Corona Diary, Day 15

Monday, 30 March

I know that late night sessions are not efficient for me and cast a shadow over the following day. Also my printer is kaput. Not that I don’t have a lot to do which doesn’t need a printer but I won’t be able to do things in the order I envisaged. Ideal David Kendall would flexibly adjust in this situation. Real Existing David Kendall feels disturbed. The morning was spent in trying to find a new printer. In my imagination, the electronic equipment store had what I wanted (a mid-range mono laser printer). I’d contact them arrange payment my daughter would then drive over and pick it up for me. Easy peasy in the world of my dreams. In reality, the stock of printers is not at all as vast as the shop’s advertising might lead one to believe. Customer support is in Denmark, which sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. And specifying my location as Uppsala only encourages the website to suggest that I pop over to Örebro or Västerås and pick up what I need. It’s the kind of website/shopping experience where you can’t say exactly what’s wrong but you’re bathed in sweat even without Corona’s help and over an hour has passed without actually getting very far. In the end, I managed to place an order for delivery by courier. I’m not keen on that as it means I have to meet a person (if they succeed in overcoming our locked bell-less front door and my wonky hearing). But I’ll guess I’ll put on my zombie annihilation mask and scare them so that they dump the printer outside the door and then run like hell.

But the day wasn’t a complete disaster. I had a video chat with two of my children and caught up them and heard more about life in India and Gothenburg and I cooked from scratch, which I’m happy about. I read a bit of French but no Bangla and finished off by attacking my pile of back numbers of the TLS. I can’t find much that interests me but this has more to do with a jaded David Kendall than the TLS. I’ll try again tomorrow.


Corona Diary, Day 14

Sunday, 29 March

I have to prioritise exercise today so, after a trip to the recycling centre, I cross the railway line to northern Sweden and walk in a westerly direction. I’ve not been here before and wonder whether the path will take me to Uppsala’s small airfield. It’s mainly a military airbase but there was talk a few years ago of civilian flights and I believe a rather expensive connection to Cambridge in England actually operated for a short period.

As far as I know this project has been dropped which doesn’t surprise me, bearing in mind that we are so close to Stockholm’s main airport, Arlanda.

My path would probably have taken me in that direction but I get diverted on to another of Linnaeus’ “herbations”, this time the one going from central Uppsala up to Old Uppsala. It passes a hill where there is apparently a viewpoint as well as several rare flowers, which I must revisit with coffee and food a bit later in the season.

I spend the day reorganising my work room, numbering all of my storage boxes on the top shelf and making an index so that I know what’s where, which box has letters from friends and which old postcards of Dorset etc. The work takes time but it goes well until my printer breaks down when I’ve almost completed the process. This time there is an ominous rattle when I try to reconnect the cable and part of a USB outlet falls off inside the machine. My old printer has had it and will have to be replaced.

I spend the evening on my daily Bengali session and then get to grips with yet another review on Harold Bloom’s last book “The American Canon”, this time by Zachary Leader in the TLS. He deals  with Bloom’s theory of influence, which also underlies “The American Canon”. I find the area interesting – how a writer finds his or her own voice, inspired by but preferably not crushed by earlier authors. But Bloom was very interested in Freud and his earlier work, according to the reviewer, bears this imprint in his analysis of how later writers go beyond and “correct” their models, using a series of what Bloom calls reversionary ratios or poetic misprisions, clinamen, tessera, kenosis, askesis, apohprades, daemonization or swerving, completing, emptying, truncating, returning to/opening up, displacing. Bloom, having been a leading literary critic (if not the leading) for many years has a lot to say and I would like to read and know more about him. But the Freudian touch puts me off and perhaps Leander too as he considers it “merciful” that the esoteric terminology is missing in the current volume, with the exception of “daemon”, “an internal, yet also somehow alien imaginative capacity, which confers strength on writers, connecting them both to their truest or most individual selves, and to divinity”.

There are some notable omissions in Bloom’s canon – Wharton, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Poe, among others), who are “deemed deficient in sublimity”.

I’d like to have a better grasp of American literature and literary criticism. I must read more about and by Bloom but it’s not at the top of my list just now.  

