It was odd and oddly moving to hear today's state news the way most of my forebears have heard such news over the centuries. I was in the garden and realised that the church bell was ringing on and on and on. A death, clearly. Whose? Too much tolling for a local death. The Queen? Somehow I didn't think so. So Prince Philip, then? 

I didn't really feel a need to check. I just stood outside, feet on the soil, and thought myself back through the generations, to before Twitter, before television, before radio, before affordable newspapers, before widespread literacy. To when there were bells in the day and beacon fires at night.

I'd assumed I was hearing the bell of the church round the corner but no, it was Great Tom, the bell at the entrance of Christ Church, carrying on the wind over Christ Church Meadow. 

Great Tom was originally in Osney Abbey (at that point the bell was called 'Mary', so it has undergone a pleasing gender reassignment) then at the dissolution of the monasteries in 1545 was moved to St Frideswide's church. It was moved again to Christ Church, where the cathedral now is, when the Christopher Wren tower being built for it was completed in 1680. So I was even more deeply embedded in history than I'd thought. I wonder how many royal deaths Mary/Tom has announced to how many Oxford residents since then?

The rest of the day was marked by Covid negatives. I took advantage of the first day we are all allowed free tests and as I expected mine was negative. A positive negative. Back home an antibody test dropped through the letter box from a research project I'd signed up to. One pinprick, one drop of blood on a test strip, 20 minutes and one red line later I learnt I had no discernible antibodies to Covid. A negative negative. 

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