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A mini-break thwarted by the Law

27 May, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up very betimes, thinking anew of my eyes and of my writing this Blogge, it being for my sight that I did forbear my Diarie in the first place. To my friend’s cat, a distraction, which was not there at all yesterday from breakfast till bedtime and I did search several times and call him, but this morning upright on a chair all innocent.
  By return past the Physician’s, the door still locked for the hour earlie, but the same urchin in soiled clothes and a filthy cap squatting by the wall.
  ‘I’m ’oping he might gimme a job,’ says he, ‘since he sacked the other guy for putting all his feathers in a bin.’
  ‘I think that unlikely.’ But then I had a thought. ‘What are you doing for the next few days? I have a proposition.’
  By dinner, packed, my private carriage prepared, the horses fed, I to drive and the urchin to sit beside me, the weather fine and warm with no hint of rain and I merrie, for not out in my carriage for some weekes. ‘Right,’ I said, ‘we shall off. Remember what I told you.’
  And so by the streets to the edge of the City and beyond, making good time through the afternoon, the leaves green and the roads firm for the lack of rain. Of a sudden, a bend and a constable from nowhere, emerged from the roadside trees and beckoning us to stop.
  ‘Good afternoon, sir,’ he addressed me, and wandered with some nonchalance around us. We down from our perch.
  ‘Is this your carriage, sir?’
  ‘It is, constable, and of as fine craftsmanship as any in London, as I think you will find.’
  ‘Has it been in use of recent weekes? Your offside axle looks a little worn.’
  ‘Really? Well, I will have it looked at when we reach our destination. May we — ?’
  ‘And your destination is — where, exactly, sir?’
  ‘The north. I propose to stay with friends in Durham.’
  ‘A fine city, sir, and a remarkable cathedral, I am told — sitting above the River Wear, if I am not mistaken. But you may be aware, sir, that the First Lord of the Treasury has issued Rules regarding travel. Are you aware of those Rules, sir?’
  ‘Erm, I am, though like many I find them difficult to — ’
  ‘May I ask what is the purpose of your journey to the north, sir? The reason you must drive so far?’
  ‘Of course, constable. I fear for my sight and have read that there is in the north a fine and worthy Physician in Diseases of Vision and the Ocular Apparatus — ’
  ‘And yet I find you driving a carriage. I put it to you, sir: How would you feel if you were to meet coming the other way a person driving a carriage who feared for their sight? Can you think of any occurance that might occur?’
  ‘Well, yes, it would be — ’
  ‘ — a very dangerous occurance, sir, is that not so?’ He looked askance at the urchin. ‘And who is this?’
  ‘I am the son, sir,’ recited he. ‘I am here upon this carriage for there is none to look after me in town, sir, hence we must ride together, I with my father, or I shall die and this is now permitted under the Rules for there has become a President — ’
  ‘Precedent — ’
  The constable brought matters to a halt with a hand and turned his gaze to me. ‘The boy’s name?’
  ‘Thom — ’
        ‘ George!’ piped up the boy.
  ‘And his age?’
  ‘Elev — ’
       ‘ Ten!’
  ‘And have you stopped at any point so far to — say, for example — water the horse?’
  ‘No.’
       ‘At Borehamwood! We stopped for a piss, Mr Peeps. You said it was your stone — ’
  ‘I see,’ said the constable, heavily. He thrust into the urchin’s hands a leaflet. ‘Can you read out what that says?’
  ‘I cannot read or write, sir.’
  Now vexed, I from over the boy’s shoulder read out loud and without pause, for this was taking precious time: ‘The Law of the Land in Respecte of Plague Restrictions issued by the First Lord of the Treasury states that no person must travel abroad — ’
  ‘You seem to be able to read that without any trouble, sir. Perhaps you would now like to read this?’ He thrust into my own hand another text.
  ‘You are in contravention of the Law relating to Travel at a Time of Plague,’ I read, ‘and, consequent upon this, subject to a Fine of Ten Guineas, payable to a constable at any of the following — ’ and with it a folded map of the City where ‘Paye Here’ marked on various streets.
  We back late and I hungry.
  ‘The bit about dying wasn’t in the script.’
  ‘Artisistic licence,’ mumbled the urchin, his mouth full.
  ‘I was going to suggest fish and chippes. What are you eating?’
  He shewed me an empty canvas nosebag. ‘Best not let it go to waste, I thought, since we ain’t going to Durham. Anyway, the chippies are shut. Non-essential, Mr Peeps.’
  We drew up. ‘Right, well, here’s where you get off.’
  The urchin replaced his filthy cap and jumped down. ‘Can I have a reference?’
  ‘A reference?’
  ‘Yes! I ’elped you and I need a leg up. You could ’elp me find a job! I can put today on my CV.’
  ‘Look, you’ve had a day out. Next time, cut the improv. Here’s a shilling. Bugger off.’
  After a meagre supper from the ice container, I did ruminate on the frustration of my day and compared it to the comings and goings of some in this land. And so, after a long day and owing ten guineas for nothing, to bed. 

