19/07/2020

Clean, sort, tidy

Lily, Camberwell, London

It’s nearly 3 months since I wrote my first entry for this journal. And about 4 months since the lockdown truly began. As well as noticing the increased sound and number of voices traveling into my kitchen through the open door, more cars travelling down our street, less to no physical distancing on pavements, the back garden fox-cubs are getting thicker tails, I am a football widow again now its back on and I have squeezed a lot of plants into my small garden… I am also starting to notice the effects it is having on the individual people I know, as we all start to resume. I think some around me expected a switch back to what it was. But resuming is more about evolving to get what we need from life (money, friendship and socialising, culture and art, shopping, working, exercise, learning…). Getting it differently.

 

I am thinking particularly of (my Mum of course,) my eldest and my friend who I work with. All of their identities are shaped or referenced or built by how they interact with the world around them and having to limit that sphere of interaction has limited their sense of who they are. I miss doing my work with people in a group and in a room, I have felt disappointment whenever a day of a cancelled theatre or dance performance booking arrived, I miss the escape, the exercise and me-time of going to pilates once a week and I have missed the traveling by train around the country for work. But the lockdown has not been something that has altered my sense of identity so overall has not been as negative experience as it has been for others. It has been a relief to not have to make that effort to interact. I’m an introvert and being with people, conversing, socialising, navigating social subtleties and other people’s emotions is exhausting (and yet an essential part of my work). I am lucky to have a house with enough space to enjoy the company of 2 small boys and the husband and close friends close by (to safely offer mutual support and light gossip) so I have never felt isolated. And I know that’s not been the case for many others.

 

For the last few nights the eldest son has been finding it hard to get to sleep at night. Youngest son has been going to school for the last couple of weeks (I have been enjoying the short walk to and from school at the start and end of his short school day) and I think the interaction he usually gives eldest son helps to make up for the interaction he is missing from the classroom, the playground and his friends. Eldest son loved his class and his teacher this year so feels so much has been stolen from him. He had a group of friends who all shared a love of Pokemon and Minecraft, who had a shared energy and countenance and he misses being part of that group, who let him be a part of himself that he can’t fully be without them. Last night at 10pm he was angry and grieving. But the mind will look after itself; this morning he gravitated to countless videos on the internet that had him in rippling giggles. Meanwhile youngest son who has been at school, playing with class mates and talking with teachers very plainly instructed me this morning that he needs to do something with just me. Just him and just me. So now, here we are at the kitchen table, with scattered pieces of a building set: nuts, bolts, wheels and random wooden shapes. We are going to build something. Just the youngest and his Mum. That is if he can find the essential missing pieces left in overlooked corners, which does require the help of his brother.  

 

My work-friend pre-lockdown was regularly out, out at comedy, out on dates, out being part of groups making the world better. All things that helped him to know and show who he is. He was not happy being on his own, especially at home where there was nothing to reflect back who he was. Lockdown started well for him, he took a sensible view to our attitude to work (“Let’s focus on our children, let’s take 2 days a week to focus on our company’s development, it’s going to be fine”) and to start with he had adult company while his best friend was his flat-mate. But not being out and around people has taken a real toll on him. He has been depressed and has lacked motivation to work. We have worked through Zoom, remotely, and when it felt safe to do so he has come here to work. I don’t get as much done with him here in comparison to when I am on my own (this was often the case before covid, but more so now) since he needs to talk. We work with our backs to each other, but we frequently turn in our office chairs as he starts to speak countless times. To talk about everything: what he has done, what he has thought, what is in the newspaper, his latest favourite podcast… to over discuss and deviate around work related subjects. He admits himself that he talks a lot. He talks, therefore he is. He has been very lonely.

 

On Sunday we gathered with some of my eldest son’s school friends, their teacher and their parents in our local park. Their teacher is leaving the school and it felt important to see him and celebrate the end of the (weird) school year together. It felt somewhat wrong to gather on a sunny afternoon, around the bandstand with picnic blankets, snacks, cakes and cherries, while the children disappeared into the various hedges, alcoves, playgrounds and flowerbeds of the park - although physical distance was kept to a certain degree - but it was lovely to hang out with friends and remember how good it is to chat and talk and socialise. One friend sent me a message later to apologise for leaving early; she was overwhelmed with having to interact again, she’s a single Mum, hasn’t been working and has barely seen anyone. Another friend said she woke up in the night buzzing from having seen so many people. And I felt exhausted the next day.

19/07/2020

A View from Crazy Town

Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.

Who was that masked man?

 

So asked the Faithful when Dear Leader appeared with His Visage covered in public for the first time. Imagine the consternation at being denied a glimpse of his Glorious Image!  The confusion only deepened when He publicly urged everyone to follow His ¡Great! example. How could this be? A tremble felt 'round the world passed through His Base. They had shrugged off rising death counts with manly aplomb and nary an eyelash batted. But masks? Why it was a veritable attack on the very foundational principles of America! An attack on our most fundamental freedoms - rights enshrined in the Constitution itself - the right to be a selfish idiot, the right to live free and the rest be damned, why, even the right to ignore science and follow the medical advice of  TV celebrities. Fortunately, Dear Leader reassured the Faithful, re-establishing his commanding sway over Crazy by swiftly attacking America's leading epidemiologist and approvingly re-tweeting the medically proven opinions of a long-forgotten game show host. This, Gentle Reader, is why we elected Him - to be our Guiding Light in these times of darkness.

 

It appears to Your Intrepid Reporter that many of his Gentle Readers and fellow correspondents are of an age which suggests that they would have been subjected to the intellectual rigors of the New Math, back in those halcyon days of learning long division, multiplication and fractions using only pencil and paper. Arts as useless today as cursive penmanship.  True, it was never entirely clear to Your I.R. how the New Math differed from the Old Math, but as with all good things, time has provided an answer. You see, Dear Leader and His Faithful have re-founded the underlying principles of mathematics. Rising rates of infections? Meaningless. Dear Leader has said that if we test less, the rates will go down, proving conclusively that numbers are not real and Alternative Facts (a theory first propounded by the leading scholar of His White House, Kellyann Conway) explain everything. Numbers of hospitalizations rising? A mere statistical blip. The only truly meaningful number is rising death rates. Those now going up? An irrelevance to be ignored in favor of total deaths above the annual average, a statistic which conveniently depends on a variable that won't be available until after the elections in November. Your I.R. can report with undisguised glee that the New Magical Math has relieved him of a lifetime of feelings of inadequacy over failing to master the Old New Math. In the sunlit uplands of New Magical Math he can now wield statistics and numbers with the best of them. And with similarly amazing results. Having dealt with masks, we can now dispense with numbers as well, and presto change-o, the pandemic has suddenly gone away, like magic! Just as our all-seeing Dear Leader predicted in the Before Times. Rejoicing throughout the land! The bells ring out! Oh, ask not for whom the bell tolls? Whaddaya mean by that, and by "guess who died, chrissakes?"

Sadly, it would appear that Dear Leader's work is not yet done. Pesky old-style numbers keep re-appearing: 62% of Americans don't approve of His work; 52% say they intend to vote for He Who Shall Not Be Named vs. 38% for Dear Leader. Why even Republican governors are wavering, ordering people to wear masks, and Walmart - the bastion of retailing in Base-land - has followed suit. How can this be? The fault must lie with Faithless Faithful in the employ of Dear Leader and their lack of True Conviction. So, all of them are being subjected to  loyalty interviews. And those not producing numbers the He wants? Reaching back to His Days of Glory, Dear Leader has a ready answer:  Your fired!  Bye bye Brad Parscale (he who brought you the Tulsa ¡Greatness! imbroglio). 

 

So, rest easy, Gentle Readers. He is on the job. It's lonely at the top, but like that other masked man, the Lone Ranger, our Dear Leader can count on his faithful sidekick Tonto* to support and comfort him.

 

*It's Spanish.  Google it.

19/07/2020

Thoughts from the Suffolk coast

Harris G, Suffolk

Rain and sunshine in fair measure this week. The garden has that mid summer feel - lush in places, tired in others but overall - things are looking good. Guernsey lilies are blooming - their big pink trumpets confront us every morning as we open the curtains, but there are lots of roses blooming too and various other plants and shrubs. Yesterday we took delivery of some shingle as we want to enlarge the semi-circular area in front of the greenhouse - where we put pots and tender plants that may have to go inside to overwinter. The tomatoes are now well on their way - mostly green at the moment but several fruits are red or turning. The cucumbers are really good this year and so too the marrows and courgettes. There was a news item about courgettes - a particular variety is being recalled because they cause severe stomach upsets but those we roasted yesterday tasted delicious and - fingers crossed - all fine here.

