I’m writing this post while sitting on a bench by the side of the canal in Bradford-on-Avon. I’m writing in a small sparkly notebook and I’ll type up these notes later when I return home. It’s nearly 3pm on Friday, 3rd July, 2020. I left home just after 2pm to catch the train here, just one stop from where I live. The journey took six minutes. It was the first time I’ve used public transport since the lockdown started in March. I wore a face mask and I sanitised my hands with gel once I’d got off at my stop. These are items that I always carry now, in the small rucksack bag I wear on my back. Most other passengers were also wearing masks, but not everyone. My carriage was about one third full. I bought my ticket from the machine at the start of my journey using contactless payment – I tried to book online using my phone but those tickets were unavailable on my app. There were no staff on board the train checking tickets or face mask-wearing.
Today I feel I’m rejoining the world again, in my own way. Using public transport is important to me although I realise it’s riskier than driving a car, in terms of being exposed to Covid-19 and other germs. But I’d started to make a concerted effort to reduce my carbon footprint before lockdown, and I want to return to that lifestyle. I also felt an urge to get out of the house and to be alone.
My household’s lockdown began with all four of us watching The Tiger King on Netflix. It’s coming to an end with each of us involved with a BBC iPlayer series I May Destroy You: Andrew and I watching together on the telly in the front room; our daughter watching in her own time somewhere in the house on her laptop; our son not yet watching but listening in to conversations about the series when we meet in our kitchen. Perhaps we survived this enforced time together without major arguments because we’ve circulated around each other in our lives, giving each other space. Some of us would probably appreciate more space than others.
I’m back at home again now, on Saturday afternoon. Pubs and hairdressers have re-opened and, in the supermarket, all the self-service tills were open rather than just half of them – in accordance with the new guidance which allows a social distance of one metre as opposed to the previously recommended two metres. I didn’t wear a mask inside the supermarket but perhaps I will start to do that from now on. I have learned to time my visits to periods when the shop is always sparsely-peopled so I haven’t felt the need for a mask – but the new social-distancing rules might change that.
On my walk yesterday I enjoyed the overgrown and tangled flora of the towpath verges. I guess the recent rain and warm temperatures, together with less humans trampling down the abundance, are ideal growing conditions for weeds, wildflowers and grasses.
There were people milling around, even a band of spaced-out (in the present-day sense, lol) late middle-aged men playing guitar, bass and drums, and singing on an open green near to the Tithe Barn. But everyone kept their distance, some people sitting down on the grass to listen. There is a cautious feeling of life starting up again.
I mistimed my return journey and decided to walk instead – there’s a good cycle and footpath even if it is alongside a fairly busy road. I really hate waiting for anything – if the queue at the supermarket is more than a few people long, I try again at another time, and I’d rather walk, if it’s possible, if I miss a train or bus. I got rained-on as I’d forgotten to pack any rain gear so my lockdown hair looked even wilder than usual by the time I arrived home.
So that’s how I’ve ended another week of this strange year: a little bit wild, a little bit rained-on, a little bit cautious about rejoining the world.