COMMENT: The small things in life can help lift the spirits

By Toby Neal | Opinions | Published:

Today's the day.

A woman walks past Irish artist Emmalene Blake's mural of singer Sinead O'Connor near the site of the old Bernard Shaw pub in Dublin which closed late last year

On a trivial level, there are no more excuses for having my hair like this.

It's become so bad that there have been occasions when I have had to use a hairbrush. And look in the mirror.

The hairbrush has been very surprised at making my acquaintance, I must say.

So, things to do. Queue to get a haircut. Stand in a queue outside a cafe. Queue to enjoy a pint down the pub.

Or not. As many other people will have a pent-up desire to do exactly the same things, maybe I'll wait to see how it all pans out in practice.

What happens in the bars and pubs will be particularly interesting as drink and self discipline are not necessarily good companions.

The informal, easygoing atmosphere of pubs and bars will be replaced by arrangements which, of necessity, will be antiseptic in more ways than one. Having strong elbows will no longer be an advantage in getting rapid service.


There's another thing. Once you've had a drink or three – and I am guided by the science in saying the following – it will impair your ability to judge distance.

So pubgoers will be expected to comply with social distancing when they may well have lost their powers to judge distance. Or, having had a few, they just don't care any more.

These are just some of the challenges for the coming weeks as the process continues of trying to turn the economy around from freefall, with the scale of the disaster underlined by this week's job losses.

But little things like being able to get your hair cut, or down a pint, can lift the spirits. For instance, for British soldiers fighting in the jungles of Burma, just being able to shave was a fillip to their morale.


With much now depending on how people taking advantage of these new freedoms choose to exercise their personal responsibility, from here on in how things go will be like a national audit of idiocy.

The rules are complicated. Your idiocy quotient, using the internationally-recognised standard, the YI rating (stands for You Idiot/s), does not necessarily reflect equal YI values for similar acts.

So a trip to Bournemouth beach with your family gets you a YI score of 10; taking part in a mass protest with strangers, a YI rating of 0 (unless it is a protest against the lockdown, in which case it rises once more to 10).

Any party involving young people automatically gets a YI score of 10, even though – and again, I am guided by the science – the risk to previously healthy young people from coronavirus is statistically small.

Having said that, one thing we have surely learned is that if you are going to be guided by the science, there has to be some science for you to be guided by, otherwise you might as well rely on intuition and good fortune.

Much of the science surrounding this new pandemic has been imperfect and incompletely understood, especially so in the earlier stages, so in the circumstances being "guided by the science" has meant being guided by a higher class of ignorance.

Meanwhile, while we prepare to emerge to a strange sort of normality, the debate continues about our statues – and another one has bitten the dust.

This time it's Haile Selassie who has been pulled down from his perch in London and smashed up completely.

The Lion of Judah, worshipped as God incarnate, represented something, or did something, that the statue destroyers didn't like.

There are people who don't need any reason to smash things up, they just do it because they enjoy it. It's better though to have a reason. It gives vandalism a veneer of legitimacy.

If this statue-smashing is to become the fashion, then it should be democratically regulated by the issuing of licences.

Would it be unreasonable to expect those applying for licences to pull them down to be able to prove that they are better people than those who put them up?

As hairdressing is in the news today, here is a quirky fact (if indeed it is true) about Haile Selassie.

A Mr Sheffield, whose barber’s shop was at the old Victorian Market Hall in Shrewsbury, would recall in later life how he had cut the Emperor’s hair.

This is plausible, because Haile Selassie did stay in Shropshire for a time during his years in exile in the 1930s. But I do struggle with the image of Haile Selassie popping into a Shrewsbury barber's to have his hair cut.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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