I’m not a fan of reality TV shows and rarely watch them, but there is one recurrent theme in shows such as Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! that has been buzzing around my mind for a few days now: what participants plan to do afterwards…
Having caught the odd snippet of the latter over the years (usually whilst waiting for News at Ten to start), there are two things I’m a Celebrity campmates talk about incessantly: family and food.
I’m sure I’m not the only one guilty of smugly scoffing as campmates reminisce about cheeseburgers, cookies and Cadbury Creme Eggs. But that’s kind of the point, right?
Listening to a bunch of wannabes and has-beens salivate at the prospect of “real food” after a week or two-long diet of rice and witchetty grubs is, strangely, part of the appeal for the many millions who tune in each night.
It’s easy to feel smug – and dare I say, entertained – when you’re watching from the comfort of your own home, pouring a fresh glass of red and tucking into that tub of Celebrations left over from Christmas…
But now – under lockdown – I’m beginning to understand where the despairing campmates are coming from.
I’m not talking about craving a chocolate fix or an ice-cold G&T (thankfully neither are in short supply at Chez Lamb for the time-being), but that sad, unsettling feeling of missing the ordinary.
In March, our everyday way of life was turned on its head, with very little to prepare us for what followed. But we’re not talking a nuclear disaster, World War 3 or camping out in the Australian outback with Ant and Dec… We’re talking about staying at home.
Many of our grandparents and great-grandparents made incredible sacrifices in times of trouble: evacuating their children, leaving their families, fighting in battles, dying for their country. We, on the other hand, just need to stay indoors. It’s nothing compared to our ancestors, but it’s no walk in the park either…
Keeping your distance from everything that represents normality – shops, restaurants, cinemas, work, friends, family – is incredibly hard to do. Not because we can’t live without seeing No Time to Die at the local Odeon – although I’m sure Daniel Craig will put in a fine performance – but because having a choice has become second nature to us. Take away that choice – as they do in the I’m a Celeb jungle – and it becomes near impossible to think about much else.
Prior to the pandemic, I didn’t spend night after night at the local boozer. Nor did I go rambling in Snowdonia each weekend, or dine out at fancy restaurants every second night. I didn’t see my extended family very often. But now that I’m physically unable to do those things, they feel disproportionately desirable.
Thankfully, I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m not a key worker on the front line. I live in a nice, comfortable house with a family I adore. Spending more time at home is far from a hardship, and I’m grateful every single day for that fact.
When the time comes to return to some semblance of normality, I’m sure the nation will breathe a collective sigh of relief. Not because we can party again, but because the spread will have stopped. Because no one else will needlessly die or be put at risk, and those suffering – physically, mentally or financially – will be on the road to recovery.
But we will also enjoy experiences like never before.
Handshakes, hugs and high fives. Parks full of people. Sandy beaches with no space to sit down. A twenty-minute wait for a table at a restaurant. A late night Big Mac from the drive-thru. Queueing for concerts, football matches, drinks by the river. Supermarket shelves teeming with toilet rolls…
Coronavirus has made campmates of us all.
We’re in scary, uncharted territory with no physical contact with the outside world. We spend our time with the same select people, day after day. We talk more than ever. We make our own entertainment. We have ups, we have downs. We miss our friends and family, our hobbies, our favourite food.
But – thanks to the camaraderie, compassion and commitment of others - we’ll come out the other side feeling stronger than ever before. We’ll place greater value on the little things that make life special, and our generation won’t take things for granted ever again.
That’s a silver lining if I ever I saw one… now, get me out of here!!!