Thursday, 31 March 2016

Pigeon carnage

I dreamed last night that one of my teeth fell out! I looked into a mirror and noticed that my bottom teeth looked a crooked and, for some reason thought I might be able to apply enough pressure to one of them to bring it back in line. Sadly it wasn't to be and the tooth simply came away in my hand. It wasn't a cool look. I looked like an old crone!

I worked at Jackson's Lane Community Centre this morning. Nathan came to find me and encouraged me to go to Highbury with him where he was meeting a knitting friend for lunch. We travelled the length of the Holloway Road on a 43 bus and crawled along at a ludicrously slow pace which enabled us to get a sense of what the road has become in the last few years. The bottom end has plainly gone up in the world. There are loads of fancy eateries masquerading as pie and mash shops which are plainly being aimed at young city professionals who want to be seen to be keeping it real.

The top end of Holloway Road, by contrast, remains the insane place it always has been, full of curios, care-in-communities, lunatics, fanatics and throw-backs. We passed a woman who had an enormous star tattooed onto her forehead, and a young bloke with such awful posture you might have been forgiven for thinking he was 90.

There are always two buildings that I look out for when heading down that road. The first is a flat above a shop just shy of Holloway Road tube where the great Joe Meek (of Telstar fame) lived and died. It's where he killed his landlady after the mother of all mental breakdowns which was partially brought about because he was being blackmailed for being gay. It must be very odd to live in a building which has witnessed that much violence and tragedy. Ever since working as a stage door keeper at the New Ambassadors Theatre, I've subscribed to the notion that energies hang about in buildings. When locking up the auditorium at the end of a night, I could always tell whether the show was a happy or a sad one, or, oddly how large the audience had been. A sell-out show always seemed to generate more energy. When The Weir was running - a show so tragic that, on the first performance, one of the ushers was so distraught she had to be carried out of the theatre by audience members - the auditorium always used to feel very bleak.

The other building I watch out for on the Holloway Road is Islington Library which is, of course, where that other great gay Joe, namely Joe Orton, used to steel and deface library books. Orton and his partner Kenneth Halliwell both went to prison for vandalising council property but the books they so carefully and wittily ruined are now worth a fortune and are amongst the most valued possessions of the library. Or at least they were when I last read up about them. They've probably subsequently been sold to private collectors to plug gaps in council spending!

I got a message from Little Welsh Nathalie downstairs earlier on. It appears a pigeon has been macerated in our garden. She describes nonchalantly exiting the house and finding a scene of carnage which involved another pigeon merrily pecking away at the guts of his erstwhile friend. We assume the pigeon was "got" by a cat or fox in broad daylight. It wasn't there when I returned from my run at about 3pm (incidentally there are now five pieces of blossom on my favourite little tree...) I'm not sure I'm particularly into the idea of a cannibal pigeon sharing my home, and if the dead pigeon is one of my friends who sits up in the tree every day, I'm even more upset. Most upsetting of all, however, is the thought that the pigeon "eating" his friend was actually the friend's mate (pigeons mate for life) and that rather than eating, he was trying to revive his companion. It's even sadder if the pigeons were a gay couple, but maybe I'm writing a little bit too much into this story!! I've no doubt Nathan will want to bury the body.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016


We've been watching Ricky Gervais' "Extras" over the past few weeks. I realise I'm about ten years late to this particular party, but I think it's a truly excellent show. Ashley Jenson is a remarkable and beautiful actress, and, as the show unwound towards its Christmas special anticlimax, Gervais himself becomes more and more compelling.  It is fairly uncomfortable viewing. Gervais plays a man who starts off as the lowest of the low - namely an extra in film and TV - before hitting the big time as a catch-phrase yelling comedy actor who appeals to lowest common denominator audiences. Of course he hates doing the comedy schtick, and really just wants to be a well-respected, authentic Hollywood actor, but, ultimately, he's not good enough to be anything other than the catch-phrase yelling prat who wears a curly wig. Adulation and fame makes him grand and intolerable. He forgets his roots, shuns his true friends, and gets any extras on his own shows fired if they dare to approach him. He then becomes bitter and aggressive. His performance rang a lot of alarming bells for me. I meet people like him all the time in my work and I watch their acolytes fanning the flames which perpetuate these behavioural patterns.

I was back up at Costa in Highgate village this morning. I'm rather enjoying the routine of pottering up there for 9.30am and pottering back down for 1pm, having done three hours writing. I then go for a run. I'm not busting a gut when I jog at the moment. I run for perhaps 30 minutes, the same route every day so I can get a sense of my fitness levels rising. Running the same route every day also gives me a chance to witness the arrival of spring in the woods near me. There are daffodils everywhere at the moment. There's also a tree which I've been paying particular attention to. For the past five days just one brave piece of blossom has emerged on just one of the branches. Today, for the first time, the blossom had a friend on another branch. I'm sure by the end of next week the entire tree will be covered.

I spend the afternoons at the moment staring at a television. I can't bring myself to start work again. I think it's all part of the recovery process but I'm hating myself for wasting long periods of time that could be spent writing, or simply seeing friends or doing things in the big wide world. Television is the great crusher of creativity, particularly when you end up watching repeats on channels like Dave. I'm already bored of it, but I can also feel myself becoming a little work shy. It's very easy and quite comforting to sit down on a sofa, switch the television on and then switch the brain off. I'm giving myself to the end of the week to take things easy and then I'm going to get on with being creative again.

Second wedding (anniversary)

We woke up this morning to a number of Facebook messages wishing us a happy second wedding anniversary. That's the second anniversary of our wedding, not the anniversary of our second wedding, you understand. I'm glad the messages were there, else we might have forgotten all about it! Apparently the second anniversary is cotton, although my Mum assures me it's china. There's an old list and a new list. Two years doesn't actually seem that long. There are people out there who probably think of Nathan and me as being in the first throes of a relationship. The truth is, we've been together almost fourteen years, which may explain why we ate pasta and watched RuPaul's Drag Race this evening! Rock. And. Roll! Note to self: make more effort next year!

Nathan and I both woke up with the same ear worm ricocheting through our heads this morning, which was so random I actually wondered whether one of us was actually singing in our sleep. The song in question was Julie from Les Bicyclettes De Belsize, which, in fairness, we watched with Abbie and Ian on Friday night, but it nevertheless seems a little strange that it should return to us both four days later.

According to Wikipedia, the first recorded use of the phrase "ear worm" in literature occurred in 1978 in Desmond Bagley's novel, Flyaway, which sounds like a right dystopian barrel of laughs. 98% of people apparently experience regular ear worms but women endure them for longer periods and get more irritated by them. Musicians and those with OCD are particularly prone. If you want to stop an ear worm, you should do a Sudoku. So that's ear worms dealt with.

A group of older men appeared in Costa this morning. There were six of them and they talked about politics whilst sipping coffee and eating croissants. It was very unusual to see a group of men like that. I so often come across groups of yummy mummies or school children but sixty to seventy-year old men don't tend to hunt in packs. I went off them a little when one of them was describing a woman with short hair and another said, "you mean a lesbian."

The Archway Road would appear to be the hair-dressing capital of the world. There are now six hair-cutting establishments within the two blocks stretching from Jackson's Lane community centre to Topp's Tiles. There's even a hairdressers which specialises in cutting and styling black people's hair. So if anyone's in doubt as to where to come for a new barnet, come and visit me.

I saw Llio late this afternoon. We had tea at Jackson's Lane. I have to say, I got rather used to seeing her every day during Beyond The Fence, so I was actually missing her rather a lot. It was so good to see her and she taught me how to pronounce the village my Nana grew up in. We actually got trapped in Jackson's Lane by a massive rainstorm which lasted two hours. We could hear it pounding down on the roof. Jackson's Lane is famously a converted chapel, so I was fairly astonished when Llio looked around the bar and said, "isn't it interesting how much churchy furniture they have in this building? There are pews everywhere. I wonder what that's about!"

It's been odd weather all day. As I walked back from Highgate Village, the sun was so bright I couldn't see the screen of my iPod, and when I went for a run, I almost baked myself... Until it started to hail. A man walking a dog in a pair of shorts was looking particularly confused.

"Am I imagining hail?" I shouted to him as I jogged past... "I don't know who I am any more" he replied.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Bank holiday blues

There's almost nothing to say about today. Because it was a bank holiday and because normal people take bank holidays off, I decided to drift about the house like some sort of restless spirit whilst Nathan launched a knitting pattern.

The most productive thing I did was a mini-photo shoot where I took photographs of the scarf for which Nathan was creating the pattern. We went out to the little triangle of grass on the corner of Archway Road and Muswell Hill Road opposite the old Children's Bookshop which has recently become a retro Barber shop.

At this time of year, this particular triangle is always covered in a carpet of daffodils. There's one tree there. And a stone bench. The tree, I discovered today, is dedicated to the eradication of nuclear weapons. Heaven knows how I've managed to miss that.

I took some more pictures with the scarf draped over railings in front of a post box. I know the Americans (many of whom buy Nathan's patterns) are well into their red phone boxes so figured that they might enjoy a post box as well. Surely they're just as iconic?

Nathan had his hair cut in the barbers. It's only just opened but there's never anyone in there. This upsets us greatly. I'm not sure Nathan is that happy with the cut he was given though. Typical Brits. We'll continue to go there out of politeness!

That's it. I've bored myself. I cannot wait to start working again tomorrow!

