The Road to the Isles

15 September, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up very betimes and against my wishes, gravely sick with a fever, and an akeing weaknesse all over, and did make a great puke, onlie crawled not quite to the bath room before making it so it was all over the floor, being the illest I ever was in my entyre life and foreswearing of Scots wine forever. Witheld from solid food at breakfast, unable to trust in the dependibility of either end of my elimentary Tract, and swallowed water brash a-plenty and clenched my buttocks while Mr. Jones put away a platter of a transluscent egg, barely half-fryed, bacon afloat in a puddle of grease, toast blackened against the weevil, hash browns and a deep-fryed black pudding that resembled nothing less than a fat bloody turd in batter.
  ‘I remember climbing Mont Blanc and the man on the rope above me had the most terrible looseness of the bowels,’ says he, reminiscing fondly. ‘What you need is castor oil and a soapsud enema.’
  Whereupon fled I back to our room, skidded on the slimy floor and slid under the notice about emergency evacuation, which was in a sense apt for the Accident that promptly occurred.
  Collapsed in wretched misery in Mr. Jones’ coach while he settled the reckoning with the surly innkeeper: 6s. 9d., plus 9d. for a servant to cover my effluent with sawdust, for the benefit of the next guest.
  ‘We shall take the high road along the side of Loch Lomond,’ says Mr. Jones, consulting his pocket screen while I groan, slumped in the seat beside him, ‘for it is a route quicker by a full half hour, and the scenery is of an unparralelled beauty.’
  ‘I have read of a danger from outlaws and bandits by that road,’ moan I, weakly.
  ‘Those days are long gone,’ scoffs Mr. Jones. ‘You must rest, and I wager you shall regain your strength before you can say Ecclefechan. Have another Emmodium and enjoy the ride.’
  By and by, reached the peaks of the southern Trossacks, and beside us the long stretch of water known as Loch Lomonde.
  ‘It is time, if you are up to it, to admire the bonnie banks,’ says Mr. Jones. ‘We may be delayed. Googly Mappes is warning of a hold up.’
  ‘These cloud-enshrouded hilltops harbour a savage tribe of robbers and rustlers of cattle,’ say I, warylie, ‘known as the Clan MacFarlane — ’
  Whereupon at that very instant come great shouts and threatening cries that bring our coach to an emergencie halt, for impeding our progress upon on the road is a band of hairy brigands in plaid kilts and caps, brandishing firearms.
  ‘Loch Sloy! Loch Sloy!’ is their battle cry, though the impackt undermined by their tartan Covey masks, as they a-line to oppose our passage. Their uncouth and hirsute leader approaches.
  ‘Where are ye bound tae?’ demands he, advancing close and waving a muskett in our faces.
  ‘No further!’ cries Mr. Jones. ‘Special distancing!’
  ‘Oh, sorry!’ He retreats two paces, then: ‘Where are ye bound tae?’ bellows he a second time.
  ‘We are northbound, to Forty Williams via Glencow and beyond!’ answers Mr. Jones, resolutely. ‘Let us pass!’
  ‘Ye’ll pass when I say ye’ll pass! Lads — the coach!’
  But as they approach and open the doors a colick comes of a sudden upon me, and although my bowels are devoid of solids they are inflated with a copiose amount of wind that they can hold no longer and erupt with the most gaseose volume of flatulence I ever emitted in my entire life.
  ‘Jesus!’ cries the outlaw leader as his band all jump back several paces in disgust. ‘What the fook was that?’
  ‘McSalmonella,’ says Mr. Jones in distaste, wafting his face with one hand.
  ‘Wait!’ cries one of a pair in the unkempt troupe of a sudden, shouldering his rifle and peering closer from under bushy brows at my forlorn form. ‘I know that noxiose stench!’
  I squint at his wildly bearded face and that of his more lightly whiskered accomplice.
  ‘Ye’ve been at the bloody oyesters again, Pepys!’ cries he, as the pair whip off their tartan masks.
