Diary of the Plague Year: Day 76 30 May 2020: On the way home


On the way home from Skibb. Empty roads, birdsong, lush hedgerows. It was so long since I had driven further than Clon it felt like an odyssey. I stopped off to take this photo. The summer yachts have all disappeared. It was still and quiet in the harbour which would usually have been heaving on a day like this.

Looking out to sea.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 74 28 May 2020: Airing the winter duvet – Summer is here!

Bit by bit I am planting in the flower garden. It is surrounded on three sides by fuchsia so is the only part of the garden with any real protection from the wind, and even so …

Shadows in the Dell
Out to air – my winter duvet – Summer is here!

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 71 25 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

The woods grew deeper and deeper. The red trunks bigger and bigger. Thegreen crowns heavier and heavier. The air darker and darker. The busheslusher and lusher. The mushrooms thicker and thicker. Until there wasnothing but mushrooms to walk on. It was harder and harder for the man to walk, to force his way through without slipping. But on he went anyway repeating faster and faster and over and over the same sentence: – –
                       The scars that mend
                       Colours that blend.
To his left and slightly behind him walked a woman. Every time the man finished his sentence, she said with great assurance and rolling her r’s vigorously:
Verrry cleverrrr.
Translated and with an introduction by
Elizabeth R. Napier
Yale University Press

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 68 22 May 2020: Snapped by the wind

Gale force winds all night and into today. They are just dying down now at 10.45 pm. I took the precaution of tying my new foxgloves to stakes, like one of those old-codger gardeners, and I am very glad I did. On one of my other plants (name unknown) stems had snapped right off.

Not only have we had crazy winds to contend with but the other night farm trailers rattling noisily into the wee hours. They have bright lights too which cast immense shadows and a sudden glaring red light when they thunder past. Not very restful.

Had a very lazy day today. Went into Clon to pick up veg, milk, etc. Then home and read over my writing piece about ‘Summer” – I just wrote about the garden.

Then watched Britten’s Gloriana from ROH. Richard Jones’ production, which I would normally love but thought the production, set in a village hall, too clunky. It must have cost a lot of money to make it look that cheap.

Other than that have just spent two days slogging through my AC application for for project funding. It’s always a soul-destroying exercise and hard work but such a huge relief when it’s all over. If by some major miracle we did get the funding I would be working with B on interviews which would be a treat.

Meanwhile our Memoir writing course is on hold because the tutor does not think Zoom would work for us. Eh? It works perfectly well with Denyse and the other writing group.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 64 18 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Alice Oswald (1966 – )

An extract from DART
There the musky fishy genital smell
of things not yet actual: shivering impulses, shadows,
little amorous movements, quicksilver strainings and   
each winter they gather here,
twenty seals in this room behind the sea, all swaddled
and tucked in fat, like the soul in its cylinder of flesh.
With their grandmother mouths, with their dog-soft
    eyes, asking
who’s this moving in the dark? Me.
This is me, anonymous, water’s soliloquy,
all names, all voices, Slip-Shape, this is Proteus,
whoever that is, the shepherd of the seals,
driving my many selves from cave to cave …


Alice Oswald

Faber and Faber

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 61 15 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Charles Baudelaire (1821 – 1867)


        Mon enfant, ma soeur,
        Songe à la douceur
D'aller là-bas vivre ensemble!
        Aimer à loisir,
        Aimer et mourir
Au pays qui te ressemble!
        Les soleils mouillés
        De ces ciels brouillés
Pour mon esprit ont les charmes
        Si mystérieux
        De tes traîtres yeux,
Brillant à travers leurs larmes.
Là, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.
        Des meubles luisants,
        Polis par les ans,
Décoreraient notre chambre;
        Les plus rares fleurs
        Mêlant leurs odeurs
Aux vagues senteurs de l'ambre,
        Les riches plafonds,
        Les miroirs profonds,
La splendeur orientale,
        Tout y parlerait
        À l'âme en secret
Sa douce langue natale.
Là, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.
        Vois sur ces canaux
        Dormir ces vaisseaux
Dont l'humeur est vagabonde;
        C'est pour assouvir
        Ton moindre désir
Qu'ils viennent du bout du monde.
         — Les soleils couchants
         Revêtent les champs,
Les canaux, la ville entière,
         D'hyacinthe et d'or;
         Le monde s'endort
Dans une chaude lumière.
Là, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.


