It’s been a week of sunshine versus grey skies.
The unseasonable warmth brings the city centre to life with brightly-clothed shoppers springing up outside every store. Life, at last, seems to be returning to pre-pandemic normal. Buskers appear on every corner. A late morning chorus of reggae, with its Bob Marley message of ‘Don’t worry about a thing,’ fills me with hope and a sense of new beginnings
I’ve even persuaded Grunting Teen to hit the sales with me for a brand-new wardrobe. For, if he’s achieved nothing else in this Corona era, he’s succeeded in adding seven inches to his height, resulting in me confiscating his pair of last year’s shorts for the sake of decency. Whilst masks and anti-bac are still this season’s shopping essentials, social distancing during bargain hunting seems to have gone out of the window. Thank goodness then for my lad’s XXL arms that can reach into the scrum to fill his bag full of half-price goodies.
He’s ‘well happy’ by the time we return home, then changes into his new gear and disappears to hang out with his mates. This return of ‘the rule of six’ has opened up a social life for him again and relegated me to my former status as taxi-driver. And if I’m not ferrying him to various parks or climbing walls, then I’m dropping off the Nearly-Beloved at his office or beer-garden of choice. It’s not that I mind, after all, it’s good to see them both getting out and interacting with others. It’s just that the daily routine has suddenly become strangely busy again. Meals now have to be organised around schedules. Meet-ups with long forgotten friends take place in unfamiliar gardens so parcel deliveries are no longer guaranteed to have someone there to open the door.
But when the sky clouds over, the song on the streets changes to ‘Exodus’. For it takes a hardier spirit than mine or a patio full of fire pits to make outdoor get-togethers appealing. The sales no longer appear ‘summery’ but of the ‘closing down’ variety and now it’s the rough sleepers, rather than the street artists, who catch my eye. And I reflect on what it says about us as a society that at the start of this crisis we managed to house the homeless in hotels but now they bed down in doorways and subways. It’s no wonder then that we crave escape from this grim reality.
Holiday ads entice us to jet off to warmer climates. But hidden in the small print is the extra cost of two-way testing for the virus. And trips abroad that previously came with only a potential Delhi-belly warning are now out of bounds as the nightly news scares us with double mutant variants and the risk of mandatory quarantine.
The Nearly-Beloved is desperate to get away this summer. Last year’s staycation was an overcast experience with no hidden rainbows and he’d be willing to pay over the odds for a bit of rest and relaxation. But his moral compass won’t let him. ‘We’re better off waiting until more of the world gets vaccinated,’ he says as I surf for deals on the internet. ‘We need to think of the bigger picture.’ So, no Super League selfishness for us. No putting the interests of the privileged minority over the getting-by majority.
And then the sun comes out again and people power and reggae lyrics unite in ‘One Love’. The message sent is that if we all come together, despite our differences, we can challenge those with power, make our voices heard, and create a better post-pandemic future. We’ve had our fill of Covid grey skies. It’s time we had some light.