Radio Times, Radial Crimes

“This historical record contains material which some may find offensive.”
I really didn’t expect to encounter this warning when I called up the November 1953 issue of the Radio Times. It has HM the Q, along with the D of E on the cover – they are due to embark on their tour of the Commonwealth.
There are adverts for ‘Radio Rentals’, where people can pay instalments to hire a hefty Bakelite-and-amber wireless with a huge rotating dial.

We have an obituary for Dylan Thomas (‘He developed the radio talk into a form of art…’) and a full-page advert for the new Gillette blade dispenser. We also have an interview where Frankie Howerd discusses his thirteen-year journey to overnight stardom. “‘I’m not really a comedian’ he says, rumpling his already-rumpled hair.”
You can imagine Boris Johnson making a similar comment in a few years’ time, when he has been banished to the TV chat-show circuit following a titanic election meltdown.

‘Away with badly-fitting shirts and on with the Radiac!’ yells one advert, addressing the problem of disappearing shirt -cuffs; on the next page we have an advert for the latest technology, a 17-inch Ferranti television set.

And then, the listings for Monday 23 include the Frankie Howerd Show (oo-er, missus!) and a sci-fi radio drama called Journey Into Space, featuring Andrew Faulds – one-time Argonaut and MP for Smethwick – as the spaceman Jet Morgan. Jason and the Astronauts, you could say…

And then we find an offensive article, a programme called ‘The Whitaker Negro’ written and presented by Robert Graves. This appears alongside ‘The Archers’ and a twenty-minute talk about Busoni’s writings about music.

In his opera ‘Doktor Faust’, Busoni refashions the role of Mephistopheles and portrays Faust as a psychological case-study, whose tormented conscience manifests itself as the fiend. Perhaps the same was true of Dorian Gray; paranoid, awash with herbal narcotics, he becomes convinced that his expensive portrait is deteriorating and revealing his guilt. Everybody knows he is engaged in reckless debauchery; they amuse themselves by pretending to believe that his appearance is unchanged and his reputation still spotless.

A few pages later, we find an advert for Andrex toilet roll – 1/3d for a single roll, or 2/5d for an economical double roll pack. What would the readers think, if they could be whisked 67 years into the future, to see supermarket shelves carrying economy packs of 24 rolls (and shoppers panic-buying this product) in a range of colours. Perhaps some of the more priggish RT readers would write angry letters in green ink, protesting against this vulgar and degrading advertisement.

Another advert, this time for chocolates: ‘Nestlé’s Home Made Assortment gives a special touch of hospitality to a television party or a family game of bridge.’

Does anybody remember ‘Batchelor’s Baked Beans – the best you can buy!’

And then to prove that feminism was just a distant dream, we have a half-page advert for domestic appliances showing a wholesome nuclear family: “Naturally, you are eager to give her what she really wants – something to make life easier, pleasanter, happier for years to come! Give her a Hoover – she knows it’s the best!’

Or: “Try this on your favourite man this Christmas – get him something that really does make sense to a man, a Ronson lighter! For the young people there is also the Ronson Cadet from 25/-…”
And then on Friday 27, we had a broadcast concert by the Brighouse and Rastrick band, conducted by James Hickman.

A large advert shows a tin of ‘Du-Lite Emulsion Paint’ from the makers of Dulux. The company name and address are given as ‘Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd, London SW1’, which gives some idea of the towering confidence (arrogance?) of that organisation.
And a full-page advert on the back page shows a newlywed couple visiting the Cadbury’s factory at Bournville, and admiring the staff leisure facilities. How stable and secure life in Britain must have seemed at the time…

The Saturday listings show that the week rounds off with a charming programme: ‘Your table is reserved at Café Continental, the Gay International Cabaret’. Sydney Jerome conducts l’Orchestre Pigalle. Gay times, indeed!

According to my copy of Boye de Mente’s 1987 textbook ‘Japanese in Plain English’ the honorific term San is used to address anybody and takes on the appropriate meaning of Mr, Mrs or Miss. The author points out that “The concept of ‘Ms’ has not penetrated the Japanese language or culture”.
I was reminded of this when I spotted a recent news item concerning Nippon Paint, which has moved into the field of consumer paints. Initially their product range was stagnating, until two of the female employees came up with the idea for ‘Roombloom’.