Monday, 28 March 2016

Cheshire roast

I've been in Cheshire at Nathan's sister's and her husband's house today. There are way too many apostrophes in that sentence, so many, in fact, that I'm doubting their validity, but it's rather late and I've eaten too much chocolate, so, you know, f**k grammar...

We've had another lovely day, which started with a road trip up the A1 through rain, sunshine and rainbows to Lisa and Mark's house where we dropped off birthday cards for their children George and Rosie. Two of Lisa's children were born on the same day, which, rather oddly has collided with Easter this year. They were all out. We didn't actually expect them to be in, so delivered the cards, left a couple of Easter eggs on the doorstep, popped to the local churchyard to say hello to George, and continued our journey along the A14, the M6, the M54 and the A41 to Nathan's Mum's and Ron's house. Again, way too many apostrophes, but you know what I mean...

We ate hot cross buns for lunch with cups of tea and bits of Ēostre eggs. Nathan's Mum had an operation on her back earlier this week and looked remarkably well. She is still in some discomfort from the operation scars, but the chronic pain she's been in for months has entirely gone. She says she got out of bed yesterday and, for the first time in ages, felt entirely alive. Bravo!

Later on, we travelled to Sam and Julius' where there was a proper family gathering going on. At least ten of us sat down for a full roast with all the trimmings. The great joy about a roast meal (apart from the glorious tastes) is the veritable rainbow which arrives on your plate. The oranges of carrots and mashed swedes, the yellow of sweet corn, the deep reds and purple of cabbage, the greens of leeks, asparagus and broccoli. I bloody love food I do.

I fell asleep on the most comfortable sofa in the world after lunch whilst Nathan taught his niece Jenny how to knit. It was warm. The sofa felt like silk and velvet. Nathan's voice was soothing. It was glorious. I felt like my Grandpa.

We travelled home in a massive storm (named Katy, I later learned) listening to the news, which was a catalogue of stories relating to Muslim extremist violence: a bomb which killed scores of children in Pakistan, tales of Isis carrying out mass killings in ancient amphitheatres in Syria, news that right wing extremists shouting anti-immigrant slogans had stamped on flowers and candles at a peace vigil in Brussels. I am proud to report that the extremists were greeted with shouts of "we are all the children of immigrants." As a man with Welsh, Jewish, Gypsy and Huguenot ancestry, I entirely second that.

Sunday, 27 March 2016


I found out today that Jesus didn't actually rise up to heaven on Easter Day! That's fairly mind-blowing information. I thought he died on the cross and got put in a tomb on Good Friday (or is it Black Friday?) and then appeared to a few people like Mary Magdalene in dreams on Easter Saturday before ascending to heaven in a blaze of glory on the Sunday. Apparently there's something called Ascension day which happens later in the year, which means Jesus was actually a zombie for quite a long time. Why do we not celebrate Ascension Day with some pagan ritual? Why did I not know any of this before? I guess this is what comes from having a card carrying atheist for a father!

Today has been delightful. We spent a completely impromptu day at Julie's house after dropping the cats off at Abbie and Ian's in Wandsworth.

We arrived in Catford at 1pm and spent a full twelve hours playing games. I love days like this when no one is rushing off and there's a sense of timelessness hovering in the air. We watched a film at some point: a rather unconvincing animation called 9, which wasn't the famous musical by Maurie Yeston but something about rag dolls in a post apocalyptic world. It didn't thrill me if I'm honest. It felt like a series of action sequences for the sake of action sequences with no narrative to link everything, or as Julie put it, "an attack, defend, attack, defend film..." There were way too few female characters as well.

We played a game of Trivial Pursuits which we discovered in Julie's loft. The questions were written in 1986, which made for rather hysterical inaccuracies. "Q: Which is the nearest communist country to Italy? A. Yugoslavia." Some of the questions simply made no sense to a 21st Century mind! Poor Abbie and Ian were 2 and 1 years old respectively in 1986 so didn't stand a chance!

Sam appeared in the evening, having been to see his new nephew who is so young his name has not yet been announced. They're presently calling him "monkey", because this is the year of the monkey and the lad is half Cantonese. I wonder if it might stick as a nick name. My Grannie used to called me a cheeky monkey. In fact, when Nathan and I went to visit her, right at the end of her life, when she was in a state of advanced dementia, she used the term to describe me again.

We drove home through Hackney and I had a lovely moment when I looked at the Empire with it's shiny marquee and thought "Brass is happening there in a few months..." It was a rather fine thought.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Painfully trendy

It was wonderfully sunny when I woke up this morning. The sky was baby blue and the planes in the sky were glinting like sequins. It was one of those mornings which instantly makes you feel alive. So much, in fact, that I had my breakfast (being nuzzled by a little black cat) and then went to wake Nathan up. We're told that this is the last good weather we'll see for a while. It always turns nasty on Easter Day. God's punishment for those who believe!

The Jewish festival of Purim happened yesterday, which celebrates of the saving of the Jewish people from Haman who was hell bent on killing them. It's all part of the somewhat bloody legend of Esther in the Bible.

I've never really made the link before, but I wonder if the name Esther has anything to do with Easter? Obviously, the most likely derivation of the word is the well-cool pagan fertility goddess Ēostre, but it strikes me as quite interesting that the Jewish Spring-time festival celebrates a woman called Esther.

I wonder what happened to Esther Rantzen...

Why do you suppose Old Street Station always smells of bacon? Do you think it's sponsored by the meat industry? The smell drifts down the escalators but is always gone by the time you reach any of the little cafes in the underpass. A conspiracy theorist would no doubt claim the smell was being pumped in so that commuters get so hungry we're forced to buy the first shitty bit of food we can find, no doubt from an over-priced underground vendor who paid some sort of back-hander to the smell-creators. Fortunately I am impervious to the allure of pig meat. Bacon's from a pig, right? Not a cow? I get confused because of hamburgers.

I worked with Philippa at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, an establishment which, as you might expect for an hotel in that location, borders on the painfully trendy. They play actual records on the sound system, which occasionally bounce and crackle. Philippa asked my to order her a "decaf, skinny, flat, white coffee." I waited as the barista cleared a backlog of orders. He put one coffee down on the counter which wasn't claimed immediately. I asked if it was mine. He laughed and shook his head. "I'm terribly sorry," I said "I have no idea what a 'decaf, skinny, flat, white' looks like!" Turns out it looks like every other coffee.

Philippa was writing a screenplay set in 1958. My show is set in 1965. A mere seven years apart, but so much changed in the sixties that I suspect there's a wealth of difference between the two worlds we were writing about.

I met brother Edward and Sascha for lunch at Spitalfields. It was surprisingly uncrowded there today. One assumes many Londonders are presently hot-footing it out of the city. We ate in Giraffe: soup and a plate of potato wedges for me after gorging myself on pizza last night.

We were out of the market and on Brushfield Street at 3pm. I wanted to test the old wives' tale which suggests the sun always goes behind a cloud at 3pm on Good Friday to mark the passing of Jesus. Jesus apparently died at 3pm. You learn something new every day. Apparently nature isn't too fussed by time zones and sends the clouds in at 3pm whichever country you're in. I can report, however, that the sun was resolutely shining at 3pm. Not a cloud in sight. In fact, it only passed behind a cloud some ten minutes later. So bang goes that theory.

Edward and I talked a little about Europe. Readers won't be surprised to learn that I come from a family of deeply proud pro-Europeans. My mother lived in Germany and Sweden. Brother Edward lived in Poland for ten years and works in international finance. Brother Tim lived in Holland for close to twenty years. All are great supporters of the union and are impervious to ill-informed arguments which have their roots in xenophobia. My brother referred to a German journalist he'd heard being interviewed in the week. No-one in Europe can quite believe that the Brits have chosen such a ludicrous time to have a debate on Europe, namely a time when all hell is breaking loose on Europe's southern borders. A time when we need to pull together and work out what on earth to do. When the German journalist was asked what he thought about the UK choosing this moment for a referendum he said that he'd recently been on the border between Macedonia and somewhere else where thousands of migrants were trying to cross a border. Police were so overwhelmed they were using smoke and rubber bullets. People were getting injured and running everywhere in a panic. That evening his girlfriend phoned him up just to pick a fight for the sake of having a fight. That's how he feels about the UK. That's the message we're sending out to Europe with this ludicrous referendum.

I came home and spent the night playing pen and paper games with Abbie, Ian and the cats. What a perfect way to spend a day. A bit of work, a nice lunch, a political chat and an evening of games.

Giant glitter balls

I wrote in Costa in Highgate today and got speaking to a charming elderly Jewish lady, and a barista, who came from Oregon. I could hear a Canadian-ish lilt to his accent so I randomly guessed that he was from Minnesota, which he found hugely amusing. I was annoyed with myself because when I first heard him speak I felt sure he was from Washington State, which would have been almost on the money. I'm pretty good at identifying accents but he'll have simply thought I was plucking random state names out of the air like Americans do when they ask if we know the Queen. He's training to be a pastry chef. Or at least he was. He told me he was tired of London and then said he'd recently split up with someone who was keeping him here, "but the breakup has nothing to do with my decision to leave." "So why DO you want to leave?" I asked. "I'm just tired of the place," he said "and it reminds me of my ex..."

The elderly Jewish lady sat and watched the cafe with her wise old eyes, her hair scraped back from her face in a little Alice band. I exchanged a few pleasantries with her but wished I'd talked some more. There were plainly an endless supply of fascinating stories in her brain. I should talk to old people more. Sometimes I don't because I worry I'll switch on a tap which I won't be able to switch off again when I want to return to work. That's a terrible admission isn't it? But I guess there's nothing worse than talking to someone who plainly wants to be doing something else, so sometimes I don't strike up a conversation and do the London thing of pretending to be engrossed in something else. Perhaps I need to simply make more time available in my day for nattering.

