March has been a strange month. As always, it started in winter and ended in spring, but we have also transitioned with the seasons from normal life – work, trips to the botanical gardens, plans for trips to the forest and mountains this spring, and a camping trip to France for our tenth wedding anniversary this summer – to a state of lockdown which may last six months or longer. All of my work – weddings and documentaries – has been put on hold for the foreseeable future. Ed is off school and doesn’t know when he’ll go back. September? December? Who knows.
In the East Asian supermarket with Chopin’s Waltz in B Minor looping in my head from my morning’s piano practice, Ed and I perform a dance of our own in the narrow aisles. We hang back, waiting for the refrigerator to be free so that we can pick up some galangal, only for someone else to give us space in the noodle aisle.
Outside Tesco while we wait in our designated bay, a cloud of cigarette smoke makes me cough, and then panic that the security guard will think I have the virus and deny me entry. Our turn comes to enter the shop and we pick up a single lime and two vegan magnums, shuffling forward through the queue, maintaining a constant marked distance of 2m from customers and staff. I could get used to this new normal when it comes to the etiquette of personal space.
As we approach the spring equinox, rush hour coincides with sunset. On Lee Bank Middleway at 6pm, a Mr Whippy icecream van crawls up the hill and the blossom trees and new growth are backlit by the crepuscular deep blue of headlights and the coming night.
From my observations notebook // 18th March 2019
On New Street, representatives from every belief system stand on their soap boxes and behind their stress test tables preaching about the end times to curiously responsive groups of office workers and shoppers. For the first time in all the years I’ve called Birmingham home, they have an audience. At 5pm on Broad Street, the offices are empty and I sit alone in Oozells Square watching the cherry blossom dance and fall.
Every December as the last leaves fade to dust and the world around me descends into a frenzy of overconsumption, I dream of spring. I dream of the first day it is warm enough to go out without a coat, of longer daylight hours, and I dream of the equinox winds which freshen up the city streets. I conjure birdsong to drown out the sound of