  ‘Ye mean ye know these bastard sassenachs, ye mercenary pair?’ roars their leader.
  And so did it transpire that amity supplanted enmity, and as we shared of their strong water, which was the deepest gold in a liquid I did ever see in my life, and a great physick and Balm for my guts, as much as it was a restorative for my miserable spirits, so I emptied my pockets and shared with them our last pork scratchings, and, all merry, had much good discourse around a camp fire with MacSporran and his wife, who having fled England for whatever work they could find in the land of their Fathers, and arriving destytute on the shores of Loch Lomond, had sold their services to the highest bidder and so found themselves taken to little Loch Sloy in the hills, home to the thieving Clan MacFarlane, though lately dammed for hydreau-elecktric Power.
  ‘Don’ mine ’f I do,’ slur I some while later, accepting yet another top up of the local distillacion. I am by now somewhat enebriated, since I am drinking on a stomach emptied of every last morsel, and dare to pose an audaceous question of the clan chief.
  ‘So, what do you do…when you are not committing theft, robbery, murder…theft an’ tyranny?’ venture I, concentrating on stringing together the words in the right order.
  ‘Aye, well,’ says he, with a disarming bashfulnesse, ‘every few weeks we’ve a Book Club.’
  ‘Aye, Book Club,’ comes a general murmur of approval from around the fire.
  ‘Really?’ say I, for they look not the reading sort. ‘What do you read?’
  ‘Well, Crime and Punishment we did last year. Just now we’re doing Scottish police procedurals. The characterisation’s shite but we’re picking up some guid tips.’
  ‘Do you have a favoured author?’
  ‘Well,’ says the Scotsman, poking the twigs, ‘if I’m honest, I’ve a wee predilection for Edith Wharton.’
  ‘A fine writer,’ say I, wondering who he is, for I never heard that a woman wrote a book before.
  ‘We’re looking for new members, if ye’re interested.’
  ‘I fear it is impractickle,’ say I, though I bask in the warmth of goodwill, flames and liquor. ‘Nice tartan, by the way,’ I add, happily emboldened by the latter. Mr. Jones flashes a warning glance.
  ‘D’ye think so?’ says the clan chief. ‘D’ye no think the purple’s a wee bit garish?’
  ‘Goes with y’r nose — ’ say I, drunkenly waving a forefinger in the general direction of his face and snorting back a giggle.
  ‘Better with the heather!’ interjects Mr. Jones, hastilie, for he feels the camaradery hath gone too far, but our host has a capricious change of mood anyway.
  ‘Enough o’ this! My men want tae see what kind of men ye are! ’Tis time for a toast!’ cries the MacFarlane of MacFarlane and fixeth us with an unflinching stare. ‘Do ye uphold the Covenants of the Scots and wi’ all yer hearts and wi’ all yer minds, God help ye till the day ye die, pledge allegiance to Scotland and the wee lass Sturgeon?’
  ‘Who?’ say I, blankly.
  ‘We do!’ enthuses Mr. Jones quickly, looking dangerosely at me.
  ‘We do!’ cry I, taking my cue.
  ‘A toast then tae the wee lass Nicola Sturgeon!’ cries the clan chief to a great roar around the fire and a raising of tankards all round.
  ‘Tae the wee lass Nicola Sturgeon!’ choruses the band.
  ‘To the wheelless Nicholas Turgeon!’ cry I, giving it my all.
  ‘Well,’ says Mr. Jones, finally, ‘I think we should be on our way, Pepys, and leave these good people to their reading and their rustling.’
  ‘Ve’y well,’ manage I, clambering unsteadily to my feet and there rocking, ‘if w’ muss. ’Sbeen lovely Mcmeeting all of you Farlanes…and nest time I see the beaut-iffle Joodith…I sh’ll make sure…that she shall…toss my caber…in the tradish’nal way…Hah!’
  ‘I’ll drive,’ says Mr. Jones, hauling me swiftly down the hill.
  And so we on the road again, and the next I knew was that I awoke, it dark and the coach come to a stop on gravel by a low guest house upon a shore.
  ‘Where are we?’ yawn I.
  ‘We have arrived at our destinacion,’ says Mr. Jones, with satisfacktion. ‘Welcome to the Midge Coast.’


