Bevan: “Can you open the pod bay doors please Mann?”
Mann: “I’m sorry, Bevan. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
Bevan: “What’s the problem Mann?”
Mann: “I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.”
In response to the Coronavirus crisis the Isle of Man has officially – as of the 06:00 Friday 27/03/2020 – closed its borders to all but the essential supply of freight and individuals deemed to be “necessary for critical national infrastructure”.
‘If you don’t like it there isn’t a boat back in the morning’. This is how this news translates inside the Manx section of my cultural vortex.
Either way, like maybe twenty-odd other people with a Manx primordial leaning currently trapped on the Mothership Blighty, I am truly gutted about having an umbilical cord cut like this. It means that a large and diverse number of things will be on hold for a lot of people, for an unclear amount of time.
There are millions of us in varying states of lock down worldwide. Borders are closed throughout the globe. Essential medical supplies are in high demand. Large parts of the manufacturing industry have switched production, becoming producers of respiratory and hygiene equipment. A large part of the economy has effectively been suspended. The Primeminister and several key ministers have contracted the virus… Blighty has Fallen!
Sounds like a bloody good plot for a short story, right? Nope. This is all very real. In fact, real in ways that are still shaping our present social, political and economic existence; our here and now reality is highly malleable, shifting, changing and redefining itself more rapidly than ever before. Common and burning questions are being asked; what usual human habits will have to be postponed, maybe changed completely? And also, for how long exactly will this current reality last? Truly mad times yessir!
All of these recent developments have obviously got me thinking about my old home, my family and friends who still reside there, and about all of the reasons I wish that I’d managed to get back to my old home before lockdown had begun. I’m going to attempt to tease out these reasons carefully, by exploring the benefits -and occasional drawbacks- of a Three Legged lockdown in comparison to my current situation within the Borris Land lockdown.
Now, having myself been brought up on the dear old Isle of Man, I have a handful of genuine reasons to wish that I’d dashed off the UK lockdown and made it back to the Rock. Family would clearly be the immediate and most pressing reason, friends coming a responsibly distanced second.
Does this seem odd? To return to the island for the sake of visiting dear family members -sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles, nephews and nieces etc.- during a national lockdown is surely irrational. I wouldn’t be able to see anyone anyway! I’d be doing exactly the same wherever I might happen to be, doing the best I can to keep in touch with the help from the “wizardry of modern technology”.
Of course, if you live with friends and/or family then it’s a very different and challenging dynamic during a lockdown. If you are more than a week into isolation with your friends and/or family members, you should be able to empathise with me when I tell you that it is hell. The development of an innate hatred of every single individual that you have been confined with happens surprisingly quickly. The smallest idiosyncrasies of individual habits and behaviours become the breeding grounds for deep, vivid and largely pointless disagreements.
Like many of my generational counterparts, I rent. Generation rent (as we have become known collectively) often make sacrifices on spatial allowance in order to reduce the high cost of renting. When all this settles down I am putting a deposit down on a ground floor apartment with a South facing garden, at the very least. My experience thus far, isolated in a small mid-terraced house on Mainland Leicester has made me realise one important thing.
Being socially distant is the wrong thing to do. Be physically distant! Not socially… That, I think, is why I miss the Isle of Man.
There is a fair bit of room over there, on the sunny old Isle of Man. However, (had I made it back pre-lockdown) I’d imagine that when I did venture outside, into the harsh new realities of the contemporary Covid-19 world, I would be destined to bump into people I’ve not really known for years. These people, who are happy to shoot the breeze about the everyday and unimportant minutiae of island life offer an important respite. I can imagine Shoprite, buzzing with physically distant Manxies engaging in the usual, and quintessentially Manx riot of social immersion. You just don’t get that here in the UK.
If you walk into your local Sainsbury’s on the Mothership and start talking to the unfamiliar mass about the weather, or the recent rise in horse tram running costs, the security guard looks at you funny, then follows you about until you leave. People just don’t chat to each other here as much.
I feel I’ve finally boiled it down into the one thing that makes me wish I was locked down on the Isle of Man. So that I could chat about crap with friendly strangers. There’s a lot to be said for these seemingly insignificant micro interactions that the Manx population is so good at. They offer a dash of reassurance in uncertain times. They remind you that life (however unimportant and mundane it might be) does in fact, roll on.