A time to be alive

At the time of writing this, over 140,000 people have tragically died from Covid-19, with over 2.1 million confirmed cases across the globe. In the UK, we are under lockdown, confined to our homes for everything except essential work, travel, shopping or exercise. It feels as though the country is divided, between those who have swiftly hit a disruptive pause button on normal life, and those who are working at the speed of light trying to keep the country up and running and quite frankly, keeping people alive. 

Sadly it doesn’t stop there. On top of lives lost, we have those continuing to suffer from ill health, and not just Coronavirus. Certain industries have been left entirely redundant, businesses from all over are having to shut shop without any certainty of when or if they will ever reopen. Subsequently, the economy is bleeding dry. People stuck at home are suffering too and mental well-being is fragile. There are people who haven’t seen loved ones for months, people who are being mis-treated by so-called loved ones, people who are struggling to make ends meet, children who are not getting an education, essential workers who aren’t getting a break. It’s impossible to clap loud enough or run enough 5ks to show our appreciation for our health workers. Our death rate sits at 13%, which means survival rate is 87%. Our NHS is our special glimmer of hope at the moment, you’re incredible. 

And then there are the little things that I’m sure a lot of us are missing. At the moment I sit in the category of people I’m going to call “safe-and-healthy-but-not-left-my-house-in-48-hours-and-prone-to-crying”. I am isolating in comfort, I’m not living alone, I have a job and I have my health. And I am grateful for all of the above. But I’ve realised I have taken a lot for granted in a life pre-bat soup. Some things I knew I would miss; just like the next person, I miss my family so much. FaceTime isn’t the same as face time. I miss my friends, even the ones I wouldn’t see for months at a time, I miss looking forward to seeing them when we don’t know how forward we’re having to look right now. I miss eating out, I miss drinking in a bar, I miss beer gardens, I miss picnics. I miss bank holidays that feel like bank holidays. I miss shellac. I miss Zara. 

But then there are also things I miss that I didn’t expect. I miss the office. I miss the completely non-descript conversation that happens across a desk to close friends or the small talk in the queue for the coffee machine. I miss takeaway coffee, even the shit ones. Pret coconut flat whites, I will never take you for granted again. I miss going within two metres of people, even strangers. I miss being able to talk to the delivery drivers, I miss saying a proper thank you to shop workers. I miss saying hi to dogs. I miss normal exercise. I miss being able to run with freedom and not with one eye on the person two metres in front of me. I miss spending longer than 4 minutes in a supermarket. (Actually I knew I would miss this, I love supermarkets, but I miss the mooch). The tiny cheese samples or the free sushi at Whole Foods, I will never take you for granted again. I miss commuting. I miss the burn in my calves as I run to catch the fast train, I miss people watching on the first tube at 5am. I miss the outdoors, even the wet, windy, cold outdoors. I’ll take getting caught in the rain over and over if it means I can go outside just for the sake of it. But we know the outdoors hasn’t missed us out there, good things are happening while we TikTok. 

The planet is getting healthier by default. China has seen the first blue skies in 6 years, the canals in Venice are clear and now home to sea life, and even some regions of India can see the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years. It is predicted that 4.6 million people die a year from pollution – could Covid be saving lives? And while we leave the planet to have a fallow year, and Glastonbury to have another (far too soon for our liking), inside our homes great things are happening too.

Domestication is washing across all of us in a world where we have become so consumerist. The supermarket shelves are empty of baking paper and flour which can only mean we’re fending for ourselves. Perhaps you’ve quickly become a keen baker, a gardener, a brewer, a painter, a hairdresser or a quiz master. In fact you could be all or none of these, but unanimously we’re occupying ourselves by doing the things we didn’t have the time, patience, or even ability to before. We’re managing to learn new skills and refine old ones, even confined between familiar four walls. We’re creating, doing, making, living. Albeit a different life to the one we had before, but we’re living still.

We’re taking a step back and appreciating. We’re appreciating the camaraderie of those we’re spending 24 hours a day with, the unity of neighbours out their windows at 8pm, even the phone calls with those we’re missing. Without the haze of weekly anecdotes and the busyness of normal life, we’ve got the time to ask and understand how our nearest and dearest actually are, how they’re holding up. You realise no one is ever actually just “good, thanks!”. Technological connectivity previously made us feel connected to friends but really we were responding to a notification not a person, a false sense of togetherness. Now we don’t have the headless-chicken excuses hiding us behind text not talk, you’ll see we have the time to catch up with people more, finding out what’s really behind the eyes and emojis. This pesky thing called isolation might be getting in the way physically, but emotionally we’re getting closer.

And finally we’re resting. If you’re not sleeping more hours a night than you have done before, you’re definitely spending more time on the sofa. You’ll notice that even isolation is exhausting, so imagine how much your body has probably craved this downtime. We have excuses other than hangovers to turn off the alarms, binge our way through Netflix, read the books we’ve been meaning to for years and if our eyelids get heavy in doing so, let them. We know it’s boring, but if boredom is the emotion getting you down the most, lucky you. Soak it up, we’ll never get this chance to rest again. 

So the real fun has been cancelled for a while and of course it’s shit. It’s inevitably more shit for the millions of poorly people and the hundreds of thousands of health workers, but in ode to the second favourite Beddingfield, we’ve got to get through this. Without the margaritas on rooftops with your mates, we’re finding new highs. We have the running PBs, we have the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle, we have the perfect sourdough split, we have the hot baldies. We may miss a life we took for granted pre-Covid and we might not be making the memories we’d like to, but there is a whole lot of good coming from this. And if that’s not enough to get you through, just think how good the first night out will be. And if that’s still not enough, remember you don’t really like going out anyway. 

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