'Despite my new office’s proximity, I’ve avoided the temptation to work in my pyjamas' - whynow

As Coronavirus’ rapid spread attests to the way globalisation has shrunk the world, so the world of Percy Preston, much like everyone else’s, has contracted dramatically in the past week.


Until the Friday before last, my commute consisted of a seven-and-a-half-mile bike ride from the Old Kent Road to Royal Oak in West London. Now it’s a three-second walk across the hall from my bedroom to the sitting room.

Despite my new office’s proximity, I’ve so far avoided the temptation to turn up to work in my pyjamas. Indeed, I’ve found it comforting to dress as I would in the workplace. My dad has gone to greater lengths to observe the outward appearance of work, if not the actual doing of it: he has started wearing a tie during his office hours, something he hasn’t done in decades. If this was part of an effort to guard against the risk of sliding into domestic habits while working at home, I’m not sure it’s had the desired effect. He’s sending me messages at the rate of 25 a day.

Despite my new office’s proximity, I’ve so far avoided the temptation to turn up to work in my pyjamas.

The content of these messages ­– a series of overexcited GIFs, memes and links to videos– reflects my dad’s belated embrace of internet culture. I suspect that this late adoption has been forced on many of his Generation X peers in the past week, who are having to use the internet to communicate with their socially-distancing children. The phrase ‘strange times’ has been my usefully philosophically-sounding refrain to cover up the fact that I have nothing interesting to say about what’s currently going on. But it did seem apt when my mum, also in the early stages of her internet initiation, sent me a video of a child shooting himself in the balls with a nerf gun with the caption ‘Day 4 of Quarantine’.

Aside from hours spent online, how else have I filled my time? Although I didn’t realise it then, my year-eight summer holiday was an instructive dress rehearsal for a pandemic. Then, social distancing was not imposed on me by civic duty, but by a lack of friends.  But circumstance aside, the routine is much the same. On Saturday, I played Sim City for four hours, before kicking a football against a wall that has a chalk goal drawn onto it.

According to the journalist Malcolm Gladwell, 10,000 hours of practise makes a genius. I’m living proof that he’s wrong. A genius presents themselves to the world through their talent. Gladwell failed to consider the people – people like me – who can be devoted to practise but still terrible at their chosen task. I could kick a football for 10,000,000 hours at a wall and still not reliably direct it.

I could kick a football for 10,000,000 hours at a wall and still not reliably direct it.

Alas, any hopes I might have harboured of testing Gladwell’s theory again over the coming months were soon over.  Twenty minutes into my clumsily thumping the ball against the wall, a woman came out of her house and told me to stop or she’d call the police.  I mumbled an apology and walked home. No problem: I’ve got a city to manage and those roads won’t pave themselves.

Rampa  They Will Be