I've Decided To Indulge In A Thing Called Hope

Em Unravelling

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Big news, here in England. Huge. After a grim locked-down winter, on Monday of this week, the UK government finally gave us a glimpse of what they will irritatingly insist on referring to as “a roadmap” back to real life.

From what I see on the news (ok, on Twitter), I understand that this is happening more or less everywhere now and that Biden is jumping around to sort out swift vaccinations and an exit plan in the US as well. Cogs are moving.

First of all, I know that it goes without saying that the winter really has been indescribably horrid, for all of us everywhere, but it bears repeating so I’ll say it again. It has been one hundred percent stone-cold awful. In England, lockdown rules have kept us all indoors for approximately 23 hours of every single day, in the houses that we were already more than bored of, and with people we’d honestly seen quite enough of already, thanks.

We are currently allowed out only once a day for exercise, but of course, we are unable to travel anywhere for that exercise so it all has to be done in the same place every single day. I can’t begin to tell you how bored I am of the four possible walking or running routes available to me from my front door. To add insult to injury, we got snow this month as well so it was hard to walk or run on the pavements because they were so icy. I mean.

This lockdown was completely vital, though. I accepted and fully believe that, and I have complied with it accordingly. Our stats were in the toilet a few months ago — infection levels were spiraling, deaths were hitting catastrophic unimaginable numbers, hospitals were at capacity, and what’s worse is that we all knew things were so very dire because the government had done too little too late. Friends working for the NHS were too tired and broken even to report any more on how horrific their working lives had become — they just looked grey, and sad all the time. It was a total mess.

In short, we’re all tired and jaded. So when the vaccine rollout was announced — to an excruciating degree of Rule Britannia-type fanfare — at the start of the year, I was very very skeptical. The government had screwed up everything else thus far, so naturally, I fully expected them to screw this up as well. The fact that the plan has gone so smoothly and exceeded all its targets to date is a testament to the dedication of the volunteer staff, and it’s the only part of the pandemic response I can’t find fault with (yet. Let’s see how they go with the second doses, shall we?).

Grudgingly, though, I must concede that yes, vaccinations have gone unfeasibly well and the figures finally show that this is having a hugely positive effect on hospitalizations and deaths. Monday’s “roadmap” (urgh) was drafted in response to these improvements, and as I worked at my desk during the afternoon I kept half an eye on the various proposals as they were discussed all afternoon in the House of Commons in readiness for blundering blond BoJo’s big speech that night.

As the key dates were outlined — kids back to school in March, meetings permitted between two households in April, self-catering accommodation re-opened and restaurants and pubs to be allowed to trade from May — I felt a curious and unfamiliar sensation. I realized that this sensation was hope. Hope! And with a frilly embellishment of something closely resembling excitement, too.

Honestly, it had been so long since I’d felt anything even barely resembling optimism, I found it quite confusing at first. I think the last time I’d dared to feel any kind of happy anticipation was when Dishy Rishi rolled out the “Eat Out to Help Out” discounted food campaign last summer, which led me naively to believe that if the government was paying us to sit in restaurants, they must be pretty confident the virus was definitely on its way out. (Spoiler alert: it was just getting started).

I’ve settled into the new feeling now, though. I’ve got to grips with the fact that my mood, like the weather, appears to be brightening by imperceptible increments every day. I have booked little trips for the summer months, cancellable and refundable of course, but still — I have plans! In a diary! I’d forgotten what a diary was! — and I’ve started looking around my house with the sort of assessing eye I remember casting over it in the good old days when friends were allowed to visit. I even have a vague idea that I might even start dusting, but not until we’ve had socialization permission actually confirmed — I’m no glutton for that sort of unnecessary punishment.

And the thing is, I have learned that I like it. I have realized that I’d take a bit of hope over almost anything right now. I would take it over a Zoom yoga class, over a glass of even the nicest red wine, and over a takeaway from that surprisingly decent Indian place where the curries don’t all taste identically brown and they give you free naan bread. Seriously. It’s good stuff, hope. I highly recommend you locate and channel a little bit.

Because even if your country’s Covid-19 exit plan turns out to be over-optimistic nonsense (I still have my suspicions about ours); even if we’re all plunged together into some horrific new lockdown pool at the end of this year; even if we look back at this spring and shake our heads at our youthful foolishness and rue the time we spent on Air BnB — well, what will we really have lost? Nothing. Because the hope will have happened and we will have that remembered hope to look back on.

I reckon the memory of that hope might be worth something in and of itself.

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A lover of horizons, hills, and words. Likes to write about uncomfortable things because too many people steer round those parts of life.

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