I moved from Highgate to Hampstead and worked for another hour in a Starbucks on the other side of the Heath. Seemingly for no reason other than to see how the other half live.

I came home and found Nathan and Abbie in the sitting room recording a knitting podcast. I asked them if they felt like Richard and Judy. They both laughed but neither denied it! Stichard and Bloomy.

Abbie's Ian is here this evening, so we have a house full. Six of us (including the two cats, who seem to be happily wandering about.) We're watching a hugely quirky 1960s documentary called The London Nobody Knows, which shows life in the slums which once lurked behind the swinging city. It is a fascinating piece which even ventures into an egg-breaking factory! That's an egg breaking factory. I know!

The joy about 1960s documentaries is that they merely show what is/was rather than needing to have a point, a narrative or fake jeopardy. When you walk into a pitching meeting these days, the commissioning editor will usually ask "but what's it about?" "well it's a documentary about the River Thames." "Yes I know, but what's it ABOUT?" You're meant to say, "it uses the river as a metaphor for the transience of the modern day working classes." If you go in for a meeting at Channel 4, you have to say "it's about dodgy immigrant porn star parents and it's called 'Shit Mums.'"

Speaking of documentaries, tonight marks the fifth anniversary of the premiere of my most controversial film, Tyne and Wear Metro: The Musical. Since its premiere I'm proud to say it's racked up 104,000 hits on YouTube but this time five years ago I was in turmoil. The film trended on Twitter, but the vast majorly of people were saying the most awful things. The two that stand out in my memory are "who wrote this? A gimp?" And "this is the worst thing to happen to the North East since Margaret Thatcher." I'd never known such anger and vitriol and it was the first time I discovered what Dave Gorman means when he talks about the bottom half of the Internet.

We watched Alan Carr this evening. Boy George was on as a guest, speaking about his new role as a judge of The Voice. Boy George is our fairy godmother. It was on his show, Taboo, that Nathan and I got together, so, oddly, if it wasn't for George, I would probably not be married. Or I'd have married a lawyer. George is known for his enormous hats, and, as a little joke, they brought a huge top hat down from the ceiling for him to stand underneath. He looked a little uneasy as it descended. Unsurprising, really. A little known fact about Boy George is that he was once nearly killed by a falling giant glitter ball. Fact! He was doing a concert and it dropped from the ceiling, landing a foot from where he was standing. George was so freaked out he immediately fainted!

You learn something new every day!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016


We have a pair of cats in the house! Sebastian and Viola. No one panic! I've not become a lesbian and moved to Stoke Newington. Abbie is staying with us for a few days whilst her bathroom gets fixed. She comes with cats which need to run about. We like animals (although God knows I'm not sure about cats) so we were the obvious choice! I am expecting Nathan to instantly fall in love with them and immediately want pet rats again. On learning that the cats were coming to stay, he was heard to say, "it'll be nice to have a couple of furry heartbeats rattling around the house again. And I'm not just talking about you..." Viola is adventurous and has already sat on my lap. Briefly and skittishly. Sebastian is a scaredy cat and seems to be hiding behind the sofa. They both like the view from the sitting room window!

I woke up this morning to the almost breathtaking news that the nutty National Union of Students has passed a bill insisting that white gay men should no longer be represented by LGBT groups because they "don't face oppression" any more. Actually, at their conference, delegates proposed a motion that blames “cis gay men” for “misogyny, transphobia, racism and biphobia." Brilliant.

The motion was passed, despite other resolutions at the same conference highlighting that men who have sex with men are disproportionately at risk of HIV, and disproportionately at risk of violence. But let's not let that stop us from marginalising them again.

I haven't heard anything as insulting since Jennifer Toksvig tried to argue that homophobia was actually misogyny in disguise, and that gay men were traditionally oppressed because, "men don't like women."

Being gay is still not a walk in the park in the UK and, regardless of the fact that the law is now on our side, young gay men from all races, backgrounds (and particularly) religions are still attacked in the street and bullied by religious leaders, parents and friends. University is often the time that young men find the strength to come out and they are often hugely reliant on LGBT societies, and the events they organise, to help them through the difficult process. I should point out that these societies were largely founded by the very people who are now being banned from them! The same thing happened with Pride this year. You can't simply tip up and march anymore. Pride is now a parade. A carnival. And to "show support," you have to be linked to a corporate body and pay through the nose for the privilege. The LGBT community is no longer one that I recognise.

If lesbians were banned from LGBT groups (they wouldn't be, but if they were) they could go off and join a women's group. If gay men of colour were banned (they wouldn't be, but if they were, they could join a BAME group. There are groups specifically for trans people but what is the alternative for a white gay man? You can rest assured that the NUS wouldn't support a club solely for white gay men. Why the hell did I bother to battle for equality?

The demonisation of white men is the very reason why scores of working class traditional Labour voters now feel utterly disenfranchised and are turning to the right. The perception in many of the communities I've worked with over the years is that white British people - particularly men - are being over-looked in favour of minority groups. It's a story I hear again and again and used to always take with a pinch of salt. The grass is always greener and all that. We always want to blame someone else, but for the first time in my life, I'm beginning to wonder if there's not a grain of truth in what's being said. It's certainly a growing perception which very much needs to be addressed if we're to avoid a catastrophic shift to the right at the next election.

In more positive news, hats off to the train guard of this morning's South West train from Portsmouth to Waterloo, who temporarily changed the name of his vehicle to "Trainy Mctrain Face." This is a gag which I'd be happy to see running for a fair few days to come!

I went to the local newsagent today who, as usual, engaged me in conversation about the weather. He does it every time I go in. There was nothing unusual about the weather today. White skies. Mild. No breeze. I walked in, and tried to chat to him about the sweeties I was buying: "in need of a sugar rush..." I said, pointing at the sweets. "Lovely weather" he said, "well it's warm at least. Not like yesterday. Yesterday was wonderful." Fabulous.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Gone, dear...

I went into Central London to write in a cafe this morning and got off the tube at Tottenham Court Road. The area beneath Centre Point is currently a building site. Yet again they're trying to make that curiously troubled part of town look nice. I was very saddened to see the seven story Victorian terrace which runs to the south of the tower block in a state of semi-dereliction. I am hoping they'll keep the building's grand facade. That was the site of First Out, which was one of London's most beloved gay cafes. I remember it in the 1990s. It was always rather popular with lesbians as I recall. There were two floors linked by a dark, thin staircase, and they did great veggie food. Gone dear. They're all gone. 

The zone underneath Centre Point has always looked somewhat grottier than everything around it. I read somewhere that the ground had been cursed, probably by gypsies, although I'm sure most places have been cursed by gypsies at some point - our wedding venue included. It used to be a rabbit warren of lawless slums where the police feared to visit. 

When prisoners were being transported from Newgate Prison to the hangman's noose at Tyburn (modern day Marble Arch), I'm told that they were always given the chance to stop for a final pint of ale en route. There was a pub at the place were Centre Point is these days, and, if the carts stopped there, more notorious prisoners were often bundled by the crowd into the safety of the slums. Or so the story goes... I may, of course, have made it up. That's history for you! And the Bible...

I worked through the morning in Starbucks where I was horrified to discover a single mug of tea costed over £2. When you consider what tea actually is, a tea bag and some hot water, you suddenly realise what a ludicrous mark-up there is on this particular resource. After all, how much does a single tea bag actually cost? 5p? Probably less if you buy in bulk. Daylight robbery!

I suddenly realised that I'd entirely timed out went back to Tottenham Court Road to start a journey to the osteopath. I walked past a busker whom I instantly recognised as having featured in The Busker Symphony. His name is Ben, and he's in two of the four films. He only has half an arm, so has found an ingenious way of strumming the guitar with what little of an arm he has. It's quite extraordinary. I wanted to wait around to say hello, but I was in a rush, and he was playing Cold Play, so I figured I could have been there for some time! He looked a little older. Of course he did. We made the film ten years ago! I realise I've been talking about that particular set of films rather a lot recently. If you're not familiar with them and would like a watch, how about starting with the Finale

It's been a real pleasure simply walking around London in the sunshine today. I met Nathan for lunch after the osteopath. We didn't know where to eat. It's not just First Out which has vanished. Every cafe I ever knew now seems to have closed. Stock Pot. West End Kitch. Amalfi. Di's Diner. Number One Cafe. I wanted a baked potato. That's all I wanted. Not a fancy panino, some sort of chi-chi sushi with edamame or a slice of wheat and gluten free cake.  We couldn't think where to go. It was horrifying... 

We ended up finding a little cafe, away from the shiny shell that is now Soho, where they were playing Dixieland jazz. I realised after listening to a horrible shrieking noise for the best part of five minutes that there is now nothing a clarinet can do to please my ears. What a ghastly racket that instrument makes. I'm still up for being proven wrong, however, so if any clarinetists or clarinet junkies reading this want to point me in the direction of something sublime, I am open and willing. 

A veil of sadness of course descended on the day when I belatedly heard the news from Brussels. Yet again I found myself sending a round robin of texts out to people I thought might have been affected. It makes me sure of one thing: I am a European. I identify with the European spirit and stand proud next to my brothers and sisters. I will never never vote to leave Europe.

