Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Curtain's Up!

I am in West Kensington in a lovely theatre pub, The Curtain's Up. We've just celebrated a friend's birthday with a vegetarian cottage pie and a game of Connect Four, which I won. We also played Scrabble, which I lost. Spectacularly. Prompting the question; is it better to win Scrabble or Connect 4? We're about to take part in a quiz. If this were twitter I could tweet and cheat.

It's still freezing cold. There was snow in the night and more is forecast today. Highgate still looks like the lid of a chocolate box. In 1660 a great thaw had begun. The sun was shining and according to Pepys, the snow had become a sludgy, dirty mess. Pepys, as usual, was out and about, drinking a pint of wine on Cheapside at lunchtime and spending the night deep in discourse at a coffee house. Whilst pottering around the City, he bumped into the fabulously named Ralph Greatorex, who crops up in the diary on numerous occasions from then on in. Greatorex was a famous maker of mathematical instruments and as such became one of Pepys' guilty pleasures. There are countless references to Pepys going to Greatorex to have set squares and protractors custom made. On this occasion Greatorex shows Pepys a "sphere of wire", which Pepys describes as "very pleasant." I can't for the life of me work out what a sphere of wire is. Perhaps it's a type of compass. Anyone with ideas should feel free to respond to this blog!

Pepys also demonstrates his propensity for commenting on life's little details: "To Westminster, overtaking Captain Okeshott in his silk cloak, whose sword got hold of many people in walking." That there ever was a time when people wandered the streets armed with swords is strange enough, but I'd love to know what they did with them. Were they just status symbols for military men? Did people regularly have sword fights on the streets? Or did swords have more practical uses in those days? Opening bottles? Cutting paper? Deflating balloons made of cat gut? Were they the Swiss Army Knives of their day?

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