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The Orrery

26 May, in the year of our Lord 2021

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

 

27 May, in the year of our Lord 2021

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

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An operation in perspective

19 May, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up very betimes for the operacion on my finger, the cats fed and ablucions performed. But then a Querfuffle and the Messenger to and forth to the Hospitalle while they find me a place to admit me. That done, which takes two hours, along comes Mr. M. Jones to take me there, where I find myselfe, at noon, bedded and changed. And some there recognise me, and say, ‘Are you not Mr. Pepys who used to work for the Naval Board?’ and I say, ‘The very same,’ and would feel esteemed by it, only that I am in a gowne unseemly for its skimpynesse, and worse, it ties poorly at the back, so I am embarrassed to be seen in it, lest they think, ‘If I were Mr. Pepys who used to work for the Naval Board I would not wear those underpants.’
  The ward I am on is newly built, I am told, and they have named it ‘SDEC’, which is ‘Same Day Emergincie Care’ — and Lord, but in it are so many poor souls, with a griping of the guts from the bloody Flux, with useless limbs a-flail and shattered bones that poke through flesh, and some with the smallpox who will not see the end of day; and there is much moaning and such a crying out that I did not hear since the Plague, and a stench of putrid bowels and rancid fat, and it embarraces me to think of my being there for such a small thing as I have, so I keep on my masque and keep to my room, wherein is a single bed and a frayed linen sheet, and a creaking chair and a window to the north, and I walk as least I must on the floor, though the sawdust there is freshly swept and softens the sound of the cockroach on the stone beneath. After a little while comes a nurse, though a little girl, and very young, and checks the tension in my vesseles, which is high, and asks about the Physick I take, only she cannot spell rosuverstattine so she leaves it out. By and by comes my Chirurgeon Mr. Jesudason, a fine and thoughtfulle fellow, with a name from the East Indyes, I think, but the same manner of speech as I did hear in Liverpuddle, who puts me to ease, and examines my finger by the light of a bright lamp, and explayns he will cut here, and here, and raise a flappe here, and remove my Cyste here, and stitch it all together…so! — which will take no more than half an hour. And says he that today he has with him a second hand chirurgeon, if it doth not discomfit me, who is there by his courtesie for she is freshly come to work beside him, and I mind not at all, though I wonder why they cannot afford a new one. Thence, I am wheeled by porters, very merry and of a Drolling sort of men, on labyrinthine ways, meeting along gloomy corrydors with divers wraiths of the City, till we end on the floor of a great vaulted theatre, where rise tier upon tier of carved wooden benches, so much that they are lost in gloom and echo above me, and the reflections of candles all around me glint on the varnish, and macabre shadows are thrown on panelled walls. I lie on a board with my arm outstretched, on a great oak table at my side. And my chirurgeons, there being no fewer than three, incl. a Trainy, gather themselfs around me. Then am I at the mercy of severalle pairs of hands, as they hold me down while one comes with a great syringe and a needle as large as a lance, and Lord — !
  But nothing much, save a little discomfort in my hand, not worse than that of passing a very hard stool, and better than when I was cut of the stone, and I feel my finger become as cold as ice, and cannot move it, nor feel any thing of a pain thereto when they prick it, which is as strange and mysteriose a thing as any I saw in my life. At length my chirurgeon asks if I wish to watch, which I do, whereupon he moves a candle closer and it doth amaze me to see my own finger cut, the skin reflected back and the white bone all a-shine. He shows me on his finger tip a tiny piece of gelly, which gleams in the flickering light, as if it were the contents of a bulls eye, and dangles before my eyes the tiny bloody sac he hath cut from me.
  ‘This is your extensor tendon,’ says he, turning to my hand and pointing out a fibrose streak.
  I have an odd detachmente at seeing my unfeeling anatomie desplayed as a model of Dissection, so ‘Cool,’ say I, for want of aught else.
  At not much more length they are done, onlie with a foul stench from the wound when they staunch my bleeding with a burning iron, and they sew it with a twine of rough gut, and my hand is bound in a great wrapping, which I must wear for five days, and keep it dry. And I am to have only ‘patient-iniciated follow up’, which I say bravely I will try my best not to iniciate. And so the reverse journy to my bed, where I feel a certayne pride, for I can join the ranks of all those others, Saved by Modern Medycine.
  Anon, under the great portico of the doors to that fine Hospitall, I lean against a stone column, and while I await Mr. Jones in his coach to drive into the sun-lighted courtyard and take me home, so is another leaving, who seems to know me, though not I her, and she pauses for a little discourse, a slight woman, of respectfulle mien.
  ‘Have you been in the wars, Mr. Pepys?’ says she.
  ‘I am not long out of theatre,’ say I, inflated by bravado and showing off my bandaged hand. ‘I have had a major operacion on my hand, of several hours duracion and untoward intricacie, but Mr. Jesudason hath managed to save it. All should be well when function returns. Have we met before?’
  ‘I work here, in the kitchens. To make ends meet. You would not remember, but you arranged a Contract for my boy to join a ship.’
  ‘Ah,’ say I. ‘There were very many. But I am glad to have been of service. I hope he hath made a satisfacktery life for himselfe at sea.’
  ‘Well, I would not say it was all satisfacktery. He was taken by Barbary corsairs, chained for weeks in an evil ship’s hold, enslaved at fourteen in a market in Tunice and manacled for two years on a vessel plying the Nile. He has ended up a slave to an Ottoman beylerbey in the Levant.’
  ‘I am sorry to hear that — ’ say I, blanching.
  ‘Oh, it’s not so bad. He’s seen a bit of the world.’ Her weak smile is hid behind her Covey masque, but nothing hides her anxious eyes. ‘Sends back what money he can. And they treat him well, you know. He’s like one of their family now. Nice people, he says — cultured, and all that. He looks after the kids. The girl wants to be a doctor — work in a place like this, I suppose. He likes it there. Good weather. Lots of lemon groves. More one of them than one of us he is, now. And he’s always kept in touch with his Mum. Same day, every year without fail: his birthday, sixteenth of May. I should have heard from him Sunday, but perhaps he’ll ring tonight,’ says she. ‘He Skypes me. Fancy that, Mr. Pepys! He Skypes me, all the way from Gaza.’