I was heartened this evening to discover a wonderful version of Sing A Song of Yorkshire on YouTube. It's rather thrilling to think that people up in Yorkshire are still singing the anthem and embracing it as, "expressing the soul and essence of God's Own County." That is probably the highest and most moving compliment which has ever been paid to my music.

If you'd like to hear this lovely version, follow this link

Monday, 21 March 2016

Boat Face

I woke up this morning and laughed continuously for ten minutes after hearing how the British have responded to a Environment Research Council (NERC) run competition to name an important research ship destined to sail the Antarctic. 

Organisers have asked for "inspirational names which exemplify the work we do" and suggest that “the ship could be named after a local historical figure, movement, or landmark - or a famous polar explorer or scientist."

So what has the British public overwhelmingly voted for?

"Boaty McBoatface"

Apparently the name has proved so popular that the website to name the boat keeps crashing. The man who made the original suggestion has subsequently apologised on Twitter. Other suggestions for names include It’s Bloody Cold Here, Ice Ice Baby and Notthetitanic.

And that, my friends, is why I'm proud to be British.

I was horrified to discover last night that most of my friends either wear glasses or hold anything they're reading at least a metre from their faces in order to focus properly. I'm pleased to say that my eyesight in that regard remains good, but all that footle is clearly just around the corner...

I worked this morning in the Costa Coffee up at Highgate Village or "town" as I described it to Nathan today. Someone who read my blog in its early days thought I was actually a barista in the cafe because I wrote about working there so often. Working for me means writing, although I wouldn't feel at all ashamed to work in a cafe. I've been developing ideas, sending emails and writing a first draft of the script for Em, which is my new musical. I'm actually finding the stage I'm at a little dull. There's no finessing involved and no sparks of inspiration needed. I've worked up the synopsis, but now I'm simply splurging rubbish onto a page to see how long the show is and get a feel for it its pacing and flow. It's worst with lyrics. I'm just writing on-the-nose shite! I will not allow myself to write any music for the show until I've done at least two more drafts.

When Nathan got back this evening we watched Grease. I haven't seen the film for a while, and have wanted to watch it again ever since we visited the "Thunder Road" location in the LA River basin where they shot the car race and Sandy sings those immortal words, "goodbye to Sandra Dee." I bought the DVD in Nuneaton and tonight felt like the perfect moment to watch it. It's a great film.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Waterloo Travelator

What a lovely day! I'm currently walking along the strange travelator which links the Northern and Jubilee lines at Waterloo Station. It's always fascinated me. It somehow feels really space age whilst maintaining more than a whiff of the 1980s. We shot an entire movement from the Busker Symphony films here. It featured various buskers moaning about their lot whilst a group of vocalists did some Swingle-singer do-be-dos in the background. All very surreal, but it was actually this film which gave the commissioning editor of A1: The Road Musical enough confidence to commission me to make that particular film. And it's the A1 film which led to the wedding... And so it goes on. So I am very grateful to this travelator!

I am also very grateful to my friend Tom for organising a little reunion of the cast of Big Book For Girls, a show I did at the Edinburgh Festival in 1994 and 1995. Twenty-one years on, and a lot of us are still great mates. We shared a very intense experience back then. We were at a rather informative stage of our lives, and working on a hit sell-out show at the festival. I guess everything felt rather easy and optimistic and we were living together, in the heady, decadent world of the festival, without any chaperones, or a sense of responsibility! If any of us got into trouble or had problems it was up to us to take care of each other. The young people of the NYMT are much more carefully looked after these days.

We did the show in the days before the festival became a corporate enterprise where there are more performers than audience members and everything is prohibitively expensive. In those days you could tip up to see an absolute donkey of a show which would make you howl with laughter for all the wrong reasons. We were living in the thick of it for four long, wonderful weeks. I remember those two summers as being some of the best days of my life.

There were five of us there today. Me and Tom, Jo, Annabelle and Gyuri. We had a blast talking about the old days whilst eating bowls of chips and nachos. I got a little hysterical at one point. Gyuri was telling us a really sad story, but one of the names he kept mentioning was so bizarre that I simply started laughing. The more inappropriate the laughter seemed, the more hysterical I became. It was like being in a school assembly again. I think perhaps I laugh when I'm uncomfortable because it stops me from bursting into tears.

Annabelle plays Kirsty in The Archers, who, I'm told by Archers fans, is currently rather pivotal in an important story which is developing with a character called Helen. It's astonishing how many people listen to the Archers and seem gripped by this particular storyline. I did my best to try and wheedle a few tit bits and spoilers out of Annabelle, but her lips are sealed. I have made it very clear that she is to help Helen out of whatever trouble Helen is in, because otherwise my dear friend Philippa will never forgive her. I think she got the message.

Next to nothing

I've had a day of doing next to nothing. I woke up supremely early and forced myself to go back to sleep again. I think I must have had another complete cycle of sleep because it was suddenly 10.30am.

I would love to say I did lots of useful stuff, but actually I sat on the sofa and watched telly, went to the cafe and ate lunch, and then came home and watched telly again.

The only useful thing I did was turn all the lights off at 8.30pm for Earth Hour. If I can't be useful in any other way, I can try to save the world a bit. I sent out a few Facebook messages telling people to turn their lights off. My mate Jo obliged even though she was in the process of dying her hair! I worry that she switched the lights back on an hour later to find her hair had gone green or something! Philippa turned off an electric piano and a fan. I guess it's a start!

I turned the telly on at 9.30 and caught a trailer for the Jonathan Ross show which informed me that my old pal Luke Evans was being interviewed. He was in the original cast of Taboo, so we worked together for at least a year. I still have photos of him at one of the insane and outrageous parties we used to have at Fortess Road in Tufnell Park. He was a wonderful singer back then but I would never have predicted he'd become a screen actor. He was just a kid in those days, whom I thought would do brilliantly in musical theatre. I was wrong. He's now a mega Hollywood film star. I watched the interview proudly. He's developed a steeliness and an element of mystery which I'm sure translates wonderfully to the screen. I also thought he came across as very charming. Some of the people I knew before they were famous have become parodies of themselves: puffed up and arrogant. I was pleased to see this hasn't happened to Luke. Good for him.

In an almost staggering secondary twist of the knife, following my discovery that a new musical has been commissioned about the Leeds Pals, I now discover that the West Yorkshire Playhouse has commissioned a play about, you guessed it, the Barnbow Lassies! I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that. I don't have the copyright on the story. The Barnbow Lassies were real people who are remembered fondly by the people of Leeds, so why shouldn't someone else write about them? Someone else would be welcome to make a musical about the student uprising in Paris... I just hope no one tries to use my Barnbow Lassies song under the false illusion that it's a traditional tune. That would be highly unfortunate!

Friday, 18 March 2016


If anyone is in Scotland, they might be interested to know that Nathan is currently at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. He'll be in the podcasters' lounge tomorrow afternoon, and then, one assumes, wandering around the stalls, spending obscene quantities of money on wool.

The day started in Nuneaton, at a little Premier Inn where they did amazing breakfasts. It's very difficult not to gorge oneself silly on a Premier Inn breakfast. There are so many wonderful things to try as part of the fee!

I dropped Nathan off at the train station before 9am so that he could start his epic journey North. The rest of us hung out in the town centre. I wrote in a cafe whilst my Mum, Dad and Edward went to sort out their wills at the family solicitor. Who knew we had one of them? We talked about it briefly over a cup of tea, but it's not a conversation I like having overly much. I just felt hopelessly sad and then the need to tell inappropriate jokes.

We went to the Co-op in Nuneaton, which is apparently closing down. There are so many reasons why this news is unwelcome. Firstly, this particular Co-op is a proper old-fashioned department store. It's not one of the garishly-branded Co-op food stores you get across the rest of the country. It's in a beautiful purpose-built art deco building which looks like a cinema. Secondly, the shop is obviously a hub for the elderly population of the town. My own Grandparents used to go there all the time. It was their favourite shop. It was glamorous, even. One of the most important dates in my Nana's calendar was the bi-annual sale. She never went on the first day, because she feared she'd catch 'flu surrounded by so many people.

It's like Grace Brothers in there! There are all sorts of staff who stand behind seemingly pointless counters. A great deal of the upstairs is given over to the sale of three piece suites. The area is full of elderly people simply taking the weight off their feet before heading to another department. There's a lovely restaurant on the second floor, and the shop was chockablock with old people talking about their ailments! I was tempted to buy a light in the closing down sale in honour of my Nana, but wasn't sure I'd have the skills to wire it in. I bought three pairs of shoes instead.

As we left the shop, my Dad told me he'd heard that there was a possible reprieve for the store in the offing. The Co-op plainly own the building, and, let's face it, who on earth is going to move into a department store-sized Co-op branded art-deco elderly-Mecca building in the middle of a High Street which is basically closing down? I think Co-op has a duty to keep it open.

We went to the cemetery to see my grandparents' and my Old Uncle Ben Till's graves. Seeing my name on a gravestone never gets any easier, although my parents tell me that, further north in Warwickshire, there are stone bridges with B Till carved into them, such was the prevalence of my name within my family.

I drove home in the late afternoon. It's been cold and damp today and I just wanted to bury myself underneath a blanket in the sitting room. I watched Comic Relief. I tend to switch off when the celebrities head of on all-expenses paid trips to Africa to weep about malaria and things, but all the British charities, which usually deal with loneliness and dementia, get me every time.

I have learned that Jenson Button should stick to driving cars and that Paul McCartney needs a haircut. Returning to one's barnet from the mid 1980s is inexcusable for the over 70s!

