Day 28

Social Distancing

After the quick skite up to Donegal, and the welcome no traffic jam on the way back because of the whole no Toome Fair bonus to the Covid-19 calamity, it’s back to biscuits today as this is a work work day. Yeah, we only get two days off for Easter; that is hardly adequate time to ponder the unfathomable mysteries of the workings of the mind of a god who would send his only son down here, let him hang out with us for about 33.2 years, arrange things so that the son gets killed in such a way that he fulfills all the prophecies about same in the best-selling first volume of The Human Race: My Part in its Downfall, resurrect him three days (but actually only about 36.7 hours) later and thus, potentially, re-open the gates of paradise to us which were closed to us after that business with the serpent and the woman and the kumquat. (It wasn’t an apple: look it up yourselves.) I bet you if we were Muslims we would get a whole week off work. But, then again, Muslims would probably deserve the rest more as they, at least, put some effort into their Lent. Giving up sweets? What sort of suffering is that? Sure that is good for you. Do something hard like taking up heroin for Lent and then trying to quit after the Mass on Holy Thursday night when Lent ends (nihil obstat). I’ll let you know how I am getting on with the yearly cold turkey.

On a work work day, my routine goes a bit like this:

5.53am: Position myself at the kitchen table facing out the bay window to keep an eye on my wildlife, first cup of coffee primed in easy reach of my left hand, an adequate supply of cigarettes clearly visible (to avoid any panic) beside the freshly-polished, cut-glass ashtray on my right. The wildlife mostly takes care of itself, but I am convinced that it appreciates my benevolent, supervisory gaze. To a non-observant observer, it may well look like I am just staring out a window doing nothing, but nothing could be further from the truth. And, as my mate Blaise Pascal often says anyway, the inability to do nothing is the source of all of men’s unhappiness, and who am I to argue with a mathematician?

5.57-6.04am: Coughing.

6.05am: Admiring my shed and the decision taken to situate it at the bottom of the garden under the sweeping branches of the oak tree where it looks really cute. Inspection, from a distance, of the shed serves also as an aide-memoire for the growing list of practical jobs around the estate that I am not going to do today as it contains most of the tools necessary for not doing them.

6.06-6.23am: Break. After all that work looking at the shed, I find I need a bit of a rest, so I’ll fire up the kettle again to consume one of the three types of coffee currently in my carefully-calibrated diet, accompanied by cigarettes number 2 and 3 in the recommended daily intake. I wrote a poem once about the delights of the second cigarette of the morning (the first one is merely utilitarian), but I’ll spare youse the embarrassment of having to write in to say how wonderful it is by not reproducing it here. (Look it up yourselves: it’s not like my published books are not for sale.)

6.24-6.52am: Real work. This can include reading the paper (not today’s paper, the remnants of The Irish Times from the previous Saturday which I have not yet edited), reading a bit out of The Bible in Irish if it is a Saturday (do not even go there – sometimes I do work work on a Saturday to get ahead of the game so that I can perform my Ibero-Hiberno siesta during the working week with no consequent guilt) or a drop of writing.

6.53-6.55am: Measurement of Adequate Sleep Procedure. This is a complicated process which involves a severe and thorough self-examination to ascertain whether or not I am sufficiently rested to begin to take on a day’s work work. As part of the procedure, I will undergo my first blood sugar level check of the day (providing the nurse has turned up) and stuff some of the many and varied legal drugs into me that my chronic and terminal condition requires. Depending on the results of the the Adequate Sleep Procedure (verified by two independent and fully-qualified GPs and not any of those student ones they are letting loose on the great unwashed due to the Kerfuffle), I will either begin the complicated process of deciding which type of shower to have (wet, Andytown or full Andytown), having said shower, picking out my wardrobe for the day (usually I use the walk-in one in the West Wing, but there are alternatives), getting dressed, smoking my last cigarette as a free man and then hoking out the work work laptop and firing it up; or else go back to bed until such time as the numbers from the measurement of adequate sleep are more acceptable.