A holiday at last

15 August-12 September, in the year of our Lord 2021

(In this part of the Diary no entry occurs for four weeks and several pages are left blank. During this time Pepys went into the country, as he subsequently mentions having been in Shaftesbury, Dorset, and visiting Stourhead, and later on a nearby hillside encountering a National Trust man with an enormous erection. The pages left blank were never filled up.) 


13 September, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up very betimes at 4 a’clock, and fortyfied by a fine porrage purposed to depart with Mr. Jones in his coach for some days in Scotland, in a place where once owned my mother and father a cottage, on the sea at the edge of the We[s]t Highlands. Summarily packed, set about our journey, the roads rough though we merry, and encountered many convenient staging posts where we stopped for the horses, and exchanged ourselfs in order to drive them, which were Moto at Rugby, and at south Stafford, which was RoadChef, I think. Spent the night at the Traveller Lodge in Knutsford, on the recommendacion to Mr. Jones of a drunkard from Little Booking Dotcom. The town pleasant though we early to bed, having come lately and suffering some wearyness for the long day, and needing to be up betimes for the morrow.  


14 September, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up, and out betimes, it being a day with much sun shine, which joyed us greatly, and stopped for a fine breakfast at Charnock Richard, which was a Welcome Brake, and thereafter rode a very good way, along a great road, to the boarder at Scotland by nightfall, and to Gretna, where partook of a pint of wine, some oysters and a plate of pork scratchings, though of the latter too many, so pocketed the excess for the journey tomorrow. Slept overnight at the best tavern there was, which was their premier Inn, only the room not so large as I expected, and there was no remoat for the magick screen and some dried secretions on the light switch.


…and the new portrait

4 August, in the year of our Lord 2021

At noon by boat to the Artists Quarter, and walked on foot through the narrow streets and by and by to the end of Nouveau Street, where found myselfe at a crossroads where to my left led away Conceptual St. and to my right, passing the strange little Dada Alley, ran Cubey Road. I made my way straight ahead, down Surreal St., and there saw signs above variose shop fronts — viz: Sr. Salv. Darley, Signor de Chirico, Ernst’s of Cologne — before I found that which I sought, which was the premices of Monsieur R. McGritte. I ascended the few steps and pushed open the door, whose bell announced my presence with a bright jangle as I entered the cosy but dark wood panelled interior. A man was obscured in the shadows at the back of the shoppe.
  ‘Bonjour, monsieur,’ says he. I peered into the dimness beyond the window, where the light did not reach, and there saw him seated in a white shirt and black tie, wearing sleeve garters and a Boaler Hat.
  ‘Good day,’ say I. ‘I have an appointment to sit. To be painted.’
  ‘Ah, oui,’ says he. ‘Monsieur Peppeez?’
  ‘The very same. Well, almost the same. It is pronounced Peeps.’
  ‘It eez a plaisir to make your acquaintance, Monsieur Peeps,’ says he, Gallickly. ‘I ’ave few requests for portaits zees days. It will be agréable to rectify ze situation. You are familiar with my work?’
  ‘You come highly recommended,’ say I. ‘But I confess your work is unfamiliar to me,’ I add, observing more closely some of the art works that hang upon the walls, ‘and not quite what I was expecting. The clouds in this one here seem to be in front of the figure of this gentleman, yet the sky behind him! And the façade of this house is as if at dusk, yet the sky beyond as bright as midday!’
  He approaches and remarks upon the same painting.
  ‘It eez a challenge to ze — perception, no?’ says he. And he holds up a palm to reassure me. ‘I know what you are theenking. But if monsieur is in any doubt about ’is course of action, bien sûr, I will take no offence.’
  ‘It will be a pleasure to see how monsieur perceives me,’ say I, lightly, though my eyes alight upon a portrait of a man whose face is hidden by an apple. ‘Wig on, or wig off?’
  ‘As monsieur wishes. Please accompany me.’
  And so he led me courteosely behind a curtain of a rich crimson fabric and up a curve of uneven stairs to his studio, where he did seat me before a window that looked down upon the street, positioning himself at his Easle at the back of the room.
  ‘I shall keep my wig on,’ say I. ‘’ow would you like me?’ I ask, unconsciosely falling into an accent like French investigator Julien Baptiste from the magick screen. ‘I feel I ’ave a certain…sparkle in ze eye, and a rosy complexion that might be emphasised for ze admireur.’ At which point I think it prudent to resume standard English. ‘And I have brought this volume to hold in my hand to provide a simulacrum of intellect. It is The Life of Thos. Cromwell by the Rev. D. MacCulloch.’
  He shakes his head. ‘A fine book,’ says he. ‘But eet will not be necessary.’
  ‘Well, I haven’t actually read it,’ admit I. ‘It’s a bit heavy going and there are too few commas. Perhaps instead I might place a forefinger thus, pensively upon my chin — ?’
  ‘Per’aps if monsieur were to sit quietly?’ suggests he, gently. ‘I should like to concentrate most of all on ze profil.’
  ‘Ah! Very well,’ say I, though it comes out as ‘veh we-e-ell’ in Clouseau French.
  And so sat I for an hour or two, while Monsieur McGritte alternated his glance between myselfe and his easle, and his brush between his palatte and his Canvas. At length it seemed finished, whereupon sat he back and regarded it with a certain satisfaction.
  ‘Voilà!’ says he.
  ‘May I see?’
  ‘Why, of course! But ze paint must first dry, which will take maybe ten days.’
  Whereupon he grasped in both hands his easle and the canvas upon it and turned them to face me, so that I saw the image for the first time in the light that streamed through the window. I was lost for words.
  ‘ — ’ say I, gazing upon it, for it was the most singular and remarkable portrait I ever saw in my entire life. 


