Catching up with peeps

3 July, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, the weather as grey and wet this past week as in November, the very worsed for a summer I did ever see in my entire life. I know not what the great Stream in the sky is doing only overflowing its banks and emptying on all below it. After breakfast disquieted also for the news of further Easements, which I think ill of, for people at large in greater numbers than heretofore, which I think is before its proper time, and the plague about again in Licester yet taverns may open from tomorrow. Anon and a further cause for unease, for I realised I have heared naught from the Physician of my Covey tests and know not if I have had it or am emmune with it; so did hie there when the rain eased a little, where within a familiar face.
  ‘’ello, Mr. Puppies! Bloody weather, eh? Khuh!
  ‘Oh! I remember you. Thomas Urchin?’
  ‘George Erchin at your service, Mr. Pipes — Urchin with a E. I got the job! The job what was goin’ ’ere, and it was your reference what dunnit,’ said he.
  ‘Well, I am glad to have been of some service,’ (for I was) ‘and a surname to go with it, I see.’
  ‘Well, if a Mr. Cooper is a cooper and a Mr. Turner is a man who turns till he is dizzy — ’
  ‘ — and if Matt. Handcock is a w — ’
  ‘ — I can be a Master Erchin.’
  ‘I will admit some Logick to your case. But it is to see the Physician I have come. Is he around?’
  ‘He is abroad to an urgent case of mortification. May I be of assistance?’
  ‘In that case, I have come for the results of my tests, for it is six weekes or more since the feathering.’
  Master Erchin sucked in his breath through his teeth and shook his head. ‘They never got done, sir.’
  ‘“They never got done?”’
  ‘They never even got went, sir.’
  ‘“They never even got went?”’
  ‘’Tis a terrible tale, sir, but all them feathers ended up chucked out. Every single one of ’em.’
  ‘But the Secretarie for the Plague is putting it abroad that he has met his target! That the testing of thousands is a daily occurrence throughout the land!’
  ‘Ah, well, they way they do it is that they come here and weigh how many feathers we have left and tot up from what weight we started with how many we have used which leads them to deduce how many people we have tested though it may be that for some of those tests someone has sneezed and the feathers in question have been blown about all over the place such as into a crevice where no one goes though I grant that you could argue that those feathers have been in such a place already or perhaps they have not gone far enough into the orryfice or there has been a clericle error and they have been mislabelled or the door has blown open and they have been sucked into the very street by a passing draft and hence thereupon and theretoforward into a gutter — ’
  ‘ — or dumped in Jervas’s black wheelie bin. Do you ever come up for air?’
  ‘ — or dumped in Jervas’s black wheelie bin,’ he finished.
  ‘That is unprincipled and dishonest!’ said I. ‘I feel more dispirited now than when I came in, which is the obverse of my expectation.’
  ‘We cannot be having that, Mr. Peppeyes. If I may make so bold I think that I have something that may help your affectation and disdispirit you, which is hot of the presses.’ With that he picked from the counter a slim volume from a pile of similar volumes and handed me An Introduction to the Practice of Mindfullnesse its Execution in Specific Circumstances Related to the Plague, with Reference to its Application & Theorie: a Very Proper Guide for the Initiate that they may Gain Insights Heretofore Obscure & Benefit Manifestlie Therefrom.
  ‘Snappy title, but if it helps. How much?’
  ‘Sixpence normally. But since we’ve had payment for all the tests — ’
  ‘ — that you haven’t done — ’
  ‘ — that we haven’t done, I will give you it for free.’
  ‘That is uncommonly generous of you. What is the Catche?’
  ‘Do you have a piece of chalk at home in your presmises, for you will need it?’
  ‘Funnily enough, I am fresh out of it.’
  ‘In that case, I will provide you with one of those as well, though regrettabubblie I must make a charge. Sixpence.’
  Feeling strangely wrong-footed again I left entending straight home before came the rain once more, but my attention taken by a sign newly placarded outside the premises of my Barber and Provider of Periwigs to the Gentry, which did proclaim in large writing Open from Saturday the Fourthe Day of July! Newly in! ~ Quiltes, Down Pillowes and Feather Duvets, Bespoke Made for the Provision of Warmthe and Comforte in Ev’ry Season. Thus distracted, I did then collyde on the street into a large transparent globe, with arms and hands be-gloved stuck out at two and ten a-clock and waddling legs at five and seven, the head at twelve a-clock behatted and with fabric wrapped around its nose and mouth so tight it did amaze me it could breathe.
  ‘Why do ye nae watch where you’re — ? Och! ’Tis you.’
  ‘Do you not think this is carrying PPE a bit far? The last time I heard of you, you were dressed as a Bear.’
  ‘The First Lord says we are allowed to be in a Special Bubble.’
 At which point the very Heavens open’d, the road awash as if in a second Floode of the bible itselfe and its story of the Ark, I dashing home with my purchase under my coat and my last sight of the Special Bubble was of it floating down the lane in the direction of Westminster Stairs and the river.
  After dinner I to weight myselfe, which I have not done these Lock Up months and did discover that I am gained of 4 lb. only, which is to my great content. After, I did peruse some paintings of flowers and gardens in a Folio by an artist of my acquaintence in whom I find good technique and they are pleasurable to the eye, and did decide to commission for him to paint a painting of my garden and its flowers in it, it to go on the stairs where there is a place for it on the wall and if it is to my pleasure it will remind me that sometimes the sun shines after all. After supper I did essay some Sonates on my clavichord that I have bought wrote by young Mr. H. Purcell but they of a bizarre and outrageouse modern nature and I found no good matter in any. And so to bed. 


