Stir and sterility

8 March, in the year of our Lord 2021

The gymnaseum closed, I find myselfe all the time a-slouch, for sitting so much and turning the leafs of a book is little exercise, so today I determined I shall improve my fitnesse and will exercise more at home, and do it every day, and pay more scrupulose attention to my Diett. The tension of my Arteries, which I measured again on my fathers Contrapcion, is 5 ft. 9 in. over 3 ft. 5 in. of water, for which I am much contented, for the sistolick being the same as my height means my heart can pump my blood from ground level to the top of my head. Enquired by the Messenger of Mr. M. Jones what means exactly a Unitt of alcohole, having read two weeks since of that notion on the Health page of the gazette.
  ‘Ah,’ says he. ‘It is a very easy thing to remember. A single unitt is equal to a gallon of beer, a quart of wine or sack, or a half pint of strong water.’
  ‘Admirable,’ say I, ‘for I am inclined to improve the state of my health by being more pro Active and am to exercise more and drink less.’
  ‘Well done,’ says he. ‘And when do you propose to start these commendable activities?’
  ‘I have started already!’ say I, proudly.
  ‘You cannot have started. Last night at mine you had a pint of Ho Bryan,1 and it is still only half-past ten in the morning. Unless you have already run round the block.’
  ‘I have forsook my normal breakfast draught of strong water,’ say I, slightly put out. ‘In fact, to aid my endeavore and quench my desire for it I shall offer you all that remains, if you wish it.’
  ‘“It” being — ?’
  ‘A remaining half cask of a distillation made from local herbs and “unshelled produce”,’ say I, reading aloud the words on the barrel.
  ‘Possibly garden peas, then?’ says he.
  ‘Possibly,’ say I. ‘The cask is a little dirty and the print indistinct. It was a present from someone for Christmas, but I am not sure I like it.’
  ‘I think I remember from whom it was a present,’ says he. ‘I shall stick to the French red. But thank you for the thought. I’m sure you can palm it off on someone else.’
  Anon, to letters, not least to read again what Mrs. Cadwallader has wrote a few days since about my being a Vaxernator: that I should make myselfe out of a courtesy an account with NSH Track Jobbes, so I may make another applicacion with ease should I wish it (which I do not) and be advised of any other work of interest to me (which is none), so I do not really want to do it, though in the end, decided I would do it; but it is now two months since I had a mind to start it all and the wind is out of my sails, it hath took so long. After dinner, which I had with a tankard of rose Lemonayde from Fentyman’s shop with it, I to the Physicians, carrying before me my cask half full of liquor. Inside, perched on a stool and looking a little the worse for wear, sat Mr. Erchin, cleaning a batch of inoculacion needles with a crusty handkerchief. I set my keg before him on his counter, beside his unwashed mug of cold tea set upon a small tea tray.
  ‘Arfternoon, Mr. Peacepipe,’ says he, raising his eyebrows at the vat in front of him.
  ‘I thought I would venture to inquire of you as to progress with my vaxernator Applicacion, since I have heard naught from Mrs. Cadwallader or her teame,’ say I.
  ‘I would not ’old your breath, Mr. Paupers,’ says he. ‘Supplies are hintermittent. Plus, we ’ave used up all our Batche and are obliged to await fresh blocks of ice to keep cold any new they send us. What’s in the barrel?’
  ‘Ah,’ say I. ‘It is an alcoholick beveridge of some potency, surplus to requirements now I am on a health kick. Having recently read the Module on “Controlle of Infecktion”, I wondered to kill two birds with a single stone, and both remove it from my own temptacion and donate it for the purpose of your cleansing your needles.’
  ‘Well, that is uncommonly generouse of you, Mr. Popsy. I have a dozen such neadles ’ere, which is all we are allowed so we must re-cicle them. Your gift will ’elp enormosly, for the second Monday of each month is the day we clean ’em, but with my ’avin been too much on the ale last night, today I am a little short of spittle, so I ’ave been reliant for the purpose upon this rag I found in a pocket. It is from when I ’ad the catarrh at Christmas. I shall create a bath for these neadles and soak and agitate them for severalle minutes to remove all noxious Agents of infecktion.’
  At which he removed from the bunghole of the cask its bung, drained what remained of the tea in his mug and refilled the mug with my strong water. Into this he tipped his dozen grubby neadles, and started to stir them with a forefinger.
  ‘’Ow is your good father these days, if I may ask?’ says he, by way of inconsequential discourse.
  ‘He is well,’ say I. ‘The results of his latest envestigacions are excellent. He is to go into the magick ray Contryvance in another three months, but that is all. They are keeping the leeches as a second-line treatment.’
  ‘I do ’ope I was not too bold to inquire,’ says he, continuing absent-mindedly to stir. ‘’Ave you by the way seen that the Butchershoppe is up for sale?’
  ‘MacSporran’s?’ say I, in surprise (for I had not seen it). ‘But he hath not long been in the trade!’
  ‘I do not doubt there’ll be a story behind it,’ says he. ‘There!’ he adds. ‘We are done.’ He licks his finger clean. ‘All that now remains is to dry them.’ With the same hand he takes from the mug each neadle individually, drags it through the opposyte armpit and sets it on the tea tray. Then he examines his mugg.
  ‘Shame to waste it. Hair of the dogge and all that,’ says he, and gulps downs the entyre remaining mugfulle of spirit, which makes him pull a face, and also something out of his mouth. ‘It hath a distinctive flavour, I’ll give it that,’ says he. ‘Is this a piece of shell?’
  ‘Could be,’ say I, squinting at what he holds between finger and thumb.
  ‘The boss’ll want this barrel stored round the back. Would you oblige, if I clean it up a little?’
  ‘I have already brought it at great effort all the way down here for you!’ exclaim I with some indignation. ‘You are much younger than I. Can you not carry it yourselfe? Or have you not done the Manuall Handling module?’
  ‘I ’ave done none of them modules, Mr. Porpoise,’ says he with not a little scorn, taking his kerchief to the barrel and rubbing away at the dirt on it. ‘Complete waste of time, if you ask me. Oh! Now I have cleaned the staves, it says here what is the contents of your cask.’ He screws up his eyes to read the unclear print and blanches. ‘Snail-water?!’ cries he. ‘I have drunk a mugfulle of snail-water?!’
  ‘Ah, yes,’ say I, brightening. ‘I remember now. It was a present at Christmas from Mr. M. Jones: a fine distillation of snails, herbs and sack!’ I try to allay his obvious concern. ‘But you must not worry,’ I say, comfortingly, ‘for you have had far less than a Unitt. All you have had is a small slug.’

