Wednesday, July 26, 2006

all quiet on the south western front

Current level of conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 1.5
Hair day: super-conditioned to compensate for recent extreme sun-exposure

Back from much-deserved mini-sojourn with Andy down in the south westerly depths of the country, having completed a year of full-on teaching of both tiny things and preternaturally talented teenagers. We camped for three nights in the cutesome village of Gwithian then B'n'B-ed it in Totnes. Highlights were:

1) Breakfasting every morning on a pot of tea in a cheery flowered mug and piping hot sausage butties served by white-blonde teenage surfers at the Jam Pot, the only café for many miles around, perched high on Gwithian Towans (dunes for the un-Cornish amongst you). With cheek-pinking breezes and a view over the beach, it was the perfect way to shake off the night before's wine and whisky and crack on with the day…

2) The 3-mile stretch of curving beach from Gwithian to Hayle, as white-blonde as those surfers and a third of a mile wide. So smooth and uncluttered it wouldn't know what to do with flotsam and jetsam. Mind-sweeping, broad blue bliss. We had fun walking the length of it, into the wind and with the sand lashing our legs, filming contemporary yoga-infused shadow dances and writing poetry in the sand as is my wont, but also, in most unprecedented fashion (my coastal visits normally being accompanied by vicious gales and snow), enjoying quality beach-lounging time in very skimpy brown bikini.

3) Tate St. Ives, a bone-white art deco slab of perfection. One room showed cherry-picked St. Ives modernists; seeing Pelagos, a Barbara Hepworth sculpture - all wood, wave and strings, like an instrument plucked from the sea - in the flesh was a joy. But this was eclipsed by the John Hoyland exhibition: I don't think I've ever entered a gallery room and gasped with echoey audibility at a work, but we did at several of his large-scale, colour-splattered, explosive abstracts. Sherbert bursts for the eyes.

4) A phenomenal meal at the Porthminster Beach Café right on the talcum powder sands in St. Ives. A ludicrously multi-sensory feast where we sighed over things like beetroot and vanilla cured gravalax of salmon with a shot glass of crème fraiche and pickled fennel. And that was just the starter.

5) We were in Totnes to grace the world premiere of my Sundial Songs, commissioned by Eilidh Fraser to commemorate her mother and written for the counter-tenor Nick Clapton. Having written it 18 months ago, it seemed strange to hear it finally realised at Dartington Hall, but Nick gave an excellent, emotion-laden performance, and it went down beautifully. Amusing to know that they decided to use £60,000 worth of antique Steinway grand for my prepared piano part. Tee hee. Andy and I were treated to a most diverting lunch the next day by Eilidh and Nick, who entertained us over prawn and crab salad and local wine with anecdotes that showed off their incredibly creative, much-travelled lives. Eilidh, a designer and goldsmith who resides in the South of France, recently accompanied her weaver husband to Boston Fashion Week where they co-represented Britain alongside Paul Smith; she mentioned in passing the time when she met one of the original dancers in the Rite of Spring, as one does. Nick threw in very amusing vignettes about his various travels including having to take a castrating device through Hungarian customs for BBC4 and advised us to grace a tea shop up the road where you could get served by the 'most delightfully chunky waiters.' Felt very young and flighty indeed….

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Current level of convictio0n in own genius: 6
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 0
Hair day: sound.

This last week has been a very weird one, with the run-up to the July 7th commemorations and my involvement in it through a vocal trio I wrote escalating wildly. Over the last week, the piece, The Song of Doves (which sets a poem written by the stepfather of one of the victims of the Piccadilly line bombings last year), has been heard on Radio 4's Today Programme, and soundtracked an evening feature, appeared briefly on all national and some London-based tv new stations, been referenced in most national newspapers and went out live on BBC News 24, when it rounded off the evening memorial service in Regent's Park. Phew. I felt a complete charlatan being there to listen to Trydyyd sing my piece, surrounded by discreetly emotional survivors, with the ashen-faced bereaved on my right and the bus driver of the no. 30 nearby. It was a highly-charged service, and I wanted to erupt into noisy tears but felt I had no right to.
It was obviously wonderful to have my piece so exposed - thousands more people will have heard a snippet on Friday than have ever heard any of my music before - but slightly upsetting that, apart from the Evening Standard, it was never mentioned who the composer was, or even misinformed that the song had been written by the families or by survivors. It's hardly important in the whole scheme of things, but just so you know: it was me, honest.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Current level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 10 mins
Hair day: amazing lack of wiltage given temperature hotter than the centre of the sun

No, the gutter of the title does not refer to England's customary plummet out of the World Cup (during which I wound myself up into a sweaty headachey frenzy and swore more creatively than a particularly potty-mouthed fishwife) - THAT, after all, is to be expected; don't know why everyone gets so convinced we'll scream through to the final on each and every big tournament, forgetting that we will always a) have a hot-headed young hero sent off b) have at least 2 star players injured c) play with inexplicable tactics and d) lose on penalties. Still, it has been as usual jolly fun fashioning puns for the next day's red-top headlines: my bro's best one was in the Brazil-Ghana match, with 'CONSTANT GHANA FAIL TO FIENNES THE NET' and my own was for our sorry state of affairs: 'PORTUGESE MEN OF WAR GIVE LAST STING IN ENGLAND'S TALE'. I thank you.

No, the gutter is just for me, obviously far more important than some sorry internation bout of football. Was supposed to leg it from school to train station last week in order to get up to York for a prospectively cool interview as artist-in-residence at the National Science Learning Centre. It's not as glamorous as being artist-in-residence at NASA (See Laurie Anderson), say, and would be housed at the back of my old college of Alcuin, so would have been a hilarious revisit to my early besozzled undergrad years, but these jobs don't come round very often. So I ran faster than Aaron Lennon to get there, only to find the soap-esque nightmare scenario of EVERY TRAIN CANCELLED DUE TO FIRE AND RISK OF GIANT GAS CANISTERS EXPLODING ONTO TRACKS greeting me. The Arts Council lady was fairly sympathetic of my slightly hysterical sobbing phonecall, but calmly explained that they had had to make a decision that day. Not even a chance of a re-scheduled interview. Alack, rue the day, etc. So instead I have had to make do with drinking much wine, watching DVDs, shopping therapy and having to put on the kiddiewinks' school concert (Green Day transferred to kids' choir! oh yes!).

More fun at least was Andy and my brief sojourn to the coun'ryside, for Woodendstock, run by clearly the coolest people alive, seeing as they live in a huge house in the middle of nowhere, put on a free festival and rave-up and play in the headline band, the woefully-named but very choppy and chirpy Rotating Leslie. We were there to support the ever-brill Lazy Habits, who sounded double-ace in the surroundings of balmy air, haystacks and a soundtrack of sheep and birds.

In Kerry-goes-public news, should be in Evening Standard tomorrow, the Today
programme and London Tonight on Thursday, and maybe the BBC on Friday with The Song of Doves, the 7/7 memorial piece.