14 August, in the year of our Lord 2021.

Today I hung my new portrait in pride of place upon the wall, but covered it with a cloth to which was sewed a golden cord, for I purposed to provide a surprise theatricle moment at supper, when comes Mr. M. Jones.
  ‘So, Pepys,’ says he, ‘we are to have grand unveiling?’
  ‘Indeed,’ say I. ‘Ready?’
  ‘Go for it.’
  And so with a flourish tugged I the golden cord, whereupon away fell the mundane cloth! And I beamed afresh at my new commission while Mr. Jones gawped. For there it was, in all its glory: the background paynted as if ’twere no more than a base wood panel, and upon it, in a black as complete as the darkest unlit cavern in the all the world, sat the very likeness of my profile, with my wig, my brow, my nose, my chin and my neck, all a perfect Silhuoette of my physical self, yet without eye, nor ear, nor rosy cheek to define it — and beneath it, as if writ by quill this very day, a line that read, ‘Ceci n’est pas un Pepys’.


The new mayde…

17 July, in the year of our Lord 2021

Very hot. By various Messengers, it hath been agreed that the quilt Company will send me the summer quilt, that I ordered, and I may keep the winter one free of charge. Mr. M. Jones says I am learning.
  At mid-morning a knock at the door, and standing there a short figure of some plumpness wearing a light grey mop cap and voluminose matching light grey skirt, that extended from high above his waist and was held out from his legs by wide Hoopes, so that it made the shape of a truncated sphere cut off above his feet, which were made invisible by the diameter of the lowest hoope, which was paynted a fine Turkoise Blue that shone as bright as I ever saw in such a blue tint, so that I thought it must also shine in the dark.
  ‘Hello,’ say I, guardedly. ‘I thought you would be busy in your shoppe this morning?’
  ‘Busynesse is still too slow,’ says he, doalfullie, ‘so I have take a second Rolle till it perks up. I saw your advert in the shop window.’
  ‘You are my new mayde?’
  Whereupon lifts he his hoops to shuffle in sideways, past me and to my kitchen.
  ‘And what is this grey garb, new mayde?’ ask I, waving a forefinger up and down his full height of five foot two.
  ‘Echo Dotte, IVth Generacion. My name is Alexa. You need to install me.’
  ‘I see,’ say I, a trifle warily. ‘I suppose I should then invite you to take a seat.’
  At which he manages to install himsefle upon a kitchen stool, though with some difficultie for his stiff hoops immediatelie force his skirt vertical so that I can observe nothing of his top half owing to the capacious material that obscures it, but see only a great circle of generous petticoats like the face of a white clock, its hands a pair of legs set at twenty to four.
  ‘On second thoughts,’ say I, ‘perhaps you are not dressed to be thus installed.’
  Whereupon I assist him with some wobblie awkwardness to right himselfe to a standing position, where he assumes a motionless attitude and stares into the middle distance.
  ‘So, what are you able to do?’ say I.
  There comes no immediate reply.
  ‘You have to say, “Alexa, what can you do?”’ hisses he under his breath.
  I take a deep breath.
  ‘Alexa, what can you do?’
  ‘I can do a lot,’ replies he in a happy, reassuring monotone. ‘For example, try saying “Play music upstairs” or ask me about the weather.’
  ‘Okay then,’ say I, and add in an abnormally clear and loud voice: ‘Play some lute music upstairs.’
  Nothing happens. I realise my mistake before he tells me.
  ‘Alexa, play some lute music upstairs.’
  ‘I cannot play the lute,’ says he unapologetically, in the same agreeable but unengaged monotone.
  ‘Look,’ say I, with a degree of exasperacion, ‘this is all very well, but what I really need is a mayde who can do some dusting and — ’
  ‘Try again, try again!’ hisses he, sotto voce.
  ‘Okay. What’s the weather forecast, Alexa?’
  ‘Alexa,’ say I, heavily, ‘what’s the weather forecast?’
  ‘Playing Radio Four Podcast — ’
  ‘Not a radio podcast, you addlebrain — ’
  ‘Sorry, I don’t know that word.’
  ‘ — the weather forecast! What’s the weather forecast? Oh, for Heaven’s sake! ALEXA, what’s the weather forecast?
  He widens his eyes and gives me a flurrie of encouraging nods to let me know I am now on the right lines.
  ‘Right now in Seething Lane it’s not too bad — ’ recites he, whereupon his eyeballs snap left and right to the kitchen windows and back ‘ — with clear skies.’
  ‘Even Mr. Jones’s blessèd weather Stacion can tell me that!’ cry I.
  ‘Try me with something practical,’ hisses he.
  I cast around for a task that may possibly be of some use. ‘Alexa, light the kitchen candles.’
  ‘Are they smart candles?’ hisses he back.
  ‘They’re a darned sight smarter than you are,’ say I under my breath, adding at normal volume: ‘As candles go, they are the smartest and most fashionable one may purchase at the emporium of Mr. John Lewis and his Partners at the Exchange. Get on with it.’
  Alexa flashes me a quick thumbs up before rummaging in his skirts. Match lit, he bustles round the room lighting in turn each of the four candles I have there, and stands back proudly.
  ‘Oh-kay,’ monotones he, and then whyspers a theatricle aside: ‘Ask me to do something else!’
  ‘Alexa,’ say I, thinking quickly, ‘dim the kitchen candles to fifty per cent.’
  He stares at me in incomprehencion.
  ‘What?’ mouths he.
  I cannot hide a smirk for I feel I have him outmanoueverred.
  ‘Alexa,’ I repeat, patiently spelling it out, ‘dim candles to fifty per cent.’
  His brow furrows but then he brightens visiblie. He again scurries around before coming to rest by the window on to the lane, where he stands stock still.
  ‘Candles dimmed to fifty per cent,’ says he in the same cordiale but uniform tone, as the smoke from two snuffed candles floats in the air.
  ‘Okay, look,’ say I. ‘I somehow think that this is not quite what I had in mind.’
  He looks momentarilie forlorn, but then with the rapid change of Affect I have come to expect, cheers of a sudden at something he spies outside.
  ‘Oh! There is a mother and daughter at my shoppe!’ cries he. ‘I must away to them!’
  Whereupon he gathered himselfe up and scrambled in a great hurry to the door, where I thought I did hear another knock, so followed.
  There I did find him splayed head long, legs kicking in mid-air, for he had forgot the Diametre of the largest hoope of his skirt, which was greater than the width of my door frame. And at his head end stood the cocky Cockney who delivers to me my post, who lent in and, reaching across the prostrate form at his feet, proffered to me two letters.
  ‘There you go, Mr. Pepys,’ says he. ‘That’s your appointment for the portrait paynter, and this — ’
  I frown at him, irrytated.
  ‘Do you read all my mail?’ ask I.
  ‘Not all of it,’ returns he, brightly. ‘I know the Domino’s one by heart.’ He turns his gaze downwards to my threshold. ‘I ’ad one of these once,’ says he. ‘Bloody nightmare when they go off-line like this. We ’ad a power cut at two in the mornin’ and all my smart candles came on. Like Blackpool bloody Elluminacions it was.’
  ‘I have no idea what you are talking about!’ say I, snatching my letters from his hand. ‘But perhaps you can be of some assistance.’
  I address the form struggling unsuccessfully to right itself, as if swimming in air.
  ‘Do you want a hand up?’ say I.
  No answer.
  My postman shows his worth.
  ‘Alexa, do you want a hand up?’ asks he, loudly and clearly.
  ‘Yes, please,’ comes the faint reply. 


