Stuff the ‘new normal’ – we want proper normal back, and it can’t come too soon

As well as testing the very outer limits of the NHS, bringing the country to a standstill and perhaps unexpectedly leading to an explosion in the domestic production of banana bread, the pandemic has also brought changes to our vocabulary.

This always happens when something that is usually the province of a small group of dedicated people explodes into the national consciousness.

In an Andy Murray vintage year, everyone starts debating the merits of Hawkeye at Wimbledon, even if they don’t usually follow tennis or wouldn’t usually have a clue what that was.

When David Beckham broke his foot we all suddenly discovered what a metatarsal was, and in the current US political fiasco we now all know what the electoral college is.

In the case of Covid-19 we now have the R number, PPE, social distancing and bubbles, but the one addition to our daily conversations that I absolutely cannot bear is the so-called ‘new normal’.

It is an expression that feels to me like a resigned shrug, a depressed acceptance of an apparently inevitable outcome, a decision not to bother competing because you’ve seen the opposition’s team sheet.

There is nothing normal about a situation where social interaction happens over a computer screen, where a handshake or a hug is tantamount to a death threat, where small businesses recalculate their odds of survival on a weekly or even a daily basis.

Seeing any of this as normal is emotionally destructive and will slow the resurgence of life as we know it, and as we deserve it, when the virus comes under control and a vaccine gives us back a feeling of social safety.

With Christmas only now weeks away, we have an opportunity.

Not an opportunity to grab a few moments with people we love, whether lockdowns or tier systems allow it or not, but to think forwards into the future.

Christmas has become a time of mass gift giving, so this year let’s give the gift of a normal future.

Give tickets to social events, give plans for gatherings, give memberships to cultural organisations, give vouchers for small businesses, not gifts from global online retailers.

Let’s not give a resigned shrug and throw in the towel.

Rather, give a glimpse of a future that returns to the normal that we all know, and a normal that we should never take for granted again.

Pictured top: James Haddrell has urged people to buy tickets for the things we love doing as Christmas presents this year – as a glimpse of normal life appears on the horizon


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