Rosie and Jim: ‘Mungo could either be a 12ft python trying to devour the cat, or a six-year-old child with his hand in the cookie jar, and everything in between’

Country Life's Rosie Paterson and James Fisher are — as we all are — in isolation, with only their laptops, home-delivery wine and curiously noisy neighbours for company.

Our writers Rosie Paterson and James Fisher — who have both, one way or another, ended up alone for the duration — are sharing slices of their lives.

Up until now they’ve shared tales of curious robins, video chat and little old ladies winching shopping through windows. But nothing had prepared them for how to deal with Mungo.

Whoever said you shouldn’t drink alone clearly never lived through a pandemic, or ever had to self-isolate. Rules are meant to be broken, so that’s what I did. I drank, alone. On Easter Sunday.

This little slice of Devon is home to a particularly good wine shop, and the enterprising owner offers home delivery. I’m not sure what my neighbours thought about a stranger depositing a bottle of tequila on my doorstep. I’d ask them if I was allowed to invite them round for drinks.

In 1920, prohibition had the US in its dry grip. Fast-forward 100 years and our government deems off-licences essential shops that should remain open during lockdown, and alcohol sales are up. There’s a point here, but it slipped my mind after the second margarita.

I drank my margaritas in the jumper that happened to turn up on the same day. By ‘happened to’, I mean I knowingly ordered it when my inbox was bombarded by emails, all proffering messages and discounts from very friendly CEOs. Apparently, I’m a valued customer, and so it would’ve been selfish to ignore them.

On Monday I took a break from online shopping, walking for miles, making doughnuts and condiments and god knows else what, working out and attempting arts and crafts projects (a hideous thought for anyone who ever had to sit next to me during a school art class).

I meandered with little purpose through the town and sat in the sun, listening to one questionable 70s album after the next, thinking about nothing in particular. Perhaps it was because it was a bank holiday; perhaps I’d eaten too much chocolate the day before and wasn’t actually capable of movement or thought. But, it was the first time I’d done nothing — really nothing — in weeks.

We may never have a time like this again (if for the same reasons, I sincerely hope not) — so I hope you also find time to do nothing. Instagram might say otherwise, but decorating blown-out eggshells is really quite overrated.

Living under the Heathrow flightpath means that it’s rare to enjoy the stillness of birdsong. As I sit and read Mary South’s outstanding collection of short essays, aptly titled You Will Never be Forgotten, it’s easy to feel that, maybe, in this bucolic silence, I just might be. And maybe, in these peaceful environs, that would be a good thing.

Mungo, however, has quite different ideas.

Mungo belongs to the neighbours and Mungo is a very naughty boy. Well, I say he’s a boy, but the truth is I have no idea who, or even what, Mungo might be. I have never seen Mungo, but I know he is there. I know that Mungo is clearly enamoured with mischief. Mungo enjoys going where he is not supposed to go, and this riles up Mungo’s parents/owners/handlers very much, and they are not afraid to let him know it. At this point, in my mind, Mungo could either be a 12ft python trying to devour the cat, or a six-year-old child with his hand in the cookie jar, and everything in between.

‘Mungo!’ comes the cry from over the fence, as the birds all stop singing and erupt upwards in unison, their Easter peace as shattered as mine. ‘Get OUT OF THERE! You know you’re not supposed to do that!’

‘Ah,’ I sigh to myself, imagining the python in the cookie jar again, or the child eating the cat, or anything in between. ‘Maybe those planes roaring overhead served a certain purpose after all.’

I don’t know my neighbours. When this all began, I unusually decided to reach out to them in an act of community that, as all my friends will tell you, is despairingly out of character. So I stuck up a sign on the window that faces them, one that I know they can see (have we made inadvertent eye contact while I was making tea in the nude? Reader, the answer is an emphatic: ‘yes’). It read, ‘we’re all in this together, let me know if you need any wine’.

Three weeks have passed and still no response. I even sit in my garden with the bottle label facing towards them, just in case they are worried about the quality.

Still, nothing. All they can share with me is the trials and tribulations of Mungo, and his incessant ballad of mischief. I cheer for him now. Go get that cat Mungo, go get those cookies — and everything in between.