I’ve become very slack on the writing front recently, thinking that, since the Great Lockdown appeared to be loosening, it was time to get back to normal, and in normal times I wouldn’t be writing at all except for money.
Except that it’s not very clear what’s changed; if the first wave of the virus is going to be followed by a second wave, then we’ll all have to go back to square one, which is apparently a phrase dating from early radio days when listeners followed football games by referring to an imaginary grid covering the pitch.
I can imagine locked-down or newly-unemployed people reverting to the ‘square one’ system as a way of killing time while reviving forgotten skills, such as unnecessary baking or paper plane design. The landlady of our local pub has knitted (or ‘individually crafted’ as it’s now known) charming pen holders for the staff, which has created almost as much interest as football matches played to empty stadiums.
All of which will remain tolerably amusing until the effects of economic recession converge with the effects of a virus which seems to be picking up speed, so that we might all end up like the damsel in silent movies; tied to the railway line as a terrible choice of fates races towards her. (As part of my lock-down activities, I’ve been trying to improve my metaphor skills, but it’s not really worked).
Whatever happens, I can’t think that offices as they were just a few months ago will ever go back to square one. More likely, they’ll come to be regarded as an intermediate form of life, like mudskippers, which have moved on from being fish to being amphibians.
Offices have moved on from being creations of the factory age, housed in large buildings and manned by people working inflexible hours and using clunking technology like typewriters and Xerox machines, to…well, nobody quite knows yet, but it’s unlikely to involve workers spending a good part of their working day travelling to work, gossiping, being unnecessarily hectored by middle management or spending most of their dwindling funds at Greggs.
Hopefully, if we survive at all, we’ll become as flexible as the machines of the computer age, which can function, unlike 19th century mill machines, in most locations and at all times.
So we’ll become less like fish, moving in shoals and tied to one environment, and more like amphibians, which move separately between land and water, like newts. Which reminds me, I could do with a drink.