Saturday, 1 January 2011

Can anyone stop the wheel from turning?

Last night’s party was a riot and Nathan got incredibly drunk. I couldn’t believe how seriously people took the P party theme. There were pirates, Phantoms, Pocahonti, and a plethora of princesses, but top marks HAVE to go to the prophylactic dressed from head to toe in rubber! There was a quiz. There was great food, and there was manic dancing in the kitchen.

I turned in at about 3am. Unfortunately, as I lay down on the bed, it collapsed underneath my weight and I ended up in a crumpled heap in the middle of a pile of splintered wooden slats and a torn douvet. The night was spent on a mattress on the floor, feeling slightly embarrassed and guilty that I’d ruined Lisa and Mark’s spare bed.

We woke up at midday, and by the time we’d got up, the entire house had been cleaned from tip to toe and looked exactly as it had done before 50 Spaldwick residents rushed through it like migrating wildebeest. The magic of people who have children is that they have to get up very early, though I genuinely felt guilty for not doing any tidying up.

We decided to go for lunch - in Brampton of all places - which Pepys fans will recognise as the location of the country seat of the Pepys clan. Purely by chance we passed the house itself, and I sincerely wish I’d been able to stop and have a bit of a gawk.

We ate at a watermill in the village, which was situated in the middle of a campsite on the water meadows. It was a hugely depressing sight to see a bunch of caravans and tents occupied by holiday-makers. Who would go to a campsite on the outskirts of Huntingdon to bring in the New Year? All sorts of sad possibilities entered my mind.

On our way out of the building, we stopped to admire the static water wheel, which we’d heard was in the process of being renovated. Mark leant over the railings, gave it a little push, and it ground very slowly into activity, which we all thought was incredibly exciting. As we walked away, however, a flood of staff came rushing out of the restaurant and were trying to stop the wheel from turning. By the time we passed them again, there were all sorts of people standing around holding buckets and scratching their heads, worriedly. I sincerely hope we haven’t done something really silly...

January 1st 1661, and Pepys summed up his situation and that of the State in an almost direct mirror of this very first entry.

“At the end of the last and the beginning of this year, I do live in one of the houses belonging to the Navy Office, as one of the principal officers, and have done now about half a year. After much trouble with workmen I am now almost settled; my family being, myself, my wife, Jane, Will. Hewer, and Wayneman,1 my girle’s brother. Myself in constant good health, and in a most handsome and thriving condition. Blessed be Almighty God for it. I am now taking of my sister to come and live with me.”

He went on to point out that the King was settled and loved by all, and that the King's sister had recently died, and that the country was in mourning for her. He was now worth 300l.
January 1st was obviously the date on which people celebrated the New Year. Pepys spent much of the day in the company of his extended family. There was a lazy breakfast at his house followed by lunch at his cousin, Thomas', which was attended, by amongst others, Pepys’ cousin Anthony, who had lost a child that morning, "yet he was so civil to come, and was pretty merry" - an indication of how regularly children died in infancy. 50% of children born in the 17th Century were not expected to live into their adult lives.

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