Aside from the living history, music and storytelling that we do with Pilgrims and Posies, I spend a good deal of time in character as Samuel Pepys, for school pupils exploring the Great Fire of London at Weaver Hall Museum. Whilst I wouldn't quite call him my alter ego, I have developed quite an interest and affection for Mr Pepys.
So I wandered from Covent Garden along Fleet Street and towards St Pauls, passing a couple of older buildings that had survived the Great Fire, and perhaps more miraculously later city developments. Tucked away off Fleet Street was the location of Sam's birthplace and childhood home on Salisbury Court, there is a plaque but nobody seems to notice it.
Then on past a great many more Wren churches and St Paul's itself. Emblematic of the city it may be, but I've never liked his style, no character or emotion at all to my mind, especially considering what was there before. The Great Fire may have swept away dirty cramped streets and crumbling churches, but with it lots of old tales and charm.
I paid a visit to the Museum of London, which has had several new galleries since I went a couple of years ago and very good they are too. When you do so much work on a theme like the Great Fire, it is wonderful to see original buckets, helmets, firehooks etc, even when you've seen them many times before. I resisted the urge to stop other visitors who were wandering by uninterested or dazed by the many thousands of treasures in the museum and tell them they should be looking at these. The new gallery exploring the Blitz had some photographs and memories playing that just stopped me in my tracks. These are tales, so horrific that only now are they starting to be told as those that lived through them approach the end of their time. Yes, there was a blitz spirit, but there was also a much much darker side. Go along to hear for yourself, I couldn't begin to do justice to the reminiscences.
Then I made my way over towards the seat of the Great Fire on Pudding Lane,
So, the city is much changed since Samuel Pepys' time, but there is still a lot he would recognise and for me it was a chance to get better acquainted with both the place and the man. Now, in two days time I will be donning the periwig once more for the first of thirty or so Great Fire of London workshops I'll be doing this autumn...