"I’ve forgotten how to shake hands. As for hugging, it’s a long-lost art"

There is a six-foot toddler on the carpet having a tantrum. ‘I might as well leave school now,’ it moans, throwing a pencil case across the room, ‘I can’t cope!

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 12:00 am
Beer gardens in Sheffield.

I’ve got no future!’ As I move all breakable objects out of reach of its thrashing limbs, I sigh to myself. The buck has to stop with me. It’s mock exam time and the word ‘mock’ says it all. I should never have outsourced science revision! It’s a domestic re run of Track and Trace, overseen by the well-meaning but basically clueless Nearly-Beloved.

‘You were meant to help him bullet point the information, then test him,’ I hiss to my other half as he trips over the melt-down monster blocking the doorway.

‘Well, he didn’t have any notes as far as I could tell and he said he was fine,’ so I just let him get on with it,’ says Mr Incompetent. ‘That’s what study guides are for,’ I explain.

Gyms set to open soon.

‘Oh, yeah. Well, I wasn’t sure where to get them, so …’ ‘You didn’t,’ I say, realising now how the PPE scenario got out of hand. At times like this though, apportioning blame isn’t helpful. What’s needed is a quick solution. ‘Pancakes,’ I say decisively.

Several plates later Grunting Teen has been sugared into a better mood. It’s hard to tell how much of this is his own doing.

I mean if he’d followed my catchy slogan of ‘Stay off the PlayStation. Control your revision. Save your Sixth Form place’, he wouldn’t be in this mess now. But maybe he needed better guidance, less self interpretation.

After all it’s difficult enough being a teenager anyway. Throw a pandemic with its exam uncertainty into the hormonal mix and it’s a recipe for disaster. What’s more, he now has to shove a cotton bud down his tonsils and up his nasal passages twice a week, so no wonder his brain is scrambled.

Once he’s calmed down, I reassure him that everything will turn out ok. There are no government inspired algorithms to shatter his dreams this year.

His results will be teacher assessed, so a bumper box of Thornton’s for the staffroom might just do the trick. And besides, the clocks have moved forward, as will he. The Covid school years of Y10 and 11 are ticking to a close and a new start in Y12 beckons.

Spring is here and hope with it. Vaccinations are being rolled out, gardens are entertaining visitors once more.

Hospitality and haircuts are on the horizon. We’re counting down to opening our businesses and our doors. It’s just three steps now to heaven.

Let’s not contemplate this ‘third wave’ or a ban on holidays in the sun. After all who wants to go abroad if ‘British’ has now become synonymous with ‘virus variant’? I’ll save my £5000 fine, thank you very much, and spend it on fun in our promised summer of freedom and festivals.

But hang on a minute. I’ve had a year of isolation. No one has stepped foot in my house since Christmas. I’ve got used to living life from behind the safety of a mask.

I’ve forgotten how to shake hands. As for hugging, it’s a long-lost art. And people! The rule of six is more than enough for me.

I can’t leave lockdown! How am I going to cope? I’m scared of the future! As my heart pounds at the thought of crowds and face-to-face contact with strangers, I remind myself that these next few months are like our mock GCSEs in ‘Back to Normality’. We’ll have trial tests at meeting up outdoors.

A dry run to the gym. A practical exam in the beer garden. And when we’ve done all our preparation, we’ll finally be ready for the end of term party. But in the meantime, what I need is a pancake!