An autumn leaf

26 November, in the year of our Lord 2020   

Up betimes, being awhile at my parents house, where came the maid Hayley before a half-past 8 a’clock to ablute and dress my mother, which displeased my father who is precise when he wishes her to come; only she is unable to be as exact as he likes since she is ‘doing the job of two people’, for the one who came previosely no longer works for the companie, and has been given the Push, I think, which is a good settlement, if it is the case, for last week I was sharp tongued on her account for her witless talking and tattling and waving around her arms, which caused me seriouslie to think she was on something.
  Next week, thanks be to God, comes my father to the end of his being treated at the Hospitalle with the special rays of Light, which he has had seven times, I taking him in my coach for each, down jumblegut lanes to evade the plague. He is to have it thrice more —but Lord! how my mind is lightened to see him affected not one whit, not even with a cough, nor his having any shortness in his breath, which doth amaze me; the only occurrence being that he lost a tiny ear trumpet there when he took of his disposible masque, and they could not find it in the bin, which they had emptyed, but one has been newly delivered by Specsavers, 6l 8s 3d, though it doth not help.The apetite that he has for climbing things to fix them is not lessened by his illnesse nor its remedie; this morning found him upon a stool, climbing on to a chair to set about oiling the works of a long case Clock, but the chair had a rush seat, and I was afear’d he would step through it and breake something (other than the seat).
  By the Messenger, news that Mr. van Oppenreitsch hath joined up Mr. Jones’s tube of light, so his magick screen, he hopes, will work many times as fast as it used, and because he hath waited so long for it to be done, and those who came about their work so foolish in the accomplishment of it, he is to have four months free, which is to say with no paiment, and a recompense of 30l. I know not how he doth it.
  In the gazette, read that the Plymouth Colony is to be lead by someone new, which is to my great content tho’ I do not live there, only that the Incumbent is childish and threatens not to leave the House, so they must prise him out, and it would please me if they walked him straight to gaol; also that Mrs. Prettypetal, a vain woman who works in the Governement and hath the ear of the First Lord, hath escaped the comeupence the law designed for her bullying and so the civil Servant in charge left uncivilly, which vexes me that a righteous man be sacrificed for a feckless peahen. Yet what is most admirable, I read, and for which we must all give thanks to God, is the invention of a vaxine for the Plague that works, which is an innoculcation, as if for the infleünza, and should joy us all.
  After supper, with no wind to shake the last leaves from the trees, walked pleasantly a little while and saw a competition of some rival maister chefs from divers taverns, who did cook some fine dishes though I could not taste any, for two other chefs and a shouty man were a-judgeing of them and eat it all. And so to bed.  


Gunpowder, treason and plot

5 November, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, it being Gunpowder Treason Day, only we are to have no publick bonfires or fawkesworks, which otherwise make this tedious month bearable, for the First Lord of the Treasurie hath decreed a further Lock Up, taking his U and turning it full circle, which he had said he would not do and now hath, earning him the spleen of those who did not want it as much as of those who had said he must not delay it, which he did, his three new pitiful Tiers lasting no longer than his notion of a moonshot.
  Read the gazette, wherein the news all bleak; that the Great Weather Change worsens, that people in the Emperour’s city of Vienna are dead by the hand of a man from the Levant, and that the plague is on the rise again all across Evrope, incl. even in Swedeland, which bragged that the plague would meet the rectitude of Sweades with a proper courtesie, as if it were joining them for tea, which notion is much favoured here by some people who, indifferent to fifty thousand corpses, assert a foul displeasure that any might dare confine their own mean movements and footling meets, but which speaks to me of a distasteful, selfish disposition. The truth is that the relish with which the plague hath plucked life from the Sweades is well-nigh as bad as its reaping here; for that Countrys deaths are ten-fold higher beside its neighbours in the north, and beside all the Baltick and all the cities of the Hanse, and I think it a mighty fine convenience to ignore this, stepping over graves on the way to dine out. The words came into my mind of my mother as she pushed me out of the door in a plague of my youth: ‘You must mingle with the coughers and expectorators of this city, Samuel! And don’t come back till you’re febrile!’, but even at that age I did not wish my Epitaph to be ‘Died in the Cause of Herd Immunitie’.
  Messages from Mr. M. Jones these days since, that his Broad Cummerband is neither enstalled, which he had hoped, nor a cummerband, which I had thought, but a tiny tube which should be filled with light that goes from one end of it to the other; only it was not, so a man came, he says, and with him others, who had to light a candle at one end of the tube and go to find where it came out at the other, which was a quarter of a mile away down a hill and round a bend. I have a disquiet that he places such confidence in them, for he said the man came from Oppenreitsch and had a van, and I would not trust the Dutch.
  Dinner, and after comes news that the Plymouth Colony hath decided to find a new leader for itself, the present being a Delinquent, but the atmosphear is charged, for the man they must rid themselves of will tell lies, claim Treason and protest Perfidie in his plotting to keep what his inadequacy craves. After supper the night still, tho’ the noises of severalle fyrecrackers in the street and the smell of gunpowder in the mist. I by candle to my correspondence in the office (the nights colder and coming hatefull earlie), where vexed to find that a Constable has wrote to me that my carriage was observed being drove too fast down a hill, which was lately on the way back from seeing my father, and I am to pay 10l. and cannot have a lesson on how to drive it because I had one two years and eight months ago, which is too early, so I must pay it. But then it came into my mind that I had made a second journey after six days more, and that again I had wished home with good speed, and so I became afeared that I am to be done twice. And so, in ill humour and troubled with this thought, to bed.


