Corona Diaries V – 30, 31 March

30

Get up too late and miss the news on the morning radio. I’m not going to go looking for news right now, so that’s that!

I get up late and have coffee and breakfast in the living room since my family are already up and working in the dining room.

I do my skipping in the morning, but I overdo it, doing about three hundred skips all at once, and end up seeing stars in he shower. Tens of little pinpricks of light that zip smoothly along random paths in the edges of my vision. I have them from time to time, like when I hit my head. I can’t find a description of this phenomenon among the pages I read on phosphenes, which are visual hallucinations of light, and can be caused by various things. I rarely have asthma attacks, and they’re always mild, but this one is quite bad and I have to lie down for a while. I end up feeling odd for the rest of the day, probably due to the steroids in the inhaler making me trip out. I watch nuclear weapons test videos on youtube to calm down, which, I think later, is just the sort of thing a character in a Luke Kennard or Ben Lerner novel would do. Something about their regulated framing, with the VHS timings in the corner and multiple views, and then the absolute difference and unthinkable power of the explosion, how it draws the earth into the air as if gravity itself suddenly gave up or reversed. I find out for the first time about the outer atmosphere tests that were conducted, resulting in incredible footage of spherical blasts in the rarified air at the edge of space. Apparently they were seeing whether they could create a radioactive layer of the atmosphere to cause nuclear missiles to malfunction. If they’d succeeded, or it had behaved in a way different to their expectations, we might have never been able to use satellites, or launch rockets without even more layers of heavy protection. People can be very stupid.

I head out for a walk in woods, and see for the first time the work that has been done down on the lake. I notice it first as the lake actually looks like a lake, it is greenish blue and I see it through the trees, in the way that it sometimes appears through the trees, as if it was angled up on the other side of the valley, giving me slight vertigo. I wonder what is different, but only realise when I reach the lakeside and see that the dredging has been done, the lake seeming about a metre deeper than it was. There is a constructed marshland zone around the edge of the water, and nice fallen-wood fences, built with branches and bits from around the woods. It’s beautiful. I look for garlic sprouting and find some, obviously recognisable from its wide leaves and smell. There are uncharacteristically loads of people around. I find a new rope swing, which I have a go on, but then realise was probably a hotspot for contagion. Grandy calls, and I have a videocall with her and my uncle when I’m out and about for the first time in my life. I realise now that she can call us easily via the TV portal, I’m going to get videocalled all the time. “Are you breaking the law there?” Grandy says. “No!” I say. My friend who I’m walking with is more than two metres away, after all.

Later, my sister is playing scrabble on her phone with mum. She says she accidentally used a rude word – crip, which I only know to be a Los Angeles gang from the eighties and nineties, but apparently it used to be a short form of ‘cripple’. So yeah, pretty rude. Looking up the crips gang I see that they’re still going. The other weird word that mum uses is Nixie, which is a word for a water spirit inhabiting a river or a pool. Apparently, in England they took the form of wyrms or dragons. I imagine the remote forest pool on a hot afternoon, the lone walker seeing something flee, diving into the pool, hours from town. The mud undulating like a snake. Then I imagine a kid getting caught up in gang wars between different gangs of Nixies. Obviously the gangs only started to try and deal with the environmental degradation of the forest, but were warped by the pressure into fighting each other.

31

Police in some parts of the country have been shaming walkers who think they can use this as an excuse to go out in the Peak District by posting videos of them online. 849 deaths yesterday in Spain.

My mum and sister have this thing about loud chewing. It’s called misophonia. Irationally angry reactions to sounds like chewing, or pen clicking. Due to some accident of evolution, my dad and me have ended up with a chewing that is probably the loudest it could possibly be without our mouths hanging right open. Mum used to describe it like we had a focusing chamber in our heads, a bit like a sperm whale has for finding squid. It is possible for me to chew quietly, but it means I can’t taste the food i’m eating, and have to just nibble it a bit before swallowing. This morning, I’m relaxed and eating my breakfast, and mum just swivels round and throws a literal axe of a gaze my way. I timidly nibble the rest, then put the radio on.

My mum sets up her kitchen barber shop for the first time in a fair few years. My sister gets her hair cut, and I do too. My sister’s hair looks great, but mum says she just cut the same amount off of every layer, and each time she does it, the style will move little by little away from the original style. Like what we called Chinese whispers, but for haircuts.

In the garden we have a thrush that keeps on coming back to the corner of the pond to pick up nesting material. It could be my imagination, but it seems like the birds are much more confident already, after a week’s break from the full human storm. There are sparrows, a wren singing down the bottom of the garden, blackbirds, and just a loud chorus. It also smells like the countryside. In the pond the tadpoles seem to have hatched. But they are all clustered at the top of the frogspawn, in a little bundle. I use a stick to try and move them away, just to watch a couple sink down into the darkness. Straightaway I realise that this is a stage in the lifecycle that I have completely forgotten about, where they must eat their way slowly out from the remains of the frogspawn, strengthening day by day until they can escape, and that in trying to save these couple I have doomed them to starve to death at the bottom of the pond. It is a remarkable evolutionary system, the eggs becoming the walls of the nursery, slowly growing thinner until the tadpoles are ready. And when clustered near the surface like that, they look remarkably unlike anything alive. They look like mud. I tell myself. But the world is full of amazing things.

My view of Bonjour Tristesse is now as filmed by the Nicolas Winding Refn of Drive (2011), soundtracked by synthwave and Rone’s electronica. I wonder whether I should add a musical chapter to the end of the book, changing the ending. It feels a bit naughty to do something like that. But I think I just might.

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