Prison break

12 April, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up after a poor sleep on my meagre bed, it being the fifth day after my Arrest, which was under a Pretence as false as any I ever heard, I being questioned daily upon the nature of all my associacions with each and ev’ry aquaintance I have, till I felt eviscerated of ervything I have writ in my Journall, each morselle and scrap dessected across that great oak table, and more beside, so that I am cleaned of every memory I owned, and all the while held in a dank dungeon, lit only from a high chink at the level of the street, wherein came all the dirt and stench of passers by, and worse, the flow of a horse that relieved itself of a full bladder in the gutter. Yet it was clear to me that in none of this did my answers aid the constables endeavour. This morning unlocked my gaoler the door to my small cell.
  ‘You ’ave been allowed a visitor on grounds of Compassion,’ announced he, without preamble. ‘Mother Teresa is ’ere to see you.’
  At which in waddled a short and very stout figure wearing a white habit and wimple edged by blue stripes with matching Covey masque, the best-fed nun I did ever see in my entire life, bearing a round plate upon which was set a round cloche.
  ‘Thank you so much, Mr. Gaoler,’ says she humbly, keeping her face lowered and shuffling to set her gift upon my rickatty table. As soon as the door closes behind her and we hear departing footsteps, she whips off her masque.
  ‘Mr. Pipes, it is I!’
  ‘What?’ cry I. ‘How have you managed — ? I did not recognise you behind the masque. How have you gained such weight in these few days?’
  ‘They found no case against me,’ says he, ‘and handed back my frocks and gowns! I am here to help you.’ Whereupon he removes the cloche to reveal his alms-on-a-plate. ‘Da-dah!’
  ‘A pie?’
  ‘It is baked and sliced to my specificacion by Aspynall’s in Brook Place, up the back of High Town. ’
  ‘Well, that is very thoughtfulle for none hath brought me aught to break my fast,’ say I, taking a slice in my fingers.
  ‘But before you — ’
  Too late, my teeth sink into cold meat, gravy and a hard shaft of steel.
  ‘What is this?’ cry I, removing a wet utensil from my mouth.
  ‘It is your patent quince baller,’ cries he triumphant, ‘with which to dig yourself out of your cell!’
  ‘What are you talking about? That would take me ages, you fussock — ’
  ‘It is double-ended to assist in the endeavour! It will take you only half ages!’
  ‘ — and I cannot tunnel through a stone floor!’
  ‘But it hath an ergonomic handle!’ He slumps and looks downcast, but brightens at a second thought. ‘Look, though, there is more! I have a Plan Bee!’ At which grabs he my right hand and thrusts it within his habbit. ‘Hold this! No, not that! This!’ Whereupon I take a hold of what feels like a great soft knot in some linen while he twirls anticlockwise on his Axis round the tiny cell, losing all his excess as a giant rope of knotted sheets unfurls upon the floor.
  ‘I have not become paunched! I have girthed myself with this,’ says he, ‘for the subterfuge of smuggling it to you!’
  ‘But of what use is this?’ cry I. ‘My cell is a dungeon, you nunkopf!’
  He collapses on the stool at my table, dispondant, and I upon my bed.
  ‘Oh, Mr. Poops,’ says he, slumped, with his crest fallen and his face all a-crumple. ‘The enterpryse in which I put such stock is wrecked by my failure of foresight. It is always my downfalle. I have failed you in your hour of greatest need.’
  ‘Wait!’ cry I, jumping to my feet. ‘I think you have not! I bought this device not mearly as a double-ended patent quince baller with an ergonomic handle, but as a double-ended patent quince baller with an ergonomic handle and multi-functionality!’
  Whereupon grabbed I my kitchen appliance and thrust it within the keyhole of the door. And Lord! but with but a jiggle did it turn and we did hear the Mechanisme of the lock move and the door creak open on its great pair of hinges. Without, found we ourselfs in a corrydor, with no person there to guard it, and beyond, the sight of stairs that led to light. And so we up this flight and to the office, where was a great kerfuffle of men moving documents and boxes, and it seemed all there was on the shelfs to move, till the room was almost bare, all this to coaches a-waiting in the street, and none to notice as we tipp-toed out…
  …only that once in the street heard we a voice, behind us, so turned and there saw a woman seeming mighty proud, though with a smile betraying of some cold satisfacktion.
  ‘Ah, Mr. Pepys,’ says she, with a hint of a soft lisp.
  ‘I was just looking for Constable Arnott,’ say I, attempting inocence.
  ‘No doubt you were, Mr. Pepys,’ says she, looking ever more satysfyed and sounding ever more reasonable, ‘and I am happy to convey whatever message you wish to vouchsafe. But Constable Arnott hath…requested a Transfer. I am Mrs. Coachmichael, and at this moment I have naught for which to detayne you. You and — ’ (she assesses my companion with disdayne) ‘ — Father Superior are free to go — ’ (and so we turn to run) ‘ — for now.’


