Tom Hodgkinson wonders whether returning to business as usual might feel a little intimidating
Having just consulted the UK’s so-called roadmap to normality, I surprised myself by experiencing a tiny bolt of fear. I’ve been enormously looking forward to being able to go out again and see people and be merry, and now that it might actually be happening, I find myself contemplating with some trepidation all the activity that will be expected of me. I wonder if this is a common phenomenon.
Now, I’m acutely aware that for the old and the young, the restrictions will not be lifted a moment too soon. For my septuagenarian mother and teenage children, the whole thing has been a colossal pain. Many 70-somethings I know, particularly the ones who live alone, have really struggled, and the teens have been at best bored.
However plenty of middle-aged parents like me have welcomed the slowdown. We’ve eaten well, paid off debts, done some decorating, seen a lot of our children, and had plenty of time to sit still in the backyard doing nothing in particular. It hasn’t been so bad. In last week’s “Drink with the Idler”, Ruby Wax revealed that she didn’t miss dinner parties and the like one iota.
Another friend told me at the weekend that she’d enjoyed being at home. “I don’t want to go out every night anyway,” she said. “Maybe once a week.”
So I wonder how many of our lockdown habits we’ll actually hang onto as normal life returns?
Friends who used to commute into the office say they’ll never go back to that life. “If they make me do that again, I’ll quit,” said one American friend who works for a bank. I imagine people will continue their love affairs with their bicycles, and that’s clearly a good thing as far as pollution is concerned.
People talk about Zoom fatigue but I’m a fan of Zoom. Our Idler Thursday night drinks have been a joy and Victoria and I are planning on keeping them going as long as they’re wanted. What I like about Zoom is that (1) it actually works, (2) it can be surprisingly intimate and fun, (3) it’s always getting better and (4) no ads! It has a pure, simple and honest business model, which is simply that you pay them a monthly fee and they give you a service. No data collection, algorithms or Facebook-style surveillance capitalism.
And although I confess to feeling a bit of FOGO (fear of going out), one thing I have really missed and I’m actively looking forward to is renting a transit van, filling it with books and signs, and driving down a motorway to a festival. Our own festival at Fenton House has been cancelled, sadly, but I would hazard a guess that others will start springing up and I hope they invite us along.