CORONABOBS ISOLATION DAY 26 – Diary of a Self-Isolator 10.4.2020

CORONABOBS ISOLATION DAY 26 – Diary of a Self-Isolator 10.4.2020 BLOG 12th April 2020

CORONABOBS ISOLATION DAY 26 – Diary of a Self-Isolator Friday 10Th April 2020


By Giles Brandreth in an uplifting article from the Daily Telegraph

This thing is beginning to hit home. I now know someone who has died of the virus – and she was 10 years younger than me. Five weeks ago, meanwhile, I went to a friend’s retirement party ahead of his setting off for Thailand for a long-awaited ‘holiday of a lifetime’. He is now in an intensive care unit in Hua Hin with double pneumonia and Covid-19. Not to mention that the Prince of Wales has had it, and we are exact contemporaries, both born in 1948. This isn’t the game it seemed a fortnight ago, I have fast realised, when I was having fun setting up my self-isolation home studio in the attic so I could go on recording my podcast and keep popping up on The One Show. This is real and deadly.

That it can strike the heir to the throne is proof that this virus is clearly no respecter of rank or age. Alarmingly, young people are dying, too – one boy of just 13 this week. I have three children and seven grandchildren. Two of them have ‘underlying health issues’ – a phrase I had never used until this year: now I can’t get it out of my mind.

It’s all too close for comfort. I am anxious. I am worrying. I am not sleeping well. I am having more vivid dreams than I am used to, about people I have loved and lost. I have dreamt of my parents several nights in a row; last night I dreamt my mother was reading me a bedtime story. Asleep and awake, I am thinking about death much of the time.

But I am also a seasoned old codger and a pragmatist. I am rational, and I realise that this self-isolation nightmare could go on for months, especially for us ‘vulnerable’ over-70s. What’s the plan then – beyond jigsaws and three extra pages of puzzles in the Telegraph? How am I going to live my life for the foreseeable future?

Rules for staying sane

Twenty years ago, I became friends with the Irish psychiatrist, Dr Anthony Clare. Famous for his Radio 4 programme, In the Psychiatrist’s Chair, he died of a heart attack in Paris in 2007, aged only 64. I saw him in my dreams last night, and this morning I began to recall some of the lessons from our conversations. He was a wise and caring man and taught me his rules for staying sane and happy, even in the most testing of circumstances.

He said, “To be happy you must be a leaf on a tree”. What does that mean? Well, we are all unique, just as every leaf on every tree in the world is unique. A leaf off a tree feels free – and that’s exciting. When the self-isolation began I loved the freedom of being in my own space, doing my own thing in my own way. But the free-floating leaf quickly falls to the ground and dies.

We all need to be leaves attached to a tree; part of a living organism that is larger than ourselves, with roots, alive and still growing. That’s why, in good times, you need to belong to a club, or a choir, or any kind of community. That’s why in these times, confined to home, I am having a regular cocktail hour with my children and grandchildren via the Zoom app and taking and making calls to old friends on the landline I had almost forgotten we had.

Next, said Dr Clare, “break the mirror – stop thinking about yourself”. That’s tough to do right now, when every time I cough I suddenly think ‘This could be the beginning of the end’. But it’s essential. Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, observed that his least-happy patients were always the most self-absorbed, and the most happy were those most interested in other people and the world around them. Look up and out, not down and in.

My psychiatrist friend’s third rule was “don’t resist change”. Fighting change does not make it go away, it simply makes it feel more oppressive. I am telling my Luddite near-contemporaries (especially those in their late-seventies and eighties) who have resisted the new technology until now, that they need to embrace their laptop like a late-life love affair.  If I can manage FaceTime, Skype and Zoom, you can, too.

Find things you enjoy

“Cultivate a passion” was Dr Clare’s next tip for sane survival. My lifelong passion has been words and language – hence the podcast which I co-host with Susie Dent, the lexicographer from Countdown; hence the 20-second poems I am busy putting out on Twitter and Instagram every day (dressed in one of the novelty jumpers I used to wear on TV in the 1970s and 1980s); hence the fact that I have decided to unearth a DVD or online production of each of Shakespeare’s 37 plays and watch it as a Sunday afternoon treat. At one a week, that will keep me going until Christmas.

