A Journal of the Plague Year 2022–chapter 246

The deserted beach in winter.

Tuesday, January 4

Questions for a below-freezing day:

Why does the cold make your nose run?

They say that household dust is, in some measure, made up of old human skin cells. Why then does the forced-air heating, which brings in air from the outdoors, lead to more dust on the floor?

And how can that person actually be out there today (temperature: 27 degrees) operating his leaf blower?

COVID just won’t go away, so we’re in for more weeks of isolation. Now, the disease has evolved into the Omicron variant—fast-spreading but it seems not as devastating as Delta. Still, no one can yet say just what the long-term effects of contracting even a milder version of the virus will be. Emily’s brother Vic tells us that his young daughter Maya, currently working out in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has gotten it.

Strange to me, the Britbox streaming service has been featuring a number of filmed ghost stories during the Christmas season. Maybe the telling of ghost stories is a Yuletide tradition in Britain, realized most famously in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” In one of these videos, “The Stalls of Barchester” based on a story by M.R. James, an archdeacon is left alone in his large, spooky house when his sister/companion goes away to visit relatives. It happens to be the dead of winter, the most oppressive aspect of which, the cleric reflects, is not the cold but the dark. He hears squeaks on the stairs, howls from cats, and ghostly voices…But it’s the darkness that unnerves him most.

And that’s the thing I feel most out here in the country at mid-winter. No street lights and a limited number of neighbors means that it gets very dark indeed at night. I look forward to the dawn, which these days arrives after 7 a.m. I remember the first season of our COVID-related isolation came during the month of March (2020), when days were already getting longer bit by bit. What a relief that will be—but we’re months away.

Food remains a preoccupation. Cold weather encourages consumption of such heavy stuff as beef stew, ropa vieja, chicken potpie…and pudding-like desserts including pear clafoutis and tapioca. The last of these sinfully requires a measure of whole milk or even cream—yum.

Dinner: pasta with meatballs and tomato sauce and green salad.

Entertainment: Early episodes of the thriller Vera on Britbox.

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