We have at least one thing to thank covid-19 for. It has revitalised our neighbourhood. We live a stone’s throw from the Dog Beach in Scarborough, and because we are situated right on a T-junction we have always had an interesting collection of people and their dogs walking past. But it is only since lockdown, with people working from home and kids doing their school work online, that we have actually got to know our more recently arrived neighbours. During the most severe period of lockdown a section our front fence fell down in a storm. Our very generous neighbour from two doors up was the first to offer help. ‘Give me your tip pass and I will take the bricks away on the back of my truck,’ he said. When I protested that I couldn’t possibly take up so much of his time, he said, ‘No problem. I can’t go to work, anyway.’ And his wasn’t the only offer of help. People we have known for years, and others who have just moved in to our neighbourhood, are looking out for each other. They distribute their home baking, chat in driveways and walk their dogs together. It is obvious that months of isolating restrictions have not left them looking for more of the same. Now they are looking for reasons to make contact with each other, even if it involves some heavy lifting.
Mark O’Connell, in his new book, Notes from Apocalypse: Journey to the end of the Earth and Back, points out ‘The importance of accepting that the world is always ending … and realising that doing (whatever it is we do) is the first step towards building a new one.’
Whether our personal apocalypse is coronavirus or climate change or something we haven’t even encountered yet, I for one don’t want to lock myself away in a concrete bunker with a stockpile of food and military weapons. I would much rather take my chances out there, still in contact with people, and beginning to build a new world one tiny step at a time.
I’ll see you out there.