Life In The Slow Lane
Lockdown is clearly over in people’s minds. These are the lovely students of King’s Cross living on the BOMAD in sumptuous flats their folks will flip the second they’ve all finished their degrees in advanced macramé. They’re phantom residents as invisible to us as tourists. The stars of the Great Pause have been the enterprising local kids who found ways to keep shops and services running, like the ones who set up market gardens and put their recipes on Instagram each night, or repurposed their electric vans to make customer door-drops. They got to know their local residents, encouraging them to put names to faces, and we’ll remember them and loyally choose their independent stores over chain shops when full opening returns.
Perhaps the Great Pause should be renamed the Great Slowdown. I don’t know about you but (health problems aside) my metabolism has dropped like a stone. Instead of forever running somewhere checking my phone with my passport in my top pocket I’ve taken to sitting on our terrace for a few minutes without even reading.
Without a reason to rush, life has slowed – and not disagreeably so. Everything takes longer and actions once rushed through are now reconsidered at a languid pace. My friend Roger stopped hellraising in order to build a dining table. Where once we talked about meeting up in Turkey (something I was due to do right around now) we discuss home improvements and compare notes on chair repairs.
There’s no need to rush the writing, either. With ‘Oranges & Lemons’ due out in three weeks I find most of my publishing house working from home and no events planned, so I’ll probably do my own PR, minus the launch party. And there’s not much point in holding another treasure hunt if people aren’t coming into the city on public transport.
The failure of Brazil and America to contain the virus should be a warning to the rest of the world, but is being only half-heeded. Britain got off to a dithering start by not listening to scientists and Sweden headed into disaster by listening too much. So long as European capitals experience local flareups we remain trapped in a ‘phoney war’, a twilight of perpetual anticipation that keeps us all on a pilot light, waiting for the signal to fire up some energy once more and stop this interminable drifting.
Today I’ll be attempting to end my sargasso lassitude with a programme of physical and mental exercise. But first I’ll have a lie-down on the sofa and think about it for a while. There’s no rush just yet.