The initial interrogacion

8 April, in the year of our Lord 2021

This day found I myselfe in very Hell: a dismal room lit by nought but a few feeble candles, whose flames seemed to fight for life in the dank air. I had slept not at all and knew not the exact time of day they had taken me here, for no source of natural light was there in the room, which it seemed from noises outside to be below the level of some street. One door there was, with a tiny window in an iron frame, barred and shuttered by a flap locked on its outer side. I found myselfe seated on one side of a great oak table, while at a Special Distance on the other sat two, their faces barely illumined by the flickering flames: opposyte me on my left my adversarie, the man Arnott, and to his left a thin pale scribe in periwig and eyeglasses, poised to scratch in coal black ink with a great black quill, upon a great pile of parchment, the unused to his left, the used to his right. I sat sans wig, all a-sweat in no more than shift and threadbare cloak. As the man Arnott began to speak, so did the scribe begin to scratch his quill on the parchment before him. It was clear to me that all that transpired was to be writ for posteritty.
  ‘Interview by Constable Arnott of Mr. Samuel Pepys, just after breakfast-time on Thursday, the eighth day of April in the year of our Lord 2021,’ announces he. The scribe scribbles furiosely. ‘For the scribe, I am showing Mr. Pepys an Item — item XIV, reference PP1.’
  Constable Arnott places in front of me on the table a botanical specimen in a plant pot.
  ‘Do you recgonise this item, Mr. Pepys?’
  ‘I do! It is a plant sold to me as medicinal by an Apothecarie.’
  ‘And for what reason did you purchase this item from said apothecarie?’
  ‘Why, to ease the miserie of the plague!’
  ‘Are you aware of the name of this plant?’
  ‘It is a Pityriasis rosea!’
  ‘Pityriasis rosea is the name of an inconsequencial and self-limiting skin condicion, Mr. Pepys. This item is a fine specimen of Cannabis sativa, a potent herb with powers so deadly it hath been made illegal in this land.’
  The scratch of his quill pausing not for one second, the scribe scribbles away.
  ‘Mr. Pepys, I would like you to look at some images, starting with document XV in your folder. Do you recognise anyone in these etchings?’
  ‘Well,’ say I, ‘the first appears to be a copy of a view of the Grand Canal by Canaletto, the second a ground plan of the new St Pauls, probably in Mr. Wren’s own hand; the third is a pencil preparacion for a still life, with a dying rose in a vase and citrus peel unfurled on a table.’
  ‘And the last? For the scribe, I am drawing the interviewee’s attencion to document XVIII. Are you acquainted with the person in this stipple engraving?’
  ‘Why, yes, I am acquainted with this person!’
  ‘This person, Mr. Pepys, is a Mrs. Judith MacSporran. How well do you know Mrs. MacSporran?’
  ‘I know her hardly at all! This is an assascinacion upon my character!’
  ‘You say you know her hardly at all, Mr. Pepys, and yet… ’ continues Constable Arnott inexorably. ‘For the scribe — ’ (the pile of parchment on whose left is diminishing as that on his right accumulates) ‘ — I am showing Mr. Pepys item XIX. Do you recognise this item?’
  ‘It is my Journall! My Diarie!’
  ‘I would like to draw your attencion to an entry made by you on the ninth day of April in the year of our Lord 2020. In it you remark upon Mrs. MacSporran, and write that you “could hazer nada que jo voudrais con all that paraphernalia”. What did you mean by that?’
  I use my sleeve to mop my brow, and feel myselfe a-babble.
  ‘Well, I…it was…we would have from time to time…I mean — ’
  ‘You are accustomed to writing about your actions in this regard, which are infidelities that might cause you some embarrassment were they to become public knowledge, in a curious mix of poor French, ungrammatical Spanish and inaccurate Italian, are you not? And dalliances of this nature are far from unknown to you. According to our records, in October 1668 your wife found you in a compromising situacion with one Deborah Willett, a mayde servant and companion to Mrs. Pepys in your own house Hold: a discovery that led to Miss Willett leaving your employ and to such a rupture in your marital relacions that it took a considerable number of weeks to resolve them. Is that correct? For the scribe, the interviewee is nodding pathetically.’
  ‘It is an episode,’ say I, ‘in which I take no pride at all, but it hath nothing to do with — ’
  He addresses me again. ‘We shall decide that. Do you recognise this item, Mr. Pepys? For the scribe — ’ (continued manic scratching) ‘ — I am showing the interviewee item XX.’ He sets a further specimen before me.
  ‘It is a Haggies!’ cry I, distraught, but the questions come faster. I can barely think!
  ‘This is a comestible seized from the premices of Mr. James MacSporran on the night of the fifth of March this year. You purchased such an item in late January for consumpcion at home with — ’ (he consults his notes) ‘ — a Mr. M. Jones. Who is Mr. M. Jones?’
  ‘A good friend, of fine and upstanding character!’ cry I, but he piles on the agony.
  ‘And this? For the scribe, item XXI.’
  ‘It is my Book Club book from a year ago!’
  ‘Crime and Punishment is its name, is it not? A curiose if not indeed prescient choice, would you not say? No doubt you found in it much good matter, it being the story of a man who commits a crime and seeks to conceal it. And this, which we recovered from your kitchen? For the scribe I am showing the interviewee item XXII. What purpose can this have?’
  ‘It is my carrot sharpener!’ wail I.
  ‘Enough of this! Mr. Pepys, we have reason to believe that an OCG is involved in the crimes we are investigating. Do you know what those letters stand for?’
  ‘Is it like LMAO?’
  ‘They stand for Organised Crime Group. Why do you have a number of aliases, Mr. Pepys? What is the purpose?’
  ‘I have no aliases!’
  ‘Document number XXIII in your folder. Do you recognise any of these names? Mr. Popeyes, Mr. Peppers, Mr. Puppies, Mr. Pepsi, Mr. Popups — ’
  ‘They are names by which I am known, but in error! This whole procedure is a calumny!’
  ‘ — Mr. Peaspy, Mr. Peoples, Mr. Peepeyes!’ He leans back in his chair to draw breath. The scribe stops writing, frozen in anticipacion.
  Now my adversery leans forward across the table.
  ‘Mr. Pepys,’ says he menacingly, ‘we believe the criminal enterprise we are investigating hath penetrated the highest ranks of the Constabulary. There is a person at the top known to us only by an Inicial. Samuel Pepys…are you “P”?


Caught up in a scandal

7 April, in the year of our Lord 2021

After dinner came a knock at the door, where was a short figure who could do with losing a few pounds, splendidly arrayed in a full length medievall frock, flowing headscarf held in place by a circular coronette, and a —
  ‘Never mind all of that — ’ cried he, pushing me aside and plungeing headlong into my kitchen, ‘ — suffice it that I am Eleanor of Aquitaine!’
  Inside, it was clear that he was possessed of an enormose fright, for he paced backwards and forwards, biting his knuckles and ringing his hands, overfretting and hiperventillating.
  ‘Whatever is the matter?’ cried I, startled by his distressed demeanour.
  ‘Oh, I do not know where to start, Mr. Pipers! They have raided my shop! The Constabulery! Before I have had time to lay carpets or put up curtanes!’
  ‘I am sure they will forgive a little disorder,’ say I. ‘But what on earth hath led to such a disturbance?’
  ‘There were three of them, rough and coarse, who answered to a tidy fellow in a waistcoat who said he was permitted to search the premices!’
  ‘Good Lord!’
  ‘They have taken everything! It was all in my boxes, waiting to be unpacked! What am I to do? What is to happen to my business?’
  ‘Well, this is a crisis and no mistake! But of all they have took, they have not took you,’ say I. ‘So you must seat yourselfe, for I am sure you have been wronged.’
  ‘But you hear of such things! They searched the loft and the cellar and the yard…the things left by Mr. MacSporran!’
  ‘Well, there perhaps is your answer,’ say I. ‘For only the other day was my attencion drawn to news on the front page of the gazette.’
  He sat forlorn and sniffled, twisting his headscarf in his fingers.
  ‘I have done nothing in my life to transgress the law, Mr. Poppies — nothing!’
  ‘I am sure. Now, straighten your crown and blow your nose. No! Not on that! What would Eleanor say? Here, use my tea towel.’
  ‘Oh, you are so kind. I did not know to whom to turn. I will end my days in the Tower as Queen Anne Bollyne!’
  ‘Which would be a fitting end to an illustrious career,’ say I, kindly. ‘But all will be well, I am certain. The miscreant in this is MacSporran, of that I am sure. In the meanwhile, you must sit tight and await events. I presume you have a change of clothes?’
  He nodded miserably and wiped his eyes.
  ‘They have left me one of my outfits, though I fear it will be insufficient for the cold and wintry wind.’
  ‘What outfit is that?’
  ‘Pocahontas.’ At which gazed he at his feet and sniffed.
  ‘Well,’ say I, after we have had an infusion of tea and his despair is amealiorated, ‘take heart, for I do not doubt that all will become clear and your innocence restored. I shall lend you an overcoat and a rug. For now, we must get you back to Plantagenetland.’
  And so with a rug and some warmer robes departed he, though my mind ill at ease for the sorriness of his tale.
  At supper, having determined to pass another day without alquohole, settled with a pasty of venison, some Anchoves and a tankard of violet cordiall, but reflected on a good Deed done for the day so topped up with rum; thus prepared, looked foreward to a quiet night in front of the magick screen. With fork poised, however, came a peremptory knock at the door.
  ‘Pocahontas will have found it too cold,’ thought I to myselfe, opening it. But it was not at all what I expected, and for the second time that day I was swept aside in a headlong rush to enter my kitchen!
  ‘What is this!’ cried I, as three of them, rough and coarse, set about the kitchen, its drawers and cupboards, shelves and surfices.
  ‘Mr. Samuel Pepys?’
  ‘Yes?’ said I, swivelling back to my open door. There stood a shorter, tidier fellow, in woollen jacket and matching waistcoat, who waved in front of my eyes some token that I had no time to take in.
  ‘Constable Arnott, A.C. XII. I have a warrant to search this property!’ Then barged he past too. ‘You, the sitting room!’ he cried to his men. ‘You, upstairs!’
  There followed the greatest kerfuffle I ever heard in my entire life. And as my house turned upside down and inside out, this last spun round to me and declared:
  ‘Samuel Pepys, you do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in Court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.’