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To Durham and back

24 May, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, having slept poorly these last few nights, and in that time the sum of the cat’s trophys two mice, two voales and a small rabbit of which he was especial proud. Today the Lord’s Day but the churches shut and pews empty, so in the morning I to cut my own hair for it had grown and my periwig sat on it like a cat upon a nest. This I did with some trepidation for in the past I have done the deed with my razor, but not well round the back where I cannot see, and gave myselfe what I am told by the cobbler is a Mohiquan. This he knows for he hath been to the Plymouth Colony and seen the Natives of that name, and brought back with him a memento that has pride of place in his workshop, it being a Last hand-crafted by them from canoewood.
  After dinner, to exercise up the lane as usual, with my gazette under my arm to read it out of doors for the weather warm and the wind dropped. There, the Physician frowning at an urchin and at the people all abroad, complaining there were too many comings and goings. I agreed and shewed him my gazette in which it was writ that some comings were going as far as Durham.
  ‘And I not able to go so far as Wanstead see my poor father before the end,’ said he. ‘Anyway,’ he added, glaring menacingly at the urchin, ‘it looks like schools will open soon, so at least we can go back to ignoring the children.’
  ‘While I am here,’ I hazarded, ‘may we go inside for there is a matter of some importance on which I wish your advice?’
  He surprised but, ‘Very well,’ and so to remain six feet apart we circled each other till inside, as if performing an allemande.
  ‘Now,’ I said, and with utmost seriousness removed my wig. ‘Could you just check the back of my head?’
  Afternoon and the weather deliteful warm, my cat seeking the shade of my clavichord. By evening, the First Lord of the Treasury statementing again, a dissembling egg with a cracked shell, unable to deal with the short comings of his Governement, which go unchecked. Yet there are whispers afoot about these comings and goings and they are not just from Whitehall but from Spectators thereof, which have about them the whiff of rebellion, and I wonder how long it will be before the First Lord speaks out the standard sentence of execution, which are the words, ‘I have complete confidence in — .’
  After supper, I did read my King James Bible a chapter of it, which was The Book of Proverbes Chapter 16, and in it verse 18 from which I take heart. Proverbes is a good Book though nowhere in it can I find the one that says ‘Eat a live Toad first thing in the morning and nothing worse can happen to you for the rest of the day.’ Perhaps it is in the small print but I do not read that for I must not risk my eyes again. And so to bed.