What’s your passion? From painting to gardening, Prince Charles has several. He is blessed. Without a passion to sustain you, as Dr Clare told me, “you’re lost.”

He also told me to “audit” my happiness. He meant it literally. “Make a list of things you enjoy doing, the things that give you satisfaction. Make a second list of the things you don’t enjoy.  See if the first list is longer than the second. If it isn’t, do something about it.”

I am doing that now. I have felt overwhelmed by emails and calls in the past few days. Instead of moaning about it and battling to respond to each and every message as it comes in, I am restructuring my day: focusing on my work between 9 and 5 (I am writing a book) and parcelling up the emails and calls to deal with (drink in hand) between 5 and 7.

Live in the present

Dr Clare’s sixth rule was a good one, too: “Live in the moment.” We don’t have much of an alternative. Hankering for what’s gone is pointless. Living for the future is a mistake: this lockdown could last three weeks or six months. No one knows what the future holds.  All we have got is the here and now, so make the most of it, one day at a time.

All we over-seventies know is that, come what may, we’ve got less time left than most. In the past few days, through email, telephone and Zoom, I sense my generation feels more united than it has ever felt before. All we have got is the here and now, so let’s make the most of it, one day at a time.

When I saw Dr Clare last, I was quite stressed, but coping. “You might like to know,” he said, “that there’s research showing that, in retrospect, people often look back on the most stressful and challenging periods in their lives as the most memorable and rewarding. In an odd sort of way, the worst of times can turn out to be the best of times.” Here’s hoping.

Podcast Something Rhymes With Purple with Gyles Brandreth and Susie Dent comes out every Tuesday:

Follow Gyles Brandreth on Twitter: @GylesB1

To me:

I find that all sound advice as I rate Dr Clare highly and find those six comments a good rule of life no matter the times.

And on a personal basis what did I achieve on Day 26 of Self-Isolation which was Good Friday of course:

  1. I received a cable and download software enabling me to connect my Canon DSLR camera to my computer and turning it into a web cam.
  2. I connected an old microphone to the computer enabling me to dictate directly into Word. That completed my home studio.
  3. I worked hard on our front garden. Our garden has never looked so good at this time of year or any time of year. And never all been completed at the same time together.
  4. The weather was beautiful and sunny or though not quite as warm as the Met ladies and men have been promising.
  5. My biggest achievement was (and probably the biggest for the Self-Isolation so far) being able to access the bank account of a charity I am doing the accounts for. I have been trying to gain legitimate access to their bank to carry out my work for 12 months and finally pulled it off yesterday. It is my belief and experience that it is easier to access bank accounts illegally and fraudulent than try to do it the legitimate way – It has frustrated and exhausted me but a tremendous feeling to overcome everything so now I can do my job properly
  6. Finally I watched TV for almost three hours which is a marathon for me.






“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” -John Lennon


Happiness is…a book by Dr Anthony Clare


“I used to be addicted to swimming but I’m very proud to say I’ve been dry for six years.” – Alfie Moore


Love is…falling asleep looking forward to tomorrow with each other


DAY 6        16 Times – 144 Feet   Cumulative Total 828 Feet




Walking on Sunshine – Katrina & The Waves

No.8  8th June 1985

  1. Walking On Sunshine Katrina & The Waves 3:39


USA have 2,000 deaths yesterday. The most any country has had in one day.

Total global deaths number more than 100,000


Country                 Confirmed cases  Deaths

1              US                          529,951                 20,608

2              Italy                      152,271                 19,468

3              Spain                     163,027                 16,606

4              France                   130,724                 13,851

5              UK                         79,756                   9,892

6              Iran                       70,029                   4,357

7              Belgium                28,018                   3,346

8              China                    82,051                   3,339

9              Germany              125,452                 2,871

10           Netherlands         24,571                   2,653


Global cases         Updated 12 Apr at 07:06 local

Confirmed            1,684,833              +105,143

Deaths                   102,136                 +7,569

Recovered             375,499                 +28,719

©2020 Phil M Robinson