It’s been a bad-tempered week. Just as the light starts shining in the pandemic darkness, my torch of tolerance finally runs out. Maybe it’s yet another Easter Holiday with the what-shall-we-do options limited to bracing walks in over-busy parks. Maybe it’s the fact that the unpredictable weather promises long, sunny barbecues but delivers hasty, rain-drenched cuppas. Or maybe, despite being fed up of the same old faces, I’ve lost the ability to meet new ones.
It starts off well with a warm day and five neighbours in my garden. But after so long in lockdown, I’ve forgotten how to host. Filling up people’s cups and plates is surprisingly tiring and I’m having to completely relearn the art of group conversation. My daily socialisation consists of grunts from the teenager and monologues from the Nearly-Beloved. I inevitably tune out. But now I need to tune in. Active listening is exhausting and by the time everyone leaves I have to lie down.
Interestingly, it’s not just me having problems adapting. When my running club restarts, a veritable crowd turns up and even though we run in sixes, one member makes their excuse to sprint off into the distance, unnerved by so many bodies in one place. Nor is it an age thing, as I hear more and more stories of school refuseniks and youngsters unable to cope with the return to the classroom after so long in the safety and seclusion of their Teen Caves.
Even when we venture out, the landscape is not the same as it was before. Shops may be reopening but masks and hand sanitisers are with us to stay. What’s more worrying is where have all our flagship stores gone? Profits have taken precedence over public preference. My bad temper escalates. The torch of tolerance flickers and dies. Without the helpful assistant in the changing room am I really going to have to rely on the Nearly Beloved’s opinion of next season’s fashion?
But what brings my mood down the most is the thought that emerging from our months of enforced isolation, we come out of it into a world that seems none the wiser and none the better. For when we do have a day of blue skies, the hordes descend on the nearest green space only to leave it a littered tip of take-away packaging and empty cans.
What’s happened to the kindness and consideration we witnessed when the country first shut its doors? Why would anyone steal a local pensioner’s e-bike if they realised it was the only thing offering them a sense of freedom and connection? Are we returning to the dog-eat-dog society of the pre-pandemic rat race? With the current vaccine wars and the passports-to-pubs palaver maybe it’s better to stay indoors and grow that extra-terrestrial head in the comfort of our home bar?
But that’s giving in and, as a nation, we never do that! So, we’ll swot up on social skills and hone our herd behaviour. We’ll come dressed for four seasons in one day. And, when we want to buy new stuff, if we’re not profitable enough for the big corporates, then we’ll take our custom elsewhere – to those small independents that have fought and thought outside the box to keep themselves going throughout the Corona crisis.
We have to be the change we want to see.
So, I’m posting a neighbourhood WhatsApp alert for that bike. And, on my next trip into the countryside, I’ll be suitably weather-proofed. Then, instead of shaking my head at the inconsiderate idiots who’ve left their mess behind, I’ll pick it up and take it home. Because I refuse to let our inclement climate, the pandemic’s restrictions and the minority’s bad conduct affect my good temper.