Samuel Pepys Christmas Day Walk
25th December (Yes, Christmas day!).
“In the morning very much pleased to see my house once more clear of workmen and to be clean, and indeed it is so, far better than it was that I do not repent of my trouble that I have been at.
"In the morning to church, where Mr. Mills made a very good sermon. After that home to dinner, where my wife and I and my brother Tom (who this morning came to see my wife’s new mantle put on, which do please me very well), to a good shoulder of mutton and a chicken.
"After dinner to church again, my wife and I, where we had a dull sermon of a stranger, which made me sleep, and so home, and I, before and after supper, to my lute and Fuller’s History, at which I staid all alone in my chamber till 12 at night, and so to bed.”
That is the entry for Christmas 1660 as recorded by Samuel Pepys, author of the most famous diary in English literature. The diary wasn’t written for publication. It was a personal record, created in shorthand and not even translated until early in the 19th century.
And how lucky for us that it was, for this is one of the most entertaining and joyful autobiographical records ever kept - thanks to the quality of the writing, the little anecdotes (they're like plums in a Christmas pudding!) , the illuminating profiles, the indiscretions, the insults and - tying it altogether - the warmth of Pepys’s personality.
Pepys was a civil servant and bon viveur who lived at an intriguing time in British history. He saw the King, Charles I, executed (it’s possible it wasn’t the King, as will be "revealed" on the walk…!); the monarchy abolished and restored by public acclaim; the Plague rage and the Fire burn. He watched as another King was forced out for being a Catholic. He ate heartily, drank merrily and indulged lustily, and always with a smile on his face, even when he had kidney stones removed without anaesthetic. Okay perhaps not when having kidney stones removed without anaesthetic.
Now we can follow in the great man’s footsteps to celebrate Christmas morning with a walk around the Westminster he knew. And who's to say? Maybe we'll end, as Pepys himself recorded on 25th December 1667, with “some good ribs of beef roasted and mince pies.” Now hand on heart, chances are your guide won't be able to go quite that far. But he can promise some tasty morsels of stories to whet your appetite for Christmas dinner. Meet Richard III
and Mark and Simon
at 11 am by the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square