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Thunder during the night – a garden quote – a dead frog

26 May 1664

Up to the office, where we sat, and I had some high words with Sir W. Batten about canvas, wherein I opposed him and all his experience, about seams in the middle, and the profit of having many breadths and narrow, which I opposed to good purpose, to the rejecting of the whole business. At noon home to dinner, and thence took my wife by coach, and she to my Lady Sandwich to see her. I to Tom Trice, to discourse about my father’s giving over his administration to my brother, and thence to Sir R. Bernard, and there received 19l. in money, and took up my father’s bond of 21l., that is 40l., in part of Piggot’s 209l. due to us, which 40l. he pays for 7 roods of meadow in Portholme. Thence to my wife, and carried her to the Old Bayly, and there we were led to the Quest House, by the church, where all the kindred were by themselves at the buriall of my uncle Fenner; but, Lord! what a pitiful rout of people there was of them, but very good service and great company the whole was. And so anon to church, and a good sermon, and so home, having for ease put my 19l. into W. Joyce’s hand, where I left it. So to supper and to bed, being in a little pain from some cold got last night lying without anything upon my feet.

It’s worth remembering that Pepys was 31 years of age when he described physical symptoms that in the modern world people in their 50s and 60s would be complaining of. The average age expectancy was about 40 years of age in the 16th and 17th century but this figure was heavily skewed by the high levels of infant mortality. Pepys himself was 70 years of age when he passed into the heavenly realms so I don’t think he was that bothered by the statistics. I note that he carried his wife to the Old Bailey. It may be that she was not well but he does not discuss her health in great detail. Of course, ‘carry’ could refer to carriage but we shall never know.

More than a flash – a ‘burn’

There is a certain smug  satisfaction in lying warmly in bed and listening to the pouring rain, seeing the reflection of lightning on the bedroom wall and hearing the clap of thunder. The nearer the centre to the commotion the less the time between the flash and the clap. As bank holiday approaches, we would expect nothing less than a break in the weather.

It must be a nightmare if you are a restauranteur or pub owner to figure out how many extra staff to engage. I believe 20 million cars are going to be on the road today. I don’t really care if there are 20 million or 200 million because I’m not going anywhere. All I know is that roadworks, rail works and everything else are carefully timed to take place over the bank holiday, I suppose on the grounds that lost time for tourists is less of a disadvantage to the economy that lost time for business people.

I gave what I thought was a fair garden quote to a man who needed a 30 m hedge taken down to a certain level, who needed all the lawns repaired and a number of brambles removed. Brambles are the most pernicious beasts because they sneak in among shrubs and bushes and poke their heads up in the most un-symmetrical way. AND they are so ugly. The chap that I gave the quote for was a fine character but when I gave in the quote he admitted that he wasn’t so affluent as he used to be. That can be a euphemism for being completely broke. I can adopt a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude but I’m inclined to say to people in this situation that I will meet them halfway if there is any type of problem. We’ve left it that he thinks about my quote and tells me what he can afford it and I will do my best.

We have to function in an imperfect world. People are either short of money, or worried about the possibility of being short, and the amount of money they have to spend on other than necessities is very limited so I had to adopt good humour in this instance. The most difficult people to deal with are the rich because they want everything for nothing and will try to find any means for avoiding payment. I have found the less well-off people are the most generous; maybe there is a lesson there somewhere.

My wife being away visiting a friend, I spent some time reading about the history of coffee houses and was also in receipt of a book written by Ian Mortimer, “The Time Traveller’s guide to Restoration Britain”. I saw it advertised a few weeks ago for £20 when it first came out but I was loath to pay such a goodly sum so I decided to wait. Sure enough Amazon came to my rescue and a discounted hardcover book was available for a trifle over seven pounds.

this creature retains a certain dignity in death

Finally, a small mystery that appeared on my lawn today. A frog with rather long legs seems to have got tired of life and has decided to ascend to the heavenly fields, if indeed such lowly animals have such a place to go to. I have no such assumptions for myself knowing that’s where you end up after you have cast off your body is entirely due to your vectors of either caring for others or caring for yourself. And I had to ask (as one does) how did this frog get here? I found the corpse 2 m from the nearest pond. If it was on its last legs would it find the energy to go away from water? Was it picked up by a bird who decided it had no appetite or the meal not quite right for its digestive system? unlikely. Normally, animals know what is good for them otherwise they wouldn’t bother to waste the energy. Is this the start of one of the Plagues of Egypt? Was it a consequence of the very heavy rainfall last night? We shall never know. At least it maintained a certain dignity of pose in death.

Perhaps it was executing a pirouette.