I’ve cheated!  I went out yesterday to take my car for its annual service and MOT.  I’m sure, in the circumstances, the police would turn a blind eye to an old man driving a low mileage Toyota Prius without an MOT.  But it seems that law abiding behaviours are hard to discard, even when flexibility is called for.  Anyway, it’s comforting know that my unused car has now had its annual service and passed its MOT even though getting it done might have killed me.  On my gravestone, instead of saying, ‘I told you I was ill’, it could say, ‘He was law abiding to the end’.

While the mechanics got to work (an assumption, perhaps they just sit there pretending to change the oil and realign the wheels), I went for a 3 hour walk along the Thames at Maidenhead. A glorious day for walking. The sun shone, the river swept by, clumps of daffodils and magnolia trees were in full bloom.  They all seemed unconcerned about the plight we humans find ourselves in.  But why should they care?  Afterall, we’ve done our best to pollute the river and poison the atmosphere so no wonder they are uninterested. I kept my distance from the few people I met, feeling self conscious but feigning nonchalance.  Somehow it seems insulting to give people a wide berth but that’s what social distancing calls for.

Back home, having used hand wipes on everything in the car I thought the mechanics might have touched (well, not the engine), I closed the door on a hostile world and washed my hands.

But that afternoon my wife and I had to go out again to get the post redirected from London to Windsor. It couldn’t be done online because the Post Office required us to produce documents to prove we are who we are and that the London address is actually ours (a minor example of a process that needs to be adapted now that the world as we know it has changed).

Back in the flat my wife tried to arrange an Ocado delivery only to find she was in a queue with over nine thousand people ahead of her. Every time I eat something, at lunchtime a slither of cheese for example, my wife says we must be circumspect.  It’s become her mantra.  I looked up the precise meaning, ‘heedful of potential consequences’. I quite see what she means.  The consequence of my eating cheese is that we will run out of it sooner than if I didn’t eat it.  Self-isolation and being circumspect definitely go hand in hand. I haven’t heard Boris say that in his press briefings but no doubt he will.

I looked at a map of the UK with circles, some small, some large, indicating the number and location of coronavirus cases and was alarmed to see that the Isle of Man had vanished; just a space in the Irish Sea where it used to be! I spent my teenage years in the IOM and I still know people who live there. Perhaps the whole place has gone into self-isolation and wishes to discourage infected visitors?  In which case air brushing the island off the map is clearly a wise move;  circumspect even.

We’ve crossed out all the things we were going to do in our diaries (I know, I know, we should have electronic diaries where things can be deleted rather than crossed out), we’ve made a list of what’s in the freezer, we’ve made a list of vulnerable friends we need to contact.  In short, we are on a war footing.  Just to think that only four weeks ago I was in hospital having my appendix removed.  Full credit to my appendix. It had lasted without complaint for over 82 years and, anticipating the spread of the virus, decided to conk out when it was still possible for the NHS to carry out routine surgery.


  1. Well, this self isolation is definitely giving you enough time and enough bizarre material for writing a sizeable blog, Peter. Onward and Upward!

    Isn’t it marvellous to be able to cross out EVERYTHING in the diary? I love the fact that we can do it without the slightest feeling of guilt and am enjoying the “holiday away from my usual self” – and being utterly self indulgent.

    Regarding the ‘circumspect cheese’ :) , do reassure your wife that the cows will continue to produce milk and people working in the cheese industry will not want to lose their jobs etc We will not starve, but we may not have the whole catalogue of choices at every given moment.

    What about your appendix! I hadn’t thought about it, but you are so right: the little bit of gut had enough gut-feel and common sense to absent itself not a moment too soon.

  2. The appendix and the ‘circumspect cheese’ could be connected. Thomas Moffatt (1553-1604) in his ” Healths improvement: or, Rules comprizing and discovering the nature, method, and manner of preparing all sorts of food used in this nation” states that ‘Old and dry cheese hurteth dangerously: for it stayeth siege [stools], stoppeth the Liver, engendereth choler, melancholy, and the stone, lieth long in the stomack undigested, procureth thirst, maketh a stinking breath and a scurvy skin”. On the other hand John Russell in his 1450 “Boke of Nurture” has the opposite advice:

    Hard chese hathe þis condicioun in his operacioun:
    Furst he wille a stomak kepe in the botom opeñ,
    the helthe of euery creature ys in his condicioun;
    yf he diete hym̅ thus dayly / he is a good conclusioun.

    Perhaps too much cheese by “keeping the bottom open” is the cause of the loo-roll famine.

  3. Delighted to see that you still retain your habitual sense of humour.
    We now have a house in the northernmost part of the Scottish Highlands, and would love to have gone there as usual for the summer months. It’s still on the map, apparently. The wonders of WhatsApp proves it so. And all the sheep will be lambing soon with their wonderful views across the sea.
    Perhaps in the next life I’ll opt to be a sheep. Female, of course, because most of the males are sent off to the meat market unless they’re ‘special’ and kept for the autumn ‘tupping’!

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