NO one knows how this thing will end, but we conjecture, all the time. We are told that pubs and restaurants may have some form of opening from July 4. But the ultimate lifting of lockdown remains uncertain – perhaps by the end of summer?
However it pans out, I look forward to a time when depilating my legs will no longer be the highlight of the day. When the virus has finally gone, according to the BBC and the Archbishop of Canterbury, we will be in ‘a new normal’.
The hatred by the young towards the old displayed during this crisis, evinced by such Twitter sites as ‘Boomer Remover’ and the surprisingly frequent suggestion that the lives of old people should be sacrificed for the good of the economy, may be forgotten. Instead, ‘Millennials’ and Boomers will join youthful and arthritic hands in their love of WhatsApp, Zoom, Hangout and Instagram.
Children will also have changed. Missing out on school, they may suffer an increase in literacy. BBC Radio 4 reported recently that ‘watching TV may be educational’, and at the start of April a teachers’ union warned parents against imposing ‘too strict a learning regime on children who may already be disorientated by the virus’.
Once children return, teachers will have to push back hard against any such intellectual advances; fear of education has a long history in Britain. When I was an infant in the 1960s, my mother was ticked off for teaching me to read. No child was supposed to get ahead of the others.
In the 1980s, a trainee teacher told me she was very worried about a Chinese boy in her class being good at maths. She spoke as if his ability was a kind of misconduct. Since then, there has been a gradual abolition of any subject deemed ‘too hard’ for British brains.
In May last year, a spokesperson for Ofqual, the UK exams regulator, complained that language exams were being ‘marked too strictly’, which was putting students off.
Many pundits opine that as a result of the Chinese eating bat soup, the UK will become a kinder, more cohesive society, embracing a new kind of socialism where shelf-stackers, cleaners and delivery drivers will get more respect for their service. We may wind up with what used to be called ‘Christian values’, but they will have a very different name.
On Easter Sunday, Linda Woodhead, Professor of the Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University, told Radio 4 that as the Church has lost its moral authority, the NHS has become the moral arbiter of the nations. ‘It is now the source of our spiritual and moral guidance,’ she said, ‘representing our best values.’
‘Values’ are the watchword of this new normal. Later that day, Boris was released from hospital and with all the emotionalism of a new convert declared that the NHS is ‘the best of our country, the beating heart of our country’.
Thursday became the new Sunday for many as families trooped outside to perform rituals of praise as they once did at Evensong. What would the Edwardian-born men who established the NHS have thought if you’d told them they were creating a monolith that would one day replace the Christian church?
Perhaps Boris will give the NHS a grateful dollop of extra funding. But if the love is to continue, there may also have to be a discreet change in the training of nurses. Best not to remind people that outside intensive care units, many of them really were like angels; invisible and never there when you really needed one.
While humans wait anxiously inside, the outside world is happier. On the daily walk, one notices the deafening din of birdsong, usually muffled in pre-lockdown times by the noise of traffic; one sees burgeoning wild flowers along roadsides, normally destroyed by council mowing every spring.
It’s unlikely that Nature will go on burgeoning happily when this crisis subsides; no politician of any hue has put any pressure on the World Health Organisation to stop the Chinese using wet markets selling endangered species. That idea is even considered ‘racist’ by the Left. Better Red and dead than risk that accusation, or upsetting the Chinese Communist Party.
A vaccine may soon be found anyway, hopefully before the second spike, so we will never have to ask China to change its ways.
For a short time, birds and other wildlife will thrive, Nature will revivify before her final end, and Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg may also reappear from under their synthetic down duvets and start howling at America and Europe again.
When lockdown is over, I might even miss it. There’s something reassuring in the increased bonhomie, as usually in England there isn’t any.
Living alone, I benefit from the increased friendliness of almost everyone, who these days seem to forgive whatever it is that they usually dislike about me, and I’m much more tolerant of them.
But if the Second World War is anything to go by, most people will forget all about this strange time the day after it ends, returning immediately to unfriendly mode and won’t want to hear a word about it for at least five years. After that, there’ll a flurry of poems, novels and films about the Great Lockdown, starring Ryan Gosling as Donald Trump.
The political parties, all tainted with failure, will form a nebulous centrist block. The Church of England will finally disappear, but the monarchy, like the Queen, will live for ever.
This article first appeared in the Salisbury Review Magazine