Grafton Street was empty on St. Stephen’s Day, you’ll recall. We were all sat at home, waiting for onset of a hangover we’re still trying to Berocca our way through so many months later. The winter sales were essentially an online-only phenomenon in 2020, click but don’t collect – just like work was, just like everything was. The quietness of the city brought a change to the rhythms of life, though: ducks roamed the streets in Paris, flamingos descended on Mumbai, and the foxes in Trinity College had a Normal People-style romance. Nature may not have been healing but it certainly went rogue in our absence.
Lockdown has been like a vast human experiment in which we are all data points, like guinea pigs in a plastic maze in which the levers don’t give us what they used to, though instead of food pellets what we’re being denied are hugs, hillwalking and creamy pints. It’s had its upsides too: however much the posters on the London Underground might try to convince us otherwise, there is a lot to be said for working in pyjamas and avoiding the tangled thorns of office politics, commuting and six-euro sandwiches. Our lives have become smaller, cheaper and less ambitious, but also perhaps dreamier and less complacent. The new normal has solidified into the current, and will eventually yield to the next, which is sure to be different from before.
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