11th April 2020

Darling Paloma,

I began to write to you yesterday but by the time I had finished, I realised my words had described the gloom that I have been experiencing over the last couple of days. I don’t need you to look back and read individual days of sadness. I had the sense I was beginning to moan. To be constantly happy during this time is difficult.

It was breathless last night. It would usually have been a night when the restaurants were full, people propping up the bars until dawn. Easter is upon us and the nightlife would have been even more relaxed on the eve of a holiday weekend. But, of course, for the first time in my lifetime holiday weekends are different and its main focus is to distance ourselves from others rather than socialising and secondly and as important, during a weekend which has been chosen for Easter and Passover to coincide, a time for reflection.

An old school friend called early this morning to wish me Happy Holidays which for an Englishman still sounds daft. He hardly ever rings but we are all calling people we have not been in touch with for a long time. I think the last time we saw each other was at LAX airport about three years ago. He was heading to Sydney and I was heading back to London. We have never been that close. We couldn’t really be at school as he was head boy and I was thought more of the troublemaker type. But I think we liked each other from a distance and I’d like to think I was always genuine to him in a subtle undemonstrative way!

He was spending the weekend working on new resolutions. How happy he sounded as he preached ” this is the time for the new me!”

‘ Funny’ I said, ‘ I’d planned to do the same.’ It was an early call as if he wanted to wake me up with his morning praise. I imagined I was going to be first of many that he would share his new-found elation. His zeal was a welcome addition to his character. I had always found him underwhelming even if the school found him to be a modern day hero .’ I plan not to be so nice to people, so nice to everyone. To stop always apologising even for things not yet done. That part of me has gone forever!’ And he immediately dropped a name of a politician who became the first victim of his new found non-niceness.

We promised to meet up when the lockdown finished. May? I asked thinking that because of his very loose connection to government he might know.

‘ No my dear boy. I hear the curfew will be enforced to mid June,’ he said and continued with the sort of crap you don’t particularly want to hear at anytime let alone before your first sip of coffee. ‘ I’ve heard that many have died of fright as soon as they start to cough!’

‘ Really? ‘ I replied, ‘ can you die from fright alone?’

‘ For sure, it’s called Vagal inhibition. a nervous stopping of the heart.’ He was about to go on but I cut him off.

His preaching irritated me and I was reminded of the old him. The head boy with a broad smile across the face always about to collect prizes galore for the classics, long jump, and logarithms.

I said a quick goodbye.

I’m spending the afternoon and early evening reading out on the terrace. On the table is a sheet of paper I’m going to write down my resolutions on. I pat the page to assure me all my promises will be kept. The sky is as crystalline as a treble voice. It is a religious experience. The first resolution is staring right at me. To better protect our planet. I know I’ve mentioned this before but we must protect the one and half million recorded but probably nearer ten million species on earth and sea, some of which we will never know because we destroyed them before we knew they were there? Let us appreciate these gifts of this world. And before I go on and return to the mood of previous days I shouldn’t let my despondency about the future be an excuse for a lack of gratitude for now. What Still Is. But what I promise to you and your brother is that in my small way I will check my behaviour so that your children and your children’s children will live on an earth flourishing and consumed by all its beauty.

Te quiero mucho

Papa

9th April 2020

Darling Paloma,

Your grandmother at a time I thought she took us to Trafalgar Square.

For today’s daily exercise, I walked to Trafalgar Square. It took around 30 minutes. I hadn’t been there for years not since I was a little boy. The square was completely empty. Social isolation at its very best. Even the pigeons had chosen to move on. No scenes of people and pigeons cooing and pissing over each other. For years, I remembered having my photograph taken there by a man in goggles who disappeared like a deep sea diver under a black hood. Afterwards he developed his negatives in the filthy fountain water. I remember watching the process in fascination. Eventually he handed over the photograph. It was a colour photograph of me and my best friend of the time Keith. We were both in our school uniforms and both holding up colourful large balloons. The balloons were bright and shimmered like hummingbirds in the afternoon sun. We must have been 5 or perhaps 6 years old at the time? I had a fringe and long black hair. I wanted to look like a Beatle.

