Editor’s letter: Absence really does make the heart grow fonder

Have you, like me, done a lot in the past few weeks that you’d never had the time or desire to before this mess began? I’ve baked my first tarte tatin (I don’t know why either) and made gnocchi from scratch. I’ve done YouTube workouts with my teenage daughter. I attempted crafting (tapestry: unmitigated disaster). All that’s left is making sourdough bread and I’ll have won ‘lockdown cliché bingo’.

There is one skill I’ve developed that I’m keen to hold on to: connecting with people. Not superficial chats, quick texts, glancing at someone’s Facebook update and thinking that counts as hearing from them, but genuine human interactions. This might sound like a weird thing to say but isolation has brought me so much closer to so many people in my life.

I texted a friend the other day and it really shocked me when within seconds she phoned. ‘I was going to text a reply,’ she said, ‘but I realised I really wanted to hear your voice and thought, “I know, radical idea, I’ll phone you!”’ Radical indeed – eight weeks ago, busy people would recoil if their mobile rang, but now? Words in a grey or green bubble are just not cutting it. Even the teen, admittedly starved of options, has taken to having actual conversations with me, using multi-syllable words. Nothing made my jaw drop like the news that my mother-in-law, who’ll turn 80 this year, has recently acquired her first iPhone and is now a convert to the joys of FaceTime. I would be less surprised by news of the Second Coming.

Shortly before the world went mad, we had a weekend away with some friends, some close, some acquaintances. We all bonded so tightly that we now all talk on WhatsApp, several times a week on FaceTime and have a weekly drink together on Zoom. It was on our last little wine-fuelled gathering that our friend George said, ‘If we’re honest, if this virus hadn’t happened, we’d have had that great weekend together and we’d have seen each other two or three times in the year but we’d never have seen each other as much as we do now.’

He was right. In our old lives, we’d have kept making vague plans to meet up, cancelling them when other commitments filled the diary, taking it for granted that we could rearrange ‘at some point’. We’d have been satisfied with the odd email or text. Now, the lack of physical interaction has made us crave it all the more.

Amid the tragedy, terror and heartbreak of this pandemic, the lockdown has given us this: a new understanding of what and who matters to us most. When this is behind us, I hope we remember how to remain better humans.

Enjoy the issue.

Editor’s picks

A few things I’m coveting this week

sunspel topA brand I turn to time and again when I want good quality basics. T-shirt, £75, sunspel.com

rockett st George bistro cupsAn informal but chic way to serve drinks. Cups, £48 for 6, rockettstgeorge.co.uk

paradise topUntil we can next go there, let’s wear it. Jumper, £103, Leon & Harper, smallable.com