March 22nd, 2020

Building Plans

I dreamed....

Someone had made a list of the most popular hymns of all time- and one of them was being sung. Ailz's mother and father came down the sloping lawn dressed as if for a wedding, with Eric in his grey topper looking like Stanley Holloway as Alfred Doolittle in My Fair Lady. "Do you know these hymns?" they asked and I said, "No. We didn't sing them where I was, but we did use the same hymn book."

I gathered they owned the park where we were meeting- and that Ailz and I stood to inherit it. "It would be a shame to sell any of it off." I said. They had plans to put up a retirement cottage on their land- or rather add an annexe to the building we were stood beside- a lodge with porticoes and big plate glass windows, part neoclassical, part modernist, comprising one large, unfurnished room with a big round thing- an altar or an old fashioned stove- in the middle of the floor. Those parts of it which weren't steel and glass were brick- a very unusual brick- milky white but shot through with rainbow colours. "Why would you use that instead of ordinary pink brick?" asked Eric and I said, "Why not? It's beautiful..."

Strange Days Indeed

Prince Prospero self-isolates in his castle for a nonstop orgy with all his bestest mates- and then an uninvited guest shows up. Normally I go months without thinking about The Masque of the Red Death- and now- for some reason- it keeps popping into my head...

The sky is blue. The sun shines bright. I hear a plane going over and look up- and it's one of those funny little put-put monoplanes that would have been cutting edge in the 1920s. And then I notice something else: no vapour trails, no shiny silver birds in the stratosphere. We lie under numerous flightpaths- but the airliners have mostly been grounded and I can't say I'm sorry.

What price political ideology- or indeed political normality- when a Tory government finds itself implementing policies which it would have mocked as madly Socialist- if not Stalinist- a few weeks ago? Again, who would have predicted that Boris Johnson- libertarian, hedonist and former Bullingdon boy- would preside over the closure of the theatres, cinemas, pubs and clubs? Not even Cromwell went quite so far. Oh, and that money tree- which used not to exist? Apparently we have access to a whole orchard of them now.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Another literary gem that keeps niggling at me is Harrison Ainsworth's all but forgotten historical blockbuster- Old St Pauls.

I read it as a kid- when Ainsworth and others like him were still considered "classic".

The villains- Anselm Chowles and Mother Malmaynes and other deplorables (Ainsworth had a Dickensian flair for names) are partying in the crypt of the cathedral, celebrating the wealth they've accumulated and the fun they've had by behaving badly during the Great Plague- when, unbeknownst to them, the Great Fire of London begins, the cathedral burns, its roof melts and the molten lead rushes down the stairs and engulphs them....



The illustration is by the great George Cruikshank.

Dancing Inside

My mother is sitting in front of the TV watching the PM's daily interface with the media. One of his questioners just used the phrase "frankly terrifying" and I felt an urge- which I resisted- to get up and do a little dance. No-one was watching so the effort would have been wasted- and, besides, I was already dancing in my head. The worst thing we can do at present- worse even than hoarding toilet rolls- is stoke the fear.

And now another questioner is asking him to bring in a curfew.

Today was Mothering Sunday. It was cancelled. Church services have been cancelled too- and the clergy are putting their preachments on line. One of them was using candles as a visual aid and managed to set his jumper on fire. It earned him lots of hits.