It was like the old days but different, the four of us sitting and chatting around the features desk, touching on life and politics and, you know, stuff.
Only this was a Zoom gathering of the depleted few, two redundant (nearly five years for the inhabitant of this ledge), one furloughed and one still on the newspaper fulltime, but working from home at present.
The old habits were there, some of us talking more than others, some of us content to marble roll the odd remark. It was a happy little assembly, not like the old days, but good to connect.
We are said to be growing weary of Zoom, but at least it offers something. My own lockdown conversations include chatting to my mother as she goes chinless and half-disappears from view; giving tutorials to students; discussing a project with an occasional colleague; chatting to a group of friends; and having guitar lessons remotely.
Our features quartet clocked up years together on that newspaper and it’s heartening to keep in touch, even if it’s not like a real chat around a real desk or talking in a real pub.
As a group we are in our fifties or early sixties, although this ledge scribbler will only be able to lay claim to that ‘early’ for another year or so. According to an IPSOS Mori survey reported by the BBC today, nearly 80% of people aged 55-75 believe the virus is a threat to them.
One of our number, the second oldest, worried in our chat about the restrictions being lifted too soon. This morning’s newspapers won’t make him happy as most rattle with noisy optimism.
Here are some headlines: “First steps to freedom from Monday”, “Hurrah! Lockdown freedom beckons”, “Magic Monday” and “Happy Monday”. Only two papers abandon the government-issue buoyancy aids – “‘Landmark’ test target that keeps being missed” in the Guardian and, most sombre of all the Metro’s “30,076 killed by virus as tests fall to only 69k a day”.
There is a middle-ground somewhere between wanting all this to be over and worrying that the lockdown is being abandoned too quickly to accommodate Boris Johnson’s blustering optimism.
As a taster for today’s headlines, which anticipate announcements about the lockdown, yesterday’s news was dominated for a while by the story of the lockdown professor who resigned after ignoring the government’s own safety rules. Prof Neil Ferguson admitted to an “error judgment” in allowing a woman he was said to be in a relationship with to visit him at home.
On one level, this was an old-fashioned newspaper scoop exposing unfortunate hypocrisy in someone who should know better. No arguing with that as such, but there were depths here, too. The story appeared first in the Daily Telegraph, which is extremely anti-lockdown, so going after the professor whose advice led to the lockdown was a good ideological fit.
Yet, logically, just because he betrayed his own rules doesn’t mean that the lockdown itself is necessarily wrong; even if it would be good to see it all end.
The woman involved with Prof Ferguson, originally tarred as his “mistress” (how old-fashioned and moralistic), is reportedly married to someone else. She was splashed all over the front pages and exposed to all sorts of lecherous tittle-tattle on social media. A heavy punishment for a lapse in personal judgment, but that’s how it goes.
Unless you are a middle-aged prime minister who divorces his wife who’s had cancer so you can shack with a much younger woman and have a baby. No moral outrage there, just plenty of oohing and aahing.
Anyway, it was good to catch up with the old features crew; whose turn is it to make the tea?