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Nil by mouth

It's 22.13, and I'm sitting on the 22.22 train from Birmingham to Nuneaton, or Sunny Nunny as it's known in these parts. I prefer to call it Nil By Mouth. (Think about it...)

We're relieved to be on the train. Birmingham train station is minging. I can still taste and feel the diesel smoke in the back of my throat. It was like standing in a cloud of exhaust fumes.

I don't really know Birmingham. We never used to come here as kids. My Mum tells me they used to deposit us at my Gran's in Cov if ever they came here, so it wasn't part of my upbringing. I always used to think of it as a bit of a dump, which paled into significance against braver cities like Leeds and Sheffield. It used to make me sad. I strongly identify as a Midlander and thought we deserved a better regional capital. I came here for the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998, and to do a production of Madam Butterfly a year later, but subsequent trips have been fly-bys to do corporate gigs, auditions and such.

Today was the first day that I've spent any time properly wandering around the city, and I've come away with an entirely different opinion of the place. It feels confident. It feels comfortable with itself. They're knocking down large sections of the place around the conservatoire, but walking from the train station through Victoria Square and down to the glorious canals is actually rather inspiring.

The day started with a trip up the M1/6 to Nuneaton where we met the parents in the curiously named "Grif," which I'm told is not short for Griffin but moreover the name of a district on the outskirts of the town. 

We had lunch in Nuneaton itself, driving into the town centre via Gypsy Lane, the road where my father grew up. It runs through open fields, and my Dad pointed out a line of trees which he said disguised the "Secret Lake," an old quarry he used to visit as a kid which apparently had bright blue water which used to freak him out. We drove on and stopped outside the house his parents had lived in for over fifty years. I remember it from my childhood. It looked a bit run down today. It was spotless when my Nan and Grandad lived there. It's a 1930s house with a bay window. My brother and I used to go and watch telly in the back room, and when we emerged, we'd often find the adults chatting in the front room in complete darkness but for the electric fire and the halogen street lamps glowing the other side of the bay window.

We had lunch, panini and such (or "panini's" as they were described on the menu), in the Old Jail House, which is a rather nice spot in an otherwise rather run-down town centre. It's quite horrifying to see so many boarded-over shops, and office blocks with signs outside saying, "office space to hire: name your rent..."

We took the train to Birmingham. It's a pleasant enough journey through uninspiring farm land. Probably land that my relatives once farmed.

We met Brother Edward and Sascha in John Lewis, where I convinced my Mum to buy a beautiful skirt made from yards of lined blue floral fabric.

As we walked to the canal, we bumped into young Joe from the original cast of Brass. It was lovely to see him. Later on, as we sat in the Malt House, we were joined by Harrison, who played flugelhorn in the band, and is in the ensemble this year. We talked about Tewksbury where he's from, and the dreadful flooding there in 2007 when his house got completely cut off, effectively becoming an island, which was periodically visited by people on boats delivering milk and bread. Madness!

The main purpose of our trip was to visit Birmingham Symphony Hall to see the CBSO performing a concert of English music by Walton and Elgar. My Dad was keen for us to hear a concert in a building which he feels has a near-perfect acoustic. It was a great concert - slightly under-attended - but the winning entry was almost certainly the performance of Elgar's Symphony Number 2, which featured some of the most delicate string music I've ever heard. "The best performance of the piece I've ever heard" said my Dad. Praise indeed.

We travelled home with revellers celebrating St Paddy's Day. One chap looked extraordinarily dapper in a shamrock print suit with his beard died in strips of orange, green and white.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Head set and clip board

I've had one of those manic days today which needed to be executed with absolute precision. I was like a wedding planner, rushing about London, with a stopwatch in one hand, a clip board in the other, and a head-set balanced perilously on my enormous head. Well, okay, I didn't have the props, but I certainly felt a bit like Anneka Rice...

My morning started with a sunny drive to West Hampstead to get an assessment of the damage inflicted on our little car in its altercation with the big bad pantechnicon. The man with the plan walked in a circle around the car taking photographs. There's minimal damage, and the car is still perfectly drive-worthy, but nevertheless we were warned to expect it to be written off, which was not quite what we wanted to hear. I'm not sure what a quick spin around the car with an old-fashioned digital camera was going to tell the insurance people, but I came away wondering whether the majority of cars involved in minor prangs get written off to avoid large amounts of paper work.

I drove back home after the consultation. The sun was still shining as I skirted around the edge of Hampstead Heath. I wanted to get out and walk... But I had a schedule.

I went into town in time for a noon meeting at the BBC, or rather, with a BBC executive in a Starbucks near the BBC. New Broadcasting House is a very difficult place to have a meeting. There are precious few private rooms and the ones there are get booked up way in advance. A lovely chap from somewhere within the organisation has approached me with an early-stages idea for a musical doc which I would be deeply keen to do. (Just putting it out there to the Universal powers that be.) They want something along the lines of my Hattersley film, which, in my view, remains the best film I've ever made. It was the only time I've ever been given free rein to make a film with as much creativity as I liked, and a refreshing lack of any need to tick boxes or otherwise compromise my vision. That sounds dreadfully wanky, but I think it shows in the quality of the piece and the lack of children wearing cerise whilst waving and gurning in the background!

After the meeting I hooked up with Ellie, whom I found outside Debenhams. I didn't know anyone had actually shopped in that place since the 1970s, but she tells me she found a great deal on children's dressing gowns. I don't know that anyone's actually used that phrase since the 70s either, so maybe I simply entered a JB Priestley-style time warp. Does any one remember C and A?

Ellie and I sat in a Pret and ate a quick sandwich together. It cost 75p extra to eat the thing inside the shop at a high, over-polished wooden bench, which I half expected to open up to reveal a set of Bunsen burners.

My friend's Mum used to call Pret a Manger "Pret Manager."

My fourth appointment of the day was at the dentist in Kentish Town, or more specifically, the hygienist. She scraped, and buzzed, and flossed and brushed. As I came in, she looked a little relieved and told me that she thought I was another one of her patients called David. Those who know me well, or saw my wedding on t'telly will know I tend to use my middle name, but legally speaking, I'm a David. Named after my godfather. Also David. Which is why I'm named after him. You can call me Dave. Dave the Rave. Or Gay Dave. Gayvid. Actually, just call me Benjamin...

Anyway, the hygienist had apparently warned her assistant that I was likely to complain all the time, but instantly realised that I wasn't Complaining Dave, which I was rather relieved about. I can't imagine turning up to an appointment like that and whinging. For starters there's always something sharp and metallic inside your mouth!

I took the bus back to Highgate, very much enjoying the sensation of rubbing my teeth with my tongue. I think that's what they call "dentist clean" in the adverts.

Nathan came back home and we watched the second episode of the magnificent drama, Aliens on Four OD, which feels like a really fresh and exciting piece. Nathan is darning a shawl. Yesterday he was spinning scraps of sheep's wool collected from barbed wire fences in East Sussex. Tomorrow he'll no doubt be making a quilt out of milk bottle tops. I tell you, it's like a flipping WEA textiles class by here of an evening!

Does anyone know where I put my Mum's Victorian dictionary? It was here yesterday.

Loose change

I spring cleaned the bedroom today. Out went bin liners filled with rubbish clothes that no longer fit or are made of fabrics I can't wear. I found two pairs of linen trousers so ragged they could only be described as crotch-less. I also kept finding rounders bats... Bit odd!

At about lunchtime I decided to go through my loose change pot, which became the mother of all tasks due to the large amounts of foreign coinage I'd managed to lump in with the English currency over the years. The U.S. nickel looks like our 10p, the dime is similar to the five pence piece, a one cent coin looks like the British penny and the euro is the same size as a pound. There were a load of Romanian coins in there as well which looked like nothing on earth. Still, I persisted, and when I took it all into the bank I had almost £30, which made me very happy. The woman behind the counter, however, didn't seem to share my joy when she saw me taking the huge carrier bags of change out of my pocket.

I realised that I'd seen that look before...

In my teenaged years, I busked around the Midlands as part of a string trio with Ted and Fiona. We became well-accustomed to the sensation of having pockets full of loose change. Our favourite busking haunt was Coventry, largely because the bakers we busked outside (friends of my Grannie's) used to bring us free buns and soup, and chase other buskers off the pitch if they knew we were about!

On one occasion we decided to pay for parking with our earnings. We put our ticket into the machine just as another driver appeared and started queuing behind us. I think the fee was £5, so we pulled out our bag of 2 pence pieces. The man behind us saw the bag and uttered the immortal words, "Jesus Christ." It got considerably worse for him because it took us so long to get the money into the machine, we kept timing out and all the coins would be ejected onto the ground!

Monday, 14 March 2016

A corner of a foreign field

I was naked from the waist down when the workmen arrived (unannounced) at our house again today, prompting my Mum, who was on the phone at the time, to ask if I was always undressed. She may have a point. I often am... To make her feel a little better about her son's obvious loucheness, I told her that I'd once stood with Philippa whilst she ironed a top for a night out on the tiles whilst wearing nothing but a bra and a pair of cowboy boots. I still remember her mother entering the kitchen where all this was going on and saying in a distressed voice "oh darling..."

I was cleaning the bathroom when the men arrived and rushed to find a towel to protect my/ their modesty. The nearest thing to hand was a threadbare old thing which I hastily draped around my waist. I stepped out of the bathroom and said a cheery hello, but it was only after I returned that I realised there was a big hole in the towel which was exposing my nether regions to the world, or, more specifically, them.

