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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.

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A missed opportunitie?

16 April, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up betimes but sleep interrupted, for a two mouse night thanks to the cat. Delivered this morning of several letters. The first from my father, and he and my mother well and know of none with this plague, for which I am glad for I worry for them for their age. The second a sheaf of letters from my neighbour the Physician in Diseases of the Integument, Venus and the Pox: a single page inquiring if I be interested in an Investment Opportunitie, to wit, ‘A Venture in Drive-By Testing, incl. In-Coach Examination, Intimate Swabs & Specula by Candlelight, Contact Tracing and Same Month Results ~ Confidentialitie Assured’, signed by himselfe with a smiley face and a spare page marked ‘Replie to Sender’. This accompanied by half a dozen blank sheets held together by a ribbon, addressed individually and similarly marked ‘Replie to All’. Layed aside for later.
  Looked round for what I might make for dinner. Lacking flour but with butter, eggs and grapes, could think only of a grape omlet.
  This afternoon working from home, though nothing achieved, I seeking any form of distraction, even to wonder to write a diverting diary in the style of Geo. Chaucer from three hundred years ago, though fear it may entertain no one or, worse, none may read it. Before supper in buoyant mood so penned a riposte to the Physician – viz. that his idea was the most preposterous thing I did ever read in my life. Further: Was there a Study in Feasabilitie or an Options Appraisalle? Had he considered the effect on our lane of coach flow? Was it going out to Consultation, in which case I would object on the grounds of property price impact not to mention Haelth and Safety, and finally that whilst I did applaud initiative, on this occasion ‘I was not clapping for his Clap, and stay AT home [sad face]!’ I thought the last worth sharing, so did Replie to All. Dawned on me after supper that perhaps the Physician had hit on something after all, my reply perhaps intemperate and hasty; also that I had neglected to read the addresses pertaining to Replie to All, and they now Sent.
  And so, contemplating mortality, the vice of pride and, thanks be to God, my own good fortune, to bed.

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The Physician

14 April, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, unsettled through the night with thoughts of my house its plasterwork outside, and now by an itch, in perticular between the fingers despite plentiful jell which I have used these two weekes on the hour. Propitious that on my lane doth live a ‘Physician in Diseases of the Integument, Venus and the Pox’, an arcane branch of Physick though better than a bone setter. I know not what is an integument but my skin is sore so in the afternoon to him, where before I open my mouth am admonished, ‘Do you not understand the words “Stay Home”?’, a reprimand I deserved but an imperative I think ungrammatical. He grumpy, and refrayning from touch took a magnifying glass, the biggest I ever did see in my life, to my hands, sucking his breath through his teeth the while. Presently he did recline, I startled for a moment for it seem’d his eyes did bulge, his nose huge and his head disfigured as if from a night dread! I suggested he might now lay aside the magnifying glass, and ventured, ‘Is it a case of if it be wet, dry it, and if it be dry…?’. He did glare me to silence and bark, ‘What chance it be the Mite?’. I thought only of my lady MacSporran, with whom jo avais essayé hazer plaisir while her husband at his kilt-maker, but unlikely her for she all the while still with eyeglasses, fur hat and gloves, muffled by the fabric wrapped around her nose and mouth, and complaining this ‘was not her idea of Special Distancing’. So I did answer, ‘None!’, though lacked conviction. He did advise it would suffice to forbear from jell forthwith, which I had used too much, and nothing more. A bill for a guinea, follow up in six weekes and, from all the unguents, herbs, powders, tonics, phials, flasks and impregnated bandages, a pair of cotton gloves and a large tub of paste. Feeling I had best leave ‘Surely better is “Stay AT Home”?’ to a later date, I inquired how frequent to apply the paste, and dismissed with: ‘It is not for your hands, it is for your plasterwork. Get out.’ Feeling no better and strangely wrong-footed, supper and to bed. 

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A periwig and procrastination

11 April, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, and after breakfast to Jervas the barber for a new periwig. Gesticulating for me to stay put with one hand, his mouth hidden by the other, he did throw me a wig from across the shop, saying he did not want to catch anything. I countered that I knew exactly what he meant since his last wig was full of nits, so tossed it back with faux cheer and ‘Here, catch this!’ and sure enough he did. Bought nothing, but felt it prudent to cleanse my hands with a jell purchased at the Exchange. Home, the street empty; but when I did raise my eyes to admire my house, alarmed by great cracks in the plasterwork, which I presume from The Fire, enough to disturb me for the integrity of the house.
  After dinner, a reply from Mr. M. Jones, a good friend, to whom I had proposed that these times offer ample opportunitie for some Do It Himselfe, but the opportunitie that interests him most is for himselfe not doing it and it is manifest in Procrastination, he procuring excuses from a seeming endless list, to wit: it is going dark, going a bit cold, he needs his tea, he wants not to tire himselfe out, he hath done enough for one day, he might not have all he needs, there’s the dog to think about, he is no longer sure about the colour, that last time he did something like this he did nearly hurt himselfe and, more perplexing than any, that ‘his curve hath not yet flattened’, which last I understood not at all, but felt was born of desperation or gin.
  After supper news that The First Lord of the Treasury hath lately been into St. Tho. Hospitalle wherein he hath received Entensive Care. I am glad, for though I think him a charlatan who doth hide vacuity behind a glib facility, I cannot find it in me to wish him ill. And so to bed.


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Trouble brewing

9 April, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, and at ablutions a pymple upon my nose, so to the apothecary. The streets again with almost no one, though keeping a few paces distant a figure disguised by eyeglasses, fur hat and gloves despite the clement day, and fabric wrapped around her nose and mouth so tight it did amaze me she could breathe. Presently she spoke and it was my lady Mrs. MacSporran, whom I did desire but it was obvious this morning that I could hazer nada que jo voudrais con all that paraphernalia. She told me I should wear across my face a scarf, and when I ventured why did merrily retort, ‘Well, I would, with a Plooke like that!’ – and chortling on her way. At the apothecary’s a tail of people standing singly in the street, many with mufflers and one kneeling anxious on the cobbles with a six foot measure. Inside only I and the apothecary, a fool. I did request a cream for my nose, to which the oaf made reply, ‘Single, double, whipping or fraîche?’. I made to cuff him round the ear but he dodged and admonished me with ‘Special Distancing’ or some such. I said I had no time for japes like this, to which he did slyly reply, ‘Oh, I think you will find you do, sir.’
  After dinner to the office, where a letter from Whitehall with the seal of The First Lord of the Treasury, another fool, which I was tempted to set aside but did open and read. The change in circumstances of this last few days explained and it did put me in disquiet, for in 1665 the town empty and shops closed owing to the plague, and by December many of such as I knew very well, dead, and I pray God will not suffer the same to come again. I begin to think of setting things in order.