It's probably not entirely normal to say this, but Samuel Pepys is my hero.
I have a deep and abiding fascination with Restoration London, perhaps in no small part to his descriptions... but then, perhaps I have the interest in Pepys because he happened to be there are a fascinating time in history. I have yet to work this part out. Either way, when I moved to London I was delighted to find out my workplace was within easy wandering distance of a lot of the places he lived and worked, and I have spent quite a few happy lunch hours wandering around, looking at St Brides and Seething Lane and St Pauls. It has, if anything, possibly heightened my interest in Pepys.
I would like to be like Pepys, except perhaps without the copious extra-marital affairs or that time he was locked in the Tower. I identify with him, too – he came from a humble background, got a leg up due to cleverness honed with education, and was a skilled and talented administrator. I'd like to be like that, ideally with some of the massive success that is due at about this age, actually.
One of reasons Pepys and I differ, however, is that Pepys was an amazing diarist. We all know this. The plaque on the site of his birth saddens me, as I don't think that's now he would want to be remembered, but his skills of observation are unsurpassed. I'm managing to blog about twice a month, although my excuse is that Pepys didn't have interesting stuff to watch on the telly to distract him.
Anyway, Pepys would often go and have a nosey at interesting sights on London streets. Imagine my opportunity when they announced the route for Thatcher's funeral going more or less past my work? I could blog about that!
In the end, though,I didn't watch the funeral. There are two reasons for that: firstly, I had no desire to actually get involved in the thing, as I dislike the woman thoroughly and didn't want to be seen praising her, but I also had no desire to get involved in the protesting as I do think it was a little distasteful. Also, it was my turn to look after the switchboard.
Instead, on my walk to work from the Tube, I took a detour along some of the route. I lost count of police at 52, and to my secret gratification I saw Jon Snow, although not in a jolly tie for obvious reasons. More confusing was the large amount of quite jolly people out, taking the day as another cheery day in London, posing for foreign reporters. It all contrasted a little with the scary signs of the state -all of the Boris bikes were gone, no traffic on normally busy roads, police everywhere, and vehicle blocking equipment down every side street. It was quite good to get into work, in the end.
Where I sit in work I have no view of the main streets, but I could hear the noise in the backgrounds. Military bands played, and more ominously the helicopters roared over constantly for a good few hours. BBC News 24 was on the office TV and it was weird to see the streets we worked on full of all the fanfare. (A waste of public money, might I add.)
On my lunch, after the funeral was over, I had a wander up to St Pauls. The streets were still very busy, and I was mystified by the amount of people with sandwiches and little folding chairs. This was the funeral of someone who was – at the end of the day and indeed her life – a public citizen. It shouldn't have been a national event, and I'm a little bemused that it was. Still, at St Pauls I was pleased to see someone giving a lecture that sounded a lot like one of the lectures from The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist. More alarming was all of the police going off duty in the direction of Old Bailey – I have literally never seen so many in one place.
It was, basically, a weird day. In the end I went out for a drink after work – and why not? It was remarkably quiet, given the amount of office workers who had the day off. That's a fair indictment of Thatcher right there – given I work in one of the few areas she wasn't having a good go at crushing, it's ironic a lot of us got some time off, therefore reducing productivity.
This write up has mostly convinced me that I am no Pepys – so now to bedd, for my head is aking.