For those of us whose lives were not broken in major ways by the effects of lockdown, sometimes it seems as though the experiences of that time are shrinking to a speck in the rearview mirror. We have difficulty remembering exactly how we behaved in 2020, the things we did and the things we stopped doing. This is irritating, because the lockdown tyrants, large and small, seem likely to get away with it just because we’d all rather never think about it ever again. And it’s dangerous because it might make it easier to do the whole thing again next time there’s any kind of plausible-seeming threat.
On the other hand, it’s encouraging in a way, when you remember that, in the depths of the madness, certain SAGE members were cheerily recommending that we could all just wear masks all the time forever. As a scholar, I genuinely feared at one time that real, in-person research seminars might never happen again, especially as so many academics subscribed piously to the Corona Creed. But they do, with trips down the pub afterwards, and the option to attend on Zoom/Skype/Teams/whatever an admittedly quite useful addition. Turns out the human instinct to congregate is very, very strong.
But as memories shrink, fade and fragment, maybe there’s some value in recalling some of it – including those moments when the human spirit triumphed in a small way, and we cherished the hope that our country might not be irrevocably doomed.
So, partly as some small relief from the depressing crisis surround this year’s Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, I found myself recalling Remembrance Sunday 2020.
We make a habit of going to the local war memorial for the Remembrance Sunday service. That year, the country had just been plunged into the second lockdown and we weren’t sure what if anything was going to happen or would be allowed. There was an official Remembrance Sunday wreath-laying in London from which the public were excluded, and some conflict over the active debarring of them. But as we weren’t watching the TV none of it registered until later.
Already disconcerted by how difficult it had been to buy poppies (no street sellers), we thought we’d just go and see. At any rate, we’d stand by the war memorial and remember the war dead at 11am. So we put on our coats, rounded up two small children and plodded up to the city centre.