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Nothing adds up

22 May, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, and after breakfast to find my plants in their pots on theyre sides and my chairs on the lawn too, with a great gale as if the Dutch wreak revenge by wind on my garden. But even so to my Exercise, and I up the lane with a following draught. The streets are peopled more of late and some hand in hand or, when not holding their hats, cavorting, which I think exceeds the Rules. The Physician outside his premises in a bad mood.
  ‘A few more people out,’ I observed.
  ‘They should not be, it is too soon.’ Then he did tell me of a constable who hath told him of the excuses made by people they had found abroad to avoid the rule of Law; viz. one that he was hiding his shoes for he was playing Hunt the Slipper; another that he was to Messrs. Quayle & Block to buy fresh samphire; a man from Bromleigh was searching for a new set of bagpipes; a fourth out to lend a book to an elderly aunt who was blind; and strangest of all a person dressed in the costume of a bear with a Scottish accent, eyeglasses and fabric wrapped around the nose and mouth so tight it did amaze him they could breathe, cornered in a yard and claiming it was looking for hunny. I said it was a shame the bear did not bump into the man from Bromleigh, for she might have been able to help him.
  ‘I have also heard that a man from Milton Keanes went to Brighton to see if the seaside were alive,’ I said, which I had, from a friend who lives there.
  ‘I have also read,’ continued the Physician, ‘that Addicts have been creeping into the town from abroad!’
  ‘Addicts?’
  ‘Coffee!’ he barked. ‘Which is bad for nervousnesse, restlessnesse, complexion and the integument!’ And then he looked from side to side as if none should hear, and vouchsafed ominouslie to me, ‘I have even read of people from afar advantaging themselves of the quiet roads to travel to the dark and secret places in this City — ’ and then some words sotto voce that I understood not at all.
  ‘Anyway,’ I said, ‘I thought it going well? The Secretarie for the Plague was trumpeting that his targets were met.’
  He snorted. ‘That is because I am told to record not each case but ev’ry feather. Every day my boy out with a bagful of them to a list of addresses, and back at the end of the day, the bag empty; but last evening Jervas found dumped in his wheelie bin enough fresh feathers to fill the bag several times over!’
  ‘But those cannot be counted, surely?’
  ‘Pfff! Do not believe the tally is all I say. Anyway, I need a breake: it is all too stressful and I need to get away. Somewhere quiet and distant, where I am not known and can forget it for a while.’
  I asked if he had ever been to Abertywitswith.
  ‘I have,’ he said, ‘and I will not go again! The journey was a night dread. I stayed in Oxford at The Halfway Inn, in Stratford at The Halfway House and in Shrewsburie at The Boutique Halfway Restaurante with Roomes. None of them halfway! And when I got there I could not understand the accent.’
  ‘Welsh, maybe.’
  ‘Brummie,’ he snapped.
  I continued my Exercise for the hour, then to my garden to right my plants in their pots where one had smashed. After dinner to my accounts, which I did all afternoon and after read a little of my book.
  After supper I still brooding on the phrase whispered by the Physician, so summoned the Messenger to Mr. M. Jones: ‘I know what means “pour faire la cuisine”, but what of “faire le chien?”’ A while later the Messenger back, saying that after Mr. Jones had fell about laughing he said he believed it to be an activitie engaged in by single folk and couples in their carriages, who gathered late at night at a shady rendezvous, and was like coq au vin but you can watch it and food was not the point. I sent the Messenger back with, ‘Might one not take sandwiches?’, and he by return with the replie, ‘They have not been invented. Go to bed.’ He can be blunt sometimes. But so to bed.

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Of cats and dogs

20 May, in the year of our Lord 202o

Up, after a night disturbed by strange dreams where in one I did play the cornet for a party in a tavern, which I have never done in my life and know not even what is a cornet, and another a night dread where I did develop a huge tumorose Lesion on my right leg which was diagnosed as a lymfoma, but this by Rosie the maid in the Gardens where I help on Thursdays, who is an expert at fleabane and not of Physick or cutting off legs. At the best of times I know not entirely how my Mind works and this kind of thing does not help. At breakfast, in conversation with my cat which is one-sided but he listens, and when he miaows it is for one of three things: for food, fusse or for play. He hath discovered String and will charge around the room after a length of it or up the stairs or round the plants, which is deliteful but I have made a rod for my back, for his timetable is not my timetable and when I am up he is fast asleep, and when I am at supper or rest he is up and wants to play with String and will not let me alone.
  The morning, and wondered what to do, it being the ninth weeke of Lock Up, which I cannot believe. My library hath been remedied of beetle with a pouder and the hall floor hath had three coates of tile polish when it had none in three years. Normally on this perticular morning I am to my keyboard teacher to play duettes, I on a clavichord and she on a Yamachord.
  The weather is as difficult to understand as the First Lord his new Rules, and just as two days ago it was cold and wet so that I lit a coal fire in the hearth, today was warm so that I left off my waistcoat. Before dinner with Banjo to the garden, I dragging behind me on the grass a long piece of String which goes taught once in a while. Between my plants I found mounds of earth and one in the Lawn, which did vex me. Animals are a solace and Banjo is, but I think mouldwarps are not and I told Banjo I wished he would catch them and not voales at three a’clock in the morning (tho’ not chomp on them in the bedroom, which is an annoyance in the dark more than a night dread). The afternoon warm, so I did try to engage with the New Rules as much as I do not understand them, and went out without appearing to go out to take my Exercise up or down alleys where I might or might not bump into an acquaintance, and to a shoppe I might or might not have known to be open, where my Essential Purchases were a gazette and some Midget Jems, which are like tiny pieces of the Crowne Jewelles that you can chew, though they do not last as long. Then home.
  Before supper, the Messenger with news from M. Jones, who hath combed all the hair out of his Poudle to stop it heating up, which is a black animal with a curly pelt that needs clipping like topiary, and he has clipped his into the shape of a dog. He hath also prepared for himselfe a hearty stew, which I did think called cock o’van, a name from beyond The Pale; but he says no, it is coq au vin and French, but must not be confused with making the beast with two backs in a Ford Transit, which is different again. I understood not one word of that last but think it typical of the French to provide nice food on Occasions like that.
  After supper, Banjo sweete and demanding of a fusse, so I picked him up to scratch his ears and he squirmed in my arms because he loves it. He does not miaow for foreplay, that is the wrong impression, we are just friends. And he is not one-sided; he is three Dee. And so to bed.

