We all want ‘normal’ back, but we need to hang on a little longer


Earlier last week an English expat friend in the United States texted me to ask if I knew the score in the England vs West Indies Test that (due to a condition I’m now calling “lockdown brain degeneration”) we both thought had started in Hampshire the previous day. Chastened, I immediately went online.

I saw that England had lost their first wicket without scoring a single run.

And that rain had stopped play.

What a joy it was to encounter something so pleasingly predictable. To see both the weather and the England cricket team behaving in a time-honoured, traditional manner, just like it was the 1990s. Or the 1980s. Or the 1970s, all over again.

If England could just lose a penalty shoot-out to Germany, one feels the balance would almost be completely restored. 

That’s all we want: for things to go back to normal. 

And it’s funny how we appreciate normal these days.

Recently I was sitting in my bedroom collecting all the spare buttons I could find (because I am reliably informed that during an apocalypse they are one of the few reliable forms of hard currency) when I heard a deeply pleasing noise. It was the sound of traffic. How my soul soared.

It was almost as delightful as the incident earlier in the week when a taxi cut me off and almost caused an accident. Or when there was a traffic jam at an intersection in Bryanston, and a man in a twin-cab (decorated with after-market extras indicating he was part of a highly trained and elite special-forces unit) swore at me and two other motorists for no obvious reason. 

One can only hope that soon we will get to experience more joys like these. Joys that we may have not fully appreciated at the time. 

Like getting together to watch our national rugby team lose by a 100 to 150 point margin to New Zealand at rugby.

Or being upset when one’s unco-ordinated friend drops the steak onto the ground during the nine-second journey from the kitchen to the braai. 

Or the pleasant feeling of sharing an outraged conversation with a neighbour about a politician who has stolen money from the primary education budget to buy Balenciaga nipple caps for his Labrador.

Soon my friends, these normal joys will be restored to us. 

But first we need to be patient and stay indoors. This wretched virus is not as deadly as many, but it does seem to spread faster than a video clip of Kim Kardashian opening a bottle of champagne with her buttocks.

And staying at home is one of the few things we can do to fight it. Which is hard. We are a social species, and our brains need interaction. And while it is hard for everyone, it is also much harder for some of us than others. I have friends who secretly are quite enjoying having less interaction with other humans; it requires much less sacrifice for them than it does for people who are wired a bit differently. 

I have found myself (when not collecting spare buttons that I will trade for food, guns and medicine in the near future) feeling much like climate-deniers must sometimes feel. 

Because of the package of rightwing views they subscribe to, they really really don’t want it to be true that we are destroying the planet by not adopting more lefty behaviour. So they don’t believe it. Or they try to find loopholes in the leftist argument, delighting in a scientifically dodgy article about how one reusable shopping bag has a larger carbon footprint than 50 plastic ones. 

Similarly, because of my highly social inclination, I really really don’t want to believe that, given the spread of the disease in Johannesburg, I need to stay barricaded in my house this weekend. 

But I do.

We all do. 

Just for a little bit longer. 

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John Davenport
John Davenport is the chief creative officer of Havas Southern Africa.

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