|Julian Assange, photographed outside Ellingham Hall|
This thought comes from the excellent documentary We Steal Secrets: the Story of Wikileaks. In it, there is a period when the Wikileaks inner circle of about fifteen people are stuck in Ellingham Hall, Norfolk, on journalist Vaughn Smith’s country estate. They can’t leave Ellingham Hall; the MI6, CIA etc. are out to get them. So they’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, with just each other for company, united only by their distrust of the outside world, each day melting into the next, as weeks run into months which run into years.
How did they manage to keep things civilized? By enforcing very strict rules on table manners. Vaughn Smith and his housekeeper enforced strict table etiquette, three meals a day, for over five hundred days of maddening claustrophobia.
Must have been the same dynamic in colonial officer’s messes, and up in the tea plantations.