I’m addicted to reading newspapers but I’m beginning to question whether it’s sensible to spend the first hour or so each morning reading story after story of never ending gloom.  Businesses, universities and charities going bust, people suddenly unemployed and with no income, boredom, mental health problems and domestic violence on the increase, people stranded abroad, millions of people living in slums and shanty towns where social distancing would be a luxury.  Calamitous times.  Not funny.

My psychology professor used to say ‘there’s no perception without contrast’ and I’m very conscious that my wife and I are living in a relatively comfortable cocoon and thus far remain largely in control of our own destiny. Being purposeful is, I’m sure, the key and, in the absence of all the usual external stimuli to distract us, we have to create our own agenda.  To do lists, timetables and daily routines come to the rescue.  The challenge is to thrive, not merely survive, during weeks (months?) of isolation.  But there’s no point thinking about weeks or months; one day at a time will do.

A big plus (I’m determined to find plusses) is having plenty of time to do some new and/or long postponed things.  I, for example, have started to read some poetry each day, easing my way in gently.  I started with Rupert Brooke and, having read a collection of all his poems, I concluded that the poor man only wrote two good ones: Heaven and Granchester. I’ve progressed to John Betjeman now.  The last poem in the book (I often read the end of books first) seems apt.  It’s called The Last Laugh.

I made hay while the sun shone,

My work sold.

Now, if the harvest is over

And the world is cold,

Give me the bonus of laughter

As I lose my hold.

We have big skies up here on the fourth floor with superb views across the  roof tops.  A fourth floor in London would be nothing, but here in Windsor, with fierce height restrictions (nothing must compete with the castle), we have a grandstand view and, each evening, enjoy amazing sunsets to the west.  Every day a hawk glides past our windows causing flurries of panic stricken pigeons to take to the air.  The pigeons must be having a tough time with no tourists to fed them.   I’m not sure where the hawk comes from (the castle perhaps?) but it is clearly a daily ritual.  We used to hear the band accompanying the changing of the guard as they marched from the barracks to the castle, but even that has fallen silent. Planes still fly over on their approach to Heathrow but far fewer of them.

We exercise each day.  I’ve paced out our terrace; 106 paces there and back so 20 laps equals a mile.  I do that briskly twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.  Inspired by a letter in the Times, where a pensioner had calculated how many times he’d have to climb the stairs in his house to reach the equivalent of the top of Everest, I have measured the steps on our stairs (I know you are longing to know; 17.78cm per step) and calculated that if I climbed them 45 times I’d have climbed a mountain (609.6 metres).  654.9 times to conquer Everest.  I think I’ll settle for a humble mountain (609.6 metres).

The other day I wrote a letter to the Times suggesting that some visual aids would improve the effectiveness of  the government’s daily briefings and, lo and behold, we have now had a couple of briefings where charts have appeared (or, on their first outing, refused to appear on cue).  I appreciate that I almost certainly had nothing to do with it, but a friend who spotted my letter sent me an email saying I should take a bow.  So, I am (bows, so much  easier than squats or planks. The latter, by the way, now up to 40 seconds and counting).

Keep safe.



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