Simple pleasures

We’d got big plans for 2020. No overseas visits – we wanted to spend a full year in the UK recovering from our 2019 New Zealand adventure – but plenty of travel here at home: a week in Norfolk, a few days in Liverpool, a fortnight in Cornwall, a long weekend at the British Birdwatching Fair in Rutland, and a Scottish odyssey centred around a two-weeks stay in the Orkney Islands. But Covid-19 has blown our plans out of the water: we’re going nowhere in 2020.

Instead, 2020 has become a year of simple pleasures. For more than three months we barely left the house, other than to buy food, so there was plenty of time to read. As a means of escape I’m working my way through the Jeeves novels and short stories by controversial novelist PG Wodehouse. Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse is claimed by some to be the funniest writer of all time in the English language. That’s overstating his abilities, I reckon, but he’s definitely brought me some welcome comic relief in recent weeks.

Written over a period of 60 years between 1915 and 1975, the Jeeves stories comprise a series of tales about upper class buffoon Bertie Wooster, a supremely stupid representative of the English idle rich who’s always getting into scrapes, and Jeeves, his smart, suave and sophisticated personal manservant, who invariably comes to his rescue. The early 20th century class system portrayed by Wodehouse is achingly absurd – grotesque, even – and one is left wondering how Britain ever achieved its prominent position on the international stage when ineffectual prats like Wooster ruled the roost.

My lockdown reading!

The Jeeves stories allow us to glance over our shoulders at a (thankfully) long-lost world, one in which rich White Englishmen did what they liked and everyone else did what they were told. However the books are wittily written, and as long as we remember the historical context and laugh at the appalling aristocracy rather than with them, it’s just harmless, escapist nonsense. And god knows, in the year of Covid-19, we all need opportunities to escape.

Speaking of escapism, we’ve also been using lockdown constructively to binge our way through all eight seasons of Game of Thrones. We missed out on it first time around, but if ever there was an opportunity to find out what all the fuss is about it’s now, when we’ve got loads of time on our hands and not a lot to do with it.

Small Tortoiseshells have been common this year

And what a treat it’s been, an epic fantasy, a seething cauldron of death and deceit, dwarves and dragons, debauchery and depravity. Blood and guts litter the landscape in nearly every episode, while power-mad tyrants battle for ultimate control and leave mayhem in their wake. To be honest, it seems not unlike a normal day in the politics of your average western democracy.

For an old cynic like me it’s always been tempting to assume that something as popular as Game of Thrones must be cheap and nasty, just populist rubbish that combines mass appeal with minimal merit. It isn’t. Quite the reverse, in fact. The production values are superb, the characterisation vivid, the narrative complex and compelling. There are few positive aspects of Covid-19, but for us one of them has been creating the space and motivation to finally watch a TV show that just about everyone else on the planet has already seen. Love those dragons!

With opportunities to go out and about strictly limited, initially by government edict and then by our own caution, we’ve spent more time than ever before in our little garden. Thanks to my bad back and knackered knees I don’t look after the garden as well as I should, and it therefore has a slightly wild and unkempt appearance, like my Covid-19 hairstyle. But despite this – or perhaps because of it – the birds and the bees and the butterflies have visited regularly throughout the summer.

2020 has provided an abundance of bumblebees

One day I even spotted a bat, clinging to a pondside plant in broad daylight. It was during a hot spell and I assume he’d gone to the pond to take on water. He took off before Mrs P could grab her camera, circled two or three times around the garden before flying away. A rare treat, something we’d probably have missed in a “normal” year when we’re away from home for much of the time.

Less rare, but still a treat, is a visit from Milky Bar. Regular readers of this blog will know all about Milky Bar, a local cat who claims our garden as his own. Although he occasionally exerts himself by hunting insects, he is probably the most idle cat in existence and spends most of his time with us sleeping, waking just occasionally to chase patches of shade as the sun tracks westwards across the sky. Milky Bar is a great character, and his visits throughout lockdown always lifted our spirits.

