Never before, in the field of human communication, was so much said by so many about so little.

It is only a piece of paper or cloth, for goodness sake, but the face mask debate rages on.

From the ceaseless parroting of the ‘You must wear one’ orders on social media - yes, I know, I got the message when they said it was going to become law - to the rantings of those who are outraged at this supposed eroding of their liberties. Really?

We’ve heard, ad nauseum, that they cause your glasses to steam up and make it difficult to read the facial expression underneath, and if you are as tired of the whole thing as I am, excuse me for introducing another thread into the debate, but it does seem to have been overlooked.

My big issue with face masks is trying to work out who is underneath.

For some years now, I have realised I suffer from prosopagnosia.


You may well ask.

If I say it is also sometimes called face blindness you will probably get an idea that prosopagnosia is the inability to recognise people efficiently.

It is sometimes brought on by an accident or a stroke, but the majority of sufferers, including me, are born with it.

If you have it really bad, even recognising family members or yourself in the mirror can be a challenge, but for me it is relatively mild, and comes down to sometimes really struggling to recognise people.

You would be amazed, for instance, by my inability to name even some of the most famous faces in the world.

We are not talking about occasionally forgetting someone’s name, which happens to everybody, but always having to work hard to separate, put labels to, and then memorise or imagine different faces.

And if it was a struggle with a whole face, imagine the difficulty of seeing only half a face, thanks to a mask.

As with many minor mental disorders, our brains develop other strategies and skills to compensate, but there is the added complication for me in that I am also colourblind, so can’t rely on identifying someone’s skin, hair or eye colour to help me identify them.

So face masks compound what is surely the ultimate social nightmare.

Few situations are more awkward than when somebody says hello to you in a supermarket and you can’t work out who they are.

For all the disasters that 2020 has brought, however, at least this year is teaching us new lessons, and if you think about face blindness, there is another.

As many as two per cent of people suffer from it, yet the other 98 per cent are probably blissfully unaware that face recognition is an issue for some.

We should never forget that we all have our foibles, and every Tom, Dick and Harry has his own way of coping with what life throws at us.

Although don’t ask me which is Tom, which is Dick and which is Harry.