It wasn’t one particular moment that I remember, more a series of admonishments from the grown-ups in my life; tellings off relating to my inability to correctly use a knife and fork, my tendency to slouch, not to mention my habit of telling complete strangers that I hailed from ‘Manchestah’, despite my mother’s insistence that our postcode actually fell just inside the confines of leafy Cheshire.
It was at some point towards the end of the 1980s that I was first introduced to the importance of a good, firm handshake, leaving me with a life-long prejudice of limp, effortless greetings.
It’s true that a really bad handshake will live permanently in the memory of the person on the receiving end.
It is probably for that reason that I have always been a bigger fan of a hug than of the handshake, because, unless you are a wrong ‘un, you can’t really mess up a hug.
Depending on the individuals involved, hugs can mean different things: genuine affection if the embrace is between loved ones, euphoria if it is prompted by a winning goal, or a display of raw masculinity if it involves blokes of a certain age meeting up on a night out.
It’s fair to say that the future of both the hug and the handshake hang firmly in the balance following 15 months of us all staying at least two metres apart.
Boris Johnson used a recent press conference to inform the British public that, as of this week, embracing somebody who doesn’t live with you would no longer be a proscribed activity.
It was hailed by newspapers and commentators as a landmark moment in the recent history of our nation, although I suspect the reaction of many will have been: ‘No thanks, Boris’.
Despite the fact that many of us cite the lack of meaningful human contact as the thing that we have missed the most as a result of the pandemic, more than a year of keeping our distance has had an impact.
Personal space is now a thing again and it appears that many people have become used to the newly redrawn boundaries and won’t hurry to a return to the days when they would throw their arms around the vaguest of acquaintances.
In the past week, there has been a flurry of ‘how-to’ guides from well-meaning public health experts who suggest that fond embraces are most safely performed outdoors and with minimal facial contact.
Professor Linda Bauld the behavioural scientist, who has gained an army of fans, as much for giving media interviews next to a vase of flowers as for her calm analysis, last week said she wouldn’t rush back to hugging friends and loved ones and suggested that would be the case for many.
I suspect that advice will be the cue for many to keep their hands in their pockets during the endless reunions which will take place across the country over the coming weeks and months.
It isn’t just hugs that will be on hold for now.
In recent weeks I have been, quite literally, forced into a handshake by defiant pals, who declare they’ve had enough of tapping elbows.
For the sake of harmony, I’ve gone along with it but, the minute they’ve disappeared from view, the ubiquitous bottle of antibac gel makes an appearance.
Since last March I’ve not had a cold, cough, or any kind of sickness – a fact I put down to having largely avoided any sort of contact with those outside of my bubble.
While I’m grateful that my loved ones and I have come through the pandemic unscathed, I resent the impact it has had on everyday life and cannot wait for the day that we all feel brave enough to resume physical contact.