I remember pigeons were everywhere. The Landseer lions smothered with kids of our age crawling over their manes. Old women were making a fortune selling corn in pocket sized brown paper bags. Nelson from way up on his column frowned and wagged his finger( his left hand of course) at the daylight robbery. My mother gave us some change to buy some corn. ‘ It annoys one to give to them, and it annoys one not to give them,’ I overheard saying to a friend. Well something like that. Keith tried to bombard the pigeons to death with the corn. I remember him laughing as he did it. That distinctive raucous laugh which used to get him into a shedload of trouble. We then before leaving watched a Punch and Judy puppet show lying on our stomachs, our heads cupped in our hands. The whole day was fun. The whole day was memorable. The only problem is that I now don’t think it ever happened. My mother tells me she never took us there. Even Keith has no memory of it. We never bought corn from an old woman. Corn was never sold in Trafalgar Square and there is no record of Punch and Judy shows being shown. However hard I’ve argued with myself, even spending hours trying to find the photograph, I’m beginning to realise it never happened and I have a habit of making up storIes from my childhood.

So today’s visit to an empty Trafalgar Square was my very first made during the worst week in the UK since the virus came to our island. Perhaps this is why I’m writing these letters to you in real time and not next year or even next month. I think it’s important to hear my truth, my fear, my hope in the extraordinary year you will be born.

Te quiero mucho

Papa

8th April 2020

He was not there. The man in the tweed suit had not returned since I promised I would get him a bath plug! Stupid really because since Saturday I had been carrying the plug around with me. Last night in bed I thought of him and of the gentleman being helped into the ambulance away from his desolate wife. I wondered how they both were. I had slept that half-sleep of someone who has stayed awake most of the night worrying and worrying. Bizarre because in the end they were a couple of strangers.

The Prime Minister remains in a stable condition and has spent his second day in intensive care – there seems to be a sense of optimism that he will pull through. So that’s good news. Tragically though, the US have recorded the highest Covid-19 deaths in a single day. More than 1,900 souls. Although we were warned of the horror that was about to fall on the United States the numbers are terrifying.

I decided to go in search of the elderly gentleman’s wife. The weather was beautiful and it felt like summer. For no particular reason it reminded me of weekend cricket matches when I was first sent away to boarding school. The aroma of freshly cut grass, strawberry ice cream and homemade sponge cakes. I recognized the door and pressed on the bell. There was no reply. I knocked and it gently opened. What to do? So I half coughed and coughed ( maybe not the best thing to do right now). There was still no reply. ‘ Hello,’ I shouted. No answer. So I slinked away and just as I was a few yards from the door I heard a voice asking me if she could help. It was the woman I had seen last week saying goodbye to her husband. I immediately apologized for bothering her but then I asked the question that just by looking at her face I already knew the answer for. Her husband had died the following morning without her by his side. They had been married 45 years and he died alone. Her face so drawn that in front of my eyes it had turned plain without expression until she suddenly let out a smile like no one ever smiled before and she spoke briefly of her love for him.

‘ I’m so sorry,’ I said knowing that I was fool to have even bothered her. I wanted to ask a hundred questions but of course I didn’t. ‘ If there is anything I can do please let me know. When I come back from my walk, I will drop my name and number through your letterbox. Please call if you need anything….’

She said that she was being well looked after and thanked me for my kindness. As I started to walk away she surprised me. ‘ Did he seem scared to you?’ she asked.

God I thought, how do I answer. ‘ No, ‘ I replied, ‘ I just could tell that he loved you so much.’ These are indeed strange times.

I walked on and before I reached the corner I turned around. I saw her give me a half wave and I gave her a wave back. But then I realized she was ridding herself from an early morning wasp. Oh dear.

So this very morning, I had first-hand experience of the devastation this virus is causing. It was a sad day but I believe tomorrow will be better. I plan not to watch the news but listen to jazz to soothe my soul.

Te quiero mucho

Papa

7th April 2020

Darling Paloma

He’s been looking worn out. His daily briefings have been difficult to watch. He was as white as a shroud but still tried to give that look of such self assurance. And yet when he turned to leave, his shoulders slumped and he slunk away like a retreating army. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one noticing . ‘ Are you alright?’ Those close must have asked offering a little sympathy. ‘ I’m absolutely sure I feel alright.’ He’d reply looking friends and advisors straight in the eyes. When left alone (because all leaders are left alone at times!) he’d sit down and put his head between his hands and curse his luck ( which had been so good of late) that he had the virus.