Corona Diary Day 13

Saturday, 28 March

The thirteenth day of isolation. It’s gone quite well so far and I haven’t felt under strain. Being able to go for walks in the nearby countryside makes a big difference compared with being cooped up in a city centre flat. And most days, I’m in contact with someone on the phone or have a video conversation (as well as a lot of mail contacts in between) so I think I’m doing alright on the mental hygiene front. probably slowing down a bit (I believe it’s called relaxing). I woke up at 08.45 and now I’ve just managed to get dressed after my morning bath before the morning was no more. I did think about this and that in the bath for a while but can’t have done so for three hours…. And my sense of time is slipping so that I am often up late in the morning and don’t get to bed until the small hours. I also have to make a conscious effort to keep track of which day it is, which I’ve always been a bit flaky about. It’s not difficult to establish a routine of doing this – you just have to remember to do it when you don’t receive any hints from the outside world that it might be a Saturday or Sunday (in fact with the deserted streets, it feels like Sunday most of the time).

The most frustrating thing is that things that were relatively simple pre-Corona are at present either impossible, risky or complicated. I would like to finish emptying my self-storage facility and no longer have that fixed cost. I’d also like to get another small bookshelf so that I can have a proper Swedish literature section. I have a decent collection of books on Sweden’s history and geography but the literature section is thin and scattered in different places here and at Kungshatt (our summer cottage). It doesn’t feel quite normal that a visitor wouldn’t immediately be able to guess that I lived in Sweden from an inspection of my bookshelf.

And I need someone to come and fix some small jobs with the computer. For some reason my printer refuses to work with my desktop. I haven’t managed to work out what’s wrong – it probably only requires a minor tweak to some setting. But just now, I don’t want someone coming to the flat unnecessarily so I’ll have to live with trip-friendly cables trailing across the floor to my laptop. And I need to let go of Windows 7 but am reluctant to take the step to Windows 10 without help at hand.

And I need someone to explain to me how my newly-purchased iron works. I should have bought a simpler model. This one has some advanced steam system but my problem is that I can’t even work out how to fill the iron with water. I’ve struggled with it but very cautiously and gently as I know how easy it is for me to break off a bit of plastic or damage it in some other way. I can envisage the look of wonder on the face of the person serving me at the repair shop and them saying “you didn’t try to put the water in there?” with the emphasis on there as I stand sheepishly with some bit of broken plastic in my hand. I think I have a reasonably good general purpose brain to get through life and even have some visual talents but when it comes to visual instructions, bits of paper with short sentences in 14 languages accompanied by a drawing, I really am useless. I just don’t know what they’re trying to tell me.

I did succeed in installing an unused anti-virus software licence for my third computer (after a struggle). I use F-secure which I was very content with to start with after a period of irritation with what I experienced as a confusing range of products from McAfee. F-virus was simple, clean, you could see what was happening, and it worked. Unfortunately for me, F-secure has changed owner and has now undergone a development which I experience as similar to McAfee with a lot of sometimes similar products that I find it hard to distinguish so I think it’s probably time to be moving on when the current licence period expires although I haven’t worked out where yet.

I have to roll over my plan of activity during Corona isolation to the second period as there’s a lot left to do. I have, however, managed to complete one project, which feels very satisfactory. I now have an “emergency file” for Anglia, with information and documents, including a guideline of how to prepare material for my accountant. It still needs a bit of tweaking but the heavy lifting has been done.  This is something I’ve thought about for a very long time, made a half-start on it, later abandoned and then travelled on with an accompanying feeling of guilt about not completing it.

And all 79 bookshelves in my work/living room have now been dusted so I’m ready for the next stage of creating a number system and index for my storage files on the top shelves (to avoid semi-death defying balancing acts when I try to find which box my postcard of Duisburg is in.

And I made a menu for the coming week and got restocked with food by my elder daughter.

Corona Diary, Day 12

Friday, 27 March

Only a very short corona-related translation to do today so I decide to focus on office administration.

I have thought for a long time that I should have some kind of emergency file for my company, in case of my being incapacitated (this need not be anything drastic like dormition but could simply be breaking a leg abroad). It feels inadequate not to have this kind of back-up especially when Anglia is now a one-person company as far as administration is concerned.

I started a file once but haven’t kept up and it’s full of useful information about the address of our accountant-before-last and our now non-existent auditor.

I spent largely the whole day getting this old file up to speed. It takes time as it also raises the question of how my office is organised or rather not organised to enable anyone other than me to find things.

