Expat Chronicles: Slouching Towards Normalcy

We’re now in our third month of coronavirus lockdown here in London, and the natives have taken to burning down neighborhoods and feasting on each other’s flesh. The Tower Bridge has been seized by a mob of renegade soccer hooligans who declared it a sovereign republic, and Boris Johnson has organized a heroin cartel to fund the counteroffensive. Kate Middleton wrested control of the throne and declared herself The One Most Mighty and Powerful….

OK, none of that really happened.

Life is lazing along here pretty normal as these things go. Most Brits seem to be going about their business in that usual understated Brit way, as if it’s just another thing to deal with in a couple of millennia of things to deal with. The UK official death count has pushed past 37,000, but the number of cases apparently is stabilizing.

People are not happy about the actions of Boris Johnson right-hand man Dominic Cummins, who has been seen breaking lockdown restrictions to travel across the country to his parents’ farm, and taking his family on a day trip to said farm. It’s a bit of a scandal.

You sense that some people are getting a little weary of it all, and recent bike rides through sunny, sunny, sunny London confirm that more folks seem to be out and about these days. There’s been the occasional protest against the government lockdown in the UK, though my knowledge of all this is secondhand.

The protests here seem tame compared with some of the angry scenes in other corners of the world. I don’t believe the UK has witnessed any Rambo Lite warriors toting assault rifles in government buildings, ala Michigan. But hey, guns aren’t that easy to buy in the UK, and anyway everyone is so busy trying to sort out the COVID-19 game plan that there’s not enough time to dress up and play GI Joe like the kids back in the colonies.

(Here’s what I’ve learned from recent events in the U.S.: Angry white men can carry guns into government buildings with no arrests or even much resistance. Meanwhile, an unarmed black man got shot and killed by white vigilantes in Georgia and it took a couple of months just to bring charges. Meanwhile, another black man died after his neck was pinned to the ground by a white cop in Minneapolis, long after the black man was any kind of a threat, if he’d ever really been one. Also, a white woman called the cops on an “African-American man” [her words] because he informed her that she wasn’t following the rules governing dog leashes in Central Park, which she wasn’t. And the “African American man” was bird watching, for God sakes. And none of this was even remotely surprising.).

Anyway, back in the UK….

There will be some lifting of restrictions beginning June 1. Some non-essential businesses will be allowed to open. Some schools will open on the same date, though I’m not sure exactly which schools. Our kids’ school hasn’t shown its cards yet.

Per Boris, all non-essential shops will reopen beginning June 15. You’ll still be encouraged to practice social distancing, and wear masks when possible, and some folks will probably not wear masks just because they’re told to wear masks, the same way a 5-year-old won’t get up off the floor just because you told him to get off the floor.

Maybe the government should say something like, “I bet you don’t know how to put on a mask all by yourself! Awwww, look at the little baby who doesn’t know how to put on a mask all by himself!” Maybe that will convince them to put on a mask, just to prove the grownups wrong.

The pubs and restaurants are still not open. I miss them.

The run of gorgeous Spring weather continues. I mentioned in an earlier blog post that London got blessed with beautiful weather at the exact time the lockdown shoved everyone indoors. We’ve had rain for maybe a handful of days since late March. Otherwise, it’s been clear, sunny and moderate-to-warm.

We have a little patch of grass in our back yard, maybe 12 feet in diameter, that has basically turned to clay during the drought. It’s hard and flat enough that I can hit tennis balls against the brick wall surrounding our yard and the balls bounce pretty true, making for satisfying rallies. So: another silver lining in the darkness.

We haven’t used motorized transportation in two months. No trains, buses, Uber or cabs. I don’t miss them.

You keep hearing talk of things getting back to normal, but we’ll see. I have a feeling this experience represents a demarcation point in much of the world’s collective psyche, if not our collective behavior or our official policies. Not for everyone, obviously. It took about two minutes for lots of folks to crowd the beaches after lockdowns were lifted in other parts of the world.

Of course, plenty of other folks were thinking, “Nah. I’ll just skip the beach today and find a nice, quiet corner of the park to spread my blanket out on.”

Certainly, we’re all looking forward to the day when a vaccine or cure are developed, and we can relax. But I’m guessing many of us will change our habits, anyway. I’ll probably have to squeeze into a crowded subway again. But I’ll like it even less than I liked it before, which was not at all.

I’m also guessing that as soon as it’s safe to go outside again, the rains will return. Bet on it.

2 Comments

  1. It does seem like many governments are now accepting that this is here to stay, and loosening the reins – albeit cautiously. Lockdown is not sustainable in any sense.

    Down here in South Africa, our government was being particularly stringent and dictatorial in many aspects – even defining the types of clothes that could be bought, with very prescriptive rules that many considered a mere exercise in exerting control over the population.

    I always admired the sensibility of the UK government regarding exercise and allowing people to be outside – with caution, of course… something our government is only slowly catching onto. The extreme insistence on face masks, however, bugs me… especially with the requirement to wear one even when exercising… because being far away from others in an open space is so dangerous that we’d rather suffocate than risk catching droplets from the invisible people around us 😤.

    Anyway…good to see football on the way back hopefully, which is another sign of normalisation – albeit a new normal.

    Enjoy your weather. We’re just getting into Winter here, just as our freedom of movement is getting a bit more relaxed.

    Murphy’s law at play…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Things are less restrictive here. People are encouraged to wear masks, but there’s certainly no mandate. We just happened to have some cloth masks around even before the pandemic because we ordered them after one of our daughters got a chemistry set, and we decided she should wear a mask while doing experiments. I wear one while bike riding but I’d say maybe 1 out of 5 people I pass wear a mask, if that. Not sure what the rule will be when restaurants open because obviously you can’t eat with a mask on.
      People have been good about social distancing, at least compared with other countries. The main problem I have is getting mixed messages about the next move, but I guess to an extent they’re sort of making it up as they go along because this is all new territory.
      Sounds harsher down in your part of the world. Amazing that they’re even monitoring the clothes you wear.
      Anyway, stay safe and be well!

      Like

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