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Blog Number 34 [Saturday 27th June 2020]

M and I listen to music every morning. I may have told you this but if you are like me, you have probably forgotten. It’s hard to remember anything these days, even what I did yesterday. Each day bleeds into each other. Sorry, that’s not a nice image. How about, each day runs into one another. No, that won’t do. Days in lockdown do not run; they amble at best. Oh dear, let me start again.

M and I listen to music every morning, day after day [that’s better]. On Wednesday we listened to the young Luciano singing “Che gelida manina” from La bohème, not perhaps the best choice given it was one of the hottest days of the year. And it doesn’t end well for poor Mimi, does it? Still, that voice! He could transfix England football fans. Well he did, didn’t he? At the risk of tarnishing my reputation as a serious classical music lover, I got this from a CD called 101 Opera Favourites. It has all the good stuff without all the boring recitative bits. Now I know, I know. I am shocking the true opera aficionados amongst you like Mary-Ann, Tim, Mike, Gabrielle, Adrian, Nan, gosh, there are lots of you. But choosing to listen to the recitative? Really? In the Barber of Seville it took 20 minutes of, frankly, stupendously boring recitative for someone to send a letter. I timed it. I was tempted to shout out, ‘For God’s sake, get on with it!’ But even in the less than hallowed precincts of Oxford’s New Theatre, that would have caused offence. But as to Luciano. I’d listen to him any time.

Some good news, especially for my friend Stephen. Liverpool have won the Premier League. Hooray! They deserve it not least for their German manager, Jurgen Klopp. He of the floppy hair, the horn-rimmed glasses, wide smile and shining white teeth. When the virus struck and threatened to void the season which they were winning at a canter, he said, “Never mind. Football is the most important thing of the least important things.” He has a humility that is welcome after the preening self-importance of other managers and politicians. When you next find yourself muttering about Germans with their beach towels on loungers or their apparent humourlessness or their militaristic nature, do think of Jurgen. [You could think of Angela but I suspect you might be better off with Jurgen].

Everybody knows that it is far too early to relax restrictions since the first wave is still with us and our world beating Test and Track system is, shall we say, in development. It will only end in tears. Now I recall that Tim, amongst others, mocking the predictions of behavioural scientists that the downside of a complete lockdown is that people will at some point cease to regard it seriously and cracks will appear. Well, we are seeing it now. The crowds on Bournemouth beaches, the raves in city centres, the mingling in parks, the demos and marches, the joyous celebrations of Liverpool fans, and that’s just in this country. It’s not helped by Bojo’s desperation to be seen as a jolly Santa showering pressies on the grateful masses. Narcissists want to be loved and you can’t be loved when we are telling people to stay at home all the time and not to exercise the inalienable right of every English man and woman which is to go to Primark and buy stuff. Hence, the many U-turns, the latest of which is the tearing up of Pritti’s flagship announcement of 14-day quarantine for all visitors to the UK. Poor Pritti. You at last get to flex your tiny muscles and then a bumbling blonde-haired bimbo comes along and throws sand in your face. In case you misunderstand me, I am not suggesting Bojo has been out digging sandcastles on a Bournemouth beach. He’s not a Bournemouth beach sort of guy really. The beaches he goes to are elsewhere. They tend to be in the Caribbean and owned by Richard Branson. Pritti should be grateful anyway. As behavioural scientists will tell you, Tim, getting people to do something they don’t want to do needs more than telling them it’s for their own good. You need something else. A small orange vegetable and a large piece of wood sums up decades of behavioural scientific research. And you also need Mattie’s world beating Test and Track App and that is, what’s the phrase, still in development.

‘Wouldn’t it be great to go somewhere?’ I say to M for I’m not immune from the Hooray, Let’s Get Out and Play Again syndrome.


‘Well anywhere really.”

‘I’m not sitting cheek-by-jowl on a crowded beach,’ she says. I already know this for she has never wanted to do that. 

‘What about York? We can see Sarah and the twins.’

‘It’s a long drive and how do we get there without stopping?’

‘Why would we need to stop?’

M gives me The Look.

‘I have told you,’ I say a trifle defensively, ‘I can do without coffee if absolutely essential.’

‘It’s output not input I’m talking about.’


M rolls her eyes. [Actually she doesn’t. No one rolls their eyes except in novels].

‘Okay,’ I say as the penny drops [a rather too appropriate phrase]. ‘I get it. I tell you what I’ll email Dominic Cummings. He’ll have some tips.’

I can see M is not impressed by my attempt at levity. 

‘How about we take an empty bottle? Or even two?’ I say.

Mind you, my last experience of using a bottle was not a great success. It was on the Trans-Siberian where they lock the loos at stations. There’s a 7 hour stop when you go through customs and that’s a long time even if you don’t have ‘prostate issues’ as they are delicately called. I could tell you what happened but I think it’s best left to your imagination.

M ignores my bottles suggestion. ‘Anyway,’ she says, ‘we should not be going out unnecessarily.’

‘But others are. Bahram and Jean have gone to France.’

‘That’s your reason, is it? Everybody else is doing it. So why can’t we?’

‘No.’ [It is]

‘No? So what is your reason?’

Those who have been married for a long time, especially if it’s to the same person, will recognise this point in a conversation when you see that your partner might have a point [be completely right]. There are really only two options. You double down or you change the subject. Marital therapists will tell you there’s a third, that you look your spouse in the eye, smile lovingly and tell them they are right. But those therapists are either not married or if they are, have a marriage that is not like any other on the planet. I chose the second option.

‘Hey, I have just remembered. We’ve not talked about what we are having for dinner.’

You may think this won’t work. But, Tim, behavioural scientists have shown that the most effective way to get someone to change is to offer them food. Admittedly, the majority [all] of the research studies were done on rats in a maze. Still, that’s not so different from a long marriage, is it?

Antidote 34

It has to be Luciano. Here he is singing ‘Che gelida manina’ [from a TV broadcast in Paris in 1965].

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