Sunday, 14 March 2010
Night fell and we drove to the top of Parliament Hill. I wanted the girls to see the view; the thousands of multicoloured lights twinkling across the capital from Canary Wharf in the East across to Pimlico in the West and Crystal Palace in the south. We went for a stroll which became something of a hike across the gloomy heath. It was a mysterious and magical experience. The wind was rustling in the blackened trees, the sky was an eerie shade of orange; all the halogen of London was trapped in the thick, low clouds. Bex decided she wanted to climb trees and kept disappearing and eventually emerging, perched on a darkened branch, silhouetted against the milky sky.
We went from Parliament Hill across to Spaniards and then back via the Vale of Health, which was sitting silently in a mist-filled hollow. Oddly, every time we emerged from the heath onto a road, we’d find a Panda car hovering and as we drove back to Highgate, we discovered that the entire heath was surrounded by police cars. There were helicopters in the sky and at one point we heard a gun shot. Heaven knows what was going on. I’d spent the entire walk telling the girls how wonderfully safe the place was, whilst God knows what was going on behind those darkened bushes...
Back home we laughed our heads off, singing and playing music long into the night. The hysterical highlight has to be the Dynasty theme tune played on a broken clarinet.
Today was all about enjoying the first spring-like sunshine of the year. We pottered up to the village, walked through Waterlow Park and visited Highgate Cemetery. My first time. It’s an incredibly peaceful sort of place. The kind of spot that takes away just a little bit of the fear of death.
On the 14th March 1660, it was still raining, and Pepys travelled to Montagu’s residence to start his first day as his official secretary. He was confronted by a bewildering amount of paperwork. Finally a job which would involve some effort and better still, one which involved hiring his own staff! More interestingly, more and more people were courting him; viewing him as a man with influence. Later in the day, Pepys crossed paths with General Monck and what a difference a few months made. Far from seeing him with rose-tinted glasses as the saviour of the monarchy and therefore the country, Pepys merely described him as “a dull, heavy man”. Perhaps this is more a sign that he considered himself to be heading up in the world. Finally he could have opinions about those in the upper social strata.
At the end of the day, Pepys headed home to tell his wife about his adventures, including a detailed account of what he’d had for his dinner. Rather randomly, this gave Elizabeth a taste for cabbage, which I can only assume was something of a delicacy in those days. Pepys sent for some, and she duly ate it!