NORMAL: either you take it as a compliment or an insult. It’s down there with “ordinary”.

I always wince when politicians try to get “ordinary working people” on board. How do they expect to get anybody on board insulting them like that?

As for normal, it’s a movable feast. In the 16th century, it was normal to burn witches. Further back in time, it was normal to massacre all the women and children in besieged cities. More recently, it was normal to take snuff or to smoke.

No longer. Normal is something society has to grow out of in order to make progress. So, now we keep hearing about the “new normal”, which is loosely based on the old normal but with better hygiene.

Among normal people, three areas of ordinary life are particularly valued: parliament, pubs and shops. I jest about the first. Nobody really cares about parliaments, except the inmates trapped therein.

At the time of writing – generally a few days before the world catches up – there’s an enormous stooshie about whether to continue deliberating digitally, rather than having yahoos in the background shouting the odds as if they were at a pre-virus football match.

At yonder Westminster, Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg wants MPs to return physically on June 2 after the Whitsun recess.

However, critics say this could “euthanise” vulnerable MPs. They accuse the “minister for the 18th century” of refusing to embrace the 21st century. And who can blame him?

That said, even JR-M will insist that MPs maintain a two-metre distance and that the place is subject to extra cleaning, a measure that suggests simply too many metaphors.

JR-M says that, with the virtual parliament, he has missed the “bobbing” of members waiting to be heard. It’s a good point. Democracy cannot function without bobbing.

His supporters also accuse those not wanting to return of being “lazy”. But that’s easy to say when you’re travelling from Sussex or Essex. Not so easy when you’re hoofing it from Barra or Skye.

One serious problem that might affect parliament is that suits could be on the way out. Marks & Spencer reports that, under the new normal, nobody has been buying them – or ties – presumably because they don’t have to go into the office.

Even more disturbingly, the shopping chain says folk are, instead, buying lots of T-shirts and bras. If parliament continues digitally, there’s a risk of MPs appearing thus attired. I really do not want to see Boris Johnson or Ian Blackford in a bra, much though each of them needs one.

What many decent ratepayers need right now is a proper pint poured from a tap. How we yearn for that! But, under the new normal, the only way to have such a thing might be for us all to sit at the bar with our beaks open like chicks in a nest as the heady nectar is poured down our throats.

That’s what a pub in Bishop’s Stortford has started doing, though at the moment, with the bar closed, they’re pouring the ale down from an outdoor terrace above.

It seems to me there’s too much scope for spillage here. I also wonder about the rate of pouring. My mates know to always buy me two pints because I’ve finished the first by the time the barman is giving them their change.

That said, I wouldn’t want to choke if too much was poured at once. There are worse ways to go, though, and, if we’re not to go doolally during the new normal, we’ll have to embrace new ways of drinking, dressing and, for our MPs, bobbing about in parliament.

Cinema verity

WOAD you believe it? It’s 25 years since Braveheart mooned at the nation from the big screen, sparking a massive debate about the historical accuracy of kilts and bagpipes.

Poor Mel Gibson, the director. The film should have been an inspiring, feel-good story about William Wallace, who fought and died for a federal United Kingdom based on limited devolution.

However, Mr Gibson underestimated the level of anti-Scottish feeling in Scotland. Feeling good about being Scottish is basically fascism, with Wallace a kind of medieval Hitler who only founded the Scottish National Party because he hated the English.

The film sparked a surge in unionism, based on a passionate concern for historical detail and a willingness to exult in defeat. This week, Mr Gibson pointed out: “I’m in the business of cinema. I’m not a f****** historian.” That is a good point, well made.

He added: “I don’t know that history is always true. It’s written by the winners all the time.”

True dat and, in a nation of losers like Scotland, we must ask: “Wha’s like us, eh?” Answer: “Gey few, and it’s just as well.”

Five things we learned this week

1 Goat news, and new research suggests the controversial ruminants are as good at following instructions as dogs are. An international team of scientists pointed at a bucket of food, which the goats then ate. High fives and cloven hooves all round.

2 Antarctica is turning green. Climate change is being blamed for the phenomenon, which has seen algae blooming on the surface of snow. Ordure from penguins acted as fertiliser, proving once more that Mother Nature never wastes good poop.

3 Climate change and warmer water accompanying it could cause an explosion in the size of freshwater fish brains, according to Glasgow Uni researchers. Unfortunately, the larger brains made the fish less able to accomplish simple tasks. Yes, I’ve found that.

4 Bacon butties topped Britain’s favourite sandwich, pipping egg mayonnaise to the post. A spokesman for Warburtons, which commissioned the research, said the result suggested we were “craving comfort”. An alternative explanation is that we’re all looking for a hangover cure.

5 Tossing a coin to make major decisions makes us more willing to change and be happier with the choice. Professor Steve Levitt, of Chicago Uni, added that, rather than persisting at something, we’re better just quitting. Excellent news. I give up.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.