1. Pepys first encountered ‘Ho Bryan’ [the claret Haut Brion] at ‘the Royall Oak Tavern, in Lumbard Street’, on 10 April 1663. He pronounced that it ‘hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with’.


Paternal advice

25 February, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up, the weather back to be fine, which it hath not been since a great storm on Tuesday, when I thought a tree would topple, and Mr. M. Jones was without æther all the afternoon, so all his candles did not work, and nor did any in the areas of three postcodes where he lives. Rain all day yesterday, though the wind gone, for which we should be contented. After breakfast I to visit my mother and father, with the sun lighting up bare branches of trees from the side, as it does at this time of the year, against a bright blue sky, and the last of snow drops in the gardens, which cheer’d me. In the afternoon with my father by coach to the Hospitalle to put him again through the Contryvance where they use magick rays to see inside his chest, and will make another etching from them, to compare it with the previose. He I find to be in excellent good cheer, onlie his mind a little heavy for his worrying for my mother (though I think he doth it too much), and I doubt not also for what the new image may show, or not, but in three days, which is the twenty-eighth, will be his birth day, with him seeing ninety-one years, which he did not think would ever come to pass. He hath put on the wall a great heavy clocke from his shedde, where it was, though the roof of the shedde leaks, which is why he moved it, and it hath a solid tick, and keeps to a very good time, though it seems as heavy as he and I know not how he moved it. But his mind is as sharp as ever, and I am still subject to the style of paternal instrucktion I remember from my school days: that I must put the handle of the front door a certain way when I put an item in his recicling bins lest it close behind me and lock me out, which I think is a commonsense (though it is easier to keep one foot inside the door); could I please cut a straw berry in four Quadrants before sugar is added, for it makes a better syroppe with the juce of it; that one container of soupe will serve three if each dish is filled only to a certain line in the pattern thereof, which is blue and white and a pastoral picture of China, and the soup should come onlie to the top of the willow; also that I must lock the outside doors at the front of the house on to the street and at the back into the kitchen, and all the doors inside the house, at night, to safe guard from burglery and that he he must take his jacket each night up the stairs lest money be stolen from it by a vagabond while he sleeps — which may be a right discretion, but when ask I of him, ‘When did you last open the patio door to go into the garden, for today I found it closed but unlocked, which means anyone could have waltzed in and took your wallit?’, he says, ‘Oh, a couple of years ago.’ But I would not have it another way, and at supper today notes he for my benefitte that it is best to use the salt grinder at an angle, or it clogs the mechanicks.
  In the gazette read of a little legal newes: viz. — of the case in Chancery of Sturgeon v. Salmon, which is to be likened to Jarndyce v. Jarndyce; that in the Plymouth Colony a magistrate hath demanded to see the ledgers of the man who led them; on the Health page that we must all mind the wine and ale we drink in Lock Up, and that in Holland they are to outlaw who may smoke in their coffee houses. Also that a man says he hath taken a coach and put it on the service of Mars, the body celestialle that Mr. Smethwick shewed me with his glasses at the Royal Society, which I think is the most ridiculous thing I did ever read in my entire life.
  After supper, I find that it was one year ago on the last Thursday in February, which is the same as today, when I was with Mr. M. Jones in a hall where we listened to some music being played there, which was with a great band of viols and some sackbutts, and some who sung, perhaps twenty-five or thirty in the total of them, all on a stage, which was a sinfonia wrote by Mr. Gust. Mahler, all the way from the Emperour’s lands, and we found very good matter in it, and come from it much contented, onlie it a little long.



22 February, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up, and the weather fine, which it hath not been, for of the last few days (which is since Saturday) each hath been foul, with ceaseless rain, and winds so fierce I did think they would claim the roof. Only today was it fine, when I in the garden to clear old leaves and cut some branches, which I did, though for fear of some little pains in my back after it, which last time left me incommoded and my posture crooked. News by the Messenger that a journey I had hoped to make abroad in June with Mr. Jones is to be cancel’d, this for the third time, I think, so we did agree that we should ask that our Deposites, they be returned to us. But though the notion of such a journie might yet have seemed a triumph of optimism over realitie, still the removal of it vexed and desapointed me in equal measure, for it was as tangible a thing as I had, of a value to embrace heartily in the future, and we have little enough of that.
  After dinner received a letter, which was a contract for the roll of my being a Vaxinater, though of all the detayles there was in it, which were no less than seven pages, those most imortant were all mis-spelled: which was my name, the date on which I was born and the address where I live. If I can now write the word as I learn it must be spelled, Mrs. Cadwallader’s clerk must the same with the Detayles of my Person.
  But the least of it is that it will provide me with a new Purpose, which is a well come thing, since in this time of plague, when I see my friends so seldom and even that to which I looked foreward is thrice denied, there is a danger that my mind will become as confined in my own head as my head in my own house. For it occurred to me a-work in the garden that it is strange and morbid thing how, in the short days of winter, with the weather foul and deprived of the commonality of friendship save thro’ magick screens, recollections of my days at Pauls school from so very long ago have returned unbidden to me, and my memory presents to me, in no order, those such as my time with the Admiralty, my time in the Tower, and my turbulent life with the wife I loved, and yet though all of these should be forgot or put to bed, still they have the power to wake when I am alone, and disturb me. But when I wonder to check at the accuracie of such things, and whether they are not more than tinged with the affects pertaining to solitude and the insecuritie of our times, by reading to confirm the integrity of my person the journalle I wrote as a younger man, it often seems as if I were a different person. It seems that lacking goals and hopes, and motivacions for the future, the mind will pivot and dwell with too much ease on the past, like scales weighing time, out of kilter on the fulcrum of the Present. And I think this imbalance a curse we must strive to evade in these times, lest the uncertaintie of the future inflict upon us the unreliability of the past, and leave us fail in the instant.
  After, I contended to myselfe that this is no more than what happens when I prune and ruminate at the same time; so, after, serveyed the garden in a posytive state of mind, which is better for its being less brown, which makes it look green more, and in the end mightily contented for the doing of the jobb and the fulfilment of a purpose, no matter it small. For supper cooked a lime Possit, which I had not cooked before, very fine, and Mr. M. Jones came to share it with me. After, watched a part of a play upon a magick screen, which was Line of Dutie, Act 1, scene IV, in which Mr. Leonard James tonight acted mighty handsome and, I think, better than last I saw him in the part, though with the fickleness of memorie I remembered naught of the plot from before. And so to bed. 


The interview

8 February, in the year of our Lord 2021

A little while after dinner, set my magick window on the table in my dining room, with the purpose of an interview on the Line, using Micro Soft-teams, with two persons, who were Tracey and Declan.
  ‘Lovely to meet you. Now, this is all very informal and shouldn’t take long at all,’ says Tracey brightly. ‘How are you getting on with the training sessions?’
  ‘Well — ’ start I.
  ‘Excellent!’ she beams, not awaiting the entirity of my response, which was otherwise to have been: ‘Well, I could not comprehend your letter, the Links did not work, I had to request an en-rolement key, and the System will not tick all the boxes for the modules I have compleated — but apart from that…’
  ‘Just a couple of things we do need,’ continues she, squinting at her check list, ‘which are Proofs of your identitie. These are of the utmost importance.’
  ‘This is the Agreement to supply piped water to my premises,’ say I, waving the relevant bill before the magick screen, ‘which has my name and address clearly — ’
  ‘That will do nicely,’ says she glancing momentarylie at it and ticking a box. ‘I’m sure you appreciate that the processe must be water tight and rigorous, Mr. Samuels. Do you by any chance have photo ID or equivalent?’
  ‘I have this,’ say I, with some effort manhandling on to the table the famous framed portrait of me by Mr. Hayls, the paynter, in which I wear my fine Indian silk gown and hold the music I wrote to a lyric from Mr. Davenant’s Siege of Rhodes.
  ‘Oh, I say!’ says Tracey, saying it. ‘I bet that looks lovely on your wall. Normally we just get a driving licence, though a woman called Windsor last week tried to pass off a letter with a stamp on it.’ She consults her list. ‘Have you an up to date DBS certifycate?’
  ‘The one I have is ten years old,’ say I, ‘but I can tell you that I was awarded three points for driving my coach very fast down a hill in October.’
  ‘Oh, excellent!’ says she. ‘That will come in handy if you are running late. Now, I think that’s everything, is it, Declan?’
  ‘I think so,’ says he, regarding me affably. ‘Unless you have any questions?’
  ‘Is Mrs. Cadwallader detained?’ ask I, wondering why she is not there.
  ‘She may be,’ says Declan. ‘She hath made out that she is with a cousen in Prestatyn when in fact she hath gone for a mini-break to the Black Sea.’
  ‘I see,’ say I. ‘And when do you think she might return to work?’
  ‘2031. The Crymea is on the red list.’
  ‘We’ll be in touch,’ says Tracey.


Almost pronounced a vaccinator

3 February, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up betimes, the day brighter than these last, when there was a mere diminution of darknesse. Before breakfasted I abroad for a little exersice, which was to walk up the lane, where in the window of the Physician’s espyed a note writ in the insecure hand of a novice: WaИted ~ VaskernateЯs to Help fite the COVIE plaig! The NSH knead ur Help!!! Ferther enformacion wit hin. Or aply 2 Mrs. Eliz. Cadwalleder. Singed: Geo. Erchin — which put me to think if the roll would be to my taste for I need a Project.
  After dinner set about a big hidrangera at the bottom of the garden, with secketiers, and to the hacking of an elder flowershrub which was over grown, with thick branches, which I cut with a saw, and which brought me to the view that if I can do something like that I can be a vaskernater, so determined I will persue it. Then it rained so I came in. 


5 February, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up, and at breakfast read the gazette, wherein news pertaneing to divers matters of the Worlde, incl. that it it will snow a great deal and be mighty cold, that the oister busyness says it will be compleatly shucked by our leaving the Continent, and that in Burmerland the soldiery hath couped its Govt. After, to the butchershoppe, where none but I and the merrie ding-a-ling of the door on my entering, and obliged to stand on bright blue stickers in the shape of a pare of feet, which were adhered to the floor, and to discourse with Mr. Jas. MacSporran at a special Distance. Inquir’d as to the availabilitie of lamb choppes but with little expectacion, for his counter as bare as ever I saw it — which is not much, it is to be admitted, but the bareness of it, and the lack of persons at the door or in the lane, or of any other coustemer, all suspiciose of hard times. MacSporran glowered me from under untrimmed eyebrows and over wire-rimmed spectackles, two enormous tomes before him, which were open on the counter.
  ‘Is not business as fruitfulle as formerly?’ hazard I.
  ‘It is not, Pepys,’ growls he. ‘It is fullie and firmlie not as f***ing fruitful as f***ing formerlie. D’ye know what these are?’ asks he, stabbing his quille at the ledgers before him.
  ‘Orders for your fine fillets? Or perchance the special Haggies?’ suggest I, with a degree of hesitence, to which he gave me a short and satisfactory answer, compleat with alliteration.
  ‘No, they’re nae f***ing orders for my fine f***ing fillets, Pepys!’ rages he. ‘These, Samuel, are what the First Lord of the Treasurie and his lacky Master Gove hath determined are required to ship a chicken leg to Calays!’
  ‘But the First Lord protested such a chicken readie for the oven, gas mark 4 and bobs your Unckle — ’
  ‘Aye, that he did! Along wi’ “a strong relacionshippe with our friends across the Channel whatever the cyrcumstences”. Along wi’ “we agin have control of our laws and our destinie”. And along wi’ “Mrs Stergin shall have all the f***ing fish she can possibly f***ing eat!”’
  ‘And did you, erm — vote for that?’
  ‘If ye think ah’m answering tae ye as tae my votin’ habits, Pepys, ye’ve another think comin’!’ roared he (which took I as a Yes). ‘But if that bastaird Johnstone doesnae do somethin’ aboot it suin, ye’ll see his unfilleted bawbag skewered to this bloody counter wi’ a sgian dubh!’
  Thus ranted, he intooke of a great breath and adjusted himselfe into a semblence of professionalysme. ‘Will thair be anythin’ else ah can do fair ye? Afore ah go bankripped?’
  I retreated to the pare of blue stickers six feet nearer the door.
  ‘I don’t suppose you know a good fishmonger?’
  At which I was obliged to leave in a hurry, with both the bell and the words ‘ — and it’s haggis not Haggies, ye bampot Sassenach!!’ ringing in my ears.
  After dinner I to my office, where corresponded on the account of my thinking to become a vaskernator against the plague, which seems a noble thing to do, onlie the first hurdle on the way to nobly doing it means I must spend an hour on a magick window, watching a Core Module with little storys where someone falls dead to the ground, and thereafter answer lots of questions about it — though not who dunnit?, which I think a great omition.
  By and by comes Mr. M. Jones for supper.
  ‘How goes the vaxinator applicacion?’ asks he.
  ‘Vask-er-nat-er,’ say I, heavilie, correcting him. ‘I saw it on the advert.’
  ‘Vax-in — ’ incysts he, but gives up. ‘I cannot believe your inabilitie to grasp the Basicks of English!’
  ‘Whatever,’ say I. ‘To be honest, it is a bit tediose, but there are some good bits. This very afternoon, for instance, I have learned that you can bring someone back to life by repeatedlie hitting them and if that does not work you can ask people in a car park to help.’
  ‘I see,’ says he. ‘Are you certain your extraordinarie skill set is what they really need? You need not answer that. It is going to be very cold tonight — what is for supper? I can smell garlique butter and burned breadcrumbs.’
  ‘Chicken kevin,’ say I, squinting without my spectackles at the packaging. ‘With freets.’
  ‘You do not pronounce that in that way, either!’ exclaims he, crossly.
  ‘I have already had a lesson in Scots from MacSporran today,’ retort I. ‘I do not need one in Russian from you. Chicken kevins with frights, if you must.’
  Mr. Jones changes tack, reaching for the gazette and taking in the head Lines. ‘It is a great shame about Burmerland. You have been there, I think?’
  ‘I have,’ say I, removing supper from the oven. ‘It is a lovely and exotique land with a delightfulle people. In fact, now I remember, I have a Burmese delivryman, though he is of a paler complection than are natives of that country.’
  He blinks at me in dysbelief. ‘That is because you do not have a Burmese delivryman. You have a Hermes delivryman. From Wandsworth.’
  After a cool supper, I tight of lippe lest I be incorrected again, we did decide to watch a repeate of Travelman on the magick screen. From Ibbizzia (‘Ib-EETH-a,’ growls Mr. Jones). With Richard Waddyoddy. 


