Striking the balance between crippling paranoia and rebellious indifference in the face of a worldwide pandemic is proving to be quite troublesome for us incaved and bumbling Neanderthals. Especially in London, the capital of contagion.
When it was first announced on Monday 23rd March that the situation had officially got ‘slightly out of hand’, and anywhere beyond your own bedroom was an infectious death trap, we were a bit perturbed.
Simple acts once so effortlessly taken for granted, such as buying a turnip, exchanging salutations with the postman and engaging in other alfresco endeavours, mutated overnight into a crescendo of horror and suspicion. Office buildings turned their suited workers away, retail stores followed suit and soon Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus and Canary Wharf were all eerily unoccupied.
Before Doomsday, those that had worn face-masks were assumed to be hypochondriacs or certified bat-munchers, and subsequently tutted-at in the streets. Now it seems like rocking some form of PPE is probably the morally right thing to do.
Nearly three weeks of wading through the quarantine quagmire and it is nigh-on impossible to recall what other sporting pursuits existed before the pedal and jog. Yet joyfully, this has got some Londoners moving.
Most Londoners usually blame the stony concrete for curtailing their yearning for a nourishing jog. Now many find themselves bounding down the streets desperate to find any alibi to get out the house. When the long-term shock of all this bounding comes afoot, those that made a timely investment into the shin-splint industry might find themselves quids in. Just a thought.
Profiteering aside, there have been some extremely positive developments in the capital as a result of the virus. All people, regardless of race, nation, colour or creed are provided at all times with their own expansive Zorb-esque space bubble to reside in merrily, unfettered by the haunting memory of the subterranean armpit asphyxiation that was the morning commute.
Londoners have developed stupendous manners. They wait patiently at the door of their local supermarkets, bequeathing their neighbour unencumbered access to the last remaining tins of horseradish. They pause graciously for one-and-other whilst passing in the street, often bowing as a sign of respect.
“Traffic lights (those that haven’t been furloughed yet) blink joyfully in celebration of the empty roads.”
Now, crossing the road at a zebra-crossing can truly be described as a soothing pastime, even for the geriatric. Traffic lights (those that haven’t been furloughed yet) blink joyfully in celebration of the empty roads. As do the stars, visible once more, above this great city.
Perhaps most impressively, for the first time since its introduction in the late Eighteen Century, the double-decker bus arrived on time. That momentous occasion was immortalised with a heart-warming round of applause that rippled throughout the city. This sort of regal veneration for the humble omnibus, and those brave health workers on the frontline, must carry on if there is ever a return to normality.
For a city that is so vast and populous, even in peacetime many feel isolated and lonely in the Big Smoke. So how wonderful it is, that when forced into our locality, many communities are coming together. Terrifyingly, people are even conversing with their neighbours for the first time, whilst clumsily upholding the social distancing dogma in true British style.
So perhaps, when the shell-shocking headlines are proved right and three weeks quarantine turns into three months or longer, this news won’t be greeted with civil unrest and revolutionary pandemonium, but with something akin to relief.
Relief, that we don’t have to re-join the queues onto the Northern Line or go anywhere near Finsbury Park. Relief, that we can actually have time to speak to our loved ones and friends. Relief, that we can see the stars, cross the road in peace and converse with our neighbours, sometimes all at the same time. If all else fails, at least we can rely on the eternal sunshine of the British Summer to keep our spirits up.
By Caspar Barnes