Life & Culture

Life lessons learned from lockdown

Gloria Tessler reflects on the easing of lockdown restrictions


It has been a new way of life. Quieter. Calmer. With fewer options. Lockdown has meant you didn’t stress about the latest play or film you didn’t find time to book.

You couldn’t lose yourself in the National or Tate Galleries. Churches, mosques and synagogues stayed closed — although some shtiebel-goers kept going, perhaps because they had divine protection, unlike those unfortunates they might brush against.

When the government mooted the idea of churches opening just to allow people in, this did not apply to synagogues, because it has never been in the communal nature to pop in and sit down alone, light a candle and silently meditate.

Many of us don’t recognise silence. And in any case, it would be an MI5 job just to get past a security guard.

Getting on a tube was off-limits, so you stayed local, and once you dared the shops or the park, it was a game of to mask or not to mask. But now that lockdown has eased, is the masked ball we have been circumnavigating these last three months over? Like everything else in Britain, it is all a gamble, a game of chance.

People flocked to Bournemouth beaches as though Covid 19 could never thrive beside the sea. Hairdressers have opened, but many complain that their sci-fi visors steam up, and you can’t cut hair while wearing latex gloves.

So those who dare may end up as Roundheads, while those, like me, who don’t, will remain long curly-haired Cavaliers. Or at least we’ll resemble a King Charles spaniel.

People can come into our houses and gardens now, though the jury is out about the exact numbers, but my newly qualified landscape gardener friend, trying out a renovation of my entire lawn, proved so enthusiastic that I spent the morning dancing backwards away from her.

Kissing strangers is out of bounds, we run away from people; we can’t hug anyone not living with us. We are developing a culture of fear and antipathy towards our fellow man. And we judge those less sensitive to the dangers of the virus as stupid or uncaring, as they challenge the rest of us to be less fearful.

Of course, some didn’t wait for easing to show their lack of fear. My friend in Manchester has told me of hordes in the kosher butchers, butting in and shouting; she saw challah-surfers pushing over themselves in the bakeries. And others going to a service by their rabbi, definitely not on Zoom.

Lockdown gave us a chance to think about the behaviour of others — and try not to judge them — and also consider deeply the meaning of our changing lives.

I’ve been re-discovering the beauty of woods I hadn’t walked in for years. I became closer to wildlife, recognising by the colour of its feathers the pigeon which is always first at the garden table, puffing up and lurking clumsily after the next feathered female.

It was wonderful to enjoy the melodious pitch of the robin, and watch its determined little macho swoop over the pigeons, magpies and blackbirds to wait patiently for the hoi polloi to fly off and then hop to the kill.

And I am reading. The teenage author Dara McAnulty has written so movingly in Diary of a Young Naturalist on the true nature of conservation, in other words nature-awareness, that you really wonder why on earth we ever persisted on our old metropolitan treadmill.

What are we actually running towards or away from? I am still apprehensive about the prevalence of the coronavirus, although longing to meet family and friends again, in theatres, bars and cafes as we did when things were normal.

But if this is the new normal, let’s learn from our time in lockdown and live with more understanding and consideration of each other.

And perhaps with more dignity.


Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive