27 May, in the year of our Lord 2020
Up very betimes, thinking anew of my eyes and of my writing this Blogge, it being for my sight that I did forbear my Diarie in the first place. To my friend’s cat, a distraction, which was not there at all yesterday from breakfast till bedtime and I did search several times and call him, but this morning upright on a chair all innocent.
By return past the Physician’s, the door still locked for the hour earlie, but the same urchin in soiled clothes and a filthy cap squatting by the wall.
‘I’m ’oping he might gimme a job,’ says he, ‘since he sacked the other guy for putting all his feathers in a bin.’
‘I think that unlikely.’ But then I had a thought. ‘What are you doing for the next few days? I have a proposition.’
By dinner, packed, my private carriage prepared, the horses fed, I to drive and the urchin to sit beside me, the weather fine and warm with no hint of rain and I merrie, for not out in my carriage for some weekes. ‘Right,’ I said, ‘we shall off. Remember what I told you.’
And so by the streets to the edge of the City and beyond, making good time through the afternoon, the leaves green and the roads firm for the lack of rain. Of a sudden, a bend and a constable from nowhere, emerged from the roadside trees and beckoning us to stop.
‘Good afternoon, sir,’ he addressed me, and wandered with some nonchalance around us. We down from our perch.
‘Is this your carriage, sir?’
‘It is, constable, and of as fine craftsmanship as any in London, as I think you will find.’
‘Has it been in use of recent weekes? Your offside axle looks a little worn.’
‘Really? Well, I will have it looked at when we reach our destination. May we — ?’
‘And your destination is — where, exactly, sir?’
‘The north. I propose to stay with friends in Durham.’
‘A fine city, sir, and a remarkable cathedral, I am told — sitting above the River Wear, if I am not mistaken. But you may be aware, sir, that the First Lord of the Treasury has issued Rules regarding travel. Are you aware of those Rules, sir?’
‘Erm, I am, though like many I find them difficult to — ’
‘May I ask what is the purpose of your journey to the north, sir? The reason you must drive so far?’
‘Of course, constable. I fear for my sight and have read that there is in the north a fine and worthy Physician in Diseases of Vision and the Ocular Apparatus — ’
‘And yet I find you driving a carriage. I put it to you, sir: How would you feel if you were to meet coming the other way a person driving a carriage who feared for their sight? Can you think of any occurance that might occur?’
‘Well, yes, it would be — ’
‘ — a very dangerous occurance, sir, is that not so?’ He looked askance at the urchin. ‘And who is this?’
‘I am the son, sir,’ recited he. ‘I am here upon this carriage for there is none to look after me in town, sir, hence we must ride together, I with my father, or I shall die and this is now permitted under the Rules for there has become a President — ’
‘Precedent — ’
The constable brought matters to a halt with a hand and turned his gaze to me. ‘The boy’s name?’
‘Thom — ’
‘ George!’ piped up the boy.
‘And his age?’
‘Elev — ’
‘And have you stopped at any point so far to — say, for example — water the horse?’
‘At Borehamwood! We stopped for a piss, Mr Peeps. You said it was your stone — ’
‘I see,’ said the constable, heavily. He thrust into the urchin’s hands a leaflet. ‘Can you read out what that says?’
‘I cannot read or write, sir.’
Now vexed, I from over the boy’s shoulder read out loud and without pause, for this was taking precious time: ‘The Law of the Land in Respecte of Plague Restrictions issued by the First Lord of the Treasury states that no person must travel abroad — ’
‘You seem to be able to read that without any trouble, sir. Perhaps you would now like to read this?’ He thrust into my own hand another text.
‘You are in contravention of the Law relating to Travel at a Time of Plague,’ I read, ‘and, consequent upon this, subject to a Fine of Ten Guineas, payable to a constable at any of the following — ’ and with it a folded map of the City where ‘Paye Here’ marked on various streets.
We back late and I hungry.
‘The bit about dying wasn’t in the script.’
‘Artisistic licence,’ mumbled the urchin, his mouth full.
‘I was going to suggest fish and chippes. What are you eating?’
He shewed me an empty canvas nosebag. ‘Best not let it go to waste, I thought, since we ain’t going to Durham. Anyway, the chippies are shut. Non-essential, Mr Peeps.’
We drew up. ‘Right, well, here’s where you get off.’
The urchin replaced his filthy cap and jumped down. ‘Can I have a reference?’
‘Yes! I ’elped you and I need a leg up. You could ’elp me find a job! I can put today on my CV.’
‘Look, you’ve had a day out. Next time, cut the improv. Here’s a shilling. Bugger off.’
After a meagre supper from the ice container, I did ruminate on the frustration of my day and compared it to the comings and goings of some in this land. And so, after a long day and owing ten guineas for nothing, to bed.