Is anybody there?

24 October, in the year of our Lord 2020 

Saturday, in the evening, and Mr. M. Jones hath confided in me his plan, devised, he hopes, for the benefitte of our Amazonian deliverer. At the appointed Hour, which is eight a-clock, we seat ourselves at the magick screen.
  ‘The conceit is that I shall provide the voice of the spirit of the young man’s Father, all the while remaining hidden from sight,’ says Mr. Jones, one more time. ‘The contrivance will reassure him that all is well on the Other Side, and he will be relieved of the despond that hovers over him.’
  ‘What is this Zoom anyway?’ say I.
  ‘You will see! We must log in, for we will have only forty minutes.’ With which prods he the magick screen to make it shine, and sets it upright like a Landscape before me, whereupon comes a dis-embodyed voice.
  ‘Hullo. Is anybody there?’
  ‘You have started too earlie!’ says Mr. Jones.
  ‘No,’ comes the voice of Dr. S. Francis, ‘is there anybody there? My screen is blank. Do I need to press something? Oh, there we are! Something happened!’
  Our screen springs into life, and Lord! but her image is made visible to us, which was a thing I did never expect to see in my entire life, only that she is rotated through a right Angle, so I turn our screen to the position of a portrait, except that she follows it and is now upside down.
  ‘Stop fiddling with it!’ says Mr. Jones, snatching it from my hands and replacing it.
  ‘Why do I have to wear a head Scarfe and sit behind Martin’s goldfish bowl?’ says she in the magick screen.
  ‘It is a kind of deceit, and a deceit of kindness,’ says Mr. Jones. ‘You will just need to follow the script.’
  ‘Well, alright,’ says Dr. Francis. ‘I’ve never done anything like — ’
  ‘Quick! We must begin. He has logged into the Meeting.’
  Whereupon lights up a further square on the magick screen, and in it our animated young friend, the Amazonian delivery man.
  ‘Hi-yuh!’ he greetes us, breathlesslie fanning himself with a hand. ‘I am so excited! Do you think it will work?’
  I clean a spot off the screen with my finger and begin to speak my lines.
  ‘I would like to welcome everyone,’ I say in a hushed voice, ‘to this Virtual Sitting, and especially to introduce Madame Psychic, Shady Frances — ’ (at which throw I to Mr. Jones a withering glare, he mouthing back that it was the best he could come up with) ‘ — who will now procede to guide us on our journy into the Shadow World — ’
  ‘I cannot hear anything,’ interrupts our client.
  ‘You mop-stick!’ hisses Mr. Jones to me. ‘In cleaning the screen you have muted us!’
  ‘Sorry, sorry, sorry! My fault!’ call out I to everyone, and then proceed to un-mute us.
  We start again and reach the point of true departure, only Mr. Jones is now hissing at me again. ‘You must snuff out the candle, for effect!’ says he.
  ‘I cannot see a candle-snuffing icon!’ hiss I back, crossly.
  He gesticulates wildly. ‘Use the candle-snuffer, addlebrain!’
  Our room darkened accordingly, we procede as scripted.
  ‘I sense somebody there,’ says our Psychic in the screen. ‘Can you make yourself known to us?’
  ‘I am here,’ intones Mr. Jones, off screen. ‘Who calls to disturb me in the Afterlife?’
  ‘I am not sure those are the tones of my father,’ says our young man, troubled by a little doubt.
  But, as Mr. Jones takes breath, all of a sudden is made manifest from nowhere a new window on the magick screen! and within its preternatural frame an image — indistinct, so we can make out naught save the vagueness of a man, seated, but an image neverthelesse — and with it a voice so distant and so muffled we can barely make out its words. Astonished, we sit bolt up!
  ‘What artifice is this?’ hiss I, aside to Mr. Jones.
  ‘It is ectoplasm on the screen!’ he gasps.
  ‘It cannot be. I have just cleaned it!’ say I, in a loud whisper.
  And then we make out the crackly words.
  ‘Round three as usual is the music round, and for two points I want the title and the name of the performer…[distorted/muffled]…anybody want to play a joker?
  I frantickally signal Mr. Jones to mute us again.
  ‘It is not ectoplasm! It is Mr. Radford’s weeklie On-the-Line quiz!’ exclaim I. ‘It is neare half past eight on a Saturday! He must have started afresh for the new Lock Up, and we have intercepted his transmission in the æther!’
  But it matters not a flea, for our sweet friend is all a-gog, and he stares enraptured at what he thinks he sees and listens entranced to what he thinks he hears.
  ‘My father is still doing his pub quiz!’ sniffs he, wiping away tears of happyness. ‘It is all I wanted! To know that he is there, that he is unchanged in spirit. I cannot thank you enough. I am overcome.’ He finds no further words but his silence says it all. And when after a few minutes the aether heals itself, and draws a curtain across that singular Window and all it holds within, and it leaves the screen as miraculouslie as it came, he bids us an emotional farewell with gratitude as effusive as any I have ever seen, and in excellent good cheer, and we too for we still have free minutes in which to discourse with our ersatz clairvoyant.
  ‘Well, I didn’t see that coming!’ says she. ‘That wasn’t in my script!’
  ‘I felt we must risk Spontaneity to heighten the suspense!’ fibs Mr. Jones. ‘How are you, anyway?’
  ‘Well, I’m all right,’ comes the reply. ‘But I still don’t understand what happened there! Oh, I’ve lost you again! I don’t know where you’ve gone! I think I might have pressed something!’, whereupon the image of Psychic Shady Frances drains prematurely from our screen.
  I think she has unwittingly logged herself out, but am uncertain. ‘Is there anybody the-e-e-re?’ say I to the blacknesse left behind, thinking to be humorose. It appears there is not, but then of a sudden comes a loud thump in the darknesse, as if a presence unseen has knocked the ferniture! My eyes bulge and my skin freezes! ‘OHMYGODWHATWASTHAT?’ The candle springs to life, and within an inch of me in a terrifying chiaroscuro is the visage of Mr. Jones. ‘Who-oo-hoo-oo!’ cries he. ‘It was the cat jumping from the bed above us.’
  Later, over a pint of wine, say I to Mr. Jones, ‘Well, that was a remarkable event,’ and congratulate him for his efforts.
  ‘Not bad,’ says he, raising his glass, ‘for a man with a fatal disease of the Xylem.’


