The dog and I used to have the house to ourselves. But since every Tom, Dee and Harriet was ordered to take up their laptops and commandeer the ends of their kitchen tables, those days of solitude have dimmed into the social distance.
What a world we lived in. From about 8.45 every morning until at least four in the afternoon, myself and the dog enjoyed a life that could be described as an elegant combination of bachelorhood and latter-day monasticism. I would spend the day in the virtual scriptorium while my canine companion lay languorously in front of the fire.
When the sun shone he would retire outdoors to stretch himself on the lawn and soak up the rays, occasionally lying on his back to his belly and the remnants of his crown jewels to the elements. (Whenever anybody tells me they have a dog's life, I'm inclined to envisage a villa on the costa-del-something-or-other replete with servants, chauffeurs and ready access to medical professionals.)
Before the plague, the hound and I were masters of the heart of the day, until the students and workers returned from academy and market place to shatter the serenity of our all-male idyll. The hours had a rhythm and an order, and while we may not have chanted our matins or intoned our nones, there was a whiff of the cloister, and the sacred silence was rarely broken.
The stresses and strains of the outside world would, of course, impinge on us when the weekly press deadline loomed. Phone calls would fracture the karma as anxious auctioneers strained to assure me that the road frontage is certainly extensive, the undulating land has a southern aspect and if only I had come on a dry day I wouldn't have needed the shovel to extract my wellingtons from the soggy bottom of the lower field.
I used to dine out on the fact that I worked from home. I was a rare creature and wont to bask in the exceptionalism that comes with being a man who rarely leaves the house.
Alas, the silence, the serenity, the splendid isolation and the exceptionalism are no more. Everyone is at it. It's as common as muck to be a home worker now. The distinct are extinct, having been trampled by the herd.
I feel like those keen motorists of the 1970s who prided themselves in cars fitted with head-rests, arm-rests, electric windows and radios. But when the Japanese arrived, they shattered the notions of the motoring elites, fitting every model from the run-around to the touring sedan with all the aforementioned refinements.
Invention, discovery and plague change everything.
According to Melvyn Bragg's excellent book, The Adventure of English - The Biography of a Language, the Black Plague destroyed the French-speaking nobility of England and also killed a disproportionate number of Latin-speaking clergy, thereby opening the way for English, the language of the common man.
The Peasants' Revolt of 1381 forced the nobility to deal with the peasants in their own tongue, and so English turned a crucial corner on its way to world domination.
I can feel the changes wrought by the coronavirus already. My world has been invaded, and nobody knows, not even the wisest in the land, when, if ever, things will return to the way they were.
Maybe I should take a lead from some of the more wily monks who survived the 14th-century pestilence and become a wandering interlocutor between what was and what will be, a veritable bridge between the office and the home office.
In that regard I have had phone calls from people wondering if I have any advice about blending the domestic and the professional. I generally suggest that they should talk to a local farmer who has been at it all his life, or I might offer some simple tips.
However, I am reluctant to tell them everything. If the truth gets out about the joys of the cottage industry, the pleasure of labouring to the strains of Lyric FM and the constant waft of freshly made coffee, I fear those of us with this sweet and secret life will be outed and our contentment laid bare.
Perhaps it is too late. The dog seems to think so. I sometimes catch him looking at me wistfully, as if longing for the days of our gender imbalance before the pestilence rendered our haven of male tranquillity gender-fluid.
Heaven send a vaccine, soon.