We’ve spent much of the day dodging rain showers in Northern Essex with Nathan’s friend, Carey. He’s from the States and he's incredibly charming. We kicked things off in Saffron Walden with a lovely stroll around the town which culminated in a visit to a public garden that my mother always refers to as God’s Place. It’s an incredibly peaceful spot, filled with ornately topiered hedges and secret metal staircases which take you to the tops of various trees. There’s also a rather fine maze which we staggered around for a good while, trying to avoid the puddles.
We then visited the ridiculous village of Finchingfield, with its duck pond and chocolate box views. It’s always full of bikers, which I find amusing. Those lads and lasses in leather always find their way to the most beautiful corners of the country!
In a wood on the outskirts of the town sits a peculiar church with a very dark atmosphere, which is made even stranger by the creepy ancient pentagrams carved into its walls. A church covered in symbols used exclusively in witchcraft is a somewhat unnerving sight.
We went home via my parent’s house, where we were provided with a quintessentially English afternoon tea of scones, cakes and macaroons in front of a glorious open fire. Informing my parents that an American is coming to visit is something of a red rag to a bull and they pull out all the stops. One of my great joys in life is introducing my friends to my parents. Their vibrancy and lust for life is utterly infectious and they make me feel incredibly proud.
Pepys ate radishes for breakfast 350 years ago, which I wouldn’t have mentioned other than it seems random in the extreme. After lunch, great news arrived from London. The King’s letter had been read out to Parliament and suddenly everything was sorted. He was coming home. Books which dissed him were ordered to be burnt. Money was set aside for his safe passage. The City of London declared their loyalty to him. Bonfires were lit across the town. Church bells sounded. People danced in the streets and dropped to their knees in prayer, which even Pepys felt was a “little too much” although he acknowledged the day would probably be summed up as the greatest May Day in history.
The evening was spent on board the ship drinking. Anyone who had money, or credit of any sort, spent vast quantities on booze. The 2nd May 1660 also marked the first appearance in the diary of one of my favourite characters; Captain Robert Ferrers, who surely belonged to the family who gave their name to my childhood town of Higham Ferrers. He was a rather dashing fellow, who flirted outrageously on several occasions with Elizabeth and seemed a bit of a lunatic; once jumping out of a window and badly injuring himself... just for a bet. Life was never dull in his presence and it seems fitting that he arrived for the first time on a boat full of drunk revellers!