AS WE LIFT our sights to a possible end to the lockdown, take a moment to reflect on how much has changed.
In February we looked at what was happening in Italy and debated whether we would ever accept such a lockdown here – but in the event have accepted huge restrictions on our daily lives in a way unprecedented in peace time.
We have even learned to enjoy aspects of our isolation – who had heard of Zoom just a few months ago at Christmas? I for one will try to do more video calls in the future as they are so much more personal than normal phone calls.
Amid the extreme pressure in our hospitals and care homes there has been one other thing to uplift our spirits and that is the rather wonderful growth of community spirit.
We always had strong civic spirit in our local towns and villages – just witness the silent coming together of the generations on any Remembrance Sunday.
But this has been a special time for the social bonds that matter so much: two community services collecting shopping and prescriptions for vulnerable people in Haslemere; the unique collaboration between the Maltings and Farnham Town Council that has had more than 400 calls to their helpline; the Covid-19 Churt Community Support Group and the men of Dockenfield coming together once a week on Zoom, burger and beer in hand, for the monthly men’s night that used to happen in The Bluebell pub.
I could name many more such examples but what they show, rather encouragingly, is that the wartime blitz spirit that kept us going through the Second World War has become such a part of our national identity that we are still able to tap into it several generations on.
My grandmother used to tell me what it was like when doodlebugs dropped in Godalming and if she were alive today – despite the ubiquity of technology – she would also recognise the same coming together in adversity.
I hope we don’t lose that when things finally get back to the ‘new normal.’
My life changed when I left the cabinet last July after nine years. I realised some things had been missing from my life that I had not noticed amid the pressures of work.
This crisis has also helped us all to notice some of the things that were missing in our daily lives before.
So when we move back to some sense of normality, while social distancing might be required, emotional distancing from our friends and neighbours is not.