Long days, hot nights

30 June, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up betimes but very tired, day by day worse for lack of sleep, though my Prendysolone ended these last few days. I am too hot at night, so ordered a new summer quilt on the Line, which I hope to be light so I may sleep. After dinner comes with the Messenger an apologia from Mr. Bradys shoppe in Warren town, that they have not yet sent off the set of my musical boxes that I left there for servising, which is a great dysappointment for it is three weeks now and I hoped the new to be installed. 


7 July, in the year of our Lord 2021

To recent sleeplenesse owing to nasal blockade, and wakefullness to the dose of my Styroid pills, must now be added insomnia, being very hot under my new quilt, which is very light, and without need of separate cover so that it may be washed with ease, but this morning found it to be a 10½ Togge and not the 4½, that I ordered.
  Today my mind turned again to a mayde, which shall help me in tasks around my house, so placed in shoppe windows in the lanes about my house some notices, to that effect. Also that I shall have made a new Portrait, the existing being 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, which is very old, and there have been changes in my countenance since it done (to such a degree, that I cannot recognise myselfe in it). 


My mother’s birthday

29 June, in the year of our Lord 2021

Yesterday after the kerfuffle with the shoppe sign and an early supper, to see my mother and father, and stayed there with them, today being the birthday of my mother who is ninety-one years and hath caught up to my father, who is the same. Merry all day with deliverys of flowers and of an afternoon tea of scones with a preserve and some thick cream, sent from my cousen Fennela, onlie that we did not eat it for my mother and father have but a tiny appetite between them, so it was left for the next day. And my mother was very pleased with the scarve I bought her.
  ‘Oh,’ says she, ‘that is very nice. Is it silk?’
  ‘Of course,’ say I.
  ‘Such beautiful colours. Gold and black!’
  ‘It is freshly painted,’ say I, touched by the appreciacion. ‘Leave it a day to dry.’
  Home by evening, much contented to see them in such fine spirits. 


