Formerly Happy Brits Now Sit Alone in their Cars

Wondering about driving into a wall.

My mother looked a bit flustered as I walked through her front door.

Do you know, a lady my age just stabbed her husband to death in their kitchen? They were a lovely couple, according to the neighbors. Always together, always working in their garden, always on holidays. Well, she stabbed him to death. Four times! In the kitchen!

Ok I told her I did not know that. Though, I assumed she stabbed him four times and not that he died in quadruple. I was also caught off guard by my mother’s repeated insistence that this had all happened IN THE KITCHEN as if that was some sacred place in the home where these things never happen. Unlike the study or the bedroom, for example, where Cluedo has taught us all sorts of maleficence can occur.

My mother was not done yet.

Well, quite frankly, I quite understand how she must have been feeling. Your father is doing my head in.

My mother is not alone in how she feels. Not that every married wife of 50-year standing is poised in their kitchens, bread knife in hand, ready to end their beloved in a row over an iPad charger. But endless lockdown in the UK is making Brits who were perfectly happy before, question the point of going on.

“On my drive to work, I seriously thought about driving my car into a wall” comments one follower on my Instagram feed. “I sat alone in my car from 5-6.30pm yesterday, just to have some time on my own away from my family. This is not life.” This, shared openly, by another.

We just aren’t supposed to be trapped indoors with other people for this long. I know marriage is about sharing your life, but part of that is that you are sharing the most mundane bits of you that others don’t get to see -- amongst all the noise and chaos of others.

Turned off from all external stimuli, the mundane stuff we are recycling at home feels terminal, like an air-conditioning unit returning polluted air. We are all set on repeat, scratching about for something interesting to think, or some different way to feel.

And it’s the same for parents of younger kids. Of course, we all love our kids. But no parent is expected to be under one roof with their child 24/7 past the age of 5 without input from the things that make their eyes bright or tails bushy.

I used to love my three coming back from school. You could feel the energy ball into our home as they all fell through the door, cold, excited, blasting out their news, and falling over each other in their rush to the fridge. Milk downed and coats off, the chorus of “Oh my God, it was so funny...” or “You are not going to believe what happened in French …” would be shouted about, kids in perpetual movement, shoes thrown off, bags scattered about, a riot of noise in our kitchen.

Our schools have been closed for nearly a year.

I bump into one mum on my morning run and she confides:

“I go behind the door of my bathroom, and I pretend to scream at them, I mouth F*ck OFF, F*CK OFF, F*CK OFF, as if I was shouting it—and then I feel better. And that’s at my own children. Isn’t that a terrible thing to say?”

I reassure her that it is not. It is honest, and not her fault. It is just that we never hear this kind of honesty shared in the media or on TV. Everything we hear is about people being ‘grateful’ for their vaccine or ‘thankful’ to still be here. The saccharine sweetness of it all is making my teeth ache.

With nowhere to release their feelings, people carry them about like a loaded gun: distrust, anger, and even a sense of hatred for those who might cause them harm. They channel it in cruel barbs against those failing to give them space, or vent it on unfortunate customer service staff at supermarkets who feel the force of their wrath for no reason.

People are more unreasonable than ever at a time where joy is so terribly hard to find.

It is not simply that people can’t take it anymore. I wonder if it is more that the effort of staying alive is greater than the reason to do so. For many, the math isn’t adding up.

We hear of them being cut from trees, or “dying suddenly” in their own home. One stays with me, and I don’t know why.

Nickolas Lukic was found hanging from a tree in a park in a place called Huddersfield. He was 42.

He was a stranger to me, but listening to how he is talked about, I can almost feel the life in him. He worked as a bartender across town, making strangers feel welcome and offering a friendly face to the regulars. I imagine him encouraging other strangers to pull up a seat and stay awhile at The Crown, The Old Hatte, and The Camel Club—names that will be as familiar to locals as comfortable shoes.

Lockdown ended everything for Nickolas. Without other people, life is numb. Living or dying no longer feel a million miles apart, separated only by indifference.

Friends paid their respects: “He was a great guy, and he was also my friend. RIP Bud. Save us a seat at the bar, mate!"

Absolutely gutted to hear this. He was such a funny guy and has watched over me for so many years. He had such a big heart. RIP Nick xx.

I sit here thinking of this friendly, funny stranger walking out to hang himself from a tree, and I wonder: Just how much separates him from you, or my mum, or me?

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