day to record their solo in another one of our prerecorded film sequences. We shot them in front of a green screen, which was quite a lot of fun.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Changing Expectations 1

We've been in Thaxted all day, filming my Mother singing her vocals in the wedding song she's performing with Nathan's Mum. Tonight, the circus travels all the way to Shropshire so that the entire process can start all over again with Celia. I rather like the fact that the two women have recorded and filmed a duet without ever having been in the same place at the same time.

I was incredibly impressed by my mother today. She worked incredibly hard to get things right and has a luminous, intriguing quality, which will definitely pull people in. In film casting terms, we'd say she had a "vivid interior." I felt incredibly proud.

It was a fairly relaxed day by filming standards; well-organised by our shoot director, Ellen, and well-paced. I didn't have a great deal to do. My task was merely to make sure my Mum was singing all her words in time, and that she wasn't finding anything too tiring. The whole project was a big ask of her. I hope she'll be delighted with the results.

The sun shone brightly all day. We filmed in the garden and it was unseasonably hot. The daffodils were out in force, and the garden was a sea of Easter yellow. There was a remarkable sunset this evening; great big ribbons of gold streaking across the sky, which melted into a glorious full moon.

Our sat nav took us on a strange route North, and we ended up driving past Audley End instead of going through the middle of Saffron Walden. Audley End is a huge stately home, which was lit up magnificently tonight in a sort of biscuity-coloured light made all the more remarkable by the moon, which was glowing above it like a hot air balloon in the coal-black sky.

Still buzzing about yesterday. I had such a wonderful day.


We're on a tube, heading North, surrounded by a group of pissed women singing "I've got a Brand New Combine Harvester." It's a strange choice of a song, but they seem happy enough in their special tuneless way!

I am still wearing a pink shiny cravat around my neck and Llio is wearing the top hat I was handed at the start of this long and very special day.

Today was our stag do, organised so brilliantly by our best men, Philip and Philippa. We kicked things off on Berwick Street where I bought a metre of lovely fabric for the waistcoat Sally is making for me. We went for a dark brown brocade with a slight purple and black sheen.

Philippa met up with us and we went on to Charing Cross Road, where I got myself a jacket. A traditional morning suit jacket and a great weight off my mind.

We knew nothing about the day. We didn't know who was coming or what had been planned...

It started in a vegetarian restaurant; a curious buffet where the cost of the food was based on the weight of the food you'd selected. Many of our friends met us there. Meriel. Gaby. It was almost bewildering because people from so many different aspects of our life were colliding. Some knew each other, others, we subsequently discovered, had got to know each other in the process of organising the day. More still were making friends for the first time.

After lunch, we were sent on a scavenger-hunt-cum-quiz based entirely on Monopoly, which had been brilliantly organised by Derek. What a perfect way to spend an afternoon! We've been so stressed of late, and this allowed us to forget everything, rush around London like loons, and enjoy being with friends in the most amazing sunshine. Words cannot describe my elation!

We were pitted groom against groom. My team consisted of Edward and Sascha, Fiona, Philippa and Moira. The quiz was mostly observational and therefore required trekking for miles around Central London. We also had to film ourselves doing strange things; helping a market stall holder to sell his produce, giving false directions to a Chinese tourist, kissing policemen... Brilliant.

Sadly, we lost. We could have split up into smaller groups and gone and focussed on individual aspects, but I was having too much fun with my team! There were innumerable highlights and surreal moments. At one stage we got stuck in the middle of a demonstration against caging lions. I doubt I'll ever forget running like Anneka Rice down Regent Street with Fiona like our lives depended on finding the next clue!

Tea was at Brown's in Covent Garden, where a whole slew of extra people joined us. Ellie was there. Julie Clare drifted through. Sam. Llio. Janey and Michael. Beautiful Karrie. Lisa and Mark. Abbie and Ian. Obviously Philip and Daryl. Our friends paid for all our food. We felt loved. Absolutely loved.

From Browns we went back into Soho, where the party continued upstairs at Ku Bar. I've not been out on a Saturday night in Soho for probably ten years, and it was rather pleasant to sit in a window seat staring down at the neon lights, and the other stag and hen parties in the street outside. It was also heartwarming to have a number of strangers come up to us and wish us well, having seen us in the newspapers.

At about 11, the party dregs; Philippa, Raily and Iain, Abbie, Lli, Nathan and I went for hot chocolate, chips, soup and Halloumi in an Italian restaurant back on Berwick Street. It was an absolutely delightful end to the day and I feel utterly rejuvenated, reminded, more than anything else that Nathan and I, in the midst of the mayhem, are getting married, surrounded by those we love and who love us.

We are the luckiest men alive. Heartfelt thanks to Philip and Philippa for organising everything. And top marks to Derek for his quiz!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Spring symphony

Parkland walk was deliciously hazy this morning. Almost as though an impressionist painter had covered the trees in a fine layer of chiffon! The bird of the day was the robin. They have a remarkably distinctive, tuneful song, and would appear to be fairly inquisitive little fellows, because three or four of them stopped on tree branches right next to me to perform a mini-aria! I swear one of them was looking at me as though to say; "call yourself a musician? Transcribe this!"

I have to say, I feel life would be a lot happier if everyone were forced to walk the length of Parkland Walk twice a day in the early spring. The optimism one feels from nature is quite staggering. I'd like to suggest everyone reading this blog finds time to commune with nature this weekend. Go to a park, or get your wellies on for a long walk. If you're a city dweller, get a train, car or bus into the countryside, so you can hear the birds and see the trees awakening. Sorry to go all hippy and new agey on you all, but I've been astonished by how much less stressed I've been after these walks.

With each new day, more blossom arrives in Crouch End. It's staggering.

We sort of finished mixing the music today, although Julian has more work to do over the weekend to tidy things and we have a session on Tuesday morning, where, with fresh ears, we can listen to the songs and do a final set of notes.

I got in a state again this evening when the tailor I thought was going to make me my wedding suit jacket pulled out because he didn't feel there was enough time. Plainly we shouldn't have left all of this til the last minute, but when you only have five weeks to write and prepare a wedding, certain things like rings, crash diets and suits fall by the wayside.

Heaven knows what I'll wear. We have an hour tomorrow morning allotted for the business of shopping. The divine Sally Livingstone from RAFTA has offered to make me a waistcoat in a fabric of my choosing, so if I have nothing else, I shall have a lovely bit of fabric wrapped around my enormously fat belly!

I'm rather hoping to look a little bit Edwardian, but as time ticks by, I realise that what I want, and what I can afford (both financially and in the two weeks we have left) is supremely  limited. It's not a very nice feeling!

Still, with every new day, a hundred points get ticked off the list, and perhaps only fifty or sixty more get added, so there's a definite sense of winning the war, even though some of the mini-skirmishes are currently being lost!

Thursday, 13 March 2014


We walked home this evening along Parkland Walk in a sort of blueish half light. We were joined on our journey by a riot of bats. They seemed to be flying towards us from all directions. I felt incredibly privileged to be amongst them, and indeed, walking in the warm evening breeze.

The weather was so wonderful today. We sat eating breakfast in the sitting room, looking out across a misty London. The sun was obviously about to burn through because everything was glowing and bathed in a sandy-coloured light.

We drove from Highgate to Wood Green with a young Canadian lad called Colin Ratushniak, who's working as a co-producer on the film. What's perhaps a little more interesting about Colin is that he was one of the pro-skaters in last year's Dancing On Ice, coming second overall, which I find hugely impressive.

The purpose of our trip to Wood Green? To announce our marriage! It's an official process, which involves separate interviews with the chief registrar of Haringey Council, one assumes to establish our legitimacy. It's the first (and last) day that gay men can register themselves to get married on March 29th, and, perhaps surprisingly, only two gay couples were expected to come in from the entire borough.

It seems that fewer LGBT people than initially expected are getting married on the 29th. Mostly, one suspects, because couples who have had Civil Partnerships are not yet permitted to "upgrade."

The staff at Haringey couldn't have been more supportive. They were even flying the rainbow flag outside the council offices. They proudly showed us a series of framed pictures which had been ripped down from the walls ceremonially. These pictures reminded us that marriage was "defined as the union of one man and one woman." This is no longer the case. And, oddly, until the legal eagles put their heads together, we are living in an era where, in England and Wales, there is actually  no official definition of marriage. How crazy and sort of exciting is that? One of the senior registrars told us this fact with a huge grin on his face. Even more delightfully, the entire team of registrars have asked if we'd mind them coming to cheer us on. They want to be at our wedding to celebrate a significant event for all them. I am finding the love almost overwhelming.

