Categories
News

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 — ?!!

Categories
News

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. 

Categories
News

Stiff in the morning

13 August, in the year of our lord 20201

Lay long in bed, till 9 a-clock, my back stiffened and paining since two days ago, which was Tuesday, and this morning without ease of any movement to roll out of bed and stand, the result I think of my cutting all my lawn the day before, which is to say Monday, and weeding between my flowers, and pruning a good deal, and washing the paving round my house, which is of travertine and should be white but were a greenish black, and slippery, like bile, which I washed with water through a howse Pipe which has such a force on it you could remove a toe with it, and all this on the same day; so that yesterday I found [it] difficult to walk and must rest. (I have done it before, only worse, when I could not walk at all, or hardly, which was in the Balearics when I could not get myself out of a coach we hired and was transfixed with one hand hanging on the door and the other on the roof of it, nor could I stand to shave myself nor rise to right myself from doing my business on the pot, which did concern me mightily that I might be found in that position: stuck, or even dead, in motion, as it were.) Mr. M. Jones hath given me some pills which he says are a nonstey-royally-ansty-flammorty, and tells me they will help. I am hobbling too for my heal hurts again, and as the urea unguent that I bought two months since is near gone, so I have left a tray or two of my water which I have passed, in shallow trays from the kitchen, to dry it in the garden and from it make a remedie of my own. And I am confined for a further reason, which is that on Monday (which day I think it was) I found lying on my drive a part of a thick spring, broken, which had fallen from beneath my coach, and the repair shoppe says I should not ride abroad in it, only to take it to them on Friday.
  The weather this weeke is up so down, it being uncommon hot these five or six days, with a dampness in the air so thick as to get between the teeth, which I did not think to see after so many miserable weeks; and though downpours with rain and Thunderclaps, and even hale, did pass by my house, they did not pass by the house of Mr. Jones, who left open the windows in his roof and had water over his bed and all on the floor of his closet.
  After breakfast, doddered down to feed Mr. R. Owens cat and to check the post [man] has not left packages in the cat flap again, which he did some days since, blocking it for its whole length, which is made of a small tube between the out and inner walls, so the cat could not get in or out. (Now I remember, I could not get myself in either, for Mr. Owen has new gates, but the first time I ever saw them, having admired them from the street, I could not get in for the workmen had bolted on the inside and then left.)
  After dinner to some trivial tasks in the garden, my back a little looser so I could stand almost straight upright, and sat there and read a little from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: A Selection by Mr. Robt. Latham, which I have almost finished, though I remember almost nothing of the selection made by the good Mr. Latham, and wonder if it were another life. For supper came along Mr. M. Jones, bringing salad and some cheeses and a fine pie of pork, and a summer Pudding, though to bed betimes against taking in my coach in the morning.
  I did not get in through the cat flap, which is a squeeze even for the cat, which has put on wt. during Lock Up; I reached inside the gates to wiggle loose the bolts, which I could not have done today.

1. Pepys in entries around this time sometimes transposes events or confuses his accounts of them, commenting to that effect himself in his entry for 28 July when he says, ‘my Journall […] is all in the wrong order and I think my father would do a better job’.