Bedlam in the kitchen

21 October, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up betimes, wakened by a loud gurgling, so with urgencie to the leads where is my closet, clenching tight and running with little steps, but only a formed stool, of a prodigious length, which is to my great content, and the noise was in the heating system, tho’ bled it two days since. By and by comes Mr. M. Jones to discourse of divers matters in the kitchen, it wet outside, and cold, and he tells me of his fear for an ancient tree that stands in his garden, and of his sinusitis and how it is improved by the Remidie of garlique, and it takes only two small cloves. Anon, and a knock at the door, where is a familiar figure of short stature, wearing a helmet with feathers and kitted out in a tunique of rough animal skin and skirt of fringed leather, bearing a shield and a sword made for a taller person, which drags on the ground by his sequinned sandals, the final touch being eye liner and rouged cheeks; and all the while balancing before him a huge cardboard box.
  ‘Morning, Mr. Popups! Amazonian deliveries!’ trills he from behind his unwieldy load.
  ‘Ah!’ say I, ‘that will be the strawberrie huller for my father. It looks well-packaged. Perhaps you could bring it into the kitchen?’
  He sets it down there and brushes clean his skirt. ‘Why, Mr Jones! I did not expect to see you here,’ beams he.
  ‘Ah,’ says Mr. Jones. ‘We have met, then?’
  ‘I have broken two heels in your potholes. Is that coffee on the go?’
  ‘I thought we had sorted the potholes!’ exclaim I.
  ‘They are not the only problem,’ says Mr. Jones. ‘There is worse.’
  ‘Oh, no!’ gasps the Amazonian, biting his lower lip in concern. ‘What is the matter?’
  ‘I have ash die back.’
  The other gasps, his hand to his face, open-mouthed in shock. ‘Oh, no! My father had it in his leg! Not his good leg, the other, which was cut off at sea. He ran a pub quiz in The Pointlesse Inn and one evening it collapsed under him in the middle of the music round. He collided with the bar and hit his head fatally on the foot rail, and we never found out who wrote Rule Britannia.’
  ‘I am so very sorry to hear that,’ says Mr. Jones.
  ‘Thomas Arne,’ say I, brightly.
  ‘If I may ask — where is your disease?’ ventures the other of Mr. Jones.
  ‘They say it has gone to the trunk.’
  Tears spring to the eyes of our young delivery man. ‘How long?’ he gulps, clutching his mug with trembling hands.
  ‘Two years. Max,’ says Mr. Jones.
  ‘I am so sorry. I think about my father every day,’ says the other, dabbing his running mascara. ‘I have never got over the shock. There is so much I would have liked to say to him.’
  ‘A psychiatrist might help you through it,’ suggests Mr. Jones. ‘We know a nice lady. A Dr. Francis.’
  ‘Really? Where does she lives?’
  ‘Bedlam,’ interject I. ‘But she will not leave the house and spends all her time changing door knobs.’
  ‘Oh, but it would be wonderful if she could conjure up the spirit of my father!’
  ‘She is not a — ’ start I, but Mr. Jones throws me a look to prevent me dashing a young man’s hopes, which I was wont to do, but anyway there is another knock at the door.
  ‘Ah!’ say I. ‘Mr. Erchin! I need a word with you.’
  ‘And I with you, Mr. Peoples,’ says he, affabubblie making his way into the kitchen. ‘Mornin’ each. Is that coffee on the go?’
  ‘Okay, Trackentrace Apprentice of the Year — ’ start I.
  He puffs out his chest where sits a new Badge. ‘Trackentrace Executive,’ he says proudly and helps himself to a mug.
  ‘Trackentrace Assistant Codpiece, more like!’ protest I. ‘You sent us on a journie of six days to Liverpuddle when it should have been an hour there and back to Liverpuddle Street!’
  (‘Near Bedlam,’ observes the Amazonian.)
  ‘Which brings me to the reason for my visit,’ says he, raising a hand to shush me. ‘We have been pigeoned pertaining to an outbreak of the Covey at The Mermaid’s Bush, a notorious public house in a salacious area of that city, I believe. Would that be correct?’ The other two raise their eyebrows and await my reply.
  ‘I was there for the pub quiz!’ exclaim I. They raise their eyebrows higher. ‘Anyway, what happened to patient confidentialitie?’
  The others make theatricle actions to zip their mouths shut.
  ‘We will need to have you feathered promptly,’ comes the replie, and then he seems to recognise someone. ‘Didn’t I see you on the steps of St. Paul’s, in glittery harness sandals and purple woad?’
  ‘You did!’ blushes the Amazonian, touched for the first (and possibly onlie) time in his life by the light feather of fame. ‘I am through to the next round.’ His face falls. ‘But it will likelie be postponed, for I fear we are to be in tier three.’ He brightens. ‘But in the interim Mr. Jones is to help me commune with the shade of my father, and I will have closure at last!’
  I throw to Mr. Jones a how-exactlie-do-you-propose-to-do-that look but he simply climbs to his feet. ‘Well,’ says he to me. ‘Since I am the only one not to get a coffee, I will be off. If you’re coming round this evening for food, could you bring some small cloves of garlique? I have nearly run out.’
  After dinner, I to the Physician’s where feathered anew for the Covey; thence for supper to Mr. Jones his house, but wondering whether I must isolate myself and so, preoccupied, forgot his garlique.
  ‘I do not think Dr. Francis lives in Bedlam,’ says he.
  ‘She once told me she had the family to her house, and it was bedlam,’ say I in defence. ‘This is rather good garlick chicken.’
  ‘Yes, I used my last two cloves in it.’
  ‘Why did you ask for small cloves, by the way?’
  ‘A large clove is too big for the nostril.’
  I look at my plate.
  ‘I did wash them,’ he says.


A mid-October triptych

15 October, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, but all day troubled by an ague in my limbs, which I think is after the innoculcation I had yesterday, where they take the plague of infleünza and push it with a sharp needle into the arm and leave it there, though it is chopped into such tiny pieces that it does not work properly and can travel mostly to the armpit and no further, and cause an ache there, only mine has also travelled to my legs. But Lord forbid that we should have a second plague in winter on top of that which curs’d the summer and curses the autumn. In the morning comes John my gardener, and dug out two beds anew in the lawn, which I will plant out with bulbs.


