Friday, 26 February 2010

Alice in Miami

I am in Miami! Now there’s an announcement! I’ve come here with Matt and it’s all extremely exciting! It's about 5.00pm. We’re very high up in a very tall hotel, and I can’t stand anywhere near the edge of the balcony for fear of falling off. The sea is deep sky blue, the beach is white, there are palm trees everywhere, and it’s about 70 degrees. Two eagles are circling around in the sky. The smell of toffee apples is drifting up from below. Can life get any better than this, I wonder?

Well, possibly, because last night was the premier of Alice In Wonderland. A fabulous occasion; almost overwhelming. The red – or in this case green – carpet was lit up like a Christmas tree, and despite the rain, thousands of people had turned up to peer and cheer at the stars. Nathan and I ran in; perhaps overly conscious that none of the screaming hordes were interested in peering, cheering or waving at us. In retrospect I would have hung around a bit longer to soak up the electric atmosphere, or at least taken a few moments to study some of the topiared hedges which seemed to have sprung up everywhere on Leicester Square.

I sat down in the cinema to find myself sitting next to Philip Sallon and Phil off of Eastenders. Two more contrasting Philips you could never hope to find! The latter Phil was obviously there to support Barbara Windsor, who lent her dulcet tones to the surprisingly feisty door mouse.

The film was great. Tim Burton was plainly born to bring those characters to life in all of their menacing trippiness. What I didn’t realise is that the whole piece was a “Return To Oz”-style sequel to the Alice books. Alice was returning as a young adult to the land she’d visited in dreams as a child and there were many highlights; the Cheshire Cat being a particular favourite. He sort of swam through the air and disappeared and reappeared in clouds of black smoke which looked like ink in water.

It goes without saying that Matt was brilliant as both Tweedledum and Tweedledee and Helena Bonham Carter made a brilliantly wacky Red Queen/ Queen of Hearts. Johnny Depp brought a huge amount of pathos to the Mad Hatter and Alan Rickman made a perfectly fruity caterpillar. My only issues were with Alice, who I thought was more Sloanney than quirky, and the 3D effects, which didn’t exactly bowl me over. Those dark glasses mean that everything becomes a bit gloomy. Tim Burton’s films are dark at the best of times.

The after show party was tastefully eccentric with baths filled with gin, waiters dressed as Wonderland characters and bizarre sweeties on trolleys which could have come straight out of Harry Potter. I would have loved to get rip-roaringly pissed on the fabulous selection of peculiar cocktails, but I had a flight to catch first thing.

The 26th February 1660 was a Sunday and Pepys and his family were still in Cambridge, strolling in the fields behind King’s College. I wonder if there needed to be seven sheep present (or is it cows) in those days. Perhaps my brother, Edward, a King’s graduate, would like to add a little comment about why it is that there needs to be seven animals in that particular field, and whether it’s true that one of them ended up on a roof!

Mr Pierce the surgeon made a reappearance just after lunch to announce that Montagu had left his Hinchingbrooke country pile and headed for London, which rather upset Pepys, who was obviously planning a visit, no doubt wanting to be the first to bring his Lord up to speed on the goings on in London and then bask in the glory of his arrival there. Mr Pierce was particularly annoyed as visiting Montagu seemed to have been his sole purpose in going up to Cambridgeshire.

Later in the day there was a phenomenal amount of drinking, matched only by the number of toasts that were being made to the King and all his family – and probably by the time they’d finished, his servants and pets too. Pepys was in a naughty mood. He cut church and went drinking instead. Predictably, after consuming his body weight in alcohol, the evening ended back at his Inn with the first written reference to Pepys’ the rogue engaging in a spot of how’s your father;

“I staid up a little while, playing the fool with the lass of the house at the door of the chamber.” The passage ends with those four comforting words that have become utterly synonymous with our hero; “and so to bed.”

But not to bed for me. If you’ll excuse me, there’s an art deco quarter I need to visit!

The view from my hotel balcony, which admittedly looks more Malaga than Miami, but I'm sure the readers in rainy London will appreciate my joy at being here!

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