Letter from King’s Sutton, South Northamptonshire, UK

Michael House

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“I’m not sure who is worse off, leadership-wise, we in UK or our friends in the USA. While your vile nincompoop is in full flow, advising people to inject themselves with detergent, ours is recovering from a bout of COVID 19 brought on by his own laziness, stupidity, and arrogance. In March, he visited a hospital and shook hands with infected patients.”—Michael House

Polemicist on Holiday

By Michael House, FRGS

St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church, King’s Sutton.

St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church, King’s Sutton.

Michael House

KING’S SUTTON England—(Weekly Hubris)—May 2020—My Dear Elizabeth,

I’m not sure who is worse off, leadership-wise, we in UK or our friends in the USA. While your vile nincompoop is in full flow, advising people to inject themselves with detergent, ours is recovering from a bout of COVID 19 brought on by his own laziness, stupidity, and arrogance. In March, he visited a hospital and shook hands with infected patients.

Unfortunately, we have our own Mike Pence in the shape of Johnson’s deputy, a man called Dominic Raab. He is currently at the helm while Johnson recuperates. Raab’s only qualification for the job is that he was a foaming Brexiteer. His appointment is inexplicable—Caligula’s horse isn’t in it—but since all the competent and civilised people have left the Conservative party or been relegated to the back benches, all that is left is fourth-rate Brexit toadies.

Boris Johnson’s approach before COVID 19 laid him low was similar to Trump’s—crisis, what crisis? —acting far too late and wasting precious weeks before panicking and shutting the country down. This was a few days after a race meeting at Cheltenham attended by 120,000 people was allowed to proceed.

A minister who acts with gross negligence resulting in the deaths of citizens is guilty of the crime of manslaughter. When this is over, Johnson should be prosecuted, as of course should Trump. 

So here we are. We have been locked down for 30 days at the time of writing. Diane and I are the lucky ones. We have a country cottage with a large garden, in a village surrounded by footpaths over rolling countryside. We are unlikely to run out of money. Diane can still do her editing remotely, and I have started a small business as a book dealer on eBay. We are fairly happy, because Diane knows how to use Skype to contact her friends, and I am naturally antisocial. Max, our beautiful black cat, helps keep us sane. I make forays to London every fortnight to collect mail, do washing, parcel up books for posting, and collect the drugs that keep me alive. The lockdown police haven’t caught me yet.

We decided to hunker down in the country when the lockdown was announced. Because of my great age and prior conditions, we preferred to be out of London. We needed to plant the crops for the summer, which is a lot of work and can’t be done through fleeting visits. The asparagus bed is now yielding of its plenty, so we have fresh vegetables most nights. The strawberries are in flower, the potato plants shooting up, and the rhubarb is prolific. 

We were going on a cruise in March around the Med., with Diane as guest lecturer and me as supercargo, but mercifully she pulled out before the pandemic blew up. But all the joys of late spring and summer are lost: Easter in Greece; car-boot sales every weekend; the cricket season; second hand bookshops; Wimbledon; the Proms—all gone. I wouldn’t mind so much if I were 50—but I don’t know how many years I have left to enjoy these delights. We were planning to go to Bhutan in the autumn—that is not going to happen.

We have our rituals. Every Thursday at 8 p.m., the nation stands at its doors and windows and applauds the NHS staff and the other essential workers who put themselves in harm’s way. A neighbour plays bongo drums and I shake two tiny apple trees hung with Greek goat bells. Every morning, I have a (short) workout, then collect the newspapers from the Post Office (only one customer allowed in at a time—it can take half an hour’s queuing), then a short drive to a local copse where I (illegally, Diane says) collect firewood to replenish our stock. Then a brain workout in the form of the “Times” and “The Guardian” crosswords. Then garden tasks in the afternoon, and in the early evening a long tramp through the fields. Later I enjoy the best fruits of American culture, Stephen Colbert, Seth Myers, Sam Bee, and, on Saturday mornings, the wonderful Bill Maher. Sadly, we don’t have that quality of political satire in the UK. That’s my normal day.

Of course, continuing my legal practice is out of the question, even if I weren’t in the at-risk category. I normally do criminal trials in front of juries. Jury trials have been suspended, and cannot be conducted remotely, for various logistical reasons. So, I’ll have to await a vaccine or herd immunity before going back to it. Perhaps this is the time to retire, but the idea does not appeal, even if lockdown is good practice.

I see some American politicians want to sue the fascist totalitarian Chinese state over COVID 19. I don’t see how that could happen, but I give Trump credit for calling the pandemic by its proper name: the Wuhan Virus. I only hope right-wing retards can distinguish between Chinese-Americans and the Chinese state.

This is a personal account of life under isolation, so I won’t add to the reams of material written on every conceivable aspect of our situation. But every silver lining has a cloud. Our skies are clear, pollution levels are right down, and our idiot Conservative government want to legalise skywriting! You couldn’t make it up.

Love, as always,


Michael House

About Michael House

Michael House was born, of rural, peasant stock, in Somerset, England. He read law at Exeter College, Oxford and was elected President of the Oxford Union. In 1974, along with five colleagues, House started up a set of barristers' chambers in three little rooms in Lincoln's Inn, London, specializing in human rights and in representing the poor and dispossessed. The set now comprises 170 members and occupies a 17th-century building that was home to the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated (Spencer Perceval, 1812). In 1987, depressed by Mrs. Thatcher's third election victory, House fled to Greece for three years, where he was published in The Athenian and The Southeastern Review. He also there met his archaeologist wife, Diane. The pair returned to England in 1990 after a half-year, round-the-world trip, and settled in London and Northamptonshire. Since then, by way of escape from humdrum criminality, House has traveled in Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim, Ladakh, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Morocco, Syria, Jordon, Libya, Mongolia, Kashmir, and Sri Lanka, where only the stout walls of Galle Fort saved him and his spouse from being swept away by the tsunami. House returns to Greece, his second home, almost every year. He has written for, inter alia, History Today, the Universities Quarterly, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Rough Guide to Greece and www.greecetraveler.com. House practices criminal defense law from Garden Court Chambers, Lincoln's Inn Fields, in London, and hopes that if he keeps on practicing, he may eventually get the hang of it. His yet unachieved ambitions are: to farm alpacas; see Tibet liberated from the Chinese jackboot; and live to see Britain a socialist republic.
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