Peter Rhodes on nostalgia for lockdown, the London view of geography and cancer in the air
Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.
Charities are past masters at getting their message across. Thus, we have been bombarded with the impression that lockdown has been all about domestic violence, hungry children, cruelty to animals and mental illness. But listen to the quieter voices of ordinary people and you hear another story. Like the reader who told me a few days ago: “I have never been so relaxed and unstressed as in the past three months.” That reader is not alone.
Lockdown has been a nightmare for those bereaved or smitten by this terrible contagion. But for others it has been at least tolerable. Released from work on furlough, spending time with the family, not having to worry about what to wear or where to go and being advised what to do by the Government and its kindly scientists on a daily basis has been pretty good for lots of people.
I am reminded of a friend who grew up in communist East Germany. She accepts it was a bad system, denying folk their freedom and potential. But when people dismiss it as worthless, she points out the guaranteed employment, scientific advances, child care and a fine education system in the old East Germany. The Germans refer to this nostalgia for the East (Ost) as Ostalgie. Some years from now, will we hear the same sentiment for the months of lockdown? Lockstalgia: you saw it here first.
The London view of geography. A national newspaper hastily re-wrote its online obituary. The first version referred to the deceased's “country estate north of London.” It was actually in Yorkshire.
You might assume the Government's suggestion for social distancing of one metre requires a serious change in our long-term behaviour. Not at all. In 2017 a survey of 9,000 people in 42 countries proved that different nationalities have different perceptions of what constitutes their personal space. When it comes to meeting strangers, Argentinians are the cosiest, feeling comfortable 76cm apart. Cautious Romanians prefer 1.3 metres. And the Brits? The distance we like to keep away from a stranger is – surprise, surprise - one metre. So the latest distancing advice from Whitehall is hardly a revolution, just a return to what we used to do anyway.
One of my nastier online trolls tells us he suffers from a medical condition which makes him urinate for up to six hours a day. Yet some days he manages to file 60 messages ranging from the mildly poisonous to the dangerously libellous and the deeply offensive. Prejudice while peeing. Try getting that image out of your head.
Scientists warn that with fewer airliners blanketing the atmosphere in emissions, the risk of skin cancer is rising. Good luck with getting that message across. But if people are happy to cram together during the clear and present danger of Covid-19, what are the chances of them limiting their sunbathing to avoid cancer five or 10 years in the future? Despite many lessons, Brits still don't understand the C-word. Consequences.