Lockdown diary: Week Four

After I wrote my first lockdown diary post, I realised just how quickly the first three weeks appeared to pass and since then the time hasn’t slowed down at all. Now a week on from that post and four weeks since lockdown begun, I can say that I have now settled into the pattern of life that Coronavirus has put upon us. I found the first week quite stressful but I think the calmness of a much quieter, slower pace of life has made it easier, but so has the weather.

After a spectacularly lovely Easter weekend, with unseasonably warm temperatures, things returned to a little more normal this week, albeit with plenty of sunshine and occasionally warmer weather. After so many months of poor weather, this prolonged period of bright sun and blue skies has made life much easier. Just the feeling of warm sun on the skin is enough to raise the spirits. The clear skies have also made the daylight last longer; maybe it’s being down in London rather than Cheshire but, even taking account of the clocks going forward, there seems to be so much more light now we are in mid-April and it’s certainly lifting the spirits. 

I’ve tried to continue from the last few weeks in letting nature into as many of the waking hours as possible. I might be stuck in the bedroom working for many hours from Monday to Friday but the room has a big window I can look out of and see trees and the occasional bird as each day passes. Looking out of the lounge window gives a feeling of living in a tree house; the second floor flat looks into the trees lining the road and across into those in Kew Gardens. One of the interesting aspects of being locked-down is that there is only a small amount of scenery to look at, so we’ve seen more clearly the emergence of the leaves on each of the nearby trees. We’ve seen different trees emerge at different stages and we’ve even seen over the course of a day the leaves emerging slowly from their bud cloaks. The view from the lounge is dominated by horse chestnuts, limes and London Planes, with the last two being slower than the first to come out. In fact, the chestnuts are now out in flower with some smothered in the white candles.

The birds have also been a good distraction too and we’ve over 50 species in the past fours weeks, which is more than I ever expected. However, it’s easy to see why there’s so many to see. The mixture of gardens, including the Botanic Garden itself, and the River Thames provide a rich diversity of habitats and the quieter road and air traffic makes the birds easier to hear. However, the dawn chorus seems quieter here than at home, partly because we sleep on a side of the building away from the Botanic Gardens but we’re planning to get up early one weekend to heard out to the Thames path for a dawn walk to hear the dawn chorus at it’s fullest.

The above paragraphs make it seem like my period in lockdown isn’t so bad and, really, it isn’t. I can’t complain too much, when others are having a much worse time. I’m sure for many, each week of lockdown has seemed endless; those working in hospitals, people living alone and those who are sick, and I’m very lucky that my job means I can work remotely and I have a very nice area to spend some of my free time outside.

Lockdown Diary: settling in

It seems a bit late to be starting a lockdown diary but, oddly, I don’t really seem to have had the time over the first three weeks. Life has already settled into a pattern where weekdays are filled with work, albeit with longer lunches, and the evenings provide time for a daily walk or run, some cooking and eating, and then a bit of relaxation before bed. Having spent whole days in front of a computer screen writing or on video calls, spending more time at a screen writing a blog doesn’t feature high on my list of things to do in the evenings. However, despite all the terrible things happening right now, I still find time to look at nature and, feeling generally a bit helpless about the situation in general (I’m not a key worker), I thought at very least I could make some effort to write a few blog posts.

I arrived at my girlfriend’s flat in Kew the day we both came out of self-isolation and the government called the lockdown that evening. As I travelled down from my home in Cheshire, I knew that lockdown was very likely to happen and that I could have to stay in London for the duration. The decision was really a non-contest between my own home comforts and being with Sarah.

I can’t say there aren’t things I’m missing; the flat’s balcony is a great space to lift the prospect of cabin fever but I miss my back garden, I should have brought a few more clothes with me and I would have loved to have one of my bikes down here – Sarah’s may have to be brought out as a stand in.

Anyone who reads my blogs will know I love the countryside and outdoors and the prospect of being locked down, and locked down in a city in particular, goes against my basic nature (as I’m sure it does for most). Despite having loved being a student in Birmingham for four years and subsequently having worked in Manchester for over 20 years, cities are not my natural habitat and I like to spend as little time in them as possible. However, Kew is not central London and I have found that, whilst it’s not exactly rural, we are surrounded by wildlife and a lot of green space. 

Kew is in the centre of a large loop of the Thames, which is a short walk to the north and to the east of us. We are just across the road from the famous botanic gardens, we can look over the wall from the second floor flat, but now it is closed to the public it blocks the route to the Thames to the west. Kew Green is also just down the road, on one of the routes to the river, and it brings openness to the area with its large park surrounded by lovely old houses with wisteria growing up the outside of many.

However, being Kew, it’s not just big garden across the road that has plenty of attention paid to it; so many of the residential gardens are lovely too. In fact the whole area is lovely and looking particularly so now. The roads are lined with more big old houses and terraces, and the occupants clearly all (or nearly all) have green fingers with the gardens seemly competing with each other to be mini versions of their famous, larger counterpart. The streets themselves are also almost gardens themselves; I don’t think I’ve ever noticed so many street trees and at present hundreds are out in blossom.

The past three weeks, whilst being the start of lockdown, have also seemingly seen the real start of spring. After many months of miserable weather (it almost seems to have been horrible since I left my three-month stint on Ramsey Island at the end of July), the sun and warmth have finally broken through. This week particularly has been very warm with temperatures up in the mid-20s at times and the sun has been out so much of the time. This appears to have kickstarted the trees with their leaves really bursting out all across the area.

The warm weather has enabled us to have the windows and balcony door open much of the time and that has let the natural sounds into the flat. The man-made sounds are less than usual with the roads much quieter and the planes going overhead on the flight path to Heathrow almost come as a surprise as they are so few and irregular now. The bird calls now float into the flat and I have to stop to listen every so often as the call of a green woodpecker or the song of a blackcap comes through into the rooms.

As I’m not a key worker and all I have had to do is shift to working from home, which is what I do at least a day a week anyway, I can hardly complain about the situation I find myself in. We have plenty of food and drink, we can get outside of the flat and can go for a walk or run each day. The traffic and planes are much quieter and spring is growing to its peak. There are so many people in much worse positions than us and under so much more pressure and anxiety. However, its not all plain sailing and I know just what a terrible situation the country is in at present, the stress of the collective situation we find ourselves in hasn’t completely passed me by but letting nature in is surely one of the best ways to cope with it all.