Categories
News

A quince, a canvas and a quiz

5 August, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, but another desperate day and it will not stop raining, only on Friday since, I think, when we had a heat wave for 4 Hrs., and on Monday when the sun was enough to sit in it; but a sorry summer so far. I would trim my lawn again save for the wetness, which I have done myselfe these four months, for John my man who cuts the grass has not been, nor left any word. The other day, which was Wednesday of last week, came Mr. Ben. Jones, which was nice to see, and the rain stopped for a few minutes; and he was spruce and handsome, and has lost a little weight, I think; and we did have some merry discourse, he telling me that my furryapple tree is a Quince, not an aprycotte, and it will have a fine crop, which I hope it will have, though I know not what to do with a quince save a jellie, which I have never made; and also there are two tiny trees, no bigger than will fill a pot, which they are in, one apiece, which are pink peppercornes, he says, which are much to my liking for their scented flavour, and turning pink now.
  A week since, to Crick Heath for my painting which I did commission in June, not from Cooper who did the little painting of my wife but from a new man, which is a Mr. D. Grosevener; and I am mightily contented with it, and think it will look fine in my house, on a wall, and perhaps the finest I have since it is of my own garden, in a summer when the sun shone, so I can see what my own flowers looks like in sunlight for a change; but it will need a frame, which I have left it for in St. Marys-in-the-Hollow, though it will take four weeks, which is longer than it took to paint it, and 7l. 10s. At dinner, my heel sore again, with a crack to the skin, which will need a remedie.
  On Saturday came Mr. M. Jones for supper, and for a kind of competition, with questions on the magic screen, which we have done before and once came second, made for everyone by Mr. T. Radford, with others in attendance; only that every time we are asked about Musicke Mr. Jones says, ‘Oh, I know that one!’ but can remember not the name of it nor the singer of it, so it is a poor round for us since I know naught of Musicke since that modernist Mr. H. Purcelle, in whose werke I find little good matter, and Mr. Radford does not ask about the theorbo, which I could answer. For supper beforehand, eat a savory dish from Italie, took away from the little town on the river Quevney, which was a dough made in a big circle and cooked in an oven fired with wood, with tomato on top and cheese, and more, bespoke, mine being with capers and Anchoveys, and for Mr. Jones one he called ‘Surf and Turf’ which I did not understand, though to hear it said describes very well the nature of my contract with John the gardener. And so, we coming 4th. in the Competitione, though to my great content correctlie identifying a drawing of a crickette pitch, for ‘Sport & Leisure’ is not a strength, to bed.

Categories
News

A pair of shorts

22-23 July, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up betimes, and after breakfast in my carriage to visit my mother and father, who are well, though they have not left their house in Lock Up at all, which has vexed my father, only in their carriage to the river, once, where a very few abroad, and did not get down from their carriage, and then home. And they are 90, which is a great age, and my father I think of a mind sounder than mine, for sometimes I cannot remember why I am upstairs and have to ask the cat, but he can write me a list for Aldy’s, which he did, where he has not been these four months, and still get all of it in order of the shelfs where his shopping is to be found, which was all proper with not a single misteak, onlie that I forgot to take my mask and had to wear my bilberrie scrabbler instead, which did draw glances, though I think of admiration and people wondered where to get one for themselfs, for I heard one asking in the shoppe where it was. My mother had a Lock Up birthday, which celebrated with flours and a good wine, white with bubbles in it, and choclates and a balloon floating in the air on a piece of string, which I did send, but I am not sure she remembered. The following day, home at a little past 8 a’clock where a scowling sky and rain, and after a little supper to bed. 

 

28 July, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, and it being dry so that I could wear a pair of shorts for a change, to the garden, where a little repair of the work of the rain and wind, and by and by comes Mr. R. Owen, as we had agreed, and with him he brought a proportion of the Ashes of the dear friend beloved of us both, to spread them finally amongst the flowers, as we had determined to do, and it done not without a little teare shed; for Adam loved the garden, to sit in it on a fine day with the gazette and a glass of sherris sack beside him, and take it in and admire it from his seat, though he professed to knowing not a jot of how to keep it, not of planting nor pruning nor weeding nor feeding; and I do not know why there comes a silly thought at a solemn time, but came into my mind the notion that he would now be doing more for the flowers in the garden than he ever did in life, which I think was not a malicious thing to think, and if it seems of black humour it is not meant so, but rather wrily fitting, for it would have been in his nature to chortle at the self same thing, which lifted my melancolie a little to think of his doing though I did not vouchsafe it out loude; but I thought it a little tribute to his spirit, which I miss, but I will not write more about it for I find the tears fall, as much as if I had said it.
  After dinner to my learning of Spanish again with Iñigo el Vasco, though my head is full of it and I have need of a break lest palabras fall out of my orejas (as I have heard said will happen), which I have not had these four, or five months even. And lately came along Mr. Nic. Lee and did deliver back to me my means of writing this Journalle, which I have not had for near three weeks, and brought it to my door by our prior arrangements, made previously before; and he has mended it, which seems a job done well, and he says he has put in it a new cell and it will sound better for there is a new speaker in it too, which I cannot fathom for a swan’s quill; cost 18l. 15s. 6d. He says his wife is from a colony on the River Plate, which I find on my globe to be in America Meridionalis, and she must be like the person depicted there, which is with a shameful short skirt onlie and a bow and arrow, which I think explains the fashion I have seen in the chip shop in Many Bridge at night; and he speaks Spanish too, so I say ‘Gracias’ and he says ‘De nada’ for he understood me and I was greatly contented, for I think this is a great achievement for four years study. After supper to the filling in of some of my Journall for the last few days, as much as I can remember it, which is all in the wrong order in my head and I think my father would do a better job. And so to bed. 

