Monday, 25 May 2020


This is supposed to be a reflective time when we at last have the opportunity (“space” is the word we’d use today) to examine our values and redefine the meaning of life.

I’m finding it’s more basic than that. For me it’s been the meaning of meals,  of wine (do we have enough?) and of woodlice whose invasion of our flowerbeds have kept me sleepless at night.

There’s a certain aimlessness and self-indulgence to this ‘short’ intermission. They say most of us are gaining weight. Mine however has remained pretty static – slightly tubby – and my appetite for everything is good. Especially magic.

Magic trick number one. The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, the last and most vast in her trilogy on Thomas Cromwell. I’ve just started reading it and it’s stupefying. Because she writes in the present tense it’s like being there right now next to ‘him’ when ‘he’ speaks or thinks. Thomas Wyatt the poet, courtier and rake appears in it and I recall his poem

‘I find no peace’
‘I fear and hope. I burn and freeze like ice.’ 

Thomas Cromwell is hugely rich, powerful and adept yet he’s skating on very thin ice in this mercurial Tudor world.  Mantel is magic.

Secondly my sense of time has changed since I stopped wearing a watch and keeping a diary. I remember when and where (where? Here) my online meetings are. Life is free of the tyranny of a clock. And seasons have started to mean something real. Three weeks ago they cut the first Sussex asparagus and we had our first season Sussex broad beans on Saturday. They taste of fresh …broad beans…imagine….magic.

To counterbalance the magic I have become increasingly aware of how much and why I loathe social media. It’s mostly puerile and either pity-me whining or listen-to-me ranting. Local communities exercise their petty dislikes and gripes in off-the-cuff comments. Witness the falls from grace of people like Jonathan Agnew, Gary Lineker, Piers Morgan and others like the US President managing to sound like idiots because knee jerk responses are never likely to do them credit. So that’s my first and deepening irritation.

My second is to watch government prove as inept at communication as anyone could imagine.  A recent Financial Times article – still the best most considered journalism – reflected on a government varying from complacency to panic with nothing in between.

I sympathise. This is unknown territory for global leaders. Sweden, Germany and South Korea all have different approaches and we are learning from them but this has not been anyone’s finest hour. We’d better learn because I’m afraid this won’t be the last pandemic

Final piece of magic (and irritation) Venice – devoid of tourists, residents seeing its beauty but facing a  $2billion income hole in their economy. They’ve been trying to manage tourism for decades. Now Covid19 has done it for them.

Be careful what you wish for if you want to avoid economic disaster.

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