To say we took things for granted before 2020 is a serious understatement. If we’d known what the future held, we’d have gathered exclusively in groups of seven or more, gone clubbing every weekend, hugged our colleagues daily and eaten at buffets on the regs. But beyond the major losses that Covid has inflicted on us, there are all the simple pleasures we thought we’d never have to go without…
1. Filling up on artisanal samples at Borough Market and calling it lunch.
2. Waking up on a Saturday morning and cheerfully realising that you have no plans for the day. ‘Ah, a rare afternoon at home,’ you say to yourself. You just can’t wait to stay indoors all day, forgoing all possible plans. Will you bake some brownies? Call your mum? Catch up on that Netflix show everyone’s talking about?
3. Planning your cultural calendar based on theatre and film posters you pass on the tube. These days it’s all ads for mattresses and iron supplements.
4. Gleefully approaching the unleashed French bulldogs, cavoodles and springer spaniels of London Fields without even a moment’s hesitation.
5. A ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’-style night out. It begins at the pub with a few mates. Friends-of-friends tag along (tomorrow you’ll wake up and hardly remember them, but at the time, you ‘really connected’). You bounce from pub to club, maybe even stopping by at a house party. The spontaneity is delicious; the hangover will be brutal.
6. Speaking of hangovers: the many buttery layers of joy that is the Pret croissant. Perfectly enjoyable at any time, but utterly vital in moments of booze-induced crisis.
7. Silently congratulating yourself on something that really is more a happy accident than a genuine achievement: the perfectly timed commute. You arrive just as the train arrives, you’re in the optimum carriage for changing lines and you get to your destination bang on time. Boom.
8. Impromptu pints. Enough said.
9. Touching everything in a fancy Islington boutique without hesitation or guilt. Soft cashmere against your skin, £59 scented candle right up to your nose. A tiny taste of the good life.
10. Maybe it’s the lack of oxygen, maybe it’s the powerful body odour of your fellow commuters crushing up against you on the Central Line, but when you manage to wiggle your weary body right up to the end of the carriage and turn your sweaty face towards the slit of window, breathing in that slightly cooler, no-doubt polluted air, you feel a rush of pure life.
11. The low-key thrill that comes from celebrity-spotting. Have famous Londoners left the capital – or is it just that we can’t recognise them with masks on?
12. ‘You know what? Maybe today’s the day I visit that comically overstuffed walrus at the Horniman Museum’, you say to yourself on a rainy Sunday morning, blissfully ignorant of the days when timed slots to museums must be booked months in advance.
13. That immaculately dressed goth who often gets the same train from New Cross as you. You’ve never spoken, and you never will, but still, you miss her.
14. Absolutely sprinting to get on your train at London Bridge late at night because you thought you’d have enough time to pick up a Steak Bake. You bring it to your mouth, all piping hot and flaky, still out of breath from the effort. Worth it.