Return to normal, or to a very different “new normal”? Well, maybe a bit of both: but, so far, I like it.

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“New normal” for the senior Traffords involves the joys of grandparenthood, complete with constant operation of the washing-machine.

Lockdown is easing, pubs and restaurants are open (up to a point) and, better still, the weather is improving, with even a hint of summer on the way.  It’s almost as if the lives we used to lead are being restored to us. All of which begs the question, is this the long-awaited return to normal, or to a very different “new normal”? Well, maybe a bit of both.

As the picture above suggests, our new normal includes the indescribable joy of having our first grandchild, a little girl . On one of those long, cold, dark evenings in February, with a sprinkling of snow on the ground, our daughter gave birth, somewhat abruptly: despite all the planning, it proved to be an unplanned home birth, followed by an ambulance trip to hospital in Leicester.

Within the week, mother and baby were well and back home and, notwithstanding the presence of a highly competent father on the premises, we grandparents were summoned to provide help.  Preparation for what this country has come to call “support-bubbling” involved isolating ourselves in our native Oxford, learning to get home deliveries from supermarkets (I know, I know: we were months or years behind the rest of the population).

We scoured the city for a newsagent that would deliver a daily newspaper: we’re old-school when it comes to reading the rag and doing the crossword (“What?” friends cry. “You still get hard copy?”), and the nearest shops complained that our area was suffering a dearth of teenagers willing to do the job.

Thus we were equipped to drive to the County of Rutland (that posh little one beside Leicestershire: the one that got abolished by the Boundaries Commission some decades ago, but managed to get reinstated), and celebrated the baby’s first week of life.

Happy times, and episodes that continue. As I write this, I’m hiding from a pleasurable avalanche of baby-beds, baby-chairs, baby-feeding mechanisms and the like. Now it’s permitted, this week sees us hosting mother and baby, and a success of her old university mates who have given birth during the past couple of years: so these are immensely happy reunions and introductions.

My humble role as the only male in the house (after all, those babies’ fathers are working) is to wash up, pour drinks, hold the occasional baby when the women are doing important jobs like preparing bottles – and to pour drinks when the mothers have got their offspring to bed and can finally relax. Oh, and to accompany the team to the pub during the afternoon walk: marvellous!

So warm today, we enjoyed a beer in the pub garden. We could have gone indoors, of course, though two baby-buggies might have been challenging.

Taxing? Not a bit of it! I wouldn’t miss this blessed time for the world, and thank heaven (and the vaccine) that we can enjoy it together.

Normality opens up

Like other couples, we two had spent quiet, distanced birthdays during the past year. What fun, then, to be able to assemble the family to celebrate my 65th birthday last weekend. Not that a birthday is such an enormous thing to mark: but the point is that we could. So we did.

From the freezer we recovered a rib of beef bought for a special occasion that was cancelled by lockdown, and washed it down with wine bought or given for the Christmas that was called off in 2020. I guess both tasted all the sweeter.

“New normality”? This appeared far from normal.

This picturesque Rutland village experienced a curious invasion last weekend. No, not our family, but a troop of military re-enactors forming a company of redcoats from the period of the Napoleonic wars. As the rain hit in sheets, they demonstrated manoeuvres and the method of loading and firing a musket.

But the highlight was the elderly trooper second from right. His Corporal Jones-like inability to respond to commands in the same moment as his comrades caused hilarity – and added a sense of authenticity.

If all of the above is the new normal, I’m all for it. More, please!

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