It is all conjecture how our Prime Minister is at the moment. The press office at Number 10 continue to release insipid statements telling us as little as possible. What we do know is that he is in intensive care and there are whispers that he’s on a ventilator. How cruel for someone who has opened his mouth most of his life, to speak, to catch his breath and now has a machine that provides mechanical ventilation by moving breathable air into and out of his lungs; it is a tragedy what is happening to him and hundred of thousands around the world. He is not universally loved and many blame him for taking this country down the wrong path but when you see your leader vulnerable much of what has gone before is partly forgotten and brings out the deepest sympathy for what he and thousand of others are going through. And from what I hear from your uncle Mark, very few of us can truly imagine the horrors that the front line is witnessing. Some patients who move into intensive care fall quickly like a lump of lead; those who have seen many horrors before says there is little comparison to what they are experiencing. A cousin of ours is an intensive care consultant at The Royal Free. Every day from seven in the morning to seven at night she tries to save lives. Then she goes not to her own home but to a rented apartment to be close to the hospital and to protect her family. My brother who lives nearby leaves food outside his door on a tray for her to eat some dinner. She doesn’t ring the bell. She just sits and gulps down the gift of food to regain the strength she has lost from the day’s work. My brother before going to bed looks out to find her empty tray. No words, no need for a thank you, no need to define it. No one on the front line needs to go hungry. It is simply a gift from one family member to another.

Te quiero mucho

Papa

4th April

Darling Paloma,

Maybe this is how you are going to throw dinner parties in the future. Gossiping with friends through the screen of your laptop.

Everyone sort of turned up on time. One guest had trouble with their internet but fixed it and joined in without missing too much.

There we all were, sitting at our separate tables. Our friend from Boston at the end of a long table in his apartment overlooking Boston Common. It is a beautiful eccentric apartment which personifies his beautiful eccentric character. Our friend in New York in his 80th floor apartment in Hudson Yard overlooking the Hudson River. When he turned the camera towards the city below, you could see even high up how sorrowful and abandoned New York looked. While our other guests joined us from their 16th century manor in the South West of England. ‘ How lucky and privileged we all are, even in isolation, to have homes such as these,’ our New York friend noted.

An assortment of food and drink were on the various menus: the couple in England had curry, we were having mushroom risotto, our friend in New York had a t-bone steak and our friend in Boston had a glass of scotch. We tried to laugh and I think we did but the underlying conversation was naturally of dismay and sorrow of what is happening to our world. It was good to “see” close friends again and we promised to make it a regular dinner date . Next time we will dress for the occasion. When we said our goodbyes, we agreed to meet at the same time same day the following week.

The virus has already formed its own personality. Its mean spirit. Showing signs of combat with its merciless conniving attacks which we at first underrated but now hopefully recognize although after our walk in the park this morning I still have doubts. Many have been doing their best to ignore the storm that’s been building even before the virus. Ignoring our ability to create floods or droughts at will, with all those forests being chopped down, puncturing the ionosphere so that ultraviolet radiation ruins crops, spreads cancer, causes havoc. It is becoming clear we all had lessons to learn.

When I took a break from writing, I read that one of India’s biggest slums is reported to have had their first coronavirus death; Indian doctors are telling the country to prepare for an “onslaught” of cases. I shuddered when I read those words. And poor poor Italy is reporting that deaths are increasing now in its southern parts. Italy has always been an important part of your father’s life. During these days whenever tragic news is reported, I weep for all Italians and their ravishing land.

On a more positive note your mother’s aunt is recovering. She has been transferred from hospital to a medicated hotel which she will stay until she is safe to go home and quarantine. Also my school friend Andrew remains in quarantine but his temperature has gone and he is getting stronger. So within these bewildering days there is some good news to report.

I touch your mother’s stomach and send you love,

Daddy.

