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13 May 2020

When I’m not under the spell of vivid dreams my waking life revolves around a duck

With each successive nap, the brain takes longer than usual to distinguish between dream and waking reality.

By Nicholas Lezard

Thursday: I find myself sleeping more and more during the day. What else is there to do? The flat I’m in didn’t have too many books in it to start with and even though I’ve been operating an aggressive policy of book-buying over the past year I’m having to start rereading them. So sleep it is, and the dreams I’m having are, like everyone else’s, unusually vivid. 

The problem is that with each successive nap, the brain takes longer than usual to distinguish between dream and waking reality. For this reason the erotic dreams are, of course, the ones I’m most grateful for, but today I spent ten minutes wondering whether the word “hevetor” was real or not, or whether I was losing my mind. Later, I find myself convinced that, with the right backing, musical crisps could one day be A Thing. (You play them like a Jew’s Harp. They go “plink!”)

Friday: A long walk to the butcher’s. As I’ve said before, it’s 20 times easier to find a tattoo/piercing parlour in Brighton than it is to find somewhere that sells pork bellies. But I crave Chinese food and my normal supplier of takeaways has shut down, so it’s off to M&B Meats (real name) on the London Road. There I see a duck for £11.99, and I decide to treat myself. I roast it that evening with a dark soy and oyster sauce glaze and it is delicious, and there will be plenty of leftovers.

Saturday: Nothing happened today. Oh wait, I joined Britbox because it has all the classic Doctor Whos. I immerse myself in the Patrick Troughton era, although these days I look exactly like William Hartnell, only older, and with madder hair. I make duck liver pâté but I don’t have a food processor or even a good knife, and one of the tubes gets stuck in my throat and I have to pull it out past the epiglottis, and you know what happens when you do that. I don’t think I’m ever going to have duck liver pâté ever again. Pity, I used  to like it.

Sunday: Weekly phone call to my mother. I won’t reveal her age but it is impressive. Normally, when she says, as she always does, “when am I going to see you again?” I shiftily try to evade the question, but now when she says it I point out it is actually against the law for me to see her. This is a considerable weight off my conscience. Duck sandwiches for dinner.

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Monday: Someone who uses runic lightning flashes instead of the letter “s” in his name sees my piece about selfish joggers on the Twitter and is rude to me. As I’ve got nothing else on, I have a look at his profile to see how I can wound him. It turns out he’s an anti-vaxxer as well as a Nazi. One of his tweets boasts about how he plans to locate the grave of every NHS worker who’s died of Covid-19 and dance on them. I bring this up in my reply. He responds: “I think I have haunted you enough to drive you searching through my twitter. you are nothing more than A compliant drone ready to bury anyone at the commands of your master.” [Sic.] He has a point – Jason Cowley’s word is law round here – but the joke’s on him: he’s provided enough material for a seventh of my column and he’s not getting paid a penny. Duck soup for dinner.

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Tuesday: Quiz night at the Covid Arms, organised by journalist and quiz expert Marcus Berkmann. It’s very simple: 20 questions, no theme, of varying difficulty. I used to play this on my own and would get a miserable 13 or 14 but now I am on a team which includes some very clever people, we regularly get 20 out of 20 and only lose on the tie-break question. 

There is a controversy every week. Last week’s was about the colour of turmeric. Apparently there are some maniacs who think it’s orange. This week’s debate is, in a question about PG Wodehouse, whether “servant” is an acceptable alternative answer to “butler”. (I am very proud of getting  this one, as it had baffled the rest of the team, and I was beginning to wonder whether  I was dead weight.) Marcus says it is. And I used to be his friend. Dinner tonight is another duck sandwich. The trick is to wait until really late at night, when you’re starving, and use mayonnaise.

Wednesday: Off to the bath, and I catch sight of my wine belly in the mirror and  actually scream. I’ve found a dumbbell and have, believe it or not, been using it, so for the first time in ages I have biceps, and some kind of shoulder definition. But everything between my tits and my groin, not inclusive, is a disaster. I actually look pregnant. Tonight’s dinner is duck surprise, which is basically a duck sandwich, served with musical crisps and a nice glass of hevetor. 

This article appears in the 13 May 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Land of confusion