As the metaphorical door swings open onto the sunlit uplands of ‘step three’, the UK continues its march out of Covid lockdown towards the promised land of Normality. For some, the pace remains too slow; for others, it’s too fast. But (for now at least) we are all more or less marching to the beat of the same drum.
We are nominally five weeks away from step four: the lifting of all Covid restrictions. But will the door remain fully ajar right up to and beyond 21st June? Will it partially close, with certain restrictions retained beyond this date? Or will it slam shut in our faces, leaving us where we are with a bloodied nose?
If the last 14 months has taught us anything, it is that we should take nothing for granted. But for now the door remains tantalisingly open. And, while it does, there is cause for optimism.
Wednesday 5th May
Kara’s ninth birthday was also her second pandemic birthday. Which, of course, meant no party – just a family celebration at home and a Skype call with the grandparents. She seemed happy enough. We’re lucky that our kids aren’t overly materialistic or focussed on having a big do. She did miss being able to celebrate with her friends, although having a birthday during term-time helps mitigate things somewhat. But all in all, low-key was okay.
Next year, though, it’s the big one-oh. Hopefully we’ll be able to mark the occasion properly then. She deserves it.
Sunday 9th May
Another double-header this weekend. A trip to see my parents: lunch in their garden followed by a big family walk. And a visit and a barbecue with our old university friends.
The first time we did this last month, it was a novelty after so long spent in lockdown isolation. It felt like a big step forward. This time, though, it felt much more like normal, for a few hours at least.
Wednesday 12th May
Despite the imminent easing of Covid restrictions next week, Isaac’s school announced today that they will continue to require pupils to wear masks in classrooms and communal areas until at least 7th June (i.e. the return from the half-term break).
I don’t think anyone raised as much as a murmur of complaint. Many of Isaac’s classmates travel via public transport and therefore interact with the wider public at close quarters. And, of course, kids across all classes and years inevitably intermingle to a much larger extent than in primary schools, where it’s easier to maintain bubbles.
Is it a cautious approach? Yes. But I’d rather be a little too cautious than not cautious enough. The students understand that this is as much about protecting others as it is about protecting themselves. And the school have been brilliant at communicating and explaining decisions quickly and clearly, which has quelled any dissenting voices. If only the same could be said about everyone else in positions of authority …
Friday 14th May
To say it had been a while would be a masterpiece of understatement. Before tonight, my last Friday meet-up with my local dad friends – pre-pandemic, a monthly-ish event – was (I think) last September.
So being able to sit around a table sipping pints in a beer garden once again – albeit on a chilly spring evening and having to put my mask back on again when I went to the toilet – felt like the lap of luxury. I was surprised by the realisation of how much I missed it. Yes, I’ve drunk beer during lockdown. Yes, I’ve sat in people’s gardens chatting. But this was different; a heightened sense of sociability and simple normality.
Hopefully this evening will lead to a resumption of normal service: we’ve already pencilled in a repeat date four weeks from now. But maybe we won’t take such simple pleasures for granted in the future. Or maybe we’ll just slip back into our old assumptions without a second thought. Who knows?
Monday 17th May
And so we move into step three of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. As of today, two households or up to six people from different households can gather indoors, hospitality venues can serve customers inside again and international leisure travel to approved countries can recommence.
We can even hug again.
It’s a significant step forward, and leaves us five weeks away – in theory – from the complete lifting of Covid restrictions. Although already we’re seeing murmurings that concerns over the growth and transmissibility of the ‘Indian variant’ may lead to not quite all measures disappearing on 21st June. Equally, the voices demanding to know why we can’t just accelerate faster out of lockdown – like a getaway driver fleeing the police – aren’t going away either.
Stick or twist? That is the question.
I marked the day by working at home alone, as I now do every Monday. This is Heather’s one day in the office each week, but there’s little prospect of me returning this side of September. This is our new routine and – half-term week aside – it’s unlikely to change until the kids break up for the summer.
And that’s the thing. Just because things can change now doesn’t mean they have to. Of course, some people will make the most of being able to socialise in their friends and families’ houses, or going out to eat and drink. That’s what the rules now allow; it’s all good. But equally others will remain cautious and change their behaviours more slowly, or not at all. Many of us fall somewhere between the two extremes.
I make no judgement either way. No one should feel compelled to leap back to normal just because other people are. Just because some people are entirely comfortable stepping inside someone else’s house doesn’t mean you have to let someone into yours. Nor should we expect others to do as we do. We all have differing levels of comfort depending on health conditions, attitude to risk, any number of factors. We all do what we feel is right for us and that’s okay (within the confines of what the law permits, obviously).
Ultimately, we all entered this pandemic together, keeping an eye out for our neighbours and clapping for the NHS and front-line workers. It would be nice if we all exited it together too. We can now see the exit door. Form an orderly queue, please.
Previous ‘Life under lockdown’ entries