ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Forget the Rule of Six – I’m taking a 5:2 approach


On Wednesday night, we were invited to a Rule of Six dinner. We’d all thought a no-household-mixing rule was imminent so we were in high spirits, thinking this could be the last get-together for some time. 

Crazy really. Nine months back, such excitement over six adults being able to have supper would have been unimaginable.

David and I were the only couple in the group. The other guests were four singles who live alone.

During the spring lockdown, they had become used to seeing only their fellow human beings on a socially-distanced walk. But this time around, if they are told they aren’t allowed to see anyone else, they say they’re not going to stick to it.

On Wednesday night, we were invited to a Rule of Six dinner. We’d all thought a no-household-mixing rule was imminent so we were in high spirits, thinking this could be the last get-together for some time 

The guests were all over 60 – our host a fabulous 83. They are cautious, responsible and absolutely not keen on catching Covid. 

But they were simply not going to be put into solitary confinement for six months. End of story.

And that is, of course, the Government’s problem. These friends – and I suspect the majority of the public – will be taking a kind of 5:2 approach to the new mini-lockdown, balancing deprivation with the odd indulgence.

   

More from Alexandra Shulman For The Mail On Sunday…

Pretty much all of us did exactly what we were told last time round but now it’s a whole different ballgame. We’re far less trusting of the information. Far more questioning.

It’s not simply that we’re the freedom-loving nation Boris is so keen to conjure but that, after so many flip-flops and so many wrong calls, we have no faith that our instructions are necessarily correct. Or in some cases necessary.

Given that everyone knew the autumn would bring a resurgence of cases, why now this barely contained panic mixed with eccentric and unexplained measures such as closing restaurants an hour early?

It seems crazy that our fellow dinner guests might not be allowed to mix with other people like themselves or in multi-generational family groups. 

Certainly, I couldn’t consider not visiting my mother, who lives alone (and who is in her 90s), for the next six months.

Not everyone agrees. David said this attitude was typical of me. I’m so full of myself that I always think I am the exception and allowed to break the rules. Eg, that I am Dominic Cummings.

But that’s not true. I’m just a realist who knows that life is a constant trade-off. Just like the 5:2 diet.

The day before publication of Sasha Swire¿s (pictured with David Cameron at the Conservative Ball in 2006) Diary Of An MP¿s Wife, I went to our local bookshop to see if they had an early copy. I wanted two actually

The day before publication of Sasha Swire’s (pictured with David Cameron at the Conservative Ball in 2006) Diary Of An MP’s Wife, I went to our local bookshop to see if they had an early copy. I wanted two actually

Nothing beats a bit of posh gossip

The day before publication of Sasha Swire’s Diary Of An MP’s Wife, I went to our local bookshop to see if they had an early copy. 

I wanted two actually. 

One for me and one to give as a gift.

The boy behind the counter told me that they’d sold all their copies and that it was already being reprinted.

‘Ah,’ I said, ‘goes to show…’ Though what it went to show I wasn’t really sure. 

But I am now, having rushed around several more bookshops to track down a copy.

It goes to show that despite commissioning editors in publishing, TV and film thinking the only things we want to read or see must deal with identity politics, diversity and misery, the appetite for posh gossip and an eyeball on the lives of the privileged is as great as ever.

Barbara unveils her pearls of wisdom…

Barbara Amiel, wife of the jailed tycoon Conrad Black, is another woman publishing a book crammed with scandalous recollections.

In one of the less fruity passages, she refers to what she calls ‘patio jewellery’ – clunky semi-precious stone pieces.

It reminded me of something embarrassing that happened to me when I was invited to stay on Nantucket, the island off Cape Cod in Massachusetts, and asked what clothes I should bring.

I thought my host, a wealthy American, said ‘T-shirt jewellery’. I hadn’t the foggiest idea what this might be, so in the end I decided to turn up wearing a naff T-shirt with a glittery motif.

What he actually said was T-shirts and jewellery – the very patio stuff Amiel refers to.

Barbara Amiel, wife of the jailed tycoon Conrad Black, is another woman publishing a book crammed with scandalous recollections

Barbara Amiel, wife of the jailed tycoon Conrad Black, is another woman publishing a book crammed with scandalous recollections

So who’s ready to rock in a smock?

Remember Normcore? That was the trend that brought us pared-down, minimal fashion – eg, a pair of white trainers and a navy sweater as a ‘look’ for office life.

Well now we have Cottagecore, clothes and interiors which offer the back-to-nature goodness we crave in our virus-filled lives as families flee the capital for an imagined healthier and cheaper country existence.

It’s not exactly glamorous; dungarees and fishermen sweaters, floral-tiered dresses, plaid shirts, and chambray smocks are staples of Cottagecore dressing. More down-on-the-farm than Annabel’s nightclub.

Well now we have Cottagecore, clothes and interiors which offer the back-to-nature goodness. Dungarees and fishermen sweaters, floral-tiered dresses, plaid shirts, and chambray smocks are staples of Cottagecore dressing

Well now we have Cottagecore, clothes and interiors which offer the back-to-nature goodness. Dungarees and fishermen sweaters, floral-tiered dresses, plaid shirts, and chambray smocks are staples of Cottagecore dressing

As for our homes, those places where this winter we’re going to be spending even more time than ever, Cottagecore is all about cosy.

Nothing too fancy. Nothing too hard-edged. Houseplants and quilted bedcovers, woven baskets, a bit of tongue-and-groove panelling and a few rag rugs are all you need.

Some may think it frivolous to be thinking of interiors and wardrobe revamps when the economy is in tatters, but I reckon anything that can distract us is a good thing.

And buying a nice old rocking chair is way simpler than selling up and moving out of town.

I’m staying away from killer cows

I’m often mocked for my fear of cows, but after reading the tragic tale of a herd trampling to death Yorkshireman David Clark, a popular deputy head teacher, I feel less foolish.

I can manage the odd solitary moo in a hay-filled stall but I’ll go some distance to avoid being near a herd.

Usually my companions think I’m ridiculous. A townie who’s scared of her own shadow.

Well, next time I insist on taking the long way round the field with a nice sturdy gate between them and me, I’ll know I’m right. Cows are dangerous.

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