Weekend Reading: Lockdown Learning

We all have our lockdown difficulties and constraints. I know that some people who read this are in full isolation due to being extremely vulnerable. Others are alone. Some are cooped up with kids in small flats with no outside space. Many are beginning to realise just how annoying their partner’s habits really are.

In my case, spending weeks with no-one but an 8-year-old for company has revealed some interesting facts.

  1. The things which I think will be ‘fun’ (colouring in, making things out of cardboard boxes, dressing up, playing with toys) are appalling to him.
  2. The things which he enjoys (statistics, lists, YouTube videos of how to negotiate the difficult bits of video games) make me wonder whether he was switched at birth.
  3. Neither one of us is really missing people.
  4. We both have an equal aversion to exercise.
  5. We like a routine. The stricter the better.
  6. We don’t really care about eating, as long as we have constant and unlimited access to toast and biscuits.
  7. All these years, my son has only been pretending to be a child to keep me quiet.


So we’ve settled into a routine of comfortably ignoring one another most of the time, except at scheduled times when we force ourselves to exercise, eat together or try to learn something. As this goes on I suspect my son will become more and more sardonic, perhaps acquiring the skill of raising one eyebrow in a Spock-like manner, while I will become increasingly eccentric, painting my entire house with glitter and declaiming Vogon poetry from the attic window.

It’s been interesting, though, to experience the educational opportunities which are being opened up. BBC Bitesize, for instance, launched a huge set of educational programmes this week. We’ve been following the 7-9 age-group programmes. Some of the offerings have horrified my son – like the Maths rules presented through Bollywood-style song and dance. Others have intrigued me.

In particular, Monday’s programme looked (very briefly) at the Romans in Britain. There was a little cartoon to go with it. On the cartoon at one point, people were holding scrolls. The scrolls had Latin on them.

I was so intrigued that I paused the video, took a photo, blew it up and tried to translate the scrolls. Because that’s the sort of geek I am. My son, needless to say, was not impressed. But I now present to you my fleeting glimpse of Latin, in the hope that you will appreciate it.




The first scroll translates as something like: ‘Huge lion eats 6 Christians in the Circus Maximus. The Emperor is reported to be pleased’. So far, so good – if not particularly pleasant.





The other two had me scratching my head a bit. It feels like someone has been using Google Translate to generate Latin headlines. The one on the right seems to say, ‘The people of the Roman Empire require bread and circuses! Second, better economic growth!’ – but it’s pretty painful, grammatically. The one on the left: well, that’s got me a bit stumped ‘You did us for you! The eager armies lost Germanicus’ boys near the Rhine’…? Can’t quite twist that into anything that makes sense.

Don’t you just love Education?

Looking back, I’m pretty sure my son has learned nothing at all from me over the last month or so. But it has been a learning experience for me. I have acquired new skills and knowledge, none of which I actually wanted. Now, for instance, when something interesting happens, my first instinct is to high-five someone. I know all the words to ‘Shotgun’ and I can do Spiderman lunges without falling over. And I’m delighted to report that I can now hold a full discussion about the finer points of a Randomizer Nuzlocke.

Hooray for Lockdown.


I’ve also been enjoying talking to more people for my Comfort Classics series of interviews (full list of links below). This week I talked to Greg Woolf about his enjoyment of Juvenal, and Gideon Nisbet about the Greek Anthology. I also caught up with OU graduate Leigh Cobley, talking about Aristotle (do check out the links to his blog and YouTube channel). Val Hope from the OU told me about her love-hate relationship with Pliny, and Laura from Greek Myth Comix shared her interest in Robert Graves’ Greek Myths. I have plenty more interviews lined up for next week, so do keep an eye on the website or ‘Follow’ for regular emails. And stayed tuned for the answer to the Big Question – will we be released from lockdown before I run out of classicists to annoy…?




This week from around the Classical Internet




Viewing the Acropolis – Keep Talking Greece 

A new look at ancient books – MIT News



Comment and opinion

Ancient food hacks – Eidolon 

Plato and COVID-19 – Medium

Roman homemade burger – History Extra

A Roman epidemic – The Historian’s Hut 

The top 5 Roman emperors – History Hit

Classicists and Latinists – In Medias Res

Fear itself – Sphinx

Petra – Following Hadrian Photography 

Animals and empathy – Eidolon 



Podcasts, video and other media

Antinous – Cambridge Classics

Thucydides explains the Labour Party – Neville Morley 

Reading the Herculaneum papyri – Getty Villa Museum 

Medusa in pop culture – That’s Ancient History 

Fool’s Luck – I, Podius 

Lots of Classics links and videos – Rogue Classicism


One for readers of Greek, from @_jenna_leanne on Twitter



Comfort Classics so far…

Comfort Classics: Gideon Nisbet

Comfort Classics: Valerie Hope

Comfort Classics: Leigh David Cobley

Comfort Classics: Greg Woolf

Comfort Classics: Liz Gloyn

Comfort Classics: Edith Hall

Comfort Classics: Tony Potter

Comfort Classics: Naoko Yamagata

Comfort Classics: Pam Herbert

Comfort Classics: LJ Trafford

Comfort Classics: Sarah Thomason

Comfort Classics: Colin Gough

Comfort Classics: Rob Cromarty

Comfort Classics: Mary Beard

Comfort Classics: Christine Plastow

Comfort Classics: Klara Hegedus

Comfort Classics: Gina May

Comfort Classics: Joanna Paul

Comfort Classics: Jack Lambert

Comfort Classics: Lilah Grace Canevaro

Comfort Classics: Steve Havelin




6 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: Lockdown Learning

  1. This weeks post made me laugh 😅. Thanks I needed that Cora Beth.

    I’m still not back in the UK. No repatriation flights from the embassy available for British citizens stuck in Middle Eastern deserts for now.. oh well. Keeping myself busy though..

    I’m going to check out ‘Maths rules presented through Bollywood-style song and dance’ on youtube now 🙂 It’s a must.


  2. How about “You have sacrificed us for yourself”? I did the same kind of thing during the Lara Croft film; when they enter some Hellenistic building near the end (I can’t remember whether it was a temple or palace)it shows an epigraph in Greek in the background which I froze and recorded!


  3. As a well seasoned school teacher of many years’ experience spanning several subjects across the age and ability ranges my heartfelt advice to parents trying to ‘home-school’ (?!) their children through lockdown is really very simple – don’t! 😊


    1. Yes – that’s pretty much the approach that I’m going for! I’m hoping that, since my son is surrounded by books, something will just seep into him via some kind of book-osmosis…


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