OKAY, the tale that follows is not exactly up there with the yarns spun by those Florentines fleeing the plague in The Decameron, but bear with me. It is hard to be a Ustinov-standard raconteur when that big wide world you took for granted has shrunk to the size of an egg.

Like many people, one of the few pleasures left in the day is the walk with the dog. She enjoys the exercise, my cabin fever dips to a manageable level once more.

Since our outings are limited, the usual leisurely ramble with regular stops for sniffing (her, not me) has been supplemented by ball chasing (again, her, not me).

The ball is attached to a rope so you can hurl it a fair distance. The other day I did just that, only for the thing to land in a tree.

Try as I might I could not get it out. The dog was at first confused – where had her toy gone? – then disappointed. A forlorn Lab is quite the sight. With nothing else for it we trudged home through the woods, me scattering apologies like breadcrumbs. Sans ball. Sans hope. Sans everything.

Next day we returned to find someone had retrieved the ball. In the time-honoured tradition of walkers everywhere, they had hung it on a low branch to be collected.

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The thing had been snared so high they were either the world’s tallest person, or they had made a considerable effort. Regardless of how they managed it, someone had taken the trouble to do a nice thing when they did not need to. Whoever you were, thank you. You made a little dog and an increasingly large woman (the Easter eggs are long gone) very happy.

Why am I telling you this story? Well, because it speaks to a new mood in the air. You may have have felt it yourself. It is the belief that from these dreadful times a more caring, sharing society will emerge. One day we are hooking a ball out of a tree for a stranger, the next we are taxing the wealthy and using the money to increase the wages of NHS staff.

From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs, to borrow a phrase. Back in 1997 John Prescott declared that we were all middle class now. Scratch that. To hear some tell it, we are all Marxists now, even those who would never dream of calling themselves such.

The building of this red wall began pre-virus with the Conservatives' General Election victory. Now the barricade is extending into some remarkable places.

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Take, for example, the following vision of a post-virus society, one reorganised in response to the inequalities and weaknesses exposed by the Covid-19 outbreak. After calling for a bigger role for government in the economy and more protection for workers, it goes on: “Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix.”

Labour manifesto, perhaps? Paper from a left wing think tank? No, it is a recent leader column in the Financial Times. The pink ‘un has gone red.

Elsewhere, there is praise for Nationwide chief executive Joe Garner for taking a £1.2 million pay and bonuses cut and a demand that other bank bosses to do the same.

The writer concludes: “The pandemic is an opportunity for our banks and their chief executives to redeem themselves once and for all for the damage they inflicted on us, their innocent victims, in the financial crisis.”

Something from the Socialist Worker (“Fight the Tories!”) maybe? More like The Daily Mail, hardly a bastion of socialism. Meanwhile, over at The Telegraph, they are offering free digital subscriptions to NHS workers. God loves a trier.

It is not just in sections of the media that the mood is evident. Boris Johnson, speaking after the announcement of a massive bailout package from the Treasury and the marshalling of an army of volunteers, said the virus crisis had proved “there really is such a thing as society”.

It was an audacious repositioning of the party away from its Thatcherite, society- denying past.

In addition, there are the now weekly pot- clattering and applause sessions for key workers, and many a local community has banded together to help those in need.

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But can this change in attitudes last? The optimist in me thinks it might. The pain and loss and fear people have experienced, and will continue to endure, cannot have been for nothing.

What is happening matters, and the impact will be far wider and go much deeper than any of us can imagine.

The optimist in me has been wrong before, alas. Whenever I hear predictions of great changes coming I’m reminded of that quote attributed to J Paul Getty: “The meek shall inherit the Earth, but not its mineral rights.”

Our collective past as a species is scarred by seismic upheavals, some of which bring about equally enormous change and others do not.

The Second World War gave us the welfare state; the First World War did not give all women the vote.

The last time the cry of “everything must change” went up was after the financial crisis of 2008. Then came austerity. Life for people at the bottom of the pyramid became worse, while the better off recovered their losses and then some.

Finally, there have been as many people acting selfishly during this crisis (stripping supermarket shelves) as behaving honourably.

Radical change could happen, but consider the huge effort it would involve, and in some cases the sacrifice, and ask yourself if we have it in us to go through with it. To take just one item on a long to-do list, paying key workers the wages they deserve, that will not be easy given the shock to the economy. According to the Fraser of Allander Institute, the economy in Scotland alone could shrink by a quarter.

For a lot of people, just getting back to some sort of normal will be enough. We will likely want less upheaval, not more.

Then again, such has been the speed and severity of this crisis perhaps this time will be different. We can only hope.