Categories
News

Hidden gardens

21 July, in the year of our Lord 2020 

In the afternoon with Mr. M. Jones to visit a garden which is newly open again with the Easements for the plague, which is the Hidden gardens in Many Bridge, where comes also Dr. S. Francis, who is latterlie a Physician for Delirium, Insanitie and Weaknesse of the Mind, and though she doth not work anymore I feel always that I must mind what I say lest she form an Opinion that I am possessed of a spirit from the past, like a tyrant or a writer of Diaries, or some other famous, and I end my days in an Asylum. The gardens did content us prettily, and it is confounding to think that four years since a mighty flood did sweep through them, with a force so great as to wash away a wall and pour the wreckage of it, and all the water, into the wood, all this on a Boxing Day, with a great storm; and all that was done in the gardens for the restorating of them was undone, which was valiant and had took many years for their state of dereliction, it destroying at a stroke all such good werke as were done, though they have repared it all and you would not know. And by and by went all of us for tea and did partake of fine cakes with hunny, and lardy cakes and a cake for Mr. Jones with poppy seeds, which I said looked like flour mites so he did not want to eat it. And Dr. Francis telling us the while of her maid who in Lock Up came twice a week to banish her upstairs for the cleaning of the rooms below; and as we supped my cares did desperce further and I ventured that, ‘It doth satisfy me to a very great content to be in such company, and to discourse as lightly as if the last four months were not’, whereupon she, which is Dr. Francis, did threw me a glance so curious as to frit me, so I sought to correct any misaprehencion with, ‘Man, they totally slayed dis cake, it is mightily well good!’ at which Mr. Jones felt of a sudden that we should take our leave, and so to our carriages, and away with good cheer that I had not been sectioned again. After supper to the feeding of the cats, incl. the cat of Mr. Owen, who is working on the boats, and to leyendo mi libro, which for once in these Diaries hides nothing skurillousse; and late the Messenger with news from my parents, who are well, thanks be to God, and I think to visit them. Tonight the sky cast over again, and I thought that to see the out line of the bright white Comette with the dark clouds behind it would have been a fine sight, but it was not there. When I say I had not been sectioned again, I mean that again I had not been sectioned. And so to bed. 

Categories
News

Pot holes

20 July, in the year of our Lord 2020

After dinner by my carriage to Mr. M. Jones where to fill in pot holes in the track to his house, which is in a bad way with the disrepair of it and unfit for any carriage the like of any road I have ever seen; a pick and shovel to dig out the rubble to use to mend it, which is slate and soil mixed, though it breaks the back to dig out slate, which is not built for shoveling, and then to wheel it across fields and spread it on the track; but on taking my leave I did feel it was better to ride over, though it needs more, but contented for a job well done. 

Categories
News

In retrospect

12 July, in the year of our Lord 2020

A raretie, which is to say a day pleasant for its weather, for this last week has provided us of a succession of dark clouds, and with them a continuous rain and a wind to flatten my plants and flowers and cold to chill the out sides such as I do not remember in July in any recent year. At dinner with Mr. M. Jones and Mr. R. Owen, with meat, vegetables to our taste and savoury victuals, this from the Whitefort Arms, on White fort street, a public house at some little distance, it being Sunday lunch, this being the Lord’s day; they obliging of a ‘Take Awaye’ service, though it is a ‘Bring To’, and as fine almost as to dine within their premises, which we cannot; for Mr. Jones a beef brisket and Mr. Owen a chicken, well-roasted, and chicken roasted and with herbs and a decent gravey also for my plate, and wine to sup with it; and we having discourse of the tally of the plague and its course, and of those which we know with it, which is very few, and of divers matters of a pleasanter distinction. After, the weather coming unexpected bright, out a-doors and did sit in the garden, the first such time for many days, and as merry and carefree for it as I ever was with these four months. By and by I to thinking to create a new flower bed, for there is one that is mighty fine and joys me but yet it cannot be seen from the windows for the position of a tree which is of pleasant proportion and ever green, but it has grown to a prodigious heyght, which was a present from my mother, as were all the plants that have proved a problem in my garden. At the end of the garden is a fruit tree I had cut root suckers from the base of to vigour it, and Lord, to see that for the first time it bears fruit, which are little like a tiny apple but with a fuzz which I did never see on an apple in my entire life, so they may be an apricot, and Mr. Owen and Mr. Jones nod sagely being of the same opinion each himselfe. After supper to reading of my book, which was writ in English, only I have it in Spanish, which I bought it for since I suppos’d it would help me best the tongue, but in three years since I bought it less than one-eighth of it read before I set it aside these two years, at least; but it is to my great content that now I pick it up again I read it a-fresh and it is more easy, and I find it engaging and easyer for me to read than use to be the case, its title being (in the Spanish) El curioso incidente del perro a medianoche, and God willing I shall finish it. Late at 1 a’clock did see the comette in the north which was a fine sight it being many years since one last paid a visit in the sky, and after, did make some small jottings for the reason of writing my Journalle at a later time for I am without my normal means of writing it, which are in need of repair, which they have gone for. And so to bed.

