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A Nell for the End of Plague Year

31 December, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, the day cold and a light snow, but cheered a little for my Almanack says it will be six minutes and a second longer than the Solstice, the sun a fraction higher — then un-cheered, for yesterday I allowed myself to run out of oyl and the house freezing, so at eight a-clock lit a fire of coal in the hearth. By and by a knock at the door, which I opened, where stood a stout figure, young and with a little stubble, sporting an auburn wig with ringlets, and bearing a whicker basket full of china oranges and a package of card board so large he could bearly see over it, attired in a cape and dress of a shimmerie emerald, offset by a frilly white décolletage enhanced by a string of satsumas.
  ‘Morning, Mr. Peasoup! Amazonian deliveries!’ chirped he.
  ‘Ah! In that enormous box may be my onion goggles,’ said I, cheered again. ‘Or else a new louse comb. You had better bring it in.’
  He placed the package on the kitchen table and whilst I set to the opening of it gave a theatricle twirl. ‘What do you think?’
  ‘It is very lovely. The outfit hath a familiar look.’
  ‘Nell Gwyn!’ he trilled. ‘Mistress to the King!’
  ‘Ah, yes. I saw her in The Mayden Queene.’
  ‘I am so thrilled! I know it will be a small event, since we are in Tier the Fourth, but tonight I am in the final of the St. Pauls Drag Race!’
  ‘Well, you are more realistic than anything I have seen on The Crowne, which doth not even feature the King. Is the frock sattin?’
  He sat and slumped, downcast. ‘I cannot afford sattine, Mr. Puppies. It is polliester.’
  ‘Oh, look!’ I then exclaimed, removing from the box on the table a device like a wooden stapler. ‘This is my new handy chestnut pricker! “The arm hath a good Leverage to penetrate the shell while the other hand securely holds the chestnut.”’
  ‘Are you sure it is not as easy to use a fork?’
  ‘Pfff!’ I admonished him. ‘I do not buy things for no reason! I shall set it here in this convenient recess, between my melon seed tweezers and my peach fuzz remover.’
  But the young man was siezed with his customery doubt and looked to me for reassurance. ‘Do you think I am in with a chance?’
  ‘Well — ’ said I, and paused for a second. ‘I realise I do not know your name,’ I confessed, seating myself at the opposite end of the table to provide avuncular advice.
  At which the other blushed scarlette. ‘None other to whom I deliver hath ever asked my name, Mr. Peaspy,’ said he, sweetly. ‘It is Gerard. Gerard Small.’
  ‘Well, you must have confidence, Gerard Small,’ sayed I.
  ‘It is a thing I have always lacked,’ sayed he, disconsulate. ‘My life has been beset by Anxietie and a failure of courage. This competicion has been my Lock Up saviour. To win it would change everything.’ He brightened. ‘Oh! I am to speak a short verse that tells the judges something of who I am as a person. May I rehearse it for you?’
  ‘Fire away.’
  So up he stood and, casting his anxious eyes to the ceiling, turned his back to me for a moment to collect his thoughts. Newly composed, hands clasped in front of him, he turned, took a deep in-breath, and began to recite:
  ‘I’ve played my part in all your scenes:
  I’ve quit benzodiazepines
  To sit all night with crinolines,
  So much to me this title means.
  So as they roll out plague vaxines,
  And when your panel reconvenes,
  I hope you like my tangerines
  Enough to crown me Queen of Queens!