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Back to the barber

17 May, in the year of our Lord 2021

Today by my coach to visit my parents, who are well, which is to my great content, but Lord! to see so many coaches abroad, it being the first day with another Easement of our confynement for the plague. Since I heared nothing of a Turkey varyant, advantaged myselfe of the Ottoman barbershoppe, where a fine trim to my head and beard and the neck squared off, which is the first time, I think, it was done in more than a year. Tipped the boy 1d., which contented him a great deal.
  My father thinks to change the little magick screen he hath to fit in his pocket, for it is old now and hath difficulty remembering anything, and by a coincydence the Exchange hath sent him an Offer for an upgrade. It crosses my mind to suggest he ask if they offer the same for my mother, for she fits the same cryteria, but silence on the matter is a better course of action. After an early supper comes the mayd, Leanne, to put my mother to bed, who is sweet and goes, and says she does not want to come down again, and we part with all in excellent good spirits.
  Thence home and to bed where read a little in my life of Thos. Cromwell by Rev. MacCulloch in which there is good matter but it a little dry and there are too many people in it and I think too few commas so that I must read too many sentences twice. 

 

18 May, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up, to lay food for Mr. Owens cat, who is out. After, to my Spanish with Señor Iñigo el Vasco, though I think to have un descanso for una semana for the refreshment of el cerebro. Before supper comes the Messenger from the Hospitalle, who says I must confirm in the morning that there is a bed there, for I cannot go where they told me I should go, since none told me to isolate myselfe after the Covey test on Sunday, which miscarriage makes me ill at ease that it may not be done tomorrow, my operacion. 

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Divers matters

3 May, in the year of our Lord 2021

A holy day for all the land, though the coldest such in this month of May that I saw in my entire life, with a great storm and much rain with a foul wind (in the gazette that it the worst such since the little Ice Age). Therein also a record of opinion as to the final Denewment from last night of the long storyline of the Constabulary that bore upon my detaynement, to wit that the Conclusion rose to less than was expected of it, there being a disappoyntement widespread among those who kept a date with it, though God forbid that I should engage with such a thing, which I have not nor shall, for Sunday evening is for prayer, and not for watching the magick screen with a pint of wine. The best, I think, is that it seems the whereabouts of Constable Arnott is known by none, nor if he is to come back in another season, for which my mind is greatly eased.
  Before dinner to the gymnaseum, where I have not gone for six months, it under new Management and all changed so I was not sure where to look to exercise, and worse, everyone had thought the same, so many were there, too many I think, and it was as if my years life with the plague had contracted to protect me and I am not yet freed to the presence of so many other.

