The truth is, everything is not quite fine anymore and getting less fine by the hour. It’s been seven miserable months now, and there is no glorious day we could venture to mark on the calendar when we will return to our previous state of freedom. Some are even bandying about this most nauseating of phrases, ‘new normal’ meaning the state we are hopelessly gravitating toward, where everything is much like it is now; which is to say hopeless.
I’m sorry but this is not going to be lighthearted, though it must be said we are not quite living in North Korea, yet. As if that is any consolation at all…
Joys from the past are returned gradually to us, little scraps are handed over by some stingy third-rate God. We receive these scraps with gratitude, but we are not sated.
Everything we are awarded is presented with the grotesque caveat that it might be lessened in time, or snatched away entirely.
Football has returned but there are no fans, so no weekend trips on the train, all goal celebrations muted, no roaring, no singing. The nation’s greatest and most loved sport is now an obligation, something that just has to go on happening, if necessary as a shadow of its former self. The Euros are taking place next year, apparently. I have a ticket for this, but little hope of going.
And we’ve been able to go to the pub for months. How delightful to have one of our finest and most ancient pleasures back, the ability to sit up in a free house with friends and choose from a vast array of delicious draught ales, right? Except the houses are no longer free, as we are no longer free in them (but the ales are still nice).
I went to a pub in Derbyshire last weekend to find there was a chain barrier between me and it, as if I was about to enter some rickety waltzer ride at the town fair.
You MUST wash my hands, you MUST write down your name and contact details, you MUST come with < 5 people, you MUST walk this way, NOT that way, you MUST not piss in this urinal, you MUST not wait at the bar, you MUST not mix with people from other groups. The next MUST is the most sinister of all.
The most valuable thing we have ceded is a part of our bodies. Our most revelatory feature aside from our eyes, the part that shows whether we are friendly or miserable, merry or depressed, the part that shows that we mean well or ill, the part that shows others that that preposterous comment we made was in fact intended to make you laugh and you should therefore not be worried by it, the part that says everything is fine, the part that smiles.
You MUST wear a mask.
I’ll tell you what I’d recommend they do, they should all just put a great big neon sign up saying ‘you MUST not come to this pub,’ save us all the bother.
And all this is nothing, relatively. It is ridiculous that I am complaining about what is now happening in pubs and football stadiums, while others have to complain about what is happening in funeral halls, care homes and hospitals. In these places too, all humanity seems to have gone out the window, daily I hear stories, of horrors I could not begin to comprehend.
Whatever you believe, whether you believe that these measures are a necessary means of protecting us from a terrifying contagion, or like me, you believe that the most extreme deprivation of our liberties since Cromwell’s rule- a humanitarian abomination and in total defiance of every value that this great nation was built upon (and the whole thing based on junk science and opinion polls), you will know that this is no way to go about living the infinitely mysterious, infinitely wondrous, finite gift of life that we have all been given.
Please, please God make it all end soon.