Of course, in true British style, the entire registrar central computer system went down before we arrived. Homophobic software! Nathan had to do his interview with a paper form, which, of course, the registrar had never seen or filled in before. Fortunately, the (more user-friendly) computer system was back up and running by the time I arrived for my part of the interview. Everyone seemed much relieved!

We went back to Julian and Carla's and spent the afternoon in the daffodil-filled garden talking to a charming journalist about the project whilst poor Julian mixed A Brand New Future upstairs; that's the mayhem song at the start of the film! It took ten hours of mixing! How horrific is that?

Is now the time to acknowledge I'm coming down with a cold?

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


It's a little misty and balmy tonight. The air is humming with the smell of early blossom and marihuana. Spring is definitely on its way. The birds know. The sun is setting and they're going crazy!

The area around Julian's house in Crouch End is quieter than any village I know. We noticed this as we walked along Parkland Walk for lunch in a community centre. You can't hear traffic. There don't seem to be any planes. Just birds. Singing louder and louder. It's a joy to hear them.

It was a treat to have lunch out - a vegetarian lasagne, salad and a drink for £4.80 - although I was slightly surprised when the man behind the counter asked if I had anything smaller than the £10 I gave him. Surely that's the question you ask when someone hands you a £20 note when all they're buying is a tube of polos?

Today saw the mixing process heating up. We're not quite as far on as I'd like us to be, but we're getting there slowly, and comments about our work have been more than favourable from the powers that be.

I have to say, it's a proper treat to make one of my films with contributors who are all known to me. The idea of a film which documents every one of my friends and family, and how we all looked in 2014, is so intensely powerful and moving. I'm sure we'll have all sorts of trolls and things wanting to have a pop at us for doing it, but I have to keep pinching myself at the thought of how lucky we are, not just to be gay men in the UK (because God knows it's painful to think about what's going on elsewhere in the world), but because Channel 4 have given us the opportunity to celebrate March 29th with our loved ones. If I leave no other legacy in this world, at least Nathan and I will be inextricably bound to a momentous occasion. In 200 years, when people say, "can you believe it used to be illegal for two men to get married?" People will be able to look at the history books and say, "and on the day the law changed, two men actually got married in a musical..." I worry, of course, that the next question will be, "but what's a musical?" But that's perhaps another soap box to be dusted off when I get stuck in to Brass!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Seeing the wood

Today started with a rather pleasurable walk along Parkland Walk to the studio in Crouch End. There were lots of Magpies around today, in unfeasibly large numbers. "One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven a secret never told..." But then what? I was once told it was "eight for a letter, nine for something better." But we saw about twelve today.

Today we finished all the vocals we are expecting to record in this block of recording sessions. Irritatingly we've got a few extra vocals to drop in here and there, which makes the process of mixing considerably less exciting than it otherwise would have been because we're dealing with songs which are not quite complete.

We had four vocalists in today; all girls. We know a lot of girls; all impossibly glamorous and attractive. Straight men really ought to learn to flock to gay men!

Today's bevvie of talented, beautiful lassies consisted of Amy Bird (the other half of Nathan's double act in the pantomime), Lady V (who was in the Rocky Horror Show with Nathan), Nicola Harrison (who I met on a show at the Edinburgh Festival in 1995) and Ellie Mant (who I met on my very first day of university.) Two friends each... And all polished their solos off in seconds, which gave us slightly more time than we expected to get on with mixing.

There's much still to be done, but I think we're both finally beginning to glimpse the wood for the trees.

We walked home up Shepherd's Hill and I sent Nathan off to his knitting group so that I could get on with writing my vows. Now all the recorded music is in the can, we have to start focussing on the music we're going to be performing live. No rest for the wicked.


Another day of mayhem... Or a dayhem. It's almost midnight and we've just returned from Thaxted where we recorded my Mum singing vocals on one of our wedding songs. She's actually duetting with Nathan's Mum. How cool and moving is that?