After a few hours, I am sitting in a sea of paper, an inglorious mix of old German train seat reservations, Anglia’s annual report for 2010 which has popped up from some local black hole, info sheets about a book on the history of Bengal and other fragments. For a while, it feels impossible that I would ever be able to resolve the situation but that I am going to be sitting for ever in this paper glacier. Somehow by the end of the day, it resolves itself. But I’m not finished. I still have another day’s work and reorganisation ahead of me.

I then turn with some relief to working through my back copies (or rather one back copy) of the Times Literary Supplement. It’s recently undergone a radical makeover, which I have very mixed feelings about. The current editor, Stig Abell (no Swedish connection as far as I know despite the name) with his double first from Cambridge doesn’t sound like your typical dumb downer. However, he has been managing editor of the Sun for a number of years and I find it hard to conceptualise how that could be attractive to an intellectual (unless it’s an indication of extreme strength of character and will to gain his spurs in News UK to make possible a transition to editorship of the Times Lit…).

But there’s also the age question. There’s an old man floating around in the background who doesn’t like change. I rather liked the TLS as it was – erudite and offering a glimpse of various highly specialised and sometimes arcane areas. We’ve been acquainted for a long time – from my early awe at the vastness of everything I didn’t know to a more comfortably confident relationship now that I have myself become a fairly extensive orphanage for neglected pieces of information.  And now it’s not the same any more, another unwelcome indication of increasing marginality, that I’m no longer the mainstream generation but am becoming a memento of time past.

But I also realise that nothing is gained in the long term by Brezhnevisation, that an inability to adjust would lead eventually to its Punch-like disappearance rather than preservation.

I control my angst about the new typeface, the new layout, the broader coverage and decide to give it a chance and ignore the agonised shrieking of the invasive old man. And I find that it’s not bad (this is English for I’m quite impressed). The coverage is not, of course, the same as the London Review of Books, but then it never was. But there are a number of articles that attract my interest in a recent copy from 6 March; articles about the Humboldt brothers, Wilhelm and Alexander, the “dictionary wars” in the US between the lexicographers Noah Webster and Joseph Worcester, reviews of a book on Venus and Aphrodite and of “Sounds and Furies, the love-hate relationship between women and slang” (I particularly loved the slang expression “het-lagged” for the “how a gay person feels after spending holidays with their hetero extended family”), and of “The autobiography of Solomon Maimon” on Jewish Life and European thought in the eighteenth century. There’s other material on sporting heroes which leaves me cold but I think the concept of the revamped journal is good. It feels as if it’s reaching out to thinking people rather than cowering defensively behind the high walls of the castle of the intellect. Hopefully a small step towards attitudes to culture that I find attractive in France, a welcome relief in a country sitting in a broken-down Austin and shaking from side to side to create an impression of movement.

And there is also, of course, the bonus of a “hug-me” moment. a feeling that I might be Methuselah light but am at least still open to change.

Corona Diary Day 11

Thursday, 26 March

I decide I need to prioritise exercise and do my 10,000 steps today; the lack of exercise is making me dispirited. My aim is to walk this far every other day with a shorter walk on the following day so that I have an average of perhaps 7,500 steps a day. Early on in my exercise programme I aimed at 10,000 steps every day, ignoring the protests coming from my limbs, which led to a very painful muscular inflammation, my first sports injury in my early 70s, and hospitalisation. The condition puzzled the doctors to start with until they found a rather splendid Greek name for it, which I later found to mean “a pain in the thigh”, somewhat reducing my scientific awe.

I followed the same track as before on to the Linnaeus path, following his “herbation”. I looked a bit more carefully at the old pagan graveyard this time, going someway along the moraine hill. According to the map, there were about 200 graves here but I found it difficult to work out which of the accumulations of stone were graves and which were simply detritus dumped by a retreating glacier. It would also be interesting to know where the coastline was at this time. It’s a long way away now but there was probably water much closer to the graveyard in AD 500.

Later I tried to find information on the site on the net but without much success. I’ll do a proper search post-plague when the libraries open for business again. I’d also like to check whether there are organisations that arrange guided tours to this kind of site. I’ve seen various “local area” (hembygd) associations but, judging from their programme, there would be a considerable risk of participation in their activities leading to selling lottery tickets on what is purported to be Sweden’s national day, and this is not quite what I had in mind.

I learnt one thing from a more careful study of the information plaque at the burial ground and this was that there was an area where folk lived nearby although its exact location isn’t known. The graves weren’t in other words just (or even at all) connected with Old Uppsala, although they seem to have been active at about the same period, AD 500-600. I shall check whether there is another graveyard closer to Old Uppsala. I am rather taken with the vision of the funeral procession walking across the plain (or possibly travelling by boat) to the graveyard on the hill but it might not have happened that way.

One of the stones that I thought might have belonged to the graveyard seemed to have a rough cross on it made from material twisted from a tree. Perhaps a freak of nature but it didn’t look natural. I wondered what dark rituals had taken place or whether it was (like the Mormons’ efforts recording old birth and death registers) to save the souls of the long departed in retrospect. I hope the pagans were suitably grateful when they realised they were approaching the pearly gates and didn’t behave like the West Vikings at Lindisfarne and sack the place (being proto-Swedes, they would probably have set up a study circle to hear everyone’s opinion and arrive at a reasonable compromise number of daily brutalities before setting to work).

This time, I found my way off the track at the right point on the return journey and didn’t blunder around in the brushwood.

Back home, I worked for a while translating Corona-related information for a website before moving on to my bookshelf cleaning. I’ve now almost finished my wall bookshelf in the study/living room so this project is well underway (and the air does feel more pleasant).

I’ve made a little more progress on my attempts to discover whether the signature Elsa Wolff on a book I have is from the Elsa Wolff, who was a correspondent of Romain Rolland. From a book of Rolland’s letters to her, I’ve seen that the book can’t have been a present from Rolland as I speculated as Elsa Wolff has dated her signature and the date precedes her first correspondence with Rolland. I also learnt that the Elsa Wolff, Rolland’s correspondent, who lived in Germany, did have a command of English as she apparently taught English for a period.

And that was about as far as I got before being overpowered by sleep, this time at least managing to get to bed at a more or less sensible hour. There’s a lot left to do in my plan of activity for the first Corona period and only a couple of days left. Crashing is probably unrealistic as well as being an unattractive prospect so I think I shall simply declare it a green plan and recycle what’s left to do to a second Corona period.

Corona Diary, Day 10

Wednesday, 25 March

Not a great day. A very slow start but I was pleased about having a non-dairy breakfast. Every time I return from India, I vow to continue the vegetable breakfasts which seem to suit me. And every time, I slump back into over-consumption of dairy products, Swedish “fil” replacing coffee as existential punctuation. At least today I managed to haul myself over inertia mountain and have porridge and a boiled egg. Some teething problems – I was indecisive about whether it was to be a soft-boiled or hard-boiled egg and adopted a middle course, which was kind of messy. But the porridge worked well and should save money – providing I can resist the temptation of cloudberry jam abuse, which is a big if.

It was late before I got moving, almost 11.00. I didn’t exactly fritter time but it dribbled away, sorting out a credit invoice, doing a few picture captions as a late addition to the real estate company annual report I’ve just done and sending a quote to a museum, which was accepted so that I have work to do tomorrow.

A bit of technical work when I revived Skype from the dead on my phone. It’s been a long time since I used it – we mostly use Messenger in the family these days for video chats. My memories of Skype are not that bright – Charlie Chaplin-type scenes where I couldn’t hear or be heard, which I want to avoid this time. And then a pleasant chat with my younger son, which brightened my mood.

After lunch, I wrote to a friend in Scotland, whom I’d been meaning to contact for a long time, spurred on now by receiving a kind letter from him concerned about how I was getting on in the land of herd immunity (Sweden’s reputation abroad is not so great just now). I reassured him that I was doing all the sensible things I could do. However, I have to improve my act when it comes to surfaces where the virus might survive – for example, on grocery packets coming into the flat (my “clean area”). So maybe I have to be more consistent about wiping things down with soapy water. And in general being more systematic about the interface between potentially contaminated and clean areas.

A swing up to the recycling centre and back but it’s not a great distance. I’ll have to make space for a more substantial walk tomorrow – I recognise the vague feeling of being not at one with the world, which I get when I exercise too little.

And then about an hour and a half unexpectedly lost when I dug out an old translation for a customer who needed it. That’s what you get for answering the phone…..snake rather than ladder time.

In the evening, I finished my pile of old London Reviews. Not so five-star as the one I got stuck into yesterday. Today, I learned the meaning of blowhard (a boastful or pompous person) and purpura (blood spot, haemorrhage), vacuumed my daily ration of shelves and that was about it. But no article that set me on fire so this time the recycling bin got a refill.

The days are ticking away and if I’m going to fulfil a fraction of my plan, something magnificent has to happen soon. I have to open the throttle tomorrow. I’m generally much more sedate these days as behoves a 70 plus person. But I like to race away from time to time, to feel piles of tasks melt away in a buzz of adrenalin, to be a Wagnerian wordmonger rather than a Mozart meanderer.

And now I see that it’s 01.44 in the morning. How the hell did that happen – it was 10.30 about ten minutes ago…..

Corona Diary, Day 9

Tuesday, 24 March

I start the day by cycling down to my post box to collect post for my company Anglia, especially a form I need to sign to get Anglia’s post forwarded here for the coming month. It’s an easy cycle ride as Uppsala is a flat city on a plain. And there’s nobody around in the box section so no worry about infection (apart from any virus hanging around on the door handle). It feels satisfactory to get the form posted – another chess piece in a better position in case the period of isolation is long.

When I get home, I go through my somewhat complicated routine of removing clothes that have eventually been contaminated so that I don’t spread virus around the flat. Then wash my hands, clean off the possibly contaminated surfaces and wash my hands again.

I fear that I shall have to get Corona soon for the sake of my health as all this frenetic hand washing, apart from making my hands dry, is going to push me over the brink into a compulsive-obsessive disorder and I shall be washing my hands for ever. I check the etymology of obsessive and see that the meaning has wandered. It originates from a Latin word for siege thus forced siege which feels appropriate.

I try to find a Latin or Greek word for compulsory washing of hands and can’t find anything specific but there’s plenty on obsessive-compulsory disorder:

“Mysophobia, also known as verminophobia, germophobia, germaphobia, bacillophobia and bacteriophobia, is a pathological fear of contamination and germs. The term was coined by William A. Hammond in 1879 when describing a case of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) exhibited in repeatedly washing one’s hands”. 1879 seems amazingly early – it would be interesting to look at Hammond and see how the term developed, but maybe not just this plan period!

After lunch, I look at the London Review of Books again. I wasn’t really satisfied with yesterday’s overhasty reading so go back to LRB, 21 November 2019 again (there’s a bit of a reading queue round these parts). There’s an interesting review by Tariq Ali on “An impeccable spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s master agent”, which I shall try to get hold of. I’ve read about Leopold Trepper before but don’t know much about this area. I read Jonathan Parry’s review of Robert Crowcroft’s “The End is Nigh:  British politics, power and the road to the Second World War” and decide that I must keep it for my UK file where I’m collecting material on the nature of the beast. Then there are reviews of Marion Turner’s bio of Chaucer, Patrick Cockburn on the Islamic State and Colin Burrow’s long review of Harold Bloom’s  posthumous publication of The American Canon, which fascinated me to start with, especially the material on Bloom’s view of Emerson. I get tired after the first three pages and decide to finish it another time. I loved his quote from Emerson’s essay on the American Scholar:

“The world – this shadow of the soul, or other me, lies wide around. Its attractions are the keys which unlock my thoughts and make me acquainted with myself. I run eagerly into this resounding tumult. I grasp the hands of those next me, and take my place in the ring to suffer and to work, taught by an instinct that so shall the dumb abyss be vocal with speech. I pierce its order; I dissipate its fear; I dispose of it within the circuit of my expanding life. So much only of life as I know as I know by experience, so much of the wilderness have I vanquished and planted, or so far have I extended my being, my dominion”.

There’s a lot more here though than just a love of knowledge. He’s talking about the American scholar and images like vanquishing and planting the wilderness” and “extending..dominion”  feel distinctly uneasy. But I’d like to read it in context and know a bit more about Emerson.

As an attempt to hack away at the paper glacier in my flat, this is going to be a dismal failure as I want to keep most of the articles so maybe I’d better keep the paper in its current handy format and let my recycling bin go unfed…..

I’m satisfied with my read this time though. As a reward, I decide to let myself off the leash for a while and just float about checking the things I’ve jotted down the past couple of days (mainly from LRB) that I have come across and would like to know more about, to get a bit more order in the borderlands of DK’s brain.

