The Orrery

26 May, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up, and saw from my window up stairs a buzzard upon a fence post, which contented me much at breakfast. After, some correspondence from Sir Alex. Anstey, that I worked with, that he is moved to the Bath, his wife with him, his daughter in Poole, so between them they can swim a lot. Thence by coach to Whitehall, seeing a great dark plume ris above its roof, where were many comings and goings, and a great throng, and much smoke that comes from a Committee room. And one there says to me that the First Lord of the Treasurie and the Secretary for the Plague hath been badly injured by some incendiery acts of the man which went to Durham, and hath now wroke revenge.
   Back on foot by Cheapside, where by surprise I did come upon the pillory, and in it Mr. Jas. MacSporran, which startled me, who was stood there for his misdemeaners. And they have thrown cabbages at him, and slops they would put in a cesspit, and though my detaynement would not have arose save for his action, which I rue, and though our relacions are worsened from the deed, I did feel a sorryness for him that is greater than I did think to feel, and the feeling closed around me and disturbed me.
   After dinner I went to the Apothecary to buy a cake of Castile soap, but on spying the Physicians premices open, thence across the lane, where I did find the Physician in his back room, wearing no less than two pairs of eye glasses, and on the frame of one of them, fixed with a with a clip and a metal arm, a watchmakers lens also, as if he had made his own Microscope and set it upon his nose, and he crouched in a great concentracion of mind at a table where [he] adjusted a delicate mechanism with some fine tools.
   ‘That is an admirable contryvance,’ say I.
   He did not take his eyes off the job and continued to tinker.
   ‘It is an Orrery. These globes here…revolve around this globe here…which is the Sun. It is driven by the workings of a clock and an array of cogs, and this — ’ (whereupon he tapped the larger of two small globes on brass sticks, the smaller attached to the larger so as to circle around it) ‘ — is our little world, on which we make our little lifes. Have you come with aught in mind?’
  ‘Naught save that I am come via Cheapside from Whitehall, where there is a great Eruption, with much smoke and the windows blackened, as if another Fawkes hath lit another keg within, and there is much talk of a great harm to the Gouvernement from it, for their management of the plague.’
   ‘I saw that coming,’ says he. ‘It is no surprise. Their ranks will close in the manner of all who govern, to limit the damage and protect the body Politic. And they will go on the offensive to divert attack and diflect accusation. But I suspect it is Cheapside that weighs more on your mind.’
   At which paused I, considering how to go. ‘Cheapside makes me ill at ease.’
   The Physician continued to tinker, a-justing his watchmans lens. ‘Cheapside, where is pilloried my former surly aide, our tetchy butcher and your one-time friend. Is that not true?’
   ‘It is true. A man whose actions saw me gaoled.’
   ‘A man whose actions saw him ruined.’
   ‘A man who tests my amity to its utmost.’
   ‘A man whose flaws are bared for all the world to see.’
   Whereupon the Physician set aside his watch repairman’s lens, and his eyeglasses one after the other on the table, and rubbed his reddened eyes. Then did he push himself back in his chair, and gaze upon the wall before him, which he doth without a focus, as if speaking his thoughts to him selfe alone.
   ‘I know what preys your mind. You are asking yourselfe the worth of a friendship tested,’ says he, gently. ‘But by his own doing our friend hath left himself naught save such a friendship, and knows it. Take away that and all he hath left is gone. He may cease to exist. Many will be compassionate. Compassion is not a rare coin. But a person in crisis needs more than compassion. They need help to see they can be courageous; to see they can be resilient; to see that they need not be crushed. It is a foolish man who hurrys to judge another, for we are not given to see the entirety of things. And when we are shown it, we may choose not to believe it. People believe the Sun to orbit the Earth because of what they observe, but do not pause to consider what they would observe if the Earth were to orbit the Sun.’ Thereupon tapped he the mechanism before him. ‘This arrangement describes our world in clockwork, Pepys. But its circles are fixed, indifferent. It doth not explain our substance. It doth not explain our lifes. It doth not explain our faults, and it doth not forgive our failures. Those are to our conscience and our values. Those are down to us. And of all things, Sam, a friendship is a generosity. It is not a transaction. It is for the wealth of the soul.’
   So the Physician returned to the precision of his work and we said no more, and after a while I quietly moved to leave. And after, I to my garden, wherein my work is to the great good of it, though I must have a care for the stitches that there are still in my finger, which makes me to think I must not do too much in the rooting out of cleavers, or goose grass, where there is a lot. For supper comes Mr. M. Jones and with him Mr. Redz. Holyfield, who did bring some China food, and we eat it with a pint or two of wine, and all merry with discourse of the discomfit of the First Lord and his Covey lieutenant, and what they will reply when they have slept on it. Mr. Holyfield tells us he is to star in a play, I think it is, they are making about cooking cakes, which is in the form of a Competicion with others, to judge their prowess in the skills of bakery, and he will be on the magick screen in November, and hopes not to be knocked out in round one.
  Tonight comes the Moon very close to the Earth: a Super Moon, as the supersticious say, or its perigee syzygy, in a precision the Physician would prize, and it is very large when low in the sky. But for all its fine Ingenuities, the orrery doth not predict it, for its wheels run on a fixity of path, and we would do well to perceive when our minds do the same. Before bed I saw the buzzard back upon his post, which I never saw before twice in a day.


27 May, in the year of our Lord 2021

This morning delivered of an invoice: In respckt of Advice given on Wendsday 26th, inst., by the Physician in Diseases of the Intugement, Venus and the Pox ~ the Sum of 2s. 3d. Singed: Geo. Erchin, per pro the afore Mencioned.

By andywmacfarlane

I am a retired medic who likes messing around with a bit of writing, and friends seemed to like my social media postings of "Samuel Pepys: The Covid Diaries". So I'm having a go at blogging them.

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