Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Duration: News from Abroad


Today we welcomed our Rotary exchange student, whom I’ll call Rotaria. Fawlty Towers fans will imagine my posture and tone of voice when I say “she is from Barcelona.” Absolutely delightful, a real tonic to the local mood. Could be called home at any moment, but for now her parents are fine with her staying here. Because Barcelona at the moment is not fun.

When you go out to get groceries – they’re on lockdown – you are required to wear a mask and gloves. When you return home, you must remove all your outer clothing and set it aside. The churches are closed, which is hard on the grandmas, who seem to be the only ones interested in filling the pews or lighting a candle. The mood seems to be the same as here: resignation, acceptance, mental suppression of the Big What Next, gallows humor, boredom, and singing from the balconies. No one in her extended circle knows anyone who has it. 

Ding! WhatsApp message from England, from my beloved Suffolk seaside town. My friend was having an annus horribilis before COVID, and is bearing up with starchy pluck. The people from London who have second homes in Suffolk have abandoned the city, and flowed north to pick the shelves bare and swan about like they’re locals, and the locals are not happy at all.

Please be polite.

The village’s two pubs have closed. One is still making food, as is the Black Dog Deli: “Andy will deliver in the village,” says the local paper. 

Say no more; everyone knows Andy.

My friend and I were slated to do seven shows on the Queen Mary in May on a transatlantic crossing, but we’re assuming that’s not going to happen, because everyone’s mental sliders just went way right when it comes to anything normal.

But we will do that show on the ship, one day. I will go back to Walbers and get a sandwich made by Andy at the Black Dog, or Mucky Pup. Rotaria will go home, and when we say goodbye it’ll be a warm summer day. I messaged my friends and established the absolute necessity of having a backyard event after The Duration, when we will crack the bottle of Pappy Van Winkle sent to me by Blue Yeti in payment years ago for joining the Flagship Podcast. Unless I die. 

But when wasn’t that always a footnote to our plans, eh? 

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  1. Lilly B Coolidge

    James Lileks:

    Unless I die.

    But when wasn’t that always a footnote to our plans, eh?

    Thanks for keeping it all in perspective. We’ll make plans for tomorrow and for after all this is over. In the meantime, be polite. 

    • #1
    • March 22, 2020, at 1:54 PM PDT
  2. Timothy Landon Member

    James, thank you for this article. Especially how everyone knows Andy. I love it.

    • #2
    • March 22, 2020, at 3:21 PM PDT
  3. Scott R Member
    Scott RJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    What a great ending to a great post, James, thx

    • #3
    • March 22, 2020, at 9:55 PM PDT
    • 1 like