16 October, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, and in the morning to my Spanish, the pains in my limbs gone, and to the brushing of my cat’s teeth, which are in fine shape and a healthy white, for which I am contented for he has put his life in my hands and I must do well by him. To dinner in the companie of Mr. Jones by my coach to the gallerie at Park Edge, where dined of a fine queache, and Mr. Jones of prawnes in the manner of the Spanish, with garlicke, which he has read is good for a blockage of the sinuses that he has; only that we eat outside at a Special distance under an awning with no heat, so froze. And there collected a pair of paintings that I bought, in oils, by Mr. D. Grosvenour of Crick Heath who painted my garden. I am mightily contented with them but must consider where they shall hang on the walls. Called at a very small shop that sells very small plants that grow atop very big mountains, even in snow and all the inclemencies of the weather that is thrown at them there, to replace one I have, that survived the Beast from the East and a summer wind that blew it from its pot, but did not withstand being squirted with a solution for the ’roach and other crawling Insectes, which I mistook for a remedie for green fly and so it went brown and then died.
  Home, and word from my father that he is a-cockahoup, for the Licencing authoritie hath granted him permition that he may drive his coach again, two months since they put a pulse maker into him; but because he can doth not mean he should, which I said to him, but he says he will drive only round the lanes, and not along the highways (as if in mitigation), till he is used to it again. So, for information it is coach which is a bright blue like a shiny metal, called Costa Azule, a Peoples Coach made by a German hand, and its name is an Up!, which I think is the most ridiculous name for a coach I did ever hear in my entire life, but I describe it for the benefitt of those who use the lanes nearby his house, to apprise them of a need for great Vigilance. After supper, news from beyond the Marches that the First Druid hath closed the roads from England from six a’clock, thinking to stop the plague coming along them. And so to bed.


17 October, in the year of our Lord 2020

Today goes my Spanish teacher Iñigo el Vasco to Mallerger, with Ryeireann Air so he must take his own seat. I to the Redbreast plant exchange to buy plants for my new beds, which I planted after dining there on a great tart of cheese and leakes, it being a pleasant afternoon and sunshine, and warmer than yesterday, I think. Later, read news in the gazette of the mayor of Liverpuddle, that his brother is dead of the plague. 


On the Follys of the First Lord

12 October, in the year of our Lord 2020

In the morning I went out, and heard the general spleen of the people in the streets as to the measures the First Lord of the Treasurie has newly taken for the plague: that his gouvernment has not had a steady hand on it, nor now has; and some say that it should be allowed to reap its reward in lives, whereupon it will move away for there will be no substrate for it; others that our hope lies only in locking ourselves away from it, which I think is an instrument as blunt as a bat, and we cannot beat the plague forever with it. I would aspire to seeing how it goes above where it goes, for the first will lead to the second, and if it goes from tavern to tavern, address the Opening of taverns, and if from house to house, desist, and if by coach from one part of the Countrie to another, stop the movement of coaches along the roads and lanes, for where people go it will take a coach with them. It may be, in the end, that it is like water that flows down a hill, and it will find its way whatever the Obstacle, but I think all these are a commonsense. At the very least if people are to have a test they must know the outcome of it within a day, and all this would be known, and done, in an Arrangement that worked, but it is plain that it does not. In my administrating the Navy, and in all my days in that office, I did not once mis-place the ledgers of sixteen thousand sailors. I am of the mind that one more misfortune for our second rate Dido will see her lament afresh, for she will be abandoned by her new Aeneas who, while this mishap mishappened, was meanwhile a-blather about powering the land with Wind, and how this will best all the oil in Araby; yet though he could turn the sails of all the mills in England with the wind from his own lungs, the First Lord cannot use the same breath to explain his own Covey law.
  After dinner, delivered by Drivers Hopelesslie Lost of two shirts with short sleeves, the same as the one I have in aubergyne, which I did order on the Line two weeks since, and am mightily contented with the fitte of them, for though there is a dearness to them, the prize of a shirt that sits well upon the shoulders is worth the cost; and these sit well in all their proportions for they are made in Denmark using an Algorithm, which is a kind of Danish loom. By evening, news of the latest Great Insighte from the First Lord, which is not to breake the Circuit of the plague, still less to take a shot at the Moon (which inanities are his latest forrays into fanciful description), but to put in place Levels of restriction to limit the plague, of which there are to be three. I knew it would end in tiers. And so to bed.


