When Tala and Lilia were born, more than five years ago now, it was evident right from the start that, twins though they might be, they were not identical. Their proud mamma, Middle of the Darling Daughters, used to say
that they were “the same - but different”. I have always thought it a lovely way of summing up that, while they undoubtedly shared an unbreakable bond of twinship, each had a very different character as well as a distinctive appearance which meant
it was easy to tell one from t’other.
Over the last week, as I have ventured out of Lockdown into the strangeness of what passes for normal these days, I
have been pondering on what is the same and what is different.
Take the local shops, for instance. Each one appears to have its own “Stay Safe” protocol
for the canny shopper to learn and abide by. The butcher’s is operating a strict one in - one out policy; it was an enormous pleasure, after all these many weeks, to be invited in to survey the chops, the sausages, the chicken thighs, the steaks at my
leisure without worrying that someone else in the shop would lay claim to the last carton of home-made chicken Madras curry before I could get my eager hands on it. The butcher said it seemed like only yesterday that I was last at the counter - considering
it’s actually over a hundred days, does this make me instantly forgettable or truly memorable? Please don’t answer that, I need to maintain my self-esteem intact if I am to survive in this brave new world.
Over at the Co-op, there is a sign saying that shoppers must keep their distance and that they reserve the right to limit the number of us traversing the aisles in search of bargains. Other shops
are being more specific, indicating that only five customers are permitted within at any one time. I peer through the door trying to count the shady figures I can see moving about but it’s impossible. I wonder whether, should I be the sixth person
to step through the door, I might disappear in a puff of disapproving smoke. I decide not to experiment, at least not for a day or two. Small steps, didn’t somebody say?
The baker’s is still closed and the three charity shops are advertising shortened hours of opening. Notices in the windows say that they welcome books, games and toys but no clothes, please, and no large items of furniture. The fish and chip shop
is open for takeaways only, the small cafe has rearranged all the tables inside and placed others outside. No newspapers, though, which means that, when I do pluck up the courage to visit, I shall have to forego my customary pleasure of reading all the different
points of view on the same issue.
On Friday afternoon I met up with friends Sue and Eleanor in Sue’s back garden, the first get-together for We Three
( as we call ourselves) since before Lockdown began. It’s the nearest to normal I have felt so far in my sorties out of the house - despite the fact that we have to content ourselves with bumping elbows rather than giving each other the hugs with which
we really, really want to greet each other. The greetings are just as warm, you understand: the same - but different....
I have made an appointment to have my
unruly locks sheared - but I can’t be fitted in till the end of the month, so I won’t be testing out the protocols applying in the hair salon as yet. Nor am I a “pub person” so I am not planning to visit any of the local hostelries,
though I do wish them well.
Today, however, was a Red Letter Day - the day my Church was open for morning service. I’d booked in as required and turned up
on time, having obediently printed off the service sheet beforehand. I was so looking forward to it - but what would it feel like, I wondered?
It was strange,
the congregation being restricted to just thirty people. Strips of black and yellow tape barred the way into all but a few of the pews. There was to be no social contact, no chat, no staying on afterwards for a cuppa and a biscuit. No hymns either, so sad
in a church which prides itself on the excellence of its choir and its musical traditions.
And yet, and yet.... I was so very, very grateful to be back in
my pew, listening to the oh-so-well-known words, responding in the time-honoured way. Just being there.
Different - but the same...