Celia, Nathan's Mum, came into the London studio earlier today to lay down her vocals. We're recording at Julian's house at the moment, which is actually a vicarage in Crouch End. Julian's partner, Carla, is vicar of the Swiss Church in Covent Garden and it makes a wonderful change to be at their tall-ceilinged pad, just around the corner from our own (slightly more humble) abode.

Nathan's Mum turned up with a massive picnic basket filled with cakes and fruit, determined to feed "her boys." Star item was the fruit cake. Nathan nearly threw a tantrum when I suggested the cake be left with Julian as a thank you. Apparently cake as good as Celia's fruit cake gets shared with no one!

Both mothers sang beautifully. I don't think many people in the world could say they've written a song which was recorded by their mother and future mother-in-law! We're incredibly lucky guys.

Other highlights and giggles from today include Sara Kestelman coming in and singing her solo line, and the illimitable Philip Sallon, who gave us the most extreme rendition of any solo line imaginable.

Things are slowly coming together, and, by the end of the week, if nothing else, we'll have a really decent concept album of our wedding!

The one thing I'm worried about is this RSI/ tendon damage I've got on the top of my right hand, which is definitely getting worse, and making playing the piano almost impossible, and typing pretty difficult as well.

My poor body is falling apart!

A helicopter is circling our house...
They've finally come to get me!

Sunday, 9 March 2014


We've just finished a second twelve-hour day in the recording studio and I'm so tired my eyes are itching!

It's been a fabulous day, however. Properly fabulous. A day of music-making of the very highest standard. We had the finest line-up of the Rebel Chorus we've ever seen. There were 18 of us, augmented by some new members we've picked up along the way, including Carrie, who came to the Dominican Republic with us, Dave, who we found when we did the session at Abbey Road at the end of last year and Emma, who's playing Grimsby in Brass! The choir was conducted by Ben Holder, MD for Brass. We all missed our esteemed conductor Sam, but it was great to see Ben doing his thing. I deliberately lobbed him in the deep end to see if he'd float, and he swam to safety in seconds! This bodes well for Brass.

It was a happy, happy atmosphere. Nothing was rushed. We finessed every aspect of what we were recording. Everyone got decent breaks. The recording studio itself was a very good environment to work in. There's a fabulous green room - which has a pool table - and a television room, which kept everyone  entertained whilst we recorded soloists.

The gospel sound the choir created was absolutely brilliant, but I think the most special moment for me was recording Llio singing a chorus in Welsh. It really felt like the missing piece in the jigsaw, not just because we adore Lli, but also because Nathan and I are deeply proud of our Welsh ancestry, we both have siblings who live there, and the same sex marriage bill applies specifically to England and Wales. We need to be thanking Wales as well!

It was also great fun to have my old mate Ted Thornhill come in to sing his solo line. Ted's also writing a piece about the project in the Mail, so it was probably quite useful for him to see the mayhem!

At the end of the session our engineer said "that was the MOST fun ever... Those singers just got better and better..." As we emerged from the studio, the air was rich with a rather heady aroma. "What's that smell?" asked Llio. "It's the smell of optimism," I replied. And I genuinely feel it was.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Musicians down

So that's two violins, two violas, a cello, a double bass, a French horn, a melodica, an oboe and two vocalists recorded in one 12 hour session!

Plainly, and as a result, I've no idea whether I'm coming or going. Nathan is similarly bewildered. We got chips on the way home, and will eat them tonight whilst staring blankly at the television.

I am wondering if I've managed to break my own record for number of cups of tea consumed in a 24 hour period today. I must have had at least twelve.

It's been fun. Sort of. But also highly adrenaline-filled, and at times incredibly stressful. The string session over-ran by half an hour, which is not too awful in the scheme of things, particularly baring in mind the  crazy difficulty level of the wedding's opening number; a six-minute tour of  pretty much every style of music you can imagine from rock to reggae. Well, okay, there's no reggae, but I couldn't think of another musical style beginning with r!

Today's vocalists were Izzy Mant and Meriel, both of whom did a brilliant job. The lines we have people singing are not the easiest in the world for non-singers, but I have been absolutely thrilled with the way people have tackled them.

Tomorrow is the turn of the choir. No doubt by the time we finish, both of us will have entirely lost our minds. Still, it's all a laugh isn't it?