3rd April 2020

Darling Paloma,

The number of coronavirus cases in the world is now over one million. Irrelevant in part as so few of us have yet to be tested but it’s a milestone nevertheless which fills us with trepidation of what is to come. I don’t think I’d be wild in describing it as an existential threat to humanity. If I’m wrong then thank God I am.

I’m sure in the future , you will look back and think wow! there was an actual time when this planet had “just” a million cases. Today is that day my darling and we are living through it. It feels for many as if the world we have grown to know with all its beauty and all its failings has suddenly stopped.

Last night at around 9pm I took Lola out for her late walk . There was no one on the streets, they were completely empty of human life. Even the fleet of vespas had taken the night off. All we saw were two foxes scavenging for food and someone smoking a joint out of his window. As a friend once described, ‘ the burning tip of my joint reminds me of the devilish face of some nightowl.” Lights in the area were off, there was not even the usual yellow and blue neon flashing from the gas station. I thought perhaps the whole city had shut down and no one had told us about it. No brightness left. No flashing screens in Picadilly Circus. Not even the usual orange hue of the night city. Why? Had the virus also sucked us dry of light? I took the pods out of my ears. Listen. What could I hear? Only foxes using our street like a field dodging back and forth among the rubbish bins, outrunning, doubling back, stopping short,teasing each other until they glimpsed Lola . They stared at each other and then the foxes made a dash to the neighbouring square with one carrying half a pizza in its mouth.

The only benefit of darkness was that no one could see my bald head. I was not prepared to show it to even a stranger. You will be pleased to know that our marriage is still intact . I got your mum to cut it off for me. There are a lot of firsts going on in the world at the moment and to have my hair shaved off is one. I could hardly look in the mirror but your mother still seemed to love me so by the time I glimpsed at myself I had become a little more confident. All I could see was my father, your late grandfather. It was like a high pitched whistle going off in my head capable of distancing myself from the outside world; for that alone I am grateful.

Tonight we are planning out first ” Zoom” dinner party. A table for six has been set on a white table cloth. Avocado full of prawns, artichoke hearts, smoked salmon, caviare, anchovies twirled round red hot peppers. Not really! We are having risotto with a bottle of red wine on a white table cloth. One guest will sitting in Boston, the other in New York and the other two one hundred miles down the road. It is the new cheaper way to throw a dinner party.

Tomorrow I have my first Spanish lesson. So fingers crossed.

Te quiero mucho

Papa

2nd April 2020

Darling Paloma

On my morning walk, I find comfort in ordinary things seen quickly, smelt quickly. Those ordinary things which before these last few weeks I did not notice. A gentle trace of coffee from the local coffee bar when a door swings open, a man sleeping contentedly on a park bench, torn paper blowing skywards like a dule of doves before a storm. How peaceful it all looks on a day like this. No, it can’t be possible that here in the UK, the NHS front line staff, the very people protecting us, are still not getting tested for the coronavirus. Promises that tests were being ramped on to 25,000 a day has not happened. I believe we are still at around 6,000. Consequently, hundreds of NHS staff have been self-isolating without knowing if it is safe for them to return to work.

The government claim that testing is being held up by a shortage of reagents when the Chemical Industries Association repudiates such a notion and claims there is no shortage of the relevant reagents. Who to believe?

It seems that many of our leaders, with some notable exceptions, are looking at the world thru the windows of an ambulance – you can see out, but not look in; unjust but for them most useful. The whispering of danger is here, all around us, and growing each day.

Then my face suddenly changes expression when out of the corner of my eye I notice the old man in his tweed cap and suit sitting on my stoop doing his crossword. I was so happy to see him. I didn’t think I would see him again. He looks up and laughs once. I was near enough ( but not so near) to catch sight of his red larynx. ‘ You’ll discover that you have far few friends that you imagine, far more than you knew.’ he said.

‘ Really?’ I replied not really paying attention to what he said. It’s only when I write it down that I think he is probably right.

He looked better and less angry too.

‘ I wonder if you could help me?’ he asked.

‘ Of course, ‘ I replied excited that we were actually going to converse.

‘ Would you be able to lend me a bath plug?’ he asked.

‘ A bath plug?!’