Why I don’t do DIY

28 June, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up betimes, after a night in which my eyes itched, and my nose too, for the highness of the pollenne count yesterday. In the morning I with purpose to Gerard Small’s newly malpunctuated ladys wear shoppe, it being my mother’s birthday tomorrow, where I browsed for a gift and selected a small Scarve for her, in Nilon, which is the new Silk, because I think she will find it easy to wash, and not because it was cheaper. At the counter perched the proprieter on a stool, wearing an ancient crested helmet and plain chiffon dress, girded at the waist with a belt. And on his counter sat an owl, stuffed, and beside it on one side rested a discarded spear, and on the other a notebook in which he scribbled anxiosely with a feather quill. He was so engrossed in the task that he did not see me, so I coughed to announce my presence.
  ‘Oh, Mr. Pipes!’ says he, startled at the sight of me, and jumped up from his stool, just managing to catch Minerva’s owl as it tottered, but not her spear as it clattered to the floor. Thereupon drew he himselfe upright, fixed his focus on the door behind me and took deep breaths. After half a dozen inpiracions and expirations he untensed his shoulders and returned his gaze to me. ‘I am confident that my busyness can provide for all your needs, and assure you I will strive to provide a service second to none. I trust you are well?’
  ‘I am well apart from an unnatural wakefulnesse that plagues me,’ say I, slightly puzzled at his affect. ‘I am on a Physick that imbues me with an uncommon vitality, so although I breathe more easily I lie awake all night and cannot rest.’
  ‘Oh!’ says he. ‘I think I had those pills one night at The Octagon. I did not sleep for a week, and then they chucked me out.’
  ‘Maybe something different,’ say I, at which he turns a raspberry red.
  ‘The place was spotless when I left, though.’
  ‘Maybe not, then,’ admit I, recalling the day I jet-washed the patio at five in the morning. ‘Anyway, how is busyness?’
  ‘Busyness could be better,’ says he, and then adds, as if reciting lines he has struggled to learn, or at least believe in, ‘but that does not mean I am a totally useless person.’ Whereupon, flustered by the immediacy of the process, he rushed to write his thoughts in his notebook, muttering the while under his breath the words he wrote — which, if I did catch them correctly, were, ‘Breath’d deeply to increase sense of control. Did…not…ca-ta-stro-phise.’
  ‘Every busynesse hath set-up troubles,’ say I, affabubbly — upon which comment slumps he upon his stool, despondant.
  ‘My only custom since that illiterate sign went up has been half a dozen Scottish dwarfs looking for kilts on the cheap. I did not think to cater for such a height. I am waiting for the sign writer to amend my hyphen, but since the plague tradesmen will do nothing in a hurry!’
  ‘Tell me about it,’ say I. ‘It was only last week that Davey come to fix my radiater, after telling me in January it would be four or five weeks. I got him to service the boiler at the same time, though. Of Barrie the paynter I have seen naught, although his wife Diane tells me he suffered a sprayn to his ankle in an effort not to trip over the cat, and in a separate Incydent to which I am not privy pulled a muscle in the groyn so he could not climb a ladder.’
  ‘My finances are making me very anxious again,’ says he, doalful and biting his lower lip, ‘so I am having Cognitive Pull-Yourselfe-Together Therapie. I must trayn my mind to master my Emocions by a process of thinking through my Reactions. I am writing down my negative Thoughts to get in touch with my Core Beliefs. Perhaps it is as well there are no customers, for it is a full time job.’
  ‘Ah,’ say I, brightly, ‘the Stoicism of the Ancients, re-badged for the modern client. But it is not Therapie you are in need of, Gerard Small. What you are in need of are two small tins of paynte, a step ladder and brushes! Thus shall you put this dissapoyntment behind you and move forwards! Onwards and upwards! Rehyphenated and rejuvenated!’
  ‘But I will make a mess of it, the handiwork will be undone and the sign for which I have payed spoiled forever!’ wails he, downcast. ‘My busyness will spiral into a great Depression and I will become bankrupt and destitute, a starving wretch searching for morsels in effluent on the fetid banks of the Thames, a shadow consumed by thwarted hopes, a wraith ravaged by the corrosion of self doubt…!’
  I put up a hand before things got theatricle. ‘I do not think all of that will happen!’ cry I. And then, hastily: ‘I do not think any of that will happen!’
  ‘It all seems so much. I have such a lot to cognate,’ sniffs he.