Child, sister, think of the sweetness of going to that far country to live together! To love at our leisure, to love and to die in the country which is like you! The watery suns of those overcast skies have, for my spirit, the same mysterious charm as your killing eyes, shining through their tears.

There, there is nothing but order and beauty, luxury, calm and sensual pleasure.

Shining furniture, polished by the years, would decorate our room; the rarest flowers, mingling their scents with the vague perfume of ambergris; the rich ceilings, the deep mirrors, the oriental splendour, everything would speak to the soul in secret its sweet native tongue.

There, there is nothing but order and beauty, luxury, calm and sensual pleasure.

See, on the canals, the vessels sleeping, their wandering humour stilled; it is to satisfy your every desire that they have come from the ends of the earth. The setting suns clothe the fields, the canals, the whole city, in hyacinth and gold; the world is falling asleep in a warm light.

There, there is nothing but order and beauty, luxury, calm and sensual pleasure.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 60 14 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: George Szirtes (1948 -)

As one comes in another goes out. As one
shakes out a tablecloth another is eating
a hearty meal. As one sits down alone
another listens to his lover’s heart beating.
As one prays for deliverance, another
delivers a letter or an explosive device.
As one gathers the harvest, his brother
lies in the doorway. As one finds a nice
coincidence between numbers, his neighbour
sees his coins disappear down the waiting slot.
As one man examines the fruit of his labour
his shadow tells beads, counts peas into the pot
or stars in the sky and feels the night wind blowing
on his face with all this coming and going.
As one goes out, the other comes in. It is light
in the window where the angel bends
over the stove giving the virgin a fright.
It is bright at the top of the house where the road ends.
There’s a distinct touch of gold in the gutter
running with beer. There is translucence
in the chipped saucer with its rim of used butter.
There’s a glow on TV. There’s a faint sense
of the luminous numinous in the alarm clock
set for six in the morning and a kind of shine
in the mirror the angels have learned to unlock
and enter suddenly and an even harder to define
radiance in the skin, in the shock of dawn
with sheet turned down and bedroom curtains drawn.



Diary of the Plague Year: Day 54 8 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001)

Rest, heavy head, on the wood
        Of the good, old desk-stand.
Dreams must be understood
        And the right hand
Feels for purchase upon
        A fine, old, open page
Of writing lit by the moon
       And its light rage.


Timely Issues


Diary of the Plague Year: Day 52 6 May 2020: A fire for cheerfulness

Yes, it is the 6th of May and I have lit a fire. Really for a bit of cheer on yet another dank, dark day of rain. The upside is that my new trees will be drinking it all up and it is just what they need. I used twigs, that I had picked up from the garden, as kindling and they blazed up very nicely. Hadn’t thought of doing that before and had been putting them on the compost heap.

There is another layer of silence these days and the birdsong is very clear. Ditto, the noise of insects though, of course, not on a day like this. The meadow is also greening up nicely. It will be interesting to see what comes up.

Meanwhile, over the water, it is clear that that Boris Johnson and his band of appalling cronies has presided over a complete and utter shambles. The care home deaths are a SCANDAL and I hope there will be an investigation and an official inquiry. Saw an extract of Johnson on the news – it was pure doublespeak. He is a sinister and bad man.

In bed last night listening to the cows. They make the most peculiar noises. If someone had told me a troop of howler monkeys had escaped and were larking about outside the house I would not have been surprised.

Have decided to have an afternoon of films – The Street, followed by A Room With a View.

Just finishing Michael Holroyd’s biography of Lytton Strachey – “He had only a year to live”.

We had the second Zoom workshop for the Creative Writing class yesterday evening. My computer kept crashing, so frustrating, so had to load Zoom on my phone. Not ideal. There is some really brilliant writing from the class. This week’s assignments are either:

  1. Describe yourself as a fictional character.
  2. Describe the feeling of being wet.

We also need to write a short piece prompted by the word “flask”.