The workmen stayed for five minutes. This is the pattern. I don't think they're doing any work. I actually think there's something in the loft they're paying homage to...

Some twenty years ago, I moved into a garden flat in Palmer's Green with my mate, Sam. On one occasion, hot water started flooding through the ceiling of our bathroom. We knew an old lady lived in the upstairs flat so managed to convince ourselves that she'd died in the bath before turning the taps off! We had visions of the entire bath dropping through the ceiling with a corpse inside, so immediately called the fire brigade because no one answered when we banged on her door.

To their credit, the boys in yellow and blue were there in seconds. They broke into the upstairs flat but found no corpse and discovered that the pipes in our own flat were to blame, so they kindly offered to go down to our cellar to turn the water off. We'd just moved in so hadn't yet ventured down there ourselves. One fireman went down the steps and pretty speedily came back up to find a mate. And this kept happening till all four firemen were in the cellar. For an age. Sam and I sat in the sitting room panicking that something awful was happening.

Half an hour later the firemen emerged looking flushed and giggling like school children before telling us that everything was fixed and scampering away at alarming speed.

Sam and I thought we ought to go down into the cellar to find the water switch in case there was a repeat of the incident and immediately discovered why the fireman had spent so long down there: Boxes and boxes and boxes of grot mags. Literally thousands of them! Heaven knows who lived in the flat before us, but the firemen must have thought we were running a porn empire!

I keep meaning to mention that Brother Edward has been researching our family tree and in the process charted one branch of relatives back to America. Isn't it Americans who are meant to trace their relatives back to Europe and not vice versa? Far more interesting is the fact that Nathan has now officially joined the family tree as my spouse. How good did it feel to see his name next to mine and know that future generations of genealogists will look at their forebears and not blink twice to see a same-sex married couple?

People from Leeds City Council have finally started getting back to me and I'm pleased to report that, contrary to initial suggestions, the 100th anniversary of the death of the Leeds Pals battalion is being marked officially in the city, although one person was at pains to point out that new evidence suggests not quite as many Leeds Pals died on the first day of the Somme than reported at the time. I wasn't sure whether I was meant to read from that that we were all to commemorate the event just a little bit less.

I was a little horrified when one of the people I contacted said I might be pleased to hear that Leeds Council had decided to fund another musical... About the Leeds Pals! This one seems to be being told from a modern day black woman's perspective. Which, of course, is the one thing Brass was missing.

The same woman told me she is only able to fund arts-based projects in Leeds itself. I fully understand her position but would have thought, if Rupert Brooke, were anything to go by, the death of 300 Loiners in a patch of land the size of a football pitch in France means that there's some corner of a foreign field that is forever Leeds.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

The best chart run down ever

I'm slowly coming down to earth again, but the stress levels aren't dropping as quickly as perhaps they ought. Nathan tells me I need to simply stop. He says he looks over at me and often finds my brow furrowed, but I worry that stopping suddenly will be like going into cold turkey. I'll just sit there, in a panic, creating lists of things I need to do! I'll keep trying.

Today I SORT of relaxed. We had a lie-in and then, after waking up, I decided to clean the living room top to bottom. I put all my photo albums in date order and labelled them on the outside so that they're easier to identify when people ask to see them. It's easier to relax in a house which doesn't look a terrible mess.

I scrubbed and tidied the bookshelves, polished all the surfaces, cleaned the windows and even treated the sofas with a special leather conditioning spray. (Yeah, I know - they properly saw me coming in the shop; the sofas look and feel exactly the same as they looked and felt before!)

I've felt pretty rough all day but forced myself to go for a run after dark. I headed down the A1, and round the block to Muswell Hill and back. It was a fairly swift jog. No more than twenty minutes. My lower back started seizing up and it was too painful to continue.

Nathan went out on his own tonight to see a film presentation at the Drayton Arms theatre pub, which happens to be where Alex, from the original cast of Brass, works as a barman whilst he trains at Arts Ed.

It was good for me to have a night doing nothing. I watched about ten episodes of the Big Bang Theory, which seems to be all that E4 broadcasts at the moment.

I also spent some time flicking through a brilliant book which lists every top forty chart in UK pop music since the charts began. I set out to see if I could find the best top ten of all time, having watched a 1981 episode of Top of the Pops with Meriel which had a chart run-down of complete non songs (nongs.)

I believe the chart I was searching for happened in March 1978. It would surely be difficult to find a more classic set of songs in a single top ten run down. I was so excited by the list that I feel obliged to quote it in full!

Week ending March 18th, 1978:

1. Wuthering Heights (Kate Bush)
2. Denis (Denee) (Blondie)
3. Take A Chance on Me (Abba)
4. Come Back My Love (Darts)
5. Wishing On a Star (Rose Royce)
6. Baker Street (Gerry Rafferty)
7. I Can't Stand The Rain (Eruption ft Precious Wilson)
8. Stayin' Alive (Bee-Gees)
9. Mr Blue Sky (ELO)
10. Matchstick Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs (Brian and Michael)

And who said that the 70s were the decade that taste forgot?!

Saturday, 12 March 2016


I'm at Brother Edward and Sascha's house watching Melodifest: Sweden's massive song competition which culminates in the selection of a song for the gay man's World Cup, Eurovision. It was won by a rather peculiar, somewhat messy song performed by a part-British lad who can't really sing. You could have blown me down with a feather when we were told that the song, If I Were Sorry, was already the favourite to win the whole competition. I genuinely wonder if I'm getting a bit old, because the UK entry this year, which Sascha and Edward both rate really highly, strikes me as a bit of a non song, or a nong as we like to call it in Highgate. My immediate prediction was that it would come 23rd. One place above Germany - whatever they've chosen this year. But what do I know? I gave this year's Swedish winner nul points on my little scoreboard.

We've been shown all the other entries for this year. Expect to belly laugh at San Marino. Expect to be moved by Italy. Your shoulders might say yes to Spain. Estonia is louche and quirky. You'll like Russia despite yourself. Serbia and the Czech Republic have offered up the big singers. The Serbian entry is a cross between Amy Winehouse and Judi Garland with a whiff of Maria Callas! Intrigued? You should be.

I've been all over London today. We walked through the woods to Muswell Hill with Mezza for lunch and then walked back again giving all the dogs we passed marks out of ten. Nathan refused to score them, fearing they might be offended!

We took the bus into town and met Raily at the British museum where we looked at African, Inuit and Indian art. I wouldn't necessarily have rushed in that particular direction, but I'm glad I did. Anything is interesting when Raily is around. She has an uncanny ability to engage anyone in fascinating conversation about, well, anything. Meriel was greatly knowledgeable about Buddhist religious iconology. I brought nothing to the table but the mildest whiff of sarcasm. I have a cold coming on. What can you do?

Spring like

It's felt rather spring-like all day today. Everyone I've bumped into has commented on the weather. The woman in the shop, the man in the cafe (whom we discovered yesterday is called Ahmed...)

I spent the day doing admin and tidying the sitting room. I cleaned out the hearth. Imagine that! How's that for a bit of Edwardiana? I wanted to find an apron and a pot of blacking but had to make do with a can of Mr Sheen and an old sock.

Nathan has thrown away two bin bags of clothing and a carrier bag full of cables. Why the heck do we accrue so many cables? There was a pile of giant leads nestling under the chest of drawers which must have been designed for the most enormous mobile phones and lap top computers ever built. You could have towed a bus with some of them!

I've been rather frustratedly trying to get in touch with various people in Leeds Council to see if they can help me with a hugely exciting off-shoot-of-Brass project which is currently brewing at the back of my mind. Sadly, Leeds council feels a bit disorganised. They're going for the City of Culture status but their head of culture left before Christmas and has not been replaced.

My legs feel like stumps. I've been running today (around the edge of the woods) and walked for miles with Meriel and Nathan across Hampstead Heath. All part of my new fitness regime.

The days are certainly getting longer. We left Highgate to go for our walk on the Heath at 5pm and there was still light in the sky a few hours later. A beautiful crescent moon began to glow in the sky. The air felt fresh but not cold, and the parakeets were dancing and shrieking in the sky.

They're doing work on the ponds at the moment. I think they're creating a series of overspill meadows where water can drain into if there's a large amount of rain and the ponds burst, as they did in 1975 when the whole of Gospel Oak and the Vale of Health was inundated with water... So much water, in fact, that one poor fella drowned in a basement flat.

Meriel came back to ours this evening and we watched an ancient and charming curio called Les Bicyclettes de Belsize; a thirty-minute musical film shot in 1968 in Hampstead. It's almost impossible to quantify, but well worth a glance for the cinematography alone, which includes two three-minute single shots with the most intricate focus pulls. The music is patchy, but the end result feels like a glorious injection of urbane flower power!

We ate curry whilst watching Tori Amos videos. Another person who understands how cinematography enhances music. Her videos are often surreal, bordering on pretentious, but always stunningly shot.

Meriel's currently telling us that she got thrown out of piano, cello and ballet lessons as a child because her co-ordination was so bad. She was also thrown out of the school choir. How does anyone ever get over that level of rejection? I think I got chucked off the school chess team, but that's like really cool, isn't it?

Thursday, 10 March 2016


I spent this afternoon ruthlessly clearing out the loft as part of my "spring clean or drown in paperwork" mission. My decision was to throw away anything which I felt would be instantly chucked away if I died. It's actually quite a relief when certain things go in the bin. I threw away all the photocopied scores from the operas I directed in the 1990s and instantly felt five stone lighter for same reason.

