Column: Here's to Life

Here's to Life 

© Gina Müller

Here's to Life

Here's to Life 

© Gina Müller

Last month, I attended a party. It is one of these statements that 'before' would have been entirely uncontroversial, like a trite update in some digital social network. Now, however, everything around it sounds like a bold declaration. Receiving the invitation felt liberating, someone else taking the responsibility for a naughty act. 

Accepting it felt transgressive, like being a teenager agreeing to a meet-up before checking with his parents. I didn't think much about it as the date drew nearer, but on the day itself I started having second thoughts. What I being too greedy, trying to will normality in? What I being a hypocrite? I am known to be a stickler not just for rules, but for good practice. 

Since England did away with all the rules in July, in the cavalier style that characterised the country throughout this ordeal, I was one of those that kept adhering to them diligently, tut-tutting under my breath at the adolescent insouciance of those around me. Now, as I sat on a packed train, my mask snugly, once smugly, fitted, I didn't even have the energy to get worked up about my bare-faced fellow passengers anymore. It would be like worrying about the symmetry of a Windsor knot on the way to a rave.

Arriving was the moment I worried would be the most awkward of all. Over the past 18 months, I got used to following new protocols, but nobody had prescribed a new social etiquette. Do I greet people with the once customary hug or peck on the cheek? Should it be a handshake or the peculiar elbow bump or perhaps we should all be Japanese businessmen now? Would I offend by being too carefree, or would I insult by being too distant? I have been through a few social minefields in my time, but never one that, from afar, looked so dense.

herestolife

Our columnist rediscovers the joy of social gatherings.

© Shutterstock

Then I arrived and my fears melted away

It started with my host, warm and gracious, his glowing good spirits putting everyone at ease. It continued with music: after twelve months where the only live music I heard was the cacophonous, almost culturally negligent strumming of my own guitar, listening to professionals felt like partaking of a higher artistic rite. 

And there was, of course, wine. We who write about fermented grape juice are so used to hearing it described as a social lubricant, that we tend to think of it as the most exhausted of clichés. But, like many clichés, it has a basis in solid fact. There is something about the transition from zero to one glass, that slight lowering of defences, that minute downgrading of rationality, which can have a most benevolent effect in a social setting. I like to think of it as a throwback to being younger, more innocent, when meeting other people was a source of genuine excitement.

The most important thing of all though, was meeting with other people. Seeing old friends and making new, sharing in celebration and joy. There is a reason computer scientists chose the word "virtual" to describe the reality of the computer screen. Near, yes, approximate, sure, but the real thing? Very much not. There is nothing that compares with the energy of being around people, talking, laughing, being in the same moment together. I arrived wondering if I would remember how to do this. I left hankering to do it again.

I write this with some trepidation. I am not advocating for anyone to go out and start having a party every day; I am not even sure I was right to have one. The situation is ever-changing and everyone's preferences and appetite for risk are different. But what I am saying is that, as we enter the less bright part of the year, we shouldn't be thinking of the tunnel, but the light at the end. We should be looking to enjoy life and the good things in it every day, the best way we can. And remember what is there waiting for us, out there in that light. 

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