I was in the kitchen brewing myself a nice cup of Tetley’s – now here’s a bit of trivia for you, I was the voice of ‘Sydney’ of ‘The Tetley Tea  Folk’ family – just thought I’d throw that in.  Anyway, I was making myself a cuppa, with half an eye on the lunchtime news.

My spirits sank as I heard the biggest load of tosh emanating from the mouth of a member of our government, one Sir Desmond Swayne.  No, I’d never heard of him either.

He was having a hissy fit over the proposal that facemasks be mandatory when shopping.

Nothing would make me less likely to go shopping,” he fumed pompously “than the thought of having to mask up!

I have no idea how often Sir Desmond Dinosaur goes shopping, but at no point did he seem to appreciate that the wearing of facemasks is to protect other people.  To protect his constituents on the occasions when he does venture to his local supermarket. 

His eyes glinting with excitement, he lapped up his few minutes in the Commons limelight like a smug self-satisfied 6th former scoring points in a school debating society.

He prattled on, describing the mandatory wearing of facemasks as: ‘this monstrous imposition against myself, and a number of outraged and reluctant constituents!

It’s not forever, Sir Drongo!  It’s not like when it became mandatory to wear seat belts, and the ‘it’s against my civil liberties’ brigade was up in arms.  All that ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle, no-one will make me wear a seat belt’ claptrap. 

It’s a temporary measure. But like seat belts, Sir Drivel, wearing a facemask might save lives. It might just help to stop this virus from spreading. At least your parliamentary colleague, the oleaginous Michael Gove had the grace to say it was good manners for people to wear a mask when entering a shop. He just didn’t have the good manners to wear one himself.

I heard more facemask blethering from Sir Derbrain when I listened to BBC’s Broadcasting House on Sunday morning:

Sir Desmond: ‘…there’s a bit of me feels it’s just not very English…’

Really?  Covid 19’s not very English either, but unfortunately we’re having to learn to live with it!

Sir Desmond: (cont.) ‘I wouldn’t have minded being asked…’ 

Wouldn’t you?  That’s big of you.

Sir Desmond: (cont.)  ‘Look, I possess a mask.  I use it.  I go on the train to London every week.  I put my mask on obediently…’

That, Sir Dipstick, is because it’s the law.  Just as it will be the law to don your facemask from the 24th July when you go shopping. 

It is a bit tricky, I know, but in time, I’m 97% certain that you’ll get the hang of it.

Sir Desmond: (cont.) ‘…if someone had said ‘Look, it’s really polite and we really, really want you to wear masks in shops, I would have complied – and I will comply.  What one doesn’t like, is being told ‘you will do it’.  That’s what really gets your hackles up’.

Sadly, unless it is mandatory, not everybody will ‘comply’. 

Unlike doctors, nurses, NHS workers, bus drivers and all those people who have to wear masks all the hours they work, Desmond Dork and his ‘outraged and reluctant constituents’ – sorry – Sir Desmond Dork and his ‘outraged and reluctant constituents’ are being asked, and from 24th July will be told, to pop on a facemask only when they are shopping.  Is that so bad?  If nothing else, it’s a kindness to your fellow beings during this awful pandemic. 

And you never know, Sir Desmond, the mandatory wearing of facemasks might just protect you from getting Covid 19!

Happily, my spirits yo-yoed back up a few days later at the sight of Captain Tom being knighted by Her Majesty, the Queen.

What a dear man.  Not only did he raise £32 million for the NHS, but with his dignity, humility and West Riding humour, he also raised our spirits during the past months.

When Captain Sir Tom quipped: “If I kneel down, I’ll never get up again”, he rekindled for me a memory of two amazing ladies who were our neighbours for many years.

One of the reasons my wife, Moya, and I moved from our much-loved Victorian terraced house an unbelievable 40 years ago was, because as nice as our then neighbours were on each side, they were very noisy.

On one side (our bedroom side) was a group of musicians.  Lovely lads, you may have heard of them: Earth, Wind and Fire. 

They were good.  They were very good.  And the reason they were good is because they practised. A lot.  At all hours of the day.  And night!

On the other side, was a house share.  Students.  About 50 of them.  I’m exaggerating of course.  I think there were 48.  It just seemed like 50.

Actually, there were 6, maybe 8.  And they were very quiet – during the day.  Our student neighbours slept a lot.  In order to recharge their batteries for their nightly parties.

It was kind of tolerable when it was just Moya and myself and my two older children when they were with us.

But when in 1980, a bundle of joy was brought home from the Royal Free Hospital, Earth, Wind and Fire on one side and the thud of ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ on the other, became somewhat more noticeable.

When it became apparent that our bundle of boy was a lousy sleeper, that’s when it became intolerable and thoughts turned to looking for a new home.

Moving house can of course be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.  One doesn’t know what kind of neighbours one is going to inherit.

Someone up there was looking after us when we bought what was to become Laytonia.

Pearl and Tina were the neighbours from Heaven.  Two lovely ladies, who could not have been kinder. 

Over the years, countless footballs were thrown back over the fence, the odd one retrieved from their greenhouse having smashed through (another) pane of glass.  Never a complaint.

Pearl was an eminent psychoanalyst and Tina was quiet and unassuming with natural humility, not unlike Captain Sir Tom.  It was years before we learned that she was a well-respected painter and had been a pioneer in the early days of skiing in her native Canada.

‘It took us a day to climb the mountain in Lake Louise, but it was worth it for that one ski down,’ she once told me.

One day, in 2005, we saw Pearl skipping down the road with Tina, a little frail by this time, attempting to keep up.

‘We’re pioneers!  We’re pioneers!’ Pearl sang out.

They had met in 1947 and had been together ever since.  They had just come from arranging the date for their civil partnership.

‘I think we may be the first in the country!’ Pearl gleefully claimed, giving each of us a hug.

Moya and I attended the civil partnership ceremony, followed by a blessing at the local church where we watched dear, frail Tina slowly –very slowly – very, very slowly – kneel down in front of the vicar.

There was palpable tension in the church, as many in the congregation shared the same thought I was having.  I remember glancing at Moya and getting that ‘don’t you say a word’ look.

Of course she managed to get up again.  I have to say, however, if Tina kneeling down was slow, it was a sprint compared with the return journey!

I shall leave you with the refrain that I often sang to them – too often – many times too often.

“Don’t cry for me, Pearl and Tina…”

They were far too kind not to smile every time.