I have always dreamed of having an adventure. As a child, I adored adventure books. I fantasized having escapades like the Famous Five, being kidnapped and helping to capture the dastardly villains behind it all. Or disappearing off into nature to camp, go sailing, pan for gold and dig up hidden pearls, like the Swallows and Amazons. Not to mention the other-worldly exploits of Doctor Who. I even wrote to ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ to ask if Jimmy Savile could give me an adventure (Yes. I know – now. Back then, to us kids he was like Santa Claus, except that we believed he could really make our dreams come true).
Growing older, my dreams of adventure matured too. I knew I was never going to travel through time in the TARDIS. Instead, I hoped for an exciting job and a stimulating lifestyle. I wanted to be an astronaut, then later an author, then a pilot. As time went by, my ambitions slowly shrank. I wanted to be an electronics whiz who could fix things, then a researcher who would discover something useful, then simply do something – anything – that would help someone. Dreams of traveling the world and living in exotic locations dwindled to an ERASMUS exchange in Germany and jobs in Belgium and the Netherlands. Finally, like most of us, I ended up with a normal life – house, children, and a job that wouldn’t even be bestowed with the appellation ‘essential’ once corona came around.
My dreams of adventure retreated back to the realms of fantasy. My daily life was enjoyable, but conventional and predictable. Films and books gave me my escape to exciting worlds, with aliens, magic, spies – and life-threatening epidemics. I never expected that fiction would break through to reality, an epidemic from a cheesy B-movie smashing through the fourth wall to turn my world upside down.
I can no longer predict my life beyond the next few days. I don’t know whether my girls will be able to go to school, or if one will get a temperature and throw us all into two weeks quarantine. I don’t know if the supermarket will have the items on my shopping list. I don’t know when we can visit my family. I don’t know when I will even be able to leave the environs of our small town, which has been our bubble for the last months, to get as far as my office, let alone travel abroad on holiday.
I know one thing. I no longer dream of adventure. What I now dream of, is this:
I wake up in the morning, grumbling about the early hour, switch off the alarm and shower. I eat breakfast with my family, then kiss them goodbye. I hop on my bike and cycle to work, panting a little as I climb the ecoduct over the motorway, perhaps stopping to put on my waterproof trousers if it starts to rain. Arriving at work, I put my bike in the bike rack, then head inside to wash and change, before going upstairs for a cup of tea. I won’t think twice about squeezing into the coffee room past the queue of colleagues waiting for the coffee machine. While I fill my cup with hot water, I will moan with them for the nth time since the kitchen was renovated about how the teabags are now hidden away in a drawer and all the normal coffee cups have been swapped for finger-scalding models without handles. Returning to my office, I will greet my colleagues and we will chat about our weekends, perhaps taking a moment to blow off some steam by complaining about our kids or about the overcrowded train to work. I will sit down behind my laptop and busy myself with the day’s tasks. When it’s time for our daily stand-up, my team will casually group around the whiteboard, or perhaps crowd around someone’s screen to see a demo. At lunchtime, I will browse around the canteen choosing my lunch, reaching past people to fill my salad bowl from the buffet and apologizing for bumping elbows. Sitting at a table deep in conversation, I will think nothing of budging up a bit to let another colleague fit on the seat. Cycling back home at the end of the day, I will plan menus and activities for the upcoming family visit, and dwell in anticipation on the prospect of flying off on holiday once school is over. It won’t cross my mind that these plans could be hindered by anything worse than bad weather or a delayed flight.
What I now dream of, is a life more ordinary. And it is a dream that fills me with more longing than the greatest fantasy ever did.