The reopening of English schools on 8 March brings all the conflicting feelings of which a sentient, mature adult should simultaneously be capable: a strong sense that teachers should be vaccinated first; a near-certain knowledge that they won’t be; a resigned hunch that this is because they are perceived as lefties and so fall into priority group 1,000; and untrammelled happiness for the children.
They were not designed to stay at home all day. It has been like keeping three dolphins in a provincial water park. The pool is not big enough. The weather is too grim. No amount of fish can make up for the lack of open sea. As the regional manager, I know this is not my fault, but it feels like it is.
It was as I roamed around the home making these observations that I discovered what I can only call a total breakdown of faith between generation Z and the offices of state. They do not believe at all that they will be back in school on 8 March. When I ask them to try on their uniforms to check they still fit, they look at me as if I have joined QAnon, as if I have reached a level of gullibility to which the only response is pity.
“Maybe we’ll go back for two days, then be back home again,” was the furthest my son would meet me between “believing the prime minister” and “knowing that he is nothing more than a piece of detritus, flapping in the wind from one circumstance to another”. I believe in healthy scepticism, but this is on another level. They sound like war correspondents after many decades of bloody and inconclusive conflict. All their political analysis is a variation on: “Never forget that they lie, they lie, they lie.”
“Total cynicism is the same as total naivety!” I rail, trying to pull them back from the brink, only to find an email from the school saying that, in fact, it is a staggered return and they will more likely be back on 15 March. Nevertheless, I feel as if my credibility as an adult has been fatally yoked to that of Boris Johnson. In the eyes of my children’s generation, he has gone down – and we are all going with him.