Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for May 2nd, 2020

The 40-Day Itch

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 2nd May, 2020

Day 40Today is the 40th day of lockdown in London and I am beginning to feel the itch. I have been dreaming a lot lately — far more than usual — and last night in my dreams I went to Azerbaijan on a press trip (as I did in real life in February) before suddenly finding myself in Paris. There I visited the British Embassy, which was not in its usual historic palace in the Rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré but in a vast modern complex, with its own busy supermarket. It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to tell me this is a reflection of the fact that I am going stir-crazy. Jesus had enough of the wilderness on Day 40 and Lent only lasts that long as well. It’s the longest period of time I have been stuck in one place for many years and I can’t help looking at the April pages in my diary with a certain pang of regret with an Easter trip to Rio, a short visit to Lisbon and a political conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, all scrubbed out. In the last 40 days the only time I have been out of the house other than for an hour’s walk in the woods each day — with a visit to the supermarket at the end, when necessary — has been one trip to a TV studio to record a discussion show where the presenter and three guests all sat on stools, socially distanced, only removing our face-masks when the cameras started to roll. Of course the lockdown has been essential; indeed, had it started earlier possibly the death toll from COVID-19 would not have been quite as high as it is now. But human beings are social animals as well as explorers by nature, and Zoom sessions, however brilliant they have proved to be, are no real substitute for face-to-face encounters. I miss not being able to go to the local Costa coffee shop on a whim. And from the way that car traffic on the roads has increased in recent days, others are feeling the 40-Day Itch too. Being British, we are not going to storm the town hall, armed to the teeth, as some American crazies have done, demanding an end to it all. But this unseasonal hibernation, just as Spring has been springing, does feel unnatural. So even though the government is right to encourage us all to stay at home for a little while longer, we do all need to nurture the hope that one day in the not too distant future we will be able to travel again, and not just in our dreams.

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