 

The TV news - well, it’s the usual daily dose of doom and gloom. Trouble over the Huawei 5G deal (well, the UK backing out of the deal). And of course, lots of debate about the new rulings over masks being worn in shops - with reporters and MPs in quite a lather about it all. I feel worn down by the continual dramas in this soap opera. So many anomalies too. We’re mostly staying at home, trying to get on with life as best we can and avoiding crowds. Last Friday (I think) we drove over to the rose nursery near Attleborough. It was a lovely ride out. We stopped to buy flowers and plants at the stalls at the side of the road. For a while it was like everything was as it used to be. We had a sort of lunch at the garden centre cafe. Served on disposable plates with disposable cutlery and paper cups. Very socially distanced tables! Waiting staff in masks and gloves. At the garage on the way home - staff wore face shields. Full riot gear!

 

As I type this, I am watching the cutest little wren catching ants on the terrace outside. I doubt I can get my camera to take a photo. Have to take care not to move too fast as she is very timid. Ah and now she’s gone. There was a hummingbird hawk-moth on the valerian the other day. Wonderful to watch. Said to bring good luck. Let’s hope so.

19/07/2020

From Twickenham

David Horovitch, Twickenham

Monday 13/07/20 12.15 am

 

I'm looking after my friend Martin's cat, Homer, while he's up in Scotland for a few days. I've done it several times before and I always enjoy it. She's black and white and 23 years old. There's not much left of her and she sleeps most of the time. Today Francis came round for lunch and she was unusually perky, basking in the warmth of the tiled courtyard and even sitting on the sofa on her own rather than in her accustomed dark corners. She has very long claws so that, when she moves around on my wooden floors, it sounds as if the tiniest pony imaginable has found its way into my flat. This sound can be heard under the couplet of sonnet 57 which I recorded a couple of days ago. She's stone deaf and Martin thinks she's senile but I think she's just inscrutable. Her visits are always blessedly uneventful but tonight, just before I went to bed, she had a nasty bout of diarrhoea. And now I can't sleep because I'd hate her to die on my watch and she's so bloody old she might well do. Recently my insomnia has returned. I'd had about a month of pretty good nights but the last few I've started to lie awake worrying again. I don't think I'm more anxious than the next person - anyway didn't Freud say 'anxiety is the only true emotion'? - I just seem to save up my worrying till bedtime. Perhaps that's a definition of an insomniac - someone who does their worrying at night. I got up just after midnight to see that Homer was still alive and found her sleeping in her usual spot under the tweedy green armchair. 

Apart from her diarrhoea, it was a lovely day. I'd made a very simple chicken thing with peas and leeks and roasted some new potatoes with garlic and rosemary. Then we walked down to the river and sat on steps near the ferry and watched people going by on the water. I spent the first eight years of my life near here and I've only just moved back to this area last year. Now I feel that I could never live far from the river again. As Francis and I watched the kayaks, the motor launches, a couple of intrepid swimmers on the opposite shore and the motion of the water itself I felt we were both seeing the same thing, I mean exactly the same thing. I'm not saying we were, only that I felt we were. I don't think I often feel like that. It's 1.30 now and I'm going back to bed.

 

 

Thursday 16/07/20. 1.30pm

 

I went out to dinner last night in Ladbroke Grove. That entailed going on the overground and two tubes. I was the only person in my train carriage and the tubes were by no means crowded. I wore a mask which made me feel uncomfortably hot, and meant I couldn't read because my breath fogged up my glasses. It was the first time I've ventured away from my little suburban retreat and I felt a little like a fish out of water. 

 

The cat is fine of course and Martin is coming to pick her up this evening. 

 

Perhaps the underlying cause of the return of my insomnia is that it is  my son Tom's fiftieth birthday next Monday and I'm always churned up round this time of year. It's hard to believe he would be 50 and that he died 13 years ago. I remember him at all ages. I am very close to both my sons as they lived with me through most of their adolescence. Francis is going down to Wales to spend Tom's birthday with his mother and I am going down to Dorset for a couple of days to spend it with some very dear friends. However I rationalise it, I do find certain anniversaries difficult and don't like to be alone on his birthday or the anniversary of his death. I thought I might write more about him today but I can't. 

 

Thank you so much Catherine for the kind things you said about my readings. You can now hear me online, reading a story of my own called Murder in Bogota. Incidentally nobody knows for certain but it's believed that Shakespeare was about 29 when he wrote his first sonnet though he would have been about 45 when they were published. 

 

And thank you too MFS for your extremely generous donation to Amnesty via my sonnet website.

