During the lockdown, we turned to all sorts of pastimes from home improvements to virtual learning. People revisited their lost hobbies, connected with neighbours, volunteered at food banks, updated their vocational training or turned to cultivating their much-loved allotments. Charity shop sales saw an increase and book sales rose by a third.

Many city dwellers decided to move to the country. Others discovered the beauty of their local woods instead of spending thousands of pounds on a faraway beach holiday. We turned to local farmers markets producing fresher food. Baking old fashioned bread recipes became commonplace and we exchanged a zillion hilarious WhatsApp videoclips. We decluttered our homes, embraced our grey hair and watched live-action Mulan on the newly launched Disney Plus channel. And companies like Johnson & Johnson donated a million free masks helping to protect healthcare workers.

St Albans & Harpenden Review:

Many people turned to baking during lockdown

Of course, the harsh reality is that it has been an incredibly difficult year. Many have lost loved ones. This pandemic has left millions of people unemployed, struggling with debt or with an uncertain future.

Although this has been a social and collective catastrophe it has brought about significant personal transformations in people’s lives, which were possibly much needed and have had a positive impact in many ways. It has left many of us with a deeper appreciation for life and an openness to new possibilities.

We had taken things for granted for so long. We never really fathomed that life as we knew it could suddenly be taken away from us. This global health crisis has undoubtedly offered us a new perspective on our freedom, local connections, work, leisure, family and friends.

St Albans & Harpenden Review:

Some people dusted off old sports equipment or took up new hobbies

We have been given an opportunity to change our values, think about our relationships and our way of life, rethink the environmental impact we’re making, along with issues on global peace, corporate responsibility and community connectedness. This situation will eventually end but it is undoubtedly changing us. People are becoming more aware of the importance of working more collectively and of those who do the most crucial jobs in our society like care workers and nurses.

Now that we are in a semi-lockdown, we have been given time for things to sink in. More than six months down the line, things have not ‘just gone back to the way they were’ as some predicted. Our diaries are still not crammed with events, errands and commitments as they once were, and won’t be for some time. We have been forced to slow down in the long term whether we like it or not. We have miraculously been given the space to re-evaluate our entire existences.

I sometimes wonder if somebody up there doesn’t want our human race to continue on the path it was on. Has this pandemic served some sort of deeper humanitarian purpose? Who knows? It certainly feels that way. Some would say that our souls have chosen to be here on earth at this time. Others might say it’s all completely random. Whatever your belief system, whether you are a senior rabbi or a lifelong atheist, this new normal is a rearranged world to which we must adapt and to some extent reboot and restart.

It will all be over at some point in the future but by then we will have changed, and maybe have become more sensitised to the web of life, especially socially and environmentally. We are being given an opportunity to rethink our lives and nurture those around us. ‘Love is action,’ so they say. Captain Tom Moore showed us that even at the age of 100 you can still be a hero and single-handedly raise a huge 30 million pounds in support of the NHS!

St Albans & Harpenden Review:

Almost everyone has celebrated the work of the NHS

New age and inspirational books like Rhonda Byrne’s Hero tell us things like “This is your journey. Only you can live it. Challenging circumstances are calling you to find the hero within.” Rap songs like Pray for Me by Kendrick Lamar ft The Weekend tell us “You need a hero, look in the mirror, there go your hero!”

The truth is that in 2020 every human alive has to some extent been a hero. Small acts of kindness like helping to carry an elderly neighbour’s shopping, sending your mum some flowers, making your family some warm comfort food for dinner after a busy day, chatting and clapping with neighbours, encouraging and caring for one another. Indeed, we have all been doing our very best on the front line of our own personal lives.

  • Marisa Laycock moved to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city. These columns are also available as podcasts from 92.6FM Radio Verulam at www.radioverulam.com/smallcitylife .