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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Pepys peeping

9 February. Thence to the Change and to the Sun behind it to dinner with the Lieutenant of the Tower and Coll. Norwood and others - what strange pleasure they seem to take in their wine and meat and discourse of it with the curiosity and joy that methinks was below men of worth. Thence home and there very much angry with my people.......And so to bed.'

No, Granny has not changed location and prose style nor is she castigating foodies of her own time - she wouldn't dare considering the time she and Beloved spend discussing menus etc. On 9th February 2006 she has gone back 460 years and is quoting that diarist of diarists - progenitor of all of us - Samuel Pepys. Progenitor too, you could say of all those childhood diaries - 'got up had breakfast, went to school, came home, did homework, went to bed.' No reflections except by inference, in passing. on current wars, state of morality, women's lot, his soul, etc etc the kind of things we indulge in - just literal daily record. Even if his daily goings on did involve such things as going to watch the hanging drawing and quartering of the odd regicide - 'looking as cheerfully as any man could do in that condition' - it is still surprising that it remains so rivetting. Granny, having brought the Penguin edition back from England, having been dipping into it lately before going to sleep can assure you that it is rivetting. She wonders why. Partly of course it is the distance in time. Here this man is 400 odd years ago, yet just like us; eating drinking sleeping, working complaining about the state of his bowels, his eyes, his skin, wondering at his relationship with his wife, shamefacedly if graphically putting his amatory activities into pidgen French and Spanish - and all of it stuff we'd recognise and identify with, much more than we might his reflections on the Iraqs of the time - and other such problems. Probably it's why we read each other too with such interest- from one side of the world to the other we puzzle on, along and about just the same things, in different mode, different styles, ironically, comically, soulfully, seriously. A bit like house-hunting - part of the fascination with which, amid the tedium, is the brief window into other people's life; so like, at the same time, often, so utterly unlike our own.

Enough; to the tedium/interest or whatever Granny can offer of her day to day life. Mainly this week it is all about the weather. All the forecasts have been blethering on about wanted, so-far unarrived rain; all of them showing little clouds with drops falling from them,. What rain? But then they never do get this one right; the wind on its shift round to the south and south west, from where the rain comes, sticks east or south east quite without warning. But when it does it brings as now the 'calima', the high dry desert wind, straight from the Sahara, drying up everything, instead of soaking it, though cold at this time of year. Hiding everything in a fog of dust, covering all surfaces, making your eyes prickle. It also whips up the sea. The reality of island life makes itself plain when the soaking liquid for Granny's contact lenses - she needs it urgently - does not arrive because the boat bringing it from another island cannot dock owing to the 'bad weather'. Down at the port end of the main resort yesterday - Granny's course takes place there - even the tourists had resorted to jackets. Usually their pale skins are paraded past in a bare minimum of covering, making strange contrast with the fleeces, anoraks, polo-necked sweaters of the mostly sun-tanned 'alumni' - pupils - of the Spanish language courses when, between classes, they stand outside the lofty, cold and damp classrooms in which they work grubbing up a little bit of light and sun.

Not that the tourists don't feel the cold sometimes. In consequence of the visiting friends from England, staying in the complex at the far end of the resort, Granny has learned that all of these complexes have stone floors, that none of these are covered by the smallest rug and that there is no heating of any kind. The holiday rep rang up the friends at home the night before they were due to leave to urge them to bring 'warm slippers.' They went to the nearest pharmacist soon after arrival in search of a hot water bottle - a hot water 'bag' in Spanish it turns out; their phrase book hadn't covered any such thing. 'There's been a run on them,' he said. 'This is the last one.' Memo to tourists - bring hot-water bottles, shawls as well as slippers, alongside the sun cream and bathing costumes.

And now this; dust, wind, blowing them off their feet. . As she said to her friends on Tuesday night - very kindly they took Granny and Beloved out to dinner - 'you've seen the island in its true self.' It didn't seem to put them off. They even claimed to love it, despite the cold floors, feet, beds. Masochists, all - most - Brits.

Granny - doing a Pepys; he was always painstakingly precise - will tell you that she has made three cakes this week, baked a batch of biscuits, had the broken loo in her bathroom fixed - Mr Handsome reappeared, shamefaced, on Monday - done several loads of washing, cleaned out the cat tray several times, done a lot of Spanish homework. Beloved meantime has been cooking rabbit, squid etc for the freezer, made and printed out a list of bar prices, all of this in aid of the visitors to come next month. Both of them have been discussing menus. They also, naturally, 'so'd themselves to bed' the requisite number of times.

She has also been outed by one of the 'profesors' as she fumbled through her papers, dropped them on the floor, etc etc in fruitless search for a piece of homework she was supposed to have done for him. 'You must be so disorganised because you are a writer, P...' Granny - terminally disorganised - has made use of this excuse all her life. She's not so entirely sure she likes having it flung in her face. Despite being reasonably good at Spanish grammar she's assuming the all too familiar role of class buffoon/idiot; obviously. She'd forgotten this inevitable aspect - even at her age you cannot escape such parts of yourself it seems -of going back to school.

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