A year ago today at 8pm, the Prime Minister announced the country was to enter what would become the first of (to date) three national lockdowns. Phrases like Stay Home, Save Lives and Social Distancing became part of common parlance. While the rules have varied, for the last year to a greater or lesser extent our lives have been curtailed, all to prevent the spread of and lessen the impact of COVID-19.
For all practical purposes, the lockdown actually began the following day on the 24th. I had no intention of leaving the house that first evening, it was the following day when I should have been going to the office for work when the lockdown truly began for me, and consequently was the start of my Lockdown Blog. For 81 days during the initial lockdown I kept my daily blog charting the ins and outs of my life at home, and then for the 30 days of lockdown 2 I spent my time attempting a daily short story challenge.
For this current lockdown, I have not completed daily posts for the blog, instead focussing on preparing and promoting my upcoming book A Tale in Few Words (out 31st of March, preorder your copy today…). But while I have not been writing as often, I have spent a little time reflecting on the year past, and what lies ahead.
My New Year post reflected a little on what I have learned from the year, so I will refrain from going over old ground here. Instead, let us think of the future. Because as we meet this sombre anniversary, the day also heralds a small glimmer of hope and possibility.
Today, I had the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, to be specific the second dose of the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine. In a couple of weeks, assuming the vaccine works (and I have good reason to believe it has to a degree already), I along with increasing numbers of people will be vaccinated against COVID-19. As well as myself, my parents and in-laws have had the first dose each, and it will not be too long I am sure before the rest of my family joins the queue. With enough people vaccinated, and the disease finds it harder to spread, causes fewer complications for those who catch it, and life can begin to move on from Lockdown (I will not say go back to normal as I do not believe this is a desirable goal). Today was a small personal step, but it is one of many small steps which will lead to a shared goal of ending the pandemic.
What does this mean for us as we leave the first year of COVID?
I would be a fool to try and predict the future, the only certainty in predictions being they will be wrong. Having said this, I do see a couple of trends ahead of us which I believe we should grab with both hands and run with.
The first is clearly the work-life balance. Remote working, working from home and getting out of the office has been an eye-opener and I think perk of lockdowns. I have been almost exclusively working from home for the last year, and if you ignore the horrors going on in the world around us, have loved it. Yes, the occasional trip to the office has been a welcome change of pace, and I am sure being able to speak to colleagues and patients face to face without masks will be part of my work moving forwards, but I do not see exclusive office work becoming the default position as it once was. Set aside the benefits of avoiding commuting, having the freedom to adjust work hours, take a break in the garden or go for a walk to stretch the legs have been lockdown bonuses, and having them part of my work life moving forwards would be great.
The second change I envisage is a continuation of local holidays and weekends aware. When overseas travel has been harder, discovering the beauty closer to home has been forced upon us, and I for one think this is a great thing. Great for local economies and people, great for the environment, and most of all great for us travellers who get to experience our local landscapes and beauty. I am sure I will venture further afield as the pandemic lifts, but I will make sure to spend some of my leave a little closer to home to balance it out.
The final bonus, as I said in my New Year’s post for me especially, is the changes in way we shop. Personally, I would love to see us shop much less, consumerism has more problems than benefits in my opinion, but I am also realistic in understanding it will not be eradicated entirely. But I do see a significant shift in shopping habits, online yes, but more so because of the online world away from big corporates to local businesses and family firms. Where previously walked past the shop, with shops adapting to the online world they have the reach potentially of millions. Shop local, even if the local is a little further away than your daily walk, and we might just see a fairer economy on the other side.
COVID has brought havoc and destruction to large swathes of the world, and far too many people have not made it even this far. But even in the pits of darkness, there are glimmers of hope. Our goal now must be to grab what little positivity we can from the disaster of the last year and amplify it. The pandemic was terrible, we need to do what we can to make sure the other side is brighter than both the pandemic and what came before.