Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Selling a horse for eggs and herrings

I'm feeling uneasy today. Weirdly anxious. I can feel my jaw clenching and I have a mild headache. At lunch with Fiona I had a funny turn, which put me off my food. If I'm stressed, I can't do anything about it because I don't know what's causing it. Perhaps it's simply that I lived life at too fast a pace in January. Perhaps it's my body telling me to slow down a bit, or get more sleep; I was up very early today in an attempt to increase my productivity. Maybe it was the two large cups of tea I consumed before lunch that made me jittery. Maybe I'll never know. Nathan’s been out of sorts as well today and my mother’s been worrying about her health so I assume there's some astrological fallout attached to that weird full moon we had. I also discovered tonight that a distant relative has been murdered in Australia, so it's not been a particularly good day.

That said, the lovely man from BBC Manchester has said the project up there looks likely now, so within a matter of days, my entire year seems to have been plotted out. That'll be the universe reading my blog! So depending on what the people in Leeds and Manchester want, it looks like the Pepys project will either need to crank into gear pretty speedily, or wait for November. Let's see how quickly it writes itself.

On that note, I'm now editing the short list of diary passages I might want to feature in the motet and have cut it down from 18,000 to 8,000 words. Still plainly too many, but it's a start. The big decision I need to make is whether to feature the passages sequentially or thematically. Too much theming could take away from the randomness and skittishness of Pepys' writing. Part of the joy of the diary is that it moves about as quickly as Pepys moved around London. Incredibly moving accounts of a city torn apart by fires and plagues are polka-dotted with talk of parties, farting, finances and f***ing. If Pepys ever expected his diaries to be read, he had an almost Brechtian desire to stop his readers from becoming emotionally complacent.

350 years ago he informs us that London was in a bit of an excitable mood anticipating the arrival of Monck. The scenes of chaos and confusion he witnessed from an upstairs window on the Strand could best be described as a sort of revolutionary street theatre (again, Brecht would have been proud). As no one was in charge of the government, it fell upon common soldiers to look after the country; something they chose to do by running around the streets, pointlessly firing guns and banging drums.

Perhaps the most confusing line I’ve encountered in Pepys’ Diary, however, comes towards the end of today's entry; "After all this we went to a sport called, selling of a horse for a dish of eggs and herrings." We know Pepys is in a pub with his laddy mates, but what on earth is he on about? I assume he's referring to some kind of game. But what are the rules? And who wins the dish of eggs and herrings?! Or do you win a horse? I need to know. I love games and I'd love to win a horse! I'd ride it to the moon.


  1. Fab news about the BBC Manchester job! Hooray!

  2. I'm glad that someone else noticed that yesterday was weird. So many friends told me shocking things that I thought there was definitely something in the air. I had my own turn in the National Gallery in front of the Mantegnas. A guard even offered me the sick bay! Anyway I spent the remainder of the evening asking friends who live elsewhere whether it was the same up by them. A friend in NY thought that full moon + sickness = weirdness. I added snow to the list. It's a mad world my masters for the mistress who loves the old masters still, perhaps.