  Concern crossed his face again and he bit his lower lip. ‘What do you think? Is it aweful?’
  ‘It far outdoes The Mayden Queene!’ said I, in admiracion. ‘Who could not be swayed by such a mix of innocence, hope and self-disclosure? You shall not always deliver parcels. Your true métier lies elsewhere, and if you examine your heart you know it. Believe in yourselfe and I see a great future for you! Not small, Gerard, but medium, and large!’ I cried, forgetting myself in my own rhetorique. ‘In this competicion there is no reason you cannot go all the way — though I would not let the King see you,’ I added, ‘or he will want to do the same. His eyesight is not what it was.’
  ‘I am so hopefulle,’ sighed he. ‘Though now I am worryed my five a-clock shadow may count against me.’ At which of a sudden, seeming caught by a wild idea, sat he bolt upright and wide-eyed, his fingers to his open mouth. ‘Wait! Did you say peach fuzz remover?’
  And so away sashayed he, a-skip with a new if tempory assurance, and again I think him one who will bounce back whenever life will trip him up, for in his lack of guile lies a strength others envy, were he to recognise it.
  After dinner to my office and the writing of my Journalle since Christmasday, when with my mother and father, which was to the great content of us all, though for the day only, and a thing I did not imagine, when a younger man, to still celebrate together; and it joys me their surviving through the plague, and other ill dispositions, for which thanks to God, and I hope in eight weekes to see my father enter his ninety second year in good cheer, and my mother also for her turn. The day after it, which was the Twentysixth, to the house of Mr. M. Jones, in a great storm, who cooked a fine Turkie stuffed with all the trimmings, and there drank a pint of Champayne and partook in a quiz on the magick screen with Mr. T. Radford, where we came 5th, I think, though I knew the answer to Q. 36, which concern’d when there was a Law that for 14 years forbode us to celebrate Christmas in England, ‘as it was deem’d immoral to indulge in pleasure on a Holyday’: which answer was the Fifties, the years of the Puritans, which memory is as cleare in my mind as this morning.
  Thus ends a year as sorry as any I ever saw in my life, of a strangenesse none thought to come to pass these twelvemonths, it being a whole year since a man caught the plague from a china bat. In 1665 the pestilence was abated almost to nothing at year end (I wrote then), whereas we are still bound by Support Bubbles and separated by Special Distances, condemmed to masques for the face and jells for the hands, while the plague resurgent joys its winter season by filling the Hospitalles, and the whole number dead lying at 70000, when 20000 were said in March to be a grievous tally. I have sought to discover when I might role up my sleeve for the vaxine, and find I should keep May free.
  As to other public matters, all again is in a hurry since the First Lord of the Treasurey hath severed us finally from the Continent, but in the doing of it made us a nation perceived incontinent, of temper and of bile. He will find the country far from in so fine a form as he thinks, for it will be diminished in the worlde, and I hope that having fabricated enemies without he doth not fabricate enemies within, and the state not consume its own. For, Lord! the mischief to the nation the deceit hath wrought four years or more, till the people wished it all finished; and so, as sad am I to see our flag in Bruxles furled away, it is finished — as much as History is. The Great Weather Change continues without sufficient abatement, which is to the detriment of the globe, the place of frost Fayres taken by monsune; and the Plymouth Colony hath a new leader, to the great disbelief of the old, who even yet hath time to barrackade himself in his white house. Yet my own health is in as good plight as it ever was, and I have as fine friends as any man, losing none to the Covy, and I am held, I hope, in good esteem. This year hath been kind to me, not least in the matter that when I took up my Journalle again in March, I thought none interested to read the inconsequences of my life; but it seems they are, and a gratitude of debt is owed by me to those who find it entertanes them.
  At supper, supped of a rare strong water of genever flavor’d with oysters, a gift of Mr. M. Jones from a Distiller in St-Mary’s-in-the-Hollow, who came (which is Mr. Jones) to dine with me on a fine meal of cock o’van made by Mr. Chas. Bigham of Corryander Ho[use], in Brent.
  ‘I hope you have found my Christmas gift to you of some use,’ ventured I.
  ‘The bespoke Ready Meal Film Piercer Set?’
  ‘The very same,’ replyed I, feeling a warm pleasure that he finds some worth in it.
  ‘It was very kind,’ said he, ‘especially to have it monogrammed. But is it not as easy to use a fork?’ (he being the second to put that question in a single day).
  At midnight we lighted up the magick screen and, hopping channels, hoppened upon the spectackle of fanfare music and fyrewerkes at St. Pauls. Whereupon we sat bolt upright, for there we beheld, fludde-lit and specially distanced atop the steps, with Bodacia on one side and Tittania, Queene of the Faeries, on the other, be-crowned and cradling with one arm the biggest boquet I ever saw in my entire life, and with the other a familier basket of oranges, none but a beaming Nell Gwyn, teares of joy flowing down his perfect cheeks, while half a dozen passers by yelled ‘Happy New Year!’ and one cried ‘Show us yer pips!’. So we raised our glasses in a merrie toast, for we knew of one at least whose year could not end better.
  And so, with great content, to bed — though vexed to find the pin hath fell out of my chestnut pricker, so I must send it back. My father’s year, by the way, does not last only ninety seconds; it is the same length as everyone elses (though I admit this one seemed longer).

