When All This Is Over
Here are some of the many, many things I dream of doing once all this is over, and everything is vaccine-central-tastic, in a rough order of least-demanding to most.
I wanna hug someone. You wanna hug someone. One day there shall be hugs for everyone.
Sitting in a cafe eating cake and doing my Chinese homework
I am not asking much from this mystic, magic cafe. There’s a Cafe Nero not far from where I live, the chocolate cake is decent, it’s quiet, people are nice, there’s trees outside. That’d be great. I want to be somewhere that’s not my kitchen table and read a book, or do homework, or just… just sit. Taking my time. I’d like to play chess with the few people who are willing to play me at chess in a cafe, topped up by regular cups of tea. Even a pub with a roaring fire – I don’t even like pubs, but I love me a roaring fire. Just taking a lazy, lazy afternoon.
Visiting the V&A and Science Museums
Despite being a Londoner, I haven’t been to the museums in Kensington that often, mostly because I grew up on the other side of the city. My experience of South Kensington station was as a marker on my commute home from school that there was still a long way to go. However, now I’ve got a bicycle, they’re far more reachable. I remember being enthralled by samurai armour and rooms of glass at the V&A, and though I suspect it’s long since been removed, the little screen in the Science Museum where you tried to balance fuel vs. weight to get a rocket into space was my happy place as a child. I wanna lose a day drifting through it all like a complete and utter tourist.
Visiting the Tower of London
During the pandemic the Tower of London has become a geographical marker I have jogged around on my long runs every other weekend. Tower Bridge marks the last chance to cross the Thames in either direction as a pedestrian (ignoring the car-tastic Rotherhithe Tunnel) until Greenwich, and thus is significant when mapping running routes. And the more I’ve circled it, the more I’ve been reminded that I haven’t actually been inside it since I was maybe 9. And hell, I love me a raven.
Going for a swim
In 2019 I swam 5km for charity. Then I took about 6 months away from the pool because my word, I’d spent a lot of time training while staring at a not very interesting underwater view. When I got back in I got maybe a few months of joyful splashing tops, before the world shut down. I haven’t been back since March 2020 and my god, I just yearn for the peace and quiet of the water and the feeling of moving through it that a good swim brings to a hectic day. I also really enjoy getting changed after – the experience of washing off chlorine always feels like a chance to really pamper a body that has done exercise, but exercise that is less likely to immediately hurt quite the way that running does.
Getting back to escrima
There was maybe a two month period in 2020 when group exercise classes were allowed. During this I returned to escrima, wearing my mask and with some trepidation. Thankfully the classes happen in a railway arch which is wide open to the air and street outside and my colleagues are all excellent grown ups, which helped with my plague-tastic concerns. However, after literally months without proper practice, I was rubbish. I’d forgotten everything I ever knew, my arms were made of cheese, my teachers were in despair. We were just about beginning to get a handle on the basics again, when London went back into Tier 4. I am a grade 9 student. I reckon by the time I go back I’ll look like a floppy grade 3 with ambitions above my station and the physical conditioning of a doughnut. Sigh.
Stick with me here…. 2020 was the year of visiting every London park a bicycle could reach for socially distanced walks with friends. But as the weather grew colder hot flasks of tea became increasingly necessary, and with said hot flasks came the dire realisation that your otherwise infallible knowledge of how and where to find a public toilet in a hurry, was suddenly no use to you. You clenched – I clenched – let’s not kid ourselves, the whole country has been clenching for nearly a year now, and you can tell.
Eating in a restaurant with friends
I particularly want to go to a Laotian cafe near Covent Garden and have incredibly spicy chicken with people I love. I want to share starters. I want to go “aaaahhhh” at a menu together. I want to be with people, sharing a meal and an experience while surrounded by the sound of voices that are also having a “blimey that’s a bit hot!” moment, together.
My knowledge of the London underground network used to be encyclopaedic. I am a born and bred Londoner, which means I can tell you the best way to get from Cutty Sark to Acton Central without checking a map, factoring in how often you might need to change, whether it’s better to walk your last leg from Turnham Green or delays on the Overground. But I haven’t used my Oyster Card since February 2020. And I never thought I’d say it, but I miss the underground. I miss human-watching. I miss the sounds, the ecosystem of it, the sense of flow and dance when it’s all moving right. Millions of people use London’s transport system, when it’s at full flow. The delight I have in seeing that – in watching a system move – is intense and bright. And what if I’ve forgotten everything? What if this accumulated knowledge has just gone straight out my brain? This is not an entirely idle thought. Throughout 2020 I’ve watched with growing alarm as bus routes have been altered and tinkered with, diversions becoming permanent re-routing which means – suddenly – my thorough knowledge of London’s buses is in fact a trap. I am going to have to, gulp, consult the local bus stop map next time I try to catch a bus. The shame! The horror! My status as a Londoner begins to waver….
A basketball party
I am not particularly good at large social gatherings, but every now and then me and a bunch of mates would get together to play basketball on the community court near my block, and it was awesome. We were rubbish, and we were rubbish together. How I yearn for the joyful shared experience of being truly, truly awful at doing a joyful thing together.
