Thursday, 11 February 2010

Both the greatness and suddenness of it

Yesterday I finally put pen to paper and wrote a few bars of music for the motet. I didn't do much, but it felt like something of an occasion. I was focussing on passages written at the time of the plague and got quite emotional, which may have had slightly more to do with my burgeoning cold! I’m not sure I’ve written anything yet that will make it into the final piece - I keep getting distracted by pretty tunes, which feel somehow inappropriate - but I’ve made a start, which means I now won't stop until it's done!

Tonight I’m off for dinner with very erudite company; a Radio 3 presenter and a musical satirist-cum-composer. I'm very much looking forward to it. I just need to go on line and find a couple of highly witty remarks I can liberally sprinkle over the dinner. Sadly, I suspect this cold will turn me into a monosyllabic moron and I'll probably never be asked back!

I’ve just had some really good news about my Mum, who went into hospital this morning for tests for pretty much everything, and seems to have been given a clean bill of health. Greatly relieved. I’ve been panicking all morning.

We've been having terrible problems with the car. We bought the thing for £6000 from a VW dealer less than six month's ago and have just taken it in to be serviced, to be told that £2500 needs to be spent on it, and then it will only be worth £4000, which feels insane after 5 1/2 months. We also don't have £2500. It's as simple as that. This has thrown Nathan into a panic and made me intensely angry. As I see it, there are two possibilities; someone's either sold us a dud, or the VW dealer in London (Alan Day) is pulling a fast one and trying to charge us (double) for work that doesn't need to be done. Someone's head's gonna roll!

It was a Saturday on this date in 1660 and Pepys kicked things off with a lie-in. After reading a book about Rome, he ambled off to Westminster Hall and at that moment his diary entry turns a very exciting corner, eventually becoming Pepys' very first “set piece”. When he walked into the hall, he found the place buzzing. Monck had lept off the fence and finally demanded a free parliament; "it was very strange how the countenance of men in the Hall was all changed with joy in half an hour’s time"

Pepys rushed into Parliament to hear the news being announced by the speaker, and watched as Sir Arthur Haselrigge - one of the five members of parliament who Charles I attempted to arrest in 1642 - stormed out angrily, followed by the crowing Quaker, Edward Billing, who grabbed Haselrigge’s arm and hissed: “Thou man, will thy beast carry thee no longer? Thou must fall.”

Pepys then did a bit of shopping, went to someone's office and sang at him whilst he tried to work, ate a roasted chicken, and then headed to the Guildhall, to catch a glimpse of Monck and the Lord Mayor. The whole of the city was "joyful". When Monck finally appeared there was a huge shout; "'God Bless your excellence' ...such a shout I never heard in all my life”. And across London., Monck’s soldiers were suddenly being treated like royalty, with people thrusting money into their pockets and offering them food. Pepys was witnessing a town in celebration. He watched and listened, fetched his wife, and watched and listened again before writing everything down in the most extraordinary vivid detail, which makes me long to have been there with him. Every church bell in London was ringing, bonfires were burning in the streets as far as the eye could see...

"I could at one view tell thirty-one fires. In King-street seven or eight; and all along burning, and roasting, and drinking for rumps... The butchers at the May Pole in the Strand rang a peal with their knives... Indeed it was past imagination, both the greatness and the suddenness of it. At one end of the street you would think there was a whole lane of fire, and so hot that we were fain to keep still on the further side merely for heat"

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