‘I am rather loving this hassle-free life,’ I wrote to a friend. ‘Simple pleasures. Birdsong. Darning a glove. Omelette for supper. Craig Brown’s book arrives hooray. Orson Welles’s Jane Eyre on tv.’
The great new luxury is time – acres of it. Uninterrupted days. No obligation to supervise grandchildren – they hailed us from afar, with masked faces and sanitising sprays. No supermarket scrums: chef son-out-law, deprived of livelihood, brought home masses of bulk-bought rice and stuff, supplying several neighbours and family, too. Even Sainsbury's rewarded my husband’s loyalty and age by emailing to offer a delivery slot. (First home delivery we’ve ever had.)
It was no hardship to be at home. Plenty to do; masses to read. The tennis club closed, but we can still walk, taking a daughter’s foxy little dog, Twiggy, through empty streets to Hampstead Heath where we revived a lifetime habit. They’d removed all garbage and dog-poo bins, citing shortage of staff. So armed with our grabber sticks we pick up several bags a day – and get thanks from passers-by. It’s a small way to repay our luck.
Such great luck. We never stop counting blessings. Any desire to acquire and consume has dissolved.So has guilt about booking for that exhibition or that new play. No tickets to book. No FOMO: no obligation to attend a stand-up-and-shout party – what fresh hell would that be.
And other lucky hacks agree. Reams of ‘Reasons to be cheerful’ columns appeared. (Reasons to be smug, I kept thinking.) Plus some really silly advice like ‘How to dress for working at home.’
But, mercifully, others give serious thought to how life in the future might be simplified: slower, more content with what we have, appreciating the kinds of things The Oldie has always appreciated. We look back on offices and commuting, indulgence in pointless travel. We hear what little Greta Thunberg says. The planet must be saved. And we are out there at our front gates, lauding the NHS. Applause, applause.