* This story was first published in the Daily Mail.
Prince Charles, arriving at the Prince’s Trust Awards in March, was about to go for the handshake.
But, mindful of the new social distancing rules, he quickly improvised an off-the-cuff alternative.
He was then seen offering Ant and Dec, amongst others, a royal namaste, the traditional Hindu greeting putting palms together and fingers pointing up.
“I do it all the time,” he joked.
But the Prince may have a point. With social distancing here to stay, our familiar greetings are suddenly off limits.
Handshakes and hugs were amongst the first victims of the global pandemic.
Air kisses on a quarantine-free trip to France could be met with a gallic shrug, and the traditional Maori hongi, noses pressed together in greeting, consigned to the pages of history.
While both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump happily pressed the flesh pre-lockdown, some have called time on the handshake.
Anthony Fauci, a leading American public health official, told the Washington Post:
“I don’t think we should ever shake hands again, to be honest with you.”
It’s a hard habit to break, however.
The humble handshake featured in ancient Greek and Roman art as a symbol of peace.
Greeting gestures remain important to express genuine emotion with some 55 per cent of human communication attributed to body language by the psychology professor Albert Mehrabian.
Perhaps our travel experiences could offer a contact-free solution to the dilemma?
Looking to other countries, we find a ready supply of everyday greetings far more acceptable than the ham-fisted knuckle bump and the comical, so-called Wuhan shake foot-tap, which both appeared during the early days of lockdown.
The Asian countries are the natural choice to find new non-contact greetings.
For example, the Thai wai, whereby you bow the head and put palms together, is a traditional gesture of openness.
It’s popular throughout Southeast Asia and used in both prayer and dance as well as greetings.
Dr Sylvie Briand, Director of Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases at the World Health Organisation recently tweeted her approval.
“We need to adapt to this new disease,” she wrote.
The formal bow, meanwhile, was introduced to Japan in the seventh century and remains de rigueur in a country that prides itself on adhering to social etiquette.
We could adopt this greeting for more formal settings with the degree of bow reflecting the respect and reverence you attribute to the other person.
Otherwise we should look to the Middle East for a more spiritual symbol.
Simply place the right hand on the heart, which is sacred in Islam as the seat of the soul, and say as-salaam alaikum, meaning “peace be upon you”.
Maybe, instead, it’s time for a radical rethink as part of the new world order.
The Hawaiian shaka sign, curling the middle three fingers while extending thumb and little finger, could be adopted beyond the surfing community, who know it as the ‘hang loose’ symbol.
More radical still is the Zambian ‘cup and clap’, whereby you cup your hands together and clap a couple of times while offering the greeting muli bwanji.
Sign of respect
Most viable of all, however, seems to be the traditional Hindu namaste, which is rapidly moving beyond the yoga mat to take centre stage.
The Sanskrit term, meaning ‘the highest in me salutes the highest in you’, is the natural successor to the handshake.
Besides, it’s good enough for the Dalai Lama.
And it’s far preferable to watching Health Secretary Matt Hancock close a Government press briefing with a Dr Spock-style Vulcan hand salute, staring down the camera with the words, “Live long and prosper.”
It seems Prince Charles may have inadvertently set a trend for us all to follow.
* This article first appeared in Telegraph Travel in time for Father’s Day. More on this theme from my book [pictured above], Inside Fatherhood.
We went to stay with Spanish friends during the last school holiday.
It worked well for a family trip with two other kids for my two girls to play with, the freedom of an unstructured routine and an insider sense of the local culture.
But, most of all, as a man who has travelled alone with his kids since they were young, there was another man there who both understood the challenges of modern fatherhood and shared my passion for showing his children the world.
I often struggle to find this kind of camaraderie on a family holiday.
The sense of isolation I have felt at times as a divorced father, who shares custody jointly with the girls’ mother, has made for some uncomfortable travel experiences.
It’s not the just practical aspects, such as who keeps an eye on the children while I go to the bathroom.
