Some of us wanted the pandemic to be over so bad we actually managed to convince ourselves that it was. For me, life was looking up. Summer was awesome, for the most part, minus the squeezing of my post-lockdown fat-ass into a bikini. Two blissful months in Greece, a blend of remote working and hardly working. When will we ever get a chance like that again? A glass of wine every day like I’m 20. I started smoking, I quit smoking. September my kid went back to nursery and I to work, swiping my security pass into the office like I fucking made it. I even managed one day at the gym! I saw friends, visited family, ate out, went shopping, all wearing masks, of course, but at least, you know, normal life, kind of. Sure there was talk of a second wave, shmave! Logic suggested that things would get worse again as temperatures dropped. Unlike the beer, this brand of corona doesn’t party under the sun. The evidence was already there. But ignorance is bliss and denial is the first stage of grief.
‘Excuse me!’ I like to say in that tone I’ve perfected after 8 years together with my beloved, a needle to his eardrum. He actually went and got a hearing test – but that’s a whole other story. ‘You have to wear your mask in here, stupid.’ I’ve never been one to shy away from a bit of civilian policing. Also, if I don’t say anything I risk getting all worked up on the inside, better to piss off the other person if it makes me feel zen, you know? But little did we know that for every asshole not wearing his mask or washing his dirty little hands, a storm was brewing. Of course the rules didn’t make any sense! About as much sense as whether or not the virus spreads via 5G. Poppycock! Your business can open, but yours can’t? Your little children can stick the same toy in their mouths but all you horny teenagers should stay at home? Hairdressers no. Shops yes. But only essential shops. Like supermarkets, or pharmacies. Just don’t go in if you feel sick, or have a cough, or if you’re a bloody human. Need to see a doctor? A dentist? (Now imagine a really loud psychotic laugh.) Mate, you’re on your own.
Could Rule of 6 have worked, if it was followed? Does seeing people outside instead of inside your home really make a difference? It’s hard not to wonder about the real point of all those rules. And then I looked up the 5 stages of grief and suddenly it was obvious. Bargaining. Our governments were bargaining with us, testing us, buying time while dipping their toes into new territories of mass control. It’s all a bloody experiment anyway. Herd immunity, the borderline criminal lack of testing, bollocked reporting, it’s what Americans call a clusterfuck. Nobody really knows anything. Sure we know a lot more than we did, but the problem is that our leading institutions, our democratically elected, our Boris fucking Johnsons were supposed to guide and inform us – and we were supposed to follow. As they bargained and debated, we divided. Key workers became soldiers thrust onto front lines, while office workers sought safety at home, pouring cups of tea, baking bread, losing our shit with our children, and doing our best to keep calm and carry on.
I was thinking about Anthony Bourdain the other day, and what he would have to say about all of this. And I think about the people in my life, and how almost every single person I know is struggling in some way. Most of my friends are seeing therapists, one friend is seeing two. For me, coronavirus came at a time in my life when I was looking forward to doing all the things I couldn’t do while pregnant and raising a young baby. Aside from visiting family, it feels like I’ve spent the most part of the past 2.5 years at home. Even when I could go out, I was too exhausted. It’s not been that long since my kid finally sleeps through! And that’s still only when he isn’t sick or teething, which is uh not so often! Opening my wardrobe to slouchy lounge wear or pieces that are two-sizes-too-small feels, in a light sense of the word, depressing. I want to feel good about myself again and I want to go out and see my friends, I’m catching cabin fever over here. Now I understand that clothes and not getting my life back how I wanted sounds ridiculous compared to joblessness, illness and death. But it’s an example of how mental health affects us all, regardless of the shape and size of our problems.
Could Christmas really be cancelled? As infection and death rates continued to go up, the rumours swirled and collectively, we all realised what was coming. As of tomorrow, our high streets will return to post-apocalyptic scenes of emptiness, joining the other cities around the world ordered to stay home. Overnight stays and holidays in the UK or abroad are no longer allowed. And in general, neither is meeting anyone socially outside of your household. But at least Lockdown 2.0 will be a little different from the first. Schools will stay open and support for parents like nannies and housekeepers can keep working. Although it’s not our first rodeo, (we’ve done it before and we can do it again) a lot of people who were fine in the first lockdown are now having major crises in their lives. There’s definitely a cumulative effect, and while it’s not going to be easy, we still have to face it, accept it, even embrace it if we can. So get out your oven gloves and mixers, pick up your books and dust off your projects. Be kind to one another, and please, stay home. Since the more we each do our part, the greater our chances of slowing down the spread and ending the lockdown before Christmas.