Hello Sadness (1954-2020) – Part 1-5

And then one day, it all came to an end. In the morning my dad decided that we should go to Cannes that evening to visit the casinos and dance. I remember how excited Elsa was. She thrived in casinos, and hoped to get back a bit of her sexiness, which was weakened by the sunburn and also see some other people for a change. I figured Anne would object to such a basic evening, but to my surprise she didn’t – she even seemed happy to be going. So I wasn’t particularly worried when I went to my room to get ready. I put on the evening dress I’d brought along. It was the only one I possessed, made of a quite strange, thin fabric. Probably a bit too exotic for me, but my dad chose it, and because he had a particular taste, or because he just thought that was what all women wore, he bought me these seductive clothes. I found him downstairs in a shiny new jacket, and draped my arm around his shoulder.

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Hello Sadness (1954-2020) – Part 1-4

The most surprising thing over the next few days was how extremely kind Anne was to Elsa. Even with all of the various stupid things Elsa said, Anne never once picked her up on it with one of these short comebacks which she had the secret to, which would have really ridiculed the poor woman. I silently thanked her for her patience and generosity, not realising how it was closely mixed with a kind of manipulation. My dad would have quickly tired of such stupid little games, and instead he was grateful, and he would say ‘I don’t quite know how to thank you’, but I bet he was starting to have an idea. I thought he’d probably start talking to her like a well respected friend, like a second mother to me – and then use this gratitude as a constant excuse to put me under Anne’s care, to make her a bit more responsible for who I was, to bring her closer to him, link her to us more strongly. He had that gaze, and was behaving towards her like you’d do to someone who you didn’t yet know, but would like to. I mean know in the biblical sense. Like, fucking. The same kind of glance I sometimes caught Salil giving me, which made half made me want to run away, half made me want to tease him. I must have been at a further point than Anne, where I was more easily influenced – she was still reacting to his stare with indifference, with a calm kindness that made me feel a bit better. I began to think that I had just tricked myself in her room on the first day. What I didn’t see was that this unambiguous kindness just got him going. Just like her silences… Natural and elegant, they were the exact opposite of Elsa’s twittering. It was like day and night. Poor Elsa. She didn’t expect anything, she remained enthusiastic and restless, always just as hassled by the sun.

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Corona Diaries II – 24, 25 March


Didn’t watch the news today, lived in a bubble. First day of three week lockdown.

Today I reach for the jam and pick up a tub of vitamins. They’ve been on the breakfast table in the morning for about a week now.

Looking out the window, I see the Mediterranean in the air and the sun of the morning, but then, it might be that being cooped up with my family makes it feel eerily like a holiday. I say this to my dad and sister, and they say ‘what, like the mediterranean in winter, in the middle of the night?’. I’m so lucky to have travelled in Europe. If I thought England was the whole world, I would have lost my mind a long time ago. Or become some kind of pygmy version of myself.

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Hello Sadness (1954-2020) Part 1-3

Chapter Three

The following morning a sharp, hot ray of sunlight woke me up, flooding my bed and drawing me from the weird, confused dreams where I struggled. I drowsily tried to shield my face against the heat with my arm but soon gave up. It was ten o’clock. I went down to the terrace in my pajamas and found Anne leafing through the morning’s papers, checking her work phone – her makeup was light and perfectly done. She never let herself have a real holiday. Since she was ignoring me I sat quietly on a step with a coffee and a cold orange, and focused on the joys of the morning. I bit into the orange, its sweet juices rushing into my mouth, then straight away took a gulp of the steaming black coffee, and then again the coolness of the fruit. The morning sun made my hair hot, and smoothed out the marks of the sheets on my arm. In five minutes I would head down to swim. Then Anne’s voice made me jump.

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Hello Sadness (1954-2020) Part 1-2

Anne wouldn’t arrive for a week, so I made the most of my last days of real holiday. We’d rented the villa for two months, sure, but I knew that once Anne arrived I wouldn’t be able to properly relax. Anne gave things an edge, and gave words meanings that me and dad would happily ignore. She set down the law of good taste, of good things, and we couldn’t help noticing it in her sudden changes, her wounded silences, her expressions. It could be interesting, but also tiring and humiliating since in the end she often had a point.

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Corona Diary I – 22, 23 March


Mother’s Day. Restaurants, Cafés and Bars advised to close.

We went to visit grandma today as a family. The current advice is that it’s too risky for anyone over the age of seventy to come into contact with someone potentially carrying the virus. So we stood outside the window, and passed her presents through, my sister occasionally shouting – wash your hands! She seemed in good spirits, happy with her DVDs. One of them was Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory peck. She told us how, in the film, there is a stream of water that (legend has it) will make your hands fall off if you submerge them in it. Gregory Peck sticks his hand in and pulls his sleeve up to make Audrey Hepburn scream. We also got her some rose scented soap. She said her hands are already dry. I said I’d bring a copy of Rebecca for her to read, and some hand cream. I’ve never really needed hand cream before now, and that’s probably because, as I now know, I wasn’t really washing my hands properly. I’m surprised they didn’t fall off.

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God will save you from this event
and here is how – she will give you
an soft egg, a beautiful egg.
Last one in the supermarket

cracked on the sun-baked shelf. And meat
reams and reams of gently rotting
meat in plastic packets. She wills
the whole toilet industry act,

to provide you with something clean
and needed to deck the cistern.
The power she weilds provides you
cans of sharp green beer, to last out.

And then, just in case, everyday
God in her grace provides to you
in the form of a pub, out there
in the garden, your salvation.

The pandemic will now return
all your neuroses in new forms,
stronger forms, forms like journalists,
videos of ventilators.

The fear of death will wipe you out
courtesy of God herself, show
you the emptiness of requests.
And then, silence. Your miracle.