More frustratingly, a man alone with two little girls can be viewed with curiosity, sometimes suspicion.
Immigration officials at a major European airport once stopped us, asking to see birth certificates to prove the girls were actually my children.
More commonly, I’m subjected to other holidaymakers quizzing me about why I’m alone.
“Can I ask,” one relative stranger once enquired as I was nonchalantly loading my plate at the evening buffet, “is your wife dead?”
But I really spat the dummy when a restaurant manager rather publicly warned me not to take my youngest daughter, and then aged just five, into the gents.
“If she needs to go, then I’ll just have to take her to the ladies,” she bristled.
I politely suggested through gritted teeth that she should go and get a copy of her DBS certificate first.
So, as thoughts turn to celebrating our devoted dads for Father’s Day this weekend, isn’t time we gave single dads a break?
My first article of 2019 was published in Telegraph Travel this weekend, focussing on a new indie-music festival at sea [above]. Here’s the full text.
We’ve seen classic rock at sea and turned the amps to 11 for some heavy metal sur mer — think Spinal Tapmeets Carry on Cruising.
But the latest music-cruise alternative to Glastonbury is one for the post-Britpop indie fans.
Stuart Murdoch, lead singer and songwriter with Scottish indie stalwarts Belle and Sebastian, is setting sail next summer with the Boaty Weekender, a four-day cruise around the Mediterranean in collaboration with theme-cruise specialists, Sixthman.
“We thought we had missed the boat — excuse the pun — as we failed years ago to organise a tour of the UK by boat. But we always liked the idea of setting up the equipment then retiring to our cabins,” he says.
“Having a captive audience puts a nice pressure on the band to host the event.”
The curated festival at sea, running August 8-12, leaves Barcelona with two day sat sea before a port day in Cagliari, Sardinia.
The passengers will have the run of the 11 bars, 15 dining experiences, casino and spa aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl.
“I’ve never taken my family on a cruise but I’m always happier traveling by sea — it’s in the blood,” says Murdoch, whose father was the chief engineer on the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries off the west coast of Scotland.
“Some of my earliest childhood memories were at sea, taking livestock around the Hedrides. I still love that sense of being far away, even if I’m just one hour from Glasgow.”
The band will headline each day with an eclectic line-up of supporting bands across five stages, including Mogwai, a reunited Camera Obscura and Django Django amongst others.
“We’ll be playing a sail-away gig to some 2,500 people on deck as we leave Barcelona,” says Murdoch, whose lyrics are known for their literary references and shades of rainy-day-Glasgow melancholy.
“It’s like organising a huge party for a bunch of friends, so I guess we should steer away from some of our more introspective back catalogue,” he adds.
“We’ll keep it upbeat for that party vibe.”
It’s also a family affair with father-of-two Murdoch planning to replace the deck quoits with meditation workshops, a daily film matinee screening the band’s favorite films and a host of family-friendly activities.
Guests booking the first 350 staterooms will be invited to an intimate performance of Belle and Sebastian’s fourth album, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant, never before performed in its entirety.
“We’re building a University Challenge-style set for quiz teams, plus there’s going to be indie karaoke. I don’t normally partake but I got up to sing at my kid’s school recently,” he smiles.
“Maneater by Hall and Oates is now my tongue-in-cheek, go-to karaoke number.”
Belle and Sebastian formed in Glasgow in 1996 and the Boaty Weekender marks the 20-year anniversary of the Bowlie Weekender festival the band previously curated at the Pontin’s holiday camp in Camber Sands.
If successful, more Nineties indie kids could be combining nostalgia for their favourite bands with a family holidays at sea on further voyages.
Pre-sale tickets are now available with prices from £979pp, based on two sharing, in an interior cabin, including meals and activities.
And if the Med turns unusually choppy next summer? Murdoch is unfazed.
“The intimate play through of our fourth LP requires an orchestra, so whatever happens,” he says, “the string section will keep playing as the plaster crumbles around us.”