  ‘The job is perfecktly feasible with SMART goals,’ say I. ‘Specific, which is that we obliterate the troublesome hyphen; Measurable, which is about two inches; Achievable, which I’ll come back to; Realistic, which it is or I would not be suggesting it; and Time-limited, which means…well, it slightly depends on Achievable.’
  ‘You will be able to help? You have the wherewithall and skill to paint words and pictures upon a board?’ asks he, brightening a little.
  ‘Me?’ scoff I in disbelief, as much as if he hath suggested I might spend ninety valuable minutes of my life watching a game of football. ‘No, of course not me! Who do you think I am, René McGritte?’
  Whereupon he regarded me with a certain suspicion. ‘So, when you say “Achievable”…?’
  ‘It will become apparent,’ say I. ‘Trust me.’
  And so at five a-clock in the afternoon rolled up to the premices a figure in decoraters garb, compleat with all the gear, viz.: paynte, a long roller, brushes and a step Ladder which he erected outside, to the interest of passers by and the bemusement of staff at The Physicians, idling opposite.
  ‘You would not believe the trouble I have had getting all this,’ grumbles Mr. M. Jones. ‘First of all I had to go to Quayle and Block at the Exchange for a roller the right size, which upon my return home I found to have a wire along its axis so it would not fit its holder, which obliged me to go back to change it; then I discovered that the holder required a screw-in fitting to slot on to the extension poal, which on my second return they did not have. In the end I went to Screw Fix and — ’
  ‘Do you really need a roller for such a small task?’ venture I, though with some hesitacion for it is not my field of expertise.
  ‘I can assure you, it is the way a Professionalle would tackle the job,’ says he. ‘Roller for the big bits, brush for the edges and detail.’
  ‘Well, you love this kind of thing,’ say I, adding a blandishment ‘— and are so good at it — ’ and bribery ‘ — and afterwards you shall come to mine, where we shall sit in the evening sun and share a rum and violet. Or a pint of snayle water. Your choice.’
  ‘Very well,’ says Mr. Jones, and proceeds to marshal his assistants. ‘Now, there is a little breeze from the north-west which may prove troublesome, so someone must stabilise the base of my ladder, here — ’ at which Minerva places in position a chunky foot clad in a delicate sandal with little gold wings ‘ — and another must hand me my equipment and paynts, thus — ’ which I feel not beyond my compytence, so voluntear. Mr. M. Jones then frowns.
  ‘To paint the detail in a manner becoming a Proffesional I must steady my hand by resting my forearm upon a mahl Stick, which I have forgot.’ He casts around for a substitute. ‘Aha!’ says he happily, spying something indoors. He emerges with his improvisacion.
  And so before an increasingly sizeable audience which hath gathered to watch, Mr. Jones ascends his ladder equipped for his purpose — in one hand his roller and in the other this final accessory, a soft and suitable rest that he hath skewered up its backside with the tip of Minerva’s spear.
  ‘That is my stuffed owl!’ wails the Goddess of Wisdom and Commerce.
  ‘Just support the ladder,’ says Mr. Jones, balancing his roller with difficultie, for he seems not to have enough hands. ‘Now, Pepys, if you could pour a little paynt into that tray — ’
  I felt that by now Mr. Jones was playing to the audience, and that all that was lacking was a drum roll. But with all the faffing around it was now the time of day when peaks the pollenne Count, and I felt a little itch begin within my nose, which as Mr. Jones reached precariosely forward I was unable to suppress.
  ‘What the — ?
  Thus in an instant, ripping the shoppe sign from its bracket in a vain attempt at equilibrium, came Mr. Jones crashing down, narrowly missing the Daughter of Zeus — who, still in his great state of anxiose tension, had at the sound of my great sneeze leapt back a yard leaving the ladder unsupported — but landing upon myself with a panel of splintered wood in his hands, and with the ladders and all the paraphernalia pertayning to the Projeckt on top, which leaves us covered in gold and black paint like two summer wasps squashed by Jackson Pollack. Whereupon there was a great round of truly appreciative applause from our audience, who shouted their helpful encouragements to improve the process next time.
  ‘Why didn’t you take it down and do it inside?’ came from the urchin across the lane.
  ‘Call a professionall next time!’ chortles a man with a crutch in overalls, adding, ‘See you Thursday, Mr. Pepys! Moon Shimmer for the bathroom, was it?’
  ‘Morning Light, Barry,’ growl I through gritted teeth. ‘As I have told you twice.’
  As the spectators disperse, Mr. Jones thrusts the broken sign at our unscathed Deity.
  ‘Reframe that, Athena!’ snaps he.