This was proposed as being ‘A well-designed paint for women’, and included radical ideas such as ‘Repainting your home’s ceiling and walls according to your tastes’ and ‘If the paint cans were cuter, women would also probably buy them.’

Because of the successful advertising campaigns launched by (for instance) Honda and Toyota, we may be in danger of thinking that Japanese consumer and corporate cultures are almost the same as our own. It may be that Japanese home-owners always use professional decorators, and that the idea of painting your own walls is a novelty.

Perhaps Nippon Paint executives are already aware that in Europe and the States, women are not seduced by cute label designs, but instead are making important decisions on technical and commercial aspects of coatings. And women tend to show a much lower incidence of colour-vision defects than men, so it makes perfect sense to employ them in the coatings sector.

Meanwhile, I shall keep a look out for tins marked ‘A well-designed paint for men’ next time I’m pushing a trolley round B-and-Q at Batley….


Of course, the only real cure for novel coronavirus 19 is to be placed in a steel tank under eighteen atmospheres of Hydroxychloroquine vapour and then ignited.

11 April 20: The epidemic of Covid-19 continues to sweep across Europe and the US. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has accused NHS workers of using too much of the protective clothing supplied, which has given rise to a shortage of PPE.

Cabinet Minister Robert Jenrick has been criticised for travelling to visit his elderly parents – although he claimed that he was delivering urgent medical supplied.
He also travelled from London to Herefordshire, and told the Daily Mail: “My house in Herefordshire is the place I, my wife and my young children consider to be our family home and my family were there before any restrictions on travel were announced.”
But his children attend school in London, and his website declares that he lives in London and Southwell. Perhaps he is a quantum being, who manages to simultaneously occupy two separate dwellings in order to fulfil his constituency post and also to qualify for mortgage relief on second homes.

This slippery behaviour has enraged social media commentators, who point out that ordinary people would be stopped and fined for driving 40 miles to deliver groceries. We also had the pleasure of watching Home Secretary Priti Patel addressing a press conference and carefully telling reporters that she was sorry if the public felt that there had been failings in the Cabinet’s performance.
Meanwhile, the UK has 78,991 cases of Covid-19 and there have been 9,875 deaths. Fatalities in the US now exceed 20,000.

12 April 2020: Easter Sunday!

Got up this morning and read some Wordsworth, then watched the final scene of ‘Parsifal’ on YouTube.
Outside in the garden the two lonely daffodils have turned brown and dry, the force no longer through the green fuse drives. But the trees are starting to sprout leaves, and the lawn is sprinkled with daisy-points of light. Although society is constrained by the Covid-19 epidemic (no mass gatherings, no pubs, no football games, no race-meetings, no weddings or a funeral) everything is starting to wake up and reach out towards a more hopeful tomorrow.

In the news: another 737 deaths have been reported from the disease, bringing the UK total to 10612. Among the casualties was comedian Tim Brooke-Taylor who kept people laughing wildly during his appearances on ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’.

Talking of people not having a clue, the hapless Alok Sharma (Business Secretary) was on Sophy Ridge’s show this morning and he said: “I’m sorry if people feel they have not been able to get the right equipment.” Then he emitted a series of random, robotic platitudes which appeared to have no connection with the question he had just been asked.

Monday 13 April 2020: Bank Holiday Monday. It is a bright cold day in April, and my watch says it is 13:42. Outside, the two lonely daffodils are still brown and withered in the sunshine. The prime minister has been discharged from hospital and is recovering at Chequers.
Fortunately, he will not need to sign on to claim Universal Credit while he is away from work, since UK members of Parliament have just approved a £10,000 increase to their expenses budget in order to help with the costs of working away from Westminster. Every little helps!

Each day we are given an update on the Covid-19 statistics, with a breakdown of how many new cases have been diagnosed and how many people have died. However, the death toll only measures those victims who were in hospital; elderly (and younger) people who died in the community or in care homes will not be included, unless they had conspicuous symptoms or were later diagnosed with the virus.

To keep myself amused I go online to wallow in Die Frau Ohne Schatten. Why did Hofmannsthal decide to make Barak a dyer? (And why did Claus Guth decide that he could change this to a tanner, in the 2014 London production of the work?)

Perhaps the alchemy of the dyeing process was what enchanted the librettist, the mysterious reaction between two or three white powders that become transformed into a shocking elixir of red or violet. The blank innocence of white cotton could become something bold and urgent, a statement of intent or possibility.

