An upside to lockdown? It may be updating the idea of fatherhood

Someone told me this week that you can never start a sentence with the word “than”. “Is that so?” I said. “Because you know, this pandemic is changing our world in more ways than you might think. Than you might ever have thought possible.”

Indeed, Covid-19 has changed so much about our world, though perhaps not the basics of good grammar. And not all of it for the bad. This year, the Upside has already delved into the revival of community, the brilliance of teachers, the environmental positives and the greatness of dogs, volunteers, even neighbours.

But is there something more profound going on within our homes, our families? Sometimes it takes a huge shocker of an event to catalyse big social transformation. And many people who know about parenting believe that Covid may be changing fatherhood in significant ways.

My colleague Alexandra Topping has been looking into the ways in which lockdown, furlough and working from home could be quietly revolutionising the whole idea of fatherhood, which, let’s face it, has not evolved hugely from 1950s ideals.

You can read her article (three-minute read) here. Do let us know if you’ve been affected this way: have you spent more time with the kids in lockdown? What was the upshot? Do you think we’ll look back on this year as a turning point for fatherhood?

When you’ve done that, feast your eyes on this week’s lineup, which includes:

Prize-winning inventors: what happened next after they won the James Dyson award. Three-minute read

… plus a quickie on this year’s award winner. 90-second read

In praise of the cheerful amateur over the joyless perfectionist. Two-minute OpEd

The rise and rise of low-traffic neighbourhoods. Mini-series

Can video gaming benefit mental health? Two-minute read

The latest vaccine hopes. Two-minute read

An unusual Syrian exhibition … in Paisley, Scotland. 90-second read

Another unusual “exhibition” … on the seabed… to stop trawler fishing. Four-minute read

And a gratuitous one from Hannah Jane Parkinson: the joy of the TV blooper (ie when actors get the giggles …) Many minutes of funny clips


Person playing Animal Crossing on a Nintendo Switch

A study of three games, including Animal Crossing, found that people who played more games tended to report greater ‘wellbeing’. Photograph: William West/AFP via Getty Images

Lucky numbers

More than nine out of 10 train passengers in London are complying with face-covering rules, according to new figures.

Elsewhere, the EU is planning a huge increase in offshore wind capacity in coming years. And US greenhouse gas emissions are set to fall almost 10 percent this year.

What we liked

This is lovely, from the Thomson Reuters Foundation: the cleaner who became a fabulous baker boy in lockdown.

We are captivated by the tale of the British plumber who appears to work for free for older customers in need. And we like the idea of George Clooney giving $1m each to 14 friends who helped him during his early years, as reported in this GQ profile.

Oh, and this is a feast: the top shots from the 2020 International Landscape Photographer of the year, courtesy of the Atlantic.


George Clooney

George Clooney told GQ that a story of him giving $1m to 14 of his friends was true. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

What we heard

Anya Hart Dyke is an Upside regular who urges people to give time, not stuff, when it comes to Christmas gifts:

Last November/December I got inside a cardboard box to look like a Christmas present, talking to shoppers about giving the ‘gift of time’ at Christmas instead of quite so many physical presents, especially to children, who are often the target of excessive amounts of stuff.

The idea this year – at 10am on Sunday 6 December specifically – is a coordinated #wrapyourselfupthisChristmas fancy dress hill walk.

The basic idea is to:
1. Get dressed up (as much or as little as you like) and climb a hill of your choice at 10am on Sunday 6 December.

2. Take a selfie at the top – then send it to me please, if you’re happy for me to put in on my website/potentially have it published by news outlets.

3. Make a pledge to ask for/give one ‘gift of time’ present this Christmas in place of a physical present, preferably one for a child (as they are often the target of too many things).

But please, readers: no fancy dress that might get you arrested.

Where was the Upside?

In the South Atlantic, where sightings of dozens of blue whales have raised hopes of the species’ recovery.


A blue whale off the coast of the sub-Atlantic island of South Georgia.

A blue whale off the coast of the sub-Atlantic island of South Georgia. Photograph: Michael Greenfelder/Alamy

Thanks for reading. Let us know what you think we should cover next. Have a good weekend.

The Guardian

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