Them and us

Yesterday marked the beginning of new measures in England (although not in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) aimed at starting to open up society in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown. The new guidelines are set out in a 50-page document. Broadly, however, the main headlines have been the idea that those living in EnglandContinue reading “Them and us”

A shift in mood

Last night, the UK prime minister addressed the nation, setting out plans for the next phase of the Covid-19 lockdown. Although little is set to change immediately, the speech proved controversial in many quarters, with the leaders of the UK’s three devolved legislatures, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, all refusing to adopt the new governmentContinue reading “A shift in mood”

Are eye-contact rules changing?

When I was studying English literature at university some twenty years ago, I took an optional module called ‘Varieties of English’. Looking at some of the many different forms of my mother tongue around the globe, it explored communication in numerous guises, touching on everything from swearing to body language. I don’t remember much aboutContinue reading “Are eye-contact rules changing?”

The point of no return

When I was growing up, I loved performing in shows. Musicals, comedies, revues and straight plays; angsty contemporary dramas in small rooms and massive extravaganzas. I put myself forward for them all (including Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Company’, from which the song featured above comes). I loved the buzz of the rehearsal room, the discipline of learningContinue reading “The point of no return”

What does essential really mean?

There’s a Shakespeare quote that’s been on my mind a lot lately. It comes from Act II, scene 4 of the tragedy King Lear, at the point where the title hero, having been asked by his calculating, cruel daughter Regan why he still needs knights and servants, explodes: O, reason not the need! Our basestContinue reading “What does essential really mean?”

The gender politics of social distancing

One of the last events to take place in Folkestone before social-distancing restrictions were introduced to prevent the spread of Covid-19 was the Take Up Space Festival. The latest in a series of extravagnazas held in the town every March to mark International Women’s Day, it encouraged those who attended to think about what itContinue reading “The gender politics of social distancing”

Why we’re not living in a dystopia (yet)

One of the things that’s been most shocking about the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic is the speed with which life has changed. Within a matter of days, millions of us have lost many of our freedoms and found ourselves confined to our homes, under pain of arrest if we flout the government’s instructions.Continue reading “Why we’re not living in a dystopia (yet)”

Terror in the supermarket

On Friday, for the first time since Covid-19 lockdown measures were announced in the UK, my daughter and I went shopping for food. Although we arrived at the supermarket relatively early, the socially distanced queue already stretched down the side of the building and around the back of the neighbouring (closed) McDonald’s. As food shoppingContinue reading “Terror in the supermarket”

Lockdown begins

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, in front of a television audience of some 27 million people, the prime minister announced that the UK was now on lockdown. People would be allowed out once a day to exercise alone or with a member of their household and for food shopping. Public parks would beContinue reading “Lockdown begins”