Milky Bar: the most idle cat in existence

It would be banal to say that 2020 has been a year like no other, but clearly what’s happened in recent months was unimaginable as 2019 drew to a close. Mrs P and I have got off lightly. The virus has – so far, at least – passed us by, and as we’re retired and financially secure we’ve been spared the worries about the future that have afflicted so many working people. Instead we’ve spent our days here at home, comfortable and content.

It could have been so much worse and we’ll be forever grateful for our good fortune, and for life’s simple pleasures.

* * *

Postscript: for all you CAT-LOVERS out there, here are links to other posts featuring Milky Bar:


  1. T Ibara Photo · August 26, 2020

    Hello Mr. P.
    Glad you and Mrs P could enjoy the simpler pleasures, and most of all, stay safe!

    Hello dear Milky Bar,
    I haven’t forgotten about your sushi. However, outgoing international mail from Japan to the most of the APAC region is till on hold. So, please be patient ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · August 26, 2020

      Konichiwa, Takami-san, Milky Bar desu! Thank you for rememberin’ me. Old Man Platypus is still bein’ mean, and even though he ain’t been on vacation this year and sees me nearly every day, he still ain’t bought me no tuna. Dearest Takami-san, my best friend forever ๐Ÿ˜ป, you are my last hope! Please write to that nice Mr Abe, your Prime Minister, and tell him that the most ‘andsome cat in the world lives in the UK and needs his help. Ask him to allow a special delivery of mail from Japan to the UK, so you can send me some sushi. My mouth is waterin’ just thinkin’ about the treat that’s in store for me when your parcel arrives! With love from your most ardent admirer, Milky Bar ๐Ÿ˜ธ๐Ÿ˜ธ๐Ÿ˜ธ๐Ÿ˜ธ๐Ÿ˜ธ

      Liked by 1 person

      • T Ibara Photo · August 27, 2020

        My dear Milky Bar,
        My deepest apologies! The heat wave has clouded my brain and for a minute I thought you were still in New Zealand. I hang my head in shame! I will look into the postal situation between Japan and the UK. My local post office has a lot of cat fans, so maybe they can bend the rules a bit ๐Ÿ˜€
        In the meantime, stay safe and do give our best to Mr. and Mrs. Platypus!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Platypus Man · August 27, 2020

        Dear Takami-san
        Thank you for your kindness. Old Man Platypus and Madame Platypus are both well, and being very careful to stay safe during the crisis. You and your family must also be careful please: I am very excited to try sushi, and you are my last hope (Old Man Platypus will NEVER buy me sushi!)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. krikitarts · August 26, 2020

    I enjoyed this post very much, David, and can draw many parallels. In factโ€”and in order: (1) our standard travel plans are likewise derailed, for an undetermined period, but we are also able to cope and compensate. (2) Iโ€™ve read my share of Wodehouse, albeit a few decades ago, but CD was watching an old episode just a couple of days ago. (3) I have also come to be captured by the vivid alternate universe of Game of Thrones. Iโ€™ve only seen it through the 6th season, but the characters are unforgettable, as are (unfortunately) some of the alarmingly-grisly scenes they seem determined to include. (4) Thereโ€™s more time to appreciate the garden and catch up on YardWork thatโ€™s been on the back burner for way too long. (5) Our own cat (Leo), who never leaves the house, is our constant joy and comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · August 26, 2020

      It’s a small world, isn’t it? We live on opposite sides of the planet, yet there are so many similarities in our experience. You mention CD watching an episode of Wodehouse, and I wonder if this was the TV series featuring Hugh Laurie as Wooster and Stephen Fry as Jeeves? For me, these were the perfect portrayals of Wodehouse’s literary creations, and they’ve been in my mind constantly as I’ve worked through the books.
      If you get the chance and can tolerate the gore, seasons 7 and 8 of Game of Thrones are worth watching too. It doesn’t end how I expected, and perhaps not as I would have wished, but it sure is spectacular.
      Have you written a blog post yet on lovely Leo? He sounds like a star!