‘ I lost mine and can’t find a replacement. A bath has to be complete. There is nothing worse than a quick bath; it is after all one of the few simple luxuries left for us. I’ve been using a handkerchief which is not the most hygenic.’

‘ Of course. I’ll order one today.’ Not thinking for a moment his request was a little strange.

‘ A miracle!’ he said which spurred me on to tell him one of the first jokes I remember : ‘ A nun is trying to get two bottles of whiskey through the customs which she claims is holy water from Lourdes. ‘ But Sister, this is whiskey!’ the custom officer says. ‘ A miracle, a miracle!’ the nun exclaims.

‘ Very good. Must be off,’ the old man said and without another word marched away. Oh dear!

Anyway, I had a mission for the day. Not a particularly difficult one but a mission after all. I ordered a chrome plated plug from Amazon and received a promise it would arrive in the morning. I then spent the next hour worrying whether I had chosen the right size. Oh dear! Perhaps the rigour of isolation is beginning to set in.

So to cheer myself up, I decided to cut my hair or rather shave it off. I had never done it before and decided there isn’t a better time. I’m not going to tell your mum. I’m just going to present my new look. So if you are brought up in a single parent home, you will know why.

Love Daddy.

1st April 2020

Darling Paloma,

Your mum nodded her head. She can tell that I was still thinking of the image I saw yesterday morning. It was on my daily walk to the park. An ambulance blocked the road leading to a neighbouring square. All yellow with flashing blue lights (what happened to the all-white ambulance that I was brought up with?)

A paramedic supported an elderly man under his arms and escorted him from his house to the waiting ambulance. Poor soul! He looked scared and his clothes looked drenched by sweat that seemed to be literally oozing from his body. He was the epitome of sickness. And yet he walked upright as if his innate duty was to walk to the ambulance like an English gentleman. And then I saw his wife. His beautiful wife standing by their front door. Her glistening green eyes as green as grass after rain. She was waving goodbye in her white dressing gown unable to join him because she had to remain in isolation. It felt they had shared a long life together. He turned just once and that was before climbing into the ambulance. He didn’t say anything, he just smiled. I stood back trying not to be noticed. When the ambulance drove away she looked up to the sky in prayer; it was as if she offered no resistance. She was numb, anaesthetised. He had gone. Then she turned and walked slowly back into her house.

Who can be angry by what is happening to us? Should I be angry, because we are bringing you into a world that’s unsafe? Do moments like these simply make it all a little bit more real rather than listening to the news and reading the increasing number of deaths? I am trying to find answers to my questions but mind resembles yesterday’s weather. There was not much sun, just a half mist, half- drizzle clouding all the details. The renewed spirit that I experienced over the weekend had temporarily evaporated and my breath which I have consciously listened to had grown a little weaker.

Today as I walked to the park, I looked up to the house half expecting the shutters to be drawn and for it to be dark. But I was wrong. The windows were wide open and the bright mid-morning sun was shining against the white walls. The park was particularly empty not crowded as on previous days. I was tempted to sit on one of the benches and have a short nap knowing that I would not be disturbed but instead I walked along Rotten Row, a broad horse track, in silent communion with the distance and dust taking comfort of how beautiful this world is.

Love,

Daddy

31st March 2020

Darling Paloma,

I thought of this story yesterday from when I was about five years old.

I always remember the sun coming up and its view from my bedroom window. Even at that young age I loved spending those first moments of the day alone taking in what was happening around me. How the noises from a new day began to multiply. Whenever I feel sad, I try to remember those sounds and they help to make me feel better. I find it to be a good meditation. So on this particular day from my window, I saw a rabbit curled up against the solitary tree at the end of the kitchen garden. It did not move for a long time so I ran downstairs in my pajamas to see if it was all right. The rabbit was clearly injured and looked awful. Its head hung limply and its eyes could barely open. It looked as if it had woken up from a horrendous hangover.

I brought the rabbit in and I was allowed to looked after it. And after a few weeks it grew stronger and it had become my friend. I built a cage for him to laze in ( well I didn’t build it but that’s not important) and fed him carrots and although I couldn’t be sure of its sex called him Alexander after Alexander the Great.

