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The 'new normal': no dinner parties or eating out?

Thu, 4 June, 2020

Everybody’s talking about the ‘new normal’ but it’s actually inherently an oxymoron. Normal conventionally means same as ever, and here we are in the world as different to ‘ever’ as it could be. Dilemmas like we'd never had before: do I go out shopping for clothes on account of having lost weight in lockdown? Or do I order online; but then what about returns? That means going out to the post office. It’s a vicious circle.

I’d love to ask friends round to sit in the garden and sip a beer or two but it’s too early in the summer still to sit outside all night and I’m not sure how to even go about it: ask them to bring their own drinks and glasses with them? It seems horribly churlish. On the other hand expecting them to take my offerings on trust would be presumptuous.

socially distant drinks

Kids have it sussed much better: a bunch of friends sprawl on the grass in the park on an afternoon with a crate of tinnies shared between them. My middle-aged gathering gets more problematic: what about nibbles? I’m not used to not offering any to my guests but it’s a non-starter, unless I throw packets of nuts at each one with a gloved hand and offer antibacterial wipes on the side. How is this normal? And that’s all before someone needs to use the loo.

I am not vulnerable in the Covid sense but I’m in my fifties so naturally feel less reckless about infection than a thirty-year-old. Lifting the lockdown too soon, critics chunter, so I’m doing what common sense dictates me and continue taking precautions and living a sheltered life – but can I trust the packers and delivery drivers not to ditch the hateful gloves or at least not bother to change them after each round? You can develop a serious paranoia even considering potential risks.

The last person to spread gloom and doom, I am however very anxious about the future of eating out. I’ve seen questions posted on social media by restaurateurs trying to gauge attitudes to eating out once it’s permitted. A considerable majority respond with reservations about effective distancing arrangements or, tragically, admitting they’ll no longer be able to afford restaurants.

are we going to enjoy restaurants again?

Obviously, hapless bar and restaurant owners are desperate to sense their chances of re-opening the premises and I completely sympathise, but can’t promise to support local businesses before I know for sure what the setup and practicalities will be like. Which obviously is running round in circles again: the restaurants won’t have much business unless proper restrictions are in place and those may mean they don’t get enough business to thrive. Plus – and here returning to the problematic drinks chez moi – who on earth will enjoy eating in plastic booths the food served by masked waiters? And that’s assuming you trust the place to implement safe and responsible food preparation process. No more slurping sauce for saltiness and sticking the spoon back in the pan! Who even will want to be a chef like this?

The optimistic option is the idiot’s view: the virus miraculously goes away and no second wave is coming. In truth viruses are unpredictable and the 2003 SARS did indeed vanish as suddenly as it surfaced. Thus we come to wish Mr Trump had clairvoyant powers, albeit with slipped timing. The new normal won’t do but those who call for the old normal to be brought back regardless of the risks are selfish and irresponsible.

 

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