If there’s one consolation, it’s rediscovering the joys of letting oneself go a bit. One is not, after all, on the pull. Why, for instance, shower every day? No one is going to be smelling me for a while. And showering in a cold house is a drag. With the heating off during the day, the thing to do is stay in bed until it comes on at 6pm or so, which by an amazing coincidence is also wine o’clock.
Meanwhile, everything gathers itself around the body. I’ve mentioned this before: the Scholar’s Mistress, that accumulation of books and periodicals beside one on the bed that eventually assumes the mass of another human being. Mine is now the entire length of the bed and becoming three-tiered. If I listed every book and issue of the TLS in it, I could fill the rest of this column and would probably have some titles left over for next week’s – but that would be lazy of me and boring for you.
Suffice it to say that the right-hand side of my bed is a testament to the enduring worth, power and consolation of the word as printed on paper. And the longer you stay in bed reading a book, the less time you spend on the internet wasting your time doing “What kind of cheese are you?” quizzes on BuzzFeed, strangely compelling though they are. (Apparently I’m a Wensleydale.)
Meanwhile, the smell of apples has gone from the bedroom. The bad news is that it has been replaced by a nasty fug that might partly be the result of having the window shut for the past two months because of the rain. (The rain is beginning to drive me a little crazy.) The combination of stifled air and damp creeping in cannot be healthy and, moreover, I am beginning to worry that if it rains any more, Londoners may well evolve gills before too long.
To avoid this, I am staying indoors as much as possible. Which would be fine except the kitchen has now started to smell. This is definitely a decaying corpse smell but whether it is of some rogue piece of food that has fallen between or behind the interstices of any one of the elements of the loosely fitted kitchen or one of Mousie’s compañeros who has bitten the dust, I cannot say. I have just put half a lemon that had been nestling in a glass and growing a splendid coat of grey-green mould on its skin into the rubbish, so it may have been that. We shall see.
The problem, or shall we say one of the problems, is that all this seems to be turning me into a bit of an agoraphobe. The only trips I have made outside since my friend Amel went back to Paris have been either to Majestic Wine for supplies or to the hospital to visit my father. These visits are not as depressing as they could be as he retains his marbles and conversations with him are always amusing, but a hospital is a hospital and – because it is only a mile and a half up the road – I am consumed by guilt that I am not going there often enough. But at the time of writing, he has been discharged, so until I run out of food completely I have no excuse to go anywhere at all. How I am going to cope with getting to Heathrow and then to Gothenburg in this state is beyond me.
It’s a strange feeling, leaving orbit, as it were. Earthly life, with people leading normal lives, seems to be receding into the distance. When, I wonder, was the last time I did the laundry? I remember that the late genius Peter Cook recorded a series of duologues with the still-living genius Chris Morris under the title Why Bother? and I have to say that this is becoming something of a mantra for me.
Cook ended his life sadly, it is glibly said, passing the time in the evenings by calling up Clive Bull’s late-night phone-in show on LBC in the persona of a melancholy, lovesick Norwegian fisherman called Sven, stranded in Swiss Cottage (note, here, the recurrence of the Scandinavian motif). This doesn’t sound very sad to me and the idea of the great Peter Cook giving his talent out anonymously and for free in a final act of generosity is one I find enormously touching.
There is kindness all around. The last time I went to Majestic, I couldn’t find my normal selection on the shelf; when I went to the counter to ask meekly what was going on and what on earth I was going to do, it turned out they’d already packed it and it was waiting for me. How I summoned the self-control not to burst into tears is beyond me.