This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Friday, 6 March 2020

How to be a hermit

In these days of plague, many people are being recommended to become hermits (the term is "self-isolation"). These include anyone who has come into contact with the coronavirus, visited the same country as an infected person, seen anything about it on television, or even read Camus's La Peste. So that's all of us.

Terry Jones as a hermit

You can wear a smart suit, or dress like this if you prefer.

Being a hermit is not always easy. There is the true, spiritually nourishing, story of St Honoratus, who went to the Îles de Lérins off Cannes to seek seclusion as a hermit. However, he was too good at it, and soon lots of disciples turned up to see how he did it. As he sat in his cell, he was constantly interrupted by cries of "How's the hermit life going?" "Are you doing it now?" "What happens next?" "Peace and quiet are wonderful, aren't they? I said PEACE AND QUIET ARE WONDERFUL, AREN'T THEY?" And so on.

So if celebrating Mass as we recommended doesn't seem to be working, and you do decide to self-isolate, here are some useful tips.

An axe. In case anyone comes visiting. A sign saying "UNCLEAN!" should keep most people away (it certainly works for us in Mass), but there will always be Mr Nosey from church who insists on doing the Sign of Peace with poor unsuspecting hermits. That was one of the famous sufferings of St Honoratus.

Food. Get stuff that lasts a long time. Eccles cakes are like Tolkien's dwarf bread, and will keep for months. Meat doesn't really last: you may have thought of buying a hippopotamus and cutting a piece off every day, but we really wouldn't advise it. And nor would the hippopotamus.

hippo chasing man

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Toilet paper. 20 rolls per day should be sufficient. Or use the collected works of Richard Dawkins (which is better than they deserve).

Hand wash or soap. Well, if you're on your own, there's really no need to wash at all, and nobody will notice that you smell like a [offensive stereotype deleted]. Still, do scrape off a layer of dirt every month or so.

Spiritually nourishing reading. From the depths of our hearts by Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah, is a good choice, because it winds up so many people. Wounded Shepherd, by Austen Ivereigh, one of the people wound up by our first choice, is probably a waste of time, and should join the Dawkins books (see above). The Bible's quite a cracker too - plenty of sex and violence, some jolly psalms for you to sing while washing your hands (if you're fed up with singing "Happy Birthday to you"), and a truly apocalyptic ending, where St John goes to Patmos and unmasks the criminal.

Pilate washing hands

Pontius Pilate sings "Happy Birthday to you".

Happy hermitting!


  1. The comment about using Mr Ivereigh's book as toilet paper is very my derriere.

  2. I have to work to pay the bills which will keep coming even after I'm gone so hermiting is out, but I am wearing my leopard skin and getting some weird looks.

  3. The basic problem with hermitting is well illustrated by the ineffable collaboration of Simpson, Galton and Hancock: after feeling called to adopt the simple life and become a hermit in a local wood, Anthony Aloysius finds himself inadvertently famous when the press get hold of it, and returns home in disgust as the wood becomes a heaving mass of wannabe hermits following his example. Well worth a listen.

  4. I'm considering retweeting this again,
    so funny! Peace and Quiet, chortle, chuckle

  5. As St Greta of Garbo famously said, 'I vant to be halone...'