Rosie and Jim: ‘I did not miss this. I did not miss the pain’

This week, the phrase 'be careful what you wish for' comes back to bite both of our corona-correspondents.

Our writers Rosie Paterson and James Fisher — who have both, one way or another, ended up alone for the duration — are sharing slices of their lives.

So far they’ve revealed the rules of cycling, ranked musical instruments (and not in a good way), gone to the pub, shared tales of curious robins, video chat and little old ladies winching shopping through windows. You can catch up on all their columns here.

Hold the phone! Just as we thought lockdown might be over, the phrase ‘second wave’ entered mainstream lexicon and Spain was unceremoniously dumped from the approved list of travel corridor countries.

A bit of a shame really, given that I’d just booked a holiday there. Devon, it seems like you’ve got me for a bit longer.

2020 is turning out to be the year we all learn not to get ahead of ourselves and in many ways that might be considered a good thing. Spontaneity is so 2019. Things nowadays require a lot more planning. Last week, I was told that the next available table at a restaurant in Salcombe was September 6. Yesterday, I made it half way down a hill as steep as Everest (minor exaggeration, but you get the idea) to the shops, before realising I’d forgotten my facemask. I threw a tiny, internal toddler tantrum before getting over myself and back up the hill. Today, I made it to the shops, but had to queue outside for quite a while.

The one thing that doesn’t need a reservation, a facemask, or ask you to form an orderly queue outside? The outside itself.

So, if you’re lucky enough to still be working from home and saving on commuter hours or have a staycation booked (much safer than Spain as it turns out), then make the most of it. Near a beach? Please revert to my previous column, full of handy and in no way sarcastic tips on throwing the best beach picnic. Learn to paddleboard — the UK’s fastest growing sport — or surf. Got a dog? I’m sure it could do with its 53rd walk of the day. Hungry? Fire up the barbeque because everything tastes better lightly charred.

Embrace gardening (even if it’s just a window box), stargazing and foraging. Take a note out of my now-famous-father’s book and invest in 23 sponges and scrub the entire façade of your house (it’s a bit unnerving when you’re on a work call and he suddenly pops into view through a window two storeys up on a wobbly ladder).

Take up golf, tennis, croquet and climbing. They’re all much more fun than running, and even the weather can’t stop us because we’re British, and it’s only a bit of rain.

Someday soon, we’ll all be able to go on a holiday (rather than just booking the flights and then cancelling them). But we’ll also be stuck back inside an air-conditioned box, wishing we’d made the most of this weird kind of freedom.

Waking up on Sunday, with a mouth so dry I could light a match in it, made me stop and think about why, exactly, it was that we were all so desperate to return to normal. I did not miss this. I did not miss the pain.

The occasion was a 28th birthday, as it happened my 28th birthday, and it feels weird to have spun around the sun one more time when a large portion of that journey this year has involved not moving at all. Not that I was moving much on Sunday either, to be honest.

So now that lockdown is over, for a bit at least, I wonder what, if anything, a pandemic coronavirus has taught us. I think there are a few positives for sure. We’ve become a lot more connected to the green spaces around us, and in the face of an impending climate emergency, the first thing that we, as people, need to do is learn to appreciate and respect the very thing we are trying to save. The countryside has been a temporary home for many, and even as people pour back into the city, I would hope that many remember what it was that brought them joy when everything else was shut.

Also, so many of the things that we assumed we must have to live our lives, we suddenly realised were superficial. I’ve missed going on holiday, as have many, but the argument that we have to ‘fly’ everywhere was shown to be fairly hollow. With travel, like so many things, responsible consumption and moderation is the way forward.

We learned to become nicer to our neighbours, a lesson that those in the city should have learned perhaps a bit longer ago. I am just as guilty, but it’s been a real pleasure getting to know those who live either side of me, and knowing that they are there should anything go wrong.

What I do still need to learn, in hindsight, is that 10 beers on a Saturday night is not the way to start a Sunday. I’ve had almost ten years of practice, but maybe the penny will drop soon, just please, not in my pint glass.