Summarised and shortened, these were:


Earl of Clarendon, named after Clarendon Castle, now just fragments left east of Salisbury Wilts

Ruins investigated by Tancred Borenius a Finnish art historian, first professor of art at University College, London. An interesting life as a diplomat (what else could he be with a name like Tancred) and connections with the Bloomsbury Group. Weird that I have never heard of Clarendon Castle as Salisbury is a city I’m well familiar with.

Bad Godesberg – small town now part of Bonn, site of talks between Hitler and Chamberlain (as well as Munich), many embassies here during Bonn’s period as capital of the Federal Republic.

Originally named Woudenberg, the local tribe worshipping Wotan

First official record in 722. Interesting with tangle between G and W (as in French. I have never thought about this in connection with Wotan and God before).

Irrawaddy river – main N-S river of Burma

Nevers, a French cathedral city in Bourgogne – France Comte. An important base for Caesar.

Susquehanny River, longest eastern US river running south from New York state to Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia



Apocalypse (revelation)

From Greek apokaluptein to disclose

Hapless (chanceless, unfortunate)

(hap luck, chance c13 from Old Norse Happ good luck

related to OE gehaeplic convenient (I wonder whether this is related to Swedish “hjälplig”)


(maybe from schleppen – (Dutch) drain off

Drainage hole

Swedish “släppa” (release, discharge) seems to be close.

The Shorter Oxford has the noun “perhaps from Anglo-Norman deriv. of French escopir (Modern écopir) from Proto-Romance word meaning “spit” of imitative origin.

And as a verb from C19 military slang for kill, ambush.




Roman poet and philosopher who influenced Augustan poets Virgil and Horace. Little is known reliably about his life but, according to Wikipedia, there is a brief note in the Chronicon of Donatus’s pupil, Jerome [aka as the patron saint of translators]. Writing four centuries after Lucretius’s death, Jerome contends in the aforementioned Chronicon that Lucretius “was driven mad by a love potion, and when, during the intervals of his insanity, he had written a number of books, which were later emended by Cicero, he killed himself by his own hand in the 44th year of his life.” The claim that he was driven mad by a love potion, although defended by such scholars as Reale and Catan, is often dismissed as the result of historical confusion, or anti-Epicurean bias. In some accounts the administration of the toxic aphrodisiac is attributed to his wife  Lucilla. Regardless, Jerome’s image of Lucretius as a lovesick, mad poet continued to have significant influence on modern scholarship until quite recently, although it now is accepted that such a report is inaccurate.” (Sources available on Wikipedia page).

Something else that I didn’t know about Jerome, translators’ patron saint which I must add to his dossier!



I have learnt today that while Jade art items are most often green that it also occurs as in its natural state as brown, orange, purple, yellow, white, red. blue


Foolish talker (and that’s perhaps a good place to stop for the night.

Corona Diary, Day 8

Monday, 23 March

A three-page academic job to start with, which has me thumbing through my older dictionaries for academic titles. Not very lucrative – it takes all morning and the bill just about makes four digits but it feels good to do something as it’s very quiet just now. Distinctly therapeutic to send an invoice.

I was slow getting started, a bit better than yesterday but still rather late. I’ve come into a phase where I’m staying up until the small hours and then waking late in the morning, which I don’t like as I don’t get much done at night while I’m highly productive in the early morning.

I go out and post my translation in my new-found mailbox. Still very few people around and there is an aquarium fish feeling about how we glide past one another without looking at one another (almost as if it would increase the risk of infection if we acknowledged one another’s presence). Unlike aquarium fish, we are very careful not to touch fins but people hug to the side of the footpath to increase the distance.

I make my way through the back streets to Heidenstams torg, about a kilometre away, to see whether there is a paper recycling facility (there isn’t). I’m going to have to reduce my ambitions on the recycling front as it’s a bit too complicated just now to cart things away regularly and bags of greasy cartons are not going to improve the place.

Back home, my elder daughter comes to restock my groceries. I’ve now worked out a menu for the next week and reckon on cooking from raw materials every day, saving my tins and packets for an emergency (there’s about a ten-day wait just now until you can book a home food delivery so I need a bridge just in case).

I read about the low number of ventilators available in Sweden compared with a few years ago and the paucity of intensive care beds in normal times let alone during an epidemic. The lack of ventilators is pretty horrific –I wonder if that’s a bi-effect of the privatisation of health care. At least, they still make ventilators in Sweden so they don’t have to start from scratch like in the UK.

