I don’t think I’m alone in wondering what will change after lockdown. Spilling onto the pavement and into the parks after the isolation, will we be fresh to the hugs, laughing and holding each other, starved of the contact – or will we be wary? Averse to proximity after months of spraying anything that has even been touched by others?
Will our babies know how to roll together in sprawling piles, like puppies in grass, or will they stare, wide-eyed, as they are placed beside one another? Will our grandparents trust us not to end the lives that they have guarded so carefully since early spring, sweating out their summer in small flats, closed homes, and secluded gardens? Or will they be the first out, desperate to breathe in the time lost, popping corks and passing glasses?
Will the workers reunite? Those who have wrestled with sixteen-, seventeen-, twenty-hour days, crying into their laundry and smearing cold creams on tired skin, will they know how to relinquish control, how to take a day out, lie back, and sleep off the shuddering exhaustion? Will those on furlough remember how to leap out of bed just after dawn, throw on formal clothes that may no longer fit, and drive to air-conditioned pens with monitors, keyboards, and coffee machines that spit bitter juice into cheap cups?
Will we know how to relax? Will we have enough money to eat well? Will we have the luxury of caring about quality food — or food policy, plastic wrapping, brands — when we may not have earned for six months? When will the furlough end? What will happen? Who will work our fields, now that migrant workers face new gates at our borders? How many aeroplanes will be left to fly? How many of us trust to travel to places where policy differs from ours, even though their stats may be better than our own?
Will we mow our lawns, or have we become partial to the poppies, celandines, bees, squirrels and foxes that roam where the gardeners used to strim? Will we reach out to those who stay lonely long after lockdown is done? Will we understand the introverts, the extroverts, the neurotypical, the autistic, the academic, the practical, the rich, the poor, the injured, and the well any better than we did before?
When our hotels and pubs reopen, how many will be stocked and staffed? When our schools return in full, how many children will cling to their parents – or will they run in, knees and elbows pumping, sprinting to the melée of friendships and food and stickers and books and balls, screaming with excitement, while the mothers cry at the gates from grief, relief, worry, hope and exhaustion?
Or will we do what we have always done, and quietly filter back, smoothing the way with tea and toast and smiles, and “how are you”s that don’t ask for an answer but instead offer a trust in normality, as the Easter Island species realises once again that, with carefully adjusted blinkers and a concrete faith in the future, there is an opportunity not to change at all?