Journey into life
Last night the message was very clear: “STAY HOME!” Are we doing it? Apparently not enough. I decide to exert my right to take ‘daily exercise’ and go for a walk. My journey was one I take regularly – the towpath along the River Lea and canal. There were plenty of people doing the same thing, out for fresh air. Walking towards a woman coming in the opposite direction, she immediately covered her mouth and nose with her scarf. I was quite glad, as she was talking on her mobile at the time. Glad because who knows what droplets she might have released into the air as I walked past. As I encountered other walkers, we adjusted our positions trying to maintain 2 metres distance – a little difficult across a narrow pathway.
An unreal quietness
My walk gave me time to see the changes happening around me. The flats (sorry, apartments) springing up along the river. The new bridge connecting the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with the other side of Hackney Wick, snaking its way along the side of Foreman’s the smoked salmon company.
Once again, the word stillness enters my thoughts. The river motionless. Normally, movement would be caused by swans, coots, ducks, rowers from Springfield Rowing Club or a slight breeze. An unreal quietness envelops everything. All with the exception of the man laying underneath what looked like a fur throw on the deck of his barge while listening to some serious jazz. We waved at each other, both laughing.
Eventually I decide to make my way home. Carrot cake was on my mind, so I needed to stop at the shop on the estate to buy eggs. Approaching the shop, I noticed a group of young men. My heart sank as fleetingly my thoughts returned to the edict from the previous night of no more than two people gathering. How will this new instruction affect young people? Will they heed, or will it be ignored, putting them at risk of Police attention? In the shop only trays of 24 eggs. I decide against my carrot cake.
My heart rests
Away from the shop I come across three of the original group. One I know by sight. He’s yet another youngster I’ve never taught, but who calls me “Miss”, an indication that he knows children who’ve been in my classrooms. We nod at each other. I smile. I look at the group as they stand in a triangle. Distant from each other, trying to comply with these new government requirements. My heart rests.
On entering the house. I remove my coat. Head to the kitchen. Wash my hands even though I’ve touched no one. Made no contact with surfaces. Wash I hope, for the required 20 seconds. Pausing, I look towards the square. The square that we as mothers requested our kitchens face when the estate was being built. Our biggest fear then? Not being able to see our children at play. Today, I think about Corona 19, a threat bigger than not seeing your children playing.
I call my mother. Check in time. 89 and anxious. Worrying about my brother who lives in Spain. Quietly fretting about my other brother who suffers with asthma that could lead to hospitalisation. Agonising, about her precious granddaughter who presently has to travel on London’s buses and trains. We speak of the tragedy of those who’ve died alone. Died and their families not able to celebrate their lives in the ways we’ve become used to. Imagine, only 5 people – family, allowed at your funeral. Sad. In the midst of what seems like total gloom, we manage to make jokes and laugh together. As she said, “Who would believe that we’d live to see such a situation?” We part lovingly.
The evening brings reports that a new temporary hospital, The Nightingale Hospital, is to be constructed at the Excel Centre in the Docklands. It will be large enough to accommodate 2,000 beds. Welcome to modern day plague intervention! The Government has put out a request for 250,000 additional staff to support the NHS. These are people who are retired or who have left the NHS in previous years. In other areas of the country, the Police are already stopping cars and asking people the purpose of their journey. No powers in force yet to fine those of us without a “good enough excuse.” I wonder how long it will be before that happens?