Dare one admit that there are things about being self-isolated that are, if not actually enjoyable, far from being irksome?   I know full well that the lockdown is absolute hell for lots of people.  Businesses going bust, people losing their jobs with no savings, people trapped in small flats with fractious children and/or abusive partners, people suffering heart attacks and strokes fearful to go to hospital, vulnerable people trapped in care homes, bereaved people kept away unable to say goodbye  − the list is endless.  My blogs, describing our trivial existence under house arrest in Windsor, are a classic example of  what I believe is being called smugsolation.  And yet I get emails from readers egging me on, saying they enjoy having a chuckle at my expense.

I’ve read a survey in today’s paper where 40% of the  participants claimed to be bored in lockdown.  I find this puzzling.  Since my schooldays, when I’m sorry to report I often allowed myself to succumb to boredom, I’ve worked out that  boredom is a choice (my maxim is ‘you may be bored, but nothing is boring’) and that, since feeling bored is unpleasant, choosing to be bored when you could choose not to be is silly.  Without sounding too pious (those four words are a sure sign that I know I’m about to be!), the key is to accept responsibility for your boredom −  that you’ve chosen it − and that you can easily unchoose it.  End of homily.

I’ve finished reading  the collected poems of John Betjeman.  Most enjoyable, not least because they usually rhyme!  They are delightfully nostalgic too, bemoaning the loss of fine Victorian buildings and cross country railway lines.  Tennis gets plenty of mentions (Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, etc) but even though the photograph on the cover of my edition shows Betjeman sitting in a porch with a croquet mallet beside him, alas nothing about croquet.  I’m reading Andrew Motion’s biography of Philip Larkin now.  I knew Larkin when he was the librarian at Hull University.  I was part of a guard of honour formed by the University Air Squadron when the Queen Mother came to open the new library,  She stepped out of her Rolls Royce and inspected us before venturing into the library.  By chance she stopped and asked me my name.  Looking straight ahead, I could only see the top of her hat,  I answered, ‘Honey, ma’am’ to which she replied, ‘Oh, how sweet’ and moved quickly on.

We are surrounded by roofs all of which, apart from the castle up on its incline, we look down on.  One of these belongs to the local Santander bank.  About a week ago, in that gloriously hot weather, five young men arrived and proceeded to remove the roof.  I was of course immediately on full alert, convinced  I was witnessing a bank heist.  As the roof was stripped of its tiles and lead, I monitored the situation carefully but the men never disappeared inside the building or emerged with sacks marked swag.  Having had one’s hopes raised, it was disappointing to watch the men, stripped to the waist, fitting new felt, battens and tiles.  After four days the  job was done and the men disappeared with their radio and we were alone again.

Well, not quite alone because across the street from us there is an office where a solitary man works 12 hour days.  He sits at his desk, surrounded by box files and an extraordinary amount of paper, gazing at a computer screen and often talking on the phone (or perhaps pretending to).  He is usually there until 10 o’clock at night when we settle down to watch the news on the telly.  I’ve waved to him a couple of times and received one curt acknowledgement.  Mischievously, I’ve been tempted to hold up a notice saying ‘Help!’ to see what he would do.  Anyway, its oddly comforting to see our mysterious workaholic beavering away when, by contrast, we pass our days doing very little.

We have become addicted to the daily press briefings.  Essential viewing if for no other reason than to see which politicians have to stand on a box to see over the podium.  And to admire the way awkward questions get completely side stepped.  Oh, and to count the metaphors: light at the end of the tunnel, shoulder to the wheel, green shoots, round the clock, foot on the pedal, wrestling invisible muggers to the floor, magic bullets.   Is ‘following the science’ a metaphor?  Probably not.



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