I went back to PC Third World this afternoon. There’s no such thing as a smooth transaction with those people. There’s always a catch, or a cock up which causes untold frustration. The computer they loaned me yesterday is faulty to the point of being unusable. The battery is broken, so the machine only works when it’s plugged into a wall. So it was back out into the miserable blue rain to Moorgate after lunch, where I’ve been presented with an alternative lap top, which is so enormous it won’t fit in my bag! It’s a monument to the 1980s. I feel quite ashamed to be seen with it in public and shan’t be whipping it out on the tube at time soon. In any case, it weighs about ten stone. I’m not even sure it’s portable.
It must be hideous to work at PC World in those grotesque little lilac branded shirts. Everyone looks so miserable. Plainly, the staff is only too aware that across town, the geeks at the Mac store are having a proper party, which they’ve not been invited to. They’re over-worked, underpaid and frighteningly odour-some in the late afternoons. A big scene kicked off whilst I was there, ‘cus all the staff in the backroom refused to come out to help the one member of staff on duty. It was apparently everyone else’s lunch hour. It wasn’t the sort of scene a customer should have been witnessing, but they plainly don’t give a stuff, or maybe I’d simply sat there so long downloading my music programme onto the new laptop, that they ceased to notice me. I’d just become part of the fixtures and fittings.
I managed a morning’s work at the cafe before all the problems kicked off. The place was buzzing. It’s Fair in the Square tomorrow, which means the good folk of Highgate will leave their 4 by 4s at home and race up to the village for an assortment of 1950s-inspired activities. No doubt there’ll be a fire engine for the kids to sit in, and 20 cake stalls being run by a revolving committee of 96 yummy mummies with way too much time on their hands. Unfortunately the weather is set for inclemency, which could mean the fancy dress competition turns into a cry-fest, because the little boy who’s been dressed from head to toe in newspaper has turned into papier-mache and the girl with the Wicked-style face has dripped green paint down her favourite bridesmaid dress.
It’s also exam season, and Channing School and Highgate School have sent their finest into the cafe to revise for various exams. A never-ending tide of posh young fillies occupied one of the sofas. Every time I looked up, a different cast of characters was cramming. “What is the national grid?” “Why is it potentially dangerous to live near an electricity pylon?” Whinnnnnyyyyy... Many were in fancy dress – probably not in readiness for the fete tomorrow, but because I suspect it might be the last day of exams today. I remember that feeling. It’s time for them to let their hair down and feel like grown-ups for the first time in their lives.
I came home from PC World and worked flat out from 4 o’clock until 9 and now my eyes have gone all watery and weird.
350 years ago, and Pepys was visited by his old friend, Charles Carter, who’d studied at Magdalene College with him. I’m informed that Carter, like me, was a Northamptonshire man, and became the rector of Irthlingborough – or Artlebrugh in 1664. 330 years later, I was regularly in that very village, revising for my dreaded A-level geography exam. Carter accompanied Pepys to Westminster, and then the latter went off for dinner with Lady Jemima at The Wardrobe. He then went home to oversee his painters, who were currently working on the stairs. In the evening, the Navy office personnel went to Sir William Pen’s house, and there stayed drinking ‘til almost midnight.