And so maybe it’s just me. Who is looking back at lockdown as a simpler time. Which had a kind of ragged innocence to it. And now that we’re out, so many announcements every day, pubs, museums, shops, beauty salons, then gyms and indoor swimming pools open, open, opening. It’s like a party popper when you pull the string and however much you were anticipating it, however much you were excitedly bracing yourself, all those sparkly gems and streams will shoot out in a direction you didn’t really want with a bang that jars your system.
My limbs feel made out of moths. I wonder if something is broken inside. I’ve spent my whole life glorying in the world at large and the brilliance and minutiae within it, feeling sentimental about the smallest things, marvelling at the expanse, and suddenly it’s all back – the whole snow-globe phantasmagoria of the thing – and I’ve never felt so weak and overwhelmed. There were six of us in my house, and despite our ups and downs and sideways, we were notes synchronistically conjoined by the bars of a delineated sheet of music. And now each of those notes is off, off, off, flying from the page into a cacophony of noise that I can’t control.
It was my morning and evening ritual, before I got out of bed or went to sleep, to go over everything in my head I was grateful for. And there was so much! Now I’m just stuck to my phone, hunched over the small rectangular feed pulsing out its myriad dark lights.
Today, the same thing. (Each day I expect to improve). There’s an aching furrow in my brow and my legs are as light as drifts of snow. I don’t want to go for a walk. But I force myself, even just to march out the jitters. Ah, the children are back at the local primary school! They are chasing each other around the playground in their little red jumpers, the girls’ plaits splaying out behind them as they run. That children sound they make in a group. Such an exotic squeal. There is a yoga class among the flower-beds, a whole group, quiet and reverent. There is a youngster hanging upside down from a tree, the scratched bark like cardboard breaking up, his tummy button showing. The skateboarders are in the park, the boxers are boxing. As I walk the stretch towards home, a large, well-built man is coming toward me. On his T-shirt I read the following words, ‘COME ON ENGLAND’. I realise, of course, that it’s a football shirt, but for a second it seems like a message to me. COME ON ENGLAND, he is saying. Pull yourself together. And he is right. I need to do this. I need to pull myself together.
I go home. I gather the group. ‘Grab your stuff. Grab your masks. We are clearing out of here. It’s time.’
This is the new issue of Condé Nast Traveller. For those who know that, ironically, locking the whole world down was a cinch compared to moving us on again, but slowly, slowly we will get there and we must.