The one thing which has started to worry me is the sheer number of people who seem to be upset with us because we're unable to deal with their questions about the wedding. Questions about timings, rehearsals etc are all legitimate, of course, but when the answer to the question is unknown and two hundred people are still asking it via email, text or telephone, it's enough to send a man into a state of apoplexy!


We were in the studio all day today recording first piano and then various vocals for our wedding film. It was a fairly exhausting, but ultimately rewarding experience. First up, Nathan's various nieces and nephews performed a line, and then Nathan's sister, Sam laid down vocals on top of the vocals brother Edward had put down yesterday. It was like Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney doing Ebony and Ivory! Hearing the two of them singing in harmony was really sweet... Duetting via the wonders of technology!

Next up were our best men, Philip and Philippa. We learnt today that Philippa would rather be known as a best woman, which we really must try to adopt. It was so lovely to have everyone there together; best friends and family. A sure indication that there's a lot of good will for us and for the project in general.

I literally ran from Sonica Studios to Pall Mall to attend a charity gala meal for the NYMT, where, for the first time ever, a song from Brass was performed in public. It was performed by our Eliza, a stunning 17 year-old actress who threw herself into the performance hook, line and sinker. The hush in the room whilst she performed was extraordinary and I have a strong sense that, in five or ten years time, people who were fortunate enough to have been there will talk about the moment they first saw Laura Barnard.

I felt very proud to be introducing her to the audience, and also rather pleased to have a captive audience to whom I could wax lyrical about the importance of supporting new writers.

Dougal Irvine, a fellow composer, thanked me afterwards for what I'd said and, in his chat with the crowd, said, "I had this little speech prepared but Benjamin Till said it all so much more eloquently."

It struck me how nice it feels to be part of a set of composers who are trying to achieve the same thing. I've got so used to banging my own drum in obscure television films over the last few years that I'd adopted a rather isolationist stance. I'm rather enjoying the process of being integrated back into a society!

After the charity do I dashed across London to my old friend Matt's 40th birthday, which was in a penthouse in a London hotel. I remember his 30th birthday, and dancing round a maypole with Mel C. It does at least feel like rather a long time ago, so time hasn't started speeding up for me... At least not yet. It was also rather fun to tell him I'd been sitting next to the woman who'd won a chance to meet him in the auction earlier in the evening...

Anyhow. It's time for bed. I'm up first thing for a twelve hour session.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Why I'm getting married in a musical

So it would appear that the cat is out of the bag. The press are now, if not buzzing, gently vibrating with the news. What you may have read is probably true. Nathan and I are getting married in a musical film which is being screened on Channel 4. We're being very clear about the purpose of the film. This isn't a musical about our wedding, this is a musical celebration about the historical importance of March 29th; the first day gay men can legally marry in England and Wales.

Whilst we cheer, sing, dance and pat ourselves on our enlightened shoulders, it should never be forgotten that gay marriage is legal in considerably fewer than 20 countries across the world and that being gay - just BEING gay - is still completely illegal in 80 or more. This statistic ought to put things in perspective.

There are a number of misunderstandings about the gay marriage in the UK. Firstly, and for another few months, gay marriage remains illegal in Scotland. Secondly, there are no moves in Northern Ireland to change the law which currently prevents LGBT from getting married. Thirdly, because since the 2005 introduction of UK civil partnerships LGBT people have talked about "weddings," the majority of people in this country assume that gay marriage is already legal, and therefore that this new law means that gay men can now get married in British churches. They can't. Actually, as a point of fact, they can at the Swiss church in Covent Garden, but not in a Church of England church.

So what is new? Well, to put it simply, equality is new. Civil partnerships are not the same as marriage. Similar, but not quite the same and the same, but different is certainly not the same as equal. Straight people can't have civil partnerships, gay people can't get married. That's like saying it's okay to segregate black and white people; they both get to travel on buses, just not on the same ones!

So true legal equality is the victory we shall be celebrating in our wedding film. In the eyes of the law (though sadly not in the eyes of the church) LGBT people from England and Wales are now the same as everyone else.

It's the final piece in the jigsaw. At the same point utterly inconsequential and absolutely astonishing. The very last full stop in a series of battles for LGBT human rights which started God knows when and ends on March 29th.

