Last Friday, Nina’s* 14 friends started arriving at the Airbnb she had rented in Belfast (Northern Ireland) for her 30th birthday. They flew in from Liverpool (which is under the strictest Tier Three restrictions), London (which is under Tier Two), Croatia (from where you must self-isolate when you arrive in the UK), and Greece. Despite a ban on ‘unnecessary travel’ and indoor mixing of households in Belfast, the group hugged and started partying. The drink-and-drug-fuelled celebration continued into the early hours, with more joining on Saturday, taking the group up to 17.
“There were a lot of people from a lot of countries, which is the naughtiest bit I reckon,” says Nina. “I planned it ages ago and I was constantly talking to the group to see if people still felt comfortable to go ahead. Everyone wanted to. The only thing hanging over us was the fact the neighbours might hear, but I might have had that paranoia anyway, without it being about the police coming because we’re in lockdown. Other than that, it felt like normal times...although we made sure only two cars were parked in the driveway, we didn’t put anything on social media and went to Tesco two at a time.”
If history has taught us anything, it’s that prohibition doesn’t work. Make fun illegal and people will find a way to defy the rules. The ban on selling alcohol in 1920s America only pushed drinking underground to the glitz and glamour of the speakeasies. Now, the 21st-century speakeasy is that secret party in your friend’s house – with the blinds down and no Instagram stories to document it. In lockdown 1.0, many of us stuck to the rules, didn’t see our friends and only opened the door to the postman, before swiftly hosing down our letters in anti-bac. But lockdown 2.0 has seen patience wear thin and frustration boil over, leaving the dial on our moral compass swinging somewhere between “protect thy neighbour” and “what’s another tequila slammer off the chest of my friend’s ex?”
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