What can we take with us from lockdown to make life better than before? | Coronavirus

Join Hafta-Ichi to Research the article “What can we take with us from lockdown to make life better than before? | Coronavirus”

Spring has sprung, albeit a little early. The weekend brought blue skies, daffodils bursting into flower, the drone of lawnmowers coming back to life. The natural world is waking up fast, in uncanny synchronicity with a nation now readying itself to emerge from Covid hibernation. Like all jaded hacks, I rolled my eyes when the prime minister started waxing lyrical last week about the crocus of hope pushing up through the frost of lockdown. But dammit, the crocuses are out now, and if this strangely unfamiliar emotion is not hope, then it’s hard to know what else it is.

The coming of spring always paves the way, on some atavistic level, for the imagining of summer. But this time the vaccine (touch wood, cross fingers, pray that the missing unknown carrier of the Brazilian variant is tracked down before spreading it) provides some more rational grounds for daring to imagine new beginnings.

The only way to keep one’s sanity in lockdown is to take life one day at a time, like an alcoholic in recovery, and never think about how much longer there is to go. But suddenly it seems possible to stop dwelling on everything that’s out of bounds, and imagine having choices again. Travel agents are reporting a rush of possibly over-optimistic bookings; fashion magazines are suddenly full of heels and frivolousness, rather than clothes for collapsing on the sofa in. And for parents who’ve been working from home, hunting down the PE kit ahead of next week’s return to school is a reminder that one day our own presence may be required in a formal office again.

Boris Johnson told businesses last week that the idea of cities becoming ghost towns, as millions choose to carry on working from home permanently or to move out to the sticks, was overdone. People would, he insisted, come back to their offices – and presumably also back to Pret for lunch and the pub after work and chips on the night bus home – after June. (Well, in theory: as with builders’ estimates, it helps to add a few weeks and double the cost of plans for ending lockdown.)

His chancellor, too, is seemingly banking on a roaring 20s-style recovery, fuelled by a giddy rush of desire to shop and travel and stay out all night. Pre-budget briefings suggest the Treasury is more worried about a surge of pent-up spending pushing up inflation than about Britain sinking into the kind of deep recession some predicted when furlough ends. Maybe that’s wishful thinking. But the vaccine has at least made it feel more plausible now than last summer, when lockdown had lifted but the virus hadn’t gone away, and diners had to be bribed into restaurants with the “eat out to help out” scheme. After a year of watching life slip through their fingers, initially people may well crave all the living they can get.

The idea of picking up exactly where we left off last March, however, still doesn’t ring quite true. Will the middle and high earners who saved money in lockdown – the ones on whom this theory of rapacious consumer-led revival depends – really blow every last penny the minute they can? After the scale of the shock the country has endured, it seems more likely that those who can afford to will keep something squirrelled away in case of further disaster (which is why Labour’s idea of issuing a recovery bond to channel people’s savings into rebuilding the country is more interesting than it sounds). There may well be an initial splurge, followed by a slightly anxious retrenching.

Working life might follow much the same pattern; months spent hunched over laptops at home have achieved the near-impossible, and made millions miss the office. I can’t wait to be able to sit across a table from an interviewee in the flesh, instead of watching impotently as a Zoomed image glitches and freezes. A friend who used to loathe her commute now longs for that hour of decompression time, when neither her kids nor her colleagues were demanding anything from her.

But once the novelty fades, those lucky enough to have choices seem more likely to want something halfway between their old lives and something new, with home working for at least a day or two a week becoming normalised wherever feasible, but with few abandoning the office completely. At Canary Wharf, that vast sprawling empire of office workers, managers predict a return to pre-pandemic capacity but with more desks retained for part-time use only.

Streaming a standup comedy show at home recently made me realise that culture, too, could follow a similar pattern of something old merging with something new. Watching from the sofa is no substitute for the thrill of a live gig and it must be wretched for the performers, playing to the camera in a sterile, empty room. But when the arts reopen, the filmed versions of plays and concerts that many small venues have scrambled to stage in lockdown could live on permanently as a bonus extra; a way of drawing in new audiences who live too far away, can’t afford West End ticket prices, or just feel defeated by the thought of organising cabs and babysitters at the end of an exhausting week.

We could use tricks learned of Covid necessity to add new layers of possibilities to old lives, rather than as wretchedly thin substitutes for them. Everyday life may not change radically, but could still evolve more incrementally for the better.

Too hopeful? Maybe. Hope has, after all, existed mainly to be dashed this year. But just briefly, in the spring sunshine, it feels once again as if anything might be possible. Enjoy those crocuses while they last.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: What can we take with us from lockdown to make life better than before? | Coronavirus

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *