Is anyone else feeling incredibly bored and lonely right now?
Lockdown has, quite frankly, lost its sheen. The novelty is over, even if social distancing rules remain in place, as people all across the country find new ways to navigate the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Many are hopping on bikes and buses in order to meet up with friends for an IRL catch-up from 2m apart. Some lucky sods, able to drive and with cars at their disposal, are taking longer trips to visit loved ones or beaches and beauty spots.
Then there are those who, like myself, are still working full-time from home. We are undeniably lucky, of course: unlike so many others, we are able to remain indoors and shield ourselves from the novel coronavirus. But what of those who can’t drive? Who have, ever since losing a very dear friend in a cycling accident, been far too terrified to take a bike out on the road? Who, if they fancied visiting a loved one, would be required to take the sort of non-essential 1.5 hour train journey (with a minimum of two changes) that Boris Johnson has advised against? Who find themselves at least – at least – a four-hour walk from anyone they know? Who can’t bring themselves to force pals into yet another pointless WhatsApp conversation in order to while the hours away?
Who feels… well, who feels pretty bloody isolated right about now?
I don’t blame anyone for my sense of alienation. Indeed, I was one of those who moaned excessively about the coronavirus-induced influx in phone conversations, Skype chats and Zoom calls at the beginning of lockdown. As a self-confessed people pleaser, I found myself unable to turn anyone’s request down, and so found myself with a chat or quiz booked in every single evening – and another four or five scheduled for the weekends, too. It was relentless. I barely spent any time with my partner, despite the fact we live together. And, as the weeks went by, the quiz questions blurred into one, the conversations all started to follow the same beats. Thinking up interesting things to say left me feeling drained, exhausted, spent.
And yet, despite my apparent hatred for all of these virtual catch-ups, I loved them, too. They helped me separate the evenings and the weekends from my working days. They gave me something to look forward to. Even better, they gave me something to moan about. Best of all, they caused those first weeks of lockdown to rush by in a blur of flurried online activity. It seemed as if the year was rushing through my fingers, sure, but it also felt as if we were rushing through lockdown to something… well, to something less awful. Less pandemic-y. Less, for want of a better phrase, ‘apocalypse now’.
Then, just like that, I flipped my calendar over from May to June, and everything stopped all at once, and without any warning whatsoever. Now, my Instagram feed is filled with people having picnics, and takeaway afternoon teas, and fish ‘n’ chips on the beach, and summer garden parties with their families.
Everyone, or so it seems to my feverish, envious eye, is out there having fun in the sun. Me, though? Well, I’m not. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I’ve reached a new level of stagnation.
It is as if I’ve been rocketed backwards in time to those endless hours spent in the car as a kid, driving to some campsite in the middle of nowhere (via at least three hours of heavy motorway traffic). For a while, the adults in the car would do their best to keep me entertained. We’d count cows, red cars, and horses. We’d play ‘I Spy’ for far too long. We’d take turns pretending to be a famous person, answering the others’ 20 questions with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers as they attempted to figure out who we were.
But, as the journey continued, the car games would suddenly become passé. The radio would be switched on. And I, a disagreeable and fidgety five-year-old on a very long, very dull car journey, would find myself sick of sitting still, sick of waiting, sick of staring out the window at the world rushing by.
“Are we there yet?” I’d call to my stressed-out parents in the front. “I’m bored. Can we stop for an ice cream? I feel sick. My seatbelt is too tight. Can we open the window? But how much further? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”
That same little voice is there now, bleating incessantly in my head as I grapple with my newfound sense of stagnation. The lockdown games are over, just as I wanted. Just as I thought I wanted, anyway. But now I have nothing to do. My day consists almost entirely of work, of wandering between the fridge and my laptop, of walking the dog, of choosing something for dinner, and of going to bed.
So, yes, I am bored. I am really, really, really bored. I’m lonely, too. I want to get out. And, with my nose pressed against the window, breath fogging up the glass, I can’t help but wonder when our journey from ‘pandemic’ to ‘normal’ will be complete.
When will we get there, wherever ‘there’ may be?
Today will see Boris Johnson meet with his most senior Cabinet colleagues, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty to discuss the review and the next phase of the recovery road map.
The prime minister will then consult his Cabinet on Tuesday 23 June and outline the plans to parliament for pubs, restaurants, hotels, and hairdressers.
“The reason we are able to move forward this week is because the vast majority of people have taken steps to contain the virus,” a Number 10 spokesperson told ITV News.
“The more we open up, the more important it is that everyone follows the social-distancing rules.
“We will not hesitate to put the handbrake on to stop the virus running out of control.”
That ‘handbrake’ reference suggests the government, too, knows that we’re all kids stuck in a traffic jam right now. That we’re all bored. That we’re all tired, and grumpy, and so over this lockdown situation. That we’re all fiddling with our seatbelts, contemplating a bit of seemingly safe – albeit still very dangerous – rule-breaking in order to spice things up.
Are we there yet? No, but, hopefully, it won’t be long before we can unbuckle and clamber out. Until then, it’s up to us to maintain social distancing rules, follow government guidelines, and work hard to keep ourselves entertained, ideally without overloading our friends’ WhatsApp with a series of increasingly desperate messages (sorry guys).
With that in mind, then, I’m off to count red cars from my living room window. Wish me luck.