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.