Categories
News

A full mind is a happy mind

8 July, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, to a gloomy sky and heavy rain which did continue for severalle houres all the morning and set in for further downpoures till the evening and furthermore into the night with no cessation, all this by the Forecast; and my legs aching from the exercise I did these two days, in which I did find great pleasure but am unpractised for so much walking so that my thighes did pain me all the day yesterday for the doing of it, which was ten miles up and down. The morning to my chamber and to my accounts and corespondence, which I did finish and contented of it, but all the while my mind harbouring an unease for a resurgence of the plague, the taverns open and many abroad, and of the fact I have as yet no Mask that I should wear, and of desultorie affect for the weather it being so poor for the time of year. After dinner called upon by Mr. M. Jones, and in my kitchen did discourse with him, he taken by my new Book of Recipes so as to thumb thro’ it, and I for my turn by the slim book I was persuaded to buy by the urchin.
  ‘I feel I must conquer my foreboding for the plague lest it gain the upper hand,’ say I, passing to him An Introduction to the Practice of Mindfullnesse. ‘I have a mind to essay the lessons in this volume to see if they may help. Could I trouble you to read the instructions if I do so?’
  ‘By all means,’ says he, setting both books upon his lap, mine upon the one he was perusing and opening its pages to Lesson The First. He clears his throat and starts to read. ‘First take a piece of Chalke and draw upon the floor a circle and a pentagram within it —
  ‘Ah! That is the reason for the chalke,’ say I, which I find and did draw with it upon the floor.
  ‘It needs to be bigger,’ says he, ‘since it then says ’ (and he quotes) ‘ now position within that chalke representation a Chair, the purpose being to sit upon the chair with the feet on the ground and the back upright.’  I rub out what I have drawn and repeat it larger, by which I mean the design, for I am the same size, and place my chair within it, and there sit awaiting my next instruction.
  ‘Now, with the eyes open and a nice soft focus, taking some deep breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth.
  I try but after a few seconds, ‘In through the mouth and out through the nose or in through the nose and out through the mouth?’
  ‘…in through the nose, out through the mouth.
  ‘I will do it in through the mouth and out through the nose, for my nose is often blocked on the in-breath. It is the reason my sleep is disturbed when I lie on my left, as I am wont to.’
  ‘Whatever.’
  ‘I think perhaps the words are to be spoke in a more gentle fashion,’ say I, ‘and more slow.’
  He grunts and I take it to be in acknowledgemente for he proceeds at a pace at once more measured and of a calmer disposition, ‘ …out through the mouth and then —  The pages are stuck together. Was it raining when you bought this book?  — and then, allowing the eyes to close. Feeling the weight of the body —
  ‘Which is 4 lb. heavier,’ say I, keeping my eyes closed as I am instructed to do.
  ‘ — feeling the weight of the body, the contact of the feet on the floor —
  There is knock at the door.
