Just like from a scene in a classic black and white Hollywood film, I have visions of people throwing open their doors today. I see them running onto the streets dancing and swirling in unison, heading to their local shops, pubs, restaurants finally freed from the heavy-duty constraints of a month in lockdown.
Regardless of what Michael Gove calls it, I for one will however not be heading to the pub across the street or any other to order a Scotch egg. It’s a complete non-starter. I had forgotten how revolting I find them until I shared a pork pie – close enough – with a friend on Saturday. I’m still in recovery so the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster can have mine.
While we sat outside on a quiet square in the West End, the lockdown protests took place a street away. We ate what I think was 100 tons of pork compressed into some pastry, and it should have come with a health warning as I could feel my arteries hardening with every inedible mouthful.
The pork pie was my friend’s idea, and as she comes from the wilds of western Canada where a fair winter’s day is -40C, I can make no excuses for her questionable taste. Perhaps it’s brain-freeze, but we did talk about the protests. What’s the big deal about wearing a mask as we sat maskless for a few moments?
All these protesters should see dead bodies lying about, and then they might think differently, to sort of sum up her words. I mean, what is the big deal? But she had a point. My friend worked in Sierra Leone during the first wave of Ebola outbreak as an emergency response doctor. Covid-19 isn’t Ebola, but the virus remains and even as we savour getting out in London, we’re not past the danger point.
We had picked up the pork pie at Fortnum and Mason, and I had been there for lunch the last day before restaurants shut on 5 November, as had Laurence Fox, who sadly looked pretty surly.
The actor decided to jump the gun and entertain a “large group” of friends at his house on 29 November. They had a “lovely” lunch, and “hugged” for good measure, “ate” (hopefully not Scotch eggs) and “put the world to rights” (there is still a lot of work to be done), which he tweeted in a series of anti-lockdown protests. The police ignored his invitation to arrest him, although singer Rita Ora didn’t escape a £10,000 fine. She had a party to celebrate her 30th birthday at Casa Cruz in Notting Hill with her pals.
My lockdown schedule has included taking walks along the canal. I have added a Cirque du Soleil exercise routine (no hanging from ceilings), and I have tried to keep up my French with Mark and Pierre-Benoit at the Coffee Break Academy. During my mornings, I listen to Tamara Levitt on the Calm app as I try to meditate. Last night, I binged on The Undoing with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant. Now there are no excuses for not having more of a life.
The sense of freedom that awaits us is almost overwhelming. The movie Awakenings captures that feeling. The 1990 film is based on neurologist Oliver Sacks’ 1973 book about a group of catatonic patients who are given L-Dopa. They were victims of the 1917–1928 epidemic of encephalitis lethargica, and the drug awakens them. They emerge from their decades-long cocoon, but tragically we know it won’t last. Before I become a shut-in again, I might have to make a reservation at Casa Cruz for anything other than a Scotch egg. And, I fear the fear of FOMO come upon me.