Friday, July 10, 2020

the new etiquette is just the ticket

The word etiquette comes from the French royal court, where it referred to small notes offering tips on good manners. Imagine something between a calling card and a speeding ticket.

Recently I've been experimenting with some poem mottos that might help communicate safer behaviour, as part of a research group Paths for All are involved in, devising guidance and advice on how we can adapt to public transport and travel in the midst of a pandemic. 

A poet isn't always good at expressing the clearest meanings, but they can sometimes find a phrase that is nuanced enough to suggest ways of behaving, without seeming judgemental – not that there aren't a lot of judgemental poets about these days! 

Coronavirus has left me unable to walk more than 150m and the nearest bus stop to my house is 250m away, just around the corner from my road. This has meant that the daily world of commutes and trips feels distant, so these poems weren't easy to write from personal experience. Most came from reading articles on changes in behaviour and suggested guidance on how to help people adapt, without adding to the inevitable anxiety we all feel. 

Many disabilities are hidden. And we all know that viruses are. That's why we have to look after one another.

See if you can compose some mottos yourself.



keep a little distance

as a kindness





imagine there’s a walking

stick sized-gap between us

that will help us





a wee bow to say hello

is kinder than sharing germs





etiquette used to 

mean a card 

of reminders

for good manners

now it translates

as shared respect





north or south

cover your nose 

& mouth


east or west

staying at home

is best





we’ve to do our best

it’s not a test





cover your moth

open your ears


cover your nose

smile with your eyes





take a step back

let the problem pass





a tissue for 






kindness given

will come back to us





catch a cough

in the crook

of your elbow –

keep your hands

for other things




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