Anyone who writes anything other than prescriptions for a living, has been giving some thought lately to what Lockdown is teaching us.
A fellow twitterer, @EltAuthor observed the other day that he was braced for every possible take on the last couple of months –
“Lockdown has made me realise:
“… I’m with the wrong partner.”
“… how much I love my partner.”
.”.. how much I crave company.”
“… how easily I can do without company.”
… etc, etc, ad nauseam.
I blushed furiously as I contemplated my own rejected pitches to Spectator Life over the last six weeks. Lockdown has made me realise:
“… We have rats.”
“… time is an illusion created by the fourth dimension of space.”
“… I’m an alcoholic.”
“… How much I miss my children’s absence.”
“… How much of our house is wasted on ‘communal living’ space.”
“… How quickly ear hair grows.”
Joking aside, there is definitely a desire at large to achieve some sort of philosophical breakthrough while incarcerated – to be the digital Boethius, discerning the Consolations of Coronavirus.
According to this frame, Lockdown is, yes, a catastrophe but also an apostrophe – a helpful breathing space in the unspooling stream of consciousness that is – or was – 21st Century existence.
But if Lockdown is a blessing then it is wearing the mother of all disguises.
Putting the immediate death toll to one side just for a moment, approximately 99.9 per cent of what Lockdown actually means, or is going to mean, is economic devastation. A devastation without precedent. One that has already risen, like a tsunami, somewhere out in the ocean of causality, and is moving steadily and implacably towards us as we speak. That tsunami is going to hit the nation at some point in a terrifyingly non-metaphorical sense. And it will extinguish all thoughts of re-assessing priorities and addressing work/life balance much as the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 extinguished beachside barbecues.
So, I can’t be the only one who is struggling to really lose myself in this new translation of the Iliad, whose reserves of will power and trajectory of self improvement are if anything declining the longer I spend locked down and never more than eight steps and a door away from the fridge. It can’t just be me who has gestured only vaguely towards re-connecting with my kids, while suppressing the suspicion that, didn’t we used to have some other ones, that didn’t swear?
My only new hobby is furiously arranging debating points in my head to express my exasperation with those who clearly conceptualise ‘economic downturns” as some sort of aesthetic phenomenon that won’t ever affect us in a tangible way – a kind of Dustbowl Chic, making life briefly resemble a Dexy’s Midnight Runners video from 1982. Come on, Eileen – how bad can it be?
Childish of me, perhaps, when they’d no doubt accuse me of mourning Caffe Nero more than I grieve the long-term future of fiat currency. So what? I like Caffe Nero. I like the staff.
Some time soon we are all going to get a glimpse of our new reality. But before that happens I shall not be apologising for ignoring the pleas to put a positive spin on lockdown and I’ll carry on in the same deeply disappointing, third gear, potential-unfulfilling mode that I had adopted long ago for life under normal conditions.
Now if you’ll excuse me, these rats are not going to get rid of themselves.