Novella: THE SUMMER OF THE SICKNESS
Posted October 28, 2013on:
- In: Uncategorized
- Comments Off on Novella: THE SUMMER OF THE SICKNESS
Up, and very busy all morning. Home, where my aunt and uncle came for lunch because my mum’s leaving town tomorrow to go back home. Back to the office in the afternoon. On my way home I called in at the Cross Keys. Found the roads nearby all clogged with traffic, even more than usual, everyone seems to be leaving town in a hurry. Home to dinner and then bed.
Mum seemed very reluctant to leave. I can’t blame her, she has a lot more fun here than she does at home. I had to put it to her about the Flu here in town though, and I also said that I think Lizzie should leave as well. I transferred some money into Mum’s account, and she said that I should find it in my heart to forgive my brother, John. I couldn’t, which uspet her, the poor old thing. I tried to say it as kindly as I could, but she left us looking very down in the mouth. I went to the office, and left Lizzie to see Mum on her way. She later told me that Mum went with a lot of fuss. OK, I know she was reluctant to go. I was worried that, with public transport being so stretched at the moment, that she might not be able to get a seat on the train. Very busy at the office, but not too late home.
Creed and I went to the park, and spent 2 or 3 hours talking over several matters, all in a very sombre, glum way. But the fresh air and the beauty of it all did me a lot of good, and I can’t help thinking we should do more of this sort of thing. To the office for a while. Took the bus home, which is becoming unbearable these days, and quite dangerous, with the Flu increasing so much.
My brother-in-law came to lunch with his new wife, a pretty but very shy, nervy woman. A war refugee. He came to touch me for a loan. He seemed genuine about paying it back, and I can afford it, so I said I would. I think it was his wife having an influence on me! But he does seem to want to do the best for her, as she’s had a pretty rough time of it in recent years from what I can gather. Went to the office and had a word with Sheldon, who says Lizzie can go down to his place on the coast if she likes. I think it would be a good idea, and probably for me too at some point. At the office til nearly midnight, and then home to bed. The Flu is increasing all the time. Today I saw a house near St Clement’s all barricaded off with police tape, which was very sad.
Went to Waterstone’s and bought several books. On my way to Westminster this afternoon I saw several houses all barricaded off in King’s Street, and some actually near Parliament itself. I hear Mrs Martin at the office has left town. Her husband’s a lazy old sod, and I don’t believe him when he says he’s on his way back from France to join her. I was a bit wary about going into any bars on the way home, but I did go to the Swan. Home. Spent the evening chatting in the back garden with the neighbours.
Went to Whitehall. Everywhere stuffed full of traffic, and people rushing to leave town. To The Harp, and had a drink with Mary. She said she had been living lately with one of my near neighbour’s, but frankly the less I know about all that the better. This part of town gets worse everyday with news of the Flu. The death toll is currently at 2,670, that’s 900 more than the last time I heard! Apparently the Royal Family are all preparing to leave too.
Didn’t get home from the office until 1 or 2 in the morning, in spite of the bus-driver driving like a maniac through near empty streets. Lizzie didn’t know what had happened to me, and was in a bit of a state.
Some trouble at our Portsmouth offices. Some of the casual staff have left and gone to get seasonal work elsewhere. Anything to earn a crust these days I suppose. To Westminster, where I heard the Flu has increased again. To The Harp. Chatted with Mary there. She told me all about her first relationship back home in Wales. Says that Doc Williams only pretends to love her, but he’s always sniffing round her as far I can tell. Late at the office, and then home. Sad to hear that 7 or 8 houses in Bazing Hall Street are barricaded off because of the Flu.
Spent the morning putting up some pictures in my study at home. Quite pleased with them. They really add something to the place. Lunch at home. Did my accounts afterwards.
A little business at Whitehall, and the I went to The Harp, where I stayed a while, chatting with Mary. Afternoon at the office, and then to The Swan, where I got a bit hot and bothered (know what I mean?) over a young lady I found there. Did some emails at the office, and then home. If possible, I want to finish at the office before it goes dark these days. Also want to sort out all my personal paperwork, as no one can think themselves immune from all this Flu going around. Bad night’s sleep. Couldn’t stop thinking about my old school-friend, Jack Cole, who died recently. He was the same age as me, we almost had the same birthday. We thought of each other like twins at school.
Up, and made plans to send some of Lizzie’s things to a hotel down in Brighton, so that she can stay there. Then to the office, and on to Whitehall. The park all locked up, and a building barricaded off in Pall Mall. Later took the train down to Brighton, where Lizzie had already arrived. It looks a decent place, and I left her as she was going in to dinner. It upset me to part with her, but it would be too much of a worry for me if she stayed in our neighbourhood whilst the Flu is on. Got home to bed very late. Felt very lonely.
Got chatting to a man at the supermarket nearby. He tells me his family are leaving town for the rest of the Summer. I ordered some special treats for my Father, as he can’t get them at home.
Asked the local off-licence to send a case of really decent wine to Lizzie. Pleased I can do these things these days, without having to worry too much about the cost. Bought some new books, which gave me a lot of pleasure as well. Took them home to read, and went late to bed.
Worked at the office until about 9PM, and then went down to Brighton. When I got there I found Lizzie asleep in bed. Stormy night, wind and rain, but it’s a comfy hotel.
Really nice morning with Lizzie, and then took a cab to see Lady Lisa Sanderton. She’s not very well, in fact looks the worst I’ve ever seen her. She says some top-notch health farm she went to nearly killed her. Nevertheless we had a really jolly evening at her place, and Lizzie and I left about midnight.
Up, and enjoyed looking at a new litter of puppies belonging to Sheldon. Lizzie loved them, and has been promised one. Came home to do some paperwork. Povy called to show off his new car, a black MG convertible, and took me for a spin in it. He insisted on having the top down, and I got blown about all over the place.
Skived off the office after lunch to nip over to The Harp, where I had arranged to meet Mary outside. Took her up onto Hampstead Heath. God, she’s so pretty, I really enjoyed her company. She gives a man a lot of pleasure. By the time we had finished I was knackered though, and sweating like a pig. It’s unbearably hot. Got a cab and dropped her off at St Martin’s Lane. On to the office to do some emails. Took some tablets as I felt a bit out of sorts, and then home to sleep.
A minute’s silence at 11 o’clock for all those we’ve lost to the Flu. Called in to see Lady Lisa, who’s now back in town. Found her in bed, so I chatted at her bedside. She was looking a lot better though.
Went to see Lizzie. It bothers me that this absence is making us more awkward with each other, not more fond, as you might expect. Home to do some emails, and then to bed. About 7,000 died of the Flu this week.
Travelled down to Kent with George Cartaret for the weekend. Nothing but silly conversation out of George. When it comes to the fair sex and love matters he’s the most awkward man I’ve ever met in my life. It was dark by the time we got to that lovely country house, ‘The Hurst’, but we were kindly met by Emma Wright and Tom Crew. Met George’s fiancee there. I told George I thought she was a lovely woman, and he replied in the most boring, lacklustre manner you can imagine. God knows what she sees in him.
Tried to give George some advice about being more assertive with women, but I might as well have saved my breath. Lots of pretty young ladies at the house-party, although we tried to leave the young people to their own devices as much as possible, so as not to cramp their style. Hottest day I’ve ever known. Chatted in the garden with Emma Wright, who tells me that Jemima, George’s intended, is on some foolhardy diet before the wedding, and that she says she’ll want a whole new load of clothes to fit her new size.
Played pool with Emma and George. Advised George that its a good idea to tip the household staff before we leave, and so we did. Had a little chat with Jemima, and asked if she was happy about getting married to George. She got all awkward and embarrassed, and said (a bit dourly I thought) that she was happy to do what was for the best. Jesus though, can’t get over how everyone here is so scared of what’s happening in London. They got themselves so worked up that I had to lie and pretend I lived for most of the time at Brighton with Lizzie. George thanked me for all my advice, although Jemima’s such a serious woman that I’m not sure I’ve been much help to be honest.