27 June, in the year of our Lord 2021

Today comes down my dose of Prendyslone to 15 grains, for which great relief, though my sleep, which is rarely good, hath improved less than I hoped, and now is also the season for hay Fever, which afflicktion I was to have grew out of, but after three centurys have not. After dinner, read in the gazette that the Secretarie for the Plague, Mr. Handcock, hath yesterday sent a letter to the First Lord of the Treasurie, and in it he resigns for his constitutional inabilitie to keep a Special Distance, or indeed any form of Distance, between him and an aide, which was come to light when a strong eyeglass spied him very clearly wanting to hacer lo que el voudrais con ella. I did hear that in the great construcktions of the Inkers in Perew the stones are so close-hewn that the blade of a Knife can not slip between them, and so seemed it with him and Mrs. Ginalolladangelo. None knows why the First Lord of the Treasurie hath not sacked him, even those upon his own benchs. I wondered that the King might dissolve Parlyament, as he is wont upon a whim, or the Queene adjourn her weekly meet with the First Lord, for she must rue them and, as it seems to me a certainty, have better things to do on a Wendesday like watch ‘Garden Resckew’ and ‘Escape to the Countrie’, as doth my mother.
  After dinner took my exercise up the lane, where saw that above the former butchers premises hung outside a new sign, resplendent in a varnished frame, with bright gold lettering on black paynte-werk and advertising, though with a small but important punctuacional solecism, so that the shoppe is now announced to the publick as Gerard ~ Small Ladys Fashions, which cannot be good for sales. After supper all a-sneeze with the hay Fever despite my steroyds, it being the time of day when the grass releaseth its Pollenne. And so, sniffling, to bed, though my night restless.



21 June, in the year of our Lord 2021

By Messenger this morning that one Sarah hath called at my father’s purposing to tell him the result of his investigacions, which is to say that they are unchanged, which pleaseth him greatly, and myselfe also, as much, if not more, and all they require of him is to attend again in December. 


22 June, in the year of our Lord 2021

Unable to find either the timepiece I wear upon my wrist or my spectacles, which is a great Nuisance and I cannot think where they are gone, only that I put them down together or that someone hath stole them both. 


23 June, in the year of our Lord 2021

Discovered my watch in the basket that holds dirty linen, at the bottom of it, but of my spectacles no sign. After breakfast to Mr.’s Alton & Murphy, where purchased replacements, but at home discover’d they are too strong and I must hold a book too close to my eyes, though in the shoppe they seemed to my satisfaction, for which I am vexed. Once more found it difficult to get to sleep after I put out the candles, and after only a short while asleep awakened by the sound of chomping, and so found Banjo beneath the bed eating a shrew. Awake thereafter so read a little more of the life of Thos. Cromwell by Rev. MacCulloch, though in truth I think it the most boring book I read in many a year. I persevire with it only that I am acquainted with the author as a person of Honour in the Worshipful Company of the Liber Faciei, of which I am a member, though I have never met the man and only hoped the book would send me to sleep, which it did not. 


26 June, in the year of our Lord 2021

After supper Mr. M. Jones saw my spectacles glinting in the sun in my garden on the top of my box hedgeing, where I had looked more than once for them and did not see them, and I cannot imagine how I did not see them when I looked, but am mightily pleased, though two new pares that I purchased on the Line came today so now I have three.



14 June, in the year of our Lord 2021

Up, but the night restless with only a little little sleep for I have found it difficult to breath through my nose these last nights, and for many previose, which hath given me a great insomnia, so after breakfast sent the Messenger to Dr. Burnett to request a course of Prenydsolone, which hath helped before to clear the matter (which I find now to be called chronic Rhinosinusities, for which I tick all the boxes), though not without adverse affects. And Dr. Burnett hath obliged so I have put myselfe on thirty grains each day with the intent to reduce after five days, which is Saturday, to 25 grains, and thence to nothing by a reduction each few days.


15 June, in the year of our Lord 2021 

Awake very betimes, it dawning at four a-clock, and full of beans with the Prednysolone, so after a cup of tea set to work with some wood Stayne and a little bee’s wax on a mark on one of my Spendor SA2 musical speakers, where the colour was lost, which hath been there for more years than I am able to remember, after a spillage of some liquid upon it, yet only now, shortly after sunrise and by virtue of medicacion, have I shown any inclinacion to sort it out. Conked out at two a-clock after dinner.


16 June, in the year of our Lord 2021

All night awake with a great deal of energie on account of the go fast pills, my mind showing a great activity which would not stop, so up and tidied a cupboard, and that being done set about some washing and to clean my bedroom, all this before seven a’clock in the morning. In the knowledge it will not last, I set to think that I should engage a mayde, as did my wife and I in Seething Lane, but it will require some thought for all did not end happily with such maydes. 


18 June, in the year of our Lord 2021

Vimming with brim, so today took exercise with Mr. M. Jones, where we walked around the head land at the Estuary and there saw a great many terns, more than I ever saw in my life, I think, which made a great noise and smelled a great deal from the state of their nests. Dined out of doors on sandwiches which Mr. M. Jones bought from the Co-operatife shoppe, the one of a chicken ticker and the other a cocktale of some Prawnes, together with some fried slyced potatos in a bag with some cheese and an onion, and drank some orange and passion Fruit from a bottle of light glass that you can squash and take home to recicle. Very merry. But by supper very tired.