The scholar in the window

11 June, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up and well slept, with onlie one mouse announcement, dismissed at four a’clock, my vexation clocked by the cat who dared not appeare again till breakfast. The day wet, so I to buy victuals and hunker down, the air outside so cold my very breath did cloud in it, as if in January rather than in June. To my chamber all afternoon. Before supper did arrive Mr. M. Jones, when merrie discourse for he with what I likened to a crystal ball but flat, like a window he could hold in one hand; and Lord, to see it lighted up and inside it the image of a man who could move and speake with a Noise I could heare, and it seemed a mightie wondrous thing onlie I could not fathom how it worked for lack of strings and pullies and only prodding to get it going. Anon, and we watched a Scholar in the crystal screen for an hour, erudite and talking of our Mountains and how he thinks they were made, but if the Mechanisme itself I could not comprehend, the things of which he spoke more, for they the most foolish and ridiculous I did ever hear in my entire life: that there are more Masses of land in the world than I know of, which is Evrope and the Plymouth Colony, and they float around the globe like fillets in a vat, and by and by bump into one another by an accident that crumples up their edges like my carriage its fender when it met my wall (as happened two months past and vexed me for I could blame no other since the wall did not move), and this is why there are mountains, which then are rubbed away by the Aire, the weather in it and doubtless the stream above the clouds that no one sees, by which means the mountains are made smaller, into hills until they are flatted all together, and all taking longer than it says in the entire Bible since Adam. This is more preposterouse even than the great Ideas of Mr. Nic. Copernickus and Mr. I. Newton, in which I find good matter though I understand not one Tenth word of what they write, and I will stick with Alchemy for I know where I am with that, and when all these alleged Truths are found wanting it is the one that will persist. On the other hand, if we could tow Britain to the Canarys we might have better weather. And so to bed.


A grey dawn but a red dusk

7 June, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, the day cold and unforgiving grey. I understand not this weather, for a week ago so hot that I did want the very air conditioned against it, but four or five days after, hale twice and the chill with a wind factor and the rest of the day, rain. It is said that it is due to a Stream so high in the sky that it cannot be seen, which moves the clouds and fills them with water and then sends wind, and weather with it, from places so bitter the rivers melt only after midsummer, such as Edinborough which is so cold I have heard it called the Reykjavik of the south, and from the countie of Durham where the sun is so weak they must ride thirty miles to see if their eyes work. If it continues I think we shall have a Frost Fair on the river at the summer Solstice and it will be the earliest since records began.
  Yesterday to the Apothecary where two at a time which is the new normal, the rest a sorrie tail outside, soaked, be-masked and cold. He gives me a supply of physick that I take each morning, and each is like a little lentil that is a corrective for two new Humours they have discovered, which are Good cholsterole and Bad cholsterole. I am made to understand that the Good is a Necessitie but the Bad blocks the vessels of the Circulation like lard in a sewer, and mine needs statting to make it Good. I am pleased tho’, for this latest remedie is better than the last which did make my limbs ache and stopped me walking up a hill. I also having pain from one heel, where the Skin crack’d and with a split, so purchased a balm, which I applied at home and was contented for the quick relief from it. I read it is composed in one Tenth part by weight of Urea, so I think to make my own by putting my water that I pass in trays and they in the sun, and when dried to mix what is left with yoghurt, tallow, butter and boar’s grease in equal parts into an unguent. I think it will be very fine and I will try it when the sun comes back, and if it does not I will dry it in the oven.
  By and by Mr. M. Jones to supper, where much merrie discourse, I cooking a stew of lentilles and eggplant, which was rich enough we did not miss the meat. The evening better than three days ago when I to him, where at supper I with the Wheeze so bad I had cause to come home earlie to partake of my inbreathers, which helped though it took an hour, and then slept well without cough, phlegm or spittle.
  After supper, it wonderfullie calm and the garden at peace with no wind not even to disturb the smallest twigs, and of all of the times of year my favorite is these six weeks around the longest day, and tonight it light so late at a half past ten I could almost read a book, and the dusk the obverse of the dawn, it cool and the sky clear and streaked with crimson, and two bats flitting and the sound of an owl in the graveyard. And so to bed.


