Sunday, 7 February 2010

Flagrant Harpies

I’m in deepest, darkest Shropshire at Nathan’s mother’s house. We just paid her a surprise visit, and were rewarded with a feast of cauliflower cheese, roast vegetables and a trifle. I’ve not eaten trifle for years, possibly decades, but every delicious mouthful made me wonder why I'd left it so long!

We spent the afternoon with Nathan’s sister and family, singing Eva Cassidy songs in 4-part harmony whilst trying to work out which pop/ rock album has the most iconic artwork on its sleeve. High on the list: ELO’s New World Record, The Happy Mondays Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches and almost anything by the Beatles. Feel free to add your thoughts to the bottom of this blog.

The visit has also re-kindled Nathan’s desire to have another pet rat, having met the wonderfully placid 'Cid (short for Acid, not placid), who belongs to his niece, Becky. I like rats. They get bad press but they’re highly intelligent, loving creatures. I just can’t bear the pain when they die, which they do rather too often!


Felt a bit like Elizabeth Pepys as we lay in bed this morning. We’ve been trying to learn Beauty Retire by heart, and Nathan seems to have been a great deal more successful than me! Pepys was constantly losing his temper with his wife because she seemed to have no discernable musical ear and Nathan got a tad frustrated with me as I tripped over the words for the 90th time! He had every right to make me feel like a tit. I was frankly shocked at my ineptitude!

A fascinating, high-octane diary entry for Pepys today, which starts with him attending St Paul’s school to see his brother, John, a student there, making a sort of graduation speech. St Paul’s was the school that Pepys himself attended, and he made regular donations to the establishment in his later, wealthier life. I must remember to contact the school as I feel some of their choristers would prove to be the obvious choice for the children's choir in my motet.

Pepys' brother, by all accounts, held his own in the ceremony and Pepys left feeling proud enough. He then raced back to Westminster Palace where he witnessed Monck’s soldiers abusing and attacking a group of Quakers. The Quakers at this point were just beginning to establish themselves as a religious group and as such were facing a great deal of persecution. Many were sent to jail; possibly because they regularly made rather bizarre statements like rushing naked through Westminster Hall crying; “Repent Repent.” (see Pepys' diary, 29th July, 1667.) On this occasion, however, General Monck heard about his soldier's thuggish behaviour and made the following order (dated March 9th 1660):

‘I do require all officers and soldiers to forbear to disturb peaceable meetings of the Quakers, they doing nothing prejudicial to the Parliament or the Commonwealth of England. George Monck'

Monk’s power was increasing daily. Pepys noted on the 7th February that he "hath now the absolute command and power to do any thing that he hath a mind to do." Cool!

Later in the day, Pepys spent time discussing bladder stones, and their removal; the most painful of operations, which involved being strapped to a bed with no form of painkiller (including alcohol). Pepys endured this particular misery in 1658 and the stone his physician cut out was the size of a ping pong ball.  He was incredibly lucky to survive and was well aware of the fact, celebrating its removal every year on March 26th.

On returning home, Pepys found his wife up to her usual tricks, steeling - or appropriating - more clothes. This time it was some ribbon and a pair of shoes that she found in a box in Montagu’s London house. Frankly, it’s a surprise the flagrant harpy wasn't arrested!

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