During the musical sequences for Barak, I imagine long coloured skeins emerging from a vat and then billowing out on stage to reveal a huge curtain decorated with the atom tree scaffolding of quinacridone or imidazole dyes. Of course, as every opera-lover knows, the chemicals that go to produce dyestuffs and pigments are also used in the preparation of antibiotics and drugs.

‘When the white eagle meets the red falcon, will their dance be weak or strong?’

I wrote that in a notebook in 1987, about seven years before I travelled to Rome and witnessed a kestrel hovering above the Coliseum, calling out in high-pitched urgency.

Today’s death toll for Covid-19 is 717, bringing the UK total to 11329. Each day we hear the numbers, abstract points on a chart reaching gradually onwards and upwards; but these are not just figures, they are people. Many of the victims are nursing staff – they are the people we can least afford to lose.

Two weeks ago it was announced that Tottenham Hotspur, one of the UK’s wealthiest football clubs (which is saying something) indicated that they were planning to use taxpayer-funded subsidy to replace their wage bill for non-playing staff. This provoked a storm of protest, and the club relented. After the dust settles in a few months’ time, we will start to look at the absurd rules governing the UK tax system – after all, there is no point in allowing somebody to claim tax relief on their income if they have an eight-figure bank balance.

Where are we?
It’s 6 May – on Friday it will be my third anniversary of starting work, and normally we would all head off to the pub for a drink and a snack to celebrate. But because the nation is in a state of lockdown, all the pubs are closed, people are banned from taking unnecessary journeys by road, and most of us have been told to work from home.

In the news: last week the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has announced that the UK had managed to meet their target of 100,000 Covid-19 infection tests per day by the end of April.
A closer scrutiny of these figures shows that the total includes not just lab-processed tests but also testing kits which had been posted out to hospitals and individual households.

In the news: Professor Neil Ferguson, epidemiologist at Imperial College, has stepped down from his role as government advisor. His department formulated the models, based on which, Boris told the UK to stop going out and stay at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
However, the Prof is currently engaged in a secret romantic liaison with a married woman who was spotted visiting him at home. In a way, it is nice to see that high-ranking scientists are real human beings and not just cold, rational droids; but this was a bit too much and he had to go.

Latest official corona fatalities: UK, 29500      US, 71000

7 May: normally we would be given the first Monday in May as a Bank Holiday, but since it is the 75th anniversary of the end of the second World War, the holiday has been shifted to Friday 8 May, to commemorate the exact date of VE day.

Last year the government website announced this amendment, adding that it would provide an opportunity for street parties and special events in thousands of pubs and restaurants round the UK. Alas, there may be a few sparse gatherings in parks; but all pubs are firmly shut and no mass celebrations will be allowed.

A couple of weeks back it was announced that a large consignment of surgical gowns, masks and other items of PPE was being sent to the UK from Turkey (healthcare workers have complained about shortages of equipment). The delivery was postponed, so the RAF sent a plane to retrieve the goods. They arrived today and on inspection were found to be below the required safety and quality standards.

Latest official corona fatalities: UK, 30076         US, 74581





Corona Chapel Canticles

A few months back I decided to start a bullet journal, filled with the films and plays I wanted to see, the trendy café bars I wanted to visit, and the art galleries where I would get my culture jabs. Accordingly I purchased a lovely A5 notebook with smooth, ivory-coloured paper and a blue cloth cover and
Time stopped
Time cannot stop
The gleaming granules spill their steady stream
To pile up at the bottom of the cave.
No sex no drugs no books no films no lovely meals
In restaurants where plastic waitresses stand guard
An epic catalogue of cancelled things and books unread
By children kept away from school to save
Them from the sweeping virus in the air
My pen will hover here eternally, afraid to touch
The empty landscape of another page. Perhaps
One day I’ll stick the coloured pins into the map
To show the places where we stopped for tea, on peaceful
Afternoons where we believed that time had stopped.

A Fever, by John Donne

Oh do not die, for I shall hate
All women so, when thou art gone,
That thee I shall not celebrate,
When I remember, thou wast one.

But yet thou canst not die, I know;
To leave this world behind, is death,
But when thou from this world wilt go,
The whole world vapours with thy breath.

Or if, when thou, the world’s soul, go’st,
It stay, ’tis but thy carcase then,
The fairest woman, but thy ghost,
But corrupt worms, the worthiest men.

