It’s official. I have FOGO. Fear of Going Out. Pubs and restaurants are reopening today for outdoor service and I don’t want to go. Not least because spring has stopped springing and it is forecast to be eight degrees out there when the sun passes the yardarm.
“Think of it like apres-ski,” said my colleague George when he suggested a drink to mark the Glorious Twelfth, as he’s calling it. Except that when you stop for a drink at an open-air bar on a ski-holiday, there’s fresh air, crisp snow and a beautiful view. My nearest al fresco venue here in London is basically a pub bin yard that looks straight onto the South Circular. It will be jammed, I’m sure, even if it rains, but I’m staying in.
My boss Bella has been talking about a return to the office proper. She mooted the idea at the Bank Holiday Monday drinks party for six that she held for the Bella Vista PR team in her vast garden. As we alternately shivered and baked around her outdoor heaters, she assured us that it would be voluntary but we knew that she was rather hoping we would agree with her assessment that having everyone back in the office would “reenergise” us all.
“You must be missing each other very much,” she said. Little did she know that we haven’t had a chance to miss each other with her twice-daily Zoom meetings and all the WhatsApping that goes on in between as we, her minions, bitch about the compulsory screen time. At least she seems to have gone off the idea of the daily “inspirational” Instagram posts. It was getting desperate. Right before Easter, I posted a picture of a glass of water (tap) with a Post-It note stuck to it with the caption “clarity”. I thought Bella might think I was taking the proverbial but she loved it. As did Saskia, proprietor of #Yne (pronounced “hashtag wine”), my number one client. She now wants to run a Post-It campaign for #Yne and her new potato-based candles.
Bella thinks it’s a wonderful idea. She said that someone has been sticking Post-Its on lampposts all along her daily run (Yes, yes. I’ll go for another run with Brenda next week. Maybe. If she catches me. I’ve been keeping my front curtains drawn).
“The brilliant thing about a Post-It note campaign is that it looks handmade,” said Bella. “Nobody stops to look at something that is obviously advertising, but I stopped to look at every single one of the Post-Its on my run. Wouldn’t you? You read a nice inspirational quote and then you can’t resist looking at the hashtag on your phone. Plus, a packet of Post-its costs about a pound and we could charge #Yne several hundred each time we do a Post-It bombing run.”
I had no better ideas. After the Zoom meeting in which the campaign was given the go-ahead, Bella sent me a series of photos of the Post-Its on her jogging route. They were written in big, bouncy letters and predictably twee.
“You are enough.”
“Be the change you want to see!!!!”
Because no one else will, my subconscious added automatically. Lockdown has turned me into a cynic. But I wondered how many people really do feel better for reading those notes addressed to no one in particular. It made me feel oddly lonely to imagine myself stopping to read a Post-It platitude on a lamppost. I would feel probably feel conned as well. Which of us, upon seeing a Post-It where it shouldn’t be, doesn’t want it to shed light on a mystery? Maybe it’s a coded message, inviting someone in particular to a secret rendezvous? Maybe it’s a clue in a treasure hunt?
Oh no, it’s one of those meaningless quotes…
As I tried to think of suitable homilies for the #Yne campaign, my inner curmudgeon took the reins. We had decided that the first #Yne Post-Its would be distributed around Clapham Common. Clapham Curmudgeon could be my guerrilla name. I’d post messages such as, “Eat an apple a day and you’ll die anyway” and “I’m not cynical. Everything really is rubbish”. But since I wanted to keep my job, I stuck to the brief and wrote out a hundred much nicer Instagram-friendly one-liners for Saskia, using her suggestions and the #Yne hashtag.
“You got this!”
“Hang in there.”
To what? To whom? Everyone? Have you met my ex-mother-in-law?
I have recently discovered exactly how much kindness costs. On Friday, I had a cruelty-free pest expert visit to give me a quote for ridding my house of the mouse family that has been nesting in my shoes. The figure was extortionate, compared with sticking down some poison, but I was not going to do that. I had Minky to think about, though I hadn’t seen her for a while.
“Allowing a hamster to live under your fridge and putting seed out for it each night can only have added to the problem,” the pest controller said.
Well, duh! Like I didn’t know. But what was I supposed to do? Starve her?
He left me with a cruelty-free trap, which he suggested I bait with Minky’s favourite food. With luck, she would find her way into the trap before he returned to fill every possible mouse-sized route into my home with expanding filler. He explained that on the day he arrived to do that, the noise he made would scare the rodents out of the house so that they wouldn’t be inadvertently trapped inside.
It’s been three nights since I put the cruelty-free trap out. Nothing has been conned into it except for a spider the size of a small child. OK, a spider the size of a sherbet lemon, with inch-long legs, but that’s quite large enough for an unexpected arachnid, isn’t it?
“No good deed goes unpunished,” I thought as I carefully and without cruelty evicted the spider through the back door. I might write that on one of my @ClaphamCurmudgeon Post-It notes too.