Social Distancing

Day 4

As this is becoming somewhat of a sartorial advice blog (which was not my intention when I started it – when I find out what my intention was when I started it, I will let you know), I’ll kick off by letting you know that today I am wearing full Sunday best. That is, a three-piece suit (non-matching waistcoat to hint at how ‘radical’ I am), white shirt and formal brogues. As the suit is light blue (aren’t they all nowadays?), the shoes are brown – I cannot stand that brown shoes with dark suit crack: who thought that was a good look? The shirt, while formal, is collarless so that no one can demand I wear a tie with the outfit. Ties are so 20th century. Interviews and funerals, those are the only two occasions appropriate for ties anymore. One more point; the suit actually fits me. Whoever is advising the young men I see walking about in suits obviously two sizes too small for them is either having a laugh or was born blind. But are there no full-length mirrors in these young men’s houses where they do the final check before they go out the door, simultaneously tapping two pockets to check they have keys and wallet on them? Obviously not, or they would be as appalled as I am at the sight of a simian-type creature dressed in ill-fitting human clothes with bulges showing in all the wrong places.

The concept of Sunday best will probably soon join those other aspects of life like record players and film for cameras that I have to explain to my children in their weekly social history lessons. When we used to be allowed to go to Mass (-7PC), I would note the diminishing number of old men decked out in the full whistle and flute garb, straggling hair plastered down over the bald spot on the back of their heads, bright red neck bulging out over a collar starched to within an inch of its life. Mind you, having seen the state of their clothes during the week, their suit was probably the only clean thing they had left in the wardrobe come Sunday. But, for those men, after their weekly wash on a Saturday night (whether they needed it or not), Sunday Mass was an occasion marked by pulling on the fresh set of underwear that would do them for the week and clobbering up in the full suit and tie attire. Like the pint after Mass and before lunch, this band of dapper pensioners will soon go the way of all flesh, and join wrist watches, tape recorders and washing dishes by hand in the history bin. I will miss them. The men, not the dishes.

So here I am, all dressed up and – increasingly – nowhere to go. Why the suit? Well, why not? It will confuse the resident teenagers and break the monotony a bit. (An interesting – to me, anyway – linguistic side note: for Irish speakers, the teenage years begin at the age of 11 and not the 13 prescribed for the monoglot English speakers amongst us; whether or not this means that Irish-speaking 11-year-olds display those annoying traits of teenagers two years before their linguistically-challenged contemporaries is the subject of my up-coming PhD thesis, to be jointly supervised by the schools of Celtic Studies and Sociology at QUB, if it ever opens again.)

Also, and wouldn’t you know it, the plumber turned up yesterday! And me wearing a dressing-gown so tatty that Arthur Dent would have been proud of it. Yip, after six months of waiting to get the downstairs shower fixed (see references to ‘bathroom permitting’ in previous posts), we gave up on the ‘real’ plumber and asked the wee lad down the lane to do it; I am not even sure if he is fully-qualified yet, but I do not care as I now have a working downstairs shower in a room off my study and, as yet, the resident teenagers do not know it is operational again, so I can skip the queue for the upstairs one and wash myself whenever I feel like it – except on Saturdays, of course. As men are allowed to pee in the shower as well, this means my en-suite study is – nearly – fully set up for when my family ramp up the social distancing and stick me into a cocoon because of my diabetes. They can also leave food out for me on one of the windowsills if they want, so that is that sorted. As for the other thing … maybe, to be delicate about it, I can retrain my bowels to operate during the wee hours of the morning, meaning I can sneak out of my cocoon study to the toilet half a metre away along the corridor in the east wing of the hacienda and not risk catching anything off the other residents, who are not in an at-risk group. Oh the joys of this brave, new world.

So the suit covers me (do you see what I did there?) in case the electrician turns up today. But there is as much chance of that happening as there was of the real plumber turning up yesterday. If anyone is looking for career advice for their children after Armageddon, send them to one of the trades: they will never be short of work, and, with the amount of moolah they will earn, they will probably be able to afford a private tutor to teach them all they ever wanted to know about the nuclear physics/soap opera studies/comparative linguistics they thought they wanted to study at university.

The suit is also an indication that, despite it being the weekend, I am actually going to do some work work today. I have figured out that, as I know what the boss will be asking me to do, if I have it done in advance but do not tell her that, when she asks me to do it on Monday I can agree wholeheartedly and negotiate a deadline of early Tuesday morning for it, thus leaving me free to implement my next social experiment: incorporating a Spanish siesta in my working-from-home day. I’ll let you know how I get on with that.

I have just noticed that my organisation has ditched the term ‘working from home’ in favour of the new ‘remote working’. The cynic in me insists that this is because those senior managers who previously availed of the opportunity denied to us plebs did nothing remotely like work while they were working from home.


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