A typical Friday night to me – and I suspect also to the average Durham student – would have normally consisted of sipping gin and tonics whilst doing my makeup in preparation for a bar crawl or pre-drinks, followed by monotonous dancing in a packed club that I would almost certainly leave early. It now seems like a lifetime ago, but when BoJo announced pubs and clubs will be closing, I initially felt a sense of panic. No more weird chats in the smoking area with strangers, no more coming home after the club shut with your housemates and making toasties whilst recalling the night – why is it that retelling events from nights out is always more fun than when they happen the first time round? In a nutshell, no more fun. Right?
Whilst my housemates were mourning their inability to wear winged eyeliner and red lipstick (they tend to be a tad dramatic), I was thrilled by the prospect. I hated the way you can’t hear anyone in bars, I hated having to wait for 10 minutes in the queue to get an overpriced gin and tonic and getting it spilt by someone gesticulating vehemently in the smoking area. I hated being hit on by guys I had absolutely no interest in (it’s never the ones you want) and having to explain for the hundredth time where my accent is from and what my plans are for after university. The prospect of not going out for the months was genuinely terrifying, but I could see a silver lining.
The prospect of not going out for the months was genuinely terrifying, but I could see a silver lining.
At the moment, it looks like it may still be weeks before the lockdown ends, and even then the way we interact will be far from normal. Gatherings will probably still be capped – at least in the initial stages. And with the economic crash that is to follow, who’s to say that pubs and clubs will survive even if they are allowed to operate? Or that we won’t all be too broke to frequent them? Still, I am optimistic.
I’ve always believed in the power of good music and good wine to fuel any group of people until the early hours of the morning. I always preferred house gatherings to going out, always preferred smaller groups to larger ones. To me, the prospect of socialising indoors on a smaller scale has sparked a sense of excitement which may not be very empathetic to all the businesses closing and people losing their jobs, but I couldn’t help it. Life after the virus won’t be the same for a while, especially in terms of the way we socialise. But I believe it will be an opportunity to reconsider the way we form connections and perhaps interact with people in a more meaningful way.
I think there’s a lot we can learn from our parents’ generation when it comes to the forgotten art of indoor gatherings.
The mental image of a small group of young people gathering in someone’s living room with a pack of cards and whatever fusion of foods can be put together from rations, sends me right back to photos I’d been shown by my parents of Communist times in the Eastern Bloc. In fact, I think there’s a lot we can learn from their generation when it comes to the forgotten art of indoor gatherings.
1. We’ll need to think quality, not quantity
Whilst big group gatherings will not be possible anytime soon, small group socialising could be. Even though house parties are a definite no-no, having under 5 people over to share a couple bottles of wine could soon be feasible. I always found having genuine conversations in crowded spaces a challenge, so I think this will be an opportunity to actually listen to each other, without the clamour of the table next to you, without the creepy regular interrupting your conversation. Besides, any organised-fun lovers know 4-5 people is the ideal number for most games because no one loses focus midway through and rules can be properly enforced.
2. We’ll need to think more local
The last few decades have been amazing at bringing people together from across the world. But with travel being restricted to nothing but essentials, it looks like we’ll have to start taking the phrase “love thy neighbour” more and more literally. Growing up in an area that had a shortage of children my age, I never experienced that neighbourly feel and my socialising was always linked to travelling long distances. Now that the only reliable form of transportation is our own two feet, it looks like we’ll have to reach out to people in our immediate proximity for social interaction. Social media makes it easy to think that life is elsewhere, but I will take this as an opportunity to connect more with my immediate surroundings. Thankfully, we now have the internet to help us find people willing to get together if we feel too awkward about going around knocking on doors when the quarantine is lifted (I know I do).
Social media makes it easy to think that life is elsewhere, but I will take this as an opportunity to connect more with my immediate surroundings.
3. We’ll need to lower our standards and learn to improvise
With restaurants and bars closing, it means that instagrammable features of social interactions such as drinks and brunches won’t be as commonplace as they once were (having always hated taking photos of my food, can’t say I’m disappointed). Still, it could be an opportunity to learn to improvise and embrace the DIY life. When getting an ice-cold mojito is not as easy as snapping your fingers, it may make us appreciate it more. Likewise, with so much time spent indoors and potential rationing underway, we’ll need to start being creative in the kitchen. Entertaining (even small groups, under government guidelines) will be challenging, but in my opinion ever more personal because of the extra effort we’d need to put in.
Maybe the future won’t be as bleak as I’m anticipating, or who knows, even bleaker. Maybe we won’t be able to see any of our friends for months to come, but I am confident that we’ll find ways to maintain those friendships and make us cherish them even more. I’ve also decided to see this as an opportunity to reach out to people in ways we haven’t before and perhaps make new connections, as well as maintaining old ones. The situation is far from ideal, but I’m hoping it will teach us to appreciate the simpler things in life which are often right under our noses.
Photographs: Evelyn Staicu’s family archive