The old website of the Majorca Daily Bulletin. | H. CARTER

Remember those days pre-pandemic when you’d saunter around the shops to make purchases and shun buying much online, save for the odd book from Amazon? Fast forward to 2022 and buying, reading and logging onto websites is about as effortless as breathing. You can even take language classes, download master classes and catch up with your chums for free on Zoom. Face to face meetings with business associates are just as easy, with many companies opting for the Microsoft Teams system. The upside is that unlike attending a physical meeting, you can wear a nice top and your pyjama bottoms or jogging shorts if you choose, and no one will be any the wiser. The other advantage is that you don’t have to go anywhere, saving time and money.

The days of rushing out to buy newspapers are all but over. Why get out of bed for a publication that you can simply subscribe to online or read for free on your laptop? It’s the same with making purchases. At the beginning of the pandemic, the necessity, especially during lockdowns, of buying online was marred by appalling delivery. There are still hiccups but many online companies have become far more savvy with fast turnaround of goods, and employing slick courier services to ensure safe delivery. Companies such as Amazon have joined forces with local high streets so that you can have products delivered to a favourite shop in town rather than sit at home awaiting a courier.
And it doesn’t stop there. You can order your takeaways and wines online and if you’re a complete slob, find little reason to leave the house at all. Of course, there is always the social aspect, and having cocktails with your chums online on a Friday night isn’t quite the same as meeting them physically in a cosy bar or restaurant.

In terms of entertainment, subscriptions to HBO, Netflix and the likes of Amazon Prime streaming services have soared. Many cinemas are going bust and even Hollywood actors are getting in on the act, preferring to star in Netflix blockbusters which they know will reach millions of viewers. At the Academy Awards, Oscars were being handed out to films delivered on these subscription services which would never have happened pre-pandemic. It’s not just films that are offered for in-home entertainment, there are concerts and comedy shows and the likes of Spotify which apart from offering every kind of music via a subscription service, has a huge selection of podcasts that one can tune into. I hadn’t even thought of succumbing to Spotify but during lockdown my son persuaded me to subscribe to the service and I’m so glad I did. Aside from Netflix, I also now subscribe to HBO and in truth they cost little and I can watch films and series whenever I want. This makes more sense to me than watching television and frankly there’s little that I’d want to watch. As for news, most nationals now offer their own up to the minute live video reports so what’s the point of watching a stale news programme on TV?

The other online service that has grown in popularity is sport. There are countless free and subscription services to yoga, pilates and dance classes and you can time workouts to suit your own agenda. These classes were useful during lockdown but for me there’s nothing to beat the real deal in a studio when you toil away with others which is all part of the motivation. It’s also great to have a teacher on hand to offer guidance. But others might disagree and prefer the remote teacher and home privacy.

In truth, Covid-19 was the catalyst for such change and although we may mourn our previous existences, we have to admit that many things have improved and made life easier. Sadly, we can’t open a magic portal online that will whisk us away to a sunny beach or to the heart of Prague, but we can book our flights and holidays in a few minutes without having to leave home.

The service industry has cottoned on fast and now hairdressers, masseurs and beauticians, dog walkers and cake makers can be booked online and offer mobile services. You can even consult with a private doctor privately online without having to queue up at the surgery. All the same, when I visited an ear specialist he told me that the doctor I’d had to consult online during Covid lockdown had prescribed the wrong treatment and cursed the new fashion. So you win some and you lose some.
I suppose one has to ask where this is all heading. Will we become a population of couch potatoes or anti-social creatures that would rather watch Netflix than meet up with one another? In truth, I don’t think so and come the summer, here in Mallorca at least, we’ll all be keen to get back to swimming in the sea, dining on candlelit terraces and communing with friends again.

However, we have learnt to exist in a new techno world and I doubt we’ll revert. Even now, I resist going to buy goods in Palma. ‘What’s the point?’ I say to my husband. ‘They’ll be more expensive than online, or they won’t have the right size, choice or colour…and we’ll have to lug it home. Think how much time we’ll save buying online.’

There are times when shopping is essential. I love food shopping and popping by our local Soller market and I hope that will never change. Passing by the local ferreteria is always a joy too as I like DIY purchases and seeking advice from those in the know. It’s the same with the local agricultural stores. And who can resist coffee and croissants in Soller’s sunny plaça to the sound of the toot toot from the vintage tram?

Of course, we all think Covid-19 is on the way out and that the brave new world that has absorbed us for two years, will gradually fade away but I don’t think so. Come the autumn, I’ll be surprised if we don’t have another hardhat virus alert except this time we can smugly batten down the hatches, get online and immerse ourselves in another, less fraught and more virtual world.