Oh wrangling schools, that search what fire
Shall burn this world, had none the wit
Unto this knowledge to aspire,
That this her fever might be it ?

And yet she cannot waste by this,
Nor long bear this torturing wrong,
For much corruption needful is
To fuel such a fever long.

These burning fits but meteors be,
Whose matter in thee is soon spent.
Thy beauty, and all parts, which are thee,
Are unchangeable firmament.

Yet ’twas of my mind, seizing thee,
Though it in thee cannot persever.
For I had rather owner be
Of thee one hour, than all else ever.
John Donne (1572 – 1631)

Several years ago I was in the canteen at work, eating toast and drinking coffee; my colleagues at the next table were discussing higher education and lamenting the indulgent stupidity of postgrad students. “I don’t see the point in doing a PhD,” said one of them. “After all, there’s nothing left to be discovered – we know everything about science and engineering now.”

07 April 2020: Ten days after announcing that he had become infected with Covid-19, the Prime Minister has been admitted to hospital and is now in an intensive care unit, receiving low-level oxygen treatment.
Messages of support have flooded in from fellow politicians, some of whom might fancy measuring up the curtains in Number Ten. TV news bulletins have been awash with people praising Johnson’s rugged energy, calling him a ‘fighter’ and someone with a great zest for life. When not seriously ill in hospital, Boris is routinely criticised for being cynical and dishonest in his dealings with work colleagues and intimate partners.
UK coronavirus figures today: 55242 infected, 6159 dead.

For the past few years Donald Trump, the talking pumpkin of the United States, has entertained and baffled us all with speeches and Twitter-feed comments which cheerfully dispense with any form of logic or grammar. Back in February he reassured us that ‘There are only five cases, we have this under control’, but a few weeks later the US has about 350,000 cases of Covid-19, with over 10,000 fatalities.

A row about Covid-19 recently erupted in the US between senior figures in the military. Captain Brett Crozier raised concerns about an outbreak of coronavirus on board his ship and was promptly dismissed by acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly. Modly then gave a speech to the crew of Crozier’s ship, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, in which he described the captain as being ‘naïve’ and ‘stupid’’.
The next stage of this drama involved Modly releasing a statement offering his resignation and saying that he had never viewed Crozier as being naïve or stupid.

On March 20, the Chancellor announced that the UK government would provide financial support to firms, paying 80 percent of their workers’ wages so that the staff could stay at home and thus avoid spreading the coronavirus. By doing this, the treasury expected that the firms would then be able to resume operations quickly once the virus had been contained and lockdown was lifted.

One organisation keen to take advantage of this scheme is Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, whose non-football staff have had an immediate cut in pay, while the chairman Daniel Levy has received a £3 million deferred bonus; the players enjoy salaries between 1 and 10 million per annum, and no announcement has been made about reducing these even though the football season is now effectively over.

March 2020: Exactly ten years ago I was living in Cornwall, having moved down there to start my new job in Penryn. On Saturday morning I decided to meet my sister in Truro, so I settled down in the Museum café with an expensive but remarkably tasty raspberry milkshake, and the Independent magazine.
The magazine featured an article about Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal football club; some clubs were starting high-profile community outreach campaigns to boost their public image, but Arsenal had been running these activities quietly for years.

Eleven weeks after starting my new job, I was told that my performance was not up to the required level, and the company would prefer it if I was to leave with immediate effect. During my brief time there I learned a fair bit about the coatings industry – I managed to print a double-sided sheet of water-based silver finish, with the text of Goethe’s Ganymede overlaid on it.

A Litany in Time of Plague, by Thomas Nashe

Adieu, farewell, earth’s bliss;
This world uncertain is;
Fond are life’s lustful joys;
Death proves them all but toys;
None from his darts can fly;
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade.
All things to end are made,
The plague full swift goes by;
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen’s eye.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Strength stoops unto the grave,
Worms feed on Hector brave;
Swords may not fight with fate,
Earth still holds open her gate.
“Come, come!” the bells do cry.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Wit with his wantonness
Tasteth death’s bitterness;
Hell’s executioner
Hath no ears for to hear
What vain art can reply.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Haste, therefore, each degree,
To welcome destiny;
Heaven is our heritage,
Earth but a player’s stage;
Mount we unto the sky.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!
Thomas Nashe (1567 – 1601)

