Whenever the going gets tough, I ignite a lively internal fantasy about leaving it all behind for a quiet life in the country. It is never raining in my fantasy, and never cold. It is always either dawn or dusk. I never have shoes on. Nor do I appear to have a job.

I am not alone in my dreaming. Zillow, the US real estate website, has reported a rise in the number of searches for homes in rural geographies since lockdown began. Searches in suburbs were down. Why pay to live within commuting distance when you can tear up your rail pass and commute to the barn instead?

Sitting in my office that is actually my bedroom, I dream about flora and fauna beyond the ginger cat in my neighbours’ window and 15 bean plants I am rearing in yoghurt pots. They were the only seeds left in the garden shop on the eve of lockdown.

I love London. But the real reason I live in Zone 2 is proximity to the same non-essential office job that the coronavirus pandemic has revealed I do not actually have to be in, or even near, a city to do. Workers move to cities for opportunity, culture, the endless diversions — the justification gymnastics that explain why we pay extortionate rents for shoeboxes in neighbourhoods where they serve extortionately priced drinks. But as the world navigates a tragic global health crisis, a funereal quiet has stripped many cities of their specific magic. It is unclear, in a post-pandemic world, when or if it will return.

Under pressure of a sudden lockdown, remote working has accelerated like burnt magnesium. Working from home is no longer a privilege, nor the provenance of people we secretly envied but shunned as enlightened under-achievers. It is our normal.

No wonder the bucolic fantasy is spreading. If work from the kitchen table is likely to persist, why shouldn’t that table look over rolling fields?

True country life has been untenable for a generation, as rapid globalisation destroyed rural economies. Remote work has finally made my fantasy into a possibility. It opens the door to rebuilding ageing, shrinking towns, not through the creation of new jobs, but by the relocation of those who can work anywhere and are into absurdly inexpensive homes