I uncovered all sorts of interesting and wonderful things, including an unopened wedding present from my mate Anna De Bruin; a beautiful antique silver tea strainer that she'd handed to me whilst performing The Man In The Straw Hat last year. I put it in a bag for safe keeping and found that bag nestling behind a box of London Requiem CDs!

Some of the discoveries made me happy. Some made me incredibly sad. I found a congratulations card for our wedding from Meriel's Mum, which I instantly displayed on our book shelves. It's funny: when someone's gone in the flesh, they'll often periodically return to light up our memories. A gift. A letter. A Christmas card. Little acts of kindness that can reverberate through decades.

It's very odd looking at personal documents with the benefit of hindsight. I often found myself glancing at a contract and thinking "if only I'd known how that gig was going to turn out..." It can be very difficult to look at things written in a bygone era. I realised today that I've slightly lost the joy-filled, life-affirming optimism which used to separate me from other people. Ten years ago I'd have tried almost anything, hoping - in fact expecting - that things would work out if I worked hard. These days I expect little. It's a funny form of self-protection. I cap the peeks by never believing the hype and the promises and stem the troughs by ignoring the harsh criticism. I live comfortably somewhere in the middle.

But it's paper which sends me over the edge: Old scores, scripts, receipts, bank statements, cardboard boxes... The unopened Christmas cards which remind me how insanely and claustrophobically busy we were at the end of last year. I'm pretty certain the story is the same with every self-employed writer across the country. Everywhere I turn in the house I see little piles of paper, neatly stacked, left where they were dropped after I hauled them up the stairs and rushed to the sanctuary of my sofa. There's a pile by the door. I think it's audition scripts from Brass. I've hitherto tried to kid myself that if I save them I can reuse them for games involving pens and paper. But how many times do people come round to play games involving pens and paper? It makes me feel bad to simply chuck them out, but sometimes you just have to wipe the slate clean.

I need to play more games with pens and paper...

I filled five bin bags with crud and then chucked them all in a recycling centre down at Kentish Town before taking myself out for a jog around the block, the first run I've had in three months. Step one towards reclaiming my sanity! I'm coming back!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016


It's been a remarkable day in a most unexpected way.

We woke up and immediately walked the length of Parkland Walk from Highgate to Finsbury Park. The walkway is such a wonderful resource for North Londoners. I've written about it many times, but for those who aren't familiar with its charms, the walk follows the route of an old railway line which, I believe, was initially designed to link the Northern Line with the Piccadilly Line. It closed in the early part of the 20th Century and has subsequently been reclaimed by nature.

It's been a very warm, spring-like day, a little rainy, but intermittently sunny, so the walk was filled with birds bathing in puddles, which was a rather lovely sight.

The purpose of the trip to Finsbury Park was to gate crash BEAM, a brilliant festival for new musical theatre writers. I think I was the only British composer who wasn't officially involved. I've only just joined the right organisations to hear about these sorts of initiatives but wish I'd known about it, because it only happens every two years! I'll be ancient by the time it comes around again. I knew almost everyone there from producers like Julie Clare and Christmas Jim and my publisher at R and N to every British composer I've ever met: Eammon, Jake and Pippa, Dougal, Chris Ash, and Zara Nunn (whom I was at musical school with back in the day...)

Each composer had a fifteen minute slot to pitch either themselves or a new show. Four of the actors from Beyond The Fence were involved, two of whom performed in, what I feel, was the stand out showcase of the day, namely Chris Ash's "rockumentary" about the Brontë sisters. No, it shouldn't have worked. But yes, it was brilliant. BRILLIANT. In fact, the music was of such quality that I feel I have to raise my own game!

I went with Llio. Nathan had been called into work at the last minute. As we entered the building and headed over to the box office, a lovely lady whisked us both away, "come this way, Benjamin..."

I left feeling elated: like British people were finally starting to take musical theatre seriously. There's a lot of talent out there and I feel strongly that one of us, sometime soon, will land a Broadway smash which will be followed by a new British Invasion of America.

To continue with our celebration of British musical theatre, Llio and I went to see Mrs Henderson Presents, which has just opened at the Noël Coward Theatre. It's always a thrill to see a proper West End show, particularly one written by English people featuring a really strong and emotive story. There's something about the London Blitz which goes straight to the heart of any British person. The set was stunning and there were some wonderful performances...

Sadly, that's about where the praise ends for me. I feel a little uncomfortable being nasty about the output of a British writer, but having spent a day hearing amazing shows from wonderful but totally impoverished writers, I felt a little like material by a British writer in a West End show ought to have had me on my feet cheering.

I feel the makers of Mrs Henderson Presents had got a great deal wrong; from the comedian who appeared way too often in front of the curtains telling excruciating jokes, to the decision to give the lion's share of songs to an uninteresting character. The gay character in my view was offensively portrayed. The songs all sounded me same. There were factorial errors as well. One assumes Mrs Henderson is meant to be at least sixty, yet she talks about losing a 19 year-old lover in the First World War just twenty years ago. So much material felt generic and lacking authenticity and the show was devoid of drama and heart, which, considering the subject matter, was no mean feat!

That said, I applaud anyone who dares to put on a West End show which isn't a juke box piece of fluff, and everything was done properly, so don't let me put you off. There were plenty of people in the audience who were having a great night out.

Let's get them broadening their horizons now! Send them all to BEAM!

Tuesday, 8 March 2016


I've done sod all today. That's actually a lie. I drove up to Brent Cross where I bought a belt because the belt I last tried to put on fell apart as I tried to buckle it up. I felt a bit tragic emerging from that terrible shopping centre with nothing but a belt, but I have decided to lose weight before buying any nice clothes for myself.

For the rest of the day I sat in front of the telly. I should have started the process of spring cleaning, but Nathan was working today, and at a certain point I realised that I simply couldn't be bothered. So I sat underneath a blanket instead.

Another workman arrived to do something with the roof. I'm not enjoying how often they're coming and going at the moment. They never call to give us warning and blithely let themselves into the building, so the first thing we hear of them is a little tap on our door, before they let themselves in five seconds later. I have now been naked twice when they're arrived. Today I made the decision that they have to expect nudity if they're going to turn up unannounced, so I greeted the man in the hallway wearing nothing but a towel. It was literally all I had the chance to put on!

Day time telly never ceases to amaze me with its inaneness. It was nice to spend a day doing nothing but any more days like this would start to send me round the twist. In fairness, I was switching channels left, right and centre, but I have managed to watch about six property shows of varying formats today, five of those programmes where dreadful people go and stay in each others' bed and breakfasts and go around looking under the bed for dust, and four ghost-watching shows mostly featuring Yvette off of Blue Peter screaming her tits off. The amount of times I've turned up for a meeting with a TV commissioner and been told that they already have "a programme similar to that" in development. I wonder what happens when people go in pitching an idea for a home improvement or antiques show? Do the commissioners suddenly forget that they ONLY have similar shows on their roster? It blows my mind.


It was Nathan's best friend's father's funeral today in Oxfordshire. It's horrible to think that this has become the era of parental misfortune. So many of my friends' parents are getting ill, or having falls, or losing loved ones. It's just awful...

The funeral happened in Carterton, the town where Nathan grew up. It was hugely well-attended, and a really very lovely send off.

Sadly we missed most of it. The first half of our journey west had been absolutely wonderful. The sun was shining and scores of red kites were filling the skies. We counted 44 between Stokenchurch and the Oxford turn off on the M40. The introduction of red kites in Oxfordshire has been the most extraordinary success story.

There are lots of theories as to why so many kites are spotted from motorways. The first is obvious. Many more people drive along the motorways than hang about in the fields and hillsides around them, so there are more people to spot the birds from the roads.

Other theories revolve around the idea that overgrown motorway verges are full of tasty treats for kites, but my favourite theory is that the birds are actually using roads as navigational tools.

Anyway, that's all by the by, and none of it explains why we missed half of our dear friend's father's funeral.

We needed to leave the M40 at the junction with the A40, but got rather stuck in the outside lane due to lorries crawling along on our inside. In the end we had to pull into the inside lane between two lorries. The space between them was smallish, but not ludicrous, so we changed lanes, and, for twenty seconds or so the articulated lorry behind us travelled as the same speed.

We pulled off onto the A40 slip road, and the lorry behind us pulled closer and started driving threateningly. I assume he was angry with us for pulling into his path. Nathan gently slowed up by maybe five miles per hour as a warning to the lorry to pull back and to show him that he was welcome to over take us if he wanted to go faster.

Horrified, I watched in the wing mirror as the lorry got closer and closer before ramming into the back of our car. It was terrifying. There was a crunch and a bang, and our car was shunted forwards.

We pulled into the hard shoulder and the lorry pulled in behind us. I instantly panicked. We didn't know whether to get out of the car to survey the damage or wait to see what he was going to do. We thought perhaps he was mad.

I decided I needed to film the scene, but, in my panic, couldn't find my phone. I tried to write the lorry's number plate on the back of a cardboard box, but my hands started shaking.

Nathan got out of the car in the end, and I filmed him as he approached the lorry driver, who casually wound up his window and refused to swap insurance details.

In the end, because he was refusing to cooperate, we were forced to call the police. Of course the driver switched on the charm as soon as the police arrived. He hadn't seen us, he said, although he made it clear he HAD seen us cutting into the gap in front of him before we pulled onto the A40 slip road. He spouted a mass of contradictions, but the police seemed to buy it, and basically accused Nathan of dangerous driving. Apparently we ought to have started to accelerate on the slip road rather than slightly slowing down. It was all very strange, and when I tried to explain what had actually happened, the policeman told me not to interrupt. I felt like I'd felt when the judge summed up his evidence the time I lost my court case. My face must have glowed red with a similar sense of injustice. I have to say, the majority of my brushes with the law makers of this country have been somewhat unsatisfactory. I always feel judged for some reason. A little helpless.

