The New Abnormal

“Who is that masked man?”, Camden Town, August 2020. Photo: Jaime Ashworth.

We live in a changed world, though we may have hardly moved all year. Our work, our leisure time, our homes and our streets have all been changed by the experience of COVID-19. Some changes are positive – lockdown led me to start getting milk delivered, for example, reducing waste and excess packaging. Although I sometimes miss the supermarket, deliveries have become a fact of life.

“Delivery”, Camden, April 2020. Photo: Jaime Ashworth.
“To your door”, Camden, July 2020. Photo: Jaime Ashworth.

Other changes – particularly the changes to the built environment – have been sources of tension. The sight of signs in the street warning of disease (while mandating social distancing) are not something any of us is used to, and changes to pavement and public spaces are shifting patterns of behaviour. One-way systems are sources of confusion and tension – and occasional conflict.

“Stay 2m Apart”, Euston, August 2020. Photo: Jaime Ashworth.
“But WHY can’t I go that way?”, Kings Cross Station, August 2020. Photo: Jaime Ashworth.
“Arrivals”, Kings Cross Station, August 2020. Photo: Jaime Ashworth.
“Who is that?”, Kings Cross Station, August 2020. Photo: Jaime Ashworth.
“Walk this way”, Kings Cross Station, August 2020. Photo: Jaime Ashworth.
“Waiting for the train”, Kings Cross Station, August 2020.

The thing that I hope people remember is that those managing these new systems are themselves finding their way. People walking masked through the city may not be aware that their appearance is challenging. Although there may be an occasional sharp intake of breath, we do not need to panic. We need to be kind, and smile above our masks, and offer others a way past if we don’t want to get in each other’s way.

“Sheila”, Kentish Town, August 2020. Photo: Jaime Ashworth.

We are all finding our way, and we do not yet even know the destination. It may be that the “old normal” will return shortly with a vaccine. But it may be – and it is probably more likely – that we have to be careful and mindful of our space for a long while yet.

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