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This week the UK government further eased restrictions on the lockdown in England that has been in place for almost three months (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are subject to slightly different, and generally more cautious, restrictions).
Curious to see how the populace would respond, I must confess to a feeling of deep depression at the sight of long queues of cars at fast food drive-throughs and of people lining up outside reopened shopping centre stores.
The background hum of traffic has also returned, after weeks of calmness which have been gently and charmingly punctuated by birdsong.
Thanks to our health and social care services, and thanks to the introduction (albeit far too late), of social distancing and other restrictions, the UK’s Covid-19 death rate has fallen considerably in recent weeks.
This has been used by the British government to justify the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Of course, the virus has not disappeared, nor has it evolved and individually we are still just as much at risk from it as we were at the start of the pandemic.
What has changed is that the government has now prioritised the resurrection of the economy over the need to protect our collective health.
Most of us have spent much of the past three months with severe restrictions on our activities. This has provided a unique opportunity to reflect on the way we live our lives
Of course, lockdown experiences will have varied hugely. For a family with small children living in an inner-city high-rise apartment block, lockdown would have been a huge challenge compared to life for those with large houses and gardens.
But for a brief period, we showed ourselves how it is possible to live more frugally, less acquisitively, to conduct our lives at a less breakneck speed and, yes, to have time to think about what really matters in our lives and in the world around us.
We learned that it was possible to survive happily without commuting or driving, (unless you are the Prime Minister’s special adviser).
Many of us have learned to value the smaller local shops and businesses that have done so much to support and provide for their communities.
Having been told we could leave our homes once a day for exercise, lots of us did just that, enthusiastically embracing that daily ration of exercise – jogging, cycling, running. This in turn gave us an opportunity to explore properly the area in which we live.
Many of us have shown that it is possible to do our jobs from home, without commuting.
For some, slowing down has also had a positive impact on our mental health and stress levels.
Now, as the UK government, like others around the world is easing lockdown restrictions we are being urged to “support the economy” by resuming our previous levels of consumption, and to help return to “business as usual”.
But who does that “business as usual” benefit? The very people who put us here in the first place – the polluters, the agribusinesses, agrochemical corporations, petrochemical companies, processed food manufacturers – organisations whose entire business ethic has depended upon exploitation of people and planet. This is what created the conditions in which the pandemic emerged and thrived.
If we do not want business as usual, it is up to us. Too many of our politicians are in the pockets of big business.
We are going to have to be firm about preserving the positive changes we have made to our lives during lockdown, and to build upon the lessons lockdown has taught us by making further changes – in the way we eat, consume, travel and work. These, cumulatively, will help shift us all towards the wider permanent changes that are needed if we are to live fulfilled lives that are in better balance with the world around us.
This dish, using homegrown golden zucchini courgettes is an attempt to recreate a delicious lunchtime pasta dish I had in an authentic Italian restaurant in Swansea, south Wales, many years ago.
750 g organic courgettes, cut into batons the size of your thumb
400 g organic linguini (use egg-free pasta for vegan version)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp herbs de Provence
pinch chilli flakes
½ tsp sea salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
to serve (optional)
extra virgin olive oil
a few torn basil leaves
vegetarian or vegan Parmesan style cheese, grated
1. Bring a pan of lightly salted water to the boil. Add the liguine and cook until al dente.
2. While the linguini is cooking, pour the olive oil into a large pan and place over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the courgette batons and the garlic. Cook together, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Lower the heat and add the herbs de Provence and the chilli flakes. Continue to cook for about ten minutes or until the courgette is sift and beginning to colour, by which time your pasta should be about ready.
3. Drain the pasta and tip into the courgette pan. Stir everything together and place onto plates or into bowls. Drizzle with a little olive oil, scatter with basil leaves and add a little grated cheese, if using.