19/07/2020

Words from Wood Lane

Susan Neave, Beverley

First of all Boris tells us we should wear masks in shops, then Gove says it shouldn’t be compulsory. More mixed messages. Now it will be the rule, but not until the end of next week. Not much sign of masks in the town today.

 

A good start to the week, with our first proper outing on Monday for several months. Drove over the Humber Bridge into Lincolnshire to visit the extensive antiques centre on the old airfield at Hemswell. Not too busy, and a one-way system in place in each of the buildings. We wore our masks. Had to put my reading glasses on to look at the smaller things, so they kept steaming up. As a result of the trip the jug collection has grown, and I found a bargain Ravilious ‘Harvest Festival’ plate. It felt very adventurous crossing the border into another county.

Lots of paperwork on my desk at the moment. Some years ago I agreed to be joint executor for a neighbour as his family was spread around the country and they felt it made sense to have someone local involved. The time has now come to settle his estate, which involves the sale of his cottage. Some thirty pages of documents from the solicitor arrived the other day. I’m hoping his daughter, also an executor but living many miles away, will know the answers to a lot of the questions, although I’m confident the property has no mines or minerals under it, is not liable to chancel repair, and that no-one has the right to take anything such as timber, hay or fish from it! Interesting to see that there is now a question relating to Japanese knotweed on the forms. I can see this is going to be a bigger job than anticipated. 

19/07/2020

In Flat N.4

Petra Wonham, Edinburgh

These past few weeks, though have been difficult, have been a blessing for my art. I am lucky in how I feel more motivated when I’m given time. Time to think, time to make, time to rethink. Looking back to just a few months ago I was struggling to understand what direction I wanted my art to go in. I was finding it difficult to show my own voice through my art. However, with the time I was given to just focus on my work, I was able to experiment with new ways of working, for instance dabbling my feet in model making, and using colour more experimentally. These new ways of working have really helped my mind to settle and understand that I don’t have to put pressure on myself to find everything now, just that with a bit of time, things fall into place.

19/07/2020

All is quiet

Tilly Wonham, Hertfordshire

This week Petra (our youngest) and I made more masks. She was sewing one for her boyfriend and I was making spares now that the wearing of them will be compulsory in shops soon. The previous day I had the experience of wearing a mask in a hospital as I had, at last, the long awaited appointment for a shoulder scan. I was happy to be dealt with promptly by very friendly staff, but it felt very stuffy and hot in the mask and I do feel for those who have to wear them all day.

 

Also, this week Nick and I had our silver wedding anniversary. It wasn’t the celebration with family that we planned, but that will come. Maybe we will celebrate our 26 years together in style. As Nick was at work on the actual day, Petra and I got down to food preparations for our special meal. A favourite restaurant of ours is’ Dishoom’ in London which is based on the old Bombay cafes which in turn are a fusion between Indian and Iranian foods. It is too far away for a takeaway so we decided to recreate our version of the dishes we love best from the ‘Dishoom’ cookbook which we were given for Christmas. It wasn’t straight forward. I enjoy cooking and often do a curry, but do not house all the fantastic spices needed. Recipes included ingredients such as Deggi Mirch chilli powder (I found Kasmiri Mirch) and Chaat masala (not in my excellent Indian store) as well as mixing up our own Kabab Masala. Each recipe seemed to include another recipe within. If you want to make a particular dish, first turn to a different page to make a sauce or paste. While I got on with making various concoctions, Petra and a friend were busy making a cake, stopping for frequent fits of giggles in a way that 21year olds do. I love being witness to their friendship. When Nick came home, he joined in the cooking party. It was a team effort.

 

I’m happy to say that the hard work paid off and our meal was fabulous. Rose and cardamom lassi to start with. Then a meal of chicken Ruby, Gunpowder potatoes, a bowl of greens (Chargrilled) and rice. Washed down with Prosecco and followed by a fantastic chocolate cake. A celebratory meal to remember and more importantly, 25 extremely happy years together.

19/07/2020

Vie de château

Marie-Christine, Blois, France

Changes from Covid: enough of life in a spin.

 

We just spent four days in Aubrac for a long weekend. It's one of our favorite places in France, may be compared to Scotland or South Island NZ. We noticed some small transformations. The waiters in restaurants have masks. You are allowed not to wear a mask only when you are sitting for the meal. A lot of sections are closed in museums, and they limit the number of visitors. 

