Lockdown Diary: Week Seven

This week has seemed harder than the past few in lockdown. I woke up with a feeling of melancholy on Sunday and it was still there on Monday morning as I started work. Up to then, I hadn’t been feeling too bad apart from the first week, which I found very difficult to settle into. Speaking to colleagues, it seems that many have found the past week harder than others; maybe there’s a seven week itch in these things where tolerance starts to fray a little or coping mechanisms begin to weaken. Maybe it was more about people, including myself, finally accepting that we’re in this for the long haul and not even the new normal will be here any time soon.

The overblown talk earlier in the week of relaxing lockdown has been replaced by more sombre tones of small changes. However, just a little easing of exercise restrictions would be welcomed by many. It gives all of us without gardens or countryside (even if temporarily like me) to get out into some green space and connect with nature. However, those connections can be made even through an open window. 

Sitting at my desk this week, I heard a familiar and very welcome summer sound. I looked up from my screen to see two swifts chasing each other over the Kew rooftops. The following day there were three and the calls have been heard intermittently ever since. They’re my favourite bird of all and their calls, as I must have written here before, lift my soul like very few other things can. In the winter, I yearn for that sound and I cherish every time I hear it. After all, the swifts won’t be here for long and in no time at all I will be left once more with many months of waiting to hear them again. 

This week I also noticed as the darkness had fallen on another day in lockdown, the number of insects attracted by the street lights and circling in bright rays shining down towards the pavement. I wouldn’t say it was a startling observation but it got me thinking about how long it was that I had seen so many insect doing the same. That then led me on to consider whether the reductions in air pollution resulting from the lower levels of traffic might be be causing an increase in the numbers of insects. I’m no scientist but on my next long car journey it will be interesting to see if the number of insects picked up the front of my car has noticeably increased. Anecdotally, it seems that ‘fly splatter’ on cars has decreased over the past few years and any change in these observations over the next few months might be telling.

We have continued to go for walks this week and yesterday was a particularly memorable one. We set off in the morning and stopped at Kew Bridge to wait for the Red Arrows to pass overhead on their route from the VE Day commemoration flypast. They duly did and we went on with our walk and stepped down onto the shore of the Thames. It was a very low tide yesterday and we could walk almost all the way between Kew and Chiswick Bridges. Down on the short was the usual mix of swans, geese, ducks, gulls and herons but this time we came across some of the first young of the year with a gaggle of Egyptian goslings.

Even in lockdown, even staying inside, there are ways to connect to nature. Writing this post has lifted some of the gloom and I’ll go out for a cycle in a while, which will hopefully lift it further. I’ll have to see how many insects I get splatted on my sunglasses!

Lockdown Diary: Week Five

Now coming to the end of the fifth week of lockdown, the days seem to be merging and it’s becoming difficult to make marks in time to help judge the pace of the passing weeks. The weather has continued to be consistently lovely, more like earlier summer than mid-spring, making it even more difficult to tell one day from another. 

Perhaps the easiest way to see time passing has been the surrounding flora. The first weeks still had a few daffodils in flower and the trees were largely bare. Then came the wisteria flowers, adorning many of the grand houses on the leafy streets of Kew. Now they too are fading and the strong scent diminishing, but there are more flowers coming forward to take their place. The horse chestnuts seem to be particularly spectacular this year with some almost hanging heavy with the weight of their flower candles. As I wrote last week, the emergence of the leaves across all the trees has been a daily note and most are now in full leaf. The changing of the trees from winter to summer has possibly been the most dramatic marker of the time passed so far.

A more subtle changing has been the ebb and flow of the tides; not each high and low, but the shifting of their timing. Two weeks ago on our daily outing we walked on the bare gravel bed of the Thames close to Kew Bridge, but yesterday, out at roughly the same time, the river was washing over the footpath. There is something rather untamed about the Thames in this part of its flow. It may be hemmed in by walls, banks and buildings but it refuses to be submit and with every large high tide it threatens to flow into the riverside properties. This dynamic of the river is particularly spectacular around Richmond where is cuts off the Thames Path completely as well as a building or two, and floods into surrounding fields.

This part of London is a rather lovely place to be during the lockdown and there are many in much worse positions than us, many have no access to outside space and little greenery around them. However, despite being surrounded by green and water, it is still an urban environment, with a concentration of people and activity. The noise may be much less than normal, with fewer cars on the road and much less frequent planes passing overhead but I do miss the more open green and quieter spaces of the countryside. Perhaps even more so, I’m starting to yearn for the really wild places I like to visit and with two trips already cancelled I’m starting to wonder when my next trip away from urban life will be.

As a write this, there’s a chiffchaff calling from a nearby tree and blackcap singing in some undergrowth across the road. As long as they and others keep on singing, they will provide a link between me and those more wild places.

A quick trip to the Big Smoke

I’m not a big one for city breaks or doing touristy things with the crowds but yesterday I popped down to London for the day to do a few things I’ve been wanting to for ages. First I went to the Imperial War Museum, then on to HMS Belfast, a trip on a boat down the Thames between Tower Bridge and Westminster, and then a long walk back to Euston, via Parliament Square, Horse Guards and Covent Garden.

The Imperial War Museum was the main reason I went down to London and I must say that the World War One exhibition is excellent and Holocaust exhibition something everyone should see.

Just a few photos from the day…