Being boxed in ain’t no fun, and this last year has had us fastened up in our four corners for way longer than humans can cope with. In England, the 19th is the date all our lockdown regulations loosen. Wearing masks will stop being mandatory, going out will be easier and sweet freeeeeeeedom will be tasted.
Last Sunday was the Euros’ final and England battled Italy to the bitter end, unfortunately dropping the ball during the penalties. The tensity during the match as we sat mostly at a draw was electric. I was in London for it; Leicester Square specifically. Due to shite preplanning and spontaneity running the evening, of course we didn’t get no tickets for the big screen showing the game, but that didn’t mean we missed out on the excitement.
Masses of people wandered the streets looking for crowds to join and mingle with in the buzz of those ninety minutes. We went in a group and of course lost each other many times, but all eventually reunited. We ended up where the biggest mass was clustered and spent the remainder of the game there.
Fireworks were being let off in the crowd, Barclay Bikes were being beaten and hurled over heads, glass bottles were being lobbed at the police, along with any other throwables people could get their mitts on. I saw at least three fights breaking out. Every street we turned down was a sea of rubbish. It was carnage.
On the contrary, there was also joyous singing. One person would start a chant and suddenly the whole crowd was screaming “It’s Coming Home” or “England”. Arms snaked round shoulders and bodies jumped together; feeling connected. Strangers smiled at each other, or asked about the progress of the game, and each mini conversation spiralled into a five minute friendship that moved on after that. I didn’t even think about COVID until someone mentioned it in a jokey way before the game ended.
I was then struck with a belly-flopping anxiety. I bit my top lip and wrinkled my eyebrows, worried that maybe, yes, being in this big crowd will mean I’m going to go home and bring this shite virus with me. Then what would a fucking great night out mean? My death? My mum and dad’s death? Me becoming another statistic? But this thought moved on as I was distracted by the event again.
England lost. It was gutting; there were no “boo”s, or fights, or riots, or reactions, really, as I’d expected. Suddenly the crowd just started to thin, with its entirety looking glum with their heads down and their mouths shut. My friends and I didn’t even confirm we’d lost until I asked a random lad who looked like he’d definitely be passionate about footie enough to give the proper answer. It was very deflating.
After so long of hardly any cathartic joy, and finally, for a lot of people, being around loads of others and finding elation in a group of humans all on the same wave, the knock down of Italy winning was a blow. But it felt like this reconnecting was worth more than the game’s verdict.
Whether you were one of those who smashed a beer bottle over a poor girl’s head, or kissed a stranger for the first time in months, you were in a setting that hasn’t been normal for over a year. And it was fucking great.
So, back to that anxious thought that hit me in the middle of that event. Is doing this going to mean I’m going home with an illness that has claimed the bodies of so many this past year?
I’ve never gone to a motive and worried about my quality of life in the weeks to come. I’ve had some rotten comedowns and debilitating hangovers, but I’ve never been in those states for longer than a day or two. And I’ve never, even though it felt like I could, worried I would die from it, or cause the death of someone else with it.
How many other people walked away from Sunday with these very concerns? How many are in bed now with a cough, terrified they made the wrong choice by simply living life? That last sentence is insanity. The fact that celebrating our country getting to the Euro’s finals, and the win, if it happened, of a huge, international football tournament, which would’ve been the first time since 1966, is considered wrong and unusual, truly shows how the Coronavirus has brainwashed us into thinking that normal life is the one doing it wrong, and all these regulations are the standard. I’m happy I got to experience what I did in the country’s capital this weekend. I’m happy I get to tell people how it was, as we will all inevitably talk about England getting to the finals for years to come. I’m happy I got to get out of the bubble of COVID for an evening, with only one thought of it coming into my head the whole night.
Some people have locked themselves inside for the last year and not seen family and have still pegged it. I don’t want to push life out anymore, or miss out on huge events just because some random cunt told me to on Radio 2. I don’t feel unwell, or have a cough. But I do have a memory of an incredible evening where thousands found each other again and had a cracking night. I’m grateful for it.
