Friday, 3 February 2012

And so the cold weather continues...

It's been one of those rather endless days. I was up fairly early and working in the cafe by 10. I'm trying to whip the Fleet Singer’s memories into some kind of coherent narrative. As always, the problem with real stories and memories is that they’re rarely blessed with a through-line. Life is just a little bit too random. This is the predominant reason why biopics tend to underwhelm. Nevertheless, I've put all the texts I’ve been sent into a massive time line – starting with the earliest and ending with the most recent, and am slowly whittling them down. It feels a little like I'm carving something without really knowing what. It's a heartbreaking process. Sometimes I find myself having to cut a really brave piece of writing or something which really speaks to me. But, as Sir Arnold Wesker used to say, sometimes you have to kill your darlings. The bigger picture is more important than the constituent parts, however beautifully written they are. So I've killed many  darlings and am painfully aware that at least another 50% will have to go before I’m done.

Today is Philippa's birthday so I ambled over to the Hackney Hood to give her a little devil's glass vase which I'm convinced she needs to hang in a window. We had a little green devil’s glass hanging in the sitting room window for most of my childhood. My mother was very superstitious about it. I once managed to pull it down from its green woollen holder. If there’s something to be fiddled with, I'll usually fiddle with it until it's broken. I broke a wall chart at Philippa’s today, and then managed to pull the back off a little hair grip, which I didn’t own up to. Anyway, when the devil’s glass fell into my hand as a ten-year old child, I didn’t want my Mum to think I’d been fiddling again, so told her it simply fell from the string unaided. She freaked out, worrying, no doubt that the angel of doom was descending on the family. Seeing the genuine fear in her eyes, I felt obliged to tell the truth.  

All was well with the Goslett-Emerys. Goddaughter Deia was suitably chirpy and eccentric, greeting me with a lion's roar, which she told me wasn’t a lion, or a tiger, or a bear, or a koala or a funny little elephant. “So what are you, Deia?” I said. “Daddy says I’m a nut.” She replied. We ate a blackberry crumble birthday cake from Marks and Spencer's, played a game involving cards which looked like plates of food, and chatted merrily. Philippa had just had her hair cut and looked stunning; like a glamorous actress from the 1970s.

350 years ago marked the 3rd anniversary of Sir William Penn’s marriage and there was much mirth in the Navy office. To tell you the truth, Pepys’ account of the day is so charming, that I’m going to let the words come from him:

Among other froliques, it being their third year, they had three pyes, whereof the middlemost was made of an ovall form, in an ovall hole within the other two, which made much mirth, and was called the middle piece; and above all the rest, we had great striving to steal a spooneful out of it; and I remember Mrs. Mills, the minister’s wife, did steal one for me and did give it me; and to end all, Mrs. Shipmann did fill the pye full of white wine, it holding at least a pint and a half, and did drink it off for a health to Sir William and my Lady, it being the greatest draft that ever I did see a woman drink in my life.

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