Mr. Jones his weather vane (abbrev. version)

5 April, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up betimes, when saw a little rime on the lawn, though in the shade only and the water in my fountayne not iced, the wind being from the Artick and very cold. By the Messenger from Mr. M. Jones that he hath installed a new weather vane on his house, though he hath been obliged to speak with its fabrickater, for it should talk to his magick screen, which it did not in all the manner of things that it should; but all is now righted and he is mightily contented with it and must shew me how it works. Thence to my office, to study more of a matter that has perplexed me for some time, which is the use made amongst the youth of the city of abbreviacions, to discourse between themselfs, for I feel my lack of familiaritie a disadvantage, these being the like of IMHO and ROTFL, and WTF and FFS — not to mention one that pertanes particularly to this last year, which is USCWP. After, it then being not so cold, to errands, and to my own Doctor, which is young Dr. Burnett, of a great line from old Dr. Burnett, who died of the former plague, there to pick up a repeat Prescripcion. None present but I, though obliged nevertheless to peruse a five year old old copy of Commodious Coaches while waiting the customery twenty minutes to be seen.
  ‘Sorry to keep you, Mr. Pepys,’ says Dr. Burnett at last. ‘How are you? I am pleased to see you have survived the plague, and I am sure you are too.’
  ‘I might state it somewhat more positively than that,’ say I, ‘but yes, on balance I am pleased to have survived the plague, and in all other respects relating to my health I hope I am well. I exercise a little, the tension in my vessells is adequate and I am abjuring wine, ale and strong water on a regular basis, this being the third such day.’
  ‘That all sounds excellent,’ says he. ‘If it is merely a repeat prescripcion you need, it is a simple matter.’ Whereupon he took up his quill and wrote upon a piece of parchment which he handed me from a Special Distance. ‘The Apothecary will dispence this for you, in the usual manner.’
  ‘I hope he can understand it, for I cannot read a word of it,’ say I, squinting at it.
  ‘My script is perfectly legible,’ counters he. ‘I am famed for my cursives. Prescripcions are writ in Latin, wherein perhaps lies the difficulty.’
  ‘Indeed,’ say I, ‘for it is a language in which I achieved no more than a D at ordinary Level, and even then have forgot it. I sometimes think you retain it and your professional abbreviations for no other purpose than obfuscation! There are some who hold that both are employed as a code to ridicule the patient. If so, it is an ill-concealed secret.’
  ‘Oh, you do make me lol, Mr. Pepys. I do not know why people might think such a thing!’ says he.
  Thence to my booksellers, where paid a little debt and browsed, taking only A Cornish Brothel by Mrs. Pryce, finely bound, which I had wrapped in brown paper to take home from the shop, lest it prove lewd and bawdy, as I hoped.
  At the Apothecarys two before me in the street, then in.
  ‘Morning, Mr. Pepys,’ says he from behind his plague-glass screen.
  ‘Good morning,’ say I, sliding my prescripcion across his counter. He reads it, and am sure sniggers behind his mask.
  ‘Is there something in it to amuse you?’ say I, crossly.
  ‘No, no! Not at all,’ says he hastily, scurrying to uncork a stoneware jar and measure out my pills.
  ‘You have changed your display since I was last here. The plants of which you sold me one have gone.’
  ‘They have,’ says he, ‘along with my neighbour, MacSporran. You will have seen the premices have been sold?’
  ‘I have seen. The export regs scuppered his business, or so he told me.’
  ‘Hah!’ says he. ‘There is more to it than that. Look at this.’ Whereupon my pills and my script sets he to one side on his counter, and I my book in its wrapper to the other, making between them a flat space on which to open the morning gazette, where together we read its head Line — viz.: ‘In which is presented, for the Edification of the Public, news, of Arrests made in the furtherance of Investigacions into a Great Scandal pertaneing to illicit Products dissemenated from a respected Butchershoppe in the City’, and, below, that… ‘In persuance of Enquiries into the appearance on the streets of Comestibles adulterated with a halucenogenick plant Product, which had found pertick. favour with the youth of the Environs, an arrest hath been made of Mr. Jas. MacSporran, Butcher…’ (‘Good grief!’ breath I, aghast. ‘It had reached as far as the Environs!’ ‘Read on,’ says the Apothecarie. ‘It gets better.’) ‘…While in Holland hath been taken into Custodie, for the serious Misdemeanour of contraveneing Regulacions newly put in place relating to the export of Plant Materiel to Brittayne from the Union of Evrope, Mrs. Judith MacSporran, wife of the Aforementioned, who had floated there in a Special Bubble, from Westminster Stairs in a downpour, to the Estuarie of the Thames and thence all the way to Amsterdam where she had domiciled for many months in a bar on a canal by the port, on a charge of thriving on illicit funds derived from the sale to sailors and sundry wretches of Commodities related almost solely to the hemp plant, C. sativa, the illegal importation of which by her husband in London is most unlikely to have occurred without the Collusion and Connivance of Persons of Seniority within our own Constabulary…’ (‘Good heavens!’) ‘…all of which is to be investigated with Meticulosnesse and Rectitude — “leaving not a stone unturned in our efforts to root out the guilty,” as said the Officer in charge, Constable S. Arnott.
  ‘Who would have imagined a scandal of such proportions?’ say I.
  ‘And with the smack of Organised Crime!’ says the other, relishing it.
  Business concluded, I took my pills and my prescipcion, and made to retrieve my brown packet — but not before the Apothecarie had snook a view of its contents.
  ‘Mr. Pepys! I did not think that kind of book would be your thing!’ exclayms he, and once again I felt I heard a barely suppressed snigger.
  ‘Have a care for your tone and keep your counsel,’ cry I, red of face and snatching back my book, ‘lest someone in this scandal suppose you an Accessory!’
   Anon, it now being light till sunset, since we have made the day longer by an hour, walked a little in my garden, the breeze gentle enough to move only the leafs and small twigs on my Conyfer there, and to flutter a flag on a poal in the distance; then in. By and by comes Mr. M. Jones for supper, who without ado must shew me how works the new weather vane on his house jointly with his magick screen, for he is mightily joyed by it.
  ‘See!’ says he. ‘Seated here as I am by the comfort of your hearth, I am shown the state of the weather at my own home in all its meteorological entirity: the wind, its direction and speed, the temperature, its highs and lows, and all one could wish to know!’
  ‘That is very impressive, I am sure,’ say I, unsure of it.
  He prods his magick screen and reads from it. ‘This morning, for instance, there was “Some rime on the grass but without ice, and the wind was slight — ”’
  ‘ — and cold and from the north,’ say I, ‘as I knew from opening the door.’
  ‘A skeptick, as ever, in the face of Technologie,’ says he, shaking his head. ‘You are so 17th century. This evening there is “A gentle breeze: leaves and small twigs in constant motion — ”’
  ‘ — and light flags extended,’ say I. ‘I know that too, from walking in the garden. I am sure you will derive great pleasure from it for many years, but if it cannot tell the weather for tomorrow, which should be its greatest asset, I shall continue to rely on Mr. Schadenfreude. Now, if I may change the topic of conversation there is a matter on which I would like your engagement. I cannot shake off a suspition of some covert communication between my physician and my Apothecary, which I fear may be at my expence and to their amusement. Young Dr. Burnett denies it with a vehemence I am reluctant to counter lest I misrepresent the case, but to set my mind at rest I wonder if you might translate this prescripcion into common English, for my feeble grasp of Latin will not suffice.’
  I pass it to him.

