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Nursing a Hangover - 10am, 7 April (open)

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He had been in London a touch over 24 hours and already it felt like an age. All the activity of the foregoing hours made up more than a month’s worth of adventures back in Somerset. Perhaps that is why people who lived in London aged and expired faster than others? The candle burnt brighter and faster. Thus far he had met a mischievous colonial mammal, conversed with some of the court’s great wits and trespassed in a royal park after hours. He had spent and drunk freely, both in equal measure and so, when he awoke that morning, in the unfamiliar surroundings of his new lodgings, it was almost enough to cause him to groan and roll straight back over. However, that was not the way  to face the challenged of the city. Nor was his manservant’s valiant attempts at coffee. The lukewarm, mud-like gunk that he served up from a dirty coffee pot was enough to set his stomach churning. As he went to go lay out his master’s clothes, Edmund (oddly a sop to the fellow’s feelings despite his fecklessness and lower social station) tactfully tipped the contents of the cup out of the window.


In such circumstances a stroll, a smoke and some retail therapy was the best cure for post-drinking malaise. He was conscious that he would need to pay a courtesy visit to his father, the Earl, at some stage. If only, perhaps, to forewarn him about the bills he may shortly receive. He had scribbled a note the previous day to tell him that he had complied with his orders and had come to London and had half expected a summons to have arrived by now. The fact there was none was almost as alarming as there being one. As his manservant dressed him for the day he made the mental note to cease worrying on that front. The Earl of Winscombe knew where he was and, surely, sooner or later would make his presence known in his son’s life. The effect was unlikely to be pleasant and therefore putting it off would be no problem.


The day was overcast and still a little blustery. Learning his lesson from yesterday, he did not bother with a hat today and instead braced himself against the Spring chill with a faux-military style green jacket, laced with red piping and thick red cuffs and lapels. The mood in the city was sufficiently militaristic to warrant a foray into soldierly fashion. Fortunately those he saw would not realise that this was an old number from last year’s provincial season which the anonymity of his new arrival and changed scenery allowed a resurrection of sorts for old clothing.


The Strand remained the timeless hub of elite consumerism. Great nobles houses nestled cheek by jowl with fashionable hubs of indulgence. The finest tailors, the best alehouses, the choicest restaurants. With his manservant a respectable distance behind him, he strolled up and down the length of the street several times, stopping every now and again to peer into the small window displays of those shops which offered them up. He avoided the awkwardness of entering only to browse and then leave due to a lack of coin in his pocket. Browsing without buying was always an insufferable tease and he hated turning harlot to his own desires. Better to come back and splurge merrily when he had come into a little coin. It was too soon to litter the town with IOUs and start a collection of angry creditors. Save that for a week or two at least.


After an hour or so of walking and avoiding the steadily growing press of traffic, pedestrian and vehicular, Edmund decided to rest his legs and warm himself in one of the many coffeehouses that clustered along the street in small gaggles like grapes on a vine. He opened the door and stepped into the pleasing warm fug of the main room, smelling of firewood and coffeebeans, mixed with the faint tang of ink. “What news?” came the usual, traditional coffee-house greeting. With nothing to offer, Edmund gave an apologetic shrug and what little interest many of the patrons had fleetingly offered the new arrival promptly passed and they returned to their activities. Edmund settled himself on a vacant table by the window, half obscured by condensation, and a serving boy quickly hurried over with a china dish and a steaming pewter pot of coffee. Edmund left a coin on the table sufficient to buy his stay for a few hours and took a hesitant sip of the steaming brew. His relief at it being the world better than his servant’s witches brew was palpable. He drew across a well thumbed daily newssheet and tried to engage with its articles on the recent debates in the Lords but found himself reading the same lines over and over again, unable to penetrate the erudite discussion on who had said what blah, blah, blah. He flipped it over, hoping there may be some lurid tales of scandal somewhere. Perhaps he would feature in these one day? Eventually he gave up even this and instead sat, people-watching out of the window, his mind building all forms of castles in the sky.

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