You know you are living in strange times when you take a trip into Swindon town centre and it feels like an adventure.

My wife and I had some overdue banking to do last week, so headed for Regent Street in the rain. But first I had to find something suitable to wear.

After so many days of happily slumming around in any old pair of shorts or jogging bottoms, I eventually found out my old jeans, and realised it was the first time in more than three months that I had worn proper long trousers.

This made it all the more surprising to find that the queues in an otherwise almost deserted town centre were made up of people desperate to buy new clothes, even if it meant waiting in a rainstorm for half an hour.

Why, though? I haven’t been anywhere to wear out the clothes I already owned, and I am wondering where they are going to go in their new ones.

Perhaps it was significant that they were all queueing to buy cheap clothes from discount stores, while another shop, exclusively selling women’s clothes and accessories, was empty.

I am pretty sure it was the first time in a lifetime of shopping in Swindon that I have seen a ladies’ fashion shop, during opening hours, with precisely no customers inside.

The whole scene brought to mind my favourite social media post of the pandemic so far, which was a cartoon of a lady saying to her husband: “I’m just popping to the non-essential shops. Can you think of anything you don’t need?”

I think many of us hoped that the silver lining to the sometimes tragic and always thought-provoking times we find ourselves in is they would give us time to think about what we might change for the better, and at least consider doing things differently in the future.

So it was disappointing to find that for some the lifting of lockdown turned out to be a signal for jumping in their oversized cars (rather than walking or cycling) so they could sit in a queue for a Big Mac.

My fear is that all the recent lessons we should have learned, about the human need for social contact, the quality of life and lifestyle, how thankful we should be for good health and a free health service, the value of the arts and more, could go unheeded in the rush to return to ‘normal’.

One thing my trip out confirmed beyond all doubt was that town centre shopping in its current form is unsustainable.

We hardly needed a degree in social studies to understand what online shopping was already doing to traditional retail, and Covid-19 has only brought forward the point at which a major re-think was necessary.

Only a fool would now think that the long-term future of shoppers driving into Swindon and having to pay for parking can be viable, but it’s only the tip of an iceberg of replanning that needs to happen in many walks of life - and soon.

As catastrophic as the pandemic has proved in Britain, it could have been just the opportunity we needed to say: hold on, let’s think again. So it’s just our luck that it ultimately depends on politicians at all levels having an insight and capability to see us through enormous challenges that they haven’t displayed previously. Worse still: first they will require the honesty to admit they don’t already have all the answers.

And if that day ever comes, they will be the strangest times of all.