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Abroad

23 December, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, I and Banjo breakfasting on a Gourmet satchet, felicks, gruel and milk. Lit the hearth but the wind northeast, which makes it go over a high roof next door and fills my room with smoke. Anon, the Messenger from my father that a maydservant who comes to my mother hath a cough and will not come today, which makes him ill at ease, for a new kind of Covey is abroad which is more of a party animal than the old, and which has made the French, who are also abroad, to cause a big tail of carriages in Dover and while our backs are turned will steale all our Herrings. The Secretarie for Gridlocke says it is all to the good, for we are in practise for January when we will finally get what we voted for, though I think it is the French, not us, who have took back control of our boarders. Mrs. Dick by the Messenger shew me some cross stitch she had made and I congratulated her for a lovely little robbin, but she sayd it was a baby pinguin with a red heart on it.
  Felt hungry so about 11 a-clock joyn’d another long tail, in the lane, to buy choppes for dinner from MacSporran’s new butchershoppe, to have with pickled oysters, and to inquire after his wife, who I saw last five months ago in a rainstorme, in a Special Bubble floating down the lane to Westminster Stairs and the river. And a very fine and unexpected thing it was to behold such many young people in the tail before me and behind, all a-giggle and extraordinary merrie in high spirits, even for Christmas, which lifted my own. Inside, heared two ask for the ‘special Haggies’, and they gone, a-sniggering in the going (though I know not what was the joke), thought to buy it too, having not eat it for a long while, but there was none left, and MacSporran says to me, ‘Aye — we’ve had a bit of a run on it.’ ‘In that case I will have two lamb choppes after all,’ say I. ‘And how and where is your good wife?’ At which threw he a scurvy look. ‘She’s abroad,’ is all he says — but everyone knows that; I just wondered where she was.
  After, cut my hair in the kitchen, trimmed my beard in the closet and attended to my fat balls in the garden. 

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What is wrong with me?

11 December, in the year of our Lord 2020

After dinner, went by coach to Mr. Ben Jones in Holy island, where for an hour with some merry discourse; and there I found him well and he hath a cat, eight months, which is very small and light and enquisative, though he keeps it inside, for he lives on the first floor and hath no garden, so he calls it a flat cat. (Nearby is a road, so he is fearfull lest a coach hit it, and makes it flatter.) Then home.


