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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.

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A dead starling

31 March, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up betimes, and a dead starling on the hall mat, the perpetrator nowhere. After a meagre breakfast to my friend’s house where I did feed his cat, which is the most companionable and inquisitive I ever did see in my life; and did take my Book Club book to read chosen by Mr. T. Radford, which is ‘Crime and Punishment’ – an odd circumstance, I did reflect, since it would not come to be written for two hundred years – there to sit and give companionship to the cat, though after a short while it did nip out not to be seen again till suppertime, whereupon I pondered on the conceit of cats and the nature of gratitude. Strange to see the streets so quiet, as if there is lately something going on of which I know nothing.
  Anon, and being at leisure I did bake a pie of blackberrys, which I know to be not in season but were lately a gift from my father who had kept them on ice and assured me of their worth notwithstanding the date of 2017 writ on the container, which in truth perplexed me further since it is either 350 years from now or three ago. I did later question my wits for the blackberrys, for early evening with some grutchings, the consequences apparent by nightfall which I shall not relate save that the paucity of closet paper doth trouble me the more. And so to bed.