I’m not going to deny it; as a gentleman with no loved ones and no responsibilities, I’m liking the lockdown. Yes, I’d be buggered if I was hospitalised, what with no next-of-kin to nominate; but unless we go out in the fatal crash of a packed passenger vehicle, we all go out alone anyway. Sod it, then. I’m only venturing outdoors a couple of times a week at most, but after a month of this, I’ve noticed the slightly unnerving ambience of the initial alteration to the standard structures of society has been superseded by classic British stoical acceptance. The panic-buying hysteria that opened proceedings has mercifully abated and the supermarket shelves are stocked again; you still have to stand in line to get indoors, but the queues aren’t as long as they were and everyone appears to be absorbing the social distancing guidelines without much in the way of fuss. The no-cash policy at Sainsbury’s means I’ve also become accustomed to the self-service system and I suspect I’ll stick with it when all this is over.

Mind you, I reckon a lot of things won’t simply revert to how they were pre-lockdown. There’s been much discussion this week of what will happen when some of the restrictions might be relaxed a little in a month or so. I suspect all those public venues most rely upon for unwinding won’t necessarily pick up from where they left off before the country closed down; after a month of such a dramatic change to social habits, I’m guessing business will be slow to gather pace again as people express understandable reservations about gathering in large numbers. Small business-owners undoubtedly have a case for a pivotal role in a cautious and measured re-opening operation, however; they certainly deserve preferential treatment over billionaires remortgaging their private islands as a means of seeking a tax-payer bailout for companies that don’t actually pay them, for one thing. Boo! Hiss, beardy-weirdy!

As jellyfish infiltrate the Venice canals and hopefully persuade the governors of that uniquely aquatic citadel that their waterways have an appeal to tourists beyond the usual boat traffic, a slightly different but no less aesthetically appealing transformation of the urban environment has been something many city-dwellers here have taken note of. Living as I do on what Google, no less, has certified as the most congested main road in the metropolis come rush-hour, last week I was nevertheless able to stand smack bang in the middle of said thoroughfare around noon and take some snapshots of Her Majesty’s deserted highway. I did so to a chorus of languid lunchtime birdsong ordinarily inaudible above the din of a dozen infernal combustion engines, and noticed another pedestrian with a camera engaged in the same activity. The novelty of the scenario is something many feel needs to be captured before it vanishes as a collective hallucination. But will it?

With the weather being so inviting for those fortunate enough to have gardens, my window has been open to neighbours in possession of that particular luxury item. A few days ago, I could hear what bizarrely sounded like someone enacting a 1970s edition of ‘Play School’, seemingly addressing an infant audience by singing nursery rhyme-type numbers in the kind of RP that naturally takes the ears back to a time when the accent was compulsory at Shepherd’s Bush. I eventually got up to look and saw a lady a few doors down performing with hula hoops whilst dressed like Mary Poppins. No, I wasn’t pissed/stoned; it happened. It looked as though she was going through her odd act before a camera, so she may well be uploading the end result to YouTube or Instagram as a means of entertaining the young ‘uns. If so, good luck to her. Like many in a neighbourhood with a nomadic population, I have little contact with the ever-changing roster of those who share the street, so I’ve no idea who she was; but she momentarily returned me to the happy days of ‘Hickory House’ and all those other pre-school shows that the BBC and ITV used to produce at dinnertime, so that in itself was a characteristically surreal side-effect of the strange days we inhabit.

Residing within a short walking distance of a substantial high-street, I don’t normally have to go far to find what I want when it comes to a shop, though ever since all this started the only stores still open for business are Boots, Superdrug, Wilkos, Sainsbury’s and a chemists; a little farther afield, the odd non-chain-store café is selling on the doorstep to loyal customers, which is a pleasing sight in the face of the small business apocalypse. However, as someone who regularly likes to decorate his windowsill by counteracting the overpowering dominance of two Triffid-like rubber plants with some fresh lilies, I must admit I miss the local florist. A survey unveiled yesterday revealed garden centres lead the list of places most would be happy to visit again without fear of infection in the event of the lockdown being lifted or at least eased a little, so the perilous backlog of unsold plants and flowers might be spared the skip after all.

