March 16th, 2020


Well, we wanted to leave Europe.

Only it's not just us any longer; it's every country leaving every other country. The border posts are being manned. The planes have stopped flying.

Major cities are going into lockdown (so who'd want to travel, anyway?)

People are being told to stay at home. The police are telling them. The uniforms are in charge.

Britain is a little behind the rest of the continent in imposing restrictions and closing things down; It was always thus...

I'm reading Kate Atkinson's Transcription- which (in its early stages anyway) is set during the phoney war of 39-40, before the bombing and the Battle of Britain. Hitler is collecting countries as if they were stamps, France will be falling soon- and our pov character finds herself- without ever having applied for the job- spying on home grown Nazi sympathisers, all of them more pathetic than sinister. She doesn't quite know what she's doing or why- and has little idea of what her superiors are up to- or which of them she should trust. I imagine the atmosphere of then is rather like the atmosphere of now.

Kit Carson's Last Supper

I've always liked this story. It's probably not true- or at least not true in the sense of actually having happened. I must have known it since I was a boy because when else would I have been reading about Kit Carson?

Kit Carson, the famous Indian scout was feeling his age so he went to see his doctor. The doctor examined him thoroughly, put on his compassionate face and said, "Well, Colonel Carson, your heart is in a bad way, but if you leave off the strong drink and the red meat you could well live for several more years."

Carson thanked the doctor and paid him, then toddled off back to his hotel and ordered up a buffalo steak and a pint of whiskey.

The moral is whatever you want it to be but I've always taken it to mean that there are worse things than dying...

(When I was a kid I owned Kit Carson's Wild West Annual for 1958. I came across a copy in a junk shop recently and wondered about buying it but decided not to because really it's complete piffle. 1950s Carson is a clean shaven, rock-jawed, blond giant in a buckskin shirt with fringes but the actual Carson was a little, sandy-haired chap. In his youth he'd been an Indian fighter and scalp-taker but as he matured he came round to seeing the point of view of the first nations and his last significant action was to travel up to Washington DC in company with a number of Ute chiefs to plead their cause with the government.)