Joining the dots

11 October, in the year of our Lord 2020

Lord’s Day. Up, and put on my pink twill shirt and thicker trousers against the cold of the morning, and after breakfast to the cooperatife shop for grocerys and a gazette. Returned to my own home severalle days since, after the final leg of our journy home, which was a great test and brought us into town past where lives my Lord Anglesey, I and my father beside me, his vigore sapped by the effort of the week and our coach delivering him to his home where was my mother, watching The Hurry Bakers on a magick screen. The weather fair today but the garden all wetted with rain, which makes me not want to work in it, onlie that I picked quinces from my furryapple tree, a few of them which have turned golden, and now I must leave them to rest in a cool place, and in a dark place on a tray, which I have washed after the busines with the chips; and after to my glass house for a half hour, to good purpose with my bollackworts and the watering of them, which look healthie and some are in flower or, if not, with buds.
  Thence to dinner to the Whitefort Arms, on White fort street, where dined with Mr. M. Jones and Mr. R. Owen, on a rissoto made with a lobster Beisque, a rare roaste boeuff and potatos and a Pudding of an Artick Role, of a fine lemon [taste] and very pleasant, with two pints of wine from Chille, where we did discourse admirably, including of the burial which I went to with Mr. Owen on Friday at St. James’s, of the mother of my friend Adam, which had a good sermon which the preacher took from some leaves that she had wrote for the purpose, except not the full 20 pages of it, for which we were thankfulle. And all of us pretty contented though the plague is on the rise again, and people speaking openly of the fear they have for a second Lock Up, which has happen’d in some towns. Mr. M. Jones of especial good Affect, for he is to have enstalled into his house, which is in the middle of nowhere up a hill, a broad Band made of fibre, which is like a cumerbund, I think, of hemp or jute, that comes down the lane on poals and into his house through a hole they must make in his wall, and he says that along it will come squiggles of light to help his magick screen work better. Only there is a shortage of the type of cummerbund they need, which has a wire of copper to strengthen it, which perterbs him a little, I think, for the job was to be done in a week or two; but he hath profitted to his great content from a special Offer due to expire itself at the stroke of midnight — viz.: the 14l for the installing of it, waved; 10l on a Maister card to spend at the Exchange; and 2l 10s. for his ordering of it with a Rewardes card (I know not what that means). After, lifted Mr. Owen to his house, which has a new drive and a pair of sturdy gates, but his cat has a limp, and parted.
  After supper, the Messenger from my father, I by return hoping to assuayge the feares he has for his chest and the Lesions in it, which, thanks be to God, are small and may have been in there for an excess of a yeare or two, causing him no trouble at all; or so thinks his Physician, and also that my father may benefitte from some special Rays of light shone into his chest that will make them disappeare, or so it is to be hoped. My poor father is much troubled, more than I have ever seen, and wishes it all done, but nothing I can do will hasten it; but to give himselfe purpose today he has been up a ladder to clean with a hose the gutters of the little building where he keeps his coach. I am puzzled as to all these Varieties of Light, which is put to more purposes than any I believed possible for it and can find nothing of it in my Opticks. But the light of stars is a constant, and my father says that last night, at two a-clock, when he was not sleeping, he saw in the sky the bright light of Sirius rising in the south-east, and the Great Bear and Orion the Hunter, his belt the clearest for many a year, and I ponder on how much of our lives is given to our minds joining random points with lines, to make from events a drawing that makes sense, and that the picture is different for each of us. And so to bed.


Another testing time

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 — ?’
  ‘Ninetee? 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.