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Another appointment

16 May, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up very betimes, having slept badly with a cough and a little tightnesse of the chest that would not settle. No phlegm, and at times I have a Wheeze in the pipes of my lungs anyway, so that I sound like a reed organ. The weather cold after the warmth of last month, though still without rain and I am having to water my new plants every day.
  After dinner still troubled by my chest and though without fever I am fearful, for the plague is worse for sufferers of the Wheeze. I to the Physician, where business slack, none waiting, the staff gone home and his premises empty save for he alone, trying to appear busy by rearranging the Liniments and Salves section on his dusty shelves.
  ‘I would like a —’
  ‘Have you an appointment?’
  ‘No, but —’
  ‘I cannot see you without an appointment. You need to book online.’
  ‘I have no idea what that means.’
  ‘On line. That line, there!’ He gestured to a white line drawn in chalk from wall to wall across the floor behind me, near the door and six feet from his counter. ‘Stand on it.’ I did so. ‘Now, how may I help you?’
  ‘I would like a plague test.’
  ‘Please.’
  ‘I would like a plague test, please.’
  With great show, he opened an enormous ledger on his counter, dust clouds everywhere, and ran his finger down the page. ‘We are very busy.’
  ‘You are not very busy. There is no one here but I!’
  ‘Do you want a test or not? You already have an appointment for your hands on the twenty-sixth.’
  ‘I may be dead by then! I have had a cough all day.’ And coughed to make the point.
  He sighed heavily and with a theatricle show of great reluctance said, ‘Very well. But we are short of protection.’
  ‘I thought you were getting protection from abroad?’
  ‘The masks from Bruges were lace and the gloves were without fingers and made for pickpockets in Constantinople. As it happens we have had a cancellation for just now, so if you would like to follow me.’ So to his back room for consultation where he bid me lie on a threadbare couch. ‘I should like a second peek —’
  ‘What? Business cannot be so bad that you wish us all a second —’
  ‘— at your hands, addlebrain.’ I showed him them from a Special Distance. ‘They do seem better. I shall cancel your appointment. Now, do you wish tests for the Clap, the Pox and Covey Disease, or which of them? There is a start-up offer. One shilling and sixpence for two tests, two-and-six for three.’
  ‘Covey Disease?’
  ‘It is what they are calling the plague.’
  ‘Well, it is better than The Black Death, I’ll give them that.’ I am a fool for a bargain and there is no harm in thoroughnesse, so I said, ‘I will take the Plague and Clap combo deal. Please.’
  ‘Very well. Please note that Terms and Conditions apply and that some tests may be sent for analysise to the Plymouth Colony.’
  ‘The Plymouth Colony? That is half the globe away!’
  ‘I cannot help that, it is the way it is. Open your mouth…’
  And with that he took from his desk a long twig with a pigeon feather tied to the end, and at arm’s length rammed it down my throat.
  ‘Aaarghghaaaghghgh — !’
  ‘…and now the nose, head back…’
  A fresh feather and: ‘Ach-oo-oo-oo! You might have —!’
  ‘…and now drop your pants,’ which perforce I did.
  This time a down feather on a stick, which actually I did find agreeable, to the point of thinking to suggest it to my Lady MacSporran. The mood did not last long, for finally a sight that made my eyes bulge: a goose quill on a bamboo cane and a six foot tube.
  ‘Wha-a-a-t?
  ‘Roll on your side, knees up to your chest.’
  ‘But —!’
  ‘On your side!’
  It all over and I dressed to meet the world again, we talked and tattled a little to ease the time, but he wishing to put up the shutters.
  ‘It seems a little early to close shoppe?’ I said. His shoulders dropped and he looked to the floor.
  ‘It is more than that. A week ago the Covey took my father. I know the field in which he lies but could not say goodbye.’ And his eyes welled. My words would not come out and I could not embrace him as I wished, so I left a guinea on the counter, tho’ I knew it a poor substitute.
  At supper my eyes did redden and itch and my nose also, and I knew my chest its trouble due to grasses, this being the time of year for my allergie. After, I braved the garden to water in my plants, and thought on other people’s lives and the hidden rooms in them that I knew not. And I sat and my eyes welled a little too, only this time it was not the grasses. And so to bed.

