ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Isolate if you want – but don’t ask me to play nurse!
Well that was some Christmas. Certainly like no other I’ve ever had. Normally this past week is where I look forward to taking as few decisions as possible and sinking into deliciously over-indulgent days of friends, family and food.
Not scooting up and down the stairs, delivering room service to a healthy partner self-isolating in the spare bedroom, every conversation riven with intricate examinations of the rights and wrongs of Covid-19 behaviour and restrictions. What fun, eh?
It all started two days before Christmas when an old friend came to the house to meet David for a bracing walk. I speedily crammed a piece of panettone into his hand and off they toddled.
The next morning, Christmas Eve, came the dreaded call that the friend was feeling ill, had taken a lateral flow test and it was positive. Naturally we were anxious about our friend, but we also had to decide how this news should affect our Christmas plans.
Well that was some Christmas. Certainly like no other I’ve ever had. Normally this past week is where I look forward to taking as few decisions as possible and sinking into deliciously over-indulgent days of friends, family and food. Not scooting up and down the stairs, delivering room service to a healthy partner self-isolating in the spare bedroom. (Stock image)
I firmly took the view that although those of us in the house – myself, David and my twentysomething son – couldn’t meet others, we should be able to mix freely between ourselves.
But my son, who is an expert on all things Covid, pronounced that for 48 hours after the walk, David would not be contagious even if he had been infected and was therefore all right to socialise with us until 4pm on Christmas Day. But he agreed with David that he must then isolate.
Our original Christmas lunch plans had already been scuppered as tier 4 restrictions meant that my sister and I joining family forces (me cooking turkey, she doing everything else) could no longer happen. Now I was racing against the clock to roast an over-large bird in a countdown to David’s self-isolation.
More from Alexandra Shulman for the Daily Mail…
And so it was that after a lovely Christmas morning, my beloved headed off to his sealed lair.
For the first few days all was relatively harmonious. I had the company of my son, who could no longer risk visiting his father, and we continued to eat the turkey in various forms.
I went for solitary walks no longer feeling so sanguine about the company of another after David’s recent encounter, and watched endless television.
But as the days passed my Flo Nightingale side, never hugely in evidence, diminished further – not least because I strongly suspected that David was not infected or contagious. It was only a walk outside in the fresh air, after all.
And all this scrupulous behaviour was as pointless as it was increasingly soul-destroying.
So each meal tray was more grumpily plonked outside his door. I began to skip the lunch delivery. I wished I was a better, nicer, kinder person instead of someone who was exasperated that he was isolating for so long.
We spoke on the phone, and sometimes through the closed door, but had nothing much to say other than relating news of other people we knew testing positive.
Seven days after the fateful walk, David was tested at an NHS drive-through as he had convinced himself he was starting to have symptoms. When the result came back negative, I hoped for celebrations and reconnection – but he still wanted to follow the full Government advice of ten days lock-up. Just in case. And so it went on…
One of the worst things about these wretched past months is not the isolation, the anxiety, the loss of access to some of the most enjoyable aspects of life but the constant calculations we all need to make about what is OK behaviour.
My definition of acceptable is not necessarily someone else’s. Even many of the facts we think we know about Covid turn out not to be facts at all if you examine them closely. Who knows who – and what – is right?
But ten days stuck in a bedroom when you are perfectly healthy is certainly the act of a saint – or a masochist – and not one I suspect I would sign up for myself.
No one gets justice in a trial by Twitter
Shortly after I left Vogue in 2017, three of the magazine’s leading photographers were accused of sexual misbehaviour.
I don’t think any of these creative linchpins of Vogues across the world for decades have been commissioned by the magazine since. Nor by any of the brands they had often collaborated with for years.
Had I still been at the magazine when these tales emerged, I would have been upset by the possibility that anyone I admired and employed would have misused their position in such a way.
In the dock: American designer Alexander Wang (pictured) is facing claims of sexual assault
But I would have also railed against being told to discontinue my relationship with the photographers without a proper investigation of the claims. Innocent until proven guilty and all that.
Last week, American designer Alexander Wang was similarly accused via social media of sexually predatory behaviour. As with the photographers, I have no idea what is true.
But I do know that time and again accusations alone are enough to ruin careers. When the going gets tough, the tough get going as far away from the accused as quickly as possible.
There is no room for explanation or justifications, let alone examination of evidence. Brand associations are terminated.
Contracts cancelled without discussion. Instagram accounts, previously littered with kisses and hearts from famous names, are suddenly empty and ignored.
Obviously sexual abuse and exploitation is unacceptable in any form. Too many people have been able to leverage their power in this manner.
But surely there is a better way to deal with these cases, one that offers the possibility of conviction or exoneration in front of a fair hearing. And public vindication of the victim if appropriate.
Several years on, there is still no resolution in the cases of those Vogue photographers. And now it will more than likely be Wang’s turn to swing inconclusively in the no-man’s-land of rumour and innuendo that is the courtroom of social media.
I am dreaming of a white… January
Forget FOMO. I’m suffering horribly from snow envy as I look at another twinkling field or frosted piece of topiary.
I’m not asking for slopes, just a crisp white layer in the back garden would do it. Please.
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