Think about ‘Springwatch’. Think about sunshine-yellow chicks nudging newly cracked eggshell. Think about the green whorl of a fern unfurling to reveal a graceful frond. Think about a soft, soft lamb gazing nervously at its mother as it attempts its first shaky steps. That’s not where we’re at, mates. Not even close. Back in Deep Lockdown, we envisaged emerging from our winter of Zoom quizzes, sourdough starter and Joe Exotic as something of a holy rebirth. Perhaps we’d be purer, kinder, more enlightened. But let’s be real: we’re not cute and fluffy. We’re red-eyed and scaly. We’ve come out a bit wrong. London, this is us.
1. The Covid prefect
You don’t need to keep refreshing the Guardian homepage when you’ve got a Covid prefect in your life. Verging on becoming more web-sweeping bot than human, this well-meaning yet insufferable individual can recall the opening dates of gyms, bowling alleys and the Welsh border faster than you can say ‘Eat Out to Help Out’. If your resident social-distancing soldier queries your hand-sanitising regime one too many times, be forgiving – it’s just their pandemic anxiety goblin talking. That said, if you’re feeling devious, you could nudge ever-so-slightly into their two-metre field of protection and watch their eye twitch. We won’t judge.
Catchphrase: ‘Can we just recap how many households are going to be blending tomorrow?’
2. The masked hypebeast
Social-distancing guidelines might have killed this Londoner’s one true love – queuing for overpriced streetwear – but it’ll never steal their steez. Right now their priority is refreshing the Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh website until they get their hands on the Fall-Winter 2020 cotton face masks (spoiler: they might never come back into stock, pal). And they’re adamant that purchasing that Adidas face mask in both colours was extremely necessary for their aesthetic. In fact, their quest to achieve pandemic-streetwear perfection has cost them more than seems sensible, but hey: £50 per face cover is a small price to pay for the right thread count. When they spot a fellow supermarket shopper wearing naught but a bandana refashioned as a mask, they tighten the grip on their nose clip, the neoprene over their mouths concealing a heavy grimace.
Catchphrase: ‘Surely an Aries mask is going to drop soon, right?’
3. The housemates at war
When once their chief source of tension was who gets to sit on the Good Chair during the weekly National Theatre Live screening, these cohabitants have become so pass-agg that not even their CBD-oil diffuser will take the edge off. One is following the rules to the letter. The other has chosen to wiggle out from under the thumb of the law. They’re refusing to wear a mask. They’re illegally raving. They’re shagging the dude they met on Tinder who lives all the way out in Clapham. They’re taking the tube. Of course, the law-abiding housemate has bitched about it to all their friends, and the Covid delinquent has complained to their mates at every opportunity, too. But will either of them actually sit down and talk about it? Probably not.
Catchphrase: ‘Are you going to wash your hands before you peel that potato, or…’
4. The piss criminal
It started with a furtive wee behind a tree. It will end only when their lobster-red sunburned body is dragged from London Fields by their mates who just want to drink a pint in a real pub for a change, their cries of ‘But you can just get a tin from the shop!’ going unanswered. The piss criminal does not want to go to the pub. Ever. Again. Like Gollum and the ring, the piss criminal sank ever-deeper into the park-party life during lockdown, gaining unholy glee from urinating in ever more obvious places. When London Fields slammed down its booze ban, the piss criminal pissed on the ‘It’s a park, not a toilet’ sign in an act of righteous anger.
Catchphrase: ‘Can you get me a double pint this time? I’ll be right back…’
5. The Corona truther
While you posted your first takeaway Aperol Spritz of the summer on your Insta Stories, the Corona truther had already bookmarked three ‘highly credible’ Reddit threads about how Covid-19 was designed and manufactured by Prince Andrew. Of the many people who suddenly gained Yard Sale Pizza-sized chunks of spare time during lockdown, some of them used those hours to spiral deep into conspiracy theories (or as a Corona truther would say, Facts). These savvier-than-thou individuals have diverged into two subspecies: one, the person who tells you five minutes into your socially distanced date that Covid-19 is a hoax and the hospitals are empty; two, that things are much, much worse than we imagine. Spending too long with either is ill-advised.
Catchphrase: ‘Maybe the recession is within you.’
6. The one with the entirely new personality
The last time you saw your mate, you were watching the sun rise together on a balcony at some random kick-on, looking into their hollow eyes and vowing to meet them at Printworks later that afternoon. Great times. Then, lockdown hit. Your friend has… changed. After months of separation, they greet you from their immaculate kitchen which smells of butter and spices. ‘Did you know you can use sourdough starter to make cardamom buns?’ they say. Then they’re showing you their macramé plant holder and offering you their ‘signature’ rhubarb chutney (now stocked in the posh Spar in Walthamstow). ‘Those barefoot trainers by the door? Oh, they’re just for my 5am morning run.’ Slowly, you back away in disbelief. Your friend – while now objectively a healthier, more well-balanced person – has gone.
Catchphrase: ‘Next time could you bring any old clothes so I can make masks out of them?’
7. The subscription junkie
‘If one good thing comes out of lockdown,’ you said, ‘it’ll be that I finally save money.’ Oh, how wrong you were. Instead, you were drawn into a self-gratifying feedback loop of consumerism so severe that you might just need to finally unlock Monzo’s overdraft function. You’re on first-name terms with the Hermes guy, and your recycling bin is a graveyard of cardboard and artisanal craft-beer cans. Obviously you signed up to Disney+ to watch ‘Hamilton’; obviously you receive six bottles of Italian wine every month. You don’t even remember what a conventional ‘shop’ looks like; and frankly, you don’t want to remember.
Catchphrase: ‘What did Allpress send you this month? I’m after something a little more full-bodied.’
8. The even smugger couple
For some lockdown couples, instant cohabitation caused the spark to disappear faster than TfL removed Banksy’s tube rat. But for other couples, lockdown will forever be marked as a sunny period of shared soft-serve ice creams at Peckham Rye and politely declined invitations to Zoom quizzes because ‘it’s our date night on Wednesdays’. The smug couple has emerged from lockdown even smugger, with the realisation that they’ve flourished while others have fallen. You felt they’d gone a little too far when they posted ‘Lockdown has been a blessing for us’ on Instagram in May, but that was nothing compared to meeting up with them and listening to them converse in sickening baby talk (‘We ended up basically coming up with our own language – how embarrassing!’).
Catchphrase: ‘It’s weird to hear about all the divorces happening during lockdown – if anything, this has brought us, like, so much closer together.’