A day of reflection

2 June, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up betimes, and after dinner a knock at the door, where a short figure in a sun hat and matching facemask, with a shoulder bag in which a small board with a spring clip, and clipped to the board a sheaf of notes.
  ‘Good afternoon,’ says she, maintaining a distance from the door jamb and flashing in front of my eyes a calling card, too quick to read. ‘I am doing a survey for Ofplague, the Office for Standards in Covey Management, and am wondering whether you might have time to answer some questions about your recent experience of having a Covey test? It should not take more than twentie minutes.’
  I hesitating, but with nothing pressing else to do, said, ‘Oh, very well,’ adding for certainty, ‘if it will not take up too much time.’
  ‘Thank you. Lovely.’ With that she did barge straight past me to my kitchen table where she ensconced on a stool, admiring of all the room and the furniture and fittings in it before settling to her task, I seating myselfe at the further table end, and she removing her hat and dropping her bag empty on the floor beside her.
  ‘I beg your indulgence for the mask,’ says she, ‘but I had best keep it on, circumstances as they are. My name is Elizabeth and I would like you thank you for taking the time to speak with me this afternoon, and I believe you are…Mr. S. Peppies? That is correct, is it? Thank you. Lovely. I do like the blue of your kitchen. It would not be Sapphire Salute by any chance?’
  ‘Nordic Sky. May we press on?’
  ‘Of course. Now then, thinking back to when you first booked your appointment, was it on the line, by means of direct verbal encounter or by means of written correspondence?’
  ‘Well, both of the first two, to be — ’
  ‘On the line, direct encounter or written correspondence?’
  ‘On the line.’
  ‘Thank you. Lovely. Now, the next set of questions — ’
  ‘Next set?’
  ‘ — the next set of questions relates to your personal experience when booking an appointment. Would you describe the experience of actually booking the appointment as a doddle, not as easy as they make out, taxing even for me, or frankly a night dread?’
  ‘Somewhat irritating.’
  ‘A doddle, not as easy, taxing or a night dread — shall I just put Not Applickable?’
  ‘Taxing. I sense alreadie this is going to take longer than — ’
  ‘It will not take too much longer, Mr. Peepies, I assure you. I do hate to ask, but is there a chance you might provide me with a glass of cold water?’ I obliged, up and running the water till it cold. ‘Thank you. Lovely. Now, in terms of the person with whom you booked the appointment, would you describe them as the spawn of the devil, probably a suspicious miscreant, didn’t really notice, nice enough but nothing especial, or blessed of such uncommon courteousnesse that it did take my breath away?’
  ‘Is there one that says moderately cantankerous?’
  In due course I reflected on how long were two hours, and I up and down obliging one request after another, if not for water, then to fetch a cushion, to answer a possible knock at the door, to close the curtains against the sun and to swatte an imaginarie waspe.
  Into the third hour.
  ‘Turning now to the quality of the feathers used. It’s quite hot in here, Mr. Peepsy, do you think we might open a window on to the garden? Thank you. Lovely. It is indeed a beautiful garden you have, and a lovely house, if I may say so; I would dearlie love a house of this salaciousnesse. My son Darren has a friend in Rye, an older Gentleman, and this Gentleman hath bequeathed him his home and all his Assets should the Covey take him. Would it be impertinent to inquire as to whether you have made an arrangement of this Nature with any, or might wish to make such an agreement, Mr. Pepsi, for as luck would have it I have to hand the Documentation for one?’
  ‘I would keep your luck where it is, for you are pushing it.’
  ‘Thank you. Lovely. If you should change your mind.… So, the quality — ’
  ‘ — of the feathers, yes. Continue before I lose the will to live.’
  ‘I mean the will for you to live.’
  ‘Now then, you opted for a combo Deal and I have here cards bearing some ink sketches with watercolour highlightes of the very feathers used. Would you be so kind as to rank them in order of comfort, where “one” is most unpleasant and “four” is most enjoyable? Thank you. Lovely. Ha ha ha ha hah! Yes, a lot of people like that one. Do not be concerned, though, Mr. Pipes, this information will go no further than whomsoever I choose. You would not happen to have anything in the way of a small snacke? Oh, sweetmeats! Thank you. Lovely. Now then — we are getting to near the end, I can assure you — how likely is it you would go back to the same premises in the future for a similar service? Is it highly — ’
  ‘At the first sign of a second wave I will be out of here before you can say “Drop your pants and roll on your side.” Next question.’
  ‘Thank you. Lovely. Coming to the end now, a question to do with your feelings in general about the First Lord of the Treasury his management of this crisis. Do you find him (a) a Pusillanimous Imbecile, (b) a mendacious self-serving Charlatan, (c) a vainglorious Incompetent, or (d) all of the above? Thank you. Lovely. A lot of other people seem to choose (d). Now, Mr Peepeyes,’ she said, winding up. ‘It has been a long day and I have seventeen children at home and my husband a wastrel and a drunkard. I feel we have shared some intimacies today. I do not suppose you have on the premises any victuals you might also be inclined to share?’
  ‘On a scale of one to ten, where Ten is make yourselfe at home and help yourselfe to everything I have in my entire house, and One is that I would sooner brush my teeth in Thames water by the sewer at Putney, the answer is zero.’
  ‘Oh! Very forthright. But no matter, I think I have all I want, thank you. Lovely. It just remains for me to say that we do thank you for supporting our enterprise in these difficult times and that we will be sending you a token gesture of our gratitude.’
  ‘That I may spend at the Exchange?’
  ‘I’m sorry, sir, it will be a token gesture and you will not be able to spend it anywhere. It will, however, permit you time off our next questionnyairea for we will fill in half the answers for you.’ With that she collected herselfe and her hat, and with ‘Oof! This bag weighs a ton!’ she out to the street.
  Anon, I entended a light supper but in ill humour for unable to find several silver spoons, two pewter tankards, my Fire of London mug, my favourite plate and my best copper pan, and vexed with myselfe when the penny dropped for the real reason behind the water, the cushion, the sweetmeates, the waspe, the windowes and all.
  Late, and it cooler, I took a little air in the garden as night bled into evening, and sat awhile, onlie with my cat, my flowers and the gathering dark, in rueful contemplation of the stupiditie of the day. It is best to laugh at foolishnesse lest it weight down the soul, and there are enough burdens in this world. For today would also have been the birthday of the closest friend I ever had, the day he would be fifty-nine, but the friend I had for half my life dead this last November, and truly missed. And with the sun down I pondered on the magnitudes of loss, their variety and Proportions, and what to grieve and what to not. One can always replace spoons. But what are spoons? And so to bed.


