Paddy Murray: The new normal doesn’t fill me with joy

I don’t see what’s wrong with a simple smile if we can’t shake hands or hug

‘I hope “new normal” fades away and we eventually get back to “normal normal”. Anything else would be bad for our brains.’ Photograph: iStock

‘I hope “new normal” fades away and we eventually get back to “normal normal”. Anything else would be bad for our brains.’ Photograph: iStock

 

I’m not entirely sure I like what appears to be turning into the “new normal”.

We’ve been talking about this “new normal” for months. We’re told we’ll have to live with it when, and I hope it’s “when” not “if”, we finally conquer Covid-19.

But the bits of “new normal” I can see around me don’t fill me with joy. They’re hard to avoid.

I see people routinely pulling masks over their faces as they walk into shops and I see friends who meet on the street, stand on opposite sides of the footpath while they chat. And you can still see the occasional elbow touching and fist bumping, two trends I hope vaccines can eliminate. I really don’t see what’s wrong with a simple smile if we can’t shake hands or hug.

Of course we need to do these things now. Indeed, it jars even more when you see someone going into a shop without a mask or offering a hand to shake.

I would just hate to see these behavioural changes last forever.

The world has changed. Our streets our empty, our parks are packed largely, thank God, with people who haven’t arrived with boxes of cheap beer.

We queue politely. The days of people standing away from the queue and charging at the door of a bus once it has stopped are over, it seems. And almost nobody tries to dodge the supermarket queues. And we queue for coffee.

Sometimes I have to close my eyes and open them again when I see a queue of maybe 30 people lined up outside a coffee shop. I can’t imagine 12 months ago anyone would have been prepared to stand in the cold for 15 minutes to buy a coffee, which is then sipped sitting on a wall or a bench or even walking around.

Routine

Now it’s routine.

You go to the shops for groceries and on the way home you come across a Garda checkpoint.

“Was your journey necessary?”, you’re asked. “Eh, I was doing the shopping,” you reply, pointing to the bags on the back seat.

“Grand so, carry on,” you’re told.

In the back of your mind you know it’s just as important a job for them to do as “catching criminals”, because those who are ignoring the recommendations and restrictions are putting lives at risk.

And isn’t it strange what has become the new boast? It used to be, “We’re heading off to Málaga for a couple of weeks” or “We’ve taken a house in Mayo for a month” or even “We’re getting the attic converted”.

But they’re old hat. Now it’s, “I got my first vaccination the other day” or “I’m getting my first vaccination next week”.

There is a lot more of this “new normal” to come.

For example, I’m a member of Terenure Sports Club in south Dublin. It’s a great club because it has six sports – rugby, soccer, cricket, tennis, table tennis and bowls – and because of the nature of those sports all ages, from children to even older than I, are covered.

Like every sports club now, it’s struggling. Hard to get everyone to pay fees when there’s nothing going on, though in fairness, most in our club have.

But the bar is closed. And I suspect that, like every other bar in the country, sports club or otherwise, it’s not going to be as simple as opening up when the Government says we can.

Because many people who would love to have a nice creamy pint, or whatever their particular tipple is, will be reluctant to have it in a packed bar.

And in my case at least, twice as reluctant to have it in an empty bar.

I doubt I will again have the courage to stand shoulder to shoulder with other music lovers in a tight but brilliant venue such as Whelan’s or the Grand Social.

And I suspect even the young and fit will think twice before entering crowded spaces. I hope not. I hope “new normal” fades away and we eventually get back to “normal normal”. Anything else would be bad for our brains.

‘All of a sudden our little darling Penny, who wasn’t yet six, went off to Dog Heaven.’
‘All of a sudden our little darling Penny, who wasn’t yet six, went off to Dog Heaven.’

On a separate note, a few months ago I wrote about how I envied our little dog Penny as she sat looking out of the window barking at people and particularly other dogs and cats passing by.

Well, Penny died. All of a sudden our little darling, who wasn’t yet six, went off to Dog Heaven. Yes, she had been ill. But she was being treated.

Sadly, one night she was unable to stand and we brought her to the emergency vet in UCD.Nothing could be done.

And she was sent to her rest, standing on one cloud I presume, barking at dogs on another. 

– Paddy Murray’s book, And Finally . . . A Journalist’s Life in 250 Stories, is available from theliffeypress.com, alanhannas.com, easons.com and the usual sources