Saturday, July 18, 2020

The NeverEnding Story

During those long-ago days, when Lockdown first began, I—and almost everyone else in Britain—began a Lockdown Diary.

For me, this wasn’t a big change. I have been keeping a journal since the age of eleven and the only difference between the Journal and the Lockdown Diary was that I proposed to update the Journal every day and number the entries accordingly. Therefore, I am, as of today, up to Lockdown Day plus 117 (reminiscent of the WWII designations of D-Day plus ##).


Initially, I determined to keep the daily lockdown entries going until normal life returned. After a few weeks, however, I realized this was never going to happen.

The earliest entries in the Diary contain accounts of the peculiar qualities life had taken on, followed by the repeated chronicling of events before the shutters came down — the period I now think of as The Before Time — and the unbelievably rapid unravelling of normal life. Accordingly, for a week or so, I obsessed over The Last Time I… 
  • went to the cinema
  • had a drink in a pub
  • got a haircut
  • visited a tea shop
  • browsed a bookstore
  • rode on a train
  • etc... 
It was, I see now, my method of mourning for a life that, deep down, I knew was never going to return.

After that, it became a record of how we, and the rest of the world, were coping.

But then things began to open up and, gradually, the entries became more (for want of a better word) normal: we were allowed a second walk, we had a cup of tea in the park, we could go to a different park, we could drive to another part of the county…

It was then that I thought the Diary had gone on long enough, but I wanted a clean way to cut it off, so I decided on an event that would act as a bookend, of sorts, and signify that Things Had Returned to Normal. That event was to meet up with my friend in a pub for a pint.

I didn't take any photos in the pub, so I had to steal this.
It had been one of the final normalities in that eventful week before Lockdown, so the ability to revisit the event would, I supposed, confirm that Lockdown was over. Only, as the day approached for our planned meeting, I began to have doubts. We might be meeting in a pub for a pint, but things were far from normal.

First of all, I had to make a reservation. For a drink. In a pub. Then, I was shown to my table by a staff-member wearing a facemask. I ordered food and drink from an app on my mobile phone and the items were brought to the table by other staff members, also wearing facemasks. Could I really claim that this was enough like The Before Time to allow me to call an end to my Lockdown Diary? I didn’t think so.

But as we sat and chatted, certain things began to occur to me. While it might not have been Normal when compared to The Before Time, it was as normal as it was going to get for now. Also, I rather enjoyed the idea of having a time slot rather than just showing up and hoping I could find a table. And ordering via the app was kinda fun: you press a few buttons on your phone and someone comes and gives you food. What’s not to like? Finally, the pub, although not full, was buzzing and busy and a lot less surreal than the original visit I was comparing it to, where my friend and I were, for the most part, the only two customers, and the bar staff clustered around a container of hand-sanitizer worrying about not having any jobs.

What the pub pretty much looked like the last time I was there.
That visit, back in March, during those twilight days just before Lockdown, was much more surreal, and laced with foreboding, than the visit I was currently enjoying. Therefore, I felt it met—and, indeed, exceeded—the criteria.

And so, what I am calling Lockdown Diary #1 has—instead of becoming a never-ending story—finally come to an end.

Let us all hope I do not have occasion to begin Lockdown Diary #2.


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