  ‘That will be postman,’ say I, opening my eyes, ‘and I should answer for I am anticipating the deliverie of a new Bollockwort that I have ordered of an expert source in Bathshire where there was onlie one left. I would tell him to leave it in my Safe Place onlie everyone knows where it is. Excuse me one second.’ I return excited: ‘Well, that is excellent, for it is the very thing I hoped for! Where were we?’ I resume my seat and close my eyes again.
  ‘Erm — weight of the body, feet on the floor…’ recapitulates Mr. Jones quickly before picking up his thread and intoning, ‘…settling into the space around you. What does that mean? Just noticing sensations —
  ‘That is an apposite point about sensations, for I have noticed this chair is on the hard side. I shall just swap it.’ Which I do. I settle back into my pentagram. ‘Carry on.’
  ‘ — settling-into-space-noticing-sensations — ’ mumbles Mr. Jones in catch-up mode. ‘Here we are: Becoming aware of the rhythm of the breath, whether it be long or short, or shallow or —
  Crash!!!
  ‘
What the ?! Banjo!’ I cry, for there is a saucer smashed on the floor, the cat frozen by the sink in surprise of its own action and anticipation of mine. I leave both for later, for we should not interrupt the flowe.
  ‘ — rhythm, long, short…shallow — ’ recaps Mr. Jones. ‘Noticing when the mind wanders and bringing the attention gently back to the breath. I am beginning to be seduced by this,’ says he, mellowly.
  There is another knock at the door. It is the man who cleans the windows. ‘It is about to pour again!’ say I to him, but he is of an unplacable Opinion that he must do the job for he has not worked these Lock Up weeks and money comes very hardly and he will not be gainsayed so I allow it.
  I return to the kitchen and treading over the broken saucer find Mr. Jones snoring, the books about to fall from his lap, and perforce I have to shake him awake. ‘It is me who is supposed to be mindfulling! Wake up and let us continue.’ I resume my position and close my eyes to become aware of sounds ‘in the room, outside the room perticularly in the room as Mr. Jones ruffles through the pages to find his place.
  ‘ — noticingwhenthemindwanders…dahdedahdedah…gentlybacktothe-breath — ’ says he, catching up and absently turning a page, ‘ — remove the fried onions and almonds from the heat, mix with one tablespoon of oil and set aside in a large bowl —
  ‘You have turned one page too many,’ I am about to tell him, when interrupted by the loud squeaking of chamois leather rubbed vigourouslie on windowglass. I open my eyes and Mr. Jones and I look to one another.
  ‘I am uncertain as to whether this book is achieving its Purpose,’ say I, ‘and feel I have had sufficiente enough for one day. If you would like to stay for supper I can make from that Book of Recipes on your lap a dish of ottolenghi.’
  ‘I would sooner a dish of spaghetti,’ says he.
  So to a simple supper of pasta string and discoursing to our great content, and after Mr. Jones had took his leave I to sit with Banjo, he curled up beside me, my affectation better than at dawn, for though the rain continued and it is as black as soot outside, I have a new bollockwort and clean window glass and have had merrie discourse, and all have eased my forebodings of the plague and lighten’d me of the heavynesse of them; and I find my new book to be better than I did give credit for it being, for my mind could not be fuller of the events of the day. And so to bed.

