Monkey see, monkey do: many
Believe in God? There can not be.
I suppose soon we will know that thing that was the wise thing to do during this crisis. Like to modify one of those umbrella hats into one with sanitary wipes hanging off it, or to invent a new way to spend virtual time together. Time together virtually. Together time virtually. Besides my social distancing hula hoop, the only things that I can come up with in terms of predictions at the moment are: the convention of shaking hands perhaps having gone forever. ‘Oh yes, I recall my last handshake. It was with a TV aerial installer from Wicken Fen.’ And with it must go too its kidult nephew, the grip, clinch ‘n’ hug – a Johnny Carver of a greeting, which will in time descend to its true ranking – a mere footnote to the wiki-page on handshaking.
I wonder what will replace it? The bow just isn’t us, nor is that namsate thing; they’re too deferential. Because as much as the handshake was a greeting, it also left one hand free to do with exactly as you wished, and a real handshake where you each look the other in the eye, it’s about weighing up the opposition too, isn’t it? I prefer, and what I mean by that is, I am going to adopt (until such a time that it is generally acknowledged as the behaviour of sociopaths) : i) the ‘how’ sign – I might even throw in a spoken ‘how’ in the early stages of take up to force the point home. I like it because, like the handshake, it serves two purposes: hello and also, ‘that’s close enough there thanks’. It also leaves room for the use of buddy if you’re that way inclined, ‘hello, but stop right there buddy.’ If that fails to catch on I next favour: ii) the hands wide, palms facing upwards gesture, with a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders. For one it says, ‘I have come without a knife,’ and for two, the bit I like, it’s got some so what? about it; that thing that the handshake has always been a little dishonest about – let’s not assume that just because we’ve met that there is anything we admire about each other. I like that. If it fails to work, given that the virus is causing us to regress to a way of living that we thought had long since passed into history, we could perhaps revert to whacking each other on the back with a riding crop: ‘I’m here whether you like it or not, and I saw you first. Wallop! Take that you scoundrel.’ As a last resort that may work, especially if the new-old times came with the wearing of stove pipe hats that you could topple off with your swagger stick as part of the fun of the greeting.
The only question remaining is how to patent and monetise these new habits so that you might make their proposer a trillionaire in the new democracy where all but a few escape into what we used to know as freedom.
Besides all that, space travel’s an obvious place for some of us to go, especially when an element of lunar colonisation is thrown in, though, like the practice of eating genetically modified crops and farm animals, that option seems to have a built in end-date to the scoffing – where you realise that it’s all gone horribly wrong but you’re too invested to get out. Perhaps more obviously, those that can will buy up tiny islands and have them populated with key workers on permanent furlough until the next crisis blows up.
They’re probably doing it now, and for fear of invasion and threat to sovereignty don’t want to make a big deal out of it. I imagine that Julia Louis Dreyfus has one in the South Seas. The apocalypse they have to prepare for though, similarly to the lunar pioneers, is what to do when the furloughed have had enough and decide to slice your head off with a sharpened edging spade.
I am beginning to think that Frances is in such a place right now. I devoted much of the previous two months to tracking her down. Mainly in the guise of research for my Pearl & Dean advert, but also by going to London as often as I could, and once, by accepting an invitation to Big Eggo’s club. Yes, that’s how desperate I was. Big Tooth, who is normally the fount of all knowledge for things like that proved a poor aide de camp, and in fact I thought was slightly wilful, since when we finally did run into her at Eggo’s party, I got a disingenuous sounding, ‘oh yeah, I think she might be one of the Parks.’ She was at the exit too, as we were leaving the party, and I don’t know whether I’ve done this since, in re-running the event in my mind, but I think she turned on her heel and left with us as she saw the joy wash over my face. I sort of recall her funny little face divided in half by its long wide mouth, growing slightly larger. Something like that. It was awkward and prolonged, but historical perspective has added fluency to my dreadful attempt at getting her to come back with me to the flat for a drink. I could hear Big Tooth say, ‘what dad’s?’ behind me, but I have subsequently persuaded myself that Frances was talking at the same time, and didn’t hear it properly
It was no less awkward when we got home because Big Tooth, despite my hardest silent gestures failed to pick up on them, and followed us back. All things considered I’d have rather toughed it out at the party. And now, it hangs over the interregnum as a thing. A big, unnecessary, difficult event, which will always define the start of our relationship, whichever way that is destined to go.
The Parks are stalwarts of the rugby club, though seldom seen these days, and her grandfather is considered something of a grandee, though far too grand to actually go there anymore, especially now that the club is more for commoners than it is Corinthians. It sort of indicates no brother, and probably no boyfriend. Not just good, but also revelatory of an encouraging devotion to family tradition in addition to her great sense of humour. That is a good thing when your family is loaded. I am looking forward to trying out my ‘how’ greeting on her when we next meet.
But when might that be? Especially since … no I’d better not say. And it’s probably of no matter while she’s still on the neighbouring island to Julia Louis. Now there’s a thought. It makes me realise that the only thing that matters for me is money and social mobility. With that will come distancing.