That is why I am proud to be getting married on this day. And proud to be making a film about it.

But why a musical?

Well, readers of this blog will know that Nathan and I have 40 years combined experience in the professional worlds of music, film and theatre. As a composer, I use music to express my emotions. I pour emotion into the music I write and can think of no more perfect way to express my love and gratitude to Nathan than through song. Why on earth would I SAY vows when I can SING them? When I can accompany them with the chords and beats and suspensions which far more adequately express my love for a man who has been my rock for 12 years.

Nathan, as a musical theatre performer with a great respect and love for the art form, feels exactly the same way. Music has run through our relationship like the most perfect golden thread. I write a song. Nathan will be the first man to hear it. Nathan performs in a show or cabaret, and I will sit on the front row, engulfed and charmed by the beauty of his voice.

Of course it's a risk. Some people hate musicals and will think this is the most dreadful idea. But our lives have been typified by a series of calculated risks. We dare. Uncompromisingly. Some hate my work. Others think it's great. I suspect this will polarise people even more, but what can never be doubted is that it's coming from the right place, and that is a place of love. Genuine love for musical theatre. Genuine love for one another.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Need sleep

It's been a very tiring day.

I wish I could say more.

I can't!

Love to you all.

I'm getting married to Nathan by the way.


Tuesday, 4 March 2014


As I walked down the little hill path from Archway Road to the tube this morning, I found myself captivated by little drops of rain dangling from a metal fence. The sun was incredibly low, and the droplets of water had turned into a mini rainbow; each little crystal a discreet colour. The green one was by far the most vibrant. The greatest wordsmith would struggle to describe the colour. Like an emerald burning from within.

We've been recording drums and bass for the Channel 4 project all day today. Our drummer, a Newcastle lad called Martyn, used the phrase "gospel chops" to describe one of the numbers: "This song's a bit gospel chops isn't it?" What he meant was that the song had a bit of a gospel vibe which he wanted to bring out with his drumming. But it suddenly struck me what an unusual and versatile word "chops" is. Obviously it can mean mouth, as in "smacked in the chops"  but I'd personally be most likely to use it to mean experience. "Has he got telly chops?" ie, "does he know how to perform in front of a camera?" "Does she have the chops to sing Queen Of the Night?" "Has she got a top E?" But I might also use the word to compliment a really decent voice; "she's got a fine set of chops on her..." Maybe I over use the word because, as a vegetarian, I don't eat pork chops!

A rather lovely thing happened in the studio today. Julian's assistant, Josh, whom I found out yesterday is another music graduate from York University, was making us a cup of tea when his phone rang. He'd obviously recently changed his ring tone to play a piece of dramatic classical music, which I rather liked because it sounded a little like the London Requiem. I was about to shout across at him to say "if you like that, you should hear my requiem," when I realised it WAS my requiem!

He was mortified, but I was thrilled. I have always wondered what it would feel like to randomly hear one of my own songs playing on the radio - without prior knowledge - so hearing the Requiem, out of context like that, was rather exciting.

Today's session went about as well as I could have hoped. It is so lovely to have reached the stage with the music where it's something other people are working on. It's no longer a private thing blaring into my ears through a pair of headphones. People are interpreting it. Getting into it. Giving me a sense of what it could be. Both Rex (bass) and Martyn played wonderfully, and the songs are flying off the page; particularly the opening sequence, which is a mad dash through a million different musical genres. The pressure valve has suddenly been released and I'm breathing again.

I wish I could say the same for poor Nathan, who is drowning in a sea of admin and niggling emails. Of course everyone who writes to him has something they're really keen to find out, and Nathan is dealing with as many requests as he can, but by the time he finishes one response, another three have appeared in his inbox. Half way through the session today, I took a phone call from him in a desperate state, which I was absolutely helpless to do anything about. I think the straw that broke this particular camel's back was finding out we suddenly don't have one of our sopranos for Sunday's session. I am returning home now to see if there's anything I can do to help. I'd love to whisk him away for a few hours to see a film or have a meal, but sadly there's too much to do.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Pin cushion

There's something rather calming about a walk to work, especially when the journey involves a trip along the length of Parkland Walk, one of North London's hidden treasures. For those of you reading who aren't familiar with this little nature reserve, Parkland Walk follows the route of an old tube line, which, I think I'm right in thinking, was never opened, primarily because of the war. The proposed Piccadilly spur was due to link Finsbury Park and Highgate, taking in Crouch End and Stroud Green, before drifting off up to Muswell Hill. It would have been a hugely useful route for those of us who like to travel in an East-West direction, but sadly it was never to be.