  Rosuverstattine  5 mane o.d.  Mitte 28.
  Amavi fabulam de herba cannabe. RCMT.

  ‘Well,’ says he, ‘The first is simple: “I prescribe rosuver-whatnot, five drams in the morning, dah-de-dah-de-dah…” and then — ’ (here, like the apothecary, he cannot suppress a snigger) ‘ — and then he says…oh! I am not sure you wish to know — ! ’
  ‘Go on,’ say I.
  ‘ — he says, “Loved the story about the cannabis plant”!’
  ‘The rogue!’ cry I. ‘It is a secret message to discomfit me, as I feared! And what of the initials that follow? What of RCMT?’
  Mr. Jones falters momentarily, but then I see him fall about.
  ‘Ha, ha, ha, ha, hah! You have been familiarising yourself with text speak, I believe?’
  ‘This very morning,’ say I, guardedly.
  ‘Well, so it seems has the good doctor,’ says he, recovering himself, ‘for I believe those letters to stand for Ridens culum meum tantum!’ He wipes his eyes. ‘Oh, dear! LMAO!’
  ‘Yes, I can see you are doing that!’ say I, hotly. ‘But what does it mean in plain English?’
  ‘Oh, Pepys!’ cries he. ‘I have just told you what it means in plain English!’
  The penny drops.
  ‘The scoundrel!’ cry I, jumping to my feet. ‘The villain!’
  At supper Mr. Jones urged that wine must soothe my indignation as much as celibrate his merry mood, so had two pints. Conveyed to him the gossip of the day, at which rubbed he his hands with relish, for he enjoys a scandall and cannot stand MacSporran. Then parted, he home to check that his weather was working, and I to read my new book, which to further my irittacions of the day I discover to be not at all what I did think, but rather the tale of a gentlewoman in a town house in Truro pining her betrothed, a sea farer presumed dead but seized by the Portuguees from a convent in Brazil. On closer inspection found it to be called A Cornish Betrothal and an historicle Romance, but it is well wrote. The night darkening, set the book aside for fear of my eyes in the candle light, and lastly out to my recicling bins, where of all things there was snow beginning to fall and the wind up, which made it colder — followed immediately by confirmacion by the Messenger that there was ‘wintry precipitacion and a wind chill factor’.
  Mr. Jones did not rub his hands with relish like HP sauce or Branston pickle. He rubbed them with glee.



