It’s March 2020. A month that will forever be known as The Month Britain Changed.
Or, The Month Britain Shut Down. Or, The Month Britain Shut Up Shop, or a similarly snazzy red top headline. Yes, I’m going to sit here and write about it because there’s sod all else to do. You never know, you might even find yourself reading it for the same reason.
“Generally, I write slightly humorous things about going to the pub and getting pissed and generally dicking about, and I am aware that this is not one of those pieces.”
I think I’m coming to the end of my first week of social-distancing and self-isolation. I say “I think” because I think I’m also coming to the end of my sanity and all time and reason has gone out the window. At the time of writing my new job, which was due to start in two days’ time, has been put on pause indefinitely until we’re “out the other side of this”, as people are fond of saying. We don’t seem to be calling it ‘The Virus’ or ‘The Outbreak’ or even ‘Lockdown’. Just ‘this’, or, my personal favourite, ‘the current situation’. Yet everyone but everyone knows what each other are referring to. As such I find myself effectively under a sort-of self-imposed house arrest with little or no chance of returning to employment in the near future. I know I’m not alone in this, and I’m aware of the Government’s plans to reimburse those in similar situations, but are they going to be able to reimburse my mental wellbeing?
There’s a meme floating around on Facebook at the moment which goes something like this:
‘Your grandparents were asked to go to war. You’re being asked to sit on a couch for twelve weeks. You can do this.’
Yes, yes they were, and I take my hat off to each and every one of them, regardless of which side they fought for. However, amongst the horrors they no doubt saw and suffered, they did at least have each other. The Pals’ Battalions – although an unquestionably dreadful idea – did at least put people together with their friends in the trenches rather than leaving them fighting the enemy on their own. That may sound like a facetious point, but how many people are sat on their own at home who are used to seeing their friends every day – people who don’t have a family nearby, or any family at all – whether that be at work, the pub or the shops? My friends and I have set up a virtual pub through social media, which keeps us all in contact and gives us something to do of an evening but, whilst it works in that capacity, it’s no substitute for the real thing. Not that there’s anything we can do about it. I sit here now with no idea if, how or when I’m ever going to ‘see’ my friends again, let alone my family in this dystopian present we seem to be experiencing. Allegedly ‘this’ will last for three weeks but looking at other nations’ lockdown measures it seems incredibly unlikely, particularly as this virus has demonstrated time and time again in the last few months that it holds no prisoners, regardless of age or social standing – from an eighteen-year-old to Prince Charles. A cure still seems a way off and we’re not yet at a stage where people are being tested in any large numbers.
The most conversation I’ve had with anyone outside of the house is as follows:
‘Hi’ – after I’ve moved out of someone’s way.
‘Sorry’ – When I’m in the process of moving out of someone’s way.
‘Thanks’ – When someone moves out of the way for me.
‘Oh it is a bit, isn’t it? Ha ha.’
That last is usually uttered after someone who I’ve been stood two metres away from queuing outside the supermarket says: ‘It’s all a bit strange, isn’t it?’ and I have to refrain from punching them, instead of clearing my throat in such a way that means I don’t cough, but they move away. I shouldn’t complain; I like a good chat in the queue as much as the next man, but it’s the same topic every day. There are no other topics. Remember Brexit? Remember when films used to come out and you could talk about those? Remember bloody EastEnders?
I’m not what one would call a ‘snowflake’, but I am somebody that enjoys the company of other people. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the sun reading Paul Theroux’s travel books (remember travelling?), but there’s only so much of that you can do. I truly believe the worst part is that no one knows where this will end, or how long we’ll be devoid of one another for, and it is terrifying. More terrifying is the thought that this may become the new normal.
Generally, I write slightly humorous things about going to the pub and getting pissed and generally dicking about, and I am aware that this is not one of those pieces. However, there are people out there who aren’t as able as the rest of us to just “buckle down and get on with it”- and are no doubt withdrawing socially and mentally from everyone else. So keep that in mind next time you re-post; for some it’s less like self-isolation, more like solitary confinement.
Stay safe, kids.