This week Britain finally began to properly emerge from its long, dark winter of COVID. And I finally got my vaccine appointments!
On Tuesday, vaccinations opened up for everyone over the age of 45. Hooray for being middle aged! Jeremy excitedly sent me the link to the booking site, and I—along with around 4 million other people—immediately logged in and tried to book an appointment. And then I (predictably) spent the rest of the day cursing and refreshing the page and cursing and refreshing the page, trying and failing to get a slot. It was like trying to nab concert tickets back when that was a thing people did. You have to book your first and second shots at the same time, but the few times I was able to find an appointment for the first shot, I would be thwarted by trying to get the second one. I finally gave up, feeling the same despair I felt a few weeks ago when the government announced that all shots for under-50s were being delayed. I felt like Tantalus, with the vaccine and all that it represents dangling right there in front of me but forever just out of reach.
Well, not forever, obviously. But patience is not my strong suit, so it seemed like it would be forever. And when Jeremy pointed out that instead of working myself into a frenzy trying grab an elusive slot on the website, I could just wait to get the text message telling me there were appointments available, I acknowledged his wisdom and sangfroid—and went right back to smashing the refresh button. And on Wednesday, my stubbornness paid off. After hours of only being offered appointments in places 30 miles away, I spotted an appointment at a pharmacy less than a mile from here, and then I miraculously managed to book a second appointment at the Brighton Centre downtown (where Jeremy got his shot). And then I was looking at a blue confirmation screen with the dates of my two shots, and I danced around the house in glee. So as it now stands, I will be fully vaccinated by my birthday, which (purely for symbolic reasons) is exactly what I wanted. Woo and indeed hoo!
In even more happy news, a lot of our lockdown restrictions eased on Monday. Non-essential shops and hairdressers opened again, and cafés, pubs and restaurants are allowed to serve people outdoors. Also, it snowed. Happy spring, happy end of lockdown! It didn’t snow a lot here in Brighton—just a few heavy flurries for 20 minutes or so—and it also didn’t seem to put people off from crowding the terraces of local pubs and waiting in line outside Primark for hours. Jeremy took a quick trip to Lewes that day to drop off his mandolin with a luthier, the first time he’d been beyond the Brighton city limits in over a year. Apparently the outside world is still very much there, and the only remarkable feature of Lewes that day were the long lines outside every barber shop and hair salon.
The weekend before, Jeremy had asked me what I was most looking forward to when lockdown ended, and I said, “Just sitting outside somewhere and having a drink.” And on Tuesday, that’s exactly what we did. We went for lunch at the Open Market, and then we walked to the buzzing North Laine and sat outside Pelicano—where I promptly spilled half my coffee on Jeremy’s leg. Also, it was freezing out. So, not exactly the glorious return to somewhat-normal life that I had visualized, but it was still good to get out of the house and feel like the town had come to life again.
And yesterday, after a hiatus of over four months, we finally got to play with a few of our Irish music acquaintances again. It felt like an eternity since I had packed up my fiddle in its case and taken it anywhere. We certainly didn’t have far to go, just a few minutes’ walk to the nearby community center. I had forgotten how strangely difficult it is to play fiddle while wearing a face mask (because I tend to look at my bow on the strings while I play, but the top of the mask is right in my line of sight), and also how tricky it can be to keep in time and tune when playing with several other people. The acoustics in the community centre are quite echoey, and with five fiddles all going at once, there was a lot of resonant noise bouncing around. It was actually really tiring, but I’m so happy that this bit of normality, too, is coming back. Now we’ll have something to look forward to every other week. And when the weather properly warms up, we can go back to playing outside. And maybe at some point in the not too distant future, there will be a pub session again.
It’s hard to imagine right now—the normality, the ability to go where we want and do what we want, without needing to make a million safety calculations. And I know it’s still a ways off yet, but it feels closer now that it has for a very, very long time. And that optimism makes all the difference.