I remember a few years ago watching a documentary about Detroit, the once beating heart of the American automotive industry, and how trees and plants were reclaiming desolate factories in the most startling fashion. Of course, I can't find those images now, and am doubtful whether I saw the images at all (I'm sure I did but was it another US city? Who knows!). It is true however that as industries decline, disappear and change with technological advancements, or societal and global evolution make them redundant; nature doesn't take long to reassert itself over the human tendency to suppress it with concrete. While my images are not as impressive of these Detroit pictures it was clear that the Covid-19 pandemic is putting paid to the human need for neat tarmac defined lines with clear signs of plant-life re-asserting itself along one of my daily walk routes.
It's clear to see that verges are going untended as my local council tightens their belts and focuses on priorities. All over my miniscule patch of the Earth there are signs of nature creeping back in due to lack of maintenance and footfall as people heed the advice to stay at home and avoid contact with others. The council who cover the local services for my area have declared they are facing a shortfall of tens of millions of pounds this year as emergency measures need to be paid for and income from business rates and rent withers. Council owned leisure centres are not open and outreach services for vulnerable people are not functioning. While this is obviously a cost saving to some extent, those leisure services also generated income through gym memberships, swimming lessons and catering. Outreach services are no longer the lifeline to people of all ages with additional needs and are also limited in the fundraising they can do - already vital income but doubly so now budgets are stretched to breaking point. Sadly, it's not just going to be restaurants, cinemas and pubs that are going to fail to come out the other side of this pandemic.
A little further along on my walk and I found another example of automotive 'Armageddon' to symbolize how much life is on hold:
Stock-car racing is obviously on hold like many other events that rely on gate-receipts to fund them. The line of padlocked garages looked almost hungry for attention, leaning in towards the tantalizing cars and trailer "Come back! Use us! Why have we been abandoned?! We've got some lovely smelling oil and grease paint for you to reminisce over..." but other than the occasional dog walker, this popular route on the edge of the countryside is devoid of human life. What is going to be the way forward for social events that rely on masses of paying spectators? Football, athletics, theatres, concerts - will my children ever experience the madness of a gig, jumping to the music because everyone packed around you is as the collective sweat of hundreds drips off the ceiling onto you? Doubtful and, as I re-read that last bit - ew! Maybe for the best! It never did me any harm but these days, it absolutely could. Will people return to them in the same numbers, even if government decide they can open up again. That's a whole other post altogether but already I am making decisions based on the "new normal" and worrying about my children's prospects.
There are many people, I am sure, who harbour a great deal of fear and anxiety over returning to the way things were when the science around lockdown easing seems uncertain and is interpreted differently region-by-region. That's before we even talk about the new strain of flu just identified. I will certainly resist going back into the office I worked in with every reasonable fibre of my being now it has been demonstrated I can comfortably work from home. I am not a healthy individual though I cannot easily be put into a box such as immunosuppressed or chronic asthma. I know my own wreck of a body and to be fair to myself, I am trying to turn that around but my goodness, it takes time. And I think this is going to be a big issue for many going forward - time. Businesses are undoubtedly struggling (my own employer laid off around a third of its workforce last month) and my worry is that they will seek to return to the comfortable, familiar way of operating rather than grabbing the opportunity to change- pushing anxious and concerned employees back into a world they don't want to go back to because it is easier. There are, of course those that want desperately to get away from home-working and that's cool too; not one size fits all. Change is difficult, nuanced and can be expensive; the work-force often get forgotten in the great Excel spreadsheet of reckoning in those "blue sky thinking" and other buzz-word meetings that happen at the upper echelons.
The age-old curse 'May you live in interesting times' could not be more applicable to 2020 and the years ahead until a vaccine is found. My next post will be about the changes we have made as a family in response to the pandemic as well as my musings on how I predict things are going to go for us from here on in but, until then - stay as safe as you can and look out for you and yours.
Oh, and play games. On the internet. At home. With friendos, weirdos and family.
Or watch me on Twitch, you know, whatever.