How to relieve restriction fatigue without breaking the rules

Where are we going? Everywhere! (Provided that it is accessible by train, tube or car, does not involve international borders and remains firmly within your local area.)

While holiday bans and hotel quarantines have killed off trips of the more exotic kind, one major success of lockdown is lowering what we constitute as “exciting” so effectively as to render a bus ride a hot ticket: twice as many of us are travelling in this lockdown than were in the first, according to new Department of Transport figures. And if that journey concludes at an optician’s, say? Steady on. We might need to spread these hijinks out over another 10 months.

The data appears to highlight our battle with “restriction fatigue” (always better when these things sound like a real affliction). Professor Stephen Reicher, a social psychologist and member of Independent Sage, said the numbers were a result of living under rules that are “a pain in the neck”, adding that while movement has risen, this does not mean rule-flouting has followed suit. “The truth of the matter is that when 200 people are at a party, 20 million or more are sitting at home watching rubbish on the telly.” And if we drive a few minutes further to purchase supplies for that raucous night of rubbish telly watching? Speak to a different cashier than the one last week while unloading the trolley? Please, allow us our kicks where we find them.

In the spirit of kicks-having and kindness (the latter also being popular in Lockdown One and this time falling out of vogue), here are some top destinations where you can relieve closed border-induced boredom, without breaking the rules.

An airport

I know what you’re thinking: why tempt yourself with something you so clearly cannot have? You wouldn’t fill the freezer with Cornettos on day one of the diet, etc. I hear the logic, I do. But if you squint hard enough through the departure hall’s glass walls at the rows of plastic chairs, crack open a bottle of suntan lotion and take a good whiff, it might trick your mind (or at least make you momentarily woozy) enough to think the trip might end up in a different destination to where it started. There’ll be something of a comedown when you start back home, but getting to feel an extra emotion is not to be sniffed at.

Any basic healthcare outlet

If there is such a thing as minutiae-rationing, now’s the time to master it. Normally get all of your checkups out of the way at the same time each year? No more, unless you have no desire to meet anyone new for the rest of 2021. A dentist appointment is now something worth arranging a whole day around: that acrylic smell as you walk through the doors, a receptionist and a practitioner to mumble at, the faded magazines, the bright light over the chair, that industrial grade mouthwash… You’ll be dining out on the whole thing for months. Savour it.

A bench

Will two people be sitting on one, chatting? Will they be fined for so doing while you’re there? Nailbiting.

The laundrette

You have a fully functioning washing machine at home. You’re still working your way through the laundry liquid stockpile you accrued in the empty supermarket shelf days of Lockdown One. But think of the laundrette as immersive theatre for Covid times: the scrabbling around at home for coins, spending an hour watching a spin cycle, something to take home when you leave… five stars.

The local ping pong table

I am almost loath to reveal a tip-off so hot it makes those who invested in GameStop last month look second rate, but ping pong tables in parks are not verboten. Or if they are, nobody has said so in explicit enough terms to actually see them roped off. Paddle up, folks, this really is as good as it gets.

The new entries to the Oscars

Reassuring(ish) to know that other countries are in the throes of similar clipped wing-itis: in provinces across Canada, closures of restaurants, barbershops et al abound. So too does creativity, however – at least in one Toronto salon, which has reinvented itself in order to keep its doors open.

Throwing the odd spotlight and camera about the place now means that visitors to Chrome Artistic Barbering are “not just clients, but they are actors who are auditioning for a part or performing in what will be our movie, TV show or podcast,” according to its owner, whose rebrand as a studio has allowed them to circumnavigate restrictions. “We don’t see it as breaking the rules or even using a loophole,” Alicia Hirter said – presumably followed by several minutes of laughter, to later be featured on the bloopers reel of the unspecified entertainment product she is definitely making.

They might as well see it through, supposing they have actually gone to the trouble of pressing record. In other times, a compilation of beard trims may not have troubled the Best Picture shortlist; this year, it’ll be cult viewing.

Snow excuse

Covid not scuppering your ability to work is a luxury for many, at the moment. And so it seemed particularly cruel – frosty, even – that a Herefordshire binman has this week lost his job for kicking the head off a snowman. It is unclear why he felt compelled to deliver a kung-fu blow to the icy creation, admittedly. It had been crafted by a three-year-old who was later forced to watch his handiwork decapitated through the kitchen window; little Joseph Taylor waves at the binmen every week, his mother said, and was thus devastated that one among them “goes and does that in front of his face.”

The council then waded in, keen to note that the employee – who was a member of agency staff – “has been informed that he will not be used again.”

As extreme reactions go, cutting off work to spite a snowman’s head must be up there with them.

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