In the end, insurance details were swapped, and we were sent on our merry way. Heaven knows how everything will pan out. I'm pretty convinced the driver rammed us deliberately. If he hadn't seen us, he would have rushed out of his car to check if we were okay rather than sat aggressively in his cab refusing to acknowledge us. It was all horrible. My back still hurts because I tensed myself ready for the impact as I saw the lorry slowly moving closer and closer.

Anyway, that's enough of that. Today was all about looking after Philip. The "wake", which was far more appropriately labelled "a celebration of the life of Leon." It took place in a golf club on the outskirts of Carterton. There were red tulips on a window ledge which caught the late afternoon sun and glowed like rubies.

We spent the night chatting and laughing in a pub in the town itself. Carterton is a funny, rather "non" town, which grew up around the airbase at Brize Norton. It's nothing but a cross roads, really, covered in buildings which seem a little hastily thrown-up and somewhat transient. Rather American, I suppose. I think Brize Norton was once an American airbase, so maybe there's a link there. Who knows.

Anyway. We're home now. Nathan is struggling with his knitting. He's making a hat. It's not going too well. Or at least it wasn't until he started saying "aha." He may well have solved his problem.

Monday, 7 March 2016

More smoke

It's Mothering Sunday, which, when I was a child would signify a mad dash to Warwickshire to pay homage to my Grannie, who was rather particular about these things. I think my own mother always felt a slight sense of injustice about the fact that so much was expected of her on this particular day, so always told us not to make a big deal about it ourselves. She has even been known to say that she should be thanking us rather than vice versa. So kind. I have to say, I'm not a big fan of any date which allows someone to assuage their guilt for being a rubbish person for the rest of the year. In my view, every day should be Mother's Day!

Nevertheless, today we DID go to Thaxted to pay homage to the parents and it was an absolutely lovely day. Brother Edward and Sascha were there and we went down to Parishes in the village for a meal.

Edward has started a new job and is looking extremely well: unstressed, in shape and relaxed.

We called in on Stuart for a quick cuppa and a game of Jenga on the way home. He's one of my parents' neighbours and a member of our North Essex quiz team. He came to see our show yesterday with his wife, Sally, which made us incredibly happy.

We sat in front of an open fire back at Till Towers and Nathan fell asleep curled up on the sofa. It was the perfect end to a week of roller-coaster mayhem.

On our way home we smelt the smoke again at the crossroads outside Thaxted where they used to hang people. Keen readers of this blog will remember that Thaxtedonians have reported seeing ghostly wisps of smoke hovering over the road in that particular spot. Nathan and I saw it last year, and I always swore we'd park up and explore if we ever saw it again.

...So we parked up at the side of the road and crept along the dark country roads. It was really rather eerie. We could see a rather large spume of white smoke - almost like a bonfire - pouring into the dark night air from behind a wall. As we watched - literally as we watched - the smoke died and disappeared. Almost as though someone had thrown a bucket of water on it... Or turned off the smoke machine. Very odd.

We stumbled further down the road in the opposite direction and were astonished to find a second small fire, cracking gently in the wood by the side of the road, a long way away from where we'd seen the first one. But who would light a fire right there, by the side of the road, at 10pm on a Sunday night? There was no one sitting by the fire. And the fire itself wasn't contained by a pit or a brazier. It was all very strange.

So the mystery of the smoke is part-solved... But who's lighting the fires? And why? And why are they vanishing like that?

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Last night

We've been watching a show called Grace and Frankie on Netflix. It's enjoyable, largely because the central performances by Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda are so extraordinary.

The premise of the show is simple. It's about two women of a certain age whose husbands walk out on them because they're gay. I would personally have left the gay characters in the sidelines but for some reason the show's creators feel the need to feature them every week. They're played by Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen (both straight men) which is the show's first mistake because nothing about the performances rings true in any way. It's almost as though they want viewers to know that they're not really gay. They seem to care a great deal more about their ex wives than they do each other!

The other issue seems to be with female writers writing their dialogue. In last night's episode everything was wrong, particularly the description of the men's first kissed. For the rest of the episode they bickered like old women, and got paranoid in a way that gay men simply don't. It was bordering on offensive, if honest.

I watched American Idol on the telly this morning. I haven't seen that show for years and it was utterly unrecognisable. I was struck by how unattractive LA men are when they have Botox and eye surgery. Their eyes seem to go all tiny and their foreheads stop moving properly which gives them a slightly alien vibe. I'm talking largely about Ryan Seacrest, who looks like he's made of wax these days, but also pretty much every wealthy man of a certain age I saw in LA when I was over there last year. I find wrinkles incredibly attractive. I think they show knowledge and a life lived.

I got very drunk earlier tonight but think I'm okay now. I'd like some chips. Maybe I'm still a bit pissed.

I'm in a terrible bar. It's incredibly noisy and I'm hiding because it's too noisy and I'm too old to be here.

The bar is Freedom. It used to be strictly gay. These days it's full of straight actors, all of whom are about five years old and utterly full of themselves.

The shows today were marvellous. The matinee had a particularly wonderful audience, who spontaneously stood - en masse - at the end of the show. Lisa, Mark, Sally and Kate were in the audience, along with the hugely influential critic, Mark Shenton, who described the show as "better than I ever expected." He took my hand at the end of the show and said, "it works." Tick.

More Greenham women came to both performances, and, before the evening show, a massive group of us went to Pizza Express, including Raily, Iain and my two god children.

The cast went to the Ivy club afterwards where a cocktail pianist was playing show tunes. We sat on lovely sofas and drank gin and tonics and told each other how fabulous we all were. It was wonderful...

But then the Ivy closed, and we went on to the dreadful non-gay bar... And now I want to go home.

Friday, 4 March 2016


I managed to sleep until mid day today. I think I was finally sleeping the sleep of the just! I texted Philippa to say how confused I was that I'd managed to sleep in so late, and she replied: "That's nice. I went to bed at 12.30. Woke up at six thirty and was awake for two hours in the night with restless children and period pains. BUT I AM SO GLAD YOU SLEPT WELL." I think those with young children must sometimes wonder if they'll ever sleep properly again!

We didn't do much all day. Our landlord let himself into the house to sort out the roof. I stood in the hallway, but suddenly realised I was entirely naked, so ran like a girl in the opposite direction, hoping he'd not seen me, and disappeared under a blanket.

As we left the house we found a little shrine on the steps outside our door, which had been left there by our fabulous neighbour, Little Welsh Nathalie. She'd carefully laid out a vase with tulips and daffodils, a lovely congratulations card, a photograph of Nathan and me in front of the theatre and a cut-out sign of letters spelling the word "peace."

I feel very blessed to be surrounded by such extraordinarily beautiful people.

We drifted into town and had tea at the theatre with Llio, Frank and his friend JJ. CJ in the cast had emailed me a recording of her singing Baker Baker by Tori Amos and I pressed my phone to my ear to hear it. She knows I'm a massive Tori fan and thought I might enjoy her rendition which she'd recorded that afternoon. Which I did. In fact, it made me feel hugely emotional and then incredibly happy.

After an hour or so the audience started drifting in and the cafe filled with excited-looking people. There's a wonderful buzz which comes from an expectant audience...

I'm proud to say that another slew of Greenham women came to see the show again tonight, some of whom chatted to us in the bar beforehand. Two of them asked me to sign their programmes and all I could think to write was "thank you for saving the world" and "Greenham women are everywhere." I feel such an enormous sense of gratitude to them, and feel so sad that the world doesn't quite recognise them as the heroes they undoubtedly are. Emily, LJ and Robin from the NYMT came to see the show tonight and none of them knew anything about Greenham and what had happened there. They were extraordinarily moved by the story. I genuinely think that Greenham Common needs to taught in more history syllabuses.

It was the night of the cousins tonight. One of Nathan's was there (whom it turns out was a day visitor to Greenham, and took part in Embrace The Base) and my cousin Matt was there with his brood. His wife Boo, whom I've known since I was about 14, threw her arms around me afterwards and said, "I'm so proud of you. I always feel like this when you do anything. I see you as my little brother." And I realised I see her in the same sort of way... Like a big sister. She was, I recall, the first member of my family whom I came out to. The older I get the more important family becomes.

There was a partial standing ovation tonight, and, as I looked around, I saw a sea of people wearing CND badges, both men and women. Robin described the show as electrifying (one of my favourite words.) And one of the Greenham woman was weeping when she came up to me. "You got it spot on." She said. "Even with such a small cast you've managed to get all the characters." It is hugely gratifying. So many people who know nothing, or very little about Greenham have told us we'd got stuff wrong, but even Scratch The Itch, the bawdy heterosexual song which the knife hung over for so long, has become one of the, if not THE most popular numbers in the show, and had a seal of approval from Rebecca Johnson last night: "I remember a straight woman aggressively waltzing me around the camp fire. She was just like Ceridwen."

The man who runs the cafe in the theatre also saw the show tonight, and came up to me twice to shake my hand and tell me how great he thought the show was. "We've also loved having you here" he said, which made me feel proud. The company of this show, to a tee, have been polite, fun, friendly and very good to be around. I'll miss them all very much.