Magic and rubber (and rather too much plastic)

Can you whistle?  I ask because, the other day, the OH was watching a documentary on factory workers in the 1940s, as you do, and it struck him how everyone there was whistling a jaunty tune. He realised you don’t hear people whistling so much, now – though I do it rather a lot, as I’m rubbish at remembering song lyrics, and often start singing some of the lyrics and end up whistling the rest.  So much easier.

I was taught to whistle by my cousin Kenny, when I was very young, and was quite proud that I could finally do so. However, many years later, a much older woman told me it was considered very common for a woman to whistle! I like to hear it, though – it’s a cheerful, uplifting sound and, in fact, our decorator does it a lot. It’s great to hear him as he moves around our house, whistling away while cursing us for having too much stuff to shift before he can even open a tin of paint.  We’ve taken pity on him, though, and said that at least he doesn’t have to do the bookcases – all 13 of them…

When I first joined my old magazine job, there was an older member of staff, always very smartly dressed, who could often be spotted striding along the corridors, handbag swinging from one arm, whistling a jaunty (but unrecognisable) tune as she marched – and she was dead posh, so there!

We’ve been making the most of eating out, these past few months, and at the same time supporting local businesses (that’s our excuse, anyway).  Each pub we’ve tried for our Sunday roast has been different, interpreting the new rules in their own sweet way. One sported a sign on the door, exhorting people to use their wrists and elbows to open it “to minimise contact”. Another stated that children were welcome, so long as they were “sedate(d)”. Last weekend’s wins the “oddest place so far” award, (gloved) hands down, though. We felt sorry for the poor anxious owner and her staff. Held outside the pretty, very old, thatched pub in a makeshift (heated) awning, with a specially-erected toilet cubicle in place in the car park (do they get financial help for all this extra hassle? I wonder), our menu was very limited, with just one choice for the roast meat.  Luckily, we both like turkey.  

There were plastic bins placed next to every distanced table, which didn’t exactly help the atmosphere in there. These were for our used plates and drinks containers, which were also plastic. The salt and pepper and sauces were in sachets and the only solid items were the cutlery. The few staff were wearing gloves as well as masks. It killed any ambience they may have been trying to create (hard to tell, really) and gave the impression they would far rather nobody was there at all, to save them all the bother. They were doing their best in very trying circumstances, of course, but we wanted to tell them they were taking things a little too far, in our opinion. Needless to say, we didn’t linger.

Meanwhile, with strict lockdowns now taking place in some areas of the country, every age group is slagging off the rest on social media. The old ‘uns are blaming the young ‘uns and vice versa. Truthfully, they/we are all to blame. I’ve witnessed groups of younger people hanging out together with absolutely no sign of social distancing whatsoever and this has been going on since the first lockdown, back in March.  The older ones cite the well-worn argument that more people have died from the flu. It’s hard to know where to start, with that one.

I was supposed to be meeting a friend for coffee and a catch-up in our local shopping centre, this week, but, due to the new rule of only meeting outside when hailing from different households, and the fact that it was pouring down all day, we have knocked that one on the head for now. I can’t see how a lot of these places are going to cope, over the winter. Many don’t have the outside facilities, for starters, and who wants to sit outside in the winter, anyway? Not me! Though a friend (who lives alone) has just paid out for a patio heater and pop-up gazebo, so that she can invite friends (no more than six, altogether, of course) around for meals outside in her garden. It has side access, so they don’t have to go through her house first. But then, what if they need the loo? Does the gazebo come with a handy bucket? Oh, it’s all so complicated!

A friend of ours, whose mother is 93 and hails from Tipperary (I want to hear you all whistling “that” song now) was describing her recently.  She’s as tough as old boots, has survived many operations and swears like a trouper (“feck” this and that, mostly). “She’s made of magic and rubber,” he said fondly, “or possibly Teflon and granite.”

It reminds me of the time when the OH’s elderly father was in hospital after a minor fall at home, and the nurse, on hearing he originally hailed from Glasgow, said to the OH: “They built them tough in those days.”

We’ve visited two branches of Waitrose, recently (we know how to live) and the queues have started up again. A sobering reminder of how it was earlier in the year. Outside one of them, a man breezed up to the main door and tried to go straight in.  When the security guard on the door politely pointed out the queue he had to join, he looked astonished and bewildered. Join the club, mate. I guess we’re going to have to get used to it all over again…

Author: Hampton Caught

The rants and ramblings of an ex Deputy Fiction Editor of Woman's Weekly magazine.

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