Last night I dreamt I was getting a haircut, and while I can't remember everything about the dream, I think it went wrong. I ordered clippers at the start of lockdown but they never arrived, and given the impossibility of getting a real trim over the next seven weeks, my subconscious has been plugging the gap. Besides, it's actually not that bad: I've been trimming my own beard for years, while my hair – normally very thick – seems to have settled down. It's the sides that bother me, I like the contrast between a military-style crop there and the length on top.
Again, these are first-world problems, but I still scanned the UK Government's COVID-19 recovery strategy for any mention of hairdressers. Sure enough, under the section on Phase 3 (to begin 'no earlier than 4 July' and subject to the five tests), the 'ambition' is to open some of the remaining premises that have been closed since late March, 'such as hairdressers and beauty salons'. Not only that, but hospitality 'such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation' could also re-open. It says a lot that I'm now looking forward to a day in July when, subject to the usual caveats, I might be able to enjoy a haircut followed by a meal and a drink.
It's a very odd feeling to be relying on the Government to tell you what you will and won't be able to do in the weeks and months ahead. I imagine this is what it was like for my grandparents' generation during the Second World War, forever glued to the wireless for indications as to which aspects of their lives were going to be restricted. My late grandmother was old enough to remember the Great War and the requirement to close the blinds on trains crossing the Forth Bridge at night, lest they become targets. The difference is that then and in the early 1940s, daily life more or less continued between air raids.
Although I pride myself in being a realist – perhaps to a fault – this past Sunday found me at my gloomiest since the lockdown began. The whole day was angled towards the Prime Minister's 13-minute broadcast at 7pm that evening, and even though the content was well trailed and the past week's news made its contents unsurprising, I still found it unsettling. Even this arch-realist had allowed some self-delusion to creep in, an expectation that things would ease more than was actually possible.
The weather didn't help. I went for a brief stroll with my brother in the early evening and we both of us could feel the odd atmosphere. The temperature had dropped and the wind was gathering speed just hours after a glorious Saturday spent mostly reading in the sun. Our entire household was on edge, with each of us inhabiting our own private space in as much as possible. I spent a few hours looking back on adventures past. It's unsurprising that lockdown provokes introspection, a reflection on your life and activity to date, something fuelled in my case by finally organising thousands of old photographs.
For most of the last decade, I had regularly transferred my raw camera roll – whether from digital cameras or my iPhone – onto an old external hard drive which whirrs and clicks as it navigates 80GB worth of memories. The Guardian
columnist, Rafael Behr, recently observed that the reason we 'cringe at an old photo of ourselves with bad hair or clothes' is because 'we apply the lens of new information to judge our naive former selves'. Very true. I couldn't help judging my younger self's sartorial and grooming choices even though I must have thought them perfectly acceptable in 2005 or 2015. Still, everything is now in some sort of order, meaning I can marvel more comprehensively at the freedoms I – we all – used to enjoy.
Week eight of lockdown has also led to a sustained nostalgia trip for the science-fiction shows of my childhood. Although I don't recall Blake's 7
first time round, I did get hooked on it in the 1990s when certain episodes were first released on old VHS tapes. For some reason, I failed then to progress beyond season two, so when a former colleague told me that the whole thing was on YouTube, I started at the beginning and have now entered the brave new televisual world of seasons three and four. Basically a cynical take on themes familiar from Star Trek
, the scripts have aged better than the production values, but then the goal is escapism, and it provides plenty of that.
was conceived by the Cardiff-born writer Terry Nation, who also 'created' the Daleks for Doctor Who
in the 1960s. This has long been controversial for, arguably, the success of the Daleks came down to their memorable design, which was the work of a BBC staff designer called Raymond Cusick, who received only a £50 bonus while Nation grew rich on the merchandising proceeds. Watching all of the 'classic' series of Doctor Who
is hard given the absence of dozens of episodes, an unhappy consequence of the BBC's short-sighted 'junking' policy until the late 1970s, although Whovians have reconstructed these using 'telesnaps', audio recordings and surviving clips. I'm currently halfway through the The Daleks' Master Plan
, a 12-parter of which only three episodes survive.
When I was a kid, collecting Doctor Who
memorabilia involved scouring car boot sales and being posted catalogues from faraway places such as Weston-Super-Mare and Bristol. Most items, especially vintage Dalek toys, were rare, incomplete and usually beyond my limited budget. Now all this and more are a couple of clicks away on eBay, and my disposable income is now benefitting dealers all over the UK. It gets worse. Years ago, I attempted to build a full-sized Dalek using only cardboard and sticky tape, and predictably did not get very far. So, in search of a new lockdown project to get us to Phase 3 (hopefully) in early July, my brother and I plan to tackle this once more using plywood and fibreglass. If now isn't the time to fulfil childhood dreams, I don't know when is.