The Communications Clinic
The Communications Clinic
May 18, 2020

The best thing about the new normal is that two-cheek kissing is finished. Hopefully for good, writes Terry Prone.

DAY 50

“Fitness through Fitted Sheet Fighting” is the title for my new Zoom class. It should attract millions. MMA has nothing on it. Your core is like steel after the effort. Once a week bed-making is so exhausting, if it involves a fitted sheet, it lets you off lifting free weights for that whole day.

The only problem, this week, is that while my core was grand, I lost a fingernail in the struggle and with it some blood. I noticed the bloodstains only as I was finishing the job, but I seemed to have been shedding for a while, because the spatters were lightly sprinkled on every sheet and pillow case. The bed looked as if it was the site of the half-hearted murder of a really small person by a killer using a darning needle.

I considered stripping the bed, soaking everything in cold water, washing the bedclothes again and, having dried them, putting them back on. That is what a virtuous and reasonably sanitary person would do, but, hey, have I ever made claims to being either? I have no shame and will sleep on tiny dry bloodstains for the next week. Until the next scheduled Fitted Sheet Fight.

DAY 51

I don’t want to boast, but I have a shubunkin. I get a bit scrambled about it, so sometimes I refer to it as a Sputnik and sometimes as a shih tzu, neither of which is appropriate because it’s a fish. It is a somewhat gaudy fish, the result of creative breeding in Japan a century or so ago.

Owning a fish means I also own a pond. All mod cons, right? Except the pond has a slow leak, algae on the top, and so much netting over it it looks like a miniature version of the prison Gerry Adams kept trying to escape from, back in the day. The netting is to protect Sputnik from Dino, the more piscatorially predatory of my two cats and the grey heron me and Mary Linders next door hate. (In fairness, Mary Linders hates all birds, not just protected species.) Anyway, today I have decided to check if the fish has disappeared down the leak or been smothered by the algae.

This requires me to toss bricks — well, OK, pebbles — into the pond to scare him/her out from under the vegetation. The end result of which is seeing the shubunkin up close, as well as some of its smaller pals, and I am feeling good and smug when a female voice beside me says could it ask a favour. I do a heart attack leap before I realise that the woman is half a kilometre away on the cliff walk and it’s the cliffs give the aural illusion of closeness. She wants a lily pad.

Ten minutes later, a sanitised bucket containing a lily pad has been put over the wall and she’s gone off on the rest of her walk. No names, no pack drill, no physical contact, no rules broken.

DAY 52

If social distancing had arrived earlier, it would have made life for many of us much easier.

Once upon a time, I had a political client (who shall be nameless) who thought he was the coolest thing out because he did double-cheek kissing. And lingering forearm holding. It wasn’t full-on #MeToo stuff, just rural eejitry fostered by visits to the European Parliament. I worked with him for only three weeks and then threw in the towel. (You needed a towel because he was so sloppy with the two-sided kisses.) I delegated the task in the graceful way a managing director should.

“I want a volunteer for X,” I announced, “because otherwise I’ll be done for murder.” One of the guys stepped up and it was grand.

The best thing about the new normal is that two-cheek kissing is finished. Hopefully for good. For all genders. On the other hand, if handshakes go for good, that’s a small income stream lost to me forever. You wouldn’t believe how often I have to do remedial handshake-training to prevent captains of industry and wannabe politicians from presenting their right hand as if it was a long-dead fish for you to do with as you choose.

DAY 53

You have to hand it to Muslims, particularly French Muslims. Couple of years ago, laws were brought in to prevent them wearing their traditional face coverings, on the grounds that said face coverings were alien and threatening to the rest of the populace. Now France has done a 360 degree turnaround, wanting masks everywhere, Muslim women particularly have shown great restraint in not pointing to the contradictions

DAY 54

Re-opening of McDonalds gets as much coverage as the struggles to form a government. I find myself reaching for a moral stance on this and can’t find one. Imagine. A full day without a moral stance. I may not survive as a columnist.

DAY 55

Donald Trump has an expert to whom he doesn’t listen. Correction. Donald Trump has a rake of experts to whom he doesn’t listen, although his constant culling keeps the numbers in check. One of the few who hasn’t been fired is Dr Anthony Fauci, who appears online since he had to self-isolate. Which gives us a view of him in front of surprisingly makeshift bookshelves.

But what’s most fascinating is, whenever Brian Dobson or Anthony Fauci or anybody else appears with bookshelves behind them, how viewers tilt sideways to check out the titles. Or maybe it’s just readers who do this.

Directing a party political broadcast in the late Albert Reynold’s home when he was taoiseach, I chose to put him in front of bookshelves because the variety of colours and spine-thicknesses make them visually pleasing and the books soften the sound.

At the last minute before filming, it struck me that I should check the shot and asked the cameraman if I could take a quick look through the viewfinder. He obligingly made room and I gazed at Albert through the lens. Just above his right shoulder sat The Joy of Sex. When I climbed over wires to take it down, he was slightly offended, pointing out that it was an international best seller by a respected doctor. Of course, of course, I nodded, sitting on it. Nothing wrong with it. But as a distraction in a party political, The Joy of Sex sitting on the taoiseach’s right shoulder would have few equals.

DAY 56

Five weeks ago, next on my list for watching (after Thelma and Louise) was Tiger King.

Then I got too busy. Which allowed perusal of the reactions of viewers to it. The bottom line seemed to be that the big cats were fine but the central figure was an orange-skinned semi-crook with dyed hair and no grip on reality.

I struck the programme off the list. I can watch one of them any night on the news.