I appreciate this is probably the worst period in recorded history for burglars and I acknowledge many keeping their homes safe by occupying them 24/7 are struggling and finding the situation difficult; but, as I’ve stated before, doing what I do means I’m used to self-isolation and going days without seeing or speaking to a soul. The main difference between the norm and now is that I generally tend to operate in a bubble; yet at the moment, I venture outdoors and discover my own peculiar form of social distancing is being mirrored by the majority, which isn’t usually the case in a neighbourhood in which the relentless sonic intrusion of police sirens shape an intolerable soundtrack along with the bowel-shuddering bass-lines of in-car sound systems, car alarms, slamming doors and people talking as though addressing a public meeting. Is it any wonder I’m relishing the sudden retreat into the village roots our big cities sprang from?

Of course, simply making the best of an unexpected and unprecedented development when in a position to do so isn’t something some are content with. Under the smokescreen of ‘holding the government to account’, the mainstream media (and particularly the BBC) seems intent on focusing wholly on the negatives of the lockdown and finding endless fault with the approach of containing the coronavirus so far. Okay, yes, in a democracy – and especially one with such an ineffective opposition (regardless of those showering Chief Auton Starmer at PMQs in desperate praise) – government does need to be questioned and challenged. But it’s a fine line between that and relentless contrarian bashing of a kind that chimes with the Guardian narrative about the nation. Boris is still recuperating at Chequers as we speak, so the new normal seems set to be prolonged for another fortnight at the least. I wonder if it’ll be missed when it’s gone?

© The Editor

6 thoughts on “THE NEW NORMAL

  1. One must assume that, as all those self-employed burglars will have been obediently declaring their profits to HMRC for many years, they will now qualify to share in the munificence of the Chancellor’s business support packages. But if they didn’t declare them, then they should expect nothing. Same goes for the hirsute crook Branson – the smiling assassin of integrity – let him sink.

    The new abnormal is certainly that, it won’t survive in its present extreme form but I imagine that various aspects of ‘social distancing’ will continue for quite some time, even after (eventually) the coast is formally declared clear.

    Although I’m not a particularly tactile person, not heavily into the kiss-greetings or man-hugs, the new remoteness does imply a lack of trust in ones fellow man (or woman) which is a regrettable atmosphere and one I find difficult to accept, my default is to trust everyone on every issue until I know otherwise and it does hurt when I feel people don’t trust me similarly. But I’ll get over it . . . . . maybe.

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    1. As I’ve a feeling I may have said in a recent post, I have noticed how people approaching on the pavement now position themselves in advance in order to pass by without coming too close. With strangers on the street, that seems reasonable to me; however, having only seen one friend in-person since all this started – and it being a guy, hugs and close contact aren’t part of the ‘relationship’ – I can’t yet guess how it might affect the way people who know each other might be with each other come the lifting of the lockdown. It’ll be interesting to see what the long-term social effects are…

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  2. Regarding the BBC and its news prorammes, I wish they would talk sense and ask sensible questions.
    I often hear them state with a suitably horrified tone that the total number of deaths caused by this plague keeps rising. This leads me to wonder when the total number who have died might fall?
    Prepare to see revived people walk in the streets carrying their beds.
    And the questions asked of the pollies are so dumb that the poor pollie goes into full auto waffle mode , inwardly breathing a sigh of relief that the interviewer is thicker than him/her.
    Peter Sellars party political broadcast can be heard on YouTube – a tutorial for all budding polititians.

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    1. Although it pains me to say it, Nicola Krankie in Scotland has done a far better job of enunciating clearly the situation in her own parish each day. She has also provided far more confident and articulate answers to questions, albeit of a similarly dumb type: answers usually lacking in any real substance, just like those from Downing Street, but far better expressed. OK, she’s a lawyer, but so is Raab – I know who I’d want defending me.

      Maybe Boris is taking his time to recover, awaiting the moment when the brown stuff has stopped hitting the air recirculation device with such regularity, so he can become the happy harbinger of better days ahead . . . . .

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      1. I do wonder at times, are the tv presenters genuinely thick as mince or are they practising a kind of feigned dumbing-down so that the lowest common denominator of tv viewer wont feel intimidated? The thing about ‘deaths keep rising’ as Doomhammer refers to is bizarre. Perhaps we are expected to await the glorious day when as though by miracle a Lazarus-like resurrection spreads across the morgues and hospital morgues. I should point out I live in Eire and Irish tv is no better. Possibly worse.

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