The pandemic has reminded us to appreciate small and gentle pleasures | Eva Wiseman

We’re not dreaming of glamour and excitement any more, instead we’ve all had a massive crush on Gareth Southgate

It was a damp-lit evening when my friend Rebecca finally found a holiday. She had been scrolling self-catering sites in small pockets of hope during the previous weeks but, inevitably, all dates during the school break were booked. Her search terms expanded: place, unimportant; bedrooms, if possible; toilet, please but only if that wouldn’t be too much bother. What she wanted from this year’s holiday was simply to leave her house and open the door to somewhere else. Which was when she noticed something. To meet the demand from British holiday-wanters, none of whom were planning to go abroad this summer, British homeowners have made some creative decisions.

What would, in a previous year, have been a family’s conservatory, had been swiftly adjusted to include a small kitchenette and was being offered as a holiday let. There was a shed, too. A nice shed, sure, but very much a shed, a little “Bless This Home” sign hung above the futon as if a plea. With a certain amount of desperate glee, Rebecca booked a place called Pembury Hall. Which is a static caravan in the back garden of a pleasant seeming couple who really like dogs. This is the first time it’s been rented out – it’s not clear if that’s because this is the first time they’ve listed it, or because this is the first time anybody has ever needed a holiday enough to book it.

I am pleased to discover that I love this. Admittedly, I am at the stage of pandemic where I am scrabbling so hard for silver linings that my hands are now stumps, but I am finding a particularly British joy in this season’s jolly, if slightly high-pitched attempts to “muddle through”. Of course, it would be lovely to swim with the dolphins, but imagine how cosy we’ll be sleeping in a greenhouse! Sure, two weeks in Turkey would be nice, but darling, imagine how much fun we’ll have trying to toast breakfast on a lighter!

It’s the same attitude we’ve seen throughout the football, where women have been spending the duller moments of evening matches on Twitter, fantasising about 50-year-old father of two Gareth Southgate. OK, other famous men are available, and OK, they might have a handful more abs, they might have better jokes, and dark brown eyes that make you lie down right where you’re standing, but will these men pop out quickly to get you some Canesten on a Sunday afternoon? They will not. There is a gorgeous realism to Britain’s sometime collective crushes; crushes based (like our holidays in a stranger’s conservatory and insistence that tea is delicious) on proximity, comfort and an unsentimental lowering of expectations. No, Gareth Southgate will not skid up to your husband’s house on a motorbike and snarl for you to climb on, but on the other hand, he will do two hours research before purchasing an affordable buggy, and he will silently bring you a little plate of cheese and cut-up apple in the second hour of your Zoom meeting, and he will get you a memory foam pillow for your birthday because of your bad shoulder.

He will ask your best friend how her cervical procedure went, and remember to get cash out for the teacher’s leaving present and surprise you one evening with two of those aluminium hair catchers you put in the plughole of the shower. He will write very tiny notes with his left hand and maintain to your daughter that they were from the tooth fairy well into her 20s. He will quietly congratulate you for making a difficult phone call by putting a warm hand briefly on the back of your neck. When it’s raining he will hold the umbrella at an angle to cover you even though it means his whole left side is soaking. No, he will not walk across the city to find you at a party then press you against a wall with his whole body, growling, “I want you”, no. But on the other hand, he will patiently stay on hold waiting for a Virgin operator to find out if the internet is down in your area. He will wait for you to get home before starting the crossword, and bring a Twix when he picks you up from work because he’s worried about your blood sugar, and order an unobtrusive screen protector for your expensive new phone, and be very polite to your ex-boyfriend asking lots of questions about his fitness regime when somehow you end up having a drink with him and his awfully blonde wife. When you’re having trouble making the paragraphs of your CV align he’ll put down his tea and offer to have a go, if you like.

He will not surprise you with a spontaneous trip to Bali, but then, isn’t it better, really, to just get the coach to Bournemouth, because you know what chip shop to go to and at least if it rains you’ll be able to get home by dinnertime and besides, what about the cat? Yes, here is one rare positive of this wet mattress of a year – we have leaned into the little things, we have remembered how to appreciate the small and gentle pleasures. We have gone on holiday to a double-glazed shed, and found it quite comfortable, actually, thank you.

Email Eva at e.wiseman@observer.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @EvaWiseman

Contributor

Eva Wiseman

The GuardianTramp

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