News, Culture & Society

ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: And now for a new terror… making our new decisions

It’s been nearly 11 weeks since we were told that what we had previously thought of as normal daily life was to be shut down. 

Most of the activities we enjoyed would be off the menu: restaurants, hairdressers, dinner parties, garden centres, multi-generational family gatherings, sport.

When Boris announced lockdown that evening of March 23, I remember being frightened. This was going to be horrific. 

The initial lockdown rules absolved us from responsibility. We were told what we had to do – stay at home – and in most cases we did. We formed our own little hubs, shrank our lives, took up making elderflower cordial and inhaled box sets [File photo]

But the fact is that for many of us – the luckier ones who have been able to leave our homes from time to time and who haven’t suffered the loss of someone close – it has been perfectly bearable. Even, whisper who dare, slightly enjoyable.

Yes, it’s been mind-numbingly dull on occasions when all you have to look forward to is deciding what to cook for dinner. It’s been challenging to spend acres of time only with people in the same household, unleavened by the physical company of others.

It’s certainly been hugely demanding on couples who have been having to home school while both have also been working full-time from home. 

And it’s been occasionally anxiety-inducing when we poke our noses outside our immediate picket fences and imagine what might be out there when we emerge into a full-on recession with the virus still lurking.

But I believe there’s also a Stockholm syndrome mentality gaining hold – the condition where hostages form an attachment to their captors, and feel safer in their company than when free.

They stop wanting to be released. And as the lockdown levers are shifted allowing us more freedom, a huge number of people are feeling something similar.

Yes, it’s been mind-numbingly dull on occasions when all you have to look forward to is deciding what to cook for dinner. It’s been challenging to spend acres of time only with people in the same household, unleavened by the physical company of others [File photo]

Yes, it’s been mind-numbingly dull on occasions when all you have to look forward to is deciding what to cook for dinner. It’s been challenging to spend acres of time only with people in the same household, unleavened by the physical company of others [File photo]

The initial lockdown rules absolved us from responsibility. We were told what we had to do – stay at home – and in most cases we did. We formed our own little hubs, shrank our lives, took up making elderflower cordial and inhaled box sets. 

Grandparents missed their grandchildren, parents missed their own parents but we consoled ourselves with the thought that all this wouldn’t last for ever.

And it hasn’t. Next week, shops are reopening, certain school year groups are back, grandchildren are now allowed in the garden. But are we all jumping at these opportunities? Not with the alacrity you might expect.

Stockholm syndrome is driven by a potent combination of fear, trust and acceptance. 

After nearly three months of having our independence denied, there is a very real temptation to succumb to helplessness; to prefer the more mindless enclosure of lockdown to the burden of having to make deliberate risk-reward calculations as to what our own next steps might be.

Face masks, for example – only a few weeks ago dismissed as pointless – will soon be mandatory on public transport. Passengers are seen social distancing and wearing face masks in an airport shuttle bus in Rome, Italy

Face masks, for example – only a few weeks ago dismissed as pointless – will soon be mandatory on public transport. Passengers are seen social distancing and wearing face masks in an airport shuttle bus in Rome, Italy

It’s not helped by the fact that the information we are given to base our choices on often leaves us feeling as if we’re entering a hall of mirrors – with a different distortion depending on who you listen to.

Face masks, for example – only a few weeks ago dismissed as pointless – will soon be mandatory on public transport. The NHS contact-tracing app we were promised as a world-beating solution seems to have gone AWOL with no widely agreed ‘up-and-running’ date.

Knowing how much we don’t know and how little our Government appears to know, certainly encourages us to be fearful. But ultimately we all have to grab the opportunities to move away from the stagnation of lockdown if we want our future lives to flourish.

A cosmetic fairy tale I couldn’t make up

When I first met make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury about 20 years ago, I would have considered her one of the very last people to build a $1 billion business. So far, so wrong since her eponymous make-up line has just been sold to a big conglomerate, netting her personally in the region of £500 million.

When I first met make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury about 20 years ago, I would have considered her one of the very last people to build a $1 billion business

When I first met make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury about 20 years ago, I would have considered her one of the very last people to build a $1 billion business

Not bad for a party-loving, creamy-skinned redhead brought up between an English boarding school and Happy Valley-style Ibiza, where her parents Lance and Patsy would house-sit for stars such as everyone’s favourite cad actor Terry-Thomas. 

Scattering ‘darlings’ in her breathy voice, crystals dangling in her bosomy cleavage and staggering around in maxi dresses and platform shoes, Charlotte could easily have been mistaken for the archetypal hippy-dippy chick. Certainly she didn’t look like the formidable businesswomen she has turned out to be.

Her success began with her deft way with the contour brush on fashion shoots but was helped by her gregarious and chatty personality.

Campy and gushing but funny and ready with a dash of high-class gossip, she was never daunted by the famous faces she was touching up.

And, in the Noughties, as Ibiza and its small sister island Formentera became the summer playgrounds of the famous and wealthy, her insider knowledge of the scene there, where she still spent weekends and holidays, became as sought after as her way with a cat’s eye flick.

The Ibiza factor paid off. When she told friends, sharing the dawn speedboat home after a night of island partying, of her dream of launching a company selling movie- star glamour in a jar, many of them became the vital early investors willing to give a helping hand to their guide to the Balearic beat.

Now she’s sold to the Spanish fragrance and fashion group Puig in a mega-bucks deal, they’ll have every reason to celebrate too.

Those hairy hipsters are facing the chop

Men in their 20s and 30s often choose to go unshaven. These beards are denser than designer stubble but less than the whole ZZ Top. Think Bradley Cooper with a dash of Jesus as a template.

But this yen for facial hair could be about to change. I guarantee that nothing will have them rushing back to the Gillette than discovering that during lockdown thousands of oldies have adopted the style and are emerging from confinement like a nation of grizzled Captain Birds Eyes. After all, no guy wants to discover they’ve started to look just like their dad.

Men in their 20s and 30s often choose to go unshaven. These beards are denser than designer stubble but less than the whole ZZ Top [File photo]

Men in their 20s and 30s often choose to go unshaven. These beards are denser than designer stubble but less than the whole ZZ Top [File photo]

How did I manage to waste the lockdown?

What’s happened to all that time we were going to have over these past weeks? How come I’ve achieved so little? The plans for knitting, jigsaws, photo albums, deep-cleaning have been a dismal non-starter. All I am going to have to show for it is so much home-made chicken stock that the freezer is about to give up.

Cold comfort of a miserable summer

There’s something reassuring about our British weather returning to the old normal. Drizzle and cardies – how cosily familiar. At least that’s something we can rely upon.

There’s something reassuring about our British weather returning to the old normal. Drizzle and cardies – how cosily familiar [File photo]

There’s something reassuring about our British weather returning to the old normal. Drizzle and cardies – how cosily familiar [File photo]

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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