I suppose the last time I chose to self-isolate (healthy, young, foolish) was back in the 1970s when a combination of endless rainy season storms, an unreliable little motor cycle and flood-damaged, horribly dangerous forest tracks kept me confined alone in my modest little house on the remote campus of St Paul’s College, Bonjongo, Cameroon for all of three days. All students and most staff had left for the long rainy season vacation. On that occasion I spent those days listening to the endless tropical rain beating on my tin roof, before I finally gave in, risked the floods and set off on my little motor cycle to a nearby town, just to see if the outside world continued to exist.
To deepen the gloom, I spent those three days reading Crime and Punishment to a background of thunder, lightning and cascading water, punctuated by the constant trilling of insects and the distant shrieks of forest birds and animals. It was oppressively hot and humid. From time to time, I would cook myself some rice and vegetables, drink tea or beer and take in the view through my one door which was always open and led directly outside on to a track flowing with mud and water. It was only three days but to me it seemed endless and the doings of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov only served to make it even more depressing and other-worldly.
So, what to do this time?
Older, less healthy, certainly more patient, marginally wiser (perhaps), I am self-isolating on Deeside (we live here), in a considerably more comfortable, but still modest home, accompanied by my wife and dog. We – all of us – have already agreed that we will be forgiving if we become narky, angry or upset with one another during our period of confinement. Archie, our whippet, doesn’t realise this yet, of course, but he will, he will.
Archie, in fact, is our link to sanity and the old life because he requires regular walks and is driven by routine, as I have mentioned before. We walk with him to stay sane, though I sometimes opt for the chill of the little treadmill in our garage. We were considerably cheered up by the arrival of our third grandchild in distant Nottinghamshire earlier this month. We have already viewed his cherubic face and spoken to his joyful parents via the wonders of skype. When we will meet them all in the flesh is one of today’s many unanswered questions.
We are fortunate in that the village shops are friendly and helpful. The paper shop, for example, is offering to deliver essential items to local people if need be. The front-line staff in the local supermarket have had to deal with a steady influx of people from Aberdeen who are seeking life’s necessities because, ironically, they think they are more likely to be available here in the sticks. I take my hat off to the staff for their patience. Also, it is spring – a chilly one, but surely a season of hope, despite the daily onslaught of disturbing health news.
Regular walks apart, we are confined to home, where there is now a daily routine of sudoku and crossword completion over morning coffee. During that process I frequently swear, while my much more patient and composed wife quietly gets on with it. To my mind she is a cryptic genius whom I would never like to try to deceive. She works out the answer to arcane clues that are beyond me. Here are two of today’s examples which defeated simple me:
10 Across: Useful note that is received by religious community (10)
15 Across: Candid work in French (4)
In my next post I will give you the answers, but if you are self-isolating and have time to work them out please send me your answers via the contact details or comment section on this blog. There are no prizes, but contact from followers of this blog and details of where you think we can obtain toilet paper would be appreciated – along with any tips for keeping happy a restless, routine-driven whippet.