As I watch pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, holiday homes and all manner of other non-essential businesses tentatively open their doors again, I look on, and wonder what it must feel like for the people who have missed these things, for the people whose lives felt significantly altered by their absence. For those who thought nothing of a pint down the local on a weeknight, the Sunday Roast-goers, the three-holidays-a-year types.
I wonder if the yearning they have felt, these past three months, could match the yearning I’ve lived with for my entire adult – and to an extent, child – life. Is it possible to long for triple cooked chips, pitchers of cocktails and a sea view in the same way one might long for a former lover, or a friend no longer around?
In lockdown my Saturdays have remained largely unchanged. I stay in bed as long as possible; emerging only to eat, exercise, and, when the crowds have dissipated, walk the familiar aisles of the supermarket. There have been no garden parties, no picnics at the park, no beach trips. I have not stepped foot in a shop that sells anything other than groceries or other essentials.
I am anxious about the pandemic and the potential for things to spiral out of control again, it’s true. And yet even in the unlikely event that I was invited to go out for a meal, or for a drink, or on holiday, I’m not sure I can say that I would. I am struggling to comprehend how anyone can feel safe engaging in these activities at the moment, and wondering whether safety is a factor that is even on the radar of those who are doing so.
But perhaps my bias makes it impossible to relate. In an average year I might go out for a meal four or five times, at a push – usually only if I’m away, or it’s a special occasion. A holiday has typically consisted of a few days break – somewhere in the UK – always in a self-catered residence, usually somewhere remote. I might be lucky enough to go to a pub, a bar, or even a club, a couple of times a year; typically spending the entire day leading up to it riddled with anxiety, wondering how I’ll master the social etiquette my peers have become so accustomed to.
I don’t have a great deal of friends; certainly very few that would count me as someone they want to see on a regular basis. Of the good friends that I do have, many of them have their own constraints preventing regular meetings: children, geographical distance, mental or physical health difficulties. Going out for meals with my family isn’t the done thing either. I simply don’t know what it’s like to be called on at the drop of a hat to go out and do something. Rare social gatherings become huge occasions; planned weeks in advance, the details agonised over.
It’s difficult for me to consider going out without the worry of how much it might cost, too; a fear deeply ingrained in me by my upbringing and one which continues to plague me in an adult life that is generally so devoid of exorbitance. On these rare occasions of indulgence, I’ve more than once come away with a bitter taste in my mouth – disappointed in myself for spending £5 on a decidedly average dessert; feeling sick after one too many glasses of wine.
I long for cocktails on the rooftop and brunches as much as I did before the current crisis: in varying waves of both apathy and deep sadness. I would love to have these experiences in my life more regularly, and now more than ever, I’d love to do fun things with the people I love. But I am the same as I always was, now. I have been without these things for so long. I can always wait a while longer.