no, I am Spartacus

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Don’t laugh but I’ve been reading a lot of Jack Reacher of late. I’m now on my fourth of the lockdown and can confirm that Tripwire is up there with the best. Unsurprisingly, neither I nor any of my pals are Reacher-like in any physical sense but there are similarities. My friends are, in the main, funny, witty, super-smart and great fun to be around, and in the absence of meeting up for a pint, a squash match, cycle or swim, pulp-fiction’s Jack Reacher in self isolation is doing it for me.

One of the less-noticed mysteries of psychology is how many of our everyday activities, such as reading and re-reading books, playing songs on repeat, drinking at the same bar with the same guys or eating your favourite meal three times a week, we don’t find boring or overly-repetitive. Apparently violating the hedonistic principle which holds that, as pleasures grow more familiar, the joy they bring decreases, it transpires there’s always more enjoyment for us to find in any experience, repeated or otherwise, and as GK Chesterton wrote ”There is no such thing as an uninteresting subject, only an uninterested person.”

Like many of you, I too, over the last couple of weeks, have gone through the five stages of grief: shock that a pandemic arrived so abruptly; fear that Boris Johnson was in charge; sadness that my plan to cycle back from Gibraltar single-handedly had to be put on the back-burner; irritation that my shopping trips always coincide with the queue stretching beyond the horizon; delusion that I am going to finally pick-up Proust just as soon as I finish the current, essential, ‘Reacher’.

Speaking of the essentials, I am eternally thankful that no-one in my family or social circles is sick, or to my knowledge has been, but in this always-on-Housepartying-Zoom era I do sometimes like to go missing and self-isolation has further allowed me this slight indulgence. Modern connected society encourages us to not play hide-and-seek but be available twenty-four-seven and at anyone’s behest. A perfect example was a parent who, last year, appealed to the police and across all social media platforms, for news of her nineteen year old son who was ‘missing’ at Reading festival. He had apparently not returned to his tent and was now not even answering his mobile phone. WTF. Needless to say, shock-horror, he finally turned-up safe-and-sound the following day suffering the mother of all hangovers. I too like to go AWOL, and sometimes I’m not even that drunk!

So, in this extended period of lockdown feel free to hit the rewind button and live-out your loin-clothed gladiatorial fantasy with Kirk Douglas and other consenting adults in the 1960 classic Spartacus, put some wind in your willows catching-up with adventures of Kenneth Grahame’s Toad and river-bank Ratty, stuff your face perfecting a Masterchef-quality Welsh rarebit, and please do the fandango to the poptastic hit-picks of 1975 as Beelzebub may well have put a devil aside for you. In the meantime, stay safe and keep healthy.