Samuel Pepys’ diary 9th May 1664
Up and to my office all the morning, and there saw several things done in my work to my great content, and at noon home to dinner, and after dinner in Sir W. Pen’The smoking is bads coach he set my wife and I down at the New Exchange, and after buying some things we walked to my Lady Sandwich’s, who, good lady, is now, thanks be to God! so well as to sit up, and sent to us, if we were not afeard, to come up to her. So we did; but she was mightily against my wife’s coming so near her; though, poor wretch! she is as well as ever she was, as to the meazles, and nothing can I see upon her face. There we sat talking with her above three hours, till six o’clock, of several things with great pleasure and so away, and home by coach, buying several things for my wife in our way, and so after looking what had been done in my office to-day, with good content home to supper and to bed. But, strange, how I cannot get any thing to take place in my mind while my work lasts at my office. This day my wife and I in our way to Paternoster Row to buy things called upon Mr. Hollyard to advise upon her drying up her issue in her leg, which inclines of itself to dry up, and he admits of it that it should be dried up.
We of the 21st-century are comparatively free from infectious diseases and it does no harm to remind ourselves that people were afraid of contact with each other – and with good reason. For example, the Great Plague took 68,596 in London in 1665 but of course Pepys was unaware of this future event. Anyway, I’m sure you’re not much interested in that so we now proceed to the main business of my diary.
We had a day free of obligations today, and normally I get inspiration about where to go and it always seems to work out well. Today was an exception. No inspiration came and I knew I was waiting for something. What it was I did not know. All we had decided was to take advantage of the good weather and go for a walk. At 1.30PM the phone rang,and I knew why I did not get inspiration. I needed to be in for that call which was about a large gardening job in Shepton Mallett which is about 10 miles away. It happened to be near where we wanted to go for our walk.
So now the day is clear and everything has clicked into place. We go for a walk, do the things we need to do in Shepton Mallet, and go and visit our new customer who sounded very nice and on our wavelength. This will pay the bills for a few weeks all being well. Only one thing bothers me. The lady has stipulated that we work for four days each subsequent Friday. I do hate being controlled and being told how long a job will last. We have never quoted an hourly rate as we work without breaks far harder than the average gardener so if I did charge £20 p.h. I would diddle* myself, as we say in the UK.
*From a character called James Diddler, a character in a farce “Raising the Wind” (1803) who constantly borrowed and failed to repay small sums of money.
We visited the garden concerned and there is indeed a lot of work to do including the felling of three trees. At the age of 72, I have to be a bit careful about how I utilise my physical strength which although is well up to standard if not beyond, the resilience is not what it was. At the time of Samuel Pepys, 72 years of age would have been seen as very senior and venerable but now I don’t regard anyone as old until they are 80. So, the idea of three score years and 10 is now redundant.
PS I eventually decided not to remove the tree. It is about 5 m tall and my insurance does not cover me. The wood is very heavy and is leaning over at an unfortunate angle. Having had one bad accident in the last six months, I don’t intend to have another one. I shall quote for the rest of the job.
Would you believe the country with the highest life expectancy is Monaco at over 89 years, and the lowest is Chad at around 50 years. Monaco beats Japan by five years. UK is about the same as USA, 80 years. I guess it’s quality not quantity that matters. Monaco is a very small country where people can afford to be pampered and looked after, the average citizen is very rich indeed so a they can afford the latest and greatest. With Japan I guess it is reverence for the old, very good food and a meditative lifestyle.
During the afternoon we visited the local park in Shepton Mallett, Collett Park, and I was very impressed by the quality of attention given to detail.
You can tell when something is loved a mile off and this was a good example. Here follow a couple of images. One is of the park itself and one is of the field adjacent to the park.