Back again

25 June, in the year of our Lord 2020

Two days ago, up to find a panel dropped from under the floor of my carriage on which was done some work this last week: it attached at the back as if hinge’d but the front of it not and scraping on the lane with a mighty noise when it moved, and worse, another noyse now, apparent at speed even once the entiretie of the panel taken off, which was hidious like a mighty flapping fit to break apart the carriage. I vexed, for it seemed to me a problem caused by a fixing, hence my appointment at The Repair Shoppe rearranged for today, there also to retrieve Mr. M. Jones as I was expected to do it, but a day late which I did contrive to prevent two journies, and though I thought it would not to be to his content that the rest would do him good. The weather the hottest for many days, which I did not expect and think it will not last but it was to my pleasure for today. The journey slow for fear of the noise, but by and by there and greeted by Jay, they taking my carriage away for its fixing, I suspecting they holding it is something I have done to damage it, and they suspecting I holding that it is something they have not done in the recent repare of it, which is to screw the panel back on preperlie though I held my tongue. Thence to the other matter of importance and to a hall, where a seat on which a coverture and two men standing six feet apart behind it (as has come to be the norm), one the man Dom and an other.
  ‘I’ve got something to show you,’ says Jay. ‘I think you met Dom, and this is Kevin — ’
  ‘ — plastic surgeon —,’ interjects the other.
  ‘ — and they have done all the hard work. Dom is a handyman, carpenter — ’
  ‘ — blacksmith, ironmonger and self-styled bone setter,’ says Kevin, with irony ill-hid.
  ‘ — and Kevin — ’
  ‘ — does the clever stuff.’
  ‘You remember what he looked like when you brought him in?’ With that off he whipps the coverture from the chair and its Occupant.
  I could not be other than amazed. ‘Oh, my goodnesse!’ I could hardly see for the teares in my eyes. ‘I can remember what he was like. His pate is all shiny! And you have made him a new suit — !’
  ‘From an old tapestry.’
  ‘I don’t know how you’ve done it.’
  ‘I’ve buffed up his top,’ explains Kevin, ‘taken an orbital sander to his face and put some filler in the old scars — ’
  ‘ — and I’ve done the other hip — ’ chips in Dom.
  ‘ — and I’ve given him a little neck tuck just under the chin.’
  ‘ — and this little hole over the hip is the end of a tiny tube so that if it begins to squeak you can squirt W. Dee Forte down it.’
  ‘You have thought of everything!’
  ‘It’s corrected that funny walk and his posture is a lot better. He will start better in the morning and you should get a lot more mileage out of him.’
  ‘He’s got his twinkle back!’ say I, admiringly, and had to dab my eyes.
  ‘We haven’t done anything down there apart from some lubrication for the slidey motion.’
  ‘He will have pride of place at home,’ say I. ‘He has a new rocking chair in his kitchen and a wooden truck of his own making. I will sit him in front of his magic screen and he will be as happy as a larry. I cannot thank you enough.’
  I dare to ask Mr. Jones, ‘How do you feel?’
  ‘I thought you were coming yesterday,’ says he.
  My carriage repared at no account to myselfe, we to M. Jones his house and the sun glinting off his crown as if off a polished bead. At dinner we did discourse of the weeke and of divers matters; that in a time of plague and Consternation the First Lord of the Treasury has seen fit to have his ship painted, which was grey, and is now in the colors of the flag so it is truly a flagship, which may be of much content to his ego but all costed to the tax payer who knew not its existence anyway. Also that the Plymouth Colony hath the plague worse than we, even though the Secretarie for the Plague Mr. Matt. Handcock hath not been there to help spread it, and their leader is trumpeting his vacuity for all to heare, he being the most pitiful and sorriest I did ever hear of in my life and an idle, prating man of a ridiculous pride who will have none gainsay him for he believes all that comes out of his mouth to be a great Idea, yet he is the coloure of a sweet China orange, which is manifestlie a bad idea and I cannot think of how many he must eat to be like that. 


