Cotswold Life

So­cially dis­tant or so­cially mo­bile?

Sum­mer one-up­man­ship isn’t about get­ting the Covid bug. It’s where you caught it that mat­ters

- Con­tact adampotlic­k­ @cotswold­hack Dining Out · Recreation · Michelin · Kate Moss · AC/DC · Cheltenham · AC/DC · Shane Watson · Land Rover Defender · Land Rover

The art of one-up­man­ship has been tricky in these trou­bling times. The usual sum­mer swank has been on hold. This time of year Glouces­ter­shire high so­ci­ety or­di­nar­ily boasts a Mediter­ranean base-tan, a Cor­nish sec­ond home, a Royal As­cot pic­nic or a Wim­ble­don deben­ture ticket. In­stead it has been a strug­gle to find a com­pet­i­tive so­cial edge.

In the early days of lock­down there was grand­stand­ing in fur­lough­ing the Daily, sourc­ing the right sour­dough flour and ac­quir­ing the best lay­ing chick­ens. Then, dur­ing the blis­ter­ing bar­be­cue days of May, it was find­ing the right on­line butcher, one who be­fore lock­down had only sup­plied Miche­lin starred restau­rants. And since so­cial dis­tanc­ing has eased and we have been in each other’s gar­dens it has been the pour­ing of the right pink wine and the dis­play­ing of grown-out grey roots, which shows off how law-abid­ing some­one has been, that has ex­er­cised the Hy­acinth Bou­quet in us all.

Most par­tic­u­larly it has been the elec­tric bi­cy­cle that has come to sym­bol­ise one’s cur­rent so­cial stand­ing. This was con­firmed when Kate Moss and her daugh­ter Lila Grace were pic­tured test­ing their new juiced-up bone­shak­ers in the lanes sur­round­ing their small ham­let near Bur­ford. Yet long be­fore the su­per­model and her off­spring were seen out and about my val­ley was a ver­i­ta­ble velo­drome of AC/DC two-wheel­ers. Weeks ago my lo­cal farmer was tour­ing his land on his new e-bike claim­ing it is `more fun than a quad bike’. And a wealthy widow popped her head over my gar­den wall to tell me about her brand new £2,000 wheels say­ing “I’ve done 15 miles so far and I’m not the slight­est bit out of breath”. Cotswold smart so­ci­ety is wob­bling through our lanes on these sit-up-and-beg eco-con­trap­tions slow­ing down cars and an­noy­ing the vul­gar ly­cra-clad jock­eys on their car­bon fi­bre num­bers. As Shane Wat­son in the Daily Tele­graph ob­served, “Ev­ery fash­ion watcher will want an elec­tric bi­cy­cle. They’ll have been think­ing about it, wor­ried it might make them a bit of a loser but now all their doubts will have van­ished.”

How­ever, there is one other piece of lock­down snob­bery that has man­aged to out-swank both grey roots and the e-bike.

In March the Chel­tenham Na­tional Hunt Fes­ti­val hosted the jump rac­ing beano de­spite dire warn­ings that it was folly to go ahead. It has since been scape­goated as a ma­jor Covid cul­prit and a pos­si­ble epi­cen­tre of the dis­ease.

The two most ex­clu­sive hang-outs at the fes­ti­val are the dis­creet mem­bers-only Cotswold Club, where an an­nual ta­ble for 10 costs tens of thou­sands of pounds a year, and the some­what less rar­efied Turf Club, the tem­po­rary tented arm of the St James gen­tle­man’s club. It was in these two places in par­tic­u­lar, pos­si­bly be­cause many of the at­ten­dees had been on ski­ing hol­i­days in the North­ern Ital­ian Alps, that Covid seemed to be rife. In the weeks that fol­lowed the fes­ti­val the dis­ease felled a large per­cent­age of the grandees from both clubs. Once the rac­ing gen­try had re­cov­ered, claim­ing to have con­tracted the dis­ease at ‘The Cotswold’ or ‘The Turf’ was as smart as own­ing a new Land Rover De­fender or sport­ing the lat­est Her­mes Birkin hand­bag.

A pil­lar of the com­mu­nity in my vil­lage, who reck­oned he’d got in­fected at the fes­ti­val, joked of be­ing a ‘su­per-spreader’ and boasted that ev­ery­one wanted to meet him not only to get a mild dose to be­come im­mune and lib­er­ate them­selves from so­cial dis­tanc­ing but also for a mea­sure of so­cial ca­chet. Of course if one was asymp­to­matic or had had only mild symp­toms it was nec­es­sary to take an an­ti­body test to bet­ter one­self. There are, or were, two tests – the £50 swab or the £100 blood test. The first had only 90% ac­cu­racy and it could be could be got by queu­ing at a nearby vil­lage hall (as I did). The sec­ond, with 100% ac­cu­racy, needed a pri­vate doc­tor. So the lat­ter was not only more ex­pen­sive but also gave one more stand­ing when claim­ing to have had the lurgy.

Last week, at a so­cial dis­tanc­ing gath­er­ing, I was bran­dish­ing my fifty quid test re­sults and my claim to im­mu­nity when one of the guests piped up that she too had had a mild hit of Covid and that she had al­most cer­tainly caught the dis­ease from the Duchess of Corn­wall. Now that, one has to ad­mit, was 2020 Cotswold one-up­man­ship with­out par­al­lel.

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