Great Falls, Virginia

Former senator Rick Santorum is mopping the floor. Mrs Santorum is stamping wax thistles onto the backs of envelopes. Four of the six adult Santorum children (plus one spouse) are scattered about the house, ‘working from home’. Bridget, the live-in helper, is doting on the youngest, little Bella, who has the genetic condition Trisomy 18. I’m in the paradisal blue room, behind a stack of books, typing away with my usual four fingers. Before the plague, family members would introduce me to friends as ‘Elizabeth’s Scottish friend whom she met in Uganda, who writes for National Review’. But when my sister got engaged to one of Elizabeth’s brothers, I became ‘Daniel’s fiancée’s sister’. These days, among this kind Virginia clan, I’m ‘the refugee from Manhattan’.

Since most of our writers already worked remotely, life at National Review trundles on much the same. Before, I battled the distraction of New York street noise. Now, I try not to eavesdrop on Mr S as he paces through the halls on his phone, talking like an Italian, which is to say loudly and with confidence. One day, after he’d appeared on CNN (via the piano room), a writer for the New York Times tweeted something unrepeatably vile about him. It’s baffling how intolerant many of these supposedly anti-hate lefties are, like that chap at the Nation who tweeted that Boris Johnson ‘being sick was funny’. Speaking of hypocrites, the Scottish parliament recently introduced a bill that purports to repeal a dormant blasphemy law, but which actually swaps it for a new one proposing up to seven years’ imprisonment for the offense of ‘stirring up hatred’ (i.e., offending woke orthodoxies). God bless the First Amendment.

Mealtimes have a quaint, 19th-century feel. We say grace (without the handholding, thank God) and read aloud between courses. During reminiscences, big names occasionally come up. I catch myself saying things such as, ‘Tell the story about George Clooney at the White House correspondents’ dinner’ and ‘So, how do you know Bono?’ It’s just as well my sister’s not here: she takes a dim view of my enthusiasm for influence. Sometimes, while strolling the grounds, I enter a world of my own, pretending that I’m Jo from Little Women or Kate Bush in her ‘Wuthering Heights’ music video. Novelties abound. Honeybees, guns (so many guns) and a British telephone box by the pool, which apparently came with the house. I’m told that, during Mr S’s 2012 presidential bid, a Secret Service man would take shelter in it whenever it rained.

***
Get three months of The Spectator for just $9.99 — plus a Spectator Parker pen
***