Lockdown was easy.  No dithering, no shall we, shan’t we.  No awkward decisions to make. Just stay put, wash your hands and don’t see anybody.  A doddle.  But now that restrictions have been eased, things are getting trickier.  Shall we go for a walk?  How busy is it?  How shall we avoid narrow places where keeping two metres from strangers would be impossible?  Shall I pop out to the local Tesco and get a bar of chocolate?  With or without a face covering?  Hell, let’s just err on the side of caution (cowardice?) and keep the drawbridge up for a bit longer.  Chris Whitty would surely approve?

And so on.

I’m beginning (albeit vaguely) to remember what life used to be like.  For example, I decided to get my car started by the AA (I had a powerful incentive − a friend has kindly invited me to play a game of croquet on his private lawn).  Anyway, it seemed silly to have a car that won’t go.  The AA man duly came and the car sprang into life. He told me to drive it for 45 minutes to charge up the battery, so I did.  I returned the car to its parking place sure in the knowledge that, in the unlikely event we needed to drive to, say, Durham, we could do so.

24 hours later the car was back to being stone dead.  I dug out the warranty for the new battery I bought only two years ago and did what for me was an extraordinary thing: I read three pages of small print (some of it with the aid of a magnifying glass).  I was delighted to learn that (I quote), ‘We hope to provide you with peace of mind whilst driving with the Toyota Hybrid Battery Extended Cover’.  It went on to say, amongst many things, that unless my battery had been damaged by ‘storms, hail, lightening, earthquakes, flooding, explosions or wartime events of any kind’ it would be replaced free of charge.  No mention of a pandemic, but since Boris keeps on about fighting the invisible enemy, I though perhaps it might count as a wartime event.

However, we are talking about insurance so, as you’ll have guessed, despite three pages of small print, an inappropriately cheerful man at the Toyota garage told me there was a snag: the car must have been used, not subjected to a lockdown.  So, the plan is to get the AA back tomorrow to start the car again  and for me to drive it to the garage where the cheerful man has assured me it will ‘only take an hour or so’ (note the ‘or so’) to install a new battery for which, of course, I will have to pay.  The next problem is whether I can remember my pin number!  And mentioning the p word  reminds me to tell you that the cheerful man at the garage ends most sentences with the words ‘no problem’ regardless of the fact that there clearly is one.  It reminds me of Peter Ustinov who, having been bombarded with strangers saying ‘have a nice day’, drew himself up to his full height and told the hapless shop assistant, ‘Thank you, but I have other plans!’.

See what I mean about life starting to intrude?

Never mind, I have a triumph to report.  In my last blog (Day 75) I said I’d written to the CEO of Nationwide about troublesome pigeons and doubted (a) that he’d see my letter and (b) that anything would happen.  Wrong!  I had a phone call the very next day and now a young man, careful to keep two metres away from me, has been to take photographs and measure up for new netting.  Just shows why it’s worth going straight to the top. I might even become a Nationwide customer.

This month Wigmore Hall are streaming live lockdown lunchtime concerts with a maximum of two socially distanced performers playing to an empty hall.  We listen/look every lunchtime and I’m beginning to realise that Wigmore Hall have accidentally produced an unintended consequence (I suppose all unintended consequences are, by definition, accidental?).  I love being able to listen, taking occasional sneaky looks, whilst doing something else: eating lunch, stretching, getting up and wandering around,  even daring to talk during the pieces I don’t like (anything resembling a world premiere for example!).  I can even sneeze/cough without people turning round to glare at me.

I have often been trapped in Wigmore Hall, in the middle of a row, my knees jammed against the seat in front, trying to see round someone’s head, whilst longing to get up and walk around.  Wigmore Hall will definitely not want to hear this, but live streaming is the answer!  No crowded underground, no escalators, no need to fork out for a concert programme with no time to read it, no interval.  Bliss.


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