Onwards and sideways19th March 2020
Good news, I’m not in early menopause anymore! I started the egg-freezing drugs but decided to stop everything on Monday given the situation facing our poor hospitals. So I’ll start again when I can. This means the podcast will be slightly delayed but I’m cracking on with the bits I can in the meantime.
I hope you aren’t too worried/lonely/feverish wherever you are. I’m living with my step-sister, her husband and their daughters in Crystal Palace atm and there is something very wonderful about sitting here, on my bed, listening to the girls rabbit on about unicorns downstairs. A small sliver of normality, and I’m usually pretty disparaging about the vogue for sparkly unicorn crap.
In work news, You mag has recently launched a feature about mothers and daughters and I felt v honoured that Mum and I were asked to do it last weekend. You can read it HERE. And will paste last weekend’s Sun Tel column below. A journalist friend emailed me earlier saying how on earth could we write ‘anything jolly’ given the chaos going on around us but I’m pretty sure we’ll manage it. Never underestimate the average British journalist’s ability to crack a terrible gag. And as I said on social media earlier, at a time when many of us are barely bothering with underwear, the Queen putting on a bit of pink lippie to travel down to Windsor is an example to us all. Onwards and sideways, as my mum always says.
Well, if there’s one good thing about this virus, it’s that I’ve stopped embarrassing myself whenever I greet someone. I never get it right. If I stick my hand out to shake theirs, they’ve already lunged for a kiss. If I go for a kiss, they offer just one cheek instead of two and, in the awkward process of extraction, I end up nearly clapping my lips on theirs in the manner of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Pretty mortifying for all involved, especially when it’s my mortgage advisor.
I say I’ve stopped embarrassing myself but this isn’t entirely true. At a friend’s birthday party last week, I forgot the ‘no shaking’ rule and thrust my hand at a guest I didn’t know who took it briefly before extracting a packet of anti-bacterial wipes from her handbag. She proceeded to wipe down her fingers, her palms and even her wrists with the sort of careful attention that I’ve observed among archaeologists when they discover a new hoard of Roman coins in the ground.
What is the least embarrassing form of greeting in this new climate? My sister visited her gynaecologist last week and they tapped feet. YouTube videos from China demonstrate this; you extend one foot towards the other person who raises theirs to meet it, then the other foot. You’ve probably seen similar moves on Strictly. I don’t mind gynaecologists adopting this foot-tapping policy going forward so we avoid fondling their hands, but I’m not sure it’s practical for everyone. What if the other person has just taken their spaniel for a long walk and they’re wearing muddy boots?
You could do as Prince Charles did a few days ago and put your hands together in prayer before bowing and saying ‘namaste’. I like the humility and simplicity of this and yet I always feel a fraud whenever the instructor encourages us to do so at the end of a yoga class, a middle-class woman in lycra pretending to be Buddhist. And surely others might shriek ‘cultural appropriation’?
Fist bumps don’t help because apparently our knuckles – poor blameless knuckles – are the creviced area that germs like best. Elbow bumps are bad too, according to the splendidly-named Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the WHO, because they put you within a metre of the other person. Also, the last thing we need at the moment is people wafting about their armpit juices.
A wink? Who knows what might happen if you try that on your gynaecologist. Saluting feels a bit Third Reich and waving infantile, like a small child who’s just spotted their parents in the audience at their school play. A close alternative is to offer the Vulcan salute. This is a move popularised by Spock, where you hold up your hand and part your middle and ring fingers. Alas, by doing so you reveal yourself as a Star Trek fan and will have to immediately self-isolate and spent 14 days recovering from the social humiliation anyway.
Which leaves the only option – doing the bump. A quick bounce of your hip or buttock against another’s. This brings you into contact with the other person but only briefly and you should be clothed so you’re not rubbing against skin (I’m not advocating this move naked.) It might jolly us up in these gloomy times and I can’t see that there’s anything embarrassing about it at all.
Hurrah, I’ve found somewhere to live, sort of. After a month of living out of a jute bag at my step-sister’s, I’ve had an offer accepted on what estate agents euphemistically call ‘a project’. It’s a house in Brixton that’s been tenanted for 19 years, with rotten windows, dodgy floorboards and damp growing up the walls. Is this a good idea? For years I’ve watched friends do up places and tiresomely bang on about ‘side returns’ and ‘loft extensions’. Previously, whenever someone smug at a dinner party has referred to ‘our’ architect or ‘our’ builders I’ve wanted to poke them in the eye. And yet on Thursday, after buying my first ever copy of House & Garden, I discovered a previously dormant part of my brain which is genuinely excited by wallpaper. Is this the next stage of womanhood?
I paused from reading interiors magazines last week to take part on an American panel show about the Royal family. Called The Royal Beat, it goes out on a channel called True Royalty, the world’s first (and only) subscription channel dedicated entirely to Royals. I suspect it’s largely watched by the sort of monarchists who live in Arkansas and boast a dazzling array of commemorative china. Funny how liberating appearing on American TV can be, though. I said much more than I might have done, and was more critical of certain members, than had it been a UK channel. Off with their heads and so on. I fear there are now scores of Americans who believe there’s a mad British journalist out there with roughly the same attitude towards treason as Henry VIII.