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Easement and a letter from afar

14 May, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, and after breakfast did brush my cat’s remaining teethe, which he allows me with fish-flavoured jell containing a magick enzime, and I do this twice a week or am supposed to and he is well with it though he puts back his ears.
  The morning with missives, letters, bills and news, and one such from friends I have not seen awhile who live in Abertwistywyth, a town Specially Distanced beyond the Marches. They are well, and I am pleased for I have known them many years, and the mother of the one of them is well too, who did move to Aberstithwithy to be with them. In the gazette, that it seems no county in the land has not been reached by plague, the numbers worse than what is said; but no matter, the First Lord of the Treasury hath announced a Lock Up Easement, though none from dunce to scholar can fathom what he means. It being another dry day, walked the lanes behind my house to buy flowers for the garden, where a shop open though with almost no one and a sorry selection. Daisies, storksbill and bellflower for my urns, and also coronations, which seemed appropriate. But it is sad to see the shops and taverns closed, and businesses in disarray, which I think will carry on and the country will not recover soon.
  After dinner, it being another dry day I did plant my plants and my urns are prettie. I did then read more of my book on the Life of Tho. Cromwell by a man with an Irish name, which is thicke but well written and I am finding in it very good matter. On my shelf above the hearth I have another on him by a different hand, of equal thicknesse but a fiction, a kind of Mantel piece on my mantelpiece. I know not what I will make of it, for I never heard that anyone should make a fiction of a real life, but I hope it riotously funny for I need it.
  At supper, and after a hubbub outside at eight a’clock, the Messenger from M. Jones who asked if I ‘did clap’. I to him by Return that I certainly did not ‘do clap’ and anyway you cannot get it on account of Special Distancing. He rejoined that we were not on the same wave length, which I did not understande but is apparently a wiggly line made of sound. He knows too of Aberstaywithytit, but says it is a town on the furthest edge of nowhere without a decent beach, and feels the plague may choose not to settle there for nor would he.
  It is the book which is thicke not the man with the Irish name, who is talented and can write a book and give a sermon at the same time. And so to bed.

