Porridge: Fletcher can show us how to beat the lockdown blues

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FEELING trapped? Isolated? Stuck indoors like a cat sprawled across a living room window-ledge, boxed in by plant pots and gazing indolently at passing traffic?

Then join the queue.

Though only join it if you’re willing to stand a two metre distance from the person front and back of you. No fraternising with the natives.

Meanwhile, I don’t share your angst. While the rest of the nation has gone into hibernation (a hiber nation, if you will) I’ve managed to escape.

Not like Piers Morgan, the argy-bargy anchor-man of breakfast TV, who recently demanded that everyone suck up their punishment, self-isolate, forget about friends, family and fun, then craftily absconded to Antigua where he enjoyed a hefty helping of holiday hijinks under a non-judgemental sun.

No, I eluded the deprivations and despair of this grimmest of Januarys by fleeing to prison.

Slade was the name of the joint, and I was cell mates with a fella called Fletcher.

Over the last few weeks I’ve spent my idle moments – and they’ve been plenty – viewing classic episodes of the 1970s TV series Porridge, starring Ronnie Barker as Norman Stanley Fletcher, a crafty Cockney incarcerated for a five-year stretch.

Watching old DVDs of the show was an astute choice because although Porridge has the grimmest backdrop of any British sitcom, it’s also the most optimistic.

Fletcher is banged up but refuses to be broken down. He survives and thrives through a series of little victories.

He isn’t intimidated by prison guards, even those with scary Scottish accents. (Admit it. Our gobs have something of the Gothic about them. Even Lorraine Kelly would be terrifying if she yelled “Yoo-hoo!” at you on a spooky, moonlit night.)

Fletch also nabs his fair share of contraband snout, or tobacco as it’s known to civilian types.

He grabs what he can and grinds out the days, the weeks, the months.

The moral is that you can trap a chap’s body, but you can never imprison his spirit. Unless he lets you.

Porridge. It’s a British version of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. Only with a few more chuckles.

Feeling inspired by feisty Fletch, I’ve decided to fashion my own life out of a patchwork of little victories.

So yesterday I made it out the front door to dump some rubbish bags. Victory.

I managed not to argue with my wife and teenage son for an entire hour. Victory.

I improved my cooking skills. (Pot Noodle + Boiling Water = I’m the new Gordon Ramsay.) Victory.

Winning, not whining. It’s my new mantra.

Then again, I may have reversed those two by the end of the month. Where’s Norman Stanley when you really need him…

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