Yesterday was the seventh Sunday of physical distancing restrictions, and we woke up to grey skies and 12C after a week of sunshine and warmth. Whereas Minou spent the whole day on Saturday asleep on the bench on the balcony, yesterday she curled up on an armchair indoors and refused to move. Rather than stay in and listen to de Pfeffel babble on and wave his hands like a mad man, Ed and I got in the car, put Spanish Love Songs’ Brave Faces Everyone record on to play, and drove down to the Lickey Hills for an evening walk. The contents of the speech had been leaked anyway, so there was nothing to be gained from watching it live.
Ed joined me for my daily walk around Edgbaston this evening, the dry and dusty streets carpeted with faded blossom petals and fragrant pine needles as this once in a lifetime spring drifts ever on towards summer. Hundreds of metres of fresh bunting and Union Jack flags had appeared overnight, strung out across front gardens, driveways and cars in celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Victory in Europe.
Today is the first day of the sixth week of the strict physical distancing measures we have been asked to live with in the UK to bring the coronavirus outbreak under control. I don’t like calling it ‘lockdown’ because it’s not. We’re allowed out of our homes to exercise and to go to the shops, many businesses have already reopened, and it’s not really being policed. I live in Birmingham city centre and although there have been police helicopters overhead and the police have been patrolling in their vehicles, it’s all been fairly relaxed. The situation in the UK is very different to the situation in Spain, Italy and France, where the restrictions are much tighter and more strongly policed.
Blossom petals dance along the pavement, lifted by the breeze, painting the drains, gutters and curbs a soft, ballerina pink. In a suburban park alongside the Rea Valley cycle route, a girl of six or seven shows off her ballet moves to her mother and grandmother, performing effortless twirls in her frilly dungaree shorts while residents from the terraces that border the park jog slow circles around the football pitches.
On a beautiful spring day as the fruit trees put on their magical display, the children’s play park sits empty, the gate taped shut like a crime scene.