Monday, 17 May 2010

Voorhout

The muse stood me up royally today, and left me twiddling my thumbs in Costa Coffee whilst two irritating Chinese housewives cackled behind me. My complete lack of creative inspiration ended up making me feel a bit panicky. What if the muse never returns? What if I’ve used up all my credits with her for the year? This must be what it feels like to be Andrew Lloyd Webber. Perhaps the time has come when I’ll be forced to start regurgitating old melodies and rifling through chests for the half-finished manuscripts I wrote as a student.


Nathan and I have just been to the heath with Fiona to watch the sun setting from the top of Parliament Hill. It’s so beautiful and there was such a treacly light up there this evening that the trees were almost glowing. I never knew so many shades of green existed.

We’re now sitting in a newly refurbished pub near the gym on Highgate Road. Unsurprisingly, we were drawn in because they were running a quiz. This place used to be an absolute dive. I would never have dared to come in here ten years ago, when the windows were all painted over, and the inside was a smog-filled den of nastiness; which even then seemed completely at odds with the area, which has always been a bit of a haven for yummy mummies. Fortunately, the pub now sells cloudy lemonade, has piano evenings on a Wednesday and serves picnic packs for people spending the day on the Heath. Sadly, it smells a little of stale beer but since the smoking ban, I think we’ve all had to get used to what pubs actually smell of...and indeed what their ceilings look like!

May 17th 1660 was a momentous day for Pepys. He woke up early, left the Nazeby and took a coach to The Hague with Montagu’s son, Edward in tow. Pepys had decided that if the King wasn't going to come to him, then he’d go to the King. He figured that the young Montagu would open doors and he wasn’t wrong because within a few hours, he'd come face to face with the monarch. There followed an orgy of hand-kissing; first the King’s, then the Duke of York’s and then the Princess Royal’s. Pepys described the King as “a very sober man” and seemed hugely impressed with the quality of his court and those he'd chosen for company.

Before long, Pepys and Master Montagu had set off on a veritable pilgrimage of countless exiled members of the British royal family. They called in on the Princess Dowager, who like all dowagers was wasting away following the death of her beloved husband and had an audience with the Lord Chancellor, Sir Edward Hyde, who was in bed with the gout, but still managed to speak “merrily” to Pepys and his companion. The concept of having a constant trickle of strangers standing about whilst you lie ill in bed seems somewhat strange, but wasn’t unusual for that time. I suppose the nearest I’ve ever come to that kind of behaviour was when my friend Moira was awfully ill on the day of her birthday, but still insisted on having a party, which ended up taking place around her bed and culminated in a rather pathetic rendition of Away In A Manger whilst we offered birthday gifts to the sickly girl.

But I digress... After popping in on the Queen of Bohemia, Pepys drifted back to the centre of The Hague to watch the ladies of quality strolling up and down the tree-lined, Voorhout, which is still the main thoroughfare in that City. Pepys thought it looked a little bit like Hyde Park, which was where the great and the good paraded in 17th Century London. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find a single attractive lady to ogle at, although he was impressed by the quality of their carriages. Ooer misses.

At the end of the day, he headed back to Scheveling but had the mother of all rows with a Boatswain who refused to take him back to the Nazeby, so in a fit of pique, jumped on a wagon with just one horse (horror!) and headed back to the Hague where he was forced to sleep in a somewhat shonky guesthouse.

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