This article is taken from The London Economic’s bi-weekly email, Elevenses.
Good morning. This week, I have found myself – like many of you, I’m sure – thinking back to last March.
My reflection on the coronavirus year has consisted mainly of flicking through old photos on my phone. The naivety of February – arse-to-arse nights out, a holiday – quickly subsides, replaced by jumbo-packs of bog roll stockpiled by anxious-looking parents and people in face-masks. Enter the screenshots of disbelieving newspaper front-pages, warning of impending confinement and declaring Britain ‘SHUTTERED’. Then arrive pictures of sad-looking dough, Zoom quizzes and futile attempts to grow facial hair – the stifling blanket of domesticity which we are still yet to fully cast off, twelve traumatic months later.
In the last few days writers far more able than I have weighed in on what we have lost this past year. So just for a moment, allow me to ponder not what has been taken from us but what we’ll seek to keep – even if for many, maybe even for most, the former far outweighs the latter. I was asked recently if there were any aspects of the coronavirus universe which I’ll seek to carry with me once normality (or something approaching it) returns, and to my surprise the answer was yes – quite a lot actually.
Spending more time outdoors is probably top of the pile. I can’t count the number of times that, afflicted by writer’s block, I’ve set off for a loop of my nearest park and returned 15 minutes later settled on the outlines of an article. As for exercise, I am not and will never be one of those hardy types who can rouse themselves for a run before work – but being able to do so in the half-hour lull before lunch suits me nicely.
A newfound love of the local will, I hope, endure beyond the pandemic’s end. I’ve become reliant on the grocer round the corner and the sandwich shop down the road, zipping about on my bike, rarely piercing a two-mile radius. This crisis might have moved London a step closer to the ’15-minute city’ model supported by the mayor of Paris, among others. She wants each arrondissement to become more self-sufficient, with their own grocers, parks, cafés, health centres, schools and workplaces all a walk or bike from a resident’s front door.
Working from home has simply meant more work for most; the average UK worker’s week has got almost 25 per cent longer since the pandemic’s onset. Yet even where the job has eclipsed all else, the revolution we’re witnessing in the world of work is having a knock-on effect. One friend toiling through more than 60-hours a week now intends to down tools and ask for a four-day week to accommodate a passion project – coaching football, he reckons. The impulse to find more time for the things we love is shared by many – and businesses and governments seem increasingly willing to accommodate it. The revolution – a welcome one in my mind – is here to stay.
What about you? When pubs reopen and social distancing is discarded, will you seek a hasty return to life as it was pre-Covid? Or will you pluck and prune those habits and hobbies which helped you bear this last year and carry them with you into the next? Hit reply and let me know – I’m off for a run.
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