He became my friend. Listened to my stories without the slightest moan. Then, and I’m still not sure how, the rabbit escaped from its cage and ran away. I was so upset and grieved its loss until one morning I saw from the downstairs window that he had returned. He was looking straight at me.

I tried to open the window to climb out to fetch it but like most of the windows in the house it kept sticking. I hurried out of the front door but before I reached the point where the rabbit was staring, it was no longer there. He had disappeared forever. Although I mourned that he had run away again, I remember feeling that he was now free and able to live his life the way he wanted to.

My family were understanding, though they were probably dismayed that I didn’t seem particularly upset.

‘ How do you know it was the same rabbit?’ I was asked.

‘ Because I know he came back to check if we were all right.’ I replied.

So today my darling daughter, I plan to check on people I haven’t spoken to for a while, just to check how they are doing.

With love,

Daddy

30th March 2020

Darling Paloma,

I cannot hold back certain thoughts, I’m frightened those thoughts distinguish me from from everyone else. Questions twist round me like a snake. I try to stifle them but they are springs which however hard I press down , they will eventually leap up when I run of force. I think about the virus every hour, every day. I even dream about It. I usually don’t tell anyone about dreams, dreams or prayers. It bores them. So all I’ll say is that last night I dreamt I had the virus and the night before I dreamt I didn’t.

One of the first sites I visit in the morning is worldometers.info to check on the latest coronavirus numbers which change frequently. It reminds me of a billboard on Santa Monica Boulevard near to the 405: ‘ Smoking deaths this year and counting.” – Bill Bloomfield constructed a massive billboard to make people aware of the dangers of smoking by electronically counting nearly one smoking death a minute; I used to drive by looking away in case the number changed as I was passing. I would have seen that as very bad luck. Maybe we should erect a similar billboard around Hyde Park Corner to remind people of social distancing. To remind them that the closer you get the more danger you may put someone in.

I had a near fight with someone who edged close to your mum and then minutes later did the same to me. He was an undesirable character who had a total disregard for anyone but himself. I told him to get back which he didn’t take well. I shrugged my shoulders which he didn’t take well. He cursed and I backed further away. Perhaps this is an example of things to come. I was only talking last week of community spirit but with the intensity of our change of lifestyle there is another side. The isolation is bringing questions in to our life. The different opinions of how to tackle this virus and when restrictions will be lifted. Ultimately it is not our decision. We will have to follow what biology is telling us; it is a time for biology to lead.

I look forward to those balmy summer evenings when these days are abandoned and we return to not the old world but at least to something recognizable. Today the roads are virtually empty, the skies are clear of planes and the local church’s stained glass windows that once seemed to me like the peaceful lake at the edge of a loud and manic city have an eerie gloom to them. I wait for them to regain their miraculously reflecting mess of colours: : rhubarb reds and pewter greys; purples and cinnamon; electric blues miraculously reflecting onto pavement leading to the garden square below.

With love,

Daddy.

28th March 2020

Darling Paloma,

It doesn’t feel like a Saturday. It feels like no particular day. I wonder when weekends will return to feel like weekends again.

The disturbing surge of case numbers can only be matched by the connected spirit of good will throughout the world .

On Thursday in Tangiers a friend sent a film he took from his rooftop after night had set in . He wrote, “Everyone is in lock-down and just like Italy and Spain, the citizens climbed to the rooftops, balcony and windows across Tangier and united in prayer and chants to God to save them from the virus. It went on for an hour or so.”

The same was happening over here. At 8pm neighbours all over London and throughout UK, many of whom had lived close to each other for years and never passed a word yet alone a half wave were out on their balconies or in the street cheering all those working for NHS. The following day, everyone agreed, even the type who tends to disagree that they loved this community spirit… let’s hope that this spirit continues when we begin to glue together the pieces to a new social order in a post coronavirus world.

I thought of our neighbours Pedro and Alexandra. We met a year ago. They are the type of neighbours you would hope for – inclusive, generous and very kind. When I took Lola for a walk last night, the streets was deserted except for a number of vespas at the ready to make food deliveries. I gazed up at their house. The lights were off and the house looked deserted. I can honestly say I missed them not being nearby. The solidarity of friendship close to where one lives. I do think that this connection within us is naturally growing. Life can at remarkable times conjure up for some of us far from easy words like companionship, nature, affection, praise and, above all else – yes – love.