Sweden is attracting attention internationally for not quarantining the whole population, for being too laid back with its herd immunity approach. There are anyway very good reasons for trying hard to avoid being infected or to stave off infection until the health service is more on top of things.

The difficult part will be what comes next. Even if Sweden adopts a harder approach, it will hardly be possible to maintain lockdown for a very long period. There will presumably be a period when the number of new cases goes down because of the lockdown and restrictions are relaxed but where the epidemic is not over.

It wasn’t a great day for my projects today but I did manage to collect the magazines I subscribe to which have been scattered around the flat and put them in chronological order, the TLS, London Review of Books, the Economist and my French journal. And work my way through a number of articles in the London Review on Clydeside in World War One and Tariq’s piece on Sorge. Also a review of the late Harold Bloom’s book on the American “Canon” taking up among other things the influence of Emerson, whose attitude to knowledge interests me.

Tomorrow should be better as I have no commercial work to do but I do need to cycle down to the post box to collect Anglia’s post, especially the form I need to sign to get them to redirect the post temporarily to my flat.

Corona Diary, Day 7

Sunday, 22 March

Who would have thought that, in the space of a few months, we would be looking back at the fraught period of discussing Brexit as a lost golden age. How people would have laughed if we’d suggested such a possibility. Yet here we are with the world turned upside down and not knowing how it will all turn out and what will happen to us or the economy now and afterwards.

I’ve spent the day working on a language review of an academic article, which has been quite enjoyable. It’s made me think that perhaps I should dedicate a day at a time to a particular project and not jump from topic to topic as I usually do, making small incremental advances on a number of fronts. The background silence, the lack of temptation to go down to the city and lounge in the library for a while, the long chunks of uninterrupted time push in this direction.

Dusting off my bookshelf has to be incremental, however. It generates too much dust to work on too long. I’ve now got to my West Country section, probably the best collection of books about the West Country between here and California (going east). As I sift through one treasure after another, I realise that I probably have enough books to keep me going until my 100th birthday if not beyond. So if my “Corona captivity” lasts a bit longer than expected, I’m well prepared. I also realise that my bookshelves need attention – my books are sorted into rough categories but are in need of a more rational structure. And there’s also the fine “ad libris” stamp which my daughter-in-law gave me, which I started to use but then got interrupted (I’m looking for the English equivalent of the useful Swedish “kommer av mig”…) but now want to complete, section by section. I would also like to catalogue my books. I was given some software where I could scan the titles in, which I also started using and got interrupted, which I shall investigate. I think I need just one more bookshelf, only a small one. I have nowhere to put my collection of Swedish novels, which are at present on our island. They have been mostly saved from libraries who sold them off very cheaply as unwanted shelf-warmers. Placed together, the obvious library binding makes me look like some super kleptomaniac who has hoovered the libraries of everything he could get his hands on but they all have their  Cancelled stamps inside the cover if anyone cares to look.

No one does look just now, of course, as I am closed to visitors until the plague has passed by. It’s gone well so far and while I am sad about events I was looking forward to not happening, I also feel a bit exhilarated about the challenges of playing such a weird hand. I probably have to indulge in some mental hygiene activities to ensure I don’t stray too far from the fold in my isolation. I was up until the small hours last night and then slept until 11.00 today so I’m a bit worried that KST (Kendall Standard Time) is going to lurch unpredictably away from CET/GMT and I am going to keep the same hours as Stalin although without the disreputable alcohol-fuelled “colleagues” he surrounded himself with. At least I now have Alexa to tell me what day it is and if she says “I’m sorry. I don’t have that information” then I know that something has gone seriously wrong (great to have a doomsdayometer).

I’ve also made a list to ensure that I cook proper food every day and not just a few times a week and don’t indulge in a tin frenzy as I try and keep up with my plan. I’ve now separated my tinned food and packet soups into a separate “don’t touch” drawer to help me discipline myself to cook from scratch. I want to have about ten days margin in case my daughter can’t shop for me for some reason – the ten days being the waiting time before you can bag a place on the food delivery services which are under great pressure just now.

Almost 23.00 now. Time to check the news and then hit the hay.

