Thursday, 21 October 2010

The gory heads of traitors

I spent the morning sitting on a strangely shaped wooden bench in Pet Vet waiting for a shiny-faced Saffa to effectively inform me that he didn’t know enough about rats to tell me what was wrong with Poll. At one point he asked me what I thought was wrong, which seemed a strange question considering I was about to pay him close to £40! This wasn't psychotherapy! The upshot of this incredibly expensive consultation was Poll being booked into a different vet for the poor tyke to have a biopsy and a tumour removal. This all happens tomorrow, fortunately on Nathan’s watch. Poll behaved himself very well, but I could tell he didn’t like the vet. He kept running back to me and trying to hide in my jacket.

I had my first rehearsal last night with the opera choir in a barn of a church in Shepherd’s Bush. On my way there I was drawn into a shop with a broken neon sign (see below) where I decided to buy some water and a Mars Bar. Unfortunately, I discovered I only had dollars and a fist of receipts in my wallet, so had to walk away, feeling ashamed. It reminded me of being a child and shopping with my mother, and that dreaded moment when we had to “put something back” because we couldn’t afford it. This is a humiliation that happens very rarely now that we all carry plastic.

Now why did I find myself calling into this shop?

The rehearsal with the opera lot went well. Most were a little under-prepared, but all had fabulous voices. I got a real rush of excitement when they started warming up, although the acoustics in the church made them sound like they were singing in an echo chamber. Pepys, who loved buildings with echoes, would have been proud! I might have to ask the singers to pull the enormous sound they're generating back just a little bit in places, because otherwise they might blast the rest of the choir out of St Olave's! We managed to slowly note-bash our way through five movements of the movements, so we’re in pretty good shape... although getting perilously close to the recording. On that note I can’t believe everything kicks off in a week’s time and there are still three choirs that I’ve not yet heard! Terrifying!

Today I’m overdosing on rehearsals with folk musicians this afternoon, followed by an opera rehearsal tonight. The same happens tomorrow, but with three rehearsals, followed by a late night drive to Dartmouth. Is this wise? I ask myself.

The 21st October 1660 was a Sunday and Pepys went to St Olave’s Church for a “good” sermon before heading to Westminster where he went drinking with old friends from his clerking days. His friend George Vines took him into his house, and led him to the top of a turret to show him an extraordinarily gory sight; the heads of "traitors" Cooke and Harrison on high spikes above Westminster Hall. “Here I could see them plainly, as also a very fair prospect about London.” Pepys then managed to carelessly lose his boy, Wayneman, and spent the next few hours looking for him all over Westminster, worrying that, because he was young, he would have either got himself lost, or into danger. When he finally reached home, he was relieved to find the boy safe and well. Elizabeth was ill; the old problem of boils on her private parts and she was understandably very glum as a result.

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