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An unexpected day off

8 May, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up very betimes, my pattern of sleep disturbed these days, whether for lack of routine or solitaryness of circumstance I know not. People reporting dreams of unnatural vividness, and I too. This morning with the cats, as sociable as ever though feathers inside my house by the ice container. No corpse but Banjo not breakfasting, as if suspiciously full. (I know not how he doth it, lacking all upper teethe.) By letter arrived my Spanish Exercise, corrected by my teacher Iñigo el Vasco, and I downcast, for my endeavoures are now for four years and as I do learn, the equal I forget. And so outside, entending an hour for my other Exercise, but the lane thronged by coaches without number or order and a rabble shouting complaintes. Over the hubbub, the Physician in Diseases of the Integument, Venus and the Pox maintains I missed my chance not to join his ‘Clap, Rash And Plague’ Service. I told him he should sack his copywriter if that was what he was calling it, and why the uproar if all to plan? It seems they still turn people away for lack of scarves. I inquired of Mr. J. MacSporran, still in full belted Scottish plaid and muttering of money down the bleedin’ drain, as to the health of his wife, she self-isolating in the attic the while. But it is naught to do with the plague: she cannot stand his constant practise of the Pipes.
  Dinner at noon, and after did read in the gazette that today is a holiday for ‘VD Day’. Again to the Physician, since he down my lane and this up his street.
  ‘What means this VD Day?’
  ‘It is not that!’ he says. ‘It is “Victory over the Dutch” Day, as you of all people should know.’
  ‘Very funny. You will be telling me next that you have hit your target.’
  At supper, word from Mr. M. Jones, who in Lock Up and seeking solace in wine hath unearthed a type of steele worm for drawing a cork, though to his bafflement it works anti-clockwise. I know little of Natural Science and Mr. I. Newton’s book the most ridiculous I ever did read in my life, I understanding not three lines together from one end of it to the other, but I do remember something to do with water, plug holes and the Equator, so will suggest that it may be designed for bottles from the Antipodes – or that he should turn the bottle upside down to do the job. He hath also moved from his kitchen to paint his study, but is scornful of the last owner his repairs and has had to newly ‘box in the pipes’. I replied by the Messenger that although nothing guaranteed Special Distancing more than the Pipes, boxing them in was probably best all round, as I was sure my lady MacSporran would agree. Late, a return message saying only ‘A different kind of pipe’, which is odd for I did not know he smoked. And so to bed. 

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A strange remedie

28 April, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, to feed my friend’s cat, who is sweete and wishes for company more than food and did follow me home, I having to walk him back and give him the slip a second time by dodging behind a parked carriage. These days like a loop. I feel I know my house and garden more intimitely than ever in my life. In my library yesterday did find tiny insectes whose name I knew not but in a book, carpet beetle. Sent for a remedie.
  I thank God for letters from my friends and family and there good humour, and for the gazette and dispatches with news of many perticulars in the worlde. In Sweden they have heard of immunity. From the Plymouth Colony, that sun and eating soap do aid recovery from the plague, which reminded me of my wife, her use of puppy dog water for her complexion. The First Lord of the Treasury hath made an appearance, his first since he left St. Tho. Hospitalle, and a Statement too, though emphasis concealing emptiness, as is his wont. I know not where he gets his wigs but consider myself fortunate, though Jervas be a rogue. One letter from my sister, who is learning the lute by Messenger, he remembering what she plays in Woolwich and singing it back to her tutor in Plumstead, then back to her with betterments and so forth, they charging her suspicious sums plus travel from my funds.
  Afternoon, exercise, and, outside the Physician’s, Mr. J. MacSporran in full belted Scottish plaid, his wife self-isolating in the attic. I said why the fancy dress, and he that he had read in the gazette, ‘You can only test if you actually have the kilt’. I told him he would probably find it was, ‘You can only test if you actually have the kit.
  The evening with my own cat Banjo, which is a kind of lute.

