25 January, in the year of our Lord 2021
Up, and after breakfast and mopping up where the cat did make a puke (though there is always a patch I do not find for days), I abroad to collect for supper some food that I order’d in advance from our new Scottish Butcher and Master Purveyoure of Qalitie Meats, Game & Offle, and then take my Excercise for the day with a walk up the Lane. The Apothecary having took down his Nativity display, I spied in the window of his premices some fine new plants that he hath, of an oposite and decussate leaf and with a heavy pungeant fragrance, which when I inquired of him he did persuade me were sold to ease the miserie of the plague, and blandished me that a man of my botanicle mastery should find the cultivation of them well within my capabilitie.
‘They are a little costly,’ say I. ‘By what name do they go?’
‘Pityriasis rosea, I am told,’ says he, ‘as per the Label: “Aromatic, and having a pretty inflorescence, with a pink, rozay collarette”. I grew them myselfe, from some herbal seeds sold me by MacSporran, which he imports from abroad to use in a secret recipe to do with his new enterprise — though the price he asked was prodigeous.’
So I thought to buy one and, home, set it on a window sill where it will receive as feeble sun light as the winter months allow.
By and by comes Mr. M. Jones for supper, bearing sweetmeates in a box, for which I thank him.
‘They appear very fine,’ say I. ‘From where did you purchase them?’
‘They are rasberry and oat meal puddings from Aspynall’s in Brook Place, up the back of High Town,’ says he. ‘She hath an excellent reputacion.’
In a trace my eyes widen and I snatch the box from his hands.
‘A reputacion to rival Sweeney Todd!’ cry I. ‘It is rumored her businesse thrives on corpses dead of the plague! Only at Hallow’s Eve did she boast of makeing edible spongey fingers, with the blood still on them!’
‘Well, I payed a pretty penny for these,’ counters he, grabbing them back, ‘and am told that they are special for this very night, though I know not why. We should set them aside and think on it.’
‘Very well,’ say I, ‘for tonight is Burns Night and here in the oven I have cooked a Special Haggies from MacSporrans butcher shoppe. It hath been a dish of unprecedented popularitie, I should tell you: admired to such unusual measure by the youth of the city as to make it a sell-out! — though it is a fine thing to see young people use this time of Lock Up to improve their culinery skills. We shall have it with a potato, mashed — and with these, whatever they are…’
‘“Neeps, bashed to perfection”,’ reads Mr. Jones, none the wiser for examining the packageing. ‘“Pierce film and cook for four minutes at 1000W; stir halfway through.” I should have brought my bespoke Readie Meal film piercing set.’
Suspecting dry wit, I look at him askance. ‘Surely it is as easy to use a fork?’
He changes tack. ‘Burns Night, you say? I am not familiar with the celebration.’
‘Ah,’ say I, the while setting food on our plates and seating us to eat. ‘It is a Scots tradicion that commemorates Robert the Burns, a famose poet of Antiquitie, who together with his old acquaintance Lang Syne — whom he forgot most of time and then remember’d at New Year — once sat in an old reeky watching a spider called Bruce spin a tartan web, till they got fed up of it and baked it — together with a great beast that was cowering with them, all a-timorous — into the form of the very first Haggies, and dedicated the dish to the Restoration of King Stuart.’
‘I never cease to be amaz’d by your grasp of Historie,’ says Mr. Jones. ‘It does however taste a little chewy.’
‘You are still wearing your masque.’
And so, with a little strong water, golden of colour and distilled of scots Grain, we to merry discourse till our plates cleaned.
‘New plant?’ inquires Mr. Jones mildly, nodding toward my earlyer purchase.
‘That addle-brained Apothecarie sold it me,’ say I, happily. But the strong water must have took effect, for all I could do was to beam at it, for it seemed the most wondrous plant I had ever seen in my entire life. ‘I do like a nice pot plant.’
‘Well, that Haggies was delitefulle,’ says Mr. Jones, rousing himself from a light torpor, ‘though I must say that I feel a little more mellow than is usual for this time of night, even allowing for the strong water. You must allow me to side away the plates.’
I also begin to feel a little relaxed, and of unexpected good affect as I remove myself to sit beside the coal fire. After what seems like the whole evening but the clock says only half an hour I realise Mr. Jones hath not returned. I find him with an uncommon smile on his face, stood by my recicling bins in a gentle rain, gazing Heavenward.
‘Wow,’ says he. ‘The rain. I can feel every drop. Like, every single one on my head. It’s like — wow! You should stand here.’
Getting wetter suddenly seems very funny. Mr. Jones continues to stare into space. ‘Every drop. I can feel everyindyviddial drop — ’
There we stood in revery for an hour, it seemed, before inside to search out pudding and the hearth — though navigating the kitchen took forever, for it was a mile long, its corners as squiff as a badly made boat, and its floor up a-hill.
Mr. Jones snorts back another giggle. He is now seated on the floor, propped up by my high-backed chair. ‘These puddings from Aspynall’s are rather good,’ says he.
‘They are,’ say I. ‘I wonder who is in them?’ And we fall about in a fit of hilaritie.
Anon, Mr. Jones focuses with some effort on my new acquisicion. ‘It looks to me,’ says he, slowly and deliberately, ‘very much like that weed that Ben Jones grew amongst your bollackworts, and told you was a rare kind of tomato.’
‘Oh, yeah…It does…now you say it…Yeah.’
‘It’s so green.’
‘Yeah. It is. Really green.’
‘And you have a new patch on your carpet.’
‘Cat sick,’ say I, staring at it in fascination.
‘It’s so yellow.’
‘Yeah… It is. Really…really yellow.’