We are all longing for ‘life to get back to normal…’ We’ve had enough of lockdown, shops closed, events cancelled, isolation, boredom. We think back to how it was before Covid and can’t wait to recreate our old lives. It’s perfectly natural - we have all been though a tough time; many of us are still in it. We long for the ‘good old ways of the good old days.’ I have been using up part of my Covid inertia watching ‘Foyle’s War’. There’s just something about it - the old cars, thick suits and overcoats, fedora hats; funny old buildings; everyone calling people ‘Sir’. And Honeysuckle Weeks, Foyle’s driver and aide must be a highpoint. At this fiftieth anniversary of decimalisation, who over 60 can avoid a bit of nostalgia about ten bob notes, half a crown and a tanner? Please put a penny in the old man’s hat. Wasn’t life great back then?
Well… not really. What about the rat-infested bomb sites; life expectancy about 65, so many of our friends and relations buried in foreign parts; what about the threat of nuclear war; what about the disease and poverty that was rife? Do we really long for those things, or is it just the smoke-filled station in Brief Encounters?
The imminence of recovery thanks to great British expertise of lockdown and vaccination should urge us all to put nostalgia behind us and start to plan for the future. We can now dare to hope that in a month or two, sometime after the renewal of Easter perhaps, we really can expect to emerge from the gloom into the weather getting better, the lambs frolicking in the fields. So now must be the time to give some careful thought to what we want our lives - and Britain as a whole - to look like when it’s all over. Do we really want to go back to where we were 12 months ago just now? Or may this not be a moment to welcome so much that has happened in Britain over that time?
Zoom, Teams and video messaging were something out of science fiction; yet now they are enabling families (and businesses) around the world to reconnect in a way they could not have imagined. Meetings in village halls used to attract two or three people, yet now they are becoming vibrant (although beware Handforth Parish Council and Jackie Weaver, bless’er.) I miss getting letters, and still religiously use the Royal Mail for my constituency correspondence and to write to every eighteen-year-old. But can I really justify the 66 pence postage? (Thirteen shillings to send a letter- it used to be a penny!) And anyhow, is a letter through the post really the best way to speak to the younger generation? Perhaps not. Social media has such a lot to recommend it. I am sad about our high streets and do what I can to help preserve them; but online retail and Amazon have become an everyday part of our lives - do we really want to reverse that? Working from Home used to be a luxury for a privileged few. Now it is increasingly universal with side benefits of more leisure time, less commuting and stress and pollution; more time for outdoors and sports and above all for families. Do we really want to go back to ‘Working Nine to Five’ and the daily commute?
We are all longing to ’get back to how it was’. Of course we are. Human beings are instinctively conservative. We like things like they have always been. It’s a healthy instinct. But embracing the best that technology in particular can offer must be central to our route out of Covid and post-Brexit. We have so much to offer the World- as individuals and as a nation – and if we approach the brave new world in the right way, we really can make sure that these changes and others are truly for the best.
Nostalgia mustn’t become what it used to be…