Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hermit age

You know the tired old sign that office jokers keep on their desks: "You don't need to be mad to work here but it helps"? Well, for me, “here” has to be “home”. Indeed, it would be sheer madness for this tireless joker NOT to work from home. I sure ain't good at the alternative. All that tweet and greet and blithering about the coffee machine in the corridor gives me the heebie jeebies. No offence intended, but I had enough of that social faffery in my corporate days to last me several lifetimes.

Let me socialise instead with the birdies gossiping outside my own window. I can handle their chirpy twitter and besides, the birdies never mind what I bleep back at them or even how I bleep it. So, does my desire to escape the madding crowd sound that mad? Nope, not to me, nor to many of my neighbours in Thesinge, the placid village we live in.

Really, we ought to rename the place “Hermit’s Hamlet”. For some strange reason, Thesinge harbours a wilderness of work-at-homes among its 700-strong inhabitants. Down my own sleepy lane, for instance, you will find (in no particular order) an accountant, a builder, a children’s book illustrator, an electrician, a health food distributor, a management consultant, a psychologist and a translator/photographer.

That’s nine hermits in a row (including me, your trusty language editor), although I hasten to declare that none of us actually occupies a grotty cave in solo splendour. We are blessed with socially outgoing partners who go out to work (and can be counted on to do all the housework whenever there is a deadline).

Gerard Kingma, friend and fellow language hermit, who lives at the end of the lane, does get out and about but that’s because he’s also a prize-winning photographer and has to. Obviously he can’t fob off his clients with the shots he's caught on his office webcam but rest assured, his snaps of the Thesinger Maar (the river flowing past his office) are as gorgeous as the works of art displayed on his wonderful travel & nature website.

The rest of us hermits, however, true to our reclusive nature, seldom are observed blotting the landscape or scaring off visitors, the task of the truly professional hermits employed on the fashionable estates of our Victorian forebears. Only a few of us would ever - except under duress or in unbearably sunny weather - poke a nose outside the comfy confines of our hermitages.

Talking of which, did you ever wonder how the moniker for a dank, dark grotto got to be given to that mega-museum in St. Petersburg? Well, stay put and I’ll tell you. When Catherine first began her great art collection she called the original gallery she had built to house it “my small hermitage” since only very few people would be allowed inside to view its riches. She once lamented in a letter that “only the mice and I can admire all this.” Thought you’d like to know that.

Ach, give Catherine the Great her mice, and her art, this hermit has her birdies and a great new age to enjoy. Yes, it was my birthday this Easter, and no, I won’t tell you how old I am. Suffice to say that I’d barely become a teen angel when this hit came out. Happy listening and see you next week!

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