The Light At The End Of A Very Long Tunnel by Tom Beasley

When I last wrote a column for this magazine, things looked pretty bleak in terms of the coronavirus pandemic. Christmas had been tossed away like an unwanted pair of novelty socks when travel restrictions were imposed at the very last moment, and England was entering its third national lockdown. At the time of writing, in early March, we’re still in that lockdown, but the outlook is decidedly less gloomy than it was at the beginning of the year.

Coronavirus cases have hit a fairly low plateau, hospitalisations are down and the vaccination programme is a more or less unqualified success. As reluctant as I am to offer much in the way of praise to our current government, they’ve got vaccines absolutely right. Current figures suggest that every adult in the UK will be offered at least one dose of a vaccine by July, which is something that would’ve seemed impossible just a few months ago. Normality is so close we can almost touch it. Summer might actually happen after all.

In late February, Boris Johnson announced what he rather pretentiously called the “roadmap” out of lockdown. By the time you’re reading this, pupils will theoretically be back at school and some form of outdoor mixing should be allowed, with restaurants and pubs possibly available for those sitting in the open air rather than indoors. Rightly, the government is choosing to take small steps in lifting the lockdown. The risks of the virus ripping unrestricted through a partly-vaccinated population could be disastrous in terms of allowing vaccine-resistant variants to spread and thrive. We have to be careful.

Regular readers of this column will not be surprised to know that the date most prominent in my personal diary is 17th May. That’s the earliest date on which cinemas will be allowed to open. In the pre-COVID era, I’d be at the cinema at least three or four times every week, and so the last 12 months have been very difficult indeed. The last time I sat in a cinema was December, when I was able to attend a very tightly monitored press screening of superhero sequel Wonder Woman 1984, during the time in which London was within Tier 2 restrictions.

I miss the cinema enormously and, for me, it’s perhaps the biggest indicator of normality beginning to resume. The day I can experience a movie on the big screen – rather than on a much smaller TV – will be one of the most joyous parts of my summer. I can’t wait to be allowed outside again, so that I can spend the warmest months of the year inside, in the dark. At least it’ll be by choice.

That same date in May also marks the earliest possible time at which it will be deemed acceptable for people from different households to meet indoors. Given the fact I live a two-hour drive away from my family, this is hugely significant. Driving all the way back up to the Midlands in order to sit several metres apart in a garden and then immediately drive back again is not ideal, so the lifting of this particular limitation will be a huge moment. Incremental changes to shopping and outdoor drinking aren’t of much interest to me personally, but May could well be a big month.

With that said, I’m wary of becoming too excited about the possible return of life as we know it. This government has constantly been guilty of over-promising and under-delivering, and the prime minister himself has stated that the dates here are of less importance than the data. If you’re reading this after a monstrous spike in infections after schools reopened, many of the dates I quoted above will have shifted.

But that’s the right thing to do. After a nightmarish year, nobody wants to see a fourth lockdown. We’re almost at the finish line, with this the final push. So grab those masks and keep on wearing them, while keeping your distance from everybody outside of your household bubble. Hopefully, summer will allow for hugging, high-fives and everything else.

As for me, I’ll be in the dark watching a movie. And I’ll be as happy as a pig in muck doing so.

© 2021 Tom Beasley

The opinions expressed in this article are personal to Tom Beasley. Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist living just outside London and originally from Coventry. He can be reached at tomjbeasley@gmail.com.