It gets to a point where we have to question what is more important; physical illness or mental illness? They can both really play hand in hand. Having an illness can very much inspire your mental health to decline. When my blood sugars are high, I can start to get depressed, feel angry and insecure, and high strung. When they go low, I can be totally spaced out, paranoid and extremely anxious. People with conditions that effect their mobility and confine them to the sofa can also really struggle with depression (hello, what have we all been doing the last year?). And vice versa. When you’re depressed you can very easily lay in bed all week with the blinds down, leading to a bad back and tight hips, which can spiral into chronic issues. Being in a constant state of anxiety and going through the terror of panic attacks can lead to stomach ulcers and heart problems. And right now, how many of us haven’t been through depression and anxiety during the pandemic, even if we never have in the past? Anxious to get ill, anxious to die, anxious our loved ones get ill or die, anxious to go out, to go shopping or meet friends, anxious every time we watch TV. Depressed because we can’t go out, or be around those loved ones and friends, depressed because we’ve put on weight as gyms have been shut, or depressed because our acne is on fire due to wearing a face mask. Is being in this state better than risking it by going out and escaping the thumb of the regulations? It’s a question I beg to ask, and to consider.
Of course, a lot of us have also found positives during the pandemic. Me included, and I will not lie and say it’s been the most awful year of my life, because it simply has not. But I will not allow another year fly by with life being put on hold. This has been my opinion since it all started in March. I have not denied myself a cuddle from my parents or a trip to see my best mates. I stopped wearing a mask a while ago. I have used hand sanitiser probably once throughout the whole pandemic. I am not getting the vaccine, nor do I support it being taken (this does not mean I don’t support those who have it; I just denounce the vaccine, NEVER people). But being at the football the other night was the real wakeup call I needed to see that the future is human connection and community, and I refuse to let anyone try to convince me that it is wrong. They can shove that notion up their jacksee. ( https://youtu.be/uhXDqcW-h1o – you can see me speak about this stuff in a more artistic way in my new poem on YouTube).
You get called a tinfoil hat twat if you hold any views that don’t align with the news; and that is exactly how they want it to be. They want there to be a divide between pro-vax and anti-vax. A divide between pro-lockdown and anti-lockdown. A divide between those who believe in Covid and those who don’t. They want us as divided as possible so we are fragments rather than a whole, and little pieces are much easier to control than a smash fixed. You know what wasn’t a divided group? All of us England supporters on Sunday. I met Africans supporting England; Indians, Pakistanis, Middle Easterners, Europeans, men, women, gays, straights. But we weren’t in those specific groups, we were all in one big group who wanted the same thing – England to win. And we all put two fingers up to all the rules forced on us to celebrate that with others.
They always say sports can bring people together, and as someone who’s interest in sports extends only as far as Rupaul’s Drag Race, I agreed with that statement, out of observation, but never truly understood it. I get it now.
I hope from now, and especially the 19th, we can all continue to fall in love with the world again and keep getting together until we realise how fears should not vindicate loneliness. Vigilance is important, but that can be applied to anything. We don’t smoke because we don’t want cancer, but eating unhealthy food regularly, being in the sun for too long, being overweight, drinking loads of alcohol, air pollution and radon gas and inherited genes can also cause cancer. So, what then? We live off salad and never treat ourselves, only go out at night, all go t-total, and live like Mormons just so we can try to avoid cancer? Because the argument of how to avoid Covid has a similar limiting brush. Unmasked face? COVID. No hand-sanitiser? COVID. No vaccine? COVID. No social distancing? COVID. No quarantining? COVID! We can’t do anything without this threat looming. But other illnesses have a similarly long list of contributors. That’s life.
And now, even as Boris Johnson says we can live without these rules, people are actually complaining! It’s sad. I hope those who are can all experience something like I did on Sunday and realise the vital need humans have for other humans.
WIAEA (What I Am Excited About):
Song: Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) by David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and The Lightening Seeds – how could it be anything else?!!
Book: Young Skins by Colin Barrett – this is a collection of short stories set in Barrett’s native Ireland. Due to the short stories creating short chapters and containing mini worlds in themselves, it’s a pretty fast and easy read, but very rewarding. You are engrossed in one story then suddenly it’s over, but instantly you’re thrust into a new story to fall into. His use of vernacular, slang, humour, intelligence and violence make for a very entertaining read.