Gary Denness

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Are We Nearly There Yet?

For months, we’ve been stuck inside our homes or condemned to the same set of local walking routes. We’ve all been checking the daily infection and death rates, rejoicing in their decline. Because a decline means less people are dying, which is great. But also, if we’re going to be brutally honest, because a decline in Covid deaths means that we are getting closer to the day we can all go back to normal. Or something that closely resembles normal.

Are we nearly there yet? Yes, very nearly. Not far to go now. The second part of the grand reopening of the United Kingdom took place at the start of the week. Shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality welcomed back their punters. Hurrah! There’s little more than a month to go before almost everything else reopens again. Indoor hospitality, hotels, cinemas, museums and galleries. Are we nearly there yet? Yes, it’s literally just round this last corner. Probably.

A poll in the Times recently asked people if they had ‘enjoyed lockdown’. Gosh, what a loaded question. And golly, what abuse the 16% who dared to answer ‘yes’ received on social media. Twitter can be a harsh courtroom sometimes. Individual circumstances are going to determine just how one approaches the question, of course. Those who’ve been made redundant, lost their business or — worse — lost friends or relatives, are probably not going to rave about lockdown.

But for many of us — substantially more than 16%, I’d wager — lockdown effectively meant that we’ve either had a lot of paid time off work, or have been spared the dreaded commute. The ‘Summer Lockdown’ was, for obvious reasons, far more pleasant than the ‘Winter Lockdown’. We enjoyed long days sunning ourselves on deserted postcard-worthy beaches on the Jurassic Coast from April through to June. Not so much between January and March, but the coastline still makes for a picturesque stroll. But certainly, you can have too much of anything, lockdowns included. So I think we’re all glad that we are nearly there now.

On balance, would I say that I have enjoyed lockdown? It’s a tough question. I missed out on so much international travel. Theatre. Shows. Festivals. But, we had no choice, did we? And look, I’m generally a glass-half-full sort of chap. So one must crack on and make the best of things. Which is what I did, admittedly from a position of advantage. I live in a very walkable part of the world. I don’t live alone. I have always been going to work, albeit at times with shorter shifts and with the occasional paid day off. And whilst I have lost friends and family to the coronavirus, that subject, in my opinion, belongs to a different question entirely.

But we are nearly there now. So I strolled into town yesterday, eager to see life, to see inhabited shops, to listen to the ker-ching of tills, to wander through Debenhams again, whilst I still have the chance — their doors will be open only for long enough to sell off their stock. Sadly, what I found were streets full of chavs, queuing to get in Primark to buy £2 t-shirts, probably made by slaves in the Orient. Or in Leicester. The town’s gardens contained plagues of kids, screaming, drinking, smoking weed and one step away from gross indecency. And wherever I walked, I waded knee deep through litter.

It was quite, quite ghastly. Was it always like this? You know, in the ‘Before Days?’ Or is this new? Oh my goodness, has lockdown turned me into some sort of elitist snob? Am I woke? Or anti-woke? I just don’t know what anything means anymore. I quickly escaped from the town centre, carrying my sole purchase in a feel-good biodegradable plastic compostable bag that I’d bought with me, giving everyone I passed some jolly angry looks, cussing a little and muttering something about the good old days when shops for poor people weren’t open.

I retreated to the safe sanctuary of my expensive country club, well away from the horrors of the high street and the hoi polloi that have swamped it. I relaxed on the terrace with my oat milk latte to ponder the days events. And by jove, I do believe I did like lockdown after all. Loved it. What wondrous times. Absolutely can’t wait for the next one. If only lockdowns could apply just to people I don’t much like. Perhaps with a little tinkering, government policy could be adjusted and legislated to continue after the pandemic has ended. We could call them ‘lock ups’.

Are we nearly there yet? I’m afraid so…

A bloke, attempting to transition to chap. Always wanted a weekly column with The Times. Have settled for this.