23 March, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up, observing at my ablucions my hands and arms scratched mightily from my taking of a saw and some seckateers to a great heeby in my garden by the Lane, which had grown to a thicket, and cut it bare, I hope not too much, and tore at ivey and some brambles that had also grew there, which I did yesterday. At breakfast the sun lighted up all the dust in the house, from the side, as it does at this time of the year, and set my mind to the prospect of cleansing for the spring, though it is cold and it did not enspire me to do it. Today is another which I am to forego without wine or beer, or any other spirit or strong water, it being wholely the second such since I resolved that I would do it, of which I am very proud.
  After some business despatched, by coach to the Exchange, where they have advantag’d themselfs of Lock Up to change all the order of the things upon their shelfs, which vexed me for the time it took to find Banjos food, which was Ocean Delites and some Dreamys, though not the cheese ones, which he will not eat. Thence home, where read a little of the gazette, wherein salutery news from Foreyne Parts, that in many of the countrys of Evrope the plague is resurgent, in Italy, and in France, Flanders and the provinces of Germany too, though the tables are turned for once, with the success of the Vaxine here, which, thanks be to God, I am to receive tomorrow at the precise time of eighteen minutes past four a-clock. If I am not required to give it, as it seems I am not, I may as well have it.
  After a dinner of crumpitts with some butter and a little Marmyte, which I found Banjo likes as much as a Dreamy when I smeared a tiny dab on his nose, I set to attempt my filling of a form I have been sent, where were some questions that confounded me, so purposed advice. Within his chirurgerie found the Physician on a step-stool, hanging some new portraits on his wall.
  ‘These’ll brighten the place up, eh, Pepys?’ says he, trying to wear a masque, hold tacks in his mouth and talk at the same time. ‘While they wait, people may chance their hand at selfe-diagnosis.’
  The pictures I viewed with not a little dystaste, for they shew all manner of hideose deformations: the vesickular disfigurement of the small pox rampant; the monstrous swellyngs of the lepper; ears eat off by a malignant ulcer or the Wolfe, and an orbit consumed by a cancre so the eye was gone; the crustaceous lesions of weeping scabes, of faces lit by the scarlette fire of erisypalies or with Yellow Cruste unchecked, and the groins of a corpse all a-leak from the black buboes of the former Plague.
  ‘Well, they’re colourful, I will say that,’ say I. ‘What is the one with the jowls and the big purple nose?’
  ‘Gangrene of the penis,’ says he. ‘What can I do for you, or are you just here to waste my time as usual?’
  ‘I have been trying to fill in my form for the Census,’ say I.
  ‘It should not be a difficult task. Have you not done it on the Line?’
  ‘It will not accept 1633 as the year of my birth, so I am obliged to complete it by quill,’ say I. ‘I do not understand the question about “orientation”.’
  ‘It could hardly be simpler,’ says he. ‘In plain language, they are asking if you bat for the other team.’
  I look blank. ‘I am not a member of any team, let alone for orienteering.’
  ‘To put it in ordinary language,’ essays he again, ‘do you count Dorothy among your friends?’
  Blank again. ‘We had a mayde of that name. And there was the vintner’s daughter. But we are not friends.’
  ‘I cannot put it much clearer, Pepys,’ snaps he, irritablie. ‘What is your inclination?’
  ‘My inclination is to leave it blank!’ retort I. ‘Or put what Mr. Jones said to put.’
  ‘Which is — ?’
  ‘South-west facing.’
  From his vantidge point up his ladder the Physician dipped his head to look over his spectacles and through the window panes to the lane beyond.
  ‘If you wish further advice you could ask our friend across the road,’ says he. ‘Pass me that one on your way out. The close-up of scrofulous pus.’
  In the street stood a small figure of familiar stature, dressed as red riding Hood and staring up at the For Sale board on the butchershoppe — onlie now there was a crude board nailed across it saying, ‘SOLD’.
  ‘Oh, Mr. Pips,’ exclayms he. ‘I did not see you there.’
  ‘The premices are sold, then,’ say I. ‘I had not noticed.’
  He bit his lower lip and looked at me with a great concern.
  ‘They are sold to me,’ says he. ‘I have bought them with the money I won at St. Pauls.’ At which he heaved a great sad sigh and his shoulders fell, slumping him it seemed a good three inches.
  ‘You are to tell me I have made a poor investment, are you not?’ says he, doalfully. ‘It is my dream, but now I am besieged by doubt.’
  ‘’Twas ever thus,’ say I. ‘But I myself have no doubts. You shall make of this a fine business! A business that will grow, and spread throughout the land! I see corsets instead of brisket, robes instead of ribs, skirts instead of skirt!’
  ‘Culottes instead of cutlets?’ says he, brightening.
  ‘That’s the spirit!’ say I, and then, advantaging the moment, ‘While you are here, may I make bold and ask a question you may think impertinent? It is for my own sake, nothing more.’
  ‘I shall do my best,’ says he, with a hint of waryness.
  ‘On the census form, what did you put for question 26?’
  At which blushed he a crimson shade, the second time I had seen such a tint on a face that morning.
  ‘Well, it is a bit confydencial,’ says he. ‘But since you ask…north-east facing.’
  I clearly look perplexed for he explaynes weakly, ‘It is all to do with — ’ and as he peters out he makes in the air a vague and meaningless spinny movement with a forefinger ‘ — proclivites. You know.’
  But I still do not.
  After, tried to write my Journall for this last week, but the pickings are lean for it seems I do less and less, and these spring days have the dogged monotonny of the prison cell and the exercise yard, each longer than the last in more ways than one. God forbid it, but I am tempted to insert a fiction into my account of them, I do so little!
  Returned to the gazette, but the Home News therein compensates with no less grim cheer than the Foreyne, and Lord! how it despairs me to see so many things as delinquent now as ever they were: pertaneing to the Constabulary, a murder, alleged by one of their owne, to which [they] added a grievous excess of force to some women on the Common that protested it, it coming into my mind that my late wife, or even my sister Pall, would be as unsafe in the City now as ever they were; of such things as a meanness in discourse in the place of kindness, so that from football fields to the family of the King come insults fashioned on the colour of a persons skin; of dissembling, as people suppose it, by the Gouvernement as to its Contracks for the plague; and of the tally of those dead of the Covey, which is more than 120000, yet in the midst of it, with all the things that might be on his mind, the First Lord thinks it a fine notion to stoke our countrys Ordnance and shake his fist at the globe. When I was young I thought the world would grow up with me: that if I were to become a better man, it would be in a better world. But for all we have our magick screens, and more knowledge than we ever hoped, and ev’ry resource to improve our common lot, knowledge is not wisdom, and for all the span I have lived of my life, it rues me still that the course of history is not a straight line to betterment, which constant is the crueller to realise in inconstant times like these.
   After supper, attended to the waste that I must put out to re-cicle, which event is so invariable I cannot believe how soon it comes again to punctuate the week. Today is the Anniversery of the Lock Up of the country against the plague: this time last spring the weather was fine, and all were a-banter with a gallows humour. The plague would take some, but we would work from home and learn to bake cakes, for we thought it done ’ere Whitsunday. But a year hath made it real. A year in which, thanks be to God, I saw my father through, and dodged a second wave, and measured out my life with wheelie bins.
  By and by from the shadows cast by the street lamps comes the cry of a hatted figure, well wrapped in muffler, scarf and wollen gloves, walking slowly and ringing a handbell.
  ‘Cold front approaching! Cold front approaching! Wintry spell by Friday! Cold front approaching!’
  ‘Evening, Mr. Schafernacker.’
  ‘Oh! Evening, Mr. Pepys,’ says he, affabubbly.
  ‘Can you at least not bring some cheer?’
  ‘Band of cloud and rain pushing south-eastwards, Mr. Pepys,’ says he, not unsympathetickally. He fishes inside his coat to hand me a leaflet. ‘Can I interest you in one of my yellow weather warnings?’
  ‘I would like fewer of them,’ grumble I, ‘if you can kindly manage that. No doubt you will tell me it is all down to la Ninja.’
  ‘It is all down to the great Stream in the sky, Mr Pepys,’ shrugs he, adding with the air of a Fatalist, ‘It is meandering.’
  With which cryptique remark he himselfe meandered off, down the lane with his bell, his cry diminishing with distance in the dark: ‘Cold front approaching! Cold front approaching! Low pressure in cha-a-arge!’
  For solace, took a large draught of port, and completing my Census wrote ‘other way up’ upside-down in the troublesome box. 
  And so to bed, where comes a tiny miaow, and Banjo to my bed, where he jumps on it, and curls himself beside me, and purrs when I scratch his ears, and worries not at all for any thing. And I snuff out the candle. And pressed together, my cat and I, we fall asleep, and in the morning he is still there.


