25 September, in the year of our Lord 2020
Up, finding our beds good, which is I and my father, having a good sleep at our inn The Scurvy Scouser, two star, where we came last night in a coach hired, very dear, and the journy three days in the making of it; and after a handsome breakfast, for I of elvers with raw egg and a draught of beer, and for my father a Weetabix Weevil Special, paid reckoning, 1l 4s. 3d., servants 3s., extra weevils 6d., thence forth by coach to the Hospitalle, by appointment for the Covey test. I did find the city of Liverpuddle to be not as I expected it, a very fine port on a great river, though with some squalid streets, and raucous of a night with debauchery in taverns with names to conjure pleasure or advantage, such as The Shanghai or the Ne’er Seen Againe; but Lord, all the people discoursing in a way I could not fathom and wondered if I were still in England.
We in our coach to a court yard at the appointmented hour, which was noon.
‘It is apparentlie a drive-thru service,’ say I loudlie to my father, for he is curs’d by a profound deafnesse and heares nothing. ‘The instructions were to ring them when we got here. Have you the bell?’
‘What?’ bellows he in return.
‘There is no need to shout! It is not I who is deaf. The bell!’
‘I thought you had it,’ shouts my father across the carriage; so we discovere we have lost it, which vexes me.
‘Wind the window down!’ say I gesticulating with irritable affect, whereupon I lean out and call: ‘Ring! Ring, ring— ! Ding! Ding-aling-aling — !’, which was to effect, for came a man in the trousers and blue tunic, short in the sleeve, of a nurse, from a door, who comes to us with clipboard and a bag of feathers of assorted size.
‘Orright, orright, ’erd yez the ferst time. Worrisit?’
‘I beg your pardon?’ say I. ‘My father has an appointment at twelve a’clock for a Covey test.’
‘’Old yer ’orses!’ says he. ‘Er, literally, like!’ he upbraids the coachman, as the horses relieve themselves on the cobbles and he takes a quick step backwards. ‘These’re new shoes, these! Only ’ad ’em a weeke.’ And then to us: ‘Rite! Ah’ve gorra list ’ere. Wha’ name is it?’
‘Pepys. With a y.’
‘With a why?’ he asks, looking at me as if I am thick. ‘’Cos I need to know yer name, that’s why. Soft lad.’
‘It is spelled with a — . Never mind.’
He frowns at his clip Board. ‘Er, sorry, pal, I ’aven’t gorra Peeps on me list. I’ve gorra Popups. That’ll do, won’t it? Popups, Peeps, Peepsie…close enuff, eh?’ says he, cheerily. ‘This yer dad, then?’
‘It is indeed my father, if that is what you are asking,’ say I, feeling I need a phrase book.
‘’Ow old is ’e, then, yer dad?’
‘Would it be possible for you to speak more slowly? I find your patois nigh impenetrable.’
He addresses my father: ‘Swallowed a dickshon’ry, ’as ’ee, yer son?’; and then me: ‘’Ow. Old. Is — ?’
‘He is a little over ninety years,’ say I, having worked it out. ‘Now, if we might — ?’
‘Nine–tee? God, ’e’s lookin’ grate, iz’nee? ’Ow old are you, then?’
‘Three hundred and eighty-seven.’
‘Reelly? You don’t look a day over seventy. Must be the wig. Nice tee shert, by the way. Me favourite culler. Perple.’
‘Aubergine. Can we just get on with the — ?’
‘’Ober jean? That’s like one of them posh veg, iz’nit? Youse not from round ’ere, then?’
‘We are from very far affield. We will not see home for three days and nights.’
He turns again to my father and takes a feather in his hand. ‘’Ere we go, mate, we’ll ’ave this done in a jiff. Open wide — ’
‘ — an’ another up yer nose and we’re dun.’
‘Grate! All done and dustered. So, worrappens is tha’ we send the result to yer own docter. Is tha’ — ’ (he checks his list) ‘ — “The Physician”? That’s a bit generrick, iz’nit? Any road, given where yez live it’ll take yonks. Maybe longer. We ’ad a bloke coupler weekes ago from your necker the woods: took six months.’ At that moment something seemed to occur to him. ‘Are yer shore they didn’t mean Liverpuddle Street?’ I blinked and processed that suggestion and the previous mathematics. Then leaned he towards our open window and regarded me with narrowed eyes. ‘Acksherly, didn’ I see you comin’ out the The Mermaid’s Bush last night? Down Hangover street? Yer luked like yer were ’avin’ a right auld time, doin’ a bi’ o’ cavortin’ ’n’ that! Yer wouldn’t beleeve there’s s’posed to be a bloody kerfew.’
‘I do not understand a word you say,’ say I, reddening and hastily drawing up the carriage window. ‘Thank you for your time.’
‘You told me you had an earlie night,’ says my father as our coach draws away.
‘How come you heard that?’ mutter I.
‘I think I have the louse,’ says he.
And so home.