And how I miss your brother. I miss him every day. I’m so tempted to get in the car to drive down to see him. All I’d want to do is give him a tight hug, hold on to his hand and say face to face “I love you” but I know I can’t. It is now we each have to take responsibility. I understand that. I sense it is a time where the danger could go either way.

Each walk grows more intense as if I needed to be reminded of this new world. Whether it is finding a moaning body lying in our street ( she was taken away by ambulance) or passing two men in protection gear decontaminating a house.

When I went downstairs to have my breakfast, I heard a slapping sound coming from the front door. An assortment of junk mail had been delivered strewn across the door mat like discarded betting slips.Yes delivered even during these days. I usually ignore them but one caught my eye mainly because of its accidental humour or madness ; a leaflet advertising a summer cruise. Yes a summer cruise! “Book early to avoid disappointment” was its headline, followed by a list of countries it would visit, ending with a peculiar warning about being careful not to fall overboard. Pessimistic or what? Do not try to swim, the last paragraph warned. Lie on your back. Save energy. You should be able to do this for twenty-four hours. The ship will eventually turn to find you. Perhaps this was a lesson about life: don’t flap, have faith, you’re always in with a chance of rescue. How reassuring!

Love Daddy.

27th March 2020

Darling Paloma

For the majority of us, it’s like being on a moving train watching the spread of this virus. We only catch sight of, never properly see, anything. The imagination fills in what the eye, because of the speed of the train, can’t fully digest. It is only when the news grows closer do we truly begin to understand what’s happening out there.

I heard from my brother that my niece Emma, who is a Senior House Officer, is being fitted out to work on the front line starting next Monday. My poor brother and sister in law. What must they be going through? Probably a mixture of deep pride and deep fear. Emma is a special girl and just meeting her you can tell how strong she is. I’m sure she will be fine.

And last night we heard your mother’s aunt has been taken to hospital. She has double pneumonia. From what I understand, it was not as simple as ringing the ambulance and being picked up. There was at first a frantic search and a wait of seven hours. Finally and luckily they found a bed. I understand she’s now in a good care and she is comfortable.

Your Uncle Jaime sent a photograph of Madrid. A city that I have just fallen in love with and where half of your family live looks desolate and in despair.

Andrew, my close friend from school days texted me to say he’s got the virus. I thought he was joking at first ( as he does) but he is not. He told his doctor that “it felt like somebody had kicked the shit out of me.” She said that maybe we should phrase it slightly differently for her notes. He wrote today: ‘ I didn’t know about the symptom of feeling so sore all over, not seen it online. But several people now seem to have had the same, and a lot worse, and the doctor said it was a common symptom along with headaches. Since both my boys had headaches and low grade fevers for 24 hrs last week, I wish I’d known more.’

Below is a photograph of Andrew and I with our late Headmaster’s daughter when we revisited the school.

I plan to check on him everyday. And this afternoon we got news that the Prime Minister has tested positive for Covid-19. Not totally surprising as I thought he looked dreadful over the last few days. I suppose the big question is how many people did he infect and like your mum, his partner is pregnant – I hope she is clear.

So my darling girl the virus is beginning to strangle our days. There is a scream as of some poor creature not yet touched by the virus, not yet infected, but who sees it converging.

The only ray of light for us has been a stunning one. Yesterday in a deserted Harley Street clinic we went for a scan. It could easily have been my imagination but I’m sure you smiled at me. Oh how comfortable and snug you looked. Near and yet so far from the world we are living in at the moment. But I remain convinced or maybe I just hope that by the time you make your entrance everything would have settled…..

Love Daddy.

26th March 2020

It is still so strange to see empty restaurants when I go for my daily exercise. There is a restaurant opposite where on a Sunday we would see it filling up with families, full of cheerful cousins and glowing grandparents and children playing games. I used to grumble like mad wishing that they’d turn down the racket, tempted to shout from our window to quieten it down but now things have changed and I see it only as the pass-key to peace and happiness.

