Nic Stone, owner of The Bottle Kiln in West Hallan believes that the enforced sabbatical of the coronavirus pandemic will make people appreciate the importance of social spaces when things go back to normal.
“Be careful what you wish for, they say. A few months back, a chap was telling me about how he had taken several months off as a sabbatical from his job. I felt a sharp pang of envy. In a ‘proper’ job you can recharge and rekindle your jaded interest in your career with break like this. You might spend it in your allotment or in Africa searching for the source of the Nile. As a business person it just isn’t a goer. Even if you could afford to do it, and deal with the guilt of abandoning your team, the endless worry about what you would come back to would spoil every waking moment.
But here I am, with several weeks away from the business and no staff or customers to worry about. In lots of ways, it’s an enforced sabbatical and the first real time away from the business in – gulp! – 30 odd years. It’s making me take time to reflect on where I am and what I want next, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one feeling that things have become just a bit too frenetic in lots of ways. But I wouldn’t have chosen this; people dying, and businesses and jobs going to the wall. It makes me feel sick when I think about the money.
But it’s not been all bad. What has characterised this period so far has been the good humour, the support and the strong desire for human connectivity – values that are at the heart of our industry. If this staying at home has been a glimpse into the techno Utopia of lives spent almost entirely online, I think we can safely say it won’t be enough for most people.
Shops, pubs, cafes are far more than places to eat, drink or shop; we can do that stuff at home. Our yearning for community and social spaces is arguably stronger than ever, and this will all be a very poignant reminder of how important those things are.”
Top: Nic Stone, owner of The Bottle Kiln in West Hallam.