It has, however, left an impressive legacy: a long, snaking nature reserve, filled with glorious trees and merry birds, which, on a warm, late winter morning is about as pleasant as one can expect a place to be. The other intriguing thing about the walk  is that it has a peculiarly shallow gradient. In any other route, a journey from Highgate to Finsbury Park would involve several incredibly steep hills. Parkland Walk, however, seems almost flat. That's why it's popular with joggers.

I've been with Julian all day at his house-cum-studio in Crouch End, prepping pro-tools sessions for our Channel 4 film. I was up until 3am sorting things out and apologise profusely to anyone who might have worried about my mental health when they saw Nathan's guest entry yesterday! All is good today, I assure you. I feel calm and relaxed.

We've had the most curious weather all day. First sun, then rain, then hail. The mercury must have been bouncing up and down like a yoyo. Dark brooding clouds were the order of the day, with a dazzling sun which periodically appeared from nowhere and shone so brightly we were forced to close the blinds. The most remarkable display came when all manner of things happened at the same time. The sun glinting on hail gave the impression that gold was actually falling from the sky, and the double rainbow which followed was one of the finest I've seen. It was so vivid, in fact, that one of its tails seemed to hover over the Tarmac on the street outside. "A good omen," said Julian, "for this project."

I emerged from Julian's at about 7pm, and walked back along Parkland Walk, until the darkness made me start to feel a little vulnerable. The air following the rain was gloriously crisp and clean. From the heights of Crouch End I could see all the way down to the twinkling City lights; a pin cushion of red and white with the odd patriotic fleck of blue at Canary Wharf. So near, yet so far away. When I see those particular buildings looking like tiny glowing match boxes, I always think about Brother Edward, wondering if he's at work, or at home, staring out across the Thames towards the O2.

Music Mayhem

Hello all, and greetings from Nathan, Benjamin's guest blogger for the night.

I'm stepping in to fill Ben's shoes tonight, because he is completely swamped with writing and preparing for "The Big Project" which is still being kept under wraps.  For the next few days at least.

I usually abhor the kind of cryptic posts you often see on Twitter and Facebook, along the lines of,  "I've got some very exciting news to tell you, but I'm not going to tell you yet!"  I usually find it all a bit disingenuous, and, well, frankly, a bit tacky, but in this case, Ben and I are forbidden from saying anything at all.  All of which, of course, only goes to make everything even more cryptic, and possibly, even more tacky, for which I can only apologise.

The only reason I bring it up at all, is that otherwise, it would be difficult to explain why Ben isn't here writing his own blog entry!

We both got up early again today.  Early for us, at any rate - I know those of you readers with children will think that an 8.30 alarm clock is a very slovenly lie-in indeed, but Ben and I don't ever get to bed before one o'clock in the morning, so I think we are justified in not seeing the dawn break.  I have friends who always goggle at the fact that I'm sometimes still in bed at ten a.m. (although that's been very rare of late!).  When I ask them what time they go to bed, and hear the reply, "ten-thirty," I just grin to myself, and do the mental maths which often means I'm in bed for fewer hours than those people who think actors must be terribly lazy people indeed.  We're not.  Well, not all the time.  It's just that our working day is shifted on a few hours from where most people's days sit.

I used to battle with my mum over this, who for many years used to call me up at 7.30 in the morning, claiming that she had been up for hours, so what was I grumpy about?  It didn't seem to have occurred to her, that my working day hadn't finish the night before until nearly 11 o'clock, then by the time I got home it was nearly midnight.  The other one that people often say is that, "oh, you must be on such a high from the performance - no wonder you can't sleep straightaway!"  I'd like to set that record straight right now.  It has NOTHING to do with being "on a high."  Half a year into a contract in a long-running West End show, the last thing you feel is on a high.  Don't get me wrong, I love my job, and can't imagine making a career out of anything else, but once you get past the opening night, and are a few weeks in, the nerves and the adrenaline disappear, and what you mostly feel at the end of a show is utterly exhausted.  Skipping about for two and a half hours is quite a lot of cardio in one sitting!  Now do it eight times a week...

