Here we go again. As of last Thursday all households in England are once again in lockdown. All sorts of things that we might have wanted to do had we been silly enough are now once again forbidden. How many pubs and restaurants did I visit during the summer months - none. I've barely even went to a shop - the post office a few times perhaps, and I had to buy some oil for the car last month so I went to a Halfords. Raves and concerts? Zero. How many trains, buses and planes did I take? One of each since March, and with a great deal of reticence. So in truth a month of lockdown doesn't really mean much change for me versus last week. My universe was already very small - I commute about eight feet a day from my bed to my computer, thus spending an incredibly high percentage of each day in just a single room. Does it get to me? Of course it does.
It is more the thought of lockdown that I find harder to get to grips with, harder to reconcile myself to. Knowing that next weekend I can't simply do whatever I want and that I'm stuck in an urban semi just like the previous five days. Or at least not without asking myself some searching questions, without carrying out a risk assessment of my plans, and without feeling vaguely guilty about definitions of local and essential. Locking down my household is completely pointless anyway - Mrs L is a teacher and so both she and my two daughters mix with hundreds of other people five days a week. Schools are doing their best in the face of zero government help, but with the best will in the world they cannot hope to restrict the spread of COVID. Mrs L's college has over 2000 pupils that travel in from far and wide. The girls' school has something like 1500. All three of them probably cross paths with the virus several times a day, so me staying in my house doesn't really lower my chances of avoiding it very much. The point is that if I get it without realising, at least I won't be out and about spreading it unwittingly, but as I said my current lifestyle almost totally precludes that anyway.
However this weekend my chances of catching it - indeed the whole household's chances - just went up another notch. My son attends a school in Norfolk. He boards there, but last week there was a positive case in one of his classes and on Friday evening he and a number of other kids were deemed to have had several days of "close contact" with the child in question. So on Saturday I had to drive up to Norfolk (via Essex and Suffolk for some zero-risk essential exercise as it happens) and bring him home for a two week period of self quarantine. I know what you're thinking and I am thinking it too. Rather than have him stay in his room at school which would have been perfectly possible, Public Health England instead determined that he had to come home and potentially pass it on to us. Nearly forty other families are in the same boat. And given what I just said about three people in this household going out to schools each day.... yup, you see the issue. Of course we let both schools know, but the official guidance is that we must continue as normal. If we keep the girls home we and they get into trouble, and if Mrs L doesn't go to work she also gets into trouble, and so this morning off they all went. It's lunacy, but state sponsored. I suppose that overall a nation-wide lockdown should have a broad impact, but for any of the eight million households with school-age children, or anyone working in education, it just feels so pointless. Then again the particularly vulnerable age bracket likely don't live with school age children so that at least makes a bit more sense.
Nonetheless the Government's handling of this pandemic has been shambolic. The scenes this summer of people eating out (literally state sponsored), people out drinking and partying, people shopping, people travelling as normal, people on holiday and so on were simply maddening. Who thought that was a good idea? Our family has not been perfect as that would have been almost impossible, but like many we have been so disciplined for so so long. We are nearly eight months in at this point, and it now appears that all of that hard work, all that thinking differently about everything we do, all of that denial and boredom has just been a waste of time. And the tragedy is that you could see it coming a mile off. We'll carry on as best we can of course, and there is no denying that we have it pretty easy compared to many, but that does not mean we are not fed up. Very fed up and the longer it goes on the worse it gets. What's the way out? When can we go back to living our lives as normal, and I don't mean when the politicians say we can as we know that is deeply flawed.
I went out on Wanstead Flats on Sunday afternoon. Admittedly not the best time to be going out, but I have never seen it busier. It wasn't even like this during the first period of lockdown - when you can't go to the pub, the gym, the café or the high street, it seems you go to Wanstead Park or the Flats. I'll try and get out earlier I think. I took a few bird photos at one of the local ponds but was forced to move on - Londoners seem unable to measure two metres, and rather than get into a fight I just retreated. Give me the Essex coast any day - I think I saw two people at Abberton on Saturday morning. I remember this from the first time, a huge swell in numbers locally that only declined once lockdown ended. It was springtime then, and thus far more irritating as I genuinely wanted to be out looking for migrants. Birding is obviously far less exciting in November, but what has changed is my level of fatigue. It might be a bit dull out there, but at least it is out there and not in here.