      Liked by 1 person

      • krikitarts · August 27, 2020

        I’m delighted to answer your question in the affirmative–in fact, this was less than two months ago: BTW, he has another two white ones, which I plan to report on soon. And–another affirmative: Yes, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. Some actors just fit their roles so well it’s hard to get really comfortable with another. A few more cases in point: Sean Connery will always be my Bond, though Daniel Craig is a pretty close second; Joseph Fiennes will always be my Shakespeare, and Robert Hardy, Christopher Timothy, and Peter Davison will always be my Siegfried, James, and Tristan. Oh, and no one could ever play Mr. Collins as well as David Bamber.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Platypus Man · August 27, 2020

        Leo is wonderful! Agree totally about Sean Connery…did you pick up that it was his 90th birthday a couple of days ago? Regarding All Creatures Great and Small, you might not have heard about it in NZ yet, but next week our television will start to screen a re-make. I don’t know if we’ll bother to watch it though, since Hardy, Timothy and Davison are so firmly fixed in our minds that any other actors in those roles will fail to convince. Also agree about David Bamber – brilliant as Mr Collins!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. nationalparkswitht · August 26, 2020

    In the beginning of internet days, there was a popular search engine called Ask Jeeves….same guy?๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · August 26, 2020

      Yes, it was a reference to Jeeves’s awesome general knowledge and intelligence (in the books Bertie Wooster puts this down to his diet, which comprises mostly of fish! ๐ŸŸ) However Jeeves was dropped around 15 years ago when the search engine was rebranded as I suspect the literary reference was too obscure for most users outside the UK, and many who live here too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • nationalparkswitht · August 27, 2020

        Wow…I used to ask Jeeves questions all the time until my bff Google came along ๐Ÿ˜‚

        Liked by 1 person

  4. magarisa · August 26, 2020

    Wow, a bat in broad daylight!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · August 26, 2020

      Yes, couldn’t believe it, and it wasn’t even close to dawn or dusk, but late morning in full sunlight. Amazing sight, a real privilege to witness it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. tanjabrittonwriter · August 31, 2020

    When I was a teenager, someone gifted me one of the Jeeves novels (translated into German), and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A few years back I felt the need to read at least one of them in English. It was amusing, but I have to admit that I wasn’t rolling over as much as I had as a younger person. But I’m glad I made the acquaintance of Bertie and Jeeves, even though I don’t feel the need to know about all their escapades.
    And I can assure you that there are still people in this world who never have (and likely never will) read or watch Game of Thrones! I simply refuse to do it, but I’m glad you and Mrs. P enjoyed it. Instead, my husband and I watched nearly all extant film versions of Jane Austen’s novels. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I am grateful to great literature and movies, but more than anything else, for the bees, the butterflies, and the birds!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · August 31, 2020

      I do worry that people from outside the UK who encounter Wooster will think Brits are like that today. Most Brits were never like that, and in 2020 just about all of us would recognise him for the dinosaur that he is.
      His view of women feels uncomfortably out of place in the modern world: he gets himself engaged at least once, and often several times, in each book, and his sole aim in life appears to be to avoid following through with the manage. Author PG Wodehouse married at the age of 33. Wikipedia says “the marriage proved happy and lifelong,” but his understanding and respect for women appears minimal. Poor Mrs Wodehouse! As I suggested in my post, in my view the books only work in the modern world if readers laugh at Bertie Wooster, and not with him.

      Jane Austen is an altogether different proposition, a truly great British writer and still very popular. Filming new versions of her books is a British way of life, so I’m sure there will be many more movie and TV adaptations for you to enjoy in the years to come.

      And finally…I agree totally with your closing sentence: I too am grateful to great literature and movies, but more than anything else, for the bees, the butterflies, and the birds!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Nikhil Jacob · August 31, 2020

    Well, I must say that I really loved the way you write!
    I am not very old however, just like you even I thought that the Game of thrones would be a well-marketed gimmick that lacked content. But now I am convinced to take some time and get that show covered up!
    Also, Milky bar is a treat to read about, I can only imagine what a delight he must be in person!

    Will lookout for more of your posts!

    Greetings from India.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · September 2, 2020

      Thank you, that’s very kind. In turn, I look forward to reading more of your posts. Milky Bar visited this morning, and sends greetings to his new Indian admirer! ๐Ÿ˜ธ

      Liked by 1 person

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