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March 14, 2020


Hi Beth. I'll be reading your Hermit Diary, as I always read your blog.

Here in London UK, things are in practical terms for most of us probably not much different from in Montreal right now, although the virus figures are higher and there are frightening storms of media disagreement and anger about government action/inaction, where it's almost impossible to separate political polarization from justified grave concerns. I'm trying to trust my own intellect and instincts, while acknowledging my lack of scientific and medical knowledge and doing my best to stay calm, humble and open-minded.

I'm oldish - 65 - and I'm mostly staying at home. I feel very lucky that my editing and translation work is at home so that doesn't change. Life is already very solitary, and mostly confined to my leafy London suburb, as I don't enjoy slow public transport to the city centre or the seething crowds when I get there. But because of that my few social and cultural outings are precious and the loss of them is significant.

Meanwhile, the weather here is mild and often sunny - warmer than I could ever have imagined in March when I was younger, and in between violent rain and wind which are also unaccustomed and alarming. Our very short winter days have quickly got much longer. Parks and gardens are full of spring flowers and the many magnolia trees are in full bloom. It all feels precious and tenuous.

Reading and writing poetry has been my big thing for the past few years. Sadly this seems to have somewhat left me, the writing anyway, amidst recent anxieties. Perhaps it will return - I believe it always does. Meanwhile, the main thing I'm stockpiling is books - the Cromwell trilogy, perhaps time to reread Proust.

The good side of the Internet is very evident just now, even the accursed Facebook, about which I share all your serious qualms: all the friends and all the art it keeps me in touch with. Must try not to be compulsive or too dependent! All too aware that laptop or connection problems could become impossible to fix.

Drawing and painting aren't part of my own creative practice and I always love seeing yours - it's personal and different from the online sharing by galleries, curators and publishers, which I also enjoy.

I'm close to you and J in age and share your mixed feelings about being on the cusp of old. Normally, these definitions are arbitrary and don't need to matter much, but now they loom.

Enough for now. I expect to be reading, with love, as long as you want to share here.

We too went for a walk last evening, stopping for less than ten minutes at a nearly-deserted local coffee shop, because we are not behaving quite like 70 year olds, though I'm well into that window and D. is in the "vulnerable" category. That is a determination everyone will make for herself. When we passed Vices & Versa (a much-loved pub) I expected to see empty tables... but it was packed.

I was heartened to see well-stocked shelves at my local PharmaPrix, even high stacks of the jewel in the crown of hoarders, toilet paper.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.