By Ivana MacKinnon
London is no longer a place where anything seems to make any sense. What rules are we living under – who knows now? Some people are still sheltering in place, others are having picnics that look more like wrestling matches, and Primark re-opening seems to be the thing the whole country has been waiting for. Things seem to be getting better, but at the most gradual rate imaginable – and the looming threat of the economy is starting to bite. Last night, I accidentally read the news just before sleeping and slept badly. It didn’t help that I read the news and then went on Twitter to read the opinions. Which were, as always, like looking into the Sarlaac. This country is so angry, and we are about to have a hot, hot summer.
Today we drove to a river just outside London to meet my sister-in-law and her family and go wild swimming. Apparently the small bank there has been overrun by London people since lockdown and now the locals mutter darkly about “The London Beach” – but it was overcast when we arrived, so we were the only people there. We spread out our socially distanced blankets to sit on, which means taking up what seems like four times as much space as we would have, and got out the paddle board we’d just bought as a way to make open water near London more appealing. I realised quickly that I hate paddle boarding, but the water was amazing. We ate our picnic, more relaxed about sharing grapes than we have been previously, and I noticed that after three months of no one touching anyone, people seem to be slipping – someone touching a toddler’s head; hands touching when passing things. They all fire electric signals in my brain like someone has drawn round the place of touch with a huge flourescent marker pen. Over the last few days, everyone’s perception seems to have shifted, like there is something in the air, into a feeling that things have to start relaxing and people have to start living again – I don’t know if it’s that people quite simply want to enjoy the summer; or feel the rates are so far down they can chill; or are always three days ahead of the government guidance; or have decided all the vulnerable people can just stay in their houses for time; or are just at the end of their tether. But it feels like we are all hooked up to one enormous brain in some way, and that brain has let some of its walls down so everyone else has too.
On Friday I’d cycled into Stoke Newington to have a pint bought take-away from a pub. The queue at the pub, the open shops, the park – everything was like a festival. I’ve never seen it so full, mainly of people in their 20s – and since our area is still cautious, I hyperventilated for the first half hour, completely freaked out. But maybe, quite simply, all the 20 year olds are just going to get it and have antibodies and then quietly take over — and maybe that will shake the world up in a good way. It could certainly go some way to solving our diversity problem in the film industry by Corona-smashing the glass ceilings.
I realised halfway through our wild swim that we were right down the road from a friend who had moved out of London, so on the way home we dropped in to say hi to her and drank half a bottle of white wine in the sun as I realised I had completely sunburned my face. And, again, it felt almost normal.
At home we realised our fridge wasn’t working and had to decant everything into an ice box. Now it feels like we are on a camping holiday in our own house. Maybe that’s what the summer will be. It might not be so bad.