Michael Mainelli's Lockdown Thoughts

Thursday, 29 July 2021
By Now&ZYen

Recently I have been juggling two large jobs, being Executive Chairman of Z/Yen and being one of the two Sheriffs of the City of London. Z/Yen has long been a leader in using technology for remote working, and we had conducted some 300 webinars over the years. Lockdown forced a number of changes on the Mainelli household. Most notably, Z/Yen and the FS Club moved totally online, leading to me either chairing or presenting at over 300 webinars in just the past year, i.e. more than one per working day, let alone attending numerous presentations and meetings. I had been elected Sheriff for 2019 to 2020, but the City of London Corporation asked me to provide continuity through another year due to covid-19. That makes me, and my brother Sheriff, Christopher Hayward, the first Sheriffs to serve a second year in succession since 1228 AD, with our terms ending at the end of September.

Domestically, as our dear children had left the nest in 2019, we had space available when lockdown struck. While we miss our daughters, I commandeered one of their bedrooms as my domestic office. This is the first time in over 22 years that I’ve had a space of my own, my den-quarters. Lockdown also forced me to get my home office information technology working in peak form. It’s now much better than it was at the business office. Many homes have a whiteboard for shopping lists. Our home has a ‘crisis board’ for the emergencies, you know, the big ones, Daddy’s out of artichokes, Daddy’s out of pickled oysters, out of beer, out of mustard. Oddly, our family crisis board lists the positive elements of lockdown. Naturally, the list starts with my wife’s name, and the opportunity to be together over these many months with only a few scars and little harm done to most of the furniture. The list also notes more quiet time, better sleep, cleaner air, no commuting, long walks, monster marches, and being able to go round in shorts all day. We’ve fixed lingering bits of the flat, finished off some woodcarvings, and almost caught up on a backlog of writing projects. Then we started learning Dutch, tried watercolours, torturing a guitar, and even taking up a peculiar martial art on Zoom, tai chi battlefans. There has been a noticeable rise in the intellectual content of so many City organisations. Each livery company and ward club seems to be trying to outdo others in a wide range of events - history, architecture, science, crafts, politics, economics, and the environment. Our City is mentally alive as never before.

Lockdown has been good to the Mainelli’s, as we’ve reassessed our lives, our home, and had time to spend together as a couple. The crisis board list of positive things gets a bit strange at the end. After 16 months of wandering around in bare feet I’ve found my little toes again. I know this pandemic has been sad for many, and tough for most, so this closing thought may sound strange too. We talk about ‘sundowner’ cocktails to decompress at the end of the day. In Leviticus 25, God commands the House of Israel to observe a year of Jubilee every 50 years. The Jubilee year, the Bible explains, was to be a year of rest, including the forgiveness of all debts, and the liberation of slaves and servants to their native lands. I have begun to wonder if the world should re-enact a week of lockdown every year, call these annual Jubilees ‘sane-downers’ - one week in commemoration of the pandemic that in turn forces us to reassess our lives and where we’re heading. Yes, perhaps a thought best kept to myself.