Stir and sterility

8 March, in the year of our Lord 2021

The gymnaseum closed, I find myselfe all the time a-slouch, for sitting so much and turning the leafs of a book is little exercise, so today I determined I shall improve my fitnesse and will exercise more at home, and do it every day, and pay more scrupulose attention to my Diett. The tension of my Arteries, which I measured again on my fathers Contrapcion, is 5 ft. 9 in. over 3 ft. 5 in. of water, for which I am much contented, for the sistolick being the same as my height means my heart can pump my blood from ground level to the top of my head. Enquired by the Messenger of Mr. M. Jones what means exactly a Unitt of alcohole, having read two weeks since of that notion on the Health page of the gazette.
  ‘Ah,’ says he. ‘It is a very easy thing to remember. A single unitt is equal to a gallon of beer, a quart of wine or sack, or a half pint of strong water.’
  ‘Admirable,’ say I, ‘for I am inclined to improve the state of my health by being more pro Active and am to exercise more and drink less.’
  ‘Well done,’ says he. ‘And when do you propose to start these commendable activities?’
  ‘I have started already!’ say I, proudly.
  ‘You cannot have started. Last night at mine you had a pint of Ho Bryan,1 and it is still only half-past ten in the morning. Unless you have already run round the block.’
  ‘I have forsook my normal breakfast draught of strong water,’ say I, slightly put out. ‘In fact, to aid my endeavore and quench my desire for it I shall offer you all that remains, if you wish it.’
  ‘“It” being — ?’
  ‘A remaining half cask of a distillation made from local herbs and “unshelled produce”,’ say I, reading aloud the words on the barrel.
  ‘Possibly garden peas, then?’ says he.
  ‘Possibly,’ say I. ‘The cask is a little dirty and the print indistinct. It was a present from someone for Christmas, but I am not sure I like it.’
  ‘I think I remember from whom it was a present,’ says he. ‘I shall stick to the French red. But thank you for the thought. I’m sure you can palm it off on someone else.’
  Anon, to letters, not least to read again what Mrs. Cadwallader has wrote a few days since about my being a Vaxernator: that I should make myselfe out of a courtesy an account with NSH Track Jobbes, so I may make another applicacion with ease should I wish it (which I do not) and be advised of any other work of interest to me (which is none), so I do not really want to do it, though in the end, decided I would do it; but it is now two months since I had a mind to start it all and the wind is out of my sails, it hath took so long. After dinner, which I had with a tankard of rose Lemonayde from Fentyman’s shop with it, I to the Physicians, carrying before me my cask half full of liquor. Inside, perched on a stool and looking a little the worse for wear, sat Mr. Erchin, cleaning a batch of inoculacion needles with a crusty handkerchief. I set my keg before him on his counter, beside his unwashed mug of cold tea set upon a small tea tray.
  ‘Arfternoon, Mr. Peacepipe,’ says he, raising his eyebrows at the vat in front of him.
  ‘I thought I would venture to inquire of you as to progress with my vaxernator Applicacion, since I have heard naught from Mrs. Cadwallader or her teame,’ say I.
  ‘I would not ’old your breath, Mr. Paupers,’ says he. ‘Supplies are hintermittent. Plus, we ’ave used up all our Batche and are obliged to await fresh blocks of ice to keep cold any new they send us. What’s in the barrel?’
  ‘Ah,’ say I. ‘It is an alcoholick beveridge of some potency, surplus to requirements now I am on a health kick. Having recently read the Module on “Controlle of Infecktion”, I wondered to kill two birds with a single stone, and both remove it from my own temptacion and donate it for the purpose of your cleansing your needles.’
  ‘Well, that is uncommonly generouse of you, Mr. Popsy. I have a dozen such neadles ’ere, which is all we are allowed so we must re-cicle them. Your gift will ’elp enormosly, for the second Monday of each month is the day we clean ’em, but with my ’avin been too much on the ale last night, today I am a little short of spittle, so I ’ave been reliant for the purpose upon this rag I found in a pocket. It is from when I ’ad the catarrh at Christmas. I shall create a bath for these neadles and soak and agitate them for severalle minutes to remove all noxious Agents of infecktion.’
  At which he removed from the bunghole of the cask its bung, drained what remained of the tea in his mug and refilled the mug with my strong water. Into this he tipped his dozen grubby neadles, and started to stir them with a forefinger.
  ‘’Ow is your good father these days, if I may ask?’ says he, by way of inconsequential discourse.
  ‘He is well,’ say I. ‘The results of his latest envestigacions are excellent. He is to go into the magick ray Contryvance in another three months, but that is all. They are keeping the leeches as a second-line treatment.’
  ‘I do ’ope I was not too bold to inquire,’ says he, continuing absent-mindedly to stir. ‘’Ave you by the way seen that the Butchershoppe is up for sale?’
  ‘MacSporran’s?’ say I, in surprise (for I had not seen it). ‘But he hath not long been in the trade!’
  ‘I do not doubt there’ll be a story behind it,’ says he. ‘There!’ he adds. ‘We are done.’ He licks his finger clean. ‘All that now remains is to dry them.’ With the same hand he takes from the mug each neadle individually, drags it through the opposyte armpit and sets it on the tea tray. Then he examines his mugg.
  ‘Shame to waste it. Hair of the dogge and all that,’ says he, and gulps downs the entyre remaining mugfulle of spirit, which makes him pull a face, and also something out of his mouth. ‘It hath a distinctive flavour, I’ll give it that,’ says he. ‘Is this a piece of shell?’
  ‘Could be,’ say I, squinting at what he holds between finger and thumb.
  ‘The boss’ll want this barrel stored round the back. Would you oblige, if I clean it up a little?’
  ‘I have already brought it at great effort all the way down here for you!’ exclaim I with some indignation. ‘You are much younger than I. Can you not carry it yourselfe? Or have you not done the Manuall Handling module?’
  ‘I ’ave done none of them modules, Mr. Porpoise,’ says he with not a little scorn, taking his kerchief to the barrel and rubbing away at the dirt on it. ‘Complete waste of time, if you ask me. Oh! Now I have cleaned the staves, it says here what is the contents of your cask.’ He screws up his eyes to read the unclear print and blanches. ‘Snail-water?!’ cries he. ‘I have drunk a mugfulle of snail-water?!’
  ‘Ah, yes,’ say I, brightening. ‘I remember now. It was a present at Christmas from Mr. M. Jones: a fine distillation of snails, herbs and sack!’ I try to allay his obvious concern. ‘But you must not worry,’ I say, comfortingly, ‘for you have had far less than a Unitt. All you have had is a small slug.’

1. Pepys first encountered ‘Ho Bryan’ [the claret Haut Brion] at ‘the Royall Oak Tavern, in Lumbard Street’, on 10 April 1663. He pronounced that it ‘hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with’.