Inspiration for an essay

22 June, in the Year of Our Lord 2020

After breakfast to my Spanish deberes, which still not done though three days to do it, which should be delivered to Iñigo el Vasco for his studie of it, and though it is a thornier tongue than I thought when I started, I enjoie the learning of it which is now five years and wish to improve more. I am to write an essay of 150 words on a Subjecte of my choice and as usual unable to think of one. By and by a knock at the door, which I opened and standing there a short figure of some stoutnesse in a pink head-dress and matching frock, cross-gartered and with bow, arrows, shield and a sword sheathed at the waist, holding a package.
  ‘Good morning!’ says he, perkilie. ‘Mr. Samuel Peppers?’
  ‘Yes — ?’
  ‘Amazonian deliveries! I have a package for you.’
  ‘Oh! Thank you. If that is my bilberrie Scrabbler it is in admirable good time. You’re not the usual guy, are you?’
  ‘I’m filling in. He’s off with the Covey.’ At which he pulled a theatricle face of mock fright and made with his hand to slice his throat from side to side. ‘What do you think?’ asked he then, indicating his attire and stepping back to take a twirl and stage a curtsey.
  ‘I have never seen anything quite like it.’
  ‘Thank you! I am entering the St. Paul’s Drag Race!’ he beamed. ‘Everything crossed…!’
  ‘I did not know the Cathedral — ’
  ‘It is part of their Project to reach out to the LGBTQT Communitie.’
  ‘And you are the Cutie?’ I ventured. He blushed. ‘How tall are you?’
  ‘Five two.’
  ‘Maybe a bit on the short side for an Amazon.’
  ‘I have heels here somewhere,’ he said, rummaging, ‘if you’d like to see. They’re Manolos. Cost a fortune. Just hold my quiver,’ he added, archerly.
  ‘That won’t be necessary. But, look…I know Amazons were warriors and all that, but did they have beards?’ asked I, skepticle.
  The poor thing looked downcast so that I felt a pang of sorrowe for him. ‘I am without means of shaving these past ten days.’
  ‘Perhaps you would like to use my beard trimmer? I will get it. You may stand in the kitchen here,’ offered I, indicating a position a suitable distance away. ‘And I have counted the spoons.’ And so I did lend it to him and left him for the ten minutes of his using it before I return’d with a looking glass, but alas —
  ‘Oh, my God!’ he cried. ‘I am turned all purple!’
  ‘Ah. Um, yes…I forgot about —’
  ‘Will it wash out?’ he wailed.
  ‘It will take a couple of days. When is your audition?’
  ‘Half past two!’ said he forlorn.
  ‘Then you shall say it is blood from the Spartans you have killed in battle!’ I reply’d to enthuse him.
  He, brightening, said, ‘Do you think? If I get through there’s a Covey Special on Wednesday where we all stand six feet apart on the cathedral steps. Would you like to come?’
  Fortunately I have an excuse. ‘Wednesday, you say? Wednesday I have to pick up someone up from The Repair Shoppe.’
  A sharp intake of breath and he in awe. ‘Not…Will?
  ‘Martin. But you must away to St Paul’s. I will be thinking of you and I am sure you will do well.’
  ‘Oh, I so hope so! It would mean everything! Love the colour of your kitchen, by the way. It’s not — ?’
  ‘No, it isn’t. Off you go, Hippolyta.’
  So did he leave merrie, and I think him the kind of person who will bounce back whenever life will trip him up, and that he will endeede do well, for he is true to himselfe and that is a rare skill.
  Before dinner I sweeped up the pile of beard trimmings, and after it did return with renewed Purpose to put quill to paper for the title of my essay for the Basque, which is Mi reunión con un Amazona. 


