In his Leader, Editor-in-Chief Angus Neale reflects upon the increasing psychological burden of restrictions into the winter months.
Our suspicions about what this term would look like seem to have been confirmed. Tier 2 in Fife, full lockdown south of Berwick, a feisty firebreak in Wales, remembering your attestations when leaving the house in France, doing what Angela says in Germany, and East Asian countries having very few issues at all. It feels like we should start watching Normal People again, and, fortunately, many of us still have 00 flour kicking around. In many ways, I look back at the summer gone as a slow-moving but somewhat revitalising return to the land. The rural mode of living energised by the distant sounds of clapping and pot banging on a Thursday night. Every friend of mine with a car keenly posted on Facebook that they were willing to run errands for those in need. And, when times were tough, the broken reality was made tolerable by the sunny weather. Rendezvousing with friends to go on dog walks epitomised the zeitgeist. It was the most wonderful reminder of community, whether St Andrews or home. Support groups and checking up on one another was life. Sorry if this is too saccharine; it will surely be immortalised in some of the worst Christmas adverts yet.
But now that the reality of this winter is sinking in, looking back at my summer of takeaway pints in milk bottles and stretching out in the sun on the heath makes me oddly homesick, an unfamiliar experience. Last time there was a novelty to it. At what moment would you shave your head? where would you go when you finally could go places? This time around it’s darker, colder, wetter and without a clear end. The united citizenship of the summer is a tired concept now. Scapegoating the student rather than baking is the new fad.
The circumstances for students have changed. Notably, we still have punishing quantities of work and seem to be marked as if nothing has really changed. Social lives are suffering and the learning environment, though bettered by in-person teaching, is a long way from ideal. The library has been doing their best but click and collect is no replacement for browsing and short loan. Why we are restricted to one floor seems increasingly nonsensical. I am not about to be a die-hard proponent of a return to voluntary S-Coding, but some sort of announcement on marking considerations would seem apt. As students, our low points look very different from other adults. But the reality of this term is looking bleaker and bleaker.
In spite of this, in our online issue this week we have 30 stories from news pieces to longer reads. This is one of our strongest and most varied issues with some well-researched pieces and fantastic cultural explorations.
After the washout weekend, I am going to become a proponent of something that I usually shy away from because it’s a bit twee occasionally. Self-care. Increasingly, it seems that Christmas is the only thing left to look forward to and that all there is to life is work. Many bemoan that the holiday season will be irreparably damaged by restrictions. Though, I suspect, given what we are going through that it will be the best Christmas ever.
Work is the one unmoving feature in our lives. But getting out and about makes that work so much more manageable. It is probably abundantly clear that I had no idea what I would write about in this Leader. But even writing and reflecting has helped me a lot. Rather meta. Increasingly we have been moving from, one big story to the next, usually bad news, that has kept us curious about what else could go wrong. A sort of perverse fascination.
This time we know what to expect. That is why it is more important than ever to keep your life interesting and give yourself something to look forward to. Otherwise, you become too alone with your own thoughts and increasingly lose perspective.
St Andrews is an environment that amplifies itself. Online pages with their own reproductive cycles seem to generate defining issues and unamusing spats. Coffee shops are full of students and it feels increasingly like there is nothing more to life beyond being coursework and exams. Reading week for many is a good reset, now that is gone too.
Whilst going to University in a city may seem meritless at present, reading your book alongside a businessman, a florist, and a family on a well-spaced train is a good reminder that there is another world.
In sum, listen to music, read books, watch films, and don’t accept misery as the only mode of living. The rhythm of life has changed, but it has not gone. West Sands is good for the soul.
Savour the hours, don’t count them.