Keeping sane in time of pestilence - then and now
In many ways, today was a good day - a good day despite the fact that I was trying to be sensible and didn't even attempt an endorphin-boosting walk. Instead, I stayed around the house and garden and was busy, occupied by a variety of strangely normal activities. And it didn't rain, didn't rain at all, despite warnings of thunderstorms and grey drifts of cloud that came and went ...
The first excitement of the day was the coming of the Gas Man. We were phoned last week to ask if we'd consent to having our annual boiler service, and said yes because (a) it matters to do this kind of thing and (b) who knows what we'll face in a couple of months' time. So Davy the Gas duly arrived, masked and gloved, and we retreated to the garden to drink coffee and realise that I was cut off from my mobile, which I'd left in the study. It felt strangely liberating, though it was weird to have someone else in our house after all these months.
This visit provided Mr PB with all the stimulus he needed to give the kitchen and dining-room (where the boiler is) the kind of deep clean you imagine them doing to passenger planes after a flight. I left him to it and attacked the ivy that grows the length of both front and rear garden walls. Today it was the back garden and drive-in, resulting in a great drum of ivy cuttings. I even did some genteel hoeing after that ...
Other than that, I had a FaceTime with a physio friend about my ankle (much waving of foot to try to get it in front of the camera) and another with my #1son whom I don't see often enough and who made us laugh. And tonight the physio friend ordered two copies of the book, and another friend texted to say hers had arrived, so that was all good.
And talking of books (when, you were wondering, was I getting to the point?) - I'm about 2/3 of the way through Hilary Mantels' massive third volume of the Wolf Hall trilogy about Thomas Cromwell and loving every beautifully crafted page of it. And it's so relevant! Read this:
It has been a dangerous summer. For fear of plague the queen keeps a reduced household. The king lives separate at Esher, also with small state. A messenger called Bolde, who goes daily between Rafe and the Cromwells, is taken with an unknown distemper and must be isolated till he improves or dies. Rafe has often instructed Bolde face to face, and so the king suggests he avoid the court; but then Henry forgets and asks irritably, 'Where's young Sadler?'
For God's sake, Rafe writes, do not let the king forget me, or some rival steal into my place. From my years of discretion you have nourished, brought me up and admired me. Do not let me slip and slide now.
I've been fascinated by the omnipresence of the plague, by the similarities in the responses to it, by the fear that affects everyone, even Henry VIII. And I'm so sucked in by the narrative style: Mantel talks about her hero Cromwell in the 3rd person, but manages to give it the intimacy of a 1st person narrative. I reckon an important feature of this is that she will refer to him always as "he", but avoids confusion by adding such parenthesis as "The Lord Privy Seal" or "Thomas Cromwell" depending on what seems the suitable position to emphasise at any given moment. That's a clumsy explanation, but the narrative technique is flawlessly smooth. It's hard to live in a book in the full knowledge that it's not going to end well for your hero; it's hard to read such an enormous hardback (882 pages) in bed, lest you drop it on your nose in a somnolent moment. But I'm doing both, and loving it. I haven't been so engrossed for decades.
I may have to go back to its predecessors for another read.