Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
Lockdown restrictions have eased, albeit in an ambiguous and haphazard manner. To what extent we are still in lockdown is unclear. Whilst we wear masks in shops and continue to tread obediently on the stickers telling us to remain 2 metres apart, we also swarm pubs unmasked and sit next to strangers on planes as we fly to foreign places that mere months ago were hermetically sealed off from us.
Indeed, perhaps the most startling indication of normality resuming is the sudden spurt of foreign travel. Social media, so recently littered with banana breads and garden workouts, now glimmers with photos of crystal-clear waters, poolside cocktails and scenery that is distinctly not British. Yet, these last-minute dashes to the continent are a mark of considerable privilege.
It has not been an easy year for anyone. The phrase ‘I need a holiday’ has, perhaps, never been lobbed around with so much justification. The monotony and uncertainty that has characterised the last few months has done no wonders for our mental health. For most the novelty of finding the joy in their own back gardens has likely worn off after the 44th time traipsing round the local pond. The lure of unfamiliar streets, foreign chatter and eating a pizza that isn’t borne of your own godforsaken sourdough starter is deliciously enticing. Wanting to escape the drudgery of the last few months is understandable.
But, despite life bearing increasing resemblance to pre-covid-19 times, the situation remains precarious. Amid the continuing uncertainty, the spontaneity of being able to hop on a flight with the reassurance that if anything changes you have the means to change a flight back or prolong your stay is a prerogative of the wealthy.
Money allows for flexibility and freedom and those who have less of it find themselves fettered. Financial stability means the prospect of momentary escape is never too far away. It affords those who have it with the opportunity to nonchalantly brag that ‘bloody Covid thwarted our plans’ without this actually referring to anything more grave than inconvenience. It is, as ever it has been, the poor who have to think about things going wrong, who are both more vulnerable to this circumstance and less equipped to deal with it.
Once again, COVID-19 illuminates the inequalities that demarcate British society. Whilst the virus itself does not discriminate, it is starkly apparent that those with money will find recovering from its effects far easier than those who don’t. Privilege allows some to see the pandemic as temporary: an unexpected and inconvenient blip in normal proceedings. For those less fortunate, it is more difficult to be optimistic about any prospect of end or escape.