Company at last

1 June, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up at a half-past 5 a’clock, for a poor night’s sleep it being uncommon warm, the air as heavy as a blanket and suffocatinge, and I not able to settle; so to my ablutions very betimes and earlie with the cat to our breakfasts. After, to my collection of flowers which I have and are of some raritie with pretty blooms, that I keep in the garden in a house made of glass, the flowers called bollackworts for they like it warm and humid and are sensitive. The morning spent with some watering and a little work in there which pleased me, but even at 10 it hot again outside, these the hottest days I think we have had this year and many now without rain so that I fear for a Drout.
  The First Lord determined the plan for his Easement to be carried out today, and the Secretarie for the Plague at his side with him in this, though whether he be the Secretary for the Plague or against it I sometimes cannot tell. Many still vexed concerning the comings and goings, for no man can bear another man to lay down a Law that he flouteth himselfe, and I all the while with a worm of worry, that people are not doing what they are told because they are being told what to do badly, and this may rebound on us all. Even so, after dinner for a walk through fields, M. Jones alongside whom I have not seen at all these last 10 weekes, our only colloquy by the Messenger, so our spirits lifted by the sun’s warmth and the warmth of companionship too. To a country lane and stepping stones across a stream, the water very low, and Mr. Jones his poudle with him, which is a Standard model without voice recognition or cruise control. After, I with an attacke of my allergie of the grasses, eyes red and watering and an itch for an hour or more, and my nose too, with sneezing fit to raise the very roof. At supper in the garden where by and by Mr. R. Owen and gladdened by wine and cheered with merrie discourse, Mr. Jones regaling of a scale model of a truck he hath made entirely of wood from a kit, which is of such detail and Precision and of so many pieces it has taken all of Lock Up to do it, but now done and very fine except it should move of its own accorde by means of stretchy loops of twine and it does not, or does not yet for tho’ he says he doth not mind it does not move, I suspect he does and that he will make it to do what it should. And so to bed.


A mini-break thwarted by the Law

27 May, in the year of our Lord 2020

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


To Durham and back

24 May, in the year of our Lord 2020

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


Nothing adds up

22 May, in the year of our Lord 2020

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


Of cats and dogs

20 May, in the year of our Lord 202o

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


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.’
  ‘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.
  ‘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.


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.