At the office until lunchtime. Then went to the bank. Everywhere very thin on the ground. To Westminster, and gave a present of a bottle of wine to Mrs Michell, who is leaving town with her husband because of the Flu. Went down to Brighton afterwards to see Lizzie, whom I haven’t seen for 5 or 6 days. Had a very pleasent dinner together, and she showed me her latest drawings. Very worried to hear today that the army have been burning some of the dead in open fields, out of sheer weight of numbers.
Nipped down to see George’s folks at the Wharf. Everyone in good spirits, because of going to Kent tomorrow. Talked nineteen-to-the-dozen all through dinner and afterwards. It was very late when I left and raining. Had a brief pick-up with a woman in Bagwell. Left her about midnight, and then home. Had a terrible sweat in the night.
Lunch down at the Wharf, and then saw Emma and George off to Kent. Everyone in good spirits, and I was glad to be of some help. Hopefully this might stand me in good stead sometime in the future. Walked to Redliffe, where I hear the Flu is bad. 10,890 died this week alone. George’s mother gave me a bottle of some special tonic water to take home, which she says is supposed to be good at seeing off the Flu. Email from Lord Sanderton, thanking me for all my help with the forthcoming nuptials. Jeezus, to see how this Flu spreads. It’s now all over King’s Street, at the Axe, and in God knows how many other places.
Sat late in my study, doing some paperwork. The Flu is raging, and I can’t help being very alarmed by it all. Very late to bed.
Went to the park where I walked with Creed a month ago. Not one person there, the town is now so empty. As I was leaving I got accosted by an old bag-lady, who wanted to rant that a friend of hers, dead of the Flu, should be buried in consecrated ground, and not at a mass cremation. I took a taxi home. Saw only two other cabs, and two cars all the way, and hardly anyone about in the streets. Met Dr Burnett for lunch, who said he was furious that someone’s been spreading scurrilous rumours that a member of his staff wasn’t killed by the Flu, but by him! He said it’s all lies, and he produced an official note from the hospital that this person had indeed died of the Flu.
Went down to George’s at the Wharf early this morning, and then we took a hire-car down to ‘The Hurst’ in Kent. Spent the day very pleasantly, and I had a really fun time. Even though I was abit racked by lack of sleep, having been on the beer the night before. The old eyesight was a bit bleary, but still one of the best days I’ve spent in a while. George still bloody hopeless when it comes to women though, but even so he’s been pretty cheery today. Got a lot of juicy gossip about the Royal Family. We can’t help feeling the King should get rid of some of the worst members of his hangers-on. They don’t do him any favours. That’s the trouble with a young court I suppose. Didn’t have that any of that trouble with the old girl. It was so late by the time we finished that there was no point coming home, and we so we sat up all night drinking and generally making merry until daylight came.
Still managed to get to the office. Didn’t feel too bad, all things considering, except my pesky eye is still giving me trouble. I had to keep holding up a hanky doused in cold water to it. Everywhere very thin on the ground. Lunched with Rawlinson. The Flu grows all the time. Went to see Sir William Clarke about a possible job for my brother-in-law, because he keeps on at me about it. But I don’t really see what I can do for him, except keep giving him more money, and I don’t really want to encourage him down that route all the time.
Popped down to see Lizzie. She showed me some more of her work, which is … well a bit weird frankly. Not sure I really get it. Dropped in to see Kate and Tony Joyce on the way home. Kate wasn’t there though. We chatted about the sad news about the Flu. 400 last night just in his neighbourhood alone. Ambulance sirens going all the time. Came home, and brought this diary up to date. Really enjoyed my time in Kent. Can’t help feeling we should give more thought to happy times like that. The Flu has reached our street. Feel I really should put my affairs in order.
Saw the latest mortality figures. 17,000 from the Flu. The army is going to move into some areas, and help keep law and order. Spent the evening thinking over what to do.
Went to see George, who is not at all happy about the decision to send the army in. Took his mother down to Kent. Everyone very jolly when we got there. But by God, their fear about everything drives me mad. They’re getting paranoid about visitors now, and I began to feel uncomfortable and wished I hadn’t come. They’ve probably got good cause to be fair. Their local vicar, who I saw once when I was here before, fell into a fever and dropped dead on his way home from a friend’s house. He had been a healthy man in the full prime of life up til then. All of this makes us more determined than ever to get on with George’s wedding, even bringing it forward three days to Monday next. Went from there down to Brighton. Found Lizzie well, and we had a few drinks and a chat before going to bed.
