Sunday 19th April. The Coronet Diaries.

DE CHIRICO’S ARIADNE

I wake up grateful that I fell back to sleep after waking at 11.30 PM but wanting to cry out, wanting to believe that the desolation of our pandemic landscape is borrowed from the surreal. ‘This cannot be happening. Am I sleeping or waking?’

Yesterday our builder/friend Hassan, came by the house, suitably isolated and it felt as nostalgic as catching sight of the cliffs of white Dover. It is thought de Chirico’s painting is about isolation . Death has not yet dealt its blow. I feel I have uttered an obscenity. Whereof we cannot speak, should we remain silent. Or not? I cannot remain silent. I’m developing another foolish ritual about which my ‘blog-reading patient’ will no doubt feel some dismay. Once I have finished my mediation, made the bed, matched the four corners of the universe, I am compelled to open my laptop and write the date and title of this diary. Only then do we drink hot water and limes which someone told me – when I had my feverish cold or was it COVID – is much richer in Vitamin C, and is also alkaline. Apparently that is why they use so many limes in East Asia.

I cannot bear the 10 PM news, which John is sometimes curious to watch although most of all he prefers Emily Maitlis on Newsnight, which is too late for me. It is not the presenters’ faults but I cannot bear their professional smiles as all the while the Grim Reaper is smirking . . .I shall not forget Dominic Raab’s face fall into unadulterated terror after he announced Boris Johnson was admitted to ICU and thought he was now out of camera.

I am reading Daniel Defoe’s apposite account The Journal of the Plague Year. More of that soon but only to say most of the account outlines unnerving similarities, along with the fact that human nature is set in a default position to forget. And to deceive. Defoe was reporting from the eighteenth century, (1770’s) about the year 1665. I fear he has a great deal more to say that I will no doubt be quoting . What is crystal clear from the start is that it is hubris for humanity to forget that bacteria and viruses are even more deadly than atomic warfare. The two bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of whom were civilians, and remain the first and only uses of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.

We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days to spread rumour and report of things, and to improve them by the invention of men, as I have lived to see practised since… and only handed about by word of mouth only so that things did not spread instantly over the whole nation, as they do now. But it seems that the Government had a true account of it, and several councils were held about ways to prevent its coming over; (from Holland) but all was kept very private. (Defoe)

The sun is pouring through and making me think of summer clothes. Except, when I glance into the summer part of the wardrobe it is full of delicate fabric to wear to work. As I used to spend most of my time being scrutinised, well I still am, it has always been important to me what I wear and one of my elderly ‘patients’ liked to tell or tease me that I always looked like I was dressed for the opera. I hope that was an exaggeration as I have never dressed up for Covent Garden. When I first qualified as a psychoanalyst I used to start my day at 7AM, with the bread-baking-poet already featured. No wonder Freud insisted that his patients lay down supine on his antimacassar Viennese couch. He disliked being looked at. Yes, I do live the summer in silks and print and most of my clothes are vintage. Things are going to become more challenging being at home and switching between Zoom, dogs, housework and the children. I will live in Jeans and compliment with formal tops. When I am away from the order of my consulting room, now of yore, like another dream, I am inclined to stain.

I do not think it is appropriate to put up photos of the adults in our family but I cannot resist this one of Tanya’s dog, Duffy who is also self isolating in Hove. He has a startled look because his mistress now has time to take him for walks herself. And he misses Dido. He is imitating her neurosis by the day.

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
(Shakespeare Sonnet 60 )

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