A Journal of the Plague Week 24

Sunday, August 30th, 2020

It’s the “summer bank holiday weekend” here in the UK, so we’ve spent the past two days moping around indoors with the heating on in an attempt to drive off the chill from the incessant wind. Oh, England.

The gusty wind put the kibosh on our tunes in the park yesterday, too, wrecking our exciting plan to play music, visit Barfields Butchers and grab lunch in the Open Market—precisely the kind of Saturday I was pining for back in April, when we were in the depths of lockdown and it wasn’t at all clear when (or if) any semblance of the Before Times would ever return.

Remarkably, thankfully, some of that old reality has returned, if in an altered form. We did manage to get in a park “session” last Saturday, though at one point early on I found myself huddled under my umbrella with my fiddle in an extremely uncomfortable lawn chair, waiting for a small rain shower to pass, thinking: “This is not ideal…” Indeed, it’s not ideal, but it’s the best we’ve got right now, and it’s way better than nothing. After the tunes last week, we did go to Barfields (for the first time since March), and we did go to the Open Market for tacos, and we bought cheap cheese from the BACON KING, and we caught a bus home (masked up, carrying musical instrument cases and lawn chairs and several pounds of the finest Sussex beef), where we changed into our comfy clothes and had a cup of tea. I was looking forward to all of that again yesterday…but no.

I wonder how much longer we’ll be able to keep the outdoor sessions going anyway. Summer is tangibly waning here, and while it’s possible that we’ll have a glorious, sunny September, it’s equally possible that the storms that have recently battered the British Isles will just continue to roll in, colder and wetter and fiercer by the week. I noticed two things this past week: 1) it’s now dark by the time ballet class ends, at about 8:30 p.m., and 2) our plates were cold when I took them out of the cabinet before dinner a few days ago. Turning the heating on yesterday was just one more tiny signal. We’ve been keeping the windows closed more often than open. We’ve been having lunch indoors more than in the garden. At some point in the coming weeks—or possibly even tomorrow, judging from past experience—I will step outside in the evening and there will be something in the air, a sharper, smokier edge, and I’ll know that we’ve tumbled into autumn.

I always lose some of my mojo during this time of year, but I’m feeling well and truly mojo-less at the moment. We were watching TV last night, and a character checked into a nice hotel, and another character had a drink in a small, dark bar, and I found myself hungrily taking in the details, remembering what it felt like to travel and do those things, the exciting tingle of getting to live another life for a short while, a life where you can drink cocktails with abandon in a tucked-away bar before collapsing into a super-king-size bed in a room with a fantastic view of the city at night—not any specific city, just a city, some sparkly, anonymous metropolis where you can temporarily lose yourself and pretend that this is your Real Life(tm).

My real real life currently consists of trying to dry laundry outside even though it’s chilly and threatening to rain, trying to come up with new and interesting things to make for lunch because after 5+ months of cycling between tuna salad, toasted sandwiches, and packaged noodles I am so over the very CONCEPT of lunch, and trying to keep our newly broken fridge door closed by propping a chair against it, which is not only awkward to maneuver around but also kind of makes it look like we’ve trapped something inside the fridge that we don’t want to escape. Oh, and trying not to catch the coronavirus, obviously. So, not so much with the cocktail bars and swanky hotels right now.

It’s a silly and self-indulgent thing to long for, I know. It just represents…escape. And not even necessarily escape from this particular place, with its gusty wind and broken fridge door—because honestly, whatever, it’s all fine—but escape from worries and cares, from responsibilities, from having to think about things all the time. I’m tired of thinking about things all the time. I just wanna sit in a dark corner and nurse a strong drink and not think of anything besides how much I enjoy a good boulevardier. Which, theoretically, I could go and do in my living room right this second. And which, non-theoretically, I might just go and do right this second (after all, if this is the start of autumn, then it is also the start of bourbon season).

But somehow I suspect it won’t feel quite the same.


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