Monday, 3 January 2011

Pretty witty

It’s fairly amazing how full and rich a day can seem when you get up early and immediately leave the house. This morning I set my alarm for 8.30am and was in Shoreditch by 10. The plan was to do some writing in a cafe before going to my Goddaughter’s second birthday party. Unfortunately, on a Bank Holiday, Shoreditch is like a ghost town. Everything was closed and the entire area was completely empty but for a few slightly over-dressed people who I assume were still partying from the night before. Shoreditch is a silly area of town at the best of times. Old Street heaves with people who are too cool for school. On a normal day, you’re likely to see any number of ridiculous asymmetrical hair-dos perched on top of retro leather jackets and unfeasibly skinny jeans.

I was completely unable to find a cafe, so instead of working, I went straight to Philippa’s house and helped to prepare for the party. It was so much fun. Philippa’s mother and parents-in-law were there, and then Gaby and finally, Nick, Philippa’s father arrived. We helped to tidy the house, and cooked cup cakes. Deia was delightful, and hugely excited at the prospect of being two. I gave her a stuffed rabbit, which she immediately christened “The bouncing song rabbit”, which felt almost too brilliantly surreal for comment! Philippa’s mother-in-law had created the most astonishing cake in the shape of Noah’s Arc, complete with the most brilliant selection of animals crafted from marzipan.

Deia and her Oma

I headed back to Highgate Village and did 4 hours’ work on the Metro Musical, which feels like it’s finally coming together. I even had a miniature rush of excitement at one point! The cafe was filled to the rafters today and I had to share a table with two teenaged girls, who seemed to want to do nothing but hug one another. When I asked if I could sit with them, I could tell their hearts were sinking. I've been wearing pyjama trousers all day today, so assume they merely regarded me as some kind of eccentric old man who just wanted their company.

Nathan arrived to say hello just as the cafe was closing and we immediately had to drive back to Philippa’s, because I realised I’d left my camera there. We had a cup of tea with the stragglers and ate some of the leftover food from the party; mostly olives, pieces of cheese and low-sugar biscuits, which, for the record, are utterly repulsive.

Thursday 3rd January 1661, and Pepys went to the theatre to watch the “Beggar’s Bush” being performed. He wrote that it was “very well done” but more importantly, noted that it was the first time he’d ever seen women actresses on a stage. What an intriguing milestone! I’m told that the first female professional actress was actually Mrs Coleman, who acted Ianthe in Davenant’s Siege of Rhodes in 1656 – so these were incredibly early days in this respect, particularly if we take into account that theatre itself had been banned until the previous year. Within a few years, however, bawdy actresses were all the rage and there would be countless professional female performers in London, including Pepys’ lover, Mrs Knipp, and "pretty witty" Nell Gwyn.

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