Corona Diary, Day 6

At breakfast, I read a review in a recent London Review of Books, “Naked Hermit” by a Mary Wellesley of Matthias Egeler’s “Islands in the West Classical Myth and the Medieval Norse and Irish Geographical Imagination”.  Among other things, she describes how Egeler writes about “the common tropes of medieval stories – the temptations of delicious food and women, magical flora, improbable constructions like ships made of crystal. A persistent theme is the unheeded warning”. It sounds wonderful, rich in association and allusion. I immediately want to order it but the GBP 100 price tag stays my hand and keeps me away from Amazon – it’ll have to wait until a visit to Carolina Rediviva is no longer potentially life-threatening. I content myself for the time being with downloading Saxo Grammaticus’s History of the Danes from Project Gutenberg. My Kindle throws up a work by the same author in German, which looks as if it might be the same book but I’m not sure my German is quite up to this.

I spend the morning on a first reading of an academic article for language review. Time then for some exercise as it’s a fine blue-sky cold day. I make for the road behind my house which leads to one of the nine “Linnaeus (Linne) Paths” here in Uppsala, based on the walks that the eighteenth century professor of Botany and Medicine Linnaeus made with his students, looking for plants and insects (the routes of the walks tweaked a bit to allow for the changed shape of the city). The walk I am on will eventually take me to a fine old church, Vaksala, where I want to go some time to see the Albertus Pictus wall painting and where Linnaeus daughter is buried. Somewhere in these parts is a commemorative plaque to her and other eighteenth-century female botanists (it sounds as if a modern hand has been at work here). And now also to see whether I can find Centaurea scabiosa (Greater Knapweed), Matricaria recutita (Scented Mayweed) and Papaver Dubium (Long-Headed Poppy), which the information board tells me that Linnaeus was in search of on this walk.

I follow the trail across the moraine where a retreating glacier has carelessly deposited some giant rocks (no respect for the countryside) and through a very large burial ground at Råby that I must try to find out more about (presumably linked to Gamla Uppsala). Even more pleasurably I find that the trail actually comes out on the road leading to my daughter and son-in-law’s house (it’s shorter by a long chalk than the motor road there).

Leaving the burial ground for a more informed visit, I manage to miss my path on the way back and carry on too far in the wood. And then stupidly, instead of retracing my steps (there are a few people around which puts me off a bit as the path is narrow and I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep the requisite distance), I try to cut through to the edge of the forest so that I can see better where I am. What looks like a thin strip of vegetation morphs into a wide belt of tangled brushwood, which takes a bit of getting through but I make it across an enormous field (no dainty hedge-rowed little plots around these parts) back to the proper path. I’ve anyway done my 10,000 steps today and the feeling of well-being sits in for the rest of the day.

Back home, I wrestle for a while downloading an app so that I can play chess with my grandson on our mobile phones. I am relieved when it works….

Then some household reorganisation – packing a cupboard more scientifically so that my study/living room is less of an obstacle course and more pleasant to be in. And a bit of turbulence preparation by sorting out some of the tinned food to have in an “emergency drawer” in case my daughter can’t get to the shop or there is interruption in supply. Mainly to force myself to prepare food from scratch when I have fresh food and not have a tin feeding frenzy.

Not much time left for other morsels for the mind but I do manage to check through some new words, words which I know but have a hazy idea of and etymologies that have taken my fancy.

In fact, this week I only really have one new word which is “liminality”, a word used especially in anthropology. It originates from the Latin word for threshold” and means (among other things) the feeling of ambiguity or disorientation in a rite of passage where a person has left his or her previous status but not yet achieved the new status.

Then a couple of words that I more or less knew but wanted confirmation of – “sibyl” and “husbandry”. “Sibyl” a female teller of oracles and “husbandry”, which is close to agriculture but often used in the sense of small-scale agriculture (I didn’t know before that it could involve crops as well animals). And “alewife” I had also seen before in the sense of a US fish but did not know that it was also used literally as female brewer. “Hector” in the sense of to hector someone and trope I knew but was curious about the etymology. In fact, “hector” is fairly modern denoting the likely behaviour of the longest serving soldier in the barracks so there was obviously some real Hector who was responsible for that one. And “trope” apparently comes from a Greek word meaning turn but how it got from there to its present sense is not altogether clear to me.

I decide also to add the Calcutta Telegraph to the list of papers I monitor every day. It seems to have an open access website and I prefer it to the other Calcutta papers.

Time now to work my way through my papers and check the news to see what Corona has been up to today.