Could you be the next Samuel Pepys? Let’s all try writing a lockdown diary…


Samuel Pepys may have had the great plague of London to inspire him, but a spoof Twitter account has now given the diary entries a 2020 makeover.

Anyone who follows @Mark-ne-Francois-pas MP – the comic alter ego of the European Research Group chairman – will already be chuckling at the very mention of his plague tweets.

“Wake, and up and sipping Monster, and a message that an Amazon package of germoloids be again delivered to the Thornberry next door did vex me graytly as she was already abroad stockpiling quinoa and Merlot,” he wrote last Monday.

“A very calme, curious morning, I rode to Epping Forest on Evoque 2.0 and was disquieted to discover many more of the same mind in disregard of the social distancing so delicately advanced by the Johnson.”

The spoof MP has given us a hearty laugh during our uncertain times. And it’s a genius move to reimagine Pepys’ diary for the coronavirus era.

What the heck, I’m thinking of starting one myself. I’ve certainly got material from watching the world go by from a computer screen and my study window.

Lockdown literature. It’s fast becoming a thing.

I’m recommending the diary concept to my colleagues too. One of them is being ‘plagued’ by a neighbour, who spends his spare time lifting weights in the middle of the street. That’s stretching the daily constitutional a bit.

They tell us many great works of literature were shaped by pandemic experiences. William Shakespeare is said to have crafted King Lear during the 1606 plague outbreak, which led to the closure of the Globe and other theatres.

And viruses have taken centre stage in some classic novels as well. Take Albert Camus’ La Peste, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, and more recently, Margaret Attwood’s The Year of the Flood.

Writer Margaret Atwood

Covid-19 has given us an excuse to get our creative juices flowing.

In fact, writing is just one of the many ways people are expressing themselves now they have more time on their hands and are forbidden to travel.

Whether it’s fashioning a macramé hanging, making crop circle artwork on the lawn, practising a new language or helping the kids with painting those ubiquitous rainbows, it’s anything goes.

Parents have now become home-schoolers and some have thrown themselves into it with all the flair of a contestant on a reality TV show. They are even using props.

For children, it’s also been a chance to rediscover less structured learning. Simple pleasures like curling up to read a story or making music with makeshift household implements.

If the lockdown has taught us anything it’s that we should value what we have, not always chase what we think we want. When all this is over, we’ll be left with a fresh appreciation of the world around us.

I, for one, am looking forward to returning to that most mundane of settings: the office. I miss the  banter, the birthday treats ‘left on the usual table’ and the dripping sink tap.

Who wants to live out eternity on Google Hangout or Zoom? We crave human contact.

Back in the 17th century, Pepys was the great chronicler of his time. But in the 21st century, balancing laptops on kitchen tables, we’re the everyday chroniclers. Let’s get writing.

Over to you Mark: “After dinner of Fray Bentos on toast, we did hear that heir Charles do succumb to plague Covid-19 and be in isolation with Camilla, who by tying red ribbon across door frames and covering all their pictures in little curtains, allows him to continue to work from home.”





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