Except today, of course, as there is an emergency with the wildlife that requires my urgent attention: two of the blackbirds are having a squabble over territorial rights, and I need to explain to them that neither of them actually owns said territory – it is all in the part-time wife’s name for tax purposes. I might have a healthy, open-air cigarette while I am out there.

Day 6

Social Distancing

One of the advantages of the Kerfuffle is that I do not have to give up smoking. Which is really handy as, because I am working from home, I am smoking sheds more than usual during office hours: I just do not really have the personal discipline needed to force myself up from the comfy, leather armchair in the study in the East Wing and make my way to the designated smoking area just outside the mutility room in the annex (or in the mutility room if it is raining). So I sit here with a laptop on my … lap, actually … a cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. As I frequently say, if that diet is good enough for French women, it is good enough for me. Vaping, you say? Or electronic cigarettes, as we early-adapters still call them. Yeah I smoke them too, but, as my man Woody pointed out, even were I not a smoker, I would have taken them up anyway just to annoy people in the office. (This was in the days when they were still permitted in offices, pubs and restaurants before the Gandalf gang started using those massive, cloud-creating devices with their weird flavours: even I would agree that that sort of behaviour is better done out in the cold where all hipsters should be kept by law.)

I better talk you through the economics of this whole not-giving-up-smoking-because-of-the-corona-virus scenario. Like I said, since starting the social distancing, working from home malarkey, my tobacco consumption has increased to admirable proportions. And I can’t really afford it. But, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, I crunched the numbers last night and the amount of money I am saving on diesel by not driving to work five days a week is almost exactly equivalent to the cost of my weekly addiction. One of my weekly addictions, but more about that anon. So, result! No need to give up the weeds, and, as an added bonus, I reduce my carbon footprint while increasing my carbon lungprint. What’s not to like about that?

I have already made my one essentials journey to the supermarket today. Cigarettes, Private Eye (the toilet paper edition), crisps for the resident teenagers, two batons (the French bread, not the personal protection equipment) and another wireless mouse. If I buy any more wireless mice (?mouses?), the cat might decide to leave home. But with three resident teenagers (two according to English-language rules) also working from home, a part-time wife working part-time in the kitchen and me hogging the study with the laptop and the Mac, nobody could be arsed using a mouse that has to plug in somewhere, so we all need one each, hence the mouse infestation chez moi. On this point, while ‘working from home’ and ‘doing housework’ are in the same semantic region, someone needs to point out to the part-time wife that they are not exact synonyms. So, no dear, I cannot put a coloureds wash on or get those shelves put up just because I happen to be in the house. Sure I have to move this memo from one folder to another folder on Sharepoint, and then there is the update to the update to update, and after that I need to put aside a good half an hour to delete emails from my employer giving me advice about how to make the most efficient use of my time while working from home. And, after all that, I’ll have to make myself look presentable for the weekly video call on Teams. And then I still have to figure out the optimum time for incorporating a Spanish siesta in my new working routine. I’ll need a coffee break after all that, obviously. So the shelves and the dirty clothes will just have to wait. Or, here’s a thought, since the idea behind the part-time wife working part-time was that she would then have time for looking after the house and the resident teenagers while I work all the hours God gives me to keep the family in cigarettes, maybe she should put on the coloureds wash? And shelves are over-rated anyway: the floor is a much safer storage space.

One other advantage of the Kerfuffle (thank you for your patience) is, of course, this: we no longer have to visit relatives, particularly not the older ones. They were always the most tricky anyway. I am slightly concerned, however, that Boris has decreed that the five-week-old child of my nephew has to be a Pagan for the foreseeable future. I am not even sure what Pagans believe, and I wouldn’t want him getting hold of the wrong end of the stick (sticks are involved, as far as I remember) at the start of his spiritual education. You didn’t think that one through, Boris. Stick up a government website there outlining the major beliefs and practices of Paganism so that my nephew can be sure he is doing it right.

Oh, clothes: a fedora hat and a duvet. That’s it, not even any pyjamas under the duvet.