Two weeks into the lockdown lifting, and I have taken my first tentative steps out, nothing too wild, but still, I am trying to embrace the new normal. A coffee in a café, a photoshoot with Grace, and Sunday lunch with friends – all of course outside and with a maximum of five friends. Actually, I have always said I prefer smaller groups, six being ideal, as you get to talk to everyone.
I haven’t yet ventured to London. However my daughter has just collected a new puppy, and I need a cuddle as the puppy looks so cute. My daughter is in charge of her toilet training which is a relief. Like grandchildren, I can hand her back when I have had enough. 18 months ago, my daughter could never have considered having a puppy. However, working from home has meant she can do all the puppy training with ease. And when she returns to her office, her boss has said she could bring the puppy to work. The dog breeder phoned my daughter’s boss. She wanted to check that Pickle really was allowed to go to work when the time came. Life has changed, and the new normal is a lot more relaxed.
I can’t say that I am rushing about. I have not really been shopping at any other shop other than the supermarket. Even my visit to my hairdresser was at his home, so that was a safe trip. However, I have found that I have needed to up my social skills to deal with everyone else’s new normal. Some people go for the hug with a sort of throwaway line of disregard for the guidelines. Others are still keeping their distance with perhaps an elbow touch as a cursory show of an intimate greeting. Some friends give me a grilling asking for all of my social movements for the last two weeks before they accept any invitation. I am lucky if I can remember what I did yesterday, let alone last week.
Then there are the mask issues. I had a chat with two ladies in a café garden. They were not very friendly but suddenly I realised I was wearing both a mask and sunglasses. This meant there was no facial animation for them to determine. I took both off, and immediately they said, “Aah, that’s better”. They were wearing neither but obviously were struggling with my friendly conversation, or so I thought. When I started to talk to them I think they were just surprised. I had not made eye contact through the sunglasses, nor could they see me smiling. This is a new social minefield that we have to navigate.
The sunshine has made this new normal possible and more bearable, so people are starting to relax. We went to lunch with friends at their member’s club, which had always, in our opinion, been a little old fashioned with dress codes and who they allowed in. But all of that has changed; jeans, children and dogs are all now acceptable. However, with the latter two, perhaps only well-behaved dogs and children, and I don’t have either of those. So I will have to revel in wearing jeans. Having said that, I am enjoying dressing up a little, not just because it is sunny, but also because I might as well wear my nice clothes now. There is nothing special to save them for. The new normal is as special as it is going to get for now.
Outdoor heaters and rugs are now on everyone’s wish list. I gather the incident with the cargo ship blocking the Suez has meant there is a shortage of all outdoor accessories. Who would have thought that we would become a nation embracing al fresco dining? Tables have taken over pavements for the new café society that we have become. Our joy at being allowed to meet up has not been dampened by the sometimes chilly weather.
Then there was the funeral. Naturally, the weather behaved, and we had perfect blue skies as we bid farewell to our nation’s grandfather. The organisers beautifully presented the service, a spectacle in every sense of the word. Much of the nation was glued to their TVs. I felt at moments that we were perhaps a little too intrusive. Of course, the Queen looked sad; having someone by your side for 73 years, sharing all those memories, all of life’s ups and downs, then I think you are entitled to look a little down in the mouth, but I did not want to intrude on her grief.
Prince Philip’s death was terribly sad, and it is inevitable when someone is 99 years old, it is still a shock for all their loved ones and leaves a huge void in their lives. As the Queen said in her message for the Remembrance service after the 9/11 terrorist attack, “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
However, I wonder that whilst many of us are obsessed with what goes on in the Royal Family, our own soap opera, who do they watch? I can’t imagine they follow the everyday lives of the Kardashians or even other dynasties like the Kennedys. Maybe it’s other royal families, but there are not many left in Europe, though the Spanish royal family recently had a few dramas. Perhaps our royals love the TV series Eastenders, albeit fictional. It is ordinary lives with similar problems but with less money and so may be gripping for them – a life they will never experience hence the fascination.
So life moves on not only for the Queen but also for her subjects. As always, we will all adapt and create our own new normal however hard that may be.