 

The lovely French country hotel we go to in Saint-Urcize several times a year, for almost ten years now, run by Lulu and her husband (the cook), has closed the restaurant. It had been there from more than a century, passing from mother to daughter. It was open from 7 am to 11 pm practically every day except for one week in September and one at Christmas.

The younger generation, a fine couple with two children, running it for nine years, has decided not to do meals anymore. After experiencing a real family life for three months, they could not bear to go back to their previous life of devotion to hospitality. They will keep six bedrooms as a hotel, and transform the other six into two apartments for weekly rental. Much more easily manageable. Instead of the restaurant, needing many staff to cook and serve, they do homemade meal boxes for their guests, and on three days a week a take-away preordered meal for people who usually were coming for lunch or supper. 

They have kept their newspaper, tabacco and bar business, and they still are the central meeting place in the village. Mixing rather harmoniously the local farmers for the eight o'clock coffee or white wine, the local retired ones who had spent their working life far away coming to buy their newspaper sure they will meet old friends, and the guests having their breakfast. But still something gone for everybody. It was so wonderful to have a supper there on a Saturday evening, when it was full with forty people mixed up, locals and tourists packed in the steamy restaurant. So sad. The twentieth century and a part of mountain rural life gone for good. But Lulu will spend much more time with her children. 

 

We had a country walk along a stream, arriving in a hamlet of few houses. We asked a man who was watering his vegetable patch where we could find a table for a picnic nearby. He got his kitchen table out and few chairs, and invited us to eat our packed lunch in his garden. He gave us some blueberry tart his wife has just prepared. We learned that he was born nearby, and bought this house for holidays. He used to work in Paris in a bank, and came to his country home for lockdown, working on his computer. Asked to go back to his work in Paris, he refused to return before September, and was thinking to stay for good near the stream. Probably many people realized during the lockdown that the life they had before was only satisfying for its comfort and the money. Not for their desire of a really satisfying, even uncomfortable life. He told us that winter there is very cold and isolated, he had already stored food and wood for the four coldest months and enough potatoes were growing to last through the winter. We gave him some delicious dry pork sausage for his winter store and local chard-pancakes for his supper. 

 

We also noticed how many more walkers and holiday makers there were than usual. People are looking for quiet airy empty places. There were many families with children. Everybody looked happy.

 

I have just asked my pension for the first of January, earlier than I was thinking initially, I am also slowing down. With a bit of guilt, because the breast unit is at risk to close for a lack of radiologists, two of my colleagues are also retiring early. Covid effect. I just received the New post of Tim Harford (The Undercover Economist): What will bounce back after the pandemic and what will never be the same?

19/07/2020

Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

Feeling very sad about the situation of our son’s friend who has terminal cancer. She is in hospital and only two people are allowed to visit her and it has to be the same two people each time. This means she sees her husband and daughter but not her son and grandchildren or any of her friends. What a dreadful time for everyone. Hopefully these rules can be eased when she makes the planned move to a hospice.

The latest I have heard about children and Covid 19 is that they may not be as susceptible as adults to catching the virus because the receptor which the virus attaches itself to is different in children. Also there are few cases of child to child transmission so schools reopening shouldn’t be a problem as long as the adults follow the rules. I hope this turns out to be true so grandparents can meet up with their grandchildren again, which would be a huge benefit. 

I am still working on making comfortable masks. Son number four wanted a bit more padding over the nose and more room to accommodate his beard. The good thing is I am using up the small pieces of fabric left over from making clothes over the last forty odd years. I kept the scraps hoping they would come in useful but would never have predicted they would be uses to make masks. Son number fours’ latest mask was made from son number twos ‘ waistcoat material which was worn at son number threes ‘wedding!  Such memories.

 

On a happier note I completed a mini owl rug for our owl mad granddaughter’s birthday present. I am continuing my challenge of not buying new and using up stuff I have so it was made from a charity shop rug kit bought a few years ago and redesigned.

19/07/2020

Gratefully Sheltering

James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA

Private Viewing 

 

Whiskers bristling in the crisp Autumn day I strode up The Strand towards The Royal Academy to view Augustus Broughton’s rediscovered work, Betrayal.

While unseemly to describe the portion of the female anatomy that so compelled him, as a man, and once his friend, I have no doubt where his gaze fell. In a savage self-portrait he slouches in an armchair, legs akimbo, shirt untucked, curly locks falling to his shoulders. In his right hand is a letter, in the other an empty bottle of laudanum. A woman stands, her back to him, ginger hair tossed over her right shoulder. She is clasping a bouquet of roses, holding them behind her back, concealing what compelled Broughton so deeply.

