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ALEXANDRA SHULMAN: The sun is out and I’ve lost 2lb, so why do I feel so gloomy? 

The day that tennis courts, golf courses and garden centres were joyously reopened, I hit a personal low. 

Having been unusually bullish and upbeat for most of this lockdown, last Wednesday I was swamped by unspecified despair. 

There was no obvious reason why that should be. 

It was a sunny morning, I’d had some good news on the work front, the bathrooms scales showed a 2lb drop, and, most importantly, no one I knew was ill. 

Alexandra Shulman in her garden April 2020 taken by her son, Sam Spike

Alexandra Shulman in her garden April 2020 taken by her son, Sam Spike

Alexandra Shulman in her garden April 2020 taken by her son, Sam Spike

On any rational level there was more progress that day, on the possibility of life resuming some form of normality, than we had seen in weeks. 

Yet I suddenly felt hopeless, trapped in a potentially neverending split-screen existence – one half showing a perfectly pleasant and not wildly changed life; the other featuring the consequences of a global pandemic where tens of thousands of people are suffering and dying. 

Also depressing for someone like me – who enjoys being able to plan ahead and feel that, to some degree, I can achieve those plans – was the total inability to have any certainty over the future. 

Absolutely nothing was in my control. S O I removed my gloomy self from the others, watched a bit of TV (the BBC’s Nordic drama Twin) and went to bed. 

The next morning, optimism returned. I write this not because this pattern is any way uncommon, but because it isn’t. 

As we have had to adjust to a different reality, most of us have had our own mood swings – and those of others around us – to deal with. One person’s up is another person’s down. 

Some days our prowess in making soda bread or managing to descale the bathroom taps gives us a sense of purpose and satisfaction; on others they provide neither. 

There are moments when many of us would admit to actually enjoying the freedom from conventional life and time out from normality, while simultaneously we speak to a friend or member of our family who is felled by apprehension. 

Of course, in normal times we all have our bleak days and bad moods, but in lockdown they are more pervasive and more obvious to those around us. 

It’s harder to dodge and deflect them. Work is often a great way to jolt us out of gloom but is a less reliable panacea while working from home, which demands a degree of selfdiscipline with none of the collateral energy that comes from colleagues. 

Isolation unhelpfully feeds introspection. 

And anyway, whatever way we spin it, there is something really worrying going on. There’s no escaping it. 

Today though, the sun is out again. I plan a trip to the garden centre. 

I have a new thriller to read. Nobody I know or have heard of has contracted even a mild case of the virus for well over a month. 

Undoubtedly the lows will come knocking again for me and all of us. But they will pass.

Evelyn Kazantzoglou wears a white turtleneck, a frilly blue jacket with a white lace upper part and ruffled puff sleeves, blue crop jeans, a blue Chloe handbag during Paris Fashion Week

Evelyn Kazantzoglou wears a white turtleneck, a frilly blue jacket with a white lace upper part and ruffled puff sleeves, blue crop jeans, a blue Chloe handbag during Paris Fashion Week

Evelyn Kazantzoglou wears a white turtleneck, a frilly blue jacket with a white lace upper part and ruffled puff sleeves, blue crop jeans, a blue Chloe handbag during Paris Fashion Week

Baggy’s a VERY bad look for Zoom

Those who follow fashion will have noticed that huge sleeves are currently a thing; great big puffy shoulders with complicated shapes often falling in voluminous folds like a nun’s gown. 

Forget hemlines. It’s the sleeve shape that counts. Of course these sleeves couldn’t be less appropriate for lockdown dressing, which nobody could have predicted when they were being designed. 

I doubt any designer imagined that their spring/summer collection would be selling at a time when we all need low-maintenance clothes and are living and working much of the time on small screens. 

If they had, they might have considered the inconvenience of these fashion statements. 

Not only are big sleeves a nightmare to deal with on the ironing front but they’re total disaster on the Zoom or Skype call, hogging the space with all the appeal of a flapping goose. 

For decades, moths have been my sworn enemy. Our last house had to be fumigated for weeks to get rid of the blighters, which was hugely expensive and wildly inconvenient. 

The freezer was stuffed with fabric in an attempt to kill off the larvae. I can’t face all that again so we now fight them with nasty sticky pads in the wardrobes, toxic sprays and lavender bags, which don’t help, but at least smell nice. 

Judging by the holes in my sweaters, the moths are winning. Turns out though that, despite the ones munching their way through my cashmere and silk, not all moths are bad. 

According to a new study, some are helpful pollen spreaders as they flit around on night-time travels. Moths, it appears, are the new bees. Coming soon… wasps the new butterflies? 

A recent survey states that book-buying has increased (though by rather more in the digital and audio market than in print) because people currently have more spare time. I’m intrigued by what is meant by spare time. I feel busier than ever. Is that because I’m involved in an unusual amount of housework alongside other work? If so, is that happening in my spare time? Does chatting on the phone qualify as taking place in spare time? Is sending an email to a friend a spare time activity, and one to the car insurers not? What’s the opposite of spare time anyway? Just curious… 

One of the most delightful aspects of traditional America is its front porch culture. That rocking chair on the verandah, the gathering on the suburban doorsteps to crack open a beer. Over recent weeks across Britain, similar scenes are taking place. Window sills have become social meccas as people perch on cushions to get some sun and chat to friends on the street below. Chairs are installed in front gardens for socially distanced chats among nattering neighbours. It’s been a joy to see how we have all used whatever outside space we have for connecting with others. Hopefully this will be one of the long-term benefits of these virus days. 

NHS plays fast and loose in the game of risk

Quite a number of our friends have just opened a letter from their local NHS surgeries instructing them to stay at home for 12 weeks. 

Eat alone, sleep alone, keep indoors until mid-August. At the end of this draconian missive, is the list of qualifications for receiving this sentence, not a single one of which applies to any of those who got it. 

It emerges that this cohort are part of the one million people being added to the list of 1.5 million contacted at the start of all this, who the NHS think need to be shielded, or as you might call it, be shut inside. 

Unfortunately the broad trawl of the data base has scooped up people involved in minor medical interventions – those prescribed statins, who suffer mild asthma or who have had cancer treatment decades back – and put them in the same category as those currently undergoing chemotherapy or kidney dialysis, or suffering sickle cell disease. 

In other words, those who are currently and acutely unwell. The recipients of this unwelcome letter have to decide what level of risk they are prepared to take. 

Local surgeries telephoned for clarification have simply said to these people that if they didn’t fit the outlined criteria for this shielding they could probably ignore it. 

The response handed them back the decision about their own health, but psychologically the damage was done. 

It’s not helpful to be informed you could be in mortal danger if you go out for a loaf, and the next minute advised to chuck the warning letter in the bin. 

Not in these times. In our lives we constantly take risks, such as the proverbial crossing the road. It’s part of existence. But these days the basis on which we calculate risk has changed. 

One person’s common sense is another’s recklessness. One person’s go-for-it spirit is regarded by another as selfish and dangerous to others. 

The definition of reasonable risk, something that previously we took to a large extent for granted, has become far from clear. 

Yet never before have we had to spend more time trying to work out what a reasonable risk might be. 

Source: Daily Mail – Articles

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