Isolation diary: Watching the wallpaper

Incredibly tidy book shelves

The nation now has a new pastime – snooping on the homes of reporters, politicians, experts and celebrities as they speak to us on TV, not to mention those of colleagues on business calls. We have seen into living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms, even garden sheds, that were never designed for mass viewing.

In the past it was intriguing to check the backgrounds of staged interviews. These were usually carried out in front of book shelves, where the subject had carefully chosen which books would catch our attention. Sometimes these included a eclectic selection of fiction and non-fiction titles designed to project a well-read cosmopolitan image. Sometimes the interviewee used the opportunity to promote books that they had written.

Then there were the politicians drinking tea in their kitchens, or standing by their front gates (usually with a wronged partner in tow) pretending to be normal citizens.

Joe Wicks’ living room, with its carefully placed objects on shelves in the alcoves, has been subjected to detailed scrutiny by his millions of viewers.  Last Friday he played along with the game by asking what had been changed. (Spoiler alert – it was the guitar).

But most of the backgrounds we are seeing in these strange times are far less contrived, and all the more fascinating for it.

I was Skyping my son the other day while sitting in front of a bookcase. The one book he noticed was titled “HTML4” which is both ostentatiously geeky and also highly embarrassing, because it harks back to the Stone Age of web design in 1997. He, on the other hand, is banished to his bedroom with mild symptoms, so we just see his unmade bed.

I would love to see any quirky discoveries you have made about people speaking to the nation from their homes. You can’t upload a photo or embed a tweet in the comments below, but if you email them to me at [email protected] I will feature them in a future post. Please don’t send shots of private conversations, just ones that are in the public domain.


Please note

We have been in full self-isolation since 16th March to protect my husband whose immune system is compromised.

If you are in self-isolation then join the Lib Dems in self-isolation Facebook group.

You can find my previous Isolation diaries here.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Richard Underhill 30th Mar '20 - 5:53pm

    Captain Mainwaring was wrong to declare martial law.
    It was undemocratic and unconstitutional.

  • @Richard Underhill – Has that got anything to do with my post?

  • When the Paul Flowers/Co-op Bank story broke some years ago I was interviewed in front of a tidy bookcase by two national TV channels. A fastidious interviewer annoyed me by removing my Oxford Companion to Beer from the shelf…

  • Its cool to be clearly bookish.

  • Richard
    In fact it was General Prayut who announced the imposition of sweeping emergency powers in Thailand. I don’t know how bookish he is but Suthtichai Yoon has plenty of bookshelves in the background of his Cafe Dam (Black coffee) youtube broadcasts.

  • Julian Tisi 31st Mar '20 - 9:47am

    I was on a zoom meeting yesterday and I commented on someone’s bookshelf behind them – it looked like one of those “politician’s” bookshelves with impressive looking tomes and a rustic red wall. He then clicked a switch and said “you mean this bookshelf?” only to reveal that it was a fake background. He then changed it to show him on some beach in the Caribbean. I was impressed. The wonders of modern technology!

  • Sue Sutherland 31st Mar '20 - 1:18pm

    I’m not sure that it’s quirky but I’ve noticed that several presenters have an odd taste in wallpaper, that is not what I would expect them to choose. For example Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

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