How do you answer, these days, when some kind person asks you how you are?
In the early days of Lockdown, I found most people
were quite amazingly upbeat when I enquired after them. A few, to be fair, were already struggling but many more were fired up with the Blitz spirit, keen to assure me that they were “just fine and dandy” and sure that we would beat it. Whatever
“it” might throw at us.
More recently, people seem to struggle to express how they are feeling without sounding either too cheerful or too despondent.
“Fine!” no longer suffices, especially as there is no way of giving an expressive shrug of the shoulders over the phone.
The other day, one of my friends
(a member of the Singing for Pleasure choir which I jointly lead with my friend Sue) gave me the perfect answer, I felt, to my enquiry after his health and well-being. He was, he told me, “fair to middling.” What an excellent response, I thought,
and decided to adopt it for myself forthwith. At least, until something even better still comes along.
Outside the butcher’s, I join a short queue. I can’t
walk straight in, rules being rules, but there’s only one person in front of me - so it’s definitely fair to middling. The man in front of me, however, informs me that he has already been waiting quarter of an hour as the customer currently being
served appears (from what he can see through the window) to be buying up the shop. I peer through the window myself; the woman at the counter looks very much like the one who bought up the last tray of special offer lamb chops which I had my eye on some weeks
back. She, too, seemed to be buying up the shop, I tell my fellow queuing customer.
We have a friendly grumble though, in the interests of fairness, I do
comment that it’s good to see the local shops surviving in these challenging times. If that means waiting while our fellow customer buys up most of the stock, so be it. Just please, I add silently to myself, can she leave me half a dozen chipolata sausages.
There is another fella, wearing a face mask, walking up and down outside the shop. He looks as if he wants to join our queue but doesn’t - just wanders up and down as if sizing up the situation before deciding what he would like for dinner.
Finally the woman leaves the shop, weighed down by two heavy bags of Meaty Produce. How many people is she feeding, moans my new Best Friend, and is she obeying the Rule
of Six? At which point, the man who was wandering up and down steps forward and takes the bags from the woman who is clearly his wife and they walk off together. I expect he is telling her all about our unfavourable commentary on her shopping expedition. Which
is a Lesson Learned, don’t you know - careless talk may not cost lives anymore but it can cause acute embarrassment.
Another Singing for Pleasure member
has been celebrating her Diamond Wedding so I suggested in my weekly email to the choir that we should sing “Get me to the church on time” from Oliver in honour of the auspicious occasion. As per usual, the variation in broadband speeds means that
while we are undoubtedly singing all the right notes in all the right order we make an unholy (though hilarious) noise. Talk about getting to the church on time, it would be a miracle if we actually managed to finish one of our weekly songs on time and all
“Do you think we will ever get any better?” one of our number asks, only half plaintively, while another reassures her that “we weren’t
that bad.” What did I think of our performance, someone asks me. You are ahead of me, I’m sure.
“Fair to middling!” I said.