Pigment transmuted into emotion. I can hear the memory of his brush scratching on the flexing canvas, his muttering. I recall the smell of linseed oil and scent of rose petals rising from beneath fingertips.

What was written in the letter falling from Broughton’s insensible hand? Here we get no help from him. Just a squiggle of lines. Was it a note demanding repayment of a debt? A rejection from a gallery? A love letter from a beauty withdrawing her favors? Ambiguous narrative allows imagination to flourish.

 

My eye is drawn into the detail of the room. Dusty light filtering in through a grubby window caressing the colors of randomly shelved books. A dead plant in a cracked pot standing on the windowsill between frayed curtains. Sheaves of paper spilling from a portfolio, wings carrying away my literary ambitions. 

 

The painting over the fireplace depicted the exterior of Broughton’s turpitudinous lair in Battersea, a fire burning in the grate, a pile of cut wood and a bucket of coal on the hearth. Broughton loved his fire. When everything else had gone to wrack and ruin the combustibles were always organized. Some people take the ingredients for Hell with them wherever they go.

 

The woman was tall, imposing, statuesque. Her dress included a number of small patches of embroidery. Messages of history: Arthurian, noble, knightly. Ha! The irony of that iconography was too bitter.

 

On a distant wall, seen over her left shoulder, painted with the skill of a miniaturist, hung a fish-eyed mirror. In it was reflected the woman’s face. Too small for my tired eyes to see clearly. It couldn’t be? Could it? Her face on a model’s body, her hair, luxuriant, untamed.

 

Then my attention was snagged by a shard of glass half hidden beneath the heel of her raised bare foot, and I knew for certain. This was a painting about us and Maude DeSouza. As I stormed from Broughton’s home all those years ago he threw a wine glass after me that shattered on the door as I slammed it shut.

 

Maude was wealthy, educated, widely travelled. She ran outside the confines of society with a recklessness close to mockery. Taunting, tantalizing, irresistible to two artistic young men—staunch walkers both she entered our lives in a gale of carnal femininity. It was a surprise that she bagged me first for I had none of Broughton’s gifts, looks and application. 

 

My assumption, as Maude and I repeatedly broke every rule in the Good Book, was that we would marry. I courted her for months, wrote her volumes of poems and protestations of love. Many of our visits to exhibitions comprised the three of us. Broughton was interested in the paintings, Maude and I in one another. I was trusting, blind to what was evolving between them.

 

That evening I arrived at Broughton’s without prior agreement, as was our understanding, anticipating a convivial evening. Broughton had run down the stairs, his clothing in a state of distress. Before he reached me Maude entered the landing, her undergarments the light peach color of the dress in Betrayal.

 

Sanding alone before the painting I struggled and failed to stop tears from falling. In the middle of my battle with this monstrous failure of rectitude, a familiar, if quavering voice reached me. 

 

“My dear fellow. It’s only a painting.” Broughton, bent, shuffling, bushy white beard, battered gold topped cane, legs bowed and weary from bearing the weight of a dissolute life. “Should I know you?” He asked from across the canyon of senility.

 

“No.” It was true. He was long dead to me.

 

On the shoulders of his jacket lay a dusting of dandruff. His nails were long, paint encrusted.

 

“When did you paint this?” I asked, safe in anonymity.

 

“I’m told it’s an early work. The canvas was discovered somewhere. Lost track of its meaning.”

 

“No significance?”

 

“None. That’s the thing about truth and an artist’s intention, particularly when the memory fails. It can only be guesswork. She’s a stunner though, what?” He moved in close to me and whispered: “You don’t have a flask about you? Only I am forbidden from drinking.”

 

“No.” I replied with the rectitude of a teetotaler. 

 

“Augustus. Augustus there you are.” A woman’s voice rang out, echoing in the exhibition space. Obedient Broughton turned and without a word of goodbye swayed away like a sailor across the wooden seas of the gallery. On his arrival she straightened his hair, brushed the dander from his shoulders, and taking his hand, led him away.

 

Betrayal now hangs in my study alongside The Beguiling of Merlin by my brother-in-law, Burne-Jones. With Broughton’s memory having deserted him I alone hold the secrets to our painting. One of which is the letter. It is the one I wrote to him, ending our friendship.                

 

Through the open windows carried on the still evening light comes the cry of peacocks, as I write at my desk, free to posses and be possessed by Maude, alone.

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