Saturday 18 July

A beautiful, sunny Saturday morning but instead of sitting in a field in Hook Norton, drinking real ale, laughing, chatting rubbish and analysing the football season with my mates, instead we enjoyed a long overdue visit from my wife’s hairdresser. She is self-employed and a mobile hairdresser. We opened up the garage door and prepared chairs, black bin liners (to avoid using her capes) and an extension cable for her hairdryer and clippers.

She looked aghast as she entered:

‘I honestly thought Norma was joking when she said ‘Use the side entrance’.

As we chatted outside, she said ‘It’s going to be sweltering out here. Can’t we just go into the kitchen ?’

It was 10:00am in the shade and perfectly fine.

She didn’t want us to wear masks - ‘Well I can’t cut your hair if you’re wearing a mask, can I ?’

Well, actually, you probably could, if we held our masks on by hand when you needed to access the areas around the ears. Or had given the subject any thought whatsoever.

She also steadfastly refused to don a mask. She did pay us the courtesy of donning gloves however but she always did this as she’s handling chemical bleaching agents.

I was relatively straightforward and quick - short back and sides but my wife has her hair coloured which takes longer.

As she finished up and was packing away, she told us that her brother lives in Portugal and she was flying out there this week to visit him.

I asked ‘Isn’t Portugal on the red list ?’

‘No, no. My brother said it’ll be fine and, anyway, I’ve got tickets for free using my vouchers’.

‘But won’t you be asked to self quarantine for 14 days on your return ?’

‘No, no, it’s fine now’.

Fair enough. I let it go and assumed the guidance had recently changed. I checked later and it hadn’t but that won’t bother her as if airlines are flying to Porto, ergo, it must be safe.

After leaving us, she was going to visit a 70 year old lady in her home. She had booked and cancelled on multiple occasions because her son had reservations. I nearly asked for her phone number so I could forewarn her.

Later, as we admired our smart new haircuts, my wife quietly said ‘I’ve known Janet for 18 years and I really like her but, if she doesn’t change her working practices or the restrictions aren’t relaxed before her next visit, I don’t think I’ll use her again’.

Same evening, two long-standing friends come over for a barbecue. The lady is a primary school teacher and was telling us about the health precautions and detailed measures in place at her school.

Talk turned to the previous day (Friday) which was the last day of term. As is tradition (apparently), the teachers adjourned to a local pub for a bite to eat and cocktails.

The pub landlord sensibly split the large group of 20 teachers into four separate groups on separate tables outside in the beer garden to comply with the guidelines.

‘But it didn’t matter, when the staff weren’t looking, we rotated tables so we could all spend time with each other’.

Long, deep sigh, Long, deep slug on my Stella.

Inevitably, some teachers wanted another drink and visited a tapas bar at the top of our road. The group couldn’t be accommodated outside but the owner kindly (or stupidly) offered to seat them all inside.

An older lady in her 60’s said ‘I’m not comfortable with this so I’m going home’.

The rest sat down in a single group, indoors and gleefully perused the cocktail menu.

Awkward silence. A furtive glance exchanged with the missus. Another long, deep sigh, Another long, deep slug on my Stella.

When our teacher friend first arrived, she insightfully remarked that some parents ‘simply don’t get and won’t ever get it until their Auntie is hospitalised or dies from Covid’. Obviously, her Auntie is still alive and well.

Then to top it all off, her husband who is an intelligent man, double first from Cambridge, worked as a scientist for Shell for 25 years, a man who can lucidly discuss, argue and offer thought provoking ideas about politics, current affairs and anything else.

I don’t know if he was embarrassed or couldn’t take his alcohol but he baldly stated:

‘Yes - of course it was alright because, essentially, they have formed an extended work related bubble’.

I was so stunned I just sat there in silence. I wish I’d been quick witted enough to say (lifted from Stewart Lee’s These Days sketch).

‘Sorry, you’re saying that it’s alright to sit indoors in a restaurant in a group of 20. When did this come in ?’