Special Haggies

25 January, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up, and after breakfast and mopping up where the cat did make a puke (though there is always a patch I do not find for days), I abroad to collect for supper some food that I order’d in advance from our new Scottish Butcher and Master Purveyoure of Qalitie Meats, Game & Offle, and then take my Excercise for the day with a walk up the Lane. The Apothecary having took down his Nativity display, I spied in the window of his premices some fine new plants that he hath, of an oposite and decussate leaf and with a heavy pungeant fragrance, which when I inquired of him he did persuade me were sold to ease the miserie of the plague, and blandished me that a man of my botanicle mastery should find the cultivation of them well within my capabilitie.
  ‘They are a little costly,’ say I. ‘By what name do they go?’
  ‘Pityriasis rosea, I am told,’ says he, ‘as per the Label: “Aromatic, and having a pretty inflorescence, with a pink, rozay collarette”. I grew them myselfe, from some herbal seeds sold me by MacSporran, which he imports from abroad to use in a secret recipe to do with his new enterprise — though the price he asked was prodigeous.’
  So I thought to buy one and, home, set it on a window sill where it will receive as feeble sun light as the winter months allow.
  By and by comes Mr. M. Jones for supper, bearing sweetmeates in a box, for which I thank him.
  ‘They appear very fine,’ say I. ‘From where did you purchase them?’
  ‘They are rasberry and oat meal puddings from Aspynall’s in Brook Place, up the back of High Town,’ says he. ‘She hath an excellent reputacion.’
  In a trace my eyes widen and I snatch the box from his hands.
  ‘A reputacion to rival Sweeney Todd!’ cry I. ‘It is rumored her businesse thrives on corpses dead of the plague! Only at Hallow’s Eve did she boast of makeing edible spongey fingers, with the blood still on them!’
  ‘Well, I payed a pretty penny for these,’ counters he, grabbing them back, ‘and am told that they are special for this very night, though I know not why. We should set them aside and think on it.’
  ‘Very well,’ say I, ‘for tonight is Burns Night and here in the oven I have cooked a Special Haggies from MacSporrans butcher shoppe. It hath been a dish of unprecedented popularitie, I should tell you: admired to such unusual measure by the youth of the city as to make it a sell-out! — though it is a fine thing to see young people use this time of Lock Up to improve their culinery skills. We shall have it with a potato, mashed — and with these, whatever they are…’
  ‘“Neeps, bashed to perfection”,’ reads Mr. Jones, none the wiser for examining the packageing. ‘“Pierce film and cook for four minutes at 1000W; stir halfway through.” I should have brought my bespoke Readie Meal film piercing set.’
  Suspecting dry wit, I look at him askance. ‘Surely it is as easy to use a fork?’
  He changes tack. ‘Burns Night, you say? I am not familiar with the celebration.’
  ‘Ah,’ say I, the while setting food on our plates and seating us to eat. ‘It is a Scots tradicion that commemorates Robert the Burns, a famose poet of Antiquitie, who together with his old acquaintance Lang Syne — whom he forgot most of time and then remember’d at New Year — once sat in an old reeky watching a spider called Bruce spin a tartan web, till they got fed up of it and baked it — together with a great beast that was cowering with them, all a-timorous — into the form of the very first Haggies, and dedicated the dish to the Restoration of King Stuart.’
  ‘I never cease to be amaz’d by your grasp of Historie,’ says Mr. Jones. ‘It does however taste a little chewy.’
  ‘You are still wearing your masque.’
  And so, with a little strong water, golden of colour and distilled of scots Grain, we to merry discourse till our plates cleaned.
  ‘New plant?’ inquires Mr. Jones mildly, nodding toward my earlyer purchase.
  ‘That addle-brained Apothecarie sold it me,’ say I, happily. But the strong water must have took effect, for all I could do was to beam at it, for it seemed the most wondrous plant I had ever seen in my entire life. ‘I do like a nice pot plant.’
  ‘Well, that Haggies was delitefulle,’ says Mr. Jones, rousing himself from a light torpor, ‘though I must say that I feel a little more mellow than is usual for this time of night, even allowing for the strong water. You must allow me to side away the plates.’
  I also begin to feel a little relaxed, and of unexpected good affect as I remove myself to sit beside the coal fire. After what seems like the whole evening but the clock says only half an hour I realise Mr. Jones hath not returned. I find him with an uncommon smile on his face, stood by my recicling bins in a gentle rain, gazing Heavenward.
  ‘Wow,’ says he. ‘The rain. I can feel every drop. Like, every single one on my head. It’s like — wow! You should stand here.’
  Getting wetter suddenly seems very funny. Mr. Jones continues to stare into space. ‘Every drop. I can feel everyindyviddial drop — ’
  There we stood in revery for an hour, it seemed, before inside to search out pudding and the hearth — though navigating the kitchen took forever, for it was a mile long, its corners as squiff as a badly made boat, and its floor up a-hill.
  Mr. Jones snorts back another giggle. He is now seated on the floor, propped up by my high-backed chair. ‘These puddings from Aspynall’s are rather good,’ says he.
  ‘They are,’ say I. ‘I wonder who is in them?’ And we fall about in a fit of hilaritie.
  Anon, Mr. Jones focuses with some effort on my new acquisicion. ‘It looks to me,’ says he, slowly and deliberately, ‘very much like that weed that Ben Jones grew amongst your bollackworts, and told you was a rare kind of tomato.’
  ‘Oh, yeah…It does…now you say it…Yeah.’
  ‘It’s so green.’
  ‘Yeah. It is. Really green.’
  ‘And you have a new patch on your carpet.’
  ‘Cat sick,’ say I, staring at it in fascination.
  ‘It’s so yellow.’
  ‘Yeah… It is. Really…really yellow.’ 


