Wednesday 22 April 2020

The Last Dance

Yesterday I went sadly to bed, for the last thing I read (mistake) was a headline about the Vile Germ's many mutations. Now, do not be down of heart, for it was a study from China, and I will leave it to virologists to determine if their CCP-controlled brethren are capable of truth. But I was tired and it's difficult not to catastrophize during a catastrophe, so it occurred to me that civilisation was over, just like that.

"What do you mean, metaphorically fevered brain?"

"I mean dances. There can never be dances again. No more 'May I have this dance?' Future generations will know about them only from books."

"Present generations mostly only know about them from books. Remember grinding? 'May I have this dance' has mostly turned into strangers grinding on one another. As a culture, we don't deserve dances anymore."

"And concerts. Nobody can go to concerts."

"You mean those 20,000 people-strong, over-amplified, pricey burlesques?"

"Well, I am thinking also of the Dunedin Consort in the Queen's Hall..."

Et cetera.  Philip Larkin wrote what I thought was the most insulting poet about marriage I ever read, but it definitely fits our times because those of us not rebelling against our confines are stuck with only small number of people in our households. Called "To My Wife," although Larkin never married, the devastating second verse is as follows:

So for your face I have exchanged all faces,
For your few properties bargained the brisk
Baggage, the mask-and-magic-man's regalia.
Now you become my boredom and my failure,
Another way of suffering, a risk,
A heavier-than-air hypostasis.

"If you don't mean it, why are you writing it?" wailed B.A. just now. 

"I'm writing about being cooped up with the same people every day," I explained, but I should add now that one thing that I have learned from captivity is that I am lucky to have an intelligent, mild-mannered husband who likes to cook and feels guilty if I do all the dishes too many days in a row.  Meanwhile, nobody is anyone's "boredom" and "failure"; it's your fault if you're bored and nobody can be judged a failure by anyone until they are dead. 

But when I went to bed, I was frightened I would never see my extended family again. Only 16 flights took off from Edinburgh last week, only 25 from Glasgow. The point of quoting ghastly Larkin is expressing my longing for crowds of loved ones. It's been a long time since I thrilled at being in a crowd of thousands, but I dream of being in a crowd of twelve.

Fortunately, I took the May issue of "Homes and Gardens" with me, and as it was put together in February, there was no mention of the Vile Germ. Instead there were offers to tour the homes and gardens of the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Devonshire, etc. The Highgrove Tour was meant to be yesterday. Oops! Fingers crossed for Chatsworth in May. 

I am trying to keep it together by remembering that I had no firm plans to go to Canada until next February anyway. I keep cheerful by recalling that B.A. and I were there for Christmas. Thank God, the whole family was together for Christmas, and we were all polite and pacific. The children loved their presents. I enjoyed going for walks through the frosty hydro fields. The food was delicious. I enjoyed sleeping in my old room--which my mother has remodelled beautifully: wonderful wood-tiled floor in place of the ghastly shag wall-to-wall carpet.  

An interwar nostalgia bar in Wrocław.
And I also think about Córeczka's christening weekend, which is taking a Pan Tadeusz: the Last Foray in Lithuania shape in my mind. Her father loves the glamour and elegance of the Polish interwar period; well, that weekend was right at the end of the inter-plague period. It is too bad that PPS's concession to Lent was to forbid dancing. That said, there were jazz musicians in a cellar bar at midnight, and PPS did dance with Córeczka in his arms. I wish I had seen that, but I was so tired, I went to bed. The others didn't want me to go--how flattering was that?--and The Economist wouldn't let me out the doors. I began to hand him coins ("Are you trying to insult me?"), and the others laughed, so I escaped. 

Oh, the nostalgia for early March. To return to the near-present, yesterday I took newspaper off the beans again, edited a letter for publication, wrote an article about a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and watched parts of an Italian news broadcast that I will be discussing with my tutor and others today. I weeded more of the lawn--the end of the dandelions is in sight--ate risotto for supper, and watched Step Brothers with B.A., who had read in the Spectator that it was good.



  1. Dear Dorothy, If it makes you feel any better, you can't imagine how much pleasure I have been getting from your delightful plague-time posts. It is so interesting to see how other like minded (but on the other side of the world) Catholics are coping with the extraordinary situation, and maintaining their sanity through their faith.
    If you get too despondent, you might consider a book that was recommended to me lately, and which has preserved the equanimity of a friend of mine: 'Stop Reading the News: A Manifesto for a Happier Calmer & Wiser Life'. Please keep up the fabulous posts, and know that you are contributing to the well being of fellow sufferers. Oremus pro invicem!!

    1. Thank you very much, Winnifred! I appreciate this very much. "Stop Reading the News" sounds like excellent advice which I will certainly take when I retire from the biz. I think cloistered nuns and monks are so fortunate, blessed and wise to keep the news to items to pray about and forget. I have some Benedictine friends, and I think about them getting on with prayer, scrubbing, making beer (or tending apple trees), and generally living in content.