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Globe Theatre Live

25 April, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, and in ill humour, for my maids and boy in the country and my funds sparse. A frugal dinner, but afterwards a knock at the door and a bone setter standing in the lane, admiring of my plasterwork and wond’ring where did I buy paste, since only ‘Clicke & Collecte’ at the Exchange and he without Clicke.
  ‘You are in luck,’ I said, and shewed him what was left.
  ‘How much?’
  ‘Three guineas.’
  ‘Seems a lot.’
  ‘These times are unprecedented.’
  ‘10 s. 6 d.’
  ‘I am not bartering. This is not the East Indies!’
  Interrupted at that juncture by the Physician, the three of us a triangle of apices six feet apart, he ignoring intirely the bone setter whom he feels his inferior, and addressing me that he would overlook my intemperate Replie for his new Venture; further, there having been a Cooling Off period, that now was the Time, they would hit the ground running and I should grab the Opportunitie with both hands and, talking of hands, how went the itch?
  ‘The itch is better. How go the tests? A hundred by month end, which is Thursday?’
  ‘Early days. We are still waiting for scarves.’
  ‘How many have you carried out?’
  ‘We are on top of it.’
  ‘How many?’
  ‘Four.’
  Then sidled up a peddler with what will come to be known as a sandwich board, and on its front panel, ‘Globe Theatre Live! Watch Plays Remotely From Your Owne Window!’
  ‘Can I interest you gentl’men in tickets for this?’
  I asked what meant ‘remote’.
  ‘It’s the Globe Theatre, mate. Live.’
  ‘The Globe Theatre is three miles away on the other bank of the river.’
  ‘Well, you can’t get much more remote than that, can you?’
  ‘Maybe you are missing something.’
  ‘I know exactly what you are thinkin’, my friend, but we ’ave thought of that very thing and can offer you – a spyglass!’ He rummaged and thrust one upon me which I did try, but I startled for the Physician minuscule and very far away, the lane a tunnel and the roofs all pulled in by a drawstring as if in a night dread! He cleared his throat. ‘Other way round.’
  I thrust it back. ‘We shall still hear nothing!’
  ‘You might if the wind’s in the right direction. Every night for a week! You can piece it together! Take a few leaflets an’ think on it.’ And he away.
  The leaflets announced, ‘TWELFTHE NIGHTE by Mr. Wm. Shakespeere – a Preposterouslie Amusing, Precociouslie Diverting, Provocativelie Staged Evening’s Entertainment, Professionalie Performed by The Globe Players’, and on the back panel of the sandwich board, ‘Warning: Third Party Content May Contain Adverbs.’
  We remaining three did triangulate again and the Physician turned his now less superior attention to the bone setter with, ‘I don’t suppose…?’ But no, and dejected he away.
  The bone setter to me: ‘Anyway, these times are not unprecedented. We had a plague five years ago. A guinea.’
  ‘Two.’
  ‘Alright.’
  By evening in better humour, so after a hearty supper and merry with wine, to bed.

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A testing target

23 April, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, and after breakfast to letters. One from the Council for pole Money, for which I am vexed since they took not my green bin last week, which is full; another from Mr. M. Jones, who hath overcome Procrastination and with paint from Messrs. Quayle & Block at the Exchange hath decorated his kitchen and is charged with fresh purpose, the colours being ‘Hessian’, which I think a clever name for a sort of brown, and ‘Sapphire Salute’, the most ridiculous name for a paint I ever did hear but is blue, and dark, and sits well upon the wall. After dinner, I outside to my plasterwork with the paste of dubious provenance, where from my ladder I spied a placard at the Physician’s, curlicued and with the pronouncement: ‘Bespoke In-Carriage Testing: Drive a Coach and Horses through The Plague! Book this Instante & Allay Pestilence Concerns! 1s. 0d. / test (2s. 6d. for three)’, and in fancier fonte, ‘Twenty People Looking At This Site Now’, though none around. Alongside, a person of indeterminate gender hoping to hand out leaflets, unrecognisable all in yellow, with trawlerman’s hat, eyeglasses, heavy-dutie waxed waterproofs, gloves and waders despite the clement day, and fabric wrapped around the nose and mouth so tight it did amaze me they could breathe, together with a town cryer ringing a handbell and bellowing, ‘Test! Test! Te-est!! Test! Test! Te-est!! Hundred tests a week by End Of Mo-o-onth!’
  For supper, found on ice what seemed beef mince in Bologna sauce, to cook with pasta string, but nothing labelled and the mince palpable Gourmet cat food.
  After, I sat outside, it windless and with birdsong all around as if they strove to lighten the anxietie of the world, the garden with its arm around me. Of late my mind is mightily upon the strangeness of these times, no normal labours nor normal discourse, the corporal world contracted to my house, my journal, letters, books and food; travel curtailed and the days pedestrian in more ways than one. Four weeks and more since I dined with any, when with Mr. M. Jones and Mr. R. Owen, and after supper we drew deep breath and said farewells. Yet I am lucky, and they too, for many dead of the plague and many yet uncounted dead, it plucking carefree from they who look after the sick, and taking both young, who leave behind belovèds as young and children younger, and old, who have seen much in their lives but not that they might end like this. By candle I did read more of my book purchas’d before last year’s end, which by a strange coincidence is of a future devastated by a plague called ‘flu’ (an odd and too short name, I think, which I would not choose for such a thing); but it late, the tale of unnatural prescience for my mood, and this journal for today already overlong. I set both aside, and so to bed.