So why, I hear you ask, do I not go to sleep at a "reasonable" time like everyone else?

Back to the point about finishing at nearly 11 o'clock: how many people who finish work at 5pm are in bed by 6?  Anyone?  I didn't think so.  No further questions, Your Honour.

I digress...

Since getting up this morning, we have both been sitting solidly at our computers, beavering away at what is fast becoming the most stressful thing I've ever worked on - so much to do, and no time to do it in... But I'm talking cryptically again, so I'll stop.

With hardly a break for lunch, and even less for tea, we've both worked through the day: Ben in the kitchen, trying to look after his back and his posture, and me in the living room. We've had tears and tantrums, when technology lets one or other of us down, and the frustration kicks in, but mostly, I think we've achieved a great deal.  There's still a long way to go, and it looks like Ben will be working through a fair portion of the night tonight to get everything ready for phase two, which starts in the morning.

We'll get there.  We have to!

I brought a little plate of jam tarts into the living room, where Ben has now moved to, as the kitchen is such a depressing mess of crockery and laundry (all clean, I might add, but strewn around the floor and the work surfaces because we simply don't have the time to clear anything away right now!), that he needed a change of scenery.  He looked up from his laptop, and saw my pathetic offering, and his eyes almost filled with tears of joy.  It's ridiculous how the smallest things can mean so much.

Putting things into perspective though, I learned today that the mother of a dear friend passed away unexpectedly today.  I say unexpectedly, as although the lady in question was well over ninety years old, I only saw her earlier this week, and she looked full of the joys of Spring, and as happy and healthy as I've ever known her.  It made me realise, that although my life has been turned a bit upside down of late, and I feel I'm under a whole heap of pressure to get a lot of work done in a very short space of time, how lucky I am, not to be facing the pain of grief, or ill health, or loneliness.

News like that helps you to re-evaluate, taking stock, and throwing the good stuff back into the light, from which it may have been hiding for a while, but proving that it can still gleam with the shine of optimism and happiness.  We would all do well not to forget that.  Post Tenebras Lux and all that.

And on that note, I'm signing off.  Thanks for listening to the waffling of a square-eyed, braid-dead loon.  Panic not: normal Benjamin service shall no doubt resume again tomorrow.

Until next time, sleep well.

Saturday, 1 March 2014


Crumbs. I'm seeing double! I was up at 8 this morning and have been finessing and formatting parts ever since. I think I'll be at it long into the night because once that task is complete, I have to export a million midi files...

I am genuinely beginning to crack under the strain of all of this. Just as I think I'm getting a handle on things, someone else emails, or telephones, asking for something else and I'm back to square one. I can't even see the light at the end of the tunnel, because once this Channel 4 project is over, I'm straight into the first set of rehearsals for Brass. I am desperate for a lie-in.

Nathan is similarly stressed. I pity the door in our front room which has been slammed so often today it's coming off it hinges!

Whilst I'm dealing with the musical side of things, poor Nathan is having to wade his way through all the other stuff; liaising with producers, visiting shoots, booking musicians, grappling with technology and dealing with the ever-changing requirements of people whom I'm forced to describe in this blog at this stage as "audience members."

Both of us are now suffering from stress-related ailments. My skin's gone dry and itchy. Nathan can't shake his cough and keeps getting headaches. My back is in spams.

Of course we'll both be fine in the morning. We have good days and bad days and they seem to alternate.

One of our problems is that other people working on this project, quite understandably, want to keep abreast of their own production tasks, and continually demand from us the stuff they feel they need to do everything properly. Of course the issue with this is that, by helping them to stay ahead of things, we end up behind with our own work, which is the foundation which keeps the entire project upright. My stock response: will it wait til Monday? If so, it's less important than the stuff I need to do before tomorrow.

So, I'm having a bath, have plastered myself in Nivea and have had a bowl of Shreddies. This means I can face my night time work session with renewed vigour and, with any luck, get another set of parts completed before I fall asleep.