Thursday, August 21, 2008

Czech, mate

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 3
Watching / Listening: 'House of Saddam' / Nico Muhly's Reich-like noodlings
Hair Day: Bit too 'nice'

On the spur of the moment, hearing on Radio 5 that there were still loads of seats going, I booked Andy and I tickets to Wembley to see England vs Czech Republic, to go one better than Andy's wish to see a big game at the Emirates. After cramming onto the Metropolitan line trying to spot fellow arty-leaning football fans (result: one possible nominee who was wearing glasses and a nu-rave top), forcing down chilli and garlic hot dogs that were only slightly more appealing than giving a blow-job to an overexcited hippo, we climbed up many floors to enter the lofty heights of the stadium, bursting like an overripe tomato in our faces with resplendent colour. It's a marvellous-looking building, a grand mother-ship-esque roof, the pitch was Granny Smith green, and it was hilarious to see so many famous footballers emerge, even if they were teeny little Toytown model versions. It was as if we could have picked little David Beckham and Wayne Rooney up and taken them home in our pockets to have fun games with two pence pieces on our dining room table. The first half wasn't too bad at all, and being so high up, you could see how football is supposed to work - who's making a run, formations, angles for long passes... Thank goodness we equalised at the end of both halves to make the game a half-decent one, and one enlivened by a long-running Mexican wave and out-of-time singing that sounded like clever stereo panning (I merrily joined in, though Andy didn't, the slightly jingoistic collective experience bringing out his rebellious individualist streak, ptthhh). Apart from the rather more inflated scale though, and it being the first match I've ever been to with the national anthem at the beginning (even I couldn't join in with the words for that one, and I think the Queen's alright really, especially in that nice film!), it was the same as any other football game. Watching the second half, apart from the Czechs' free kick which sliced through everyone like a blunt knife through room temperature butter, was basically no different from watching Wycombe scrap with Dagenham or someone on a weekday night down in lowly League 2. And it's rather more intimate and even special being part of a hardy (some would say fatalistic) crew of lower-league supporters. Bring on the scalding tea and stupid Wycombe songs at Barnet in the autumn!

Was a Yorkshire lass all of last week, what with workshopping and judging a composition competition for the Ebor Singers' week of choral fun. They also did some of my 'dusksongs' in a candlelit mass and performed my new York Mass which twisted and turned in the acoustics of the Minster. When not having fun in the best pubs ever or catching up with York-residing mates, I was over at my Mum's in Driffield, either watching the Olympics or being inspired by Ma to do some exercise; her training regime for her impending Himalayan charity trek means she's starting to leave me huffing and puffing, bad wolf-like, in her wake. I joined her for a most hilarious Aquafit session at the crumbling Driffield Leisure Centre, where I brought the average age down to about 65, and could hardly get through it I was in such hysterics over trying to run through water to the strains of 'Holiday' by Madonna. Andy and my little bro Daniel joined us for the weekend, and we had a great time at Robin Hood's Bay and then further inland at Beck Hole (the smallest pub in the world; you couldn't even swing a cat without whacking the only other person in there with it), where we tramped around in said luminescently mossy, peat-rusty beck, making stone/wood art. We even walked down into the majestic Hole of Horcum, a vast heather-covered crater in the moors. The next day we did a big walk from Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey, a fabulous ruin with swallows nesting in the rain-sodden arches. Fab to do some proper ruddy-cheeked walking, complete with eating Mum-made ham sandwiches whilst sitting on logs, though I'm still recovering from a lower back twinge like some kind of old lady. Hhm, perhaps that Aquafit wasn't so bad...

Have got all sorts of exciting projects piling up this autumn and spring - I was massively chuffed, having applied and done my interview with babbling and slightly deranged enthusiasm, to beat 79 other people to be lead composer/music director of a big community project that starts and ends at my most local attraction (I could throw a stone and hit it from where I'm sitting), the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood. That's mostly in the spring; before that juice are doing loads of community work and Ensemble in Residence teaching at York and Ulster unis, I have tons of juice and DOLLYman and even SOLO gigs coming up, and am also now doing some singing with new-jazz-folk-experimental group metamorphic, just to keep me busy. My last carol, 'The Contest of the Ivy and the Holly' has just been published in a new Oxford University Press anthology and I should be dashing off another one for them , along with finishing electronics on a new folk track and writing a juice piece. Of course, right now, I'm actually watching Team GB's poshest members get their horses jumping over some kind of kids' adventure playground, but I'm sure I'll get onto it in a moment...