ALEXANDRA SHULMAN: Lockdown is extra tough with a baby – just ask Boris Johnson 

I’m not sure what was happening nine months back but all around me people seem to be popping out babies. Even the Prime Minister and his fiancee. 

Well not exactly popping out – many of them are long and complicated births made even more nerve-racking by coronavirus prohibitions – but it certainly feels like a baby moment in my neck of the woods.

It must be the strangest and most difficult of times to be welcoming a new member of the family. No grandparents rushing around vying for the first cuddle of the newborn lifted out of the hospital bassinet, no flowers arriving at the bedside, and most terrifyingly not even, in most cases (though not Boris and Carrie’s) your partner at the bedside as you give birth.

Alexandra Shulman says having a baby in lockdown is a difficult challenge 

It’s a throwback to the old-fashioned days when other halves greeted their child once the new arrival was all cleaned up and swaddled.

Being without a birth partner’s emotional and practical support during labour would be bad enough. But of course that’s just the beginning. While some mums are eager to escape hospital as soon as they possibly can (and probably now more than ever) others are deeply apprehensive about what going home with this vulnerable, tiny being will be like.

Usually, if you’re fortunate, there would be a shift-work team of mothers, friends and siblings who can at least keep the unimaginable avalanche of washing at bay and produce something for you to eat, while you as a new mother battle with the business of turning into a 24/7 food provider for the baby, someone who has no notion of meal times nor hours of sleep.

However, in these wretched times, for most couples there is no one on hand to help out. No one save your other half who – particularly for first-timers – is likely to be equally clueless about how on earth to take care of this demanding, fragile and utterly fantastic thing.

Boris Johnson and fiance Carrie Symonds welcomed a newborn boy this week

Boris Johnson and fiance Carrie Symonds welcomed a newborn boy this week

 Across the country, grandparents are standing helpless outside front doors and windows waving to their children and the new offspring, unable to tell whether their grandchild’s nose comes from his or her family. 

And often they are also seeing the stress their own son or daughter is under, as they navigate the often scary process of looking after a newborn, in an age when even wheeling the pram to the park is considered to carry a real element of danger.

It’s not known whether Boris and Carrie will have any help inside 11 Downing Street, although it seems unlikely that they won’t. 

The Prime Minister has to juggle newborn baby commitments with a global pandemic

The Prime Minister has to juggle newborn baby commitments with a global pandemic 

Even though Boris has gone on record as saying he’ll change nappies (Question: Why is it that men changing nappies is held up as some kind of selflessly superhuman sacrifice?), it’s inconceivable that our Prime Minister will be up all night dealing with the demands of a newborn as well as a global pandemic.

At least I hope he isn’t. I don’t like to think of him pacing the corridors dealing with a bad case of reflux when he needs to be sorting out our testing. But even if they have a maternity nurse, this period will be for them – as with other couples, and as with everything else about our world – unrecognisably different to the norm.

The ‘smug marrieds’ will be suffering soon

Remember Bridget Jones’s smug marrieds? They’ve rarely been more annoying than now. Although we might all be driven mad by those we are sharing lockdown with, it’s probably (although not always) preferable to being in solitary confinement.

Everything about dealing with this virus conspires against single people. Families are allowed to wander around together but not groups of friends, food deliveries prioritise large family-sized orders – it’s not so easy to get two packets of frozen peas, some sausages and a small-size Persil dropped in. 

And even takeaways seem to leave the single pizza to the last delivery.

Waking up every day with the knowledge that you will see and touch no one is a gloomy prospect, and not only for the elderly. Meanwhile family groups are displaying an unusual togetherness, often more so than they’ve done in years.

My only words of consolation to the singles is that the latter won’t last. Give it another month and that family unit will be reverting to business-as-usual, fractious normality.

I admire Victoria for admitting she’s wrong

Well done to Victoria Beckham (left) for saying she was wrong to furlough her employees

Well done to Victoria Beckham (left) for saying she was wrong to furlough her employees

It’s never easy to admit you were wrong, so well done Victoria Beckham for pulling out of the furlough scheme for her employees. 

Sneerers will say the U-turn was simply to preserve Brand Beckham, but how many others who could well afford to dig into their own pockets for a few months are actually prepared to do so?

A cloud’s the perfect image of loneliness

A couple of weeks back I asked what might be a symbol, like the children’s rainbows on our window panes, to draw attention to solitary dwellers. 

Thank you reader Shirley Martin, for coming up with an idea that is so perfect and also obvious that I feel utterly stupid not having thought of it myself. 

Of course… a cloud, in reference to Wordsworth’s famous simile for loneliness.

This year, we’re ALL going to the Met Gala

Tomorrow would have been the night of the annual Met Gala, always held on the first Monday of May. Not this year.

But fashion abhors a vacuum and so the High Fashion Twitter Met Gala has sprung up where costumes will be scrutinised by tweet. 

It won’t be quite the same as Rihanna dressing as scrambled egg on the red carpet but it will have egalitarianism on its side. Everyone is welcome.

What other social events might follow suit? Ladies Day at Ascot, where hats can be displayed on Instagram? Glyndebourne – Zoom picnics in black tie in the back garden and, Glastonbury of course; tie dye and mud on YouTube in the bedroom.

100% pure, perfect distilled… boredom

Being in lockdown makes you do the weirdest things. This week I had a yen to make my own distilled water for ironing. Well, if Superwoman author Shirley Conran was right (and she was) to claim that life’s too short to stuff a mushroom, it is certainly too short to distil your own water.

I’m not going to go into the ‘how to’s here – YouTube it if you’re curious – but I warn you, an hour of boiling pans of water and melting ice cubes over them will reward you with about an eggcupful. Tragic.