While the current limitations on our lifestyle may be necessary, they are making heavy demands on our self discipline. To my dismay, I see worrying signs that many are letting themselves go − sartorially. There will be those who feel such matters are unimportant in these challenging days. How wrong they are. If we do not keep up appearances, we are lost. Manners may maketh man but how he or she dresseth is the very fabric of civilised behaviour. One accepts reluctantly that all men may not wear neckties nowadays and ladies are often without their string of pearls but, pre-lockdown, standards were acceptable.
Since lockdown, the slippery slope has become an avalanche. In my own Facebook, WhatsApp, and Zoom circle, it has been shocking. One normally normal septuagenarian took to displaying himself in a different coloured pullover every day for a fortnight 'to amuse us'. His hair was unkempt and he was growing stubble. We were not amused. A relatively balanced psychologist, unclothed from the waist up, chats to us, not from a couch, but from what looks very like his bed. An otherwise highly intelligent computer buff converses while out walking his dog. He, not the dog, is wearing a yellow plastic kilt above thick socks and hiking boots. A youngish descendant, who spends his days doing heart research on mice, flaunts moving images of himself walking through a winter forest in short trousers. The local temperature (I checked on my weather map) was -10.
On Zoom, I have avoided ladies in kaftans, shell suits, leotards, and what I believe are called tracky bottoms. (One accepts good cashmere but not, dear God, in the form of a track suit.) Others in singlets have thought I should applaud their fitness routines. Doubtless the motivation was unimpeachable but biceps, in my book, are a private matter. I suspect it began with politicians taking morning runs for the benefit of the camera. Both David Cameron and bulbous Boris Johnson were happy to be caught perspiring in their shorts. I may be wrong but neither Churchill, Macmillan nor Attlee, to name but three, were ever thus. The thought of Aneurin Bevan, or even Ernest Bevin, clad in Lycra seems unlikely.
I predict, however, that it will end badly for the slobs. When we have all been vaccinated and can move, slowly, where and when we will, there will be a reckoning. The sandals and sloppy joes will not be the winners. It will be the well-heeled who triumph. There's a surprise...
What felt much like a very ordinary week ended with a couple of surprises (though in this sense of week ending I am deeming Sunday to be the last day of the week and not the first).
My eldest son turned up in Edinburgh on Saturday morning, unexpectedly (for us anyway, as he knew he was coming of course). His line of work allowing him to travel from London (I don't make the rules). It was lovely to seen him for a very short while on Saturday early evening albeit from the safe distance of our front gate, with me trying to calm Daisy who was beside herself with excitement as only she can be when she sees him. We agreed that we should meet on Sunday for breakfast, with no luck in my attempt to book anywhere, the focus moved beyond, to brunch (I know), lunch and then early dinner, for which I was eventually successful in securing a table for four.
We have three boys and, unfortunately, Dominic the middle one, lives in Glasgow, so on account of being in Tier 4 was barred from attending (and even if he could, we would of course have broken the rule of two households). The timeslot we secured was 4pm, so we had the luxury of then knowing the table was ours until closing time.
The (strictly social-distanced) dinner was enjoyable, mainly because we were facing the novelty of it being served and in surroundings other than our home as has been the case over the past nine months. So much so, my wife Karen momentarily forgot herself and asked if I was having the fish, that despite my eschewing the notion of eating animal products around three years ago.
As is usual when we get together, the patter was flying (but dire in places). Nicholas was egging his younger brother Mark on to enquire how small the minute steak actually was. Mark countered his elder brother's story that one of his friends was desperately longing for a Christmas break as she was missing people, by suggesting she should simply work on improving her aim. Sorry if I am a bit late to the party with this, but one of them suggested to Karen she say 'Space Ghetto' in a broad American accent, which brought the house down when she did. Despite repeating it numerous times since, it never fails to make us laugh out loud. Try it if you don't already know, it's a kind of word version of an optical illusion, if that makes sense.
So unplanned and unexpectedly, we were able to spend some time together and it occurred to me that if Christmas does not materialise, then we at least had this time. Apart, that is from Dominic, domiciled in Dennistoun. Saying that, he is surrounded by a good number of his old school friends from Edinburgh who have gravitated west, particularly Christoff, his pal from as far back as nursery and with whom he flat shares along with Mixu Caatelainen, who I bet will be the only Hibs-supporting feline in the East End of Glasgow.
A vaccine by Christmas? If there is, I expect to be offered it as one of the so-called vulnerable in terms of years, although not in terms of my state of health because I have no underlying issues that I know of. I am not, however, holding my breath. When you reach my age, while the end of the road may still be round the bend, it could also, virus or no virus, be in sight. Many are being tested, a couple seem promising.
I have no objection to vaccination – and thinking of all the places I want to revisit, plus those I want to see for the first time, I will say yes and have been pondering where I wish to go. In the first instance, the destination is going to be in Europe as long haul does not particularly appeal. Who to choose as the carrier, other than it will not be Ryanair, is something else to consider. It is something to do and better than twiddling one's fingers. As for naysayers to the vaccines, let them stay in permanent isolation with nothing to watch but Naked Attraction
and see how they like that, except they are almost certainly the maskless ones going out regardless.
Things are, of course, looking up in other ways. Dominic Cummings has left No 10, although that still leaves either the monkey or the organ grinder behind, depending on your point of view. It could mean things change or that they carry on much as they were without the aggro. That said, it will soon be Advent and my street is planning to have an advent calendar made by individual households decorating a window display which will open up in sequence until the whole street will be a sight to see. But what to put in mine. A doggie? Three kings? Definitely no candles as I might burn the house down. Tinsel, baubles, something religious?
And finally, names of streets was mentioned by Bob Cant last week − where the person celebrated has been revealed to not match up to today's standards of what constitutes the great and the good − notably Dundas Street in Edinburgh. I have no objection to a change although it never crossed my mind to wonder who Buchanan was when taken to shop in and later work in Buchanan Street in Glasgow. I did, however, once name several streets in Lanark. My father being provost at the time raised the subject as something the town council was thinking about for streets in the new scheme, so I got out the local history book written by my headmaster, a grand gentleman called A D Robertson, which contained various names of past places and suggested those might be used – and they were. They were not names of folks but the town may well have streets named after some peculiar medieval places. So if you are living in The Midden, blame me.
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