Sunday, 21 August 2011

This woman's work

It’s been a day of obsessive house-tidying. I woke up this morning and walked into the kitchen to find a mountain of dirty dishes, a bin that smelt of rotten fruit, and a table covered in piles of paper. It made me feel embarrassed and then sick. My new regime of early starts and productive days of writing starts again tomorrow, and it’s almost impossible to organise a messy mind like mine, when everything around you is in a state of shocking shambles. I started with the kitchen and worked through the house at lightning speed, throwing cloths into every corner, and wiping, polishing and washing floors and surfaces so thoroughly that a number of sponges simply disintegrated.  I was a whirling dervish, the super hero of clean, a one-man Cillet Bang. I'd built up such a sweat by lunchtime that I almost had to take a second bath.

We went to see brother Edward and Sascha this evening. Sascha made a fabulous lasagne and we watched the X Factor. We say it every year; that by the time this season ends, it will have snowed and we’ll have bought all our Christmas presents. And it is a weird thought. Summer, for most gay men starts with Eurovision and ends with the judges houses on the X factor!
The view of the Millennium dome from Edward and Sascha’s house was particularly pleasant today. As the sun set it became increasingly golden, and then slightly pink. It has to be one of the greatest views in London and I always rather take it for granted. After dark, the dome starts to glow magestically, and then all manner of boats and things pass in front of it, covered in little twinkly lights, which reflect perfectly in the black water of the Thames. I could sit on his balcony for hours watching them...

How many people have this view from their balcony?

Wednesday 21st August 1661, and Pepys went with his father to see a lady called Mrs Terry, who’d suggested her sister as a potential wife for Pepys brother, Tom. Marriage was a complicated business in those days, which in many cases was more about money than romance; the woman usually expected to come with dowry of some description – in this case, 200l. Pepys was keen. He didn’t think much of his siblings. His sister Pall was working as his servant because he considered her to be so undesirable, and Tom was a troubled bloke with a speech impediment, who would die from a sexually transmitted disease within a couple of years. He tended to prefer the company of servants and wasn't exactly a catch... so any offer was to be taken seriously. And in case you’re wondering, Pepys and Elizabeth were rare in the fact that they actually married for love. Elizabeth didn’t come with a dowry but Sam loved her too much to care.
Astonishingly, we also discover in this entry that Lady Sandwich had given birth to a little girl on the previous day. I don’t think I remember reading that she was even pregnant, and she certainly seemed to be going about her business without making a great deal of fuss! Mind you, she’d had about 10 children, so at a certain point, it must have felt a bit like shelling peas. She was 36 years old, and this child was her last, and went by the name of Catherine. She was blessed with longevity, and lived to the ripe old age of 96!

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