Gung-ho vs No! What it's like to live in a two tribe household

Rowan Pelling and her spouse have very different views on Super Saturday. Here's how she will be celebrating her newfound independence

Like a prisoner in a cell, Rowan Pelling has been counting down her days to freedom
Like a prisoner in a cell, Rowan Pelling has been counting down her days to freedom Credit: Francesco Guidicini/ Camera Press

My household is waging its own civil war. While I regard today’s July 4th bar-openings as British independence day, my spouse sees it as a Cov-idiot pyrrhic victory for the reckless. But then he’s 67, has high blood pressure and loathes socialising at the best of times. 

It’s fair to say we have wildly different takes on lockdown. Edwardian husband been living his very best armchair life, listening to the new Bob Dylan album and free from even the faintest semblance of having to mix with other human beings. For me, every day has been a form of hellish incarceration, like joining an extreme Lutheran sect where there’s no pubs, parties or dancing and the prayers don’t work.

Like any prisoner in their cell, I’ve been counting down the days to freedom and working out what delights I’ll sample first. As the daughter of a publican, I rate carousing in a venue dedicated to the art of hospitality as the very height of western civilisation. Second only to that pleasure is sitting in a chair at my hairdresser’s salon in Soho, having a good old gossip with my colourist and stylist, both of whom I’ve known for years. My third delight is the means to those ends: catching a train from Cambridge to London. Of all the things I miss, the once humdrum act of travelling between cities feels like the greatest loss. True liberation means freedom of movement. Except for my spouse, who wants to be freed from having to go anywhere ever again.

So here’s how I’m celebrating my July 4th. I’m taking a train to central London in an act of essential, inner-life-saving travel. I’ll then take a Boris bike to Old Church Street in South Kensington where my beloved Chelsea Arts Club is flinging open its doors, bar and garden for the first time in over three months. The club closed on St Patrick’s Day – also the date I first felt the aches in my legs that signalled a mild dose of Covid-19. The Secretary of the Club has explained the new rules for distancing, but advised masks aren’t compulsory – “as ever in the club,” members can dress exactly as they please. This will likely mean some artists in artisanal plague masks and others in crazy fancy dress straight out of a Venetian Carnival. It’s not been unknown over the club’s esteemed history for clothes to be dispensed with altogether.

Rowan Pelling's beloved Chelsea Arts Club is finally opening its doors  Credit:  Peter Scholey / Alamy Stock Photo

I’d like to say I’m also marking “Super Saturday” with a Soho jaunt to turn my hair gold again. But my salon’s so besieged by the dark-roots brigade I’m having to rock my witch’s mane until 3 August. This will revitalise me just in time for my third great act of lockdown-lifting optimism. Three days ago, my sister and I booked August flights to Greece for we two, my younger son and my niece, although no air bridge has yet been established. This is either “a mature understanding of risk and heroic contribution to global economic stimulation” (my view), or “a kamikaze act of lunacy” (my husband’s and older son’s).

This is what the world has become – two tribes, often living in the same household. The Gung-ho and the No! brigade.