12 December, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, but another murky day. I in a fit of enthusiasme to the Gymnaseum, but few there, and none that I knew, so having no reason other than to exercise, I did it for an hour.1 But I worry that I must pay for it tomorrow, for I have not done it, only once I think, and not so much, since my father began his treatement with the magick rays.
  By the same token, after dinner, word by the Messenger from my father that he hath reciev’d a letter from a nurse who tends him at the Hospitalle, and in it says that he will ‘be receiving an appointment to see Dr. P— or one of his deputys in Januarie however if you have problems in the meantime you may contact myself’. Which is well and in good order for the intent, but lamentable, I think, in the execution of the writing of it. Consistencie of grammar, uniformitie of punctuacian and concistency of spelling is a thing in which I pride myself in my Journalle — as, I hope, is plain to behold in the reading of it, for claritie of expresion is to be esteemed above all, and I think to best any man in that skill — and which I endeavore to continue, may God help me, as long as my eyes allow; so I think it proper to expect the same excelence in others, especially in a position of responsibility, but in that sentence alone in the letter to my father are two solescismes that vex me. The first is the use without any punctuacion what so ever around it of ‘however’, which useage now seems as pernitious as the plague itself; yet I am vexed more by the second, which is ‘contact myself’. ‘Me’ is a satisfactory objeck proknoun; ‘myself’, on the other hand, is reflexive or emphatique. What is wrong with ‘me’? It is wholely good and proper English to write ‘you may contact me’, and a great Error otherwise. It is, in fact, what I myself learned at Pauls schoole.  


13 December, in the year of our Lord 2020

Lords day. Ached a lot all day.

 

 

1. Reliable contemporary sources tell us that Pepys’ exercise hour in fact comprised no more than 45 minutes.

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Fat balls

10 December, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, and removed a dead voal from the door mat. Thence to the Gardens where I help to curate the bollackworts on Thursdays, but have not been for 5 weeks, or more, and there greeted Mrs. Rosemarie Cress, who I perceived sat in a far corner; but she cried that I should come no further for she had emitted a great fart, which no masque yet invented would ward against, so we sat even further apart than usual. After, bought fat balls to feed the birds, and saw a shop newly open where before was Jervas the Barber, but now above the door says Jas. MacSporran, Esq. ~ Butcher and Master Purveyoure of Qalitie Meats, Game & Offle, and from the door in the street such a tail of people that I did not go into it, though fancied lamb choppes. After dinner, to Mr. Joneses house where took his Poudle for a walk, Mr. Jones visiting the man who looks after his teeth for him, for he likes to see them once in a while. Walked for a half hour, but it fell again to rain, so back. The balls for the birds are not fat, they are fatballs. It is the Poudle that has fat balls, I noticed from behind, on the way home. After supper, news that the First Lord of the Treasurie hath been rude to a German lady in Bruxels, so now the Navy will have to stop the French from eating all our herings. 

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Fine dining

6 December, in the year of our Lord 2020

Lords day. Up, the weather foul and excessive wet, and all the world without colour. This is, I think, the worst 4 weekes of the yeare, when it is dark late and dark early. Returned home to my house three days since, taking leave of my parents and their house, which I am fond of, though to navigate it is like to go around an obstackle course on account of the clutter, even in the bath Room, where there is no room to floss a tooth. But my father is in excellent good cheer for his treatement hath run its course and he is well, which he did not expect to be. Dined with Mr. M. Jones and Mr. Redz. Holyfield, at the Whitefort Arms, on White Fort Street, on a fine monk fish and a stickie pudding with toffe and a Bannana, which I saw before only in the shopp of Thos. Johnson in Holborn; only that the sale of wine and beer is not permitted, lest drunkards spread the plague, so partoke of a pint of none alkerholic wine, mulled to disguize it. 10l 3s. 4d. for all, only Mr. Jones did insist he payd, and that we should think it a gift from Mr. van Oppenreitsch. Mr. Holyfield left six cakes which he made, with a butter cream icing in many Coloures, which were all to our great content. 

 

7 December, in the year of our Lord 2020

After breakfast, with Mr. M. Jones by our coaches, seperate, to the coast, where walked 5 miles by the sea, where I had not walked before, but it cold, and it fell a-raining all the time, which was against the weather prophecie, and I with no proofs against the weather, became soaked. Left a coach at start and finish, for which I was grateful, so sat in the one of Mr. Jones to air dry, and dined on sandwichs, which have now been invented, flame grilled stake crisps and a Yorkist chockerlate bar. Saw a red squirle. 

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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.  

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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, 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 a Hollander.
  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.

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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 8 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.’

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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.

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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.