This weekend is the closest to ‘normal’ we’ve done since the start of Lockdown. On Friday afternoon we went down to Broadstairs, the traffic as congested as any other I can remember on the first weekend of the school summer holidays. We got there about six, just as dog restrictions on Stone Bay beach lifted and and we could go down for a heavenly swim in the sea.
After so many months barely ever venturing beyond the confines of our little corner of south London, the vast expanse of sand, sea and sky was almost as shocking as the cold water. How wonderful to be able to see beyond a few hundred feet without bricks or rooftiles; how beautiful the long shadows stretching out across the sand as the sun dipped behind the cliffs.
We stayed with much loved friends and, of course, we couldn’t hug them when we met, but we had a whole evening and the next day to catch up, listen, share and feel supported in ways that Zoom meetings and phone calls never manage to do.
Our first experience of a meal in a restaurant under Covid conditions was at Prezzo on Friday night. We had booked an outside table overlooking the sea. There were floor markings and hand-sanitiser at the door, a one-way system for moving around and instructions from the staff on how to navigate it all.
I’m making face-masks out of old T-shirts. As the government has stopped dithering and made face-masks compulsory in shops as well as on public transport, we are going to need a supply. I don’t want to be adding to the plastic waste in the oceans, so I’m hoping my family can be persuaded to use washable re-usable ones. So far, they haven’t been too keen.
For the style-conscious teens, I might need to splash out on cooler designs; I fear my random bits of T-shirt material don’t pass the embarrassment test. It’s got to be something they want to wear – or they just won’t.
And now that lockdown has fizzled out, it’s become harder to get them to take precautions. Are they hand-washing as much as they did at the start? Are they really staying a metre or two apart when they meet friends? Almost certainly not when they are playing football or basketball.
Life outside the home is resuming, albeit in a new form.
Windrush Square: with a crowd of 20, mainly 2m apart, listening to Rashid Nix talk about the legacy of the sugar trade and its impact on black lives in Britain
Clearly we’ve all had enough – of no pubs and clubs, no summer holidays, no birthday parties, no fun. The pressure has been building and now the lid has blown off and we’re streaming to the seaside, to party in the street, to have barbecues with neighbours. You can’t blame us on these long, hot midsummer nights.
Our household has been gradually slackening its lockdown regime – and not strictly sticking to the rules. Our eldest teenager has had two or three friends round and not always sat in the garden; and he’s met up in the park to play football with friends more than once or twice.
Last Sunday I hung out with about 20 others by the statue of Sir Henry Tate in Windrush Square, Brixton, to hear Rashid Nix talking about the legacy of the colonial sugar trade on black lives today.
Lockdown haircut: finally reached for the scissors this week
I thought my days of sharing a home with inconsiderate flat-mates were long gone. But three months out of school and our teenagers are displaying some pretty anti-social tendencies.
I’d become fairly used to washing-up piled in the sink and late-night frivolity waking me in the early hours; but now there is a new development and it crosses the line of tolerance: one of them is drinking my booze!
Inspired by my old friend Jane, I’d bought a bottle of vodka to make flavoured liqueurs. The elderflower is already brewing nicely in a dark cupboard and there were more plans to do something with rhubarb from the garden. So about a third of a bottle was in the fridge when I went to bed. When I looked for it this morning there was only an inch of vodka left.
Is this a tipping point? After all the moments when people said “never again”: like after the 1981 riots, like after Cherry Groce, like after Stephen Lawrence, like after Grenfell… As the list goes on and on you realise that racism doesn’t sink as easily as a statue of a slave-trader under murky waters.
I’m taking my cue from black friends and commentators on how to support Black Lives Matters. How can we prevent this being just another moment that passes without real change? So we joined a (socially distanced) protest on Tooting Common on Saturday. Everyone wore masks and there was space to stay two metres apart for the 30 minutes we gathered. It was solemn and serious.
Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about the books that opened my eyes to the reality of racism, including my culture’s part in it. For what it’s worth, here’s my contribution to the reading lists many are now sharing.
As lockdown rules continue to be eased, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to walk the dog. Now that six people are allowed to meet in the open air and households can mingle, the local parks and commons are crammed with people enjoying each other’s company – and the sunshine.
So our Lab-Collie cross Bella had just meander round the local streets and nearby nature garden today. She turned three last week. She has a great life anyway, but lockdown has suited her well. Her ‘flock’ of people (us) is never far from sight; we are keen to take her for walks; and during what was the hottest, driest Spring on record, the back door was almost always open, with squirrels, foxes and all sorts of interesting smells within easy reach.
I’m learning from her the pleasure to be had from whiling away the time in a shady spot in the garden, taking in the almost daily changes in the natural world at this time of year.
Negative for Covid-19 and unnecessarily happy about irises blooming in the garden
I’ve just received the results my Covid test: negative. Not that I was worried as I haven’t really felt ill. I was invited for a test as part of a research programme by Kings College Hospital and the NHS tracking the prevalence of the virus in the population as a whole.
Since 25th March I’ve been using the Covid-19 Symptom-tracker app to submit a daily report on whether “I feel physically normal” or “I’m not feeling quite right”. I’m one of 2.4m people taking part in the UK.
One day this week I wasn’t quite feeling right – a headache and tummy ache. I thought this was probably due to a sleepless night, thanks to eldest teenager deciding to go for a bike ride without any lights at 2.30am. I woke up to the sound him leaving the house – and never got back to sleep. He got home fine, by the way.
Monthly community gathering for teachers of Embodied Yoga Principles
For years I’ve been trying to reduce screen time – both my own and the teens’, as readers may recall from the great Xbox out the window drama I wrote about in February. It’s a battle that has been truly lost in lockdown, so much of normal life has now moved online.
These days I actually encourage the teens to facetime their friends – they need that contact for their mental health.
Clear skies: spot the flower growing from our neighbour’s chimney
These last few days have been filled with lazy hours sunbathing, barbecue smells – and waiting for a decision from the government. Will lockdown continue or start to be lifted? Will health or wealth win the national argument? Sunday, it is forecast the weather will change and Britain will be plunged into Arctic cold, and the Prime Minister will address the nation with the answer.
My reaction to last week’s news that British Airways may stop flying out of Gatwick and concentrate its London base at Heathrow, may not have been typical. My heart lifted a little. Could the scaling down of international air travel signal the beginning of a significant change in what we consider to be economic and political certainties?
Could we, at last, be willing to consider the possibility of moving from an economy based on environmental and human exploitation, to one that nourishes us all – people and planet? I know, I know, I’m a privileged hippy and it’s not my job on the line. But please bear with me. We’ll come back to jobs and livelihoods soon.