The longest day

20 June, in the Year of Our Lord 2020

Waked at a half past 4 a-clock by the cat, a great mewing and with a shrew in [my] bed chamber, so I scolded him and he dropped it somewhere and ran off without it, which made me not to go back to sleep, for along with that disturbance it is the longest Day so sparrowfart was very betimes and it light. After breakfast to tidy up. The other day I did pick bilberrys with Mr. Jones but they are tiny fruits and it breaks the back to do it, so not many, and I have put them on ice, though Mr. Jones knows where there are better and bigger with more juice, though the juice turns everything purple when you pick them. I discovered the shrew under the bed, where I did clean and it seems not the first time Banjo has been there, for a dried viscus or two adhered to the carpet.
  The afternoon the weather better than yesterday, which was wet again from start to finish, so that I did distribute my chores between my leisures to make them last, which now I am practised at; but Lord, it doth amaze me that this weeke of Lock Up is the Thirteenthe! the length of it stretched from Equinoxe to Solstice, which I did never think would come to pass. When the sky is grey my affectation is in that direction too, so I set to think of what I have achieved these weeks — viz. that my garden looks as prettie a thing as ever it did in all the time I have lived here; that I have learn’d to make a pastrie and fruit in it to make a pie with it, and to prepare new dishes from a book of Recipes which has excellent good instructions for fine food and the making of it, but tho’ the book is called Simple and it says the ingredientes are readilie available, I still cannot find saffron picked at dawn on the shore of the Caspian Sea anywhere in Liddle; that I can mend the stove and its apparatus for extracting the Smoke it puts out and the steam too, and also the lights that go with it and I know now where is the Fewse; that I have witnessed a Scholar in a magic window the like of which I never thought to see; and that there has come rekindled a passion wherein I am much contented, which is to read of the Musick of the past and listen to it and am reminded that Understanding and Enjoyment are bedfellowes, and that the depth of one increases the depth of the other. I also know that within my house, its walls and garden, reside both safety from contagion and a Securitie of the soul; but that outside these walls — beyond the Physician, the barber, the Apothecary and the urchin — a plague of ill Proportion has wreaked its devastation, and the number dead now excedes by double the amount of the worst expected at the start of it, whether for virulence of the plague or for mismanagement or incompetence or for all of them, and it cannot be hid by the dishonest adding up of it. Yet a fatigue of the mind has set in in me for the daily news of the toll of deaths and of the horrible miscarriage of it all, my interest diminished to knowing that my parents are well and my friends also.
  To survive these days, I think the matter is to invent a Purpose. In the Year of Our Lord 1669 I forbore from writing my Diarie for fear of my sight, yet I have come to feel again the solace of the task, for whereas a thought is an evanescent thing and a memorie a fickle friend, a word on a page is a steadfast mark and its permanence an Authority; and it matters not what the Purpose means to others: what matters is its meaning to one’s selfe, and a Diarie is a fine example, and the marks we make as fumbling punctuations of the commonplace are companions in our solitude.
  After supper, it gloomy and a heavy rain shutting in the longest day. I am reminded that on Thursday another scholar was on the magick screen, he saying that the bilberrie is a Physick for the sight for it mends the crystalline humour and the retina, which is behind the eye and sends globules of colour like Sapphire Salute and Hessian to the brain so it can make a picture, so I think to pick more but entend to buy two things, one being a bilberrie Scrabbler which is like a big comb for small plants, so I may save money and use my beard trimmer for it, and the other vodka, which will dissolve the bilberries and make a fine liquor with some sugar too, and I hope to be mightily pleased with it. And so to bed, contented for another new Purpose. 