Categories
News

Catching up with peeps

3 July, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, the weather as grey and wet this past week as in November, the very worsed for a summer I did ever see in my entire life. I know not what the great Stream in the sky is doing only overflowing its banks and emptying on all below it. After breakfast disquieted also for the news of further Easements, which I think ill of, for people at large in greater numbers than heretofore, which I think is before its proper time, and the plague about again in Licester yet taverns may open from tomorrow. Anon and a further cause for unease, for I realised I have heared naught from the Physician of my Covey tests and know not if I have had it or am emmune with it; so did hie there when the rain eased a little, where within a familiar face.
  ‘’ello, Mr. Puppies! Bloody weather, eh? Khuh!
  ‘Oh! I remember you. Thomas Urchin?’
  ‘George Erchin at your service, Mr. Pipes — Urchin with a E. I got the job! The job what was goin’ ’ere, and it was your reference what dunnit,’ said he.
  ‘Well, I am glad to have been of some service,’ (for I was) ‘and a surname to go with it, I see.’
  ‘Well, if a Mr. Cooper is a cooper and a Mr. Turner is a man who turns till he is dizzy — ’
  ‘ — and if Matt. Handcock is a w — ’
  ‘ — I can be a Master Erchin.’
  ‘I will admit some Logick to your case. But it is to see the Physician I have come. Is he around?’
  ‘He is abroad to an urgent case of mortification. May I be of assistance?’
  ‘In that case, I have come for the results of my tests, for it is six weekes or more since the feathering.’
  Master Erchin sucked in his breath through his teeth and shook his head. ‘They never got done, sir.’
  ‘“They never got done?”’
  ‘They never even got went, sir.’
  ‘“They never even got went?”’
  ‘’Tis a terrible tale, sir, but all them feathers ended up chucked out. Every single one of ’em.’
  ‘But the Secretarie for the Plague is putting it abroad that he has met his target! That the testing of thousands is a daily occurrence throughout the land!’
  ‘Ah, well, they way they do it is that they come here and weigh how many feathers we have left and tot up from what weight we started with how many we have used which leads them to deduce how many people we have tested though it may be that for some of those tests someone has sneezed and the feathers in question have been blown about all over the place such as into a crevice where no one goes though I grant that you could argue that those feathers have been in such a place already or perhaps they have not gone far enough into the orryfice or there has been a clericle error and they have been mislabelled or the door has blown open and they have been sucked into the very street by a passing draft and hence thereupon and theretoforward into a gutter — ’
  ‘ — or dumped in Jervas’s black wheelie bin. Do you ever come up for air?’
  ‘ — or dumped in Jervas’s black wheelie bin,’ he finished.
  ‘That is unprincipled and dishonest!’ said I. ‘I feel more dispirited now than when I came in, which is the obverse of my expectation.’
  ‘We cannot be having that, Mr. Peppeyes. If I may make so bold I think that I have something that may help your affectation and disdispirit you, which is hot of the presses.’ With that he picked from the counter a slim volume from a pile of similar volumes and handed me An Introduction to the Practice of Mindfullnesse its Execution in Specific Circumstances Related to the Plague, with Reference to its Application & Theorie: a Very Proper Guide for the Initiate that they may Gain Insights Heretofore Obscure & Benefit Manifestlie Therefrom.
  ‘Snappy title, but if it helps. How much?’
  ‘Sixpence normally. But since we’ve had payment for all the tests — ’
  ‘ — that you haven’t done — ’
  ‘ — that we haven’t done, I will give you it for free.’
  ‘That is uncommonly generous of you. What is the Catche?’
  ‘Do you have a piece of chalk at home in your presmises, for you will need it?’
  ‘Funnily enough, I am fresh out of it.’
  ‘In that case, I will provide you with one of those as well, though regrettabubblie I must make a charge. Sixpence.’
  Feeling strangely wrong-footed again I left entending straight home before came the rain once more, but my attention taken by a sign newly placarded outside the premises of my Barber and Provider of Periwigs to the Gentry, which did proclaim in large writing Open from Saturday the Fourthe Day of July! Newly in! ~ Quiltes, Down Pillowes and Feather Duvets, Bespoke Made for the Provision of Warmthe and Comforte in Ev’ry Season. Thus distracted, I did then collyde on the street into a large transparent globe, with arms and hands be-gloved stuck out at two and ten a-clock and waddling legs at five and seven, the head at twelve a-clock behatted and with fabric wrapped around its nose and mouth so tight it did amaze me it could breathe.
  ‘Why do ye nae watch where you’re — ? Och! ’Tis you.’
  ‘Do you not think this is carrying PPE a bit far? The last time I heard of you, you were dressed as a Bear.’
  ‘The First Lord says we are allowed to be in a Special Bubble.’
 At which point the very Heavens open’d, the road awash as if in a second Floode of the bible itselfe and its story of the Ark, I dashing home with my purchase under my coat and my last sight of the Special Bubble was of it floating down the lane in the direction of Westminster Stairs and the river.
  After dinner I to weight myselfe, which I have not done these Lock Up months and did discover that I am gained of 4 lb. only, which is to my great content. After, I did peruse some paintings of flowers and gardens in a Folio by an artist of my acquaintence in whom I find good technique and they are pleasurable to the eye, and did decide to commission for him to paint a painting of my garden and its flowers in it, it to go on the stairs where there is a place for it on the wall and if it is to my pleasure it will remind me that sometimes the sun shines after all. After supper I did essay some Sonates on my clavichord that I have bought wrote by young Mr. H. Purcell but they of a bizarre and outrageouse modern nature and I found no good matter in any. And so to bed.