I know that most people are by now craving a bit of normality. Being able to do the things they loved doing before March, meeting up with people, going out for meals, travelling. And of course I do too – looking at photos from last year makes me wonder if I’ll ever be able to go cycle touring in the Scottish Highlands as freely as I did before, with my only worries being the weather and the biting insects.
But strangely enough, as the UK gradually moves through the ‘Phases’ of lockdown easing, I find myself filled with a sense of sadness. I call it “lockdown nostalgia”.
In March and April, the roads were empty and on my daily outings on the bike there were no fumes to breathe in. My husband and I could ride side by side and the only thing louder than our voices were the birds. We saw lots of people cycling with their kids. People were walking, discovering their local neighbourhoods in ways they probably never had before. We live under a flight path, and all was now silent. There was a sense of calm in the world.
This utter change on a global scale, filled me with hope. Hope that maybe this would forever change the way people live. That people would see their former life in a new perspective and would want to step out of it, having re-connected with themselves, their locality, their values. That they might have been amazed at the difference that the ‘Great Human Pause’ made to the natural world, and might have wanted to retain it.
But what I saw around me, after the first lockdown restrictions were lifted, thrashed that hope. People driving for driving’s sake, queueing up at fast-food chains, queueing up to buy clothes and do ‘retail therapy’, people keen to ‘get away’ and fly off, people using nature reserves as toilets.
I know that this blog will not hit the uniformly popular note of the previous ones, and I welcome any comments, but I have to ask the question: was our ‘old normal’ really that great that we all want to go back to it so desperately?
Mirjam Brady-Van den Bos is a Lecturer in the School of Psychology