08 April 2020: The coronavirus lockdown continues – the lovely Boris, having been rushed to hospital three days ago, is sitting up in bed and chatting to nursing staff. Which makes one wonder why he needs to be in an intensive care ward, surrounded by people who cannot breathe unaided.
The organisers of the Cheltenham Festival proudly declare that they have complied with all relevant guidance in going ahead with the race meetings; if Boris could swan off to Twickenham three days earlier, why shouldn’t we carry on with our event?
They also claimed endorsement from Catherine Calderwood, who had said ‘There’s actually very little impact on virus spread from mass gatherings, particularly if they are in the open air.’
Meanwhile, the death toll from Covid-19 in the UK has reached 7097.
In the United States, 1858 people died in a single day, bringing their total to over 14000. Two weeks ago President Trump informed the world that Easter was a beautiful time, and that the US would be open for business as usual by then.



Corona Citadel Gazette


Ambient Coronaphobia

And at this point the integral converged; a thousand flames
Had faded out, the darkness sweeping carefully
Towards the cells where we’d been told to hide. Give us

This day our daily bleach, the sun will echo off the rocks
And keep us in the quarry. I don’t believe the virus
Knew how much it hurt, how many lives destroyed

It took away the ones we loved, but left the bodies –
Too many men to burn or bury, with sleeping smiles
And frozen gestures lying on the walls of stone

Beneath the relics of a dying sun.

Pages from the Corona Citadel Gazette

4 April 2020: The official death toll in the UK from Covid-19 is now 4313, 31 days after the first death was reported. However, it is likely that this figure will be revised upwards as further details emerge of infected people who died outside the health system and thus went unrecorded.

Around the UK, a new telecoms system called 5G – which enables higher-quality data transmission – is being rolled out at various sites, but there are rumours circulating on t’internet that these mast antennae are actually causing the symptoms of Covid-19 infection. Accordingly, disgruntled citizens are setting fire to them.

Today was scheduled to be the Grand National at Aintree, the premier event in the UK racing calendar. Like all major sporting events, the race was cancelled; however, a ‘virtual race’ has been created using performance algorithms to predict the speed and endurance of a field of top-flight horses.

The Eurovision Song Contest has also been cancelled, although it might be worth proceeding with a ‘blind’ version of this event. Each country could be invited to submit their song entry anonymously. The judging panel would then be spared the embarrassing ritual of awarding twelve points to their political allies, and instead could rate each performance on its artistic merit.

In autumn 2019, a BBC thriller called The Capture, by Ben Chanan, depicted a corrupt police system where artificial video footage is created to link villains to their actual crimes. This was explained as being a correction – the persons involved did actually commit the crimes, but the evidence was obtained by unlawful means and so not admissible.

Now that the world seems to be reliant on remote technology, we might expect a host of fictitious encounters to be concocted and broadcast. We have already seen the Prime Minister at the Cenotaph, his clumsy behaviour replaced by archive footage showing him being distinguished and statesmanlike.

Emily. Sometimes at work I have a customer who declares her name to be ‘Emily’. I am always tempted to ask ‘Floyd or Zombies?’ but most people under the age of forty would struggle to understand.

5 April 2020: To deal with the huge numbers of expected casualties from the Covid-19 pandemic, a field hospital has been assembled in the Excel exhibition centre down in London. Like much of the capital, this massive trade fair space is owned by a Middle-Eastern organisation (in this case, Abu Dhabi exhibitions) and the NHS is paying millions of pounds each month in rent.

Back in 1988, I explored the characteristics of abraded polyprop. We had two grades available for study; a rubber-toughened black plastic, and a slightly harder ethylene-propylene copolymer. Each of these was abraded in a uniform manner using a range of silicon-carbide papers, ranging from 120 mesh to 1200 mesh. The micro-roughness of each surface was then measured using a ‘Talysurf’ motorised stylus. The roughness profile (average peak height) was plotted against 1/(mesh size), and we ended up with two gentle curves which crossed over.

Perhaps the intersection was a point of optimum roughness; we found that wet abrasion (through a layer of primer solution) always gave better adhesive bonds than dry abraded plastic, regardless of the roughness. Because of this, we concluded that some aspect of the process was completely overriding the physical roughness effect.

f'(y,t) = (x+ai)(y+bi) – (x^0.372+mi)(y^0.372+ni)

Where y is the average roughness profile, a and b are the hardness values of the polymers, and m and n are the solubility parameters of the two polymers.

