It’s getting progressively harder to recall the mornings from the increasingly distant-feeling vantage-point of their respective evenings. It’s an intensive business this musical-writing retreat lark. I know I went for a run this morning, which felt like a very good idea until the last few hundred years when I realised I was actually very tired and that whatever post-run perkiness I might attain was unlikely to last beyond breakfast. Today was the day to flesh out the synopsis and fix as many holes as we could before my prodigious co-writer deserts me to return to London and her children. Children! I ask you, of all the mundane concerns. Here were are, sacrificing our souls at the altar of art, and she has to cut short our creative odyssey to fulfil mere maternal obligation. What a fly-by-night, what a will-o-the-wisp!
I jest (largely). Over the course of the day, with the pressure mounting for Susie to deliver the detailed synopsis she’d promised, our ever cordial and jovial relations were inevitably tested. We sat by side by side on the sofa at Ants’ house as Susie tapped away at her laptop. I was half-trying to write about four different songs, while attempting simultaneously to keep an ear and eye on Susie’s progress – and all the while suffering from palpable mental exhaustion. She pushed onwards against the clock, speaking aloud her words as she typed (grrrrr), while I frowned and muttered at her side, never less than two paragraphs behind her. I sensed her beginning to lose patience with me when my suggestions and objections were met with “well, I disagree, but why don’t we put that in as a note – requiring further mentorship”.
By the time we staggered to the end of Act 2, we were freestyling, chucking in plot twists and thematic resolutions more or less at random, with suspiciously different conceptions of the piece we thought we were writing. Or so I was beginning to feel, in my state of artistic burn-out. Nonetheless, time was up and Susie emailed our glorious work-in-progress out to the team, whereupon (mere minutes later) I winced to hear it spitting out of Ants’ printer.
So be it. We had more pressing concerns. We’d offered to cook dinner for our stupendously hospitable hosts at our (relatively) humble Gite and now had to hurry down the hill to see what we could cobble from our small stock of lentils and potatoes hastily bought at the supermarket in the daze of our first arrival all those long days ago.
We bickered our way pleasantly down the hill, me trying to take revenge on Susie for her (wholly pragmatic) writerly bullying by tormenting her addled brain with new title suggestions for the show. “How about Zombs Away,” I offered. “Or Drop the Zombie?” “Zombie Mind-fuck?”
As it turned out, cooking our humble veggie meal turned out to make a delightful break from the life creative – and brought our team-working skills pleasingly to the fore. I tackled the potatoes (par-boiled by yours truly that same morning – what forethought!) and Susie the lentils. I freely confess that cooking George and Ants a meal felt like a genuine challenge. They’d been providing us with exquisite culinary abundance on a daily basis and now it was our turn. Two brain-fried vegetarians with rudimentary ingredients and the haziest of plans. As Susie put it, it felt a bit like we were on some sort of bizarre reality TV show: first write a musical in three days and present it to a highly-respected professional musical-writing team (who are also, as it happens highly skilled chefs); next, create a three-course meal for them using only dried pulses, purloined condiments and a three-day-old quarter loaf of bread.
Having encouraged our guests to drink heavily before arriving, to help “manage expectations,” all turned out for the best. Praise was heaped upon Susie’s lentils and George kindly put in a word for my potatoes when he realised I might start crying. We had a lovely evening – Sixpence came along too and frolicked around the garden before draping herself over the green settee. Conversation flowed freely and was kept mercifully away from zombies and musicals.
Tomorrow we can return, refreshed, to the matter in hand. I’m sure Susanna and I will resolve our artistic differences and be on excellent speaking terms, as long as she isn’t eaten by the extremely large spider that visited her room last night.
A demain, blog-spotters!