The Repair Shoppe

17 June, in the year of our Lord 2020

Up, and with a plan for the morning, for a warning light hath appear’d on my coach so breakfast and to The Repair Shoppe at an appointed time of a quarter past ten a’clock, which is the furthest travel I have made these two months gone and more since March, Mr. M. Jones to meete me there, tho’ he complaneing anew that his Sleepe disturbed and it difficult to rouse himself these mornings, none of which to his pleasure. All to plan, and anon my coach fixed, I to agree the concluding matters pertaneing and payement with Jay behind the Covey screen at the counter and we to make our way, when —
  ‘A thought occurs to me: while I am here, perhaps you could look at — ?’ and together we turn our gaze to the Gentleman who has accompanied me, sat a Special Distance apart and unaware, reading a copy of Coach & Carriage Monthlie twelve months old.
  ‘What seems to be the problem?’
  ‘Mainly an inability to rouse himself the morning, difficulty starting especially when it is dampe. And of Sleepe at night, which is disturbed, and comes insteade after dinner. Also procrastination.’
  ‘Tell us a bit about him. What’s the history?’
  ‘Well, to be honest I’m not the best one to ask when it comes to history, but he has a son some fortie years of age, so he’s been in the family a long time. We think probably first half of the Twentieth Centurie.’
  ‘Anything else we should know? Has he been repaired before?’
  ‘A man in Oswestry had a go at one of his hips. Bits of biscuit tin, I think. It helped the mobilitie side.’
  ‘And what exactlie would you like us to do?’
  ‘Just kind of get him going again, if you can.’
  ‘Well, we’ll do our best.’
  ‘I don’t want him all spruced up and polished like new. That wouldn’t be right.’
  ‘Nah, of course not. He’s a bit battered, and that’s part of the charm, innit? He needs a conservation job. Hey, Dom, what do you think?’
  ‘Well, he’s a challenge,’ says Dom, wiping down his hands on his overalle. ‘I’ve not seen one quite like this before but, you know — ’
  ‘Do you think we’ll have to leave him soakin’ overnight, to rehydrate him?’
  ‘I think that’s the very least we need to do,’ says Dom, knowledgeably. ‘We’ll have a go at hammering out some of the dents. And we need to do something to help keep the wine in. It’ll need patience, but the good news is that he’s all there.’
  ‘You think?’ say I.
  Home to a downpour the Like of which I have rarelie seen in June, and to supper. Jay says I should return in a weeke for Mr M. Jones. And so to bed. 


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.