Monday, 7 September 2020


Yes, I’m back - a bit like Coronavirus. You thought I’d gone away and that my blogs were a thing of the past but here I am, exhaustingly cheerful and optimistic. Guardian readers must hate my jollity, marooned as they seem to be on an island of grim disapproval.

First of all was my break good?

It was horrible. It compounded all that was worst about the lessons of lockdown. A collapse in my IQ to that of a grunting teenager. Dissatisfaction. Nothing to do and virtually nowhere to go. I was aimless and grumpy and according to my wife less than my usual convivial company. So I cut the break short. Started working a bit. Checked my emails. Had a couple of lunches. Met some people. Laughed. Listened. Became more human.

We have become trapped through a mixture of uncertainty, fear and mixed messages in a purgatory of anti-social caution. We, who are older or who have underlying-health concerns or are hypochondriacs, have flipped over into an extremely socially-distanced coma.

Well that’s history for me. I “who am” (to misquote Shakespeare’s Richard III), “shaped for sportive tricks” wish to

“caper nimbly in a lady’s chamber

To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.”

My wife looked and me and said “don’t be silly you’re far old for that sort of thing …. have you put the rubbish out?”

But we agreed that we needed to meet more friends, eat out more and generally become active physically and intellectually. 

Although I’m very dispirited by the economic prospects, with the rest of the world and us facing massive unemployment, with whole sectors declining, rusting and fading away, there’ll be pockets of innovation and opportunity: DIY. Home-Improvement. Gardening. Home offices and technology. Refurbished old office space. Medicine. Wine. Casual clothes.

Self-education programmes. Fitness programmes. New restaurants designed from scratch. New conference-technology (I predict the demise of the hateful Zoom). Re-invention after re-invention starting with retailers like M&S and John Lewis who’ll have to reinvent …or die.

Most of all we’ll see new businesses start up and whilst some will make it, many won’t. The atmosphere will be febrile with innovation and endeavour; resourcefulness will get us through - as it always has.

Out of catastrophe surprisingly good things will happen if we stop staying in and hoping we can get back to where we were. Groundhog-day thinking is useless in today’s world.

Making the best out of a mess was illustrated last week when one of my best friends had her work computer hacked (it happens) and hundreds and hundreds of bogus emails went to clients, past, present and potential.

So far… so awful but as she reached for her proverbial revolver to end it all the phone started to ring and lots of these clients and potential clients phoned to say “you’ve been hacked but how are you? We must talk”.

An ostensibly humiliating disaster became a hugely effective new business tool.

The lesson is an old one. A complaint is an opportunity. A problem when solved is a cause to celebrate. Forget algorithms. We are human and for the last five months we have discarded our humanity and responded to computer-speak commands - “Stay Alert. Control the Virus. Save Lives”.

Here’s my version – “Meet more people. Enjoy their company. Make life better”. Yes, give each other space, wear a mask, wash your hands and follow those guidelines … we’ve got all that … but stop being paranoid and anti-social.

It’s nice to be back. Drink anyone? How about a Chinese, Indian or Mexican?

After this summer I feel hungry for life.

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