I’m beginning to feel like someone from a bygone era that shakes their fists and moans; why can’t things be as they once were? The thought of yesteryear remains close. Even on my walk, I started to imagine the time, when your grandfather was a boy, of pretty parasols, trams on the beachfront, donkey rides and candy floss.

I’m trying to be optimistic . I’m thinking that we needed this to happen to urge us to change our attitude. This vicious enemy is going to give the world a tilt into the right direction. Hopefully it will give us a balance that we were undoubtedly losing. Sadly though I still think we have a way to go before we all wake up.

The man in the tweed suit was again sitting on our stoop doing his crossword. I have a feeling that he’s found his regular spot for breakfast. He had clearly just completed a clue as he was busy scribbling something down with delight and laughing with satisfaction which sounded more like an old lift climbing a high building.

‘ Glad those bloody workmen have gone,’ he spoke deliberately like a snob.

It was true the builders had packed up. I hadn’t noticed. I had wondered why the streets were even quieter than yesterday. I was going to ask if he’d move so I could get into my house but I hesitated as I didn’t want to bother him. Unlike earlier in the week, I was able to look directly at his face which matched the colour of his grey knitted socks. He looked weary, poor soul, so I decided to continue my walk rather than bother him.

I went to the park for my daily walk. it was far emptier than any other day since the lockdown. The police nearly outnumbered the people out walking. They gave me a sense of reassurance. How stunning Hyde Park was this morning. We forget how beautiful our London parks can be. See a postcard for tourists of the Italian Gardens and you, think ‘ where’s that?’ And you suddenly realise you’ve walked through it a hundred times before, walked through it every month for years.

This afternoon we are heading to meet with Dr Digesu. He’s the man chosen to bring you into this world. I admit even though your mother’s stomach is huge and we have had a load of congratulatory messages, it is still hard to believe that you are actually coming to meet us. You are Paloma such a miracle. Maybe that’s why I am writing these letters. It makes everything ‘ more real’ if that’s the right expression. Anyway don’t forget to give us a wave or kick at around 5 o’clock. By then, we should be in his office.

Love

Daddy.

25th March 2020

My darling daughter,

I’m following the new enforced rules carefully but I had to head down the Kings Road to visit the pharmacist. I have been going to Ebi at IT Chemists since I was a teenager. He is that old fashioned pharmacist which rarely exists these days and certainly won’t be around when you get older. They are like doctors in themselves who give sound medical advice whenever it is needed. I don’t know how many times I have visited him when your hypochondriac father was concerned about something. He has always had time for me and been my first call even before my G.P. He is a great man and is loved not just by me but by the community.

The pharmacy itself felt different today. I went early to avoid the inevitable lines but as soon as I walked in it felt like I was stepping into a tomb. The place suffocated me with nightmares of the sort; all oxygen had suddenly left the jet and hands are groping up towards the individual air-nozzles above the seats, to touch the feet of some breath-giving God.

I hurried needing to get out and asked whether my prescription had arrived but it had not. ‘ Try Friday,’ Ebi said.

‘ So you’ll be open then?’

‘ I hope so, ‘ he said half laughing as if I was taking the piss.

He mask covered his kind face so the strain of the time was virtually hidden.You half expected him to say , ‘ I’ve never seen the likes of this before’ but he didn’t. He had long day ahead so I left him behind without our usual gossip.

I’m now home writing to you. We are lucky because we have a terrace and it’s a warm spring day. The sort of weather that surprises and gives you that extra bounce. I would love to be in the country with wide open fields but this is the next best thing- we are privileged and we know and appreciate it.

I was going to write a little bit about politics but I am resisting. I listened to Trump yesterday saying that he hoped to ” reopen the country ” by Easter. Absolute Madness! Especially when cases are spiking and still the large majority of potential cases have still to be tested. Everyone is trying to reset their way of living and he says something like that. I shuddered at his stupidity and it put me in a bad mood. When mum tried to change my towel for the third time this week, I snapped at her – a bark more than a snap. When you’re sent away to school at an early age and you are forced to use the same towel for weeks it difficult even years later to adjust.

But we are doing pretty well your mum and I; we are learning to give each other space.

I will try to be more positive next time I write.

Love

Daddy.