It’s black outside. As black as it gets in London. Orange-black. When the clouds pass through the sky like factory smoke. Nightly, there is the noise of torture below. It’s mating season. The foxes are at it, and we are party to this abysmal orgy. This means I am reminded on a nightly basis that foxes have barbed penises. Like there weren’t enough fucking horrors in this world.
Day and night, there is the background noise of sirens; Verdi’s Requiem plays and feels wholly befitting.
We did an unpleasant shop for a neighbour last week (rammed supermarkets, queues round the block, dirtiness, people sidling up next to me in the aisles – stinking, drunk men, they seem particularly liable to forget social distancing is a thing). This week, in return for that shop, we were given some rhubarb from our neighbour’s allotment. I’ve never bought or cooked rhubarb. But that night I stewed it and have been eating it on porridge all week.
This is the thing: only give what we can. You cannot be all things to all people all of the time. Sometimes you won’t be there for someone. Of course, we are each the centre of our own universe, so it seems unjust that someone should choose to look at the moon instead of tending to the sun. But I’ve been looking at the moon all week.
I don’t know many people who haven’t lost work because of the pandemic, but I envy the people who complain of boredom, who have no one to shop for, no one to look after but themselves. Too much navel gazing is never a good thing, so if you are that bored, maybe you could be doing more to help? This is that much discussed hour of need. It was not before and it is not after, it is now.
What are you safely (physically and mentally) able to contribute? It does not need to be the world, which is what key workers are currently giving us all. It might be your skills. It might be understanding. It might just be a bunch of rhubarb. That’s enough for now.
I am afraid to say, the translation of my copy of Beowulf is infuriating. The dude cannot stop hyphenating. And, although I enjoyed the overall story, reading it was mostly boring. It largely consists of very long speeches in mead halls about fifty glorious people whose names all begin with ‘H’. However, there were a total of three (!) monsters, to my delight. There was also this quote, which stuck out:
“Both bad and good, and much of both, must be borne in a lifetime spent on this earth in these anxious days.”
Now, all this talk of barbed penises reminds me that, many years ago, I read a piece about how early humans had barbed penises, or I thought I did. I happened to mention it in a blog post – these were the early days of my writing career, when I posted with whimsy and without stringent (or any) regulation of the facts. About a year or so later, I attended I gathering of hip, young intellectuals. How it came up I do not know, but a discussion about barbed penises in animals ensued. I thought, this is my moment. And, having been unsure of my intellect among such esteemed (loud) people, I decided to break my silence.
“Ancient humans had barbed penises,” I announce.
Suddenly, the whole party’s attention is on me. Everyone is laughing.
“No, really. I read about it, in the paper…”
There is much dispute over my anatomical knowledge of our early ancestors.
“Ok, I’ll look it up!”
I search frantically on my phone for proof. The internet, in its infinite curve of fact and bullshit, only pulled up one reference to this.
“Oh, that’s weird. It seems the only reference to it is on my blog…”
I dare not Google it again.
On Friday morning I got up at 5am. It was before the sun had risen and there was only light coming from an invisible source in the left-hand corner of the sky. To my right, the luminous yellowish moon loomed over the buildings in a light blue sky, slowly sinking behind the trees that have blossomed white. As I stood in the middle of these two orbs, exhausted, it felt like something fundamental was coming into balance. If not in the world at large, then at least something in my world. And I am pestered by a near-constant desire for champagne.