Editor’s letter - This is the year of confusion

On Joanne Goodwin's doorstep... pondering whether now is the time to welcome friends to call... Phot

On Joanne Goodwin's doorstep... pondering whether now is the time to welcome friends to call... Photo: Clara Lou Photography - Credit: Archant

Joanne Goodwin on why all of us are living through a state of confusion.

A couple of years ago, when all we had to worry about was Brexit, world peace, and climate change, the comparison website confused.com decided to transition from levity to dystopia in its TV campaigns. It shifted both its tone and its frontman, replacing over-exuberant labrador James Corden with menacing pitbull and Sons of Anarchy actor Timothy V. Murphy.

The ads screened since this prescient redirection have seen Murphy travelling through frenzied, Blade Runner landscapes, declaring in monotone: “So much confusion… experts with no expertise, fake news, screens full of influencers…” Then in 2019: “This is the year of confusion” (both prescient and a little previous…). Most recently there is Murphy on an open road, asking the question on all our minds: “Isn’t it time we started to see things more clearly?”

The epithet confused.com has also now passed into the English language as one of those grating pieces of corporate jargon so beloved by the colleague who still writes LOL on his emails, and is guaranteed to mutter “confused.com” every time the figures look a bit complicated. Admittedly, it’s a piece of management-speak that comes too easily to the lips nowadays. Most often, in my case, around teatime, when someone in government (occasionally even the PM), steps up to the podium at the daily coronavirus briefing.

I was caught between this particular rock and a hard place recently when a photographer friend came calling on her round of charity lockdown doorstep photoshoots.

“Come in,” I said. “Do you want a cuppa?”

“I can’t,” she replied.

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“Why,” I said. “Are you too busy?”

“No,” she said. “I’m not allowed.”

“Of course; I’m just confused.com,” I said with a silly giggle before I could stop myself, and because it was the first thing that popped out when I tried to recall which particular social distancing rules we were supposed to be following that particular day.

All of which brings me to where we are now. Where are we now? And the complications of producing this very issue of Cheshire Life. When, in the first flush of isolation we began planning for July, the editorial list included lockdown looks: how to cope without a manicurist, gym, beautician, hairdresser (why ever did I try to cut my own fringe), etc… We scrapped that idea because it had been done elsewhere and anyway, most women had already worked it all out for themselves or accepted that an extra stone in weight and Billie Eilish roots were a small price to pay for not having to wear a bra for four months. But we forged ahead with other isolation-related ideas including the effect on those diverse topics, summer weddings and the Sale Sharks rugby squad, both of which now appear to be emerging from the five o’clock shadows that are no longer confined to the male population. And so, as each day has passed, we have revised and rewritten, checked the news bulletins, and sought both to gain, and to offer clarity.

Of course, in the wider world confusion reigns on a much bigger scale: should our children be returning to classes (my grandson, due to start Sandbach High in September, is, much to his delight, being advised not by both his parents and current school). Can we invite friends to our homes – yes, but in small numbers and then only on the doorstep or in the garden – I am considering converting the shed into a privy so I can provide my guests with ‘facilities’.

And then, while we are agonising about asking a friend in for a chat, or sending a child to school, or visiting a loved one we have ached to see for months, the country parks and beaches and public transport are suddenly awash with people and litter, government ministers and advisors are smirking and blustering as they break their own rules, and the media is swarming in unmasked feeding frenzies – expanding the hypocrisy in its very bid to explain it.

Reassuringly, I am in good company when it comes to seeking a clear road ahead. Cheshire Chief Constable Darren Martland, for example, speaks in this magazine about the challenges his force has faced because of the oft-changing guidelines, while after a public outcry, Chester Zoo is unexpectedly granted the same rights as Marks & Spencer and the London underground, despite being told six days earlier it had to stay shut indefinitely. Then there is the question of reviving the economy and the thrill of bubbling, versus the science that questions whether we are moving too quickly too soon.

Perhaps this time next month there will be clarity. My fear though is that I, like many others, will still be confused.com.

Joanne Goodwin

Editor, Cheshire Life

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