A Journal of the Plague Week 19

Sunday, July 26th, 2020

Last night I dreamed that we went back to our Irish session.

We’d gone to the pub and claimed our seats, and I got my fiddle out and put the shoulder rest on and rosined up my bow, and then I walked up to the bar and suddenly realized that I’d forgotten to bring a face mask, and I didn’t have any hand sanitizer with me, and also, we were indoors in a busy pub in a pandemic, and that was a terrible idea, and what the hell were we thinking?

I’m not ready to go back to a pub. Or a restaurant, for that matter, which is why this week, for the first time in years—and only the second time in the past decade—I celebrated my birthday at home instead of going out. And by “going out”, I don’t mean going out partying (I’m very much not a birthday party sort of person). I just mean leaving the house. My ideal birthday consists of a really outstanding cocktail or two, followed by a really outstanding dinner, perhaps followed by yet another outstanding cocktail, all in the company of Jeremy alone. This usually involves visiting local cocktail bars and restaurants. For my magnificent fortieth birthday, it involved visiting bars and restaurants in Spain—but that was an exception. I generally don’t demand extravagance on my birthday; I just want delicious food in a relaxed atmosphere.

The food would have been easy to come by here in Brighton, and the cocktails too. But the relaxed atmosphere? Not so much. Not for me, anyway. My caution is still greater than my longing to indulge in the restaurant experience. So we brought the restaurant experience home. On the day of my birthday, when I had ballet class and there wasn’t time to cook anything nice, we literally brought the experience home by ordering a delivery meal from Semolina bistro (which is actually where I had my birthday dinner last year). But the day after, we created our own restaurant, starting with champagne and Gildas in the afternoon (the one thing I knew I wanted for this year’s birthday was really good anchovies, which is very on-brand for me), followed by a grilled bone-in ribeye from an 8-year-old ex-dairy Galician cow, served with a huge salad from our own garden and an outstanding Bordeaux, followed by more champagne and fresh strawberries. No face masks, no distancing, no putting ourselves or others at risk, just the perfect quiet meal for two.

Maybe next year we’ll be back in a restaurant. Or maybe not? I find it impossible to put a time frame onto anything right now. Folks have been asking us if we’ve got any travel plans, and I’m like, who can plan? Who can say what things will be like in the next week or month or half-year? I filled out a long survey for Sadler’s Wells theater last week, and several of the questions were along the lines of “Would you consider attending a live performance 6 months from now?” And I just had to keep answering “Not sure/don’t know” because time is not the relevant factor here. If we have a vaccine and negligible case numbers six months from now, then sure, I’d consider it. But if we’re in the same position six months from now that we’re in currently (and let’s be honest, are things really going to be better in January—the middle of winter, the middle of flu season?), then no, there’s no way I’m going to sit in a theater, regardless of how many bottles of hand sanitizer are dotted around the place.

I’m just idling right now. I have killed the headlights and put it in neutral. I’m not looking ahead, not speculating, trying not to worry, trying not to get frustrated. I am making do, making the best of the situation, and making merry when I can. And I am not making plans.

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