Paternal advice

25 February, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up, the weather back to be fine, which it hath not been since a great storm on Tuesday, when I thought a tree would topple, and Mr. M. Jones was without æther all the afternoon, so all his candles did not work, and nor did any in the areas of three postcodes where he lives. Rain all day yesterday, though the wind gone, for which we should be contented. After breakfast I to visit my mother and father, with the sun lighting up bare branches of trees from the side, as it does at this time of the year, against a bright blue sky, and the last of snow drops in the gardens, which cheer’d me. In the afternoon with my father by coach to the Hospitalle to put him again through the Contryvance where they use magick rays to see inside his chest, and will make another etching from them, to compare it with the previose. He I find to be in excellent good cheer, onlie his mind a little heavy for his worrying for my mother (though I think he doth it too much), and I doubt not also for what the new image may show, or not, but in three days, which is the twenty-eighth, will be his birth day, with him seeing ninety-one years, which he did not think would ever come to pass. He hath put on the wall a great heavy clocke from his shedde, where it was, though the roof of the shedde leaks, which is why he moved it, and it hath a solid tick, and keeps to a very good time, though it seems as heavy as he and I know not how he moved it. But his mind is as sharp as ever, and I am still subject to the style of paternal instrucktion I remember from my school days: that I must put the handle of the front door a certain way when I put an item in his recicling bins lest it close behind me and lock me out, which I think is a commonsense (though it is easier to keep one foot inside the door); could I please cut a straw berry in four Quadrants before sugar is added, for it makes a better syroppe with the juce of it; that one container of soupe will serve three if each dish is filled only to a certain line in the pattern thereof, which is blue and white and a pastoral picture of China, and the soup should come onlie to the top of the willow; also that I must lock the outside doors at the front of the house on to the street and at the back into the kitchen, and all the doors inside the house, at night, to safe guard from burglery and that he he must take his jacket each night up the stairs lest money be stolen from it by a vagabond while he sleeps — which may be a right discretion, but when ask I of him, ‘When did you last open the patio door to go into the garden, for today I found it closed but unlocked, which means anyone could have waltzed in and took your wallit?’, he says, ‘Oh, a couple of years ago.’ But I would not have it another way, and at supper today notes he for my benefitte that it is best to use the salt grinder at an angle, or it clogs the mechanicks.
  In the gazette read of a little legal newes: viz. — of the case in Chancery of Sturgeon v. Salmon, which is to be likened to Jarndyce v. Jarndyce; that in the Plymouth Colony a magistrate hath demanded to see the ledgers of the man who led them; on the Health page that we must all mind the wine and ale we drink in Lock Up, and that in Holland they are to outlaw who may smoke in their coffee houses. Also that a man says he hath taken a coach and put it on the service of Mars, the body celestialle that Mr. Smethwick shewed me with his glasses at the Royal Society, which I think is the most ridiculous thing I did ever read in my entire life.
  After supper, I find that it was one year ago on the last Thursday in February, which is the same as today, when I was with Mr. M. Jones in a hall where we listened to some music being played there, which was with a great band of viols and some sackbutts, and some who sung, perhaps twenty-five or thirty in the total of them, all on a stage, which was a sinfonia wrote by Mr. Gust. Mahler, all the way from the Emperour’s lands, and we found very good matter in it, and come from it much contented, onlie it a little long.



22 February, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up, and the weather fine, which it hath not been, for of the last few days (which is since Saturday) each hath been foul, with ceaseless rain, and winds so fierce I did think they would claim the roof. Only today was it fine, when I in the garden to clear old leaves and cut some branches, which I did, though for fear of some little pains in my back after it, which last time left me incommoded and my posture crooked. News by the Messenger that a journey I had hoped to make abroad in June with Mr. Jones is to be cancel’d, this for the third time, I think, so we did agree that we should ask that our Deposites, they be returned to us. But though the notion of such a journie might yet have seemed a triumph of optimism over realitie, still the removal of it vexed and desapointed me in equal measure, for it was as tangible a thing as I had, of a value to embrace heartily in the future, and we have little enough of that.
  After dinner received a letter, which was a contract for the roll of my being a Vaxinater, though of all the detayles there was in it, which were no less than seven pages, those most imortant were all mis-spelled: which was my name, the date on which I was born and the address where I live. If I can now write the word as I learn it must be spelled, Mrs. Cadwallader’s clerk must the same with the Detayles of my Person.
  But the least of it is that it will provide me with a new Purpose, which is a well come thing, since in this time of plague, when I see my friends so seldom and even that to which I looked foreward is thrice denied, there is a danger that my mind will become as confined in my own head as my head in my own house. For it occurred to me a-work in the garden that it is strange and morbid thing how, in the short days of winter, with the weather foul and deprived of the commonality of friendship save thro’ magick screens, recollections of my days at Pauls school from so very long ago have returned unbidden to me, and my memory presents to me, in no order, those such as my time with the Admiralty, my time in the Tower, and my turbulent life with the wife I loved, and yet though all of these should be forgot or put to bed, still they have the power to wake when I am alone, and disturb me. But when I wonder to check at the accuracie of such things, and whether they are not more than tinged with the affects pertaining to solitude and the insecuritie of our times, by reading to confirm the integrity of my person the journalle I wrote as a younger man, it often seems as if I were a different person. It seems that lacking goals and hopes, and motivacions for the future, the mind will pivot and dwell with too much ease on the past, like scales weighing time, out of kilter on the fulcrum of the Present. And I think this imbalance a curse we must strive to evade in these times, lest the uncertaintie of the future inflict upon us the unreliability of the past, and leave us fail in the instant.
  After, I contended to myselfe that this is no more than what happens when I prune and ruminate at the same time; so, after, serveyed the garden in a posytive state of mind, which is better for its being less brown, which makes it look green more, and in the end mightily contented for the doing of the jobb and the fulfilment of a purpose, no matter it small. For supper cooked a lime Possit, which I had not cooked before, very fine, and Mr. M. Jones came to share it with me. After, watched a part of a play upon a magick screen, which was Line of Dutie, Act 1, scene IV, in which Mr. Leonard James tonight acted mighty handsome and, I think, better than last I saw him in the part, though with the fickleness of memorie I remembered naught of the plot from before. And so to bed. 


The interview

8 February, in the year of our Lord 2021

A little while after dinner, set my magick window on the table in my dining room, with the purpose of an interview on the Line, using Micro Soft-teams, with two persons, who were Tracey and Declan.
  ‘Lovely to meet you. Now, this is all very informal and shouldn’t take long at all,’ says Tracey brightly. ‘How are you getting on with the training sessions?’
  ‘Well — ’ start I.
  ‘Excellent!’ she beams, not awaiting the entirity of my response, which was otherwise to have been: ‘Well, I could not comprehend your letter, the Links did not work, I had to request an en-rolement key, and the System will not tick all the boxes for the modules I have compleated — but apart from that…’
  ‘Just a couple of things we do need,’ continues she, squinting at her check list, ‘which are Proofs of your identitie. These are of the utmost importance.’
  ‘This is the Agreement to supply piped water to my premises,’ say I, waving the relevant bill before the magick screen, ‘which has my name and address clearly — ’
  ‘That will do nicely,’ says she glancing momentarylie at it and ticking a box. ‘I’m sure you appreciate that the processe must be water tight and rigorous, Mr. Samuels. Do you by any chance have photo ID or equivalent?’
  ‘I have this,’ say I, with some effort manhandling on to the table the famous framed portrait of me by Mr. Hayls, the paynter, in which I wear my fine Indian silk gown and hold the music I wrote to a lyric from Mr. Davenant’s Siege of Rhodes.
  ‘Oh, I say!’ says Tracey, saying it. ‘I bet that looks lovely on your wall. Normally we just get a driving licence, though a woman called Windsor last week tried to pass off a letter with a stamp on it.’ She consults her list. ‘Have you an up to date DBS certifycate?’
  ‘The one I have is ten years old,’ say I, ‘but I can tell you that I was awarded three points for driving my coach very fast down a hill in October.’
  ‘Oh, excellent!’ says she. ‘That will come in handy if you are running late. Now, I think that’s everything, is it, Declan?’
  ‘I think so,’ says he, regarding me affably. ‘Unless you have any questions?’
  ‘Is Mrs. Cadwallader detained?’ ask I, wondering why she is not there.
  ‘She may be,’ says Declan. ‘She hath made out that she is with a cousen in Prestatyn when in fact she hath gone for a mini-break to the Black Sea.’
  ‘I see,’ say I. ‘And when do you think she might return to work?’
  ‘2031. The Crymea is on the red list.’
  ‘We’ll be in touch,’ says Tracey.


