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.

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