Diary of a Booker Winner (in waiting) – 10

Staying at Home. Protecting the NHS. Saving Lives.

April 4th 2020

Lockdowns adhered to: 1

Trips on public transport: 0

Meetings with friends or family: 0

Communal Carer-Praising Clappings: 1

Handwashings undertaken: 312

Covid Crimes witnessed: 2

This week I’ve been somewhat eclectic in my reading – I started with Robert Burton On Melancholy (edited by Nicholas Robins) and ended with The Diary of a Nobody by the brothers George and Weedon Grossmith.

Richard Burton was first published in 1621 and I found it reassuring (in a way) to be reminded that we’ve always been prone to emotional angst. And occasional self-pity.

“Yea, but thou thinkest thou art more miserable than the rest, other men are happy in respect of thee, their miseries are but flea-bitings to thine, thou alone art unhappy, none so bad as thyself.”

I quickly determined to not let our new normal provide an excuse for too sharp a slide toward the negative.

For lighter relief I turned to the brothers and their diary written in the 1880’s. Here’s an excerpt:

April 26. Got some red enamel paint (red, to my mind, being the best colour) and painted the coal-scuttle, and the backs of our Shakespeare, the binding of which had almost worn out.

April 27. Painted the bath red, and was delighted with the result. Sorry to say Carrie was not; in fact, we had a few words about it. She said I ought to have consulted her, and she had never heard of such a thing as a bath being painted red, I replied: ‘It’s merely a matter of taste.’

Both books cheered in different ways. Then a couple of incidents occurred, in April 2020, and afterward I wondered if maybe I should begin to write my own journal?

It would likely be something like this:

Candid Covid Chronicles

April 2. Took an early morning walk in the park and saw a frail and elderly lady chatting with a young man whilst she walked her dog. They were clearly adhering to the required 2 metre protocol. After a time, she threw a tennis ball up into the air for the dog to chase and retrieve. The young man skilfully intercepted its flight path and whacked the ball with an umbrella he was carrying. Re-directing its trajectory. Straight back into the frail and elderly lady’s face. Causing her to stumble and cry out in pain. The young man then rushed to offer comfort with an apologetic hug.  And upon such moment social distancing was lost.

April 3. Watched from the window as a young couple paused by my neighbour’s garden hedge. They were not two metres apart. I wondered if they were from the same household and hence their narrow stance legitimate. They appeared too young to be home-owners. Brother and sister perhaps. Then they kissed. Brother and sister perhaps not. I was disappointed by their flouting of clear governmental instructions. I could not now imagine anything other than a separate household scenario. Two returning after a furtive meet. Two returning to two differing homes. Two returning to potentially spread. I wondered if I should rap the window and offer a few stern words. But then some comedy occurred. After the kiss the young man surreptitiously produced a tissue and very diligently wiped his mouth. The young lady did not notice.  She was busy checking her reflection in the window of a parked car.

H. B. O'Neill

H. B. O’Neill is a London born writer inspired by the City and its myriad opportunity for comedy, pain, drama and adventure. He is a prize-winning poet and short story writer, a screenwriter, playwright and author. His much-anticipated novel According to Mark is due to be published soon.

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