24th March 2020

Darling Paloma,

My friend Gianni is tucked up with his family in Milan. He once saved my life but that story can wait for another day. His ninety-year-old mother is 145 miles away in Camaiore. This is where your brother and I spent many of our summers on the beach in Forte dei Marmi. He can’t visit his mother for now as he is still going to work and obviously scared that he may pass on the virus. He sounds stoic but I hear unease in his voice. He tells me that although this is the saddest of times for Italy it has never looked so beautiful. The canals in Venice for so long grey have now turned blue. Rome emptiness helps locals see the city differently. The weather is turning and it helps to feel that sudden breath of warm air. Each street, every building suddenly seems spaced out, each object individual. Trees now have numbered branches on its head and innumerable leaves. The rays of the setting sun are single and glorious; they send yellow patches onto the empty palazzos. The city and its loveliness is only spoilt by the constant sound of ambulance sirens waaaaaahhhhhhhing in the distance.

The Prime Minister addressed our country yesterday and announced a curfew of sorts: shops selling non-essential items will close, libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship will also close. Weddings and baptisms will be banned but funerals will be allowed. Gatherings of more than two people not from the same household will be banned. He spoke well. His has a gift to connect with the public and his authority mixed with concern will last in the memory for a long time. But today in my neighbouring streets there seemed little change other than the few empty buses. I took Lola for a walk and regularly had to swap sides to the street to avoid groups of builders having a laugh. Is building a rather large ostentatious house essential to our needs? I don’t think so but I’m sure or rather hope that they will eventually be told to down tools.

When I returned home an old man in tweed suit and cap was sitting on our stoop catching the sun. He was having his breakfast and doing the Times crossword.

‘ You okay sitting out here?’ I asked.

‘ I am,’ he replied and then said,’ no one is going to tell me how to die.’

I didn’t want to say anything. Best to leave that debate for another day. Instead, I left him alone and decided to take the dog for a longer walk. By the time I returned, he was gone except for his newspaper lying flat on our steps with the completed crossword .

I’m beginning to think my darling girl you are far safer in mummy’s tummy for the time . Each day is so different from the previous one. Today I imagine the sunset will be postponed due to everyone being stuck inside. London is sprinting into a new phase. You don’t have to be an expert to recognise that. So for the moment darling remain secure and by the time you’re ready to greet us, the danger outside would have hopefully subsided.

Love

Daddy

23rd March 2020

My dear Paloma,

Took Lolita for a walk on Saturday morning to Primrose Hill. Thought it would be barren but how wrong we were. Full of people, like us, walking their dog, others going for a run but the majority meeting up with friends for a good laugh. You should have seen the top of the hill. Literally full of people giving no thought to their health and to the health of others. I shouted at one man with chaotic teeth and he snapped back, ‘mind your own business,’ and then walked away coughing and cursing,’ this fucking virus!’ he said quietly, then loudly, ‘it will be the end of us.’ Your mother scolded me for getting involved.

‘ Let’s get out of here,’ she demanded.

I’m definitely watching too much television and scanning too much on YouTube. It’s become an addiction and not sure how healthy it is. I’ve a reminder set for the White House and British government daily briefings. Boris announced yesterday that up to 1.5 million people in England, identified by the NHS to be most vulnerable of severe illness will receive a letter advising them to stay at home for the next three months. A total lockdown for the entire country still remains days away which to me feels like madness.

As for the characters at the White House briefings, the body language from the group on stage is a book in itself. First, any talk of social distancing is abandoned. Faces stacked together so close they must hear the different keys of each other’s breath.

President Trump tries to look empathetic while at the same time concocting answers to journalist’s questions. He boasts of his decision to stop flights to and from China which was without doubt a good thing but once that decision was made he clearly did nothing to take advantage of the time given.

The testing here and the US is still not sufficient so we are chasing the virus blindly and deaths will keep building. South Korea has been testing so they can see their enemy so clusters can be identified and everyone can then be isolated. They have now levelled out on the all important curve which everybody keeps talking about. I have seen more graphs over the last few days than my entire years at school. The graphs continues to build in UK and US

Trump has an answer to all his critics; even when St Peter turns him away at the gate he will have an answer. ‘ We don’t want any of your sort here.’

