A couple of days after ‘downloading’ the Paul Young back catalogue to my Amazon Music stable, I met the man himself, in the flesh, and a thoroughly nice chap he is an' all. Subsequently I have bumped into him a few times now and am on arm waving acknowledgement terms with ‘Paul’, whom I have admired since his 1980s heyday.

So why am I throwing in this lame to fame? It is a tenuous link I must confess, as this week’s topic is the ‘new normal’ that is being touted as a corona way forward in lieu of a winning hashtag. Well, Mr Young prophesied ‘everything must change’. He is now being proved correct although it is a surprise as to the speed in which the constructs of our daily routines have become dismembered, so much so that we question if we will ever go back to the way things were but a few weeks ago.

With increased downtime, some are choosing to move away from enjoying a Netflix and chilling to being even more venomous to the layman as the inward hatred they feel is transmitted onto others through the medium of internet forums. The two extremes have certainly changed, with our levels of viciousness magnified on one hand along with our proclamations of societal love on the other, as we openly share the dream that "we'll meet again", although we kind of know where, but we don’t quite know when.

Queuing outside supermarkets as we stand on crudely administered tape lines as though we are a contestant on an ITV2 game show doesn't make us bat an eyelid anymore. Speaking to shop operatives is akin jumping on a bus as we converse through less-than-aesthetically-pleasing plastic shields. The similarities with public transport don’t end there, as the supermarket queue moves only marginally quicker than a double decker en route to its next stop 100 yards up yonder.

Travelling is a joy as the roads are empty, there are no frustrating badly parked goons at the petrol stations, and we manage to breathe again while saving our hard earned on fuel that we no longer desire or wait impatiently in line for.

Like dating some years back, socialising is now going online with ‘platforms’ such as Zoom quickly tying up the market while we crack open a few cold ones and convince ourselves the virtual pub is as good as the real thing when it patently is not. Still, at least there's not far to stumble home and your new Adidas sneakers don’t get covered in hostelry latrine deposits, so every lockdown cloud and all that.

We find ourselves, instead of avoiding them as we are far too busy and much too important, actively stopping and speaking to neighbours. The revelation comes that they are actually pretty cool as you wondered why you couldn’t have taken the five minutes to have enjoyed chewing the verbal cud with them before house arrest enforcement.

We have realised we don’t need the shops selling needless rubbish, that we can shop online and, god forbid, make do and mend. I ripped my favourite pair of cycling shorts last weekend and the first port of call was not, strangely, the Wiggle website, but asking my missus to get the Singer out and tend to my ripped groin.

Exercise has become the new mode of transport and the family have cycled more in the last month that the previous two years combined, although it’s true that, as a nation, we have not cracked the obesity crisis just yet. You rarely spot those of a rotund persuasion in Amsterdam, because they all enjoy the two-wheeled steed and I only hope we can look back at this being the time when we changed lifestyle choices for the better, permanently.

Putting the daily death toll aside, which I know is a big ask, the new normal, strangely, is reconnecting. Messaging that person you have not seen for 30 years to check they are OK and how the land lies in Australia, South Africa or Canada. The one constant is the calm with which we all, financial woes excluded, have gone with, and slowed down enough to appreciate what we have and not what we hanker for.

Soon, this will all be over as though it never happened. Tentatively we will enter the alien land of each other’s personal space, shake hands, and start to laugh about the absurdity of lockdown over a cold beverage. Then will come the weekends, once we are back at work, as we question the need to make the trip to Primark, to TK Maxx and to Costa, as we realise that, like it or not, ‘Paul’ was right, and everything must change.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher