I was wrong: I thought we had lost society for the long term, but it is roaring back quietly.
I relaxed in the lockdown evenings – no more organising for meetings not happening, no rushing home for a scratch meal before leaping out for some function or other, trying to work out where it was while driving there; no more weekends spent on the motorway finding a hall somewhere in Lancashire, or was it Yorkshire this time? (Do I have to turn round?)
Calls stopped coming. I wasn’t having to organise people or think of things to do. I did not have to yawn through others’ meetings and surreptitiously use the meeting to write another chapter or an algorithm. I could relax, and discover that there are evenings, and a home.
In villages and little towns and suburbs, churches, clubs and societies create a web of Big Society. Some go out to film clubs or collectors’ clubs, or evening classes, or exercise classes, or amateur dramatics, or ladies’ book clubs, or just social meets round a bar. (There are more village pocket orchestras than you would ever imagine; and writers’ clubs are everywhere: I might even go to one one day and see what they do.)
Then all this was gone; banned by government fiat in fear of the Chinese plague. The thread was broken. All over the land, people were realising they do not have to live by a timetable and an untended bowel in the best evenings of the week, when a sofa calls. How then could the clubs come back?
Yet they are coming back. The church halls of the land are full again. Organisers are clearly built of sterner stuff, and for all the welcome leisure we had, there is a yearning for society.
If I were tempted to think those coming back to the village halls are just those who no longer commuter and need to get out from their home-office, it is not: there cannot be too many home-bound workers left though, going by how the trains are packed again as once they were. In spite of the call of the sofa, the clubs are still coming back. Normality, our weird, Middle-Class, respectable rural / suburban normality is returning in spite of it all.
- The Borisaurus: The Dictionary of Boris Johnson by Simon Walters
- A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe
- Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World by Laura Spinney
- The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray
- Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay (1841)
- 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B Peterson
- Woke: A Guide to Social Justice by Titania McGrath