The centre of Manchester has fallen quiet, as pubs and restaurants and cinemas are all closed by order of HM Government. In Canal Street, some of the venues have boarded up their windows to prevent opportunist thieves. I recall seeing a picture in Via which looked exquisitely clever, and which I would love to steal if I thought I could get away with it…

The picture shows a neatly stylised face, photographed in B-and-W, with elegant shadows. Parts of this face have been amended by including round stencils which carry sections of the same photo, with volume parameters governed by the equation:

f’(r,θ) = (g+ai)(h+bi) – (g^0.815+pi)(h^0.815+qi)

Where r is the average grey scale density, g and h are the horizontal and vertical coordinates, and p and q are the length of curved lines between regions of high contrast. The image has been constructed using overlapping regions of metallic pigment film, giving an illusion of depth and shifting texture,

Holy water is the supreme vaccine? Religion is vitally important nowadays: passing your exams will get you a well-paid job, but Holy Communion will get you entry to Paradise.

DUP councillor John Carson, from Ballymena, County Antrim claimed that the coronavirus outbreak is God’s punishment on the UK government for allowing gay marriage and abortion to be legalised.

Conservative Tennessee preacher Perry Stone made exactly the same arguments, as did Iraqi Shia political leader Muqtada al-Sadr. And in Russia, huge crowds of believers queued for hours to kiss the relics of St John at St Petersburg, firmly convinced that viral diseases are unable to harm anyone inside a consecrated building.
In another story from a few years back, we heard how a primary school headteacher has been mocked on Twitter after claiming that evolution was “a theory” and there was “more evidence that the Bible is true”.

Christina Wilkinson, of St Andrew’s Church of England school in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, made the remarks in a tweet responding to London headteacher Tom Sherrington, who urged teachers to stick to science when teaching the origins of life.

“Evolution is not a fact. That’s why it’s called a theory! There’s more evidence that the Bible is true.” Christina Wilkinson, Headmistress of St Andrew’s C-of-E Primary School, Ostwaldwhistle.

Evidence? What evidence? Kids LOVE dinosaurs – and this woman wants to deprive them of the drama and excitement of the early archaeologists, and the fantasies of Jurassic Park, and the splendid treasures in the Natural History Museum…

Amid criticism and calls for her to resign on Twitter, Wilkinson issued a statement saying: “I’d like to make it clear that we teach the full national curriculum in school and that our pupils receive a fully rounded education.”

Meanwhile, in the UK, the warm weather has lured sun-worshippers to parks around the country, prompting the health secretary to threaten that outdoor exercise of any kind would be banned if people carried on flouting the rules.

‘Vanishing Lung Syndrome’ by Miroslav Holub

(Text copied from ‘poetic orphanage’ on the snarkattack-gracenotes blog: poem published by Faber and Faber, 1990)

Once in a while somebody fights for breath.
He stops, getting in everyone’s way.
The crowd flows around, muttering
about the flow of crowds,
but he just fights for breath.

Inside there may be growing
a sea monster within a sea monster,
a black, talking bird,
a raven Nevermore that
can’t find a bust of Athena
to perch on and so just grows
like a bullous emphysema with cyst development,
fibrous masses and lung hypertension.

Inside there may be growing
a huge muteness of fairy tales,
the wood-block baby that gobbles up everything,
father, mother, flock of sheep,
dead-end road among fields,
screeching wagon and horse,
I’ve eaten them all and now I’ll eat you,
while scintigraphy shows
a disappearance of perfusion, and angiography
shows remnants of arterial branches
without the capillary phase.

Inside there may be growing
an abandoned room,
bare walls, pale squares where pictures hung,
a disconnected phone,
feathers settling on the floor
the encyclopaedists have moved out and
Dostoevsky never found the place,

lost in the landscape
where only surgeons
write poems.

Translated from Czech by David Young and Dana Habova

5 April 2020: Today’s figures reveal that a further 621 people have died from coronavirus in the past 24 hours. And the Scottish chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, has been fiercely warning members of the public not to make any unnecessary journeys or go out in public without good reason.

Meanwhile, Calderwood decided to drive over to check on her second home in Fife, and has been warned by police against such conduct. Oddly enough, les gendarmes didn’t slap her with a sixty-quid fine like they would with anybody else caught doing the same thing.