In this week's lockdown diary, Plymouth City Council supported Mayflower 400 Young City Laureate Holly Peters considers what the 'new normal' might mean.

Speculation titters on every news clip, the web of social media shudders. Judgments are cast before reality is etched. Cries of sharp outrage and fraying fear can be heard. Resolve eroding.

Sunday evening. A televised address that mirrors the one from so long ago that introduced the two metres bubbles, the lines, the isolation. The one that locked us down.

The Prime Minister sits behind a desk that gleams without fingerprints, an ornate fireplace and a sparkling chandelier. Like a movie set. Not an ounce of chaos, just that calm calamity we’ve all grown accustomed to.

The plan is grainy: just a shadow across the photo paper as it develops in a darkroom. No assurance, no certainties. Purely speculation. A steady decline like the green rolling hills of an automated computer wallpaper. A string of numbers. A needle on a scale. Green to red. Or is it red to green?

All we know for sure is that the end is not yet in sight. There’s further ground to tread.

We fear the ambiguities. The slippery language freeing itself from the net; the possibility that we won’t all hear the same meaning. Stretch it to suit our needs and wants. Trust placed in the hands of the nation: how many will clench a fist? How many will let it fall away, brittle glass against the solid floor? How many will cradle it, like a seed, and give it shelter?

An individual can meet another individual as long as strict social distancing is enforced. Someone not from your household. Someone you may not have seen for over two months.

The lid hasn’t been lifted but they’ve pierced it with enough holes for us to breathe.

The tell-tale orange we can’t ignore. Even if the sun isn’t a full picture, we can’t forget what will be waiting for all of us on the other side.

Well over two metres yawns between us. The grassy field, vast, enveloping. A play park locked up. There’s a slight breeze that makes the daisies waltz, the swings groan, but the sun warms my skin disregarding the grey clouds.

A wave. Smiles. A pane of glass sitting between us. Raised voices, the obliging wind carrying them over to the other person so she can hear. No crackles as the internet flakes, no stuttering graphics. Not performing to a void. In person. I never realised how much of a luxury it could be.

There isn’t much to update one another on.

“How are you keeping busy?”
“Watched anything good recently?”
“When do you think it’ll all end?”

Comfortable silences. Relieved to breath a new kind of air. Content.

The scene isn’t particularly special. Nothing noteworthy. There are dog walkers. There are young siblings chasing one another. The vibrations of laughter.

Although a year ago we wouldn’t have recognised it as a typical Wednesday afternoon, there is a remnant of familiarity. Simplicity.

Inevitable changes. Appreciating what we’ve got. Never forgetting what we’re fighting against. Two metres is a small price to pay.

We catch a glimpse of the new normal, and it invites us in.

Words: Holly Peters.

This entry is a collaborative commission by Plymouth Culture and Literature Works. It has been reproduced from the original, posted here.