There’s a strange feeling in the air at the moment. A sort of defiant gaiety. As lockdown restrictions continue to ease (with dates now announced for the reopening of nail bars, leisure centres and gyms) people are flocking to the shops and sea front, intent on having fun.
Anecdotally, I’ve heard from friends and relatives that beauty spots in places such as Cornwall are busier than ever, with holiday cottages booked up over the peak season.
Some are venturing further afield. With quarantine restrictions lifted on travel to many favourite foreign holiday destinations, a growing number of people are jetting off for summer breaks. My social-media timelines are starting to feature the sort of beach and pool snaps that would have been de rigueur any other year.
I’m not immune. Yesterday, prompted by a sunny walk and a lightheartedness that stems at least in part from the increased headspace that resuming childcare has afforded us, my husband and I started discussing the possibility of taking a holiday. Given our proximity to the Channel Tunnel and France, to which we have been known to pop for lunch in less complicated times, it was tempting to look into options for escaping abroad, if only for a little while.
In the end, this was a bridge too far for me. However, we did decide to explore the possibility of going away for a night or two somewhere local, possibly repurposing a birthday mini-break that got cancelled because of lockdown.
Such impulsiveness is unusual for me. Given that my diary is usually booked up several months in advance, and the fact that we have been largely housebound since lockdown began, it felt odd to be entertaining the possibility of disappearing somewhere at such short notice.
I also found myself wondering whether it was wise: the latest figures show that infection rates are ceasing to fall in the UK and my district of Folkestone & Hythe is listed in the top twenty areas in the country most at risk of a local lockdown. Was it foolish to be contemplating any unnecessary activities when things seem so finely balanced and, according to many commentators, a second wave looks almost inevitable? Or was my caution too great, given that recent days have brought news of numerous acquaintances testing positive for Covid-19 antibodies (showing that they have had the infection at some point) despite the fact they have little or no memory of being unwell?
Was I, as a person in a low-risk group, foolish not to take advantage of what might turn out to be a very brief window of opportunity to escape the soft form of house arrest under which most of us have lived since March? Or was I selfish and irresponsible to entertain the possibility of doing anything that might increase the spread of the virus, even if I was acting within the law and adhering to social distancing?
I don’t have definitive answers to these questions. Perhaps time will provide them. Or perhaps science and future histories of this period will reveal truths about the way the virus and society work that show up the folly of many of the choices we make in these strange days.
In the meantime, however, I still have to occupy this body and live inside this head. Over the past few months, like many of us, I have had to manage exhaustion, cabin fever, anxiety and the shrinkage and atrophy that starts to set in when skills go unused and the orbit of a person is restricted. Unlike those future commentators looking back on our choices in full knowledge of how this crisis played out, we have to live coronavirus from the inside and do our best to feel comfortable in our own skin, maintain our mental health and keep our stamina up for what may lie ahead.
We decided to book the trip.