Holy Smoke

Lockdown and the pandemic of loneliness

32 min listen

In This Episode

In 1930, the American novelist Thomas Wolfe wrote these chilling words: ‘The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.’

It’s an idea that, for many of us, is harder to shrug off now than it was a year ago. Loneliness has many dimensions and, after nearly a year of intermittent lockdowns, its consequences are piling up. We’ve talked before on Holy Smoke about the lockdown’s devastating effect on churchgoing – but, as my guest Mary Kenny points out, there’s been an across-the-board suspension of the small-scale social activities that mean so much in particular for older people. As she says, many Britons in their 70s and 80s are wondering if they’ll live to see another coffee morning.

A depressing topic then, but, this being the irrepressible Mary, our conversation veers off in all sorts of quirky directions. The best quote comes from her late husband, the brilliant maverick war correspondent Richard West: ‘To be young, penniless, living in Paris, in love and dying of consumption – what could be more wonderful that that?’ What on earth did he mean? You’ll have to listen to find out.


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