Up, and another look at Lizzie’s pictures. She’s talented. I’m proud of her. Came back to the office. Hardly anyone there, but I knuckled down and got some work done. My assistant, Will, was complaining about having a headache and feeling ill. I did all I could to persuade him to go home. I don’t want to discourage him, because he’s keen, but he shouldn’t be here. Went to see the Joyces, and used every strong word I could think of to get Tony to take Kate into the country. But he came up with some pathetic excuses, saying they should both be here to keep an eye on the house, and the expense involved etc. I did my best, but he’s a stubborn sod. He did eventually agree that they might go to Windsor, where they’ve got friends. We parted, and I believe the odds are stacked against us that we’ll see each other again soon, because their part of town is now too risky. Did some work at home. Feel a bit more relieved about Will, as I think it may just have been a migraine attack and nothing more.
Spent the day in my study, not getting out of my pyjama’s, putting my accounts in order. Will even came round to help. He seems very well again. Though it was unsettling to hear ambulances going past so often. Knackered by the time evening came, but very pleased to have got it all done. Feel I might have caught a bit of a chill sitting in my PJ’s all day.
Very early to the Wharf, and found George and his mother, Lady Cartaret, ready to go. I wore my new silk suit, and felt very dapper indeed. Got held up at the Isle of Dogs. It felt chilly, the morning being cool, and the wind a bit fresh. Got stranded in traffic for 2 or 3 hours. We waited as patiently as we could. Was told that the man who runs the off-licence in Mitre Street is dead of the Flu, along with his son. By the time we got to ‘The Hurst’ we found everyone else had gone off to church. Got George there on time by the skin of his teeth. A merry wedding reception followed. Afterwards, some went off to play poker, the rest just to chat. I went off with Lady Lisa to settle some money I owed her. She’s been very kind about it, and she asked me if I would come down to Hinchingbroke with her, but I can’t. Had dinner, and then we saw old George off to the marital chamber (no proper honeymoon, not with the Flu about). I kissed Jemima for good luck, and we all tried to be as serious as possible, which I think was better than the jokes and the pranking-about you usually get. I shared a room with Brisband, who’s a bit of an academic, but he told me some fascinating stuff about the history of his house. My eye is still givng me jip. I blame the booze.
Had a long lie-in. Saw the happy couple, both were looking a bit coy, but they seemed happy enough. Went and played pool with Brisband. Joined by Tom Crew, who’s been out visiting his farms. Said the new calves were as big as cows. Quite freaky. Really jolly lunch. Felt really happy. Went home with George and Jemima, and I left them at the Wharf. Absolutely knackered, I went home to bed.
Worked at home all day.
Over to the Wharf. Said I didn’t like the hire car that had been sent to me, and could I borrow George’s. Chatted with them for a while. Drove down to Kent. Stopped at some services on the way, and people asked me what the latest mortality figures were. I’d heard it was just over 20,000. It’s a sad question to keep being asked. When I got to the house, I found everyone leaving, as they’d waited as long as they could for me. I went into the kitchen and had a slice of pork pie, and a cheese sandwich, and then followed them. Marr came with me to show me the way. He told me how a cleaning-lady, who worked for one of the neighbours hereabouts, has fallen ill of the Flu. She became quite deranged with it all, and ran out. They found her wandering across the common, quite out of her mind with fear and terror. Managed to get her into the car and take her to the hospital. Met up with George at Gravesend, and then on to Chatham, to have a look round the old dockyards. Bumped into a bloke called Noakes, who I used to work with. He said he’d look me up if he comes to London again. Joined at dinner later by Lady Cartaret, and a merry old time ensued. Found myself sharing a room with Brisband again, but I don’t mind.
Up early. A man called Barrow hitched a lift with me. He talked about his job all the time, and I found him a bumptious prat. He did give me some good business advice though. Got home. Email from Lord Hingchinbroke, to say he’s having a right old time down at Dover, never enjoyed himself so much. Wish I was there. Went on down to Brighton later, and Lizzie met me at the station. There was a busker playing the fiddle nearby. Not bad. Went to bed absolutely shattered.
