Sunday, 15 January 2012

Clouds of dust

I sat on my bed this morning, transfixed by clouds of dust swirling in the air around me, glinting like specks of gold in the sunlight streaming through my window. We must spend our lives walking through giant storms of dust, breathing in rather large particles of skin, hair and tiny primitive creatures. The thought made me wince, but the sight was mesmerising. I could hear a wood pigeon humming and cooing outside, and for some seconds found myself transported back to a forgotten moment from my childhood. The sun went behind a cloud and the image disappeared before I could quite identify where it had come from...
Fiona and I walked to Kenwood House to meet Chloe and Orla; old Northamptonians and fellow string players (...well violists). They became our companions for the afternoon. The views from the heath today were stunning. The skyline of central London was semi-silhouetted and shrouded in grey mist. The Shard of Glass rising like a giant teepee. In the foreground, in the bright winter sunshine, the grass gleamed with frost, and the trees glowed a curious russet colour.

We were expecting to have lunch in the cafe at Kenwood, but it was over-flowing with revolting middle class families eating wholemeal scones, precocious children called Tarquin wrapped up in scarves and a chorus of yapping dogs (wearing tartan doggie coats).

We ambled instead to Highgate Village and piled into The Gatehouse pub - which does a ridiculously cheap and very tasty vegetarian roast dinner - before heading down the hill for a lovely walk in Highgate Woods as the temperatures plummeted towards zero again. Chloe’s daughter played for hours in the adventure playground, which is a lovely little spot.

Poor Chloe and James. They lost their baby two weeks ago are trying desperately hard not to allow their daughter to see too much of the sadness which must be absolutely crippling them. Life seems very unfair sometimes. Some people seem to have everything.

As the sun set, Fiona and I went to Brent Cross Shopping Centre; a terrible place, which seems to be made from nothing but concrete and plastic and peopled by Asians and Jews dressed up to the nines. We wanted to buy a DVD, but sadly the last record shop closed down in the mall a few months ago, which seems a most bizarre thing. I realise that everyone buys their music online these days, but the thought that a time would ever come when there would be no more record shops in the world would have hit my 10 year-old ELO-obsessed-self like an iron bar!

December 15th, 1662 found Pepys attending another composing lesson with John Birchensha, which ended with a lovely breakfast. They ate a collar of brawn, which is a ghastly thought. (The thought of a collar of anything gives me the heeby-geebies and simply forces me to imagine my own collar being sawed into.) After the two men had gorged themselves, they remembered, with horror, that Parliament had ordered everyone to fast that day “to pray for more seasonable weather; it having hitherto been summer weather, that it is, both as to warmth and every other thing, just as if it were the middle of May or June, which do threaten a plague (as all men think) to follow, for so it was almost the last winter; and the whole year after hath been a very sickly time to this day.” That there was ever a time when the Parliament could order everyone to fast is strange enough, but surely the 1660s were famous for being the start of the mini ice-age? Where were the famous fairs on the iced-over Thames? Maybe that was the 1680s?

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