Friday 24 April 2020

Paradise Imposed: a Guest Post by Benedict Ambrose

I so much enjoyed the Speccie’s recent piece written by fellow inmates of their locked-down columnists that my pars meliora suggested I do a guest-post here.  I’ll spare you all the tedium of that and restrict myself to a bare few observations.  
If you promise to keep it to yourselves, I’ll let you into a shameful secret: certain irksome aspects aside, I’m really rather enjoying the impositions of lockdown.  Like countless other Brits in all sectors of work, my employer has put me on furlough and I’ll likely stay laid off (on full pay) until the end of May. The prospect of imposed idleness at first alarmed me, but I have since learned not to subject this gifthorse to too much tooth-prodding. After all, if someone had said to me at the beginning of the year that I could apply for a two-month sabbatical during which I could scratch my research itch to my content– and with none of the pressure of having to come up with something that looked to my employer like a worthwhile result at the end of it – I’d have gleefully opened a vein so as to sign up without delay. Seraphic* of course has to carry on working in the vineyard through the heat of the day, so I at least owe her the effort of not complaining about my enviable lot.
It’s not even as if our lockdown is particularly draconian.  I am a cheerful introvert at heart, and not exactly a gregarious gadabout at the best of times. The standard extent of my outdoor exposure consisted of a twenty-minute walk to and from work each day, usually punctuated with a stop at a supermarket, with a trip once a week into town for Mass. Whilst staying within the (exceptionally lightly-enforced) guidelines we’re walking a good bit further that that most days, whilst exploring the quiet delights of our locale in ways we never would have been tempted to before. Apart from missing Mass (the dismal effects of which are meliorated more than I would have expected by those being livestreamed) and not seeing colleagues on a daily basis, not a great deal has changed in my routine, and much of what has is for the better.  Seraphic is gardening with great gusto and with no little success and I am pleased that this creative displacement activity is keeping her from becoming too glum in the absence of her regular exercise regime.  The poor creature only really has me to interact with now and she’s coping rather heroically, it seems to me. Of the two of us, I am generally the more even-tempered but I’m prone to fits of grump, often related to the thousand natural shocks that employees are heir to, and which are no doubt difficult to bear.  Whilst I'm far from being transformed by furlough into an unwavering ray of sunshine, any remaining curmudgeonliness is at least not aggravated by stress, so if I’m grumpy at least I’m not “strumpy”. I’ve just mown our meagre (and almost dandelion-free) lawn and rather relished it.  That’s got to count for something.
I’m going to try to make the best of the hand we’ve been dealt, and it certainly makes one count one’s blessings when one is constantly reminded of the terrible tribulations of others.  So if I’m not exactly shouting “Long live the lockdown!” I’m going to try to learn to love it while it lasts, and thereby perhaps make it marginally more bearable to the one who has to share it with me.

*Note to relatively recent readers: That's Mrs McL's old nom-de-blog. [Ed.]


  1. Dear BA,
    thanks very much for your contribution to the plague year journal. I must say, after following your link to the Spectator article on the same topic, that your piece was more edifying and entertaining than any of the brief paragraphs there. Perhaps you should consider further occasional contributions to this blog...?

    1. He says "Thank you!" and "You're too kind!" I have prodded him to write another one, and I suspect he is thinking about it.