(Walter Poole, Organic Forms 2: private collection)
The combination of lockdown and a crocked back contrives to make whole weeks drain away before you can get a grip on them. My trouble has an eye on the calendar and nips in smartly in case I think it’s waiting for the anniversary of the last bout. So I’ve been spending a good deal of time on the floor lately, wondering why the painkillers seem not to be killing the pain and the various gels are proving themselves laughably ineffective. Perhaps ‘laughably’ is not the word I want.
Every so often, a passing Librarian puts the cat’s dish down in the kitchen, picks up the mail from the mat, ties my shoelaces for me. What if you don’t have a passing Librarian to offer such assistance? Wear slip-ons, I suppose. I’m thankful at least that there’s no visual record of me putting on a pair of socks. I try five or six positions, none of them elegant, because I can never remember which one finally worked last time. The soundtrack too is distressing.
So the floor, yes, on a folded duvet cover which, unfortunately, the cat has taken a liking to. There have been one or two undignified run-ins. At this level, anyway, I can see—and reach— Modern Women’s Stories, an anthology edited by Patricia Craig; Modern Art in Britain 1910-1914, edited by Anna Greutzer Robins; and the Handheld Press edition of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Of Cats and Elfins: ‘“Surely she has grown smaller,” thought the baker. “Or do my eyes deceive me?” Looking at her more attentively he saw that his daughter had changed into an owl.’ Further off, there’s a shockingly miscellaneous pile that I can just about ignore; and closer, the state of the carpet, which I can’t ignore for much longer.
It’s a few days now since I attempted the early morning walk. We moved at very different speeds. At one stage, the Librarian paused to photograph something—chalk drawings on the path, a squirrel, an abandoned child’s jacket caught in a bush—until she was a good hundred and fifty metres behind. She ran past me, murmuring ‘Dutch study! Dutch study!’ to which I could offer no adequate response.
So the latest misjudgement in our government’s catalogue of misjudgements has made no difference to me: locked down physically at present as well as by choice. There was already visible evidence of other choices in the park at the weekend: the sort of people who never take their rubbish home with them had been out in force, so bottles, ‘Disposable Barbecue’ packaging, cans, balls of greasy paper and cardboard scraps were scattered everywhere across the grass.
‘Odd’, Edward Dahlberg remarked, ‘one cannot hold onto pleasure but pain stays with you until it has given up its last breath.’
 ‘Bread for the Castle’, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Of Cats and Elfins: Short Tales and Fantasies (Bath: Handheld Press, 2020), 188.
 Edward Dahlberg, The Confessions of Edward Dahlberg (New York: George Braziller, 1971), 176.