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02/02/2021

Louise Brooke-Smith: 2021? It’s a walk in the park

Don’t you just love it when something comes along that is a real surprise, or you find something that you had been looking for but had given up hope of finding? Then it’s there, staring you in the face, like the last edge piece of a jigsaw puzzle. 

Lockdown, isolation, furlough, remote working – all mean that we are still balancing time in front of the screen with the odd visit to the office. Or should that be the visit to the odd office, given that you can’t tell who might be there and you may end up spending the day with someone playing it absolutely by the book?

We have all had to follow the letter of the law in terms of ‘hands, face, space’ and I’m sure our respective quiet Christmases and New Years are all but distant memories of high frivolity watching Skyfall for the millionth time and going to bed early with a cocoa.

But it’s nearly spring – hoorah! At least the nights are getting marginally shorter (if you measure things in milliseconds) and the vaccine is coming to a village hall near you very soon, or so the government keeps telling us.

In the meantime, we can be grateful for little things, while getting to grips with a Brexit economy and trying to be upbeat about the Covid-19 recession.

There are things to look forward to, with little surprises around every corner. Remember when you went for one of your government-advised daily walks and came across a tiny pocket park in an area you rarely visit? Or when that cycle route you mapped out had some really good downhill bits and a pop-up coffee stop had miraculously appeared in a lay-by?

Like finding odd things in coat pockets. A roll of poo bags that you’d completely forgotten about since handing the early morning pooch exercise over to the other half, because that fits in better with your Zoom regime. Or the slight embarrassment of thinking it was a tissue in your bag when it was actually a mix of sweet wrappers and spare tampons. Good job you’re not in the face-to-face meetings now, eh?

Surprises come in all shapes and sizes. A social media message from someone who actually did read your seasonal greetings and is following up with a ‘Hi, how are you?’. A nomination for staff member of the month award.

Perhaps, as we get to grips with the world according to Brexit, we might indeed hear the phrase ‘Surprise surprise’, and not find Cilla turning in her grave. Who knows, all those webinars and endless pontifications by worthy panellists since 2016 could actually make sense, and we all cry out, “Oh so that’s what it all means”?

“The vaccine is coming to a village hall near you very soon, or so the government keeps telling us”

Sarcasm and politics aside, we have no alternative other than to accept that democracy, of a sort, has had its day and we have to make the best of it. In my mind that means looking forward, not back. It means seeing the good in things when trying to make sense of the thousands of regulations that some poor civil servant spent most of the back half of 2020 cutting and pasting to get the Brexit deal done by midnight (Europe time). It means not being put off by the red tape that might accompany our foreign travel when the rest of the world eventually reopens its doors to the Brits.

Let’s look forward to supporting those airlines and ferries when they start up their propellers again. Let’s dream of the summer of 2021 when we will be able to take holidays in the sun – remembering the plethora of new paperwork and pet passport if you want to take your dog with you. And all the poo bags in your old coat pocket.   

Dr Louise Brooke-Smith is a development and strategic planning consultant and a built environment non-executive director

Image credit | Zara Pickens

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