App and Apprentice

7 September, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, and a tiny bat on the kitchen floor, which was a first, and a trophy of which Banjo seems proud, for he hath presented it whole, lying by his bowl, a sweet thing which did weigh almost nothing, but thanks be to God the life had departed it. After a breakfast of bacon, two rashers with an egg, fried, and a piece of bread with the blue bits cut off, I placed in the oven two trays of my water from the morning which I passed, which is strong and the colour of a malmsey and much to my content, they to dry on a low heat, it being showery so they will not dry outdoors, to make the urea salve for my heel which I have had in mind for several weekes and is ready to be done with the base unguent, only lacking the grease of a boar. Anon to the Physician’s, where empty save for two figures gloomly lit on the further side of the counter: himselfe perusing a stack of ledgers, the turning of the leaves provoking a cloud of dust, and beside him his new assistant, before whom a brass nameplate, the cleanest thing in the entire room, proclaiming ‘Mr. G. Erchin – Apprentice Trackentracer, by Appointmente of Matt. Handcock, Esq., Secretarie for the Plague’ along with sundry items there arrayed, incl. a pair of compasses and a map of England.
  ‘I would like to book a Covey test for my father — please,’ say I. ‘On the understanding that your methods have improved.’
  The Physician glares me over his spectacles. ‘We lead the known world in our methods, as proclaimed by none other than the First Lord of the Treasurie! Doth your father have a cough or a fever? Doth he smell all right?’
  ‘He smells alright to me. He is to have a Procedure on Thursday next, so the Hospitalle hath performed copious tests upon the blood which they have taken from his veins, but must ensure he harbours not the plague.’
  ‘I regret I am unable to help,’ says the Physician. ‘Our appointments are fully booked for six weekes. It is out of my hands — ’ (which he spreads helplessly).
  ‘I do not see how that can be,’ I protest. ‘It is always the case when I come that there is no one here but I! The Secretarie for the Plague assures all and sundry that the Capacitie for tests is prodigious.’
  ‘Alas, I cannot vouch for the pronouncements of the Secretarie of State.’
  At which his underling gives a polite cough. ‘Perhaps I may make a suggestion, Mr. Peepeyes,’ says he, ‘which is that we pigeon the hospitalle to acquaint ourselves with your father’s results, and mayhap then together essay this — ’ whereupon he indicates the paraphernalia laid out before him.
  ‘Which is — ?’
  ‘ — which is nothing less than a World-Beating Initiative from the Secretarie for the Plague. Mr. Handcock’s very own Bespoke Covey Application, which he hath touted up and down the land!’
  ‘If you know how it works,’ say I, with suspicious dubiety.
  ‘If you want to know how Technologie works, ask a ten year old,’ says the Physician, shambling into the dark recesses. ‘I will attend to the pigeon.’
  ‘It is done on line, Mr. Pespy,’ says the Trackentrace Apprentice, nodding me to the now familiar chalk mark on the floor behind me, and setting within his reach the disparate objects comprising the Application and dividing his attention between the parchment, whereupon appear writ his Instructions, and the map, which he has unfolded to its fullest extent. In his right palm he cups the corpse of a field mouse, sliding it here and there, up and down and round, over the map, from time to time stopping to mutter ‘Click’, while seeming to make choices and to watch for a result; after near a half-hour takes he in his hand his pair of compasses, sets the distance using a rule, places the pin on certain positions on his map, and draws two arcs that interesect.
  ‘I have it!’ exclaims he. ‘The Covey App has found the very place where you may take your father for his test!’
