The Corona Chronicles: Week 14: Negotiating the ‘new normal’

With the easing of restrictions, lockdown has suddenly turned into locks up. Well for some maybe.

‘I knew I should’ve given a bigger tip at Christmas,’ I mutter, unable to get a stylist’s appointment until August. The Nearly-Beloved raises an eyebrow. He has no concept of etiquette or prices at the hairdresser’s, having never paid more than £5 for a five-minute buzz cut. But he knows better than to offer to trim my fringe again… And now I’m on the wrong side of the Great Divide – those with hair-dos and those with hair-don’ts.

The Nearly-Beloved, of course, has kept his coiffure under military control with the purchase of an industrial-grade hair trimmer, meaning the local barber will now have one less tricky customer to deal with. As for Grunting Teen, he’s showcasing his inner rock star, with unruly, shoulder-length mane and invisible eyes. But he’s young and can get away with it, whilst I’m having to resort to headscarves to keep my springy, grey-heather wilderness in check. So, it’s hard to keep a smile on my face as more efficient and better organised ex-friends parade before me with their elegant bobs and glossy highlights.

And it’s not only personal grooming that separates us – there’s a whole chasm opened up between those that dare and those that don’t. ‘Go down the pub? Are you mad?’ snorts my other half as I suggest an early evening drink, ‘it’ll be awash with Covid! That 1-metre rule will have people sitting on each other’s knees! You couldn’t drag me down there in a biohazard suit!’ So better not to confess to the civilised glass of Chardonnay I shared recently to support local trade. After all, it took enough persuading him to let Darling Daughter and Super Son-in-law inside our house when they were shivering in the garden with rain ruining their ravioli.

And it’s definitely a no-no to the invite for early evening drinks on a friend’s patio as the guest list includes more than five people. As for a trip to the cinema, the Nearly-Beloved looks appalled. ‘We’ve got Netflix!’ he insists. But behind his back, Grunting Teen and his sibling-ally have already booked tickets for the next available blockbuster.

‘Chill out, dad,’ our daughter reassures him, ‘you’ve got to start going out eventually, otherwise the economy will never recover. I’m back part-time at the office now and it’s all carefully managed.’

‘Hmmph,’ is his response, ‘what about Leicester then? They’ve had to shut the city down.’

And yet, when it comes to his summer holiday, the Nearly Beloved barely bats an eyelid. ‘We’ll be fine. We’ll wear masks. We might as well be in lockdown abroad than at home.’ I’m not convinced. After all, we’re not the most popular of European nations at the moment. And negotiating rules in a foreign language can be tricky. But if we don’t go, we’ll lose a hefty sum of money, which my Yorkshire thriftiness will not permit. Plus, it means I now have the incentive to help my son with his GCSE language. After all, he’s hardly over-stretched with school work.

‘We can do an hour of revision a day,’ I tell him. He looks horrified and quickly improvises, ‘I don’t need any help mum. I’ve been getting good marks.’ I roll my eyes. His gaming and gambling rather than linguistic skills account for his success at online multiple-choice tests. ‘Go on then,’ I say, ‘tell me in French what you had for lunch.’ He panics for a moment with no Google Translate to hand. But then inspiration strikes. ‘Easy,’ he tells me confidently, ‘je suis une omelette.’ And with that damning evidence he makes his exit.

And our exit might be coming sooner than anticipated when I receive a text from my daughter. She’s just been sent for a Corona test! Common sense tells me her headache, sore throat and cough are just a result of the air-conditioning she’s no longer used to. But should I inform the virus vigilante? He’ll ban me from seeing her!  And all our hard-won positives will turn negative again as Leicester comes to Nether Edge.

Apparently, the results can take between forty-eight hours and five days to come through – a competency level equivalent to Grunting Teen’s French! But I have to be responsible and think this through. The Nearly Beloved works alone in the office and his contact with others is zero. Grunting Teen needs coaxing out of his cave at the best of times. So, I keep shtum, cancel my plans for the next two days and hunker down to watch the latest season of Queer Eye.

The next morning, a mere twelve hours since her test, Darling Daughter phones, elated to get a negative result. And for once, I’m on the right side of the Divide.


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