Odd days in January

13 January, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up, the day grey, and a fine drizzle all the time with rain, which hath come into the chimney stack and made a mark on the ceiling, by my stairs, so by Messenger to the fellow who worked on the roof these several yeares since, Mr. M. Brookewell, who by return says he will come in a week. Had the excellent idea after breakfast that I should call upon others to visit in order to provide Conversation, on a pretext of reparing the fabric of the house, this Lock Up v3.0 being tediose to an extreme and greater than previous. This day is a half hour longer than the shortest. 


15 January, in the year of our Lord 2021

News from my father, that they have been inoculcated with the vaxine, my mother and he, for which I give thanks to God. The sun higher a little today, and there came a little warmth in the weather, with sun shine, so cleared the garden of some dead and brown leaves, though they were also cold and wet, and fill’d a wheelybin with them.


17 January, in the year of our Lord 2021

Lord’s Day. Last night rescued the cat of Mr. R. Owen, which had stuck up a tree, with the assitence of a neighbore, Spencer, and his torch and laddyrs. Him down by the scruff (which is the cat, not Spencer), looked at me as if to say, ‘What took you so long?’. This morning at 11 a-clock comes Barry the paynter, and I with him discoursing merrily, though have ended up agreeing to have painted the little room I use for my ablutions, and the room beside it wherein sits the ice cabinet, which is grubby, in Morning Light. I consider to have another Portraite painted of myself, like my wife had done with Mr. Hayls, but I think Barry is more a Duluxe man. Before supper, met with others on a magick screen for the Book Club, where talked of The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant, a treatise on Old Testament Obstetricks which I shall not read again. 


19 January, in the year of our Lord 2021

Yesterday came Mr. Simon Fisher all the way from from Liverpuddle to repair a work Top in my kitchen, which crack’d several years since when the oven stayed lit from supper till morning; he discoursing his opinions on the Covey, which contayned the most good matter on the Subject I heared in a long while, for he had it in November and lived. After supper, the Messenger from my father telling me that a mayde who attends my mother hath an grey parrotte from Africka which are well known as talkers, and I read better than mangrove parrottes who do not learn to speak even with turpentine suppositorys, which she lets free in her house, and it seems that one of the bird’s favourite sayings is, “Hello, hello, hello! Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye! F— off, f— off, f— off!”.


21 January, in the year of our Lord 2021

Today I set to write my Journall for the week, but unable to think of more than meagre content, for each day hath little to distinguish it from another. Yesterday, up betimes, and before breakfasted comes Davy to see to my radiators, two being cold, though the house is warmer than the New Year when my tank of oyl emptied and the boyler did not work — which was the worst time for it happening, it being cold with some snow and Mr. M. Jones could not leave his house. At night there was a great storm. In the gazette today that yesterday the Plymouth Colony sweared in its new Leader and the former left without any courtesie, to which I can only echo the words of the parrotte.  


A Nell for the End of Plague Year

31 December, in the year of our Lord 2020

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

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



23 December, in the year of our Lord 2020

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


What is wrong with me?

11 December, in the year of our Lord 2020

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

12 December, in the year of our Lord 2020

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

13 December, in the year of our Lord 2020

Lords day. Ached a lot all day.



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