  ‘That is excellent news, if somewhat surprising since I thought you unable to read or write. Where is this place? I hope it is not too far.’
  ‘Liverpuddle!’ declares he, in triumph at his achievement.
  I blanche. ‘Liverpuddle! But Liverpuddle is a vile port seething with villainy, iniquity and depravity, not to mention it is seventy leagues or more away!’
  ‘To be exact,’ says he, consulting his map, ‘as the crow flies it is fifty-nine — ’
  ‘As the crow flies? What manner of calculation — ?’
  ‘ — point three,’ he fades out.
  ‘Secure your wheels when you get there,’ advises a voice from the back room.
  Maddened by this chicanery I step to the counter to grab the urchin’s parchment. ‘This is not technologie! It is Codologie of the first order! Your instruction sheet is upside down, you clodpate!’
  Whereupon returns the Physician with a pigeon in his hands and un-wraps the message on its leg.
  ‘These are your father’s results,’ says he, discarding the bird and assuming a physicianly mien. ‘He hath a slight depletion of the red Corpuscles; his phlegm is thick and viscouse, and of a bottle green hue; and his Humours are within the accepted range, save that his black to yellow bile ratio is a little on the high side. Would you say he was inclined to the melancholic at the present?’
  ‘Of course he’s inclined to the melancholic at the present! Get on with it.’
  ‘His gamma-G & T is perfect.’
  ‘Which is — ?’
  ‘A magick enzime, essential to the health of the Hepar and maintained by wine, beer and divers spirits such as genever. Hence the name.’
  ‘I am grateful for the timely update,’ say I, ‘for which you will no doubt invoice me, but this App, as you call it, is the most blatant tomfoolery I did ever see in my entire life and I shall decline its help. Good day, gentlemen.’
  At which point Mr. Erchin reaches for his overcoat and comes to shew me out. ‘I too must be abroad, Mr. Popeyes,’ explains he as he opens the door. ‘I am late for my morning Trackentrace.’ But on the threshold we are stopped with a start! For across the lane are two Constables, and between them Jervas the Barber, which they are frogmarching in the direction of the river, and the urchin takes my forearm in his grasp and mutters, ‘I knowed it!’, which at that moment I cannot account for.
  By and by comes Mr. M. Jones for supper, eager to shew to me the gazette and its head Line — viz.: ‘In which is presented, for the Edification of the Public, News, firstly of a Great & Sordid Covey Outbreak Scandal, with Severalle Arrests Made, and furthermore of the Exploits of a Trackentrace Hero, named herein.
  ‘I shall prepare supper,’ says Mr. Jones, ‘if you wish to read it.’
  And so I did read that ‘An outbreak of Covey disease has been traced to the premises of one Wm. Jervas, Gentleman’s Barber and Purveyor of Periwigs, who, with his entire family, has been found to have used Feathers, which they did procure through shocking and illicit Practices from lawful Centres for the Testing of the Plague, in the manufacture of Quiltes, Down Pillowes and Feather Duvets, these being sold on the street for unlawful Profit…’ (‘I saw the sign outside his shop!’ breathed I, aghast) ‘…which Discoverie was made manifest by the Diligence, Determination and Dedication of Mr. George Erchin, an Apprentice newly admitted to the Loyal Companie of Trackentracers…et cetera, et cetera.
  ‘An interesting story, is it not?’ says Mr. Jones over supper.
  ‘Indeed,’ I reply with my mouth full. ‘I knew the man to be a scoundrel! What do we have on our plates tonight?’
  ‘Burger and oven chips.’
  ‘Oven chips?’
  ‘I thought they would be quick,’ says he, placing one in his mouth and savouring it, ‘and by a happy circumstance there were trays ready warmed for them in your oven. They have an uncommon taste I cannot place. I do not think you will need salt.’
  ‘Wha-a-a-t — ?!!