‘ No problem Pedro, I’m not interested in your paradise. I’m giving you and the rest of your crew ten minutes to get out!’ he’ll reply.

Dr. Anthony Fauci.

My favourite character is, by a distance, Dr Fauci. A clever decent man. I watch him growing more tired as he is forced to stand up there for sometimes over two hours. Can’t anyone see how tiring this must be for a man in constant demand and nearly eighty years old? I imagine him mumbling under his breath like a camel might glancing at the President as if he were a hopeless case. I trust him and that’s what we all need during these long difficult days. I wish though he occasionally interrupted Trump when he hears something that’s simply not true. It would add a touch of spice to the otherwise monolithic, controlled and tedious hours.

Love Daddy.

PS I spoke to your brother this morning. He is living deep in the country. He is safe and staying put with his girlfriend. He sounds good and sounds positive. He is spending his hours painting and enjoying this new found passion. He just completed his first self-portrait. Not sure you’d think it looks like him.

20th March 2020

Darling Paloma,

I went to Whole Foods this morning. The one on Kensington High Street. It was about 11am. No sight of the frantic buying we are reading about in various stores around the country. It was all rather civil as if nothing was going on. Even the check out lines weren’t particularly long. It was only when I went upstairs that I saw anything different. A man was sitting alone praying. I didn’t want to photograph him but I couldn’t resist . He exuded such peace that anyone who felt fear would have felt it fade. I did not find it disturbing at all. I found it beautiful.

When he had finished this woman brazingly went up to him.

‘What are you doing?’ she asked, knowing.

‘I’m praying,’

‘Why, for heaven’s sake?’

‘Because prayers work,’ he said phlegmatically.

In the afternoon I went to pick up your mum from work today. She is still working and had to be persuaded to come home. I walked into Hyde Park by the Serpentine. the

Everything looked so normal so calm. Calm during the blaze of war or calm, calm, calm before more war, a worse war? Motionless, except for the crows’ nests of the trees, which gave the slightest sway.

The streets around Bond Street were empty. Maybe it was because it was a Friday. Maybe the news is finally sinking in. A man in Berkeley Square looked very unwell. I heard him chunder. Head bent down. Poor man. He of course may have just had too much to drink but I doubt it.

I was happy to see your mother although we had been apart for just a matter of hours. I immediately felt safe. She does that for me. She is all I ever wanted or shall ever want on the face of the earth.

I will write again soon.

I love you.

Daddy

19th March 2020

Darling Paloma,

The streets are still bustling. Everyone is talking about the impending lockdown but no one of course has any idea except those in or close to government. A friend who knows a friend of Boris Johnson says Friday, the guy who makes my coffee says Sunday. We shall see but I can’t understand why it hasn’t happened already. There is no sign of social distancing and I have stopped myself a number of times from going up to lecture strangers on what social distancing means. Mind you it’s easier for me as I have been doing it for years.

The communication from the government despite its daily news conferences seems pretty lousy. It is as if they are making up the rules as they go along. Boris Johnson standing anxiously between his two medical advisors both trying to exude an aura of reassurance. The type who naturally has a good bedside manner and not some (how can we put it): horror-movie medic! The Prime Minister is looking more by the day like uncooked tripe. His announcement to shut down the schools though has thrown the country into proper perspective. (We are the last in Europe to make the decision). Suddenly the world we have got to know looks to be slowly disappearing. Park football pitches soon to be turned into rubbish dumps, disused country roads, buildings half-finished, warehouses turning into hospitals. I really believe these strange times are going to last longer than we all think.

I know we have written down 19th June as the day we all plan to see each other. But time suddenly feels as if it is slowing ; it pains me. I know over the coming months I will have to deal with its perception.

I am going to leave you with this story I was told when I was a boy and has always stayed with me: A man was moving country and while clearing out his home, finds a ticket for a pair of shoes left at a shoe shop many years before. On the off chance that the shop is still there, he pays a call, and, sure enough, there it is, with the same cobbler in charge, by now wizened and wise! He hands over the ticket. “I’ll have a look for you,” says the cobbler, and goes out the back, eventually returning to announce: “They’ll be ready next Tuesday!’

I love you.

Daddy