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The Prisoner of Rubato Towers: Crazed memories of lockdown life in the plague year

By Richard K Heller

A wild escape from lockdown through fantasy, 

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He has been confined to his premises in Rubato Towers, London SE, which he shares with a mouse and two fornicating foxes. He gives regular piano recitals to his neighbours and they bang on the walls and ceilings to hear more - sometimes half the night, they just won't let go. 

He has been free of COVID19 but suffers from a regular Mystery Virus, producing flu-like symptoms, which he named after Peter Mandelson. 

He is writing an autobiography, full of the famous people who knew him, called My Goodness, How I Roared! and compiling a set of upbeat homilies called Happy Talk, tasks regularly interrupted by the tiresome Prodnose. He faces competition in the upbeat homily market from the Resident Mouse. His entourage expands to include a poetic cockroach who claims to be the famous archy and a bridge-playing goldfish. 




His latest, The Prisoner of Rubato Towers, documents his lockdown experience. He kindly signed a copy for me and the praise on the back cover was more than impressive: ‘There is nothing to match this in world literature,’ ‘Richard Heller is the Raffles of comic literature, the elegant burglar of wit and fantasy.’ I have read the book and it does what it says on the cover. Michael Holland, The South Londoner


Persons of my parents' generation would sometimes say of a contemporary, 'Well, he had a good War', a phrase which clearly conveyed a sharp nicety of judgement though I admit one which was quite lost on me. Did you have a good pandemic? I have lost count of the number of times I have heard sentences beginning, 'Well, one good thing to come out of the pandemic is...' and then something unspeakable such as 'it has really focused minds on our decision-making processes' or 'attendance at general purposes committee has been significantly improved' or 'it has demonstrated that you don't really need tutors at all to deliver the course in a fresh modern way'. A rather more enjoyable thing to have come out of the pandemic is The Prisoner of Rubato Towers, Richard Heller's chronicle of his enforced solitude - although 'solitude' is not quite the right word as the book is full of characters with whom Heller energetically bickers and banters, quite undeterred by the fact that they are purely figments of his imagination. During the protracted period that university administrators insisted on calling 'these challenging times', many people must have felt that their relationship with normality had become a bit skewed, and Richard Heller picks up on this pervasive sense of pandemic irreality and takes the thing up several notches. The company he invents for himself to keep is very provoking.;Life in Rubato Towers drifts in and out of reality in a way that reminds you of the diary that Auberon Waugh used to write for Private Eye in which figures from public life mingled on uncertain terms with episodes of soaring fantasy.;Unperturbed by the noise of fornicating urban foxes and blithely undistracted by the neighbours banging on the wall as he thumps his untuned piano, Heller offers us a seriously dotty self-portrait in stoic resilience. He has some good bits of advice which we could all take to heart, such as: 'Self-isolation is the time to go back to all those Great Novels you meant to read and discover why you never read them in the first place. 'But he does not brag about his insights any more than he does about his lifetime achievements, not the least of which, as we learn, was successfully effecting the revival of spats for afternoon wear. I wonder who was responsible for that. For full review see www.richardheller.co.uk - Seamus Perry (Professor of English Literature, Massey Fellow, and Tutor in English) Balliol College Annual Record 2021 


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