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The girl has won a seven-day pampering holiday. It is called self-isolation.

She was not, it must be said, initially delighted when news came through on the NHS app on Sunday morning. There was much swearing and texts in capital letters until the reality dawned on her that this was not all downside.

For a start, there were all those domestic chores that she is no longer able to take on if she is to have due regard for the safety of other householders. She truly does feel guilty about all that washing, but then again . . . Oh yeah, parents, hands, space, in your face.

The disruption is fairly minimal. Her school year group is already learning online and it is dark before lessons end. Her loft room is next to the spare bathroom. By the time she was notified, the period of isolation was down to a week, so she’ll almost be free by the time you read this, unless she attacks a warder.

Her parents, meanwhile, have won the gift of a week-long experience of life as the domestic staff of Downton Abbey, playing footman and lady’s maid to a stir-crazy teenager. Within minutes of her confinement came the first request to be brought a cup of tea. News that we were heading out for a walk was accompanied by requests for provisions. Her brother’s mini-fridge was snaffled to hold fizzy drinks and the jars of olives we were ordered to buy. It is all a bit like keeping a difficult relative in the attic except that this Mrs Rochester keeps ringing down for pasta.

There has not been time to install a bell system but she does still have the house landline, normally reserved for Amazon scam callers and ambulance-chasing personal injury firms ringing to make sure we are OK after that road accident they happened to hear about. We could, of course, use call screening but she’d only text. Also, she is being terribly polite and thus far is not referring to us by our surnames. We have been led to understand that if we maintain this level of service there may be a small tip, a good reference and even permission to use the car at weekends.

Indeed, in a sign of the good favour in which she holds her servants, we have been honoured with an invite to eat dinner on the stairs outside her room, so we can keep her up to date with all that is happening in the outside world, which of course is nothing. Happily, there are a few petty revenges available, like telling her Alexa to play John Denver.

Alas, she has not been able to enjoy the full spa-day experience of a proper pampering holiday but she has snaffled the neck massager, which now needs to stay in her room until it can be deep cleaned.

Since she has no symptoms at time of writing, she cannot get a Covid-19 test from the largely empty drive-through a few miles from the house. But it is only with these capricious self-isolations and the dreariness of the second lockdown that I have come to realise the strategic economic genius of the government’s approach.

The first lockdown was fairly civilised for far too many of us. We all know of the vast numbers who suffered but we also recall those summer conversations with white-collar professionals who stayed healthy and kept their jobs and would loudly tell you “how they really rather enjoyed lockdown”. The sun was out, the commute was gone. It was all rather novel. Far too many were contemplating life away from the office.

Second time around, the novelty has worn off. We’ve gone from Zoom to bust. We miss our colleagues. Sudden orders to self-isolate disrupt our plans and the dark days of winter have dimmed our enthusiasm for long hours outdoors. We’ve watched everything we wanted to watch on Netflix and are so far down our list of priorities that we may be forced to give Schitt’s Creek a third chance, if only for that great joke in series four.

The part of the nation that is not impoverished is now truly bored. The return to a normal working life suddenly seems pretty appealing.

We’ve tried working from home, we’ve tried the domestic servitude experience, all that’s left is what once seemed like mundane normality. Bring it on.

Follow Robert on Twitter @robertshrimsley and email him at

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