12 June, London, UK

By Ian Burns

I had a longish walk today from Limehouse Basin, along the canal and into Highbury, Hackney and Homerton, before returning to Limehouse via the Lea Valley and Bow Docks. Despite half of my family being east Londoners much of this was new territory to me. Whilst I walked and took a couple of pictures, I thought about feelings, both physical and emotional.

Uppermost in my mind was ‘fatigue’. I walked about 20km which is far from unusual for me in this lockdown phase, and far from taxing, but I noticed that I was quite tired as I approached my home. But it is mental fatigue and lockdown fatigue that I found myself considering.

For good reasons our news coverage is now highlighting issues around Black Lives Matter protests, a number of sensitivities around the lives of trans men and women, and the return of Premier League football. The issue of the merits and demerits of many public statues and monuments is getting more attention than the daily virus-attributed deaths, even though they are still in treble figures.

It suits the government, but is it partly to do with fatigue? Are we all a little tired of talking about ‘essential worker heroism’? Are we tired of staying alert and ‘saving lives’? Are we tired of believing that anyone is ‘following the science’? We certainly seem tired of holding our government to account. There is little evidence that the virus is being contained, but we get boosterish headlines about reducing the 2 metre distancing rules and reopening parts of the hospitality industry.

I wonder if we are all just a little too tired to think in the ways we thought just three months ago. Essential workers just seem to be low paid workers, once more. Antagonisms about race and about ‘free speech’, and old debates over so called ‘political correctness’ are regaining oxygen. Three months ago, we were talking about ‘Be Kind’ social media messaging and about being grateful to front line worker heroes.

I sense a pervasive feeling of weariness. I hope that is wrong. We know that we have much more to do as a society to contain the virus and to rebuild a shattered economy.

That will need strong leadership and a community spirit and a willingness to come together. It requires energy, invigoration and fresh thinking. I hope that protesters protest, that opposition parties hold the government to account, that citizens remember the bravery of front line workers, including the police, and that we all behave wisely so that the NHS does not get overwhelmed by any prospective ‘second spike’. I hope, but I am skeptical. Or just fatigued.