That no hogs, dogs or cats or tame pigeons or ponies be suffered to be kept within any part of the city…And the owner be punished…And that the dogs be killed by the dog killers appointed for that purpose. (Journal of the Plague Year. Defoe. Almost my worst nightmare).
Defoe records the fact that the seventeenth century scientists were aware that the plague could mutate and jump species, although the list neglects the culprits which were rat fleas. Defoe also records that not only was social distancing actioned but in the absence of any ‘Apps’ keepers were appointed to guard the inhabitants of infected houses. It appears that while the plague was estimated to kill over one quarter of London’s population it was capricious as to whom it seized in any household, where either entire families died, or only an individual became the victim.
This morning we returned not to Regent’s Park but to a beautiful green verge running alongside the outskirt and towards the Zoo. The verge falls into a rocky canal descent, which we did not attempt as we did not want to risk any twisted ankles. The Inner Circle is contaminated not by COVID per se but by aggressive runners and cyclists who behave as though they own both walkway and highway but refuse to wear masks. I am told that attempting to cross the lakeside bridge is potential COVID suicide. There is more to be said another time about ‘masks’, masking and meanings. The Greeks used the word ‘persona’ for masks which also refers to the personality our ego’s construct whereas the meaning from medieval Latin masa references the ‘witch, spectre’, but was then influenced by Arabic masḵara ‘buffoon’. (Another essay is thereby threatened.)
Wearing a mask while walking is not pleasant and one’s glasses become misty, but it is respectful. The verge of this idyllic wasteland is bordered by shimmering cow’s parsley which has an unforgettable if modest smell of pastoral springtime. Beyond this verge the Zoo is waking up and the animals sound hungry. What will happen to the animals if the queues fail to return this summer…? There is an apposite novel: Old Men of the Zoo by Angus Wilson published in 1961, which explores the issues of protecting the public during the Blitz from the dangers of an escape by marauding and frenzied mammals.
Although I have barely recovered from my son Alex coming down yesterday when I was labouring with the hoover, (DEFRA for those who have been following the diaries) and insisting on showing me how to clean and dissect all parts, which included a second small hoover to hoover the hoover. I have to admit the contents were sewer-like-unspeakable and remaindered from long before I took over the housework, I have today been very busy with the mop and bucket, which I find soothing. Slosh, slosh, slosh and it is an aperitif to my trying to complete an essay – after all this diary is specifically about a day in the life of a psychotherapist – about why my profession is destined and doomed by the brilliant journalist and writer Janet Malcolm to be the ‘Impossible Profession’. To reassure my dear ‘friend’ of the superfoods and scriptures who appeared in last Wednesday’s entry, while I will never abandon my ostrich duster I have ordered a Dyson hand held hoover. When I went online to John Lewis it exclaimed that seventy eight hand-held had been purchased in the last forty eight hours.