De motu cordis

14-31 August1

1 September, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up betimes, it sunny and bright, I with my mother and father at their house, where my father fell ill these two weeks — rather: being ill, he fell, on a certain night, which was in the middle of August, I think, suffering a faint before he was in bed, which damaged his hand with some small cuts in the falling, and in the morning the maid who calls to ablute my mother sent him to the Hospitalle for there was a great feablenesse in him, I hying there the while in my coach.
  He hath received a pulse maker, for the natural beat of the circulation at his wrist was so slow as not to push enough blood to his head, so he had a giddiness; and this pulse maker is such a thing as I never saw in my entire life, being in the nature of a square of some materiel placed on the front of his chest, below his collar bone, in the form of a net as is used by fishermen, or of some simple lacework, and over it a film that clings to it, to stick it in its place on his skin; and Lord knows how such a flimsy thing can change his pulse and keep him from another faint, for I never read of it in Mr. Harvey’s book unless I skipped that bit, which I am wont. He is better, but not as certain on his feet, or as strong, as when in Lock Up he climbed on to the roof of the out building wherein he stores his Tools, to fix a leak that had happened, all this at ninety years, which vexed me lest he fell off it and broke a bone in the middle of the plague.
  I to my house for a few days only, then back, where again these six days, my father complaining once more of a poorlyness, which was Thursday; and though he feels well again I will stay to make sure that the maids call more often when I leave, and that they will cook, and wash, and shop for victuals, which my father in his pride has refused heretofore, which we will meet tomorrow to discuss so that I will have confidence that it will be done, and I hope it will lighten my mind a little, which all the while is troubled by a further little thing — viz., that in the Hospitalle they used an optic Contrivance to look at my father, which they say shines into his chest a light that cannot be seen, through a huge prism in the shape of a tube, which he was moved through, lying on his back, and from the light that comes out of the other side they can conjure a print of what is inside him, which is black and white like an engraving, and on it they found some small things they think should not be there; all this being very well, and good, I hope, and to his great benefit, but it is a worry that they have not bled him nor applied Leeches.
  In the afternoon, I think to check my own Circulation using a contraption my father has in his closet for measuring the tension of the Arteries, which is a huge column of water in a tube, mounted on a stout wooden frame that reaches from the floor to the ceiling, working together with a great waistecoat that is inflated by bellowes using the feet, like an organ, which my father bought from a man who had such a tension in his Vessles that the machine flooded his loft though he had it in his scullery, and he died of apoplexy before it all dried, so his widow sold it to pay a plasterer. But the tension of my vessells at the full pumping of the heart, which Harvey calls sistole, is only five foot and 7 inches of water, over three foot 1 inch at hearts rest, which is good for a man of my age, and to my great content.
  After supper, walked alone around their little garden, where the colours are of late summer, with some big purpley flowers on a shrub like the heads of mops, and others tiny and the colour of carmine, hanging from the slender stems of bushes like a thousand little drops of blood. It is the garden where I played as a child, my mother watching over me, and there is a strange, sad contentment in me that I can walk in it still, below the branches of the apple trees and behind the house where I grew up, with its door upstairs where the little plaque says ‘Samuel’s Room’; only now it is I who makes our supper, and who sees my parents to bed and locks up, and wonders about the movements of the heart, and how long the summer will last. And so to bed.

1. Pepys made no entries between 13th August and 1st September. This was almost certainly because he was at his parents’ home for most of that time, his father having been taken ill on either 15th or 16th August. We presume this because a number of receipts from the local Tesco were found between the blank leaves of his journal for this period, mainly for a ‘Saint Mont’ white wine and a Chilean carmenère, both of which, records tell us, were on special offer.