Almost pronounced a vaccinator

3 February, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up betimes, the day brighter than these last, when there was a mere diminution of darknesse. Before breakfasted I abroad for a little exersice, which was to walk up the lane, where in the window of the Physician’s espyed a note writ in the insecure hand of a novice: WaИted ~ VaskernateЯs to Help fite the COVIE plaig! The NSH knead ur Help!!! Ferther enformacion wit hin. Or aply 2 Mrs. Eliz. Cadwalleder. Singed: Geo. Erchin — which put me to think if the roll would be to my taste for I need a Project.
  After dinner set about a big hidrangera at the bottom of the garden, with secketiers, and to the hacking of an elder flowershrub which was over grown, with thick branches, which I cut with a saw, and which brought me to the view that if I can do something like that I can be a vaskernater, so determined I will persue it. Then it rained so I came in. 


5 February, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up, and at breakfast read the gazette, wherein news pertaneing to divers matters of the Worlde, incl. that it it will snow a great deal and be mighty cold, that the oister busyness says it will be compleatly shucked by our leaving the Continent, and that in Burmerland the soldiery hath couped its Govt. After, to the butchershoppe, where none but I and the merrie ding-a-ling of the door on my entering, and obliged to stand on bright blue stickers in the shape of a pare of feet, which were adhered to the floor, and to discourse with Mr. Jas. MacSporran at a special Distance. Inquir’d as to the availabilitie of lamb choppes but with little expectacion, for his counter as bare as ever I saw it — which is not much, it is to be admitted, but the bareness of it, and the lack of persons at the door or in the lane, or of any other coustemer, all suspiciose of hard times. MacSporran glowered me from under untrimmed eyebrows and over wire-rimmed spectackles, two enormous tomes before him, which were open on the counter.
  ‘Is not business as fruitfulle as formerly?’ hazard I.
  ‘It is not, Pepys,’ growls he. ‘It is fullie and firmlie not as f***ing fruitful as f***ing formerlie. D’ye know what these are?’ asks he, stabbing his quille at the ledgers before him.
  ‘Orders for your fine fillets? Or perchance the special Haggies?’ suggest I, with a degree of hesitence, to which he gave me a short and satisfactory answer, compleat with alliteration.
  ‘No, they’re nae f***ing orders for my fine f***ing fillets, Pepys!’ rages he. ‘These, Samuel, are what the First Lord of the Treasurie and his lacky Master Gove hath determined are required to ship a chicken leg to Calays!’
  ‘But the First Lord protested such a chicken readie for the oven, gas mark 4 and bobs your Unckle — ’
  ‘Aye, that he did! Along wi’ “a strong relacionshippe with our friends across the Channel whatever the cyrcumstences”. Along wi’ “we agin have control of our laws and our destinie”. And along wi’ “Mrs Stergin shall have all the f***ing fish she can possibly f***ing eat!”’
  ‘And did you, erm — vote for that?’
  ‘If ye think ah’m answering tae ye as tae my votin’ habits, Pepys, ye’ve another think comin’!’ roared he (which took I as a Yes). ‘But if that bastaird Johnstone doesnae do somethin’ aboot it suin, ye’ll see his unfilleted bawbag skewered to this bloody counter wi’ a sgian dubh!’
  Thus ranted, he intooke of a great breath and adjusted himselfe into a semblence of professionalysme. ‘Will thair be anythin’ else ah can do fair ye? Afore ah go bankripped?’
  I retreated to the pare of blue stickers six feet nearer the door.
  ‘I don’t suppose you know a good fishmonger?’
  At which I was obliged to leave in a hurry, with both the bell and the words ‘ — and it’s haggis not Haggies, ye bampot Sassenach!!’ ringing in my ears.
  After dinner I to my office, where corresponded on the account of my thinking to become a vaskernator against the plague, which seems a noble thing to do, onlie the first hurdle on the way to nobly doing it means I must spend an hour on a magick window, watching a Core Module with little storys where someone falls dead to the ground, and thereafter answer lots of questions about it — though not who dunnit?, which I think a great omition.
  By and by comes Mr. M. Jones for supper.
  ‘How goes the vaxinator applicacion?’ asks he.
  ‘Vask-er-nat-er,’ say I, heavilie, correcting him. ‘I saw it on the advert.’
  ‘Vax-in — ’ incysts he, but gives up. ‘I cannot believe your inabilitie to grasp the Basicks of English!’
  ‘Whatever,’ say I. ‘To be honest, it is a bit tediose, but there are some good bits. This very afternoon, for instance, I have learned that you can bring someone back to life by repeatedlie hitting them and if that does not work you can ask people in a car park to help.’
  ‘I see,’ says he. ‘Are you certain your extraordinarie skill set is what they really need? You need not answer that. It is going to be very cold tonight — what is for supper? I can smell garlique butter and burned breadcrumbs.’
  ‘Chicken kevin,’ say I, squinting without my spectackles at the packaging. ‘With freets.’
  ‘You do not pronounce that in that way, either!’ exclaims he, crossly.
  ‘I have already had a lesson in Scots from MacSporran today,’ retort I. ‘I do not need one in Russian from you. Chicken kevins with frights, if you must.’
  Mr. Jones changes tack, reaching for the gazette and taking in the head Lines. ‘It is a great shame about Burmerland. You have been there, I think?’
  ‘I have,’ say I, removing supper from the oven. ‘It is a lovely and exotique land with a delightfulle people. In fact, now I remember, I have a Burmese delivryman, though he is of a paler complection than are natives of that country.’
  He blinks at me in dysbelief. ‘That is because you do not have a Burmese delivryman. You have a Hermes delivryman. From Wandsworth.’
  After a cool supper, I tight of lippe lest I be incorrected again, we did decide to watch a repeate of Travelman on the magick screen. From Ibbizzia (‘Ib-EETH-a,’ growls Mr. Jones). With Richard Waddyoddy.