 

12 May, in the year of our Lord 2021

After breakast with Banjo to the veterynarean, where he does not like to go, who took him for some inoculcacions against the infleünza that a cat can get, and he into his carrier without fuss only mewing a little in my coach.

 

16 May, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up betimes, it now being my routine to wake at six a-clock, onlie that Banjo may wake me earlyer, by his nose in my ear, or when he mews a great noyse like a peevish growl and presents a voal, thinking to delight me, or a shrewe, or a mouse, or a baby bird or a small rabbitte, &c. Tomorrow the First Lord doth entend a change in Covey rules, so that we might sup inside an inn, and the Whitefort Arms, on White fort street, will open its doors, and other taverns along with it, or so all hope; only that we are still in woods where lerks a varyacion of the Covey from the East India Co., so all may change again.
  After breakfast I for a Covey test, which was a little ride away and not with the Physician in my lane, I seated in my coach while a nurse pushed feathers down my throat and up my nose; for I am to have a chirurgeon operate on one of my fingers on Wednesday, where there is a Cyste from a knuckle knobbled with a little artheritis, and will be there for the day. Home, and after dinner took a playne to the door of my chamber closet upstairs so that it would not stick at the top and after 25 years of it, five minutes work hath made it better. After this being done, the same to my side gate where the wood hath swole round two knottes in it so it would not shut, and paynted it.
  After supper to my Journall, which I have neglected these weeks for languishing, a word I did hear pertayne to the stagnacion and want of motivacion brought on by the confinements for the plague for so long, which I think I have. This month last year I was possessed of a greater Energy, which term I did hear from Dr. Young, as perhaps were all, when our confynement was a great, if unbid, noveltie and my mind set to deal with the challenge, as much as I was able. Yet now I am snared by a listlessness and a disinclinacion to action, and am too accustomed to sitting, which it is an easy thing to do, for to make for onselfe a constant stimulacion for the mind is an arduous task for a year. And so I wonder as I write whether I should continue the reports of my days or set it all aside, its purpose spent, though perhaps it is an Apathie that speaks, not I. Before bed, heard a little musick by Mr. J. Dunstaple, I think the most euphoneous I did ever hear in my life, sung by a fine choir.

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Two birthdays

26 April, in the year of our Lord 2021

At home these two weeks, I supposing the busynesse of my Arreste closed, hearing no word from any constable and setting my life again upon a course of fare weather, thanks be to God. At supper to the house of Mr. M. Jones, this day being the occasion of his birthday, where took to him some Pancakes, with a crispie China duck and a dish with some rice, that he requested I bring from Many Bridge, and eat it with a fine Rhenish wine; and there did watch a repeate of ‘Fatty Owls’ on his magick screen, which he had never seen in his entire life. There did present him with a gift to celebrate the day, which was for his kitchen, it being a device which will cut a sandwich on the diagonall, instead of halfway across its length, making of the bread the novelty of two triangles, and I think he was pleased to receieve it for he sayed that he did not believe such a device to exist in all the world, nor that any might pay for it. So parted and home, and to bed.

 

2 May, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up betimes, this day being one of my birthdays, of which I find I have two, and this one is official. News from the East India Company that the Covey plague causes a havock in the land, which is the sorriest news I heared in a while. At supper to Mr. M. Jones, who did cook a fine roste dinner of chicken, and he gives me a tiny tree made in Japan, where they have cut off all its roots to make it fit an oblong tray, and its little branches too, and yet a very fine specimen.
  Yesterday came Dr. S. Francis to sit in the garden, it being fine sunshine, and merry discourse of divers matters for a hour, or more. 

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Prison break

12 April, in the year of our Lord 2021

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

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The initial interrogacion

8 April, in the year of our Lord 2021

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

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News

Caught up in a scandal

7 April, in the year of our Lord 2021

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

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News

Mr. Jones his weather vane (abbrev. version)

5 April, in the year of our Lord 2021

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

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

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

Categories
News

Anniversery

23 March, in the year of our Lord 2021

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