Handshakes and the washing of those hands…

A handshake, a handshake. As I walk across the university car park, a colleague coming the other way extends his hand for a firm welcome.

This doesn’t bother me as I like a handshake. I don’t rush off afterwards to wash my hands while ‘singing’ Happy Birthday twice, as is being recommended.

That, by the way, is the suggested routine for staying away from the coronavirus, not government advice on what to do after meeting friendly colleagues in the car park.

A handshake, a handshake. Yes, I like a handshake, but they may fall out of fashion for a while. What, you might wonder, will Paul Hollywood do if he’s no longer allowed to bestow the Hollywood handshake on the more promising oven drivers of Bake Off?

Other greetings are available, including a recommended one of bumping elbows that I haven’t got my head around yet; or my elbow. The traditional cheek-kissing greeting in France is being discouraged for now, with France 24 reporting that the ‘bise’ may now be considered a health hazard.

In the US the traditional banging of heads whenever two Trump supporters meet is thought not to have been threatened.

On the BBC Today programme this morning there was a charming little interview with the Hungarian conductor Ivan Fischer, who has rewritten the infamous birthday dirge to release its musicality. Fischer believes the traditional version puts the emphasis on ‘to’ rather than on ‘you’, and his reboot certainly sounded better on the radio.

This isn’t a new story, as film clips of Fischer playing his version have been available online for four or five years, but it was dusted off because of the coronavirus crisis, panic or whatever it might be. And that advice to sing the birthday tune twice.

As for hands, I’ve never heard so much about washing them, and this can only be for the general good. On the BBC PM programme recently, presenter Evan Davis asked a doctor how we should wash our hands. The recording took place in the gents at the BBC, not the sort of thing you expect at five o’clock, but the advice was sound.

I’m always shocked, as I stand there tunelessly humming Happy Birthday to the mirror, how some men just dash straight off without watering their hands. It’s the same through the women’s door, according to my spy.

I don’t wish to dwell again on Boris Johnson and his second-rate Churchill karaoke act. But the washing of hands is seen as a fitting image for a man who has washed his hands of wives, inconvenient colleagues and others foolish enough to stand too close.

At least the coronavirus has forced the prime minister back into public from wherever he’s been hiding for ten days. When it comes to being prime minister, he seems keener on the hunt than the prize. The hunt, you see, can be framed however you wish (Rule Brexit-annia with Boris the Great) whereas the governing part is deflected by uncontrolled issues, such as coronavirus.

The dad-to-be (again) said today he will be taking two weeks’ paternity leave in the summer. Glad he told us or else we might not have noticed the difference.

As for coronavirus, I can’t decide how worried I should be; and that’s a worry of its own.

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