Luton

For all the good scenery, generous bedroom sizes and sentimental value my current home affords me, the two big reasons my parents had for moving there in the first place (‘good’ schools and trains to London) no longer exist. And I can’t for the life of me want my next home to be in the same town again. Shoppers and cashiers where I locally am have yet to rein in their mask fetishes on the grand scale, although I will concede the restaurants on the other hand are currently faring better. The situation however was oh so much worse before so-called Freedom Day. Huge, eye-blistering billboards staring you down the entrance proudly proclaiming and virtue-signalling all they will do to supposedly ‘keep you safe’. Aggressive ‘No Mask No Entry’ taunts in prime positions on the windows of shops that make unscrupulous school teachers look like stropping toddlers in comparison. And what broke, and continues to break my heart most of all — young waiters and waitresses, who should be having the time of their lives, preferring instead to massively compromise their good looks and brutally ration their oxygen intakes with facial incontipads.

One March afternoon, ironically Palm Sunday of them all, I was stumped for Easter gifts but I knew I had it in my heart to just do something or other for my mother, father, sister, you know. And I just happened to be on a walk in Luton at the time. So I popped in one of the shops and the amazement of freedom struck me like lightning. Not only was I not the only one maskless in there — there were quite a few others also not going along with Boris’s bully-boy dictat. The icing on the cake was the (almost) totally normal experience at the checkout, of course that means even the shameful plexi-screen was nowhere to be seen. Such a massive step-up was it from the concentration-camp-like set up in my local Tesco that I eventually became a frequenter there, and soon after in many other places of convenience around the general vicinity. And sure enough, while the town in which I live continued to panic about the big C like no tomorrow, Luton on the other hand took it easy. Places like groceries, hairdressers and hardware stores were sometimes so laid back as to have nothing of concern in sight. In the cases of others, unsavoury paraphernalia continued to plague the exterior and to a lesser extent the interior, but at least you could feel more comfortable knowing they were a tad more likely to be sane.

The thought for a good three, four, five months did take me on. There was a sizeable part of me that wanted to just move over there. But I knew that if I did, it would be for a push factor and not a pull factor. And while many I’ve spoken with agree that Luton is much more mask-free than many of its southernly neighbours, it’s important to take any prospective place to live on account of all considerations and not just at face value on one or two subject matters. There’s a great wealth of people from all kinds of backgrounds, some who are really passionate about what they do and always glad to cross paths with you, and very down-to-Earth like you could totally thrash out what’s on your mind with them. But there are, sadly, others where the quality of communication is just not there. It also cross-contaminates into the question of crime which is unarguably higher than that of where I’m living for the time being.

I guess it comes down to this. I know the day is coming down the tracks when I’ll be living elsewhere. And while I very much hope I can live independently and do believe I can be in a satisfactory financial situation to fund such arrangements, there is little more I can say about where I would be moving and when. Luton remains on the table but it is now just one out of a host of many, many other options. In fact it doesn’t have to be limited to Britain, so long as they do away with the irrational nose utensil for the purpose of international test-and-trace, and do not reward those who take the vacc over those who don’t. The bottom line is I am excited for my future living arrangements but also accept it will take a very long time to plan and prepare to get things right.