A year of living strangely

Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means.

Exactly a year ago yesterday, I got on a train to that there London town for an industry awards lunch and networking session. I did so with a handbag full of sanitiser, but sans mask, for in those heady carefree days of Spring 2020 such things were only for the Far East or Italy where this strange new flu-like illness was running riot. Two weeks later the Prime Minister had to self-isolate and it all went a bit pear-shaped after that.

Apart from a couple of pub sessions with friends in Rishi’s window of opportunity in the Summer, that day in London was the last time I went ‘out-out’. I remember walking back to the station from the lunch through a pretty deserted City of London and thinking how weird it all seemed. Rather like one of those post-apocalyptic films, but with all the buildings still standing.

Yesterday, I popped out to the supermarket for my government-sanctioned food-shop (I still can’t get a delivery-slot without getting up at 5am to book it) and I got stuck in a traffic-jam. A good, old-fashioned, common-or-garden traffic jam. It was annoying. It was irritating. But it felt almost, normal. Maybe I’ve just been going out at non-peak times, but that’s the first proper jam I’ve bene stuck in since all this pandemic nonsense began.

In rather more exciting news, I booked my first covid vaccine for this weekend. I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about queuing up to bare my arm in a local leisure centre. I hope they’re giving out “I’ve been vaccinated” stickers. Or a biscuit. A pal who lives in Hastings had to go to Eastbourne for hers; she said it felt like going on a mini-break.

Are we back to normal yet? No. Are we getting back to normal now? Possibly, given time. Will ‘normal’ be what we remember it was, probably not. I think the masks and certainly the hand sanitisers are going to remain for quite a long time to come. I mean, there are so many other types of germs and nasties flying around out there that a bit more emphasis on hygiene probably wouldn’t go amiss.

The furlough scheme will end in September and it’s then that the hard work will probably start. There will be people who have happily been bumbling along on 80% of their salary doing nothing whilst on furlough, others are working minimal hours with their wages shored up to 80% by the scheme. Many of those jobs will cease to exist in September as companies get their calculators out and try to make their ends meet without the tax-payer handouts. There will be other companies who will find that there’s only so far you can stretch people. Anyone who has been covering for furloughed staff for a year is getting pretty tired of being told they are lucky to still have a job.

Slowly, steadily, we are creeping back to some kind of non-lockdown life. This industry has been pretty lucky, the lockdowns have helped to divert money towards home improvements, the stamp-duty holiday has boosted housing transactions, and the work that the BMF and the CLC have been doing behind the scenes to ensure the industry was deemed essential, has paid off in spades.

We’re getting there.

covid vac hub lr
Whoo hoo!! JohnHughes / Shutterstock.com

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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