It ought to make lockdown easier, knowing that the end is in sight. Instead, I feel temptation bubbling up inside more strongly than ever. A run of precociously sunny days hasn’t helped; or rather, it has helped enormously, reviving the spirits with that hormonal rush of vernal optimism that accompanies the opening of crocuses and the unzipping of winter coats.
But spring fever is not conducive to obedience. Neither, it turns out, is hope. The Government’s “roadmap to freedom” is intended to make lockdown feel more manageable. Why break the rules when our sentence is almost up?
But opening the door just a crack creates a rush towards the light. My local park is already full of people “leaving home for recreation outdoors such as a coffee or picnic” (a treat supposedly reserved for March 8). Gorgeous hipsters move in drifts of laughter and lipstick and mohair, definitely not in single households or support bubbles, but who can blame them when it’s been so long and the sky is so blue and granny’s already had her jab?
The playground is filling up again, with children who haven’t seen each other for months except in boxes on screen. While they scream and hug and run off to build dens together, the parents stand in a carefully spaced, socially distanced circle, chatting: the stodgiest of rule-breakers. How I have missed them, these casual almost-friends of the school gates. I find the mere fact of their physical presence so wonderful, so intoxicating, that I want to reach over and run my fingers down their faces. Real flesh, not glass!
The closer we get to freedom, the harder it is to be patient. As the Yiddish proverb goes: “It’s good to hope. It’s the waiting that spoils it.”
A word to the wise
“The fight for equality is just but the paths it takes are sometimes disconcerting and pointless.” These wise words, spoken by the French MP Francois Jolivet, sum up so many of the needless skirmishes of the culture wars – especially those that take place on the battlefield of language.
Jolivet is one of 60 MPs to have tabled a law seeking to ban the use in official documents of so-called écriture inclusive – a gender-neutral, and fantastically ugly, form of language devised by progressive academics.
French, being a Latin language, has gendered grammar in which the masculine takes precedence over the feminine. The masculine plural applies to a group of people, for example, even if most of them are women.
The new “inclusive” grammar gets round this problem by creating longer suffixes broken up with punctuation points called mid dots. “Amis” becomes “ami.e.s”. “Chers étudiantes” (dear students) becomes “cher.e.s étudiant.e.s”. Very egalitarian – in so far as it is equally impossible for everyone to pronounce.
The progressive Left is acutely sensitive to language, tossing and turning like the princess on the pea, unable to rest until every problematic lump has been smoothed out. It does not seem to matter to these linguistic neurotics that their fretfulness makes the language less comfortable for everyone else. “Chest-feeding” instead of “breastfeeding”; “birthing parents” instead of “mothers”; the plural “they” awkwardly repurposed as a gender-neutral pronoun. This kind of “inclusive” language is barely language at all, so much as a grammatical experiment in magical thinking.