The Corona Chronicles: Week 25: Are we suffering from ‘sloganitis’?

The virus of our times is actually not Corona but sloganitis. And it’s a cunning beast. It hangs around for a while. Then just as we’ve got used to its message, it mutates into an inexplicable, new form.

Back in March, we knew what we were dealing with: Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives. It was a slogan that slugged it to us, no holds barred. If only I’d followed that advice last week, I might’ve avoided my fell-running, face-disfiguring fall and A&E visit! But earlier on in the year the Nearly Beloved, my strict rule-following husband, hadn’t even stepped outside the house when his carpet-slide-triple-somersault-into-heavy-furniture left him gasping for breath in the hospital waiting room. Still, the NHS, if not thriving, is hopefully still surviving. And even if it’s long on queuing and lacking in funding, it’s certainly not short of care and kindness.

But then we no longer needed to stay at home, instead we had to stay alert. Like meerkats sticking our heads out of our lockdown holes, we scouted the surroundings for potential enemies. It turns out the Nearly Beloved’s danger radar is so finely tuned he can easily spot the difference between 1.9 and 2 metres. This is why, if he wasn’t already working, he’d be applying for the post of Covid warden. It’s also why I banned him from the shops as it turns out not everyone reacts kindly to safety reminders… In fact, it took some people more time than others to get to grips with the new ways of interacting. On several occasions I’ve had to bite my tongue in shops when little old ladies that I’m meant to be protecting sidle up too close for comfort. And as for mask infractions, don’t get me started. Inside out, upside down, gone AWOL – and that’s just Grunting Teen! But I live in hope that the penny will drop at some point.

And pennies certainly dropped at the slogan’s next mutation: Eat out to help out. What a slogan that was! Our all-time favourite. And massively infectious too. Who could resist stuffing themselves with chips and beer at the government’s kind expense? It gave us hope for the future. Just as the masses were running out of patience with the restrictions, some kind of normality was returning, albeit in a topsy turvy kind of way. Who would’ve imagined that Monday to Wednesday was to become the new weekend?

But this was merely a honeymoon incubation period for a more health-oriented type of catchphrase to reappear. Hands, face, space seemed familiar. Was this slogan making a comeback in a slightly different mutation? Grunting Teen was a hand-washing supremo at the start of the season but quarantine apathy eventually took its toll on his hygiene. Now, since school’s restarted, so has his self-sanitising. My stocks of soap are dwindling and there’s an all-pervading scent of Lynx in the bathroom. I wonder though if this has less to do with his attitude to Corona than his attitude to the opposite sex…

And with regard to masks, I’ve had an epiphany. I used to resent relying purely on the power of my eyes to beam a smile of gratitude to harassed shop assistants. But this week I’ve positively embraced the covered-up look to hide the unappealing bruised and stitched face that lies beneath.

As for space. We all need that. We’ve been cooped up far too long in those rashly decided bubbles. For, as much as I love my husband and son, my tolerance level of their boys’ behaviour has plummeted, my intentions towards them are not always of a nurturing nature and a descent into despair looms large. So, I’m embracing the latest evolution of sloganitis. You see, for others, the rule of six, might have the sinister undertones of history’s powerful gang of four but for me it’s a long-awaited break, a benevolent light on the horizon of doom and gloom.

For as soon as I’ve packed the men in my life off to school and work, it’s time to put the kettle on, crack open the biscuit tin and get socially-distanced together with five, non-family friends each day.

But whatever we think of the ever-changing guidelines, maybe this rule of six will create its own slogan, one that will guide us through these strangest of times and bring us out the other side. Yes, my slogan of choice is this: Be patient, be kind, be hopeful.

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