Up. Lizzie showed me her latest work. One portrait of an Iranian lady was particularly well-done. Came back to London. Went to The Halfway House with Bill Warren, where we ate a decent bit of steak and talked business. He told me there’s been rioting in some parts, all stirred up by some ex-army veteran who’s now been arrested.
Had a mobile hairdresser call in to tidy me up a bit. I must admit I’ve got a bit of a thing about her. Would have loved to have sucked her tits, generally buried my face in her ample bosom, but it would probably cause too much trouble. Rained hard this evening, but I went down to Brighton ayway.
Met up with some of Lizzie’s arty friends. Penny, who I like, because she’s always jolly, then went and had a look at Megan’s work. Her pictures aren’t as good as Lizzie’s though. Went and chatted alone with Lizzie then until lunchtime. Came home and met up with Povy and his accounts. Never seen such a mess. The man’s a complete fool. Felt like I was wasting my time helping him.
Going about today, found the streets so empty. Never thought I would see London like this. One man who runs an Italian restaurant I’ve used sometimes, well his wife and 3 children all died died in one day!! Think I’m going to have to be more careful where I go in future. Picked up a small chicken from the supermarket on the way home.
Spent a quiet evening reading. I think my head’s been stuffed too much with business today.
The mortality total has gone above 30,000 this week. Heard some tale about a cop actually stumbling over a corpse in the street. When he told his wife, who was pregnant, she fell down dead immediately of the Flu. Came home and re-drew my Will. The town is now so unhealthy that no one can guarantee living from one day to the next.
Spent the day working over my will. Got visited by a young woman, recently married, who wanted me to use my influence to stop her husband from going to prison. God, she was attractive, I wanted to … well anyway I didn’t. Although after she’d gone I wanted to run after her and entice her back. Went back to my paperwork. At it til late. Knackered, and full of wind. I eat too much when I’m out, as business lunches can be very rich. But when I’m on my own I hardly seem to eat at all. Had something to eat, and felt better.
Dare not go down to Kent, as I think I might frighten them! People are being carted off and buried day and night now, there are so many of them. The Mayor’s imposed a curfew. Everyone has to be indoors by 9 o’clock. This is so that anyone infected can go out and get some air.
Went down to see Lizzie. I gave her a diamond necklace, as I’ve recently been well-rewarded over some help I gave Dick Vine’s brother. I think it was the most expensive presant I’ve ever given her. We’re all dreading what the mortality total will be this week.
Fantastic wet dream last night. I dreamt I had Barbara Villiers in my bed, and I could do whatever I liked to her. It was only a dream. No harm done. If there is an After-Life, I can’t help hoping it’s full of things like that. I don’t think we’d be so scared of this Flu if we knew that was the case! Had dinner with George. We were quite cheery, in spite of some news that Lord Hinchingbroke isn’t well. Almost dark by the time I left for home. Was shocked to stumble over a corpse, dead of the Flu, in one of the narrow streets near the river. I think I’m going to have to be more careful when coming home at night.
To the office. God, how sad it is is to see the streets so empty of people. Hardly anyone around. I would say about 2 shops out of 3 are closed up. Heard that Lord H is very ill. Really sorry to hear that.
Went down to Gravesend. Sat up all night to look for a new comet which is supposed to be seen, but we couldn’t find it.
Heard that the Flu is bad all round Povy’s place. Had dinner at a pub. Devil of a job getting a cab home, as no cabbie would seem to go anywhere! So instead I had to walk, frightened of bumping into dead bodies all the way back. Thank God I didn’t meet any. The only cops I saw about seemed to be keeping their distance. Huh.
Scary journey down to Brighton after dark. Had to walk from the station. Some stray dogs roaming about in the streets. Lizzie showed me all the work she’s done in the past week, and then to bed.
Lizzie’s friends on at me to buy a pearl necklace for her. I told her I’d buy her one in 2 years time, less if her paintings carry on as good as they have been lately. On the way home from the station I saw a coffin on the pavement waiting for collection. A victim of the Flu of course. It was removed from a house last night apparently, but no close relatives or family could be found to take care of it. The poor bastard seems to have only been discovered by chance. You wouldn’t treat a dog the way some people treat each other these days.
A neighbour called in, desperately wanting me to help him with some accounts of his. He was pissed as a newt! He wanted me to go out drinking with him, or stay here and get sloshed. I refused to do either, and sent him on his way.
Today I found out that our own doctor, Dr Burnett, is dead of the Flu. Poor man.
Went out to the bank, the first time I’ve been out in days. What few people I saw around looked as if they’d already taken their leave of this world. Have decided to get out of London for the duration. Headed down to Brighton to see Lizzie, and was met by her at the station.
Chatted with Hadley, a clerk at our office, by telephone. He said 90 have died in my neighbourhood this week. I think these figures we hear are quite conservative, and that more people are dying than is actually being let on. Everybody talks of death all the time.
A huge increase in the Flu this week. More than 60,000. So the month ends on a great sadness. Everyday seems to bring sadder and sadder news. 60,102 dead in the City this week alone. Although it is feared the true number is closer to a 100,000. Mainly because we don’t know how many homeless are amongst the victims, and some religious nuts refuse to seek medical help.
3rd SEPTEMBER Sunday
Brighton. Megan mad jealous of Lizzie’s latest artwork, mainly because she can’t do as well. I went for a walk. A lot of fuss because everybody thought I’d brought the Flu from London with me. Chatted with a guy in a churchyard, who said everyone’s mad at the King, who only seems concerned with his own comfort and sod everyone else. Much huffing and puffing from the Government about what they can do to stop the Flu growing. I don’t hold out much hope, as the news coming out London at the moment is madness. Crowds turn up to gawp at victims of the Flu being cremated in public pits, that sort of thing.
Popped back to London to fetch a few more things from home. Burials and cremations going on all over the place, all attracting rubberneckers, who you’d think would know better. Spent the evening digging out some documents on file which Lizzie had asked me to bring back to her.
Up early. The latest mortality figures show 60,878 dead of the Flu, a terrible number. No sign of it abating. Got back to Brighton about 1 o’clock in the morning. Lizzie in bed.
Lzzie told me she’s heard that her Dad is ill, and naturally we both fear it’s the Flu.
Lizzie showed me an email from her brother, saying that their father is very ill, and will probably died. Wish I could feel more upset, but I can’t.
Worried about leaving our house unattended, but have been told it’s as safe as anywhere can be these days. Went back to London anyway to check on things. The Angel near Tower Hill is closed up. In another pub I heard the landlady say her husband was very ill, but she didn’t think it was the Flu. Heard that a builder I had sent down to ‘The Hurst’ recently to do some work for them there has died, and a cabbie I’ve used regularly for years fell sick soon after I last used him. My assistant Will has lost his father. All this has put me into a very depressed state.
A cold, misty morning. Went to the office. At lunchtime I just had a cheese sandwich. Went home late. Don’t know what to do this Winter if things carry on like this. I can’t keep popping back and forth to Brighton.
Still in London. God, what a sad time it is. To see no tourist buses around, and grass growing in the streets, and nobody but poor, sick bastards about. The mortality total this week, released by the Mayor’s office, has increased by about 6,000, this is totally the opposite to what we expected in this colder weather.
Brighton. Admired Lizzie’s drawing of Christ on the Cross, although I’m a bit wary about her suddenly starting on religious pictures like this! It’s … um … well quite striking anyway. Back to London, and met up with Creed and Lord Rutherford at Greenwich. We went to listen to some live music at the King’s Head, and had a good lunch. Creed wound me up though by saying that he’d heard I’ve become a bit of a boozer lately. I can only assume he’s jealous because I can afford decent wine these days. Saw this week’s mortality figures, wherein, thank Christ! there is an 18,000 decrease, the first substantial decrease we’ve had!
We’ve gone through great sadness this year because of the Flu, but it has now abated to almost nothing, and I’m itching to get back to London full-time as soon as I can. Many I have known are dead, and yet there are still reasons to be cheerful. The town is filling up again, and shops are beginning to re-open. I hope we never see it’s like again.