Watching a movie with friends while eating crisps
I can watch movies by myself. But how much nicer it is to watch a movie with a small group people you love while sharing snuggling blankets and a big bowl of crisps? Answer: it’s really very nice indeed.
Joining a running club
I have a feeling that like swimming, there’s a lot of technique in running. However, I also have a feeling that I don’t know any of it. I would like to find out, and if that involves meeting new people while doing it, hell to the yes.
Joining a chess club
I used to be alright at chess. I was my school chess champion for years, but when asked “do you want to play in competition” somewhat recklessly dismissed the idea on the basis that I assumed we’d all be thrashed. For seven years I drew against the fantastic teacher who ran the chess club, partly because we were very evenly matched but mostly because 40 minutes was never long enough for either of us to gain a clear advantage before the lunch bell went. My Dad was a county player in his time, as was his father before him, and I could beat him, and apart from the school chess teacher haven’t met anyone in the last 20 years who I couldn’t beat. But that’s really not the same as being any good, given that most of the people I play just lack experience and training and, once they start to get those, become significantly better really quite alarmingly fast. I am incredibly rusty, incredibly weak on formal knowledge and starved of regular competition. It is possible that the time has come to grow as a human and maybe see if there are people who are willing to thrash me like an old blanket on the regular, ‘cos that is the only way I’ll ever learn.
Running a half marathon with people
I got stuck at some traffic lights on my bicycle a few weeks ago. There were maybe 15-20 other cyclists – some clearly in a group – who were also stuck at the traffic lights. The experience of being stuck together was the nearest thing I’ve had to a large group interaction since… oh, basically forever. It was almost emotional. Blimey it’s been a long pandemic. But if my reaction to getting a green light with some random cyclists was all feelsy, just imagine how much I’m gonna cry if and when I finally, finally get to run the Hackney Half with thousands of other people through the streets I grew up in. Answer: I’m gonna cry so, so much.
Going to the cinema
I’m not a big film buff. The last film I saw in the cinema was, I think, the monumentally disappointing Rise of Skywalker. But my god I wanna see something in the cinema. I wanna be surrounded by sound, see close-ups bigger than my bedroom, hear people gasp, sit up straight when the lights go down. See also: blimey I want to go to the theatre, but like cinema, my appreciation of theatre is heavily dented by years of working in it, and thus it takes a lot for me not to just look at the lighting.
Lighting a gig
This is still a long, long way off. But if you think that again, I won’t be spilling salty salty tears all over my lighting desk when I’m finally back in a venue surrounded by people sharing in the same empathetic experience of live music and performance, you have a sterner sense of my own tear ducts than me.
Taking the train to the sea and staying overnight
God I miss the sea. And technically I could do a day trip, but you know what’s great? Sitting out on the beach at night looking at the stars, followed by waking up the morning after to that incredible, impossibly bright dazzling light that slams in off the water like Bruce Lee trying to punch your eyes out. It’s great. I am ready for it.
Taking the train to a forest and staying overnight
God I miss big trees. And you know what else is great? Sitting up at night listening to the sound of wind through the trees, followed by waking up the next morning and having a giant fry-up after a joyful amble through paths shaded in green.
A running/yoga retreat
The idea of going somewhere and then going for a run would have made me laugh out loud if you’d suggested it a few years ago. A “retreat” in general made me think of women who live entirely on kale and healing chakras, none of which I’m ever gonna be the demographic for. Now, however, the idea of getting together with people – see how there’s a recurring theme here? – and spending some time actually learning a bit about form and nutrition and being with other runners, preferably somewhere lovely with nice light – thoroughly appeals. I’d even be up for, like, a yoga retreat or a surfing retreat, two things I am either categorically bad at, or in the case of surfing have never done in my life at all, just because damnit, my brain is starved of everything in the world at all even ever slightly and you could say “do you want to go and spend a week learning how to be a clown?” and I’d start carving a false nose from a flipping pumpkin if it got me out of the flat.
In 2020 I became dual-citizenship German, so my chief ambition is to spend a solid block of time pootling round Germany on the train and getting to know a bit more about the country from which half my family hails. I would also like to use this opportunity to drag my weak linguistic skills kicking and screaming into something that could be dubbed “conversational”. Generally speaking, I have dreams of travelling all across Europe by train. I haven’t been to central Italy since I was a child, and am curious to see if it’s anything like how I remember it. I’ve never really been to the Alps, and would love to spend some time in the mountains. I want to see the palaces of Phillip II and visit Lisbon – I just wanna go pottering, basically, with a backpack on my back.
I would also love to go to China, and spend some time also pootling round south-east Asia. My Mandarin is, ironically, better than my German. It even came in handy in Japan, as though I couldn’t ready any of the syllabic alphabets, I could at least recognise the characters for “fish” and “meat” and “alcohol” hanging above a door, and turned out to be quite good at translating imperial epigrams affixed to ancient monuments. Basically – I got me some wanderlust. I have never yearned for that feeling of being pushed back into an economy class seat, knees pressed to nose as the plane takes off more.