Why I’m not happier that the coronavirus lockdown is ending – Stephen Jardine

Under the restrictions imposed to fight Covid-19, Stephen Jardine found a better way of life.

Cycling on traffic-free roads amid near silence was a new-found pleasure for many people all over the world during lockdown (Picture: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images)
Cycling on traffic-free roads amid near silence was a new-found pleasure for many people all over the world during lockdown (Picture: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images)

“Our long national hibernation is coming to an end,” said the Prime Minister on Tuesday. One day later, the First Minister confirmed the news here in Scotland as pubs, restaurants and hairdressers were given a conditional go-ahead to reopen next month.

Lockdown is drawing to a close. It has been a long road to get here. Nearly 2,500 people have died north of the border and their families are left bereft. I know because my father-in-law was one of them. On top of that, Scotland faces the deepest recession in living memory, according to the Fraser of Allander Institute.

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So why am I not more happy now the worst seems to be over? The reality is I’m one of the people who have secretly embraced this once in a lifetime experience. That’s not something you are supposed to say. Death, business collapse and unemployment are not the usual ingredients for good times but lockdown represented something valuable.

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When you turn to an IT expert for help the response is always the same: “Have you tried turning it on and off again?” Lockdown was that reboot for us all. Three months ago, I don’t think I’d ever noticed the birds in our garden. Now I can name every type. The goldfinches are my favourite.

I was someone who drove 15,000 miles a year and filled the tank every Friday. I haven’t been at the petrol station since April. Instead I walk most places and notice buildings and flowers.

Last year I wrote a really harsh piece about the Just Eat communal bikes in Edinburgh. I’m sorry about that. The other day I took one for the first time and it was absolutely brilliant.

I’ve cooked a meal from scratch every single day. I’ve grown a small patch of wild flowers and learned how to make a perfect pizza. I’ve walked miles and miles and even had a swim in the Forth.

All of that has taken place against the backdrop of an amazing city soundtrack. Silence. With the boy racers denied the chance to ruin the exhaust on their clapped out Nissan Skylines and the wheezing diesel behemoths of Lothian Buses parked up in the garage, Edinburgh has been as quiet as a Borders village on a Monday.

With the sweaty, overpriced gyms closed, the parks have become the places for exercise they used to be. With emails switched off thanks to furlough, parents and children really play together, untroubled by the ping of an incoming message.

I haven’t missed parties where people who claim not to read The Scotsman tell me in forensic detail what is wrong with The Scotsman. I haven’t missed meetings organised simply to fill in time for people who don’t have anything better to do. Mostly, I haven’t missed the old routine.

I have a five-year diary and looking back, so many days ended up being unproductive. Given the choice, I’d rather spend a day baking a good loaf of bread than in six meetings where everyone agrees to take a holistic approach to what was being discussed.

As we emerge blinking into the light, we need to remember why animals hibernate. The state of inactivity helps them survive the harshest times. We owe it to those who died to learn from lockdown and not just survive, but be better.

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