Sunday, 24 January 2010

Decorous mayhem

Last night was a very long night. It started as a perfectly decorous gathering of be-suited creative types (pictured) and ended with high energy, semi-naked line-dancing to disco music. I felt like a student again.

In the meantime, each of us had provided a round for a quiz. People were extraordinarily inventive; mine involved tea-tasting, but there were also rounds which featured ABBA songs being played backwards, those which involved reading film scripts, smelling herbs and spices, and finding Tibet on a map. It went on for hours, but was enormous fun.

Upsetting news came half way through the evening. A friend of mine’s father died very suddenly yesterday. He was a hugely interesting man and used to email me regularly with ideas for documentaries. He was always setting something up. Always busy. He was also following this blog and emailed me to say as much only a week ago. It's terribly sad. I suppose as we move through life, this kind of thing will happen more and more frequently. At the end of last year I lost a close friend and it was very tough.

Today in 1660, Elizabeth Pepys was “exceedingly troubled with a pair of new pattens”, which annoyed Pepys because it made her walk so slowly. Pattens (pictured) were a type of under-shoe made of wood and metal that elevated a wearer above muddy or wet ground. I could have done with a pair this morning as we wandered around the grounds of the country house.

Pattens were a necessity for ladies in London until they started paving the streets. The last working patten maker died in the 19th Century. In the late 17th Century pattens were so important that one of the churches which burned down in the Great Fire was re-built and renamed St Margaret Pattens and it still has a notice on the door requesting women to remove their pattens before entering the church. But I digress...

Pepys spent much of the rest of Januray 24th in the company of people whom he seemed to find distasteful. The social climber had returned with a vengeance: “after dinner a great deal of mad stir... A great deal of fooling... that I and my wife did not like. Mr. Lucy and several other gentlemen coming in after dinner, swearing and singing as if they were mad.”

He sauntered home and continued with the slightly superior tones, this time accusing his sister Pall of stealing a pair of scissors. Poor Pall often ended up suffering at the hands and tongue of Pepys, who considered her to be inferior. He was constantly trying to get her married off, suggesting she was getting uglier and older. At one stage she came to live with Pepys and Elizabeth but was treated like a servant and not even allowed to have meals with them. She got her own back in time by providing Pepys with a nephew, who became the apple of his eye and his sole heir.

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