Lockdown Diary: Week Ten

This has been a week of memorable walks. The easing of the restriction on the amount of exercise  we’re allowed to do, and how far we can travel to do it, has given us more opportunities to be outside in the continuing great weather.

We’ve been to Richmond Park a few times since the restrictions were eased but earlier this week we went for our first evening walk. The Park was much quieter than during our daytime visits and a little cooler too; quite welcome given the recent heat. We headed from Ham Gate to the lakes and back again, through the woods and open grassland. The deer were more visible than during the day time and were out enjoying the quietness in the last of the sun. All except one group of red deer which chased of a couple and their dog when they walked past too close to their one small calf. The Park had a much calmer atmosphere that evening, as the day was coming to a close and the light dipping behind the trees, we’ll have to go again and the evening might become our favoured time if the days become even busier than they presently are.

Last night (Friday), we went for a walk after our evening meal, in the last light of the day. The walk down to Kew Green, along the Thames and then back through the residential streets, was the quietest local stroll we’ve had since lockdown began but also one of the most memorable. The air had a bit of a nip as we left the flat but the air was still. The clear sky meant there was enough light to see and the glow from the west gave a sharpness to the scenes. At Kew Green, we walked around to the Elizabeth Gate entrance to the Botanic Gardens and saw a mother fox and her small cub running around the manicured grass and flower beds. Walking onto the river path, the enclosing trees brought darkness but it was just possible to see across the water and watch the strange flickering patterns the light breeze was making on the Thames’ surface. Back through the deserted streets we hoped to see more foxes out and about. At first a cat raised and dashed hopes but on the last street before the turn for the flat, a fox wandered across the road, stopped to look at us but soon disappeared into gardens as we approached.

Today, we left the city and headed a few miles west to Seer Green for a country walk. Only half an hour away from London but distant from any busy honeypot areas, within minutes of parking the car we were out in almost silent rolling Home Counties countryside. The first footpath we passed along was in the dip of a shallow valley of ripening wheat and the only sound was a calling skylark somewhere out of sight in the clear blue sky above our heads. As we continued our walk through the fields and woods, we came across a few people, but far fewer than we do on our daily walks in Kew, and there was so much more peacefulness in the countryside than the city. We crossed a couple of busy roads but there was little other activity and we spent much of the time listening to the birdlife as we walked. We stopped to watch a whitethroat claiming his territory from a high hedge perch and later stood as red kite circled and called above the fields sloping down into another valley. We eventually turned towards the car and passed through the village but even there it was quiet with very little activity going on.

Now back in the urban Kew, it is much less quiet with the passing traffic but also the more natural sound of the breeze passing through the London planes outside of the window. The chance of a wander around the countryside has fed my need for rural space and will hopefully dampen that yearning for a while.

I was going to finish with a point about easing lockdown too quickly but will leave that for now and stop here before I let the post end on a less relaxing tone. These walks have made a big difference to us, being able to be outside in nice places, both urban and rural, connecting with nature and bringing some peace and calmness to what still remain quite hectic weekday lives.

Lockdown Diary: Week Eight

An eighth week of lockdown has nearly passed and in some ways I’m running out of things to say, or at least struggling to find the clarity of thought to put something meaningful on the page. Like many I expect, simply living with lockdown, all seems very tiring despite not having the daily commute and not having the added pressure of being a key worker. At the end of each day, I often feel shattered but we do go out and exercise as much as possible; to clear the head and to get some of those endorphins going.

There seems to be more uncertainty about the future than ever and as the UK Government seems intent on pushing out of lockdown, I think there may be reluctance amongst many to follow its chosen path. I’ve always loved driving but given the chance this week to drive a short distance to Richmond Park, there was some significant apprehension; I’m not sure why and it wasn’t just a passing feeling. Breaking out of lockdown is going to require people to get back to doing many of the things that they haven’t done for weeks and if I’m feeling nervous about something I usually love doing, I suspect many others will find some of their normal activities more challenging than they were.

I’m also finding it harder to separate work from home. I’ve tried to keep the two as separate as possible, clearing all work away at the end of each day, exercising straight afterwards to make an almost physical break between the two and I try not to think about work too much outside of work hours. I think working from home is great and I want to keep on doing so for more of the time when we return to more normal times. However, I need to do more to make the break between work and home. 

I think the lack of a holiday isn’t helping. We were meant to have been on the Isle of Harris this week but, clearly, we have known for some time that this wasn’t going to be possible. Without any significant time away from work and home in the short to medium term, the balance of work and home may be even more difficult to get right.

I think many of us will now be getting to the stage where we’re finding it more difficult to find new things to keep ourselves occupied. I listened to a programme on the radio several years ago which suggested that time appears to move more quickly when we do fewer new things. We may remember new activities more clearly than the routine and the more new activities we do, the more markers in time there are and thus, time seems to move more slowly. When we just do the routine activities, time seems to pass more quickly as we remember fewer activities. Maybe the routine of lockdown, when our ability to do new activities is very much reduced, is merging time, making it move more quickly and making work and home almost indistinguishable. I certainly feel that the past eight weeks have flown by.

I did work up the courage to drive to Richmond Park and I was so glad we made the visit. Having been limited to walking around Kew for weeks, it was a release to be somewhere new and in a place with wide open views across green space. We walked through the old oak woodlands and across the open grasslands, past the two lakes and along the currently deserted roads. We had some great views of nature as we walked including sand martins, house martins and swifts flying fast over the water, the herds of red and fallow deer, and even some of this years goose chicks wandering at the water’s edge.

Hopefully, with exercise restrictions lifted a little now, we can get out more and do some more new things to break up the time and help to make a greater divide between work and home time…and, maybe, I won’t find it do hard to write a blog post next week.