Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Lockdown Letup

Sorry I’m late with this post, but I’ve been sorta busy.

I had to take the car in for service this morning and the traffic was bad. And then I took it to get washed. We filled the tank yesterday for the first time since March, and it cost so little I didn’t think it was done pumping. And last Friday, I actually double-booked myself and had to chose between a Zoom Book Club Meeting and visiting our friends for an afternoon of seared meat and alcoholic beverages. (Guess which won.)

We’ve also had to pop to the shops to pick up some needed items and later today we’re out for some volunteer work.

Traffic in early Lockdown                                                             Traffic now            

Yes, the Lockdown is letting up here in Blighty, and none too soon, in my view. I think the Government looked at Dominick Cummings and his thinly disguised lies (I mean, absolutely rational excuses) about what he was doing at Barnard Castle and figured the population was catching on that no one in power was planning on following the Lockdown Rules, so they’d better loosen the leash on the public or there might be riots.

Then, of course, there were riots, but not about Lockdown, so that was okay.

I’m pleased to see that the new rules include a “Social Bubble,” which allows a person who is isolating by themselves to select someone else to share their bubble with. This was to encourage lonely grandparents to pick their favorite grandchild but I suspect it’s being used to rekindle all the illicit affairs that had to be put on ice these past three months (unless you were a member of the Government—I’m looking at you Professor Ferguson).

West Street in early Lockdown                                             West Street now             

Life is, little by little, becoming busy. Our social outlets are expanding, retail opportunities are proliferating and even our volunteer work is back on, sorta. This means we are going out into the world more often and for longer and with more to do while we are there. It is not, in any meaningful way, getting back to how it was before Lockdown, it’s more a case of it settling into that New Normal everyone was talking about a few weeks back.

This new world is one decorated with Sneeze Guards, One Way arrows, lots of warning signs, and markings on the pavements telling us where to stand. It’s a world where it’s hard to tell the difference between a group of people milling around and a queue. And it’s an evolving set of social conventions where walking across the road to avoid someone is looked upon as polite, and talking with friends involves shouting.

Note the hand sanitizer, footprints and arrows.
I'm pretty sure this will be the norm for quite a while.

Time was, when we left the flat to go into town, I checked for my keys and my wallet. Now I check for my keys, wallet, hand sanitizer and face mask. And I think it’s going to be this way for some time.

And so, in the mornings, we go for a walk into town, just as we usually did. If it’s a market day, we buy what necessities we can there in order to support local businesses. Otherwise, we pick up sundries at Wilkinson’s or Waitrose. We note that Waterstone’s is now open, but remind ourselves that we don’t need any more books and a nostalgic visit to the bookstore would not be a good idea. We go for a cup of take-out tea in the park and sit in the garden behind the Registry Office, enjoying the flowers and the surprisingly bold wildlife.

The Park in early Lockdown                                                 The Park now           

As we continue through town, I am pleased that they finally have a system in place to avoid collisions. Keep Left signs are now as prominent on our streets and in our malls as Keep To The Right signs are in the London Underground. It helps us maintain social distant, as much as is possible, now that the crowds are becoming larger, and it is a long-overdue improvement on the game of Bumper-People we were forced to play back when people just barged toward you and expect you to get out of their way. Or not.

As we leave town with our purchases, satisfied that we have done our bit to jump-start the UK economy, we look forward to a nice walk through the park on our way back home, only to find a leisurely stroll is not in the cards as a primal urgency takes over and forces us to cut our walk short. This is due to one of the more unexpected wrinkles in this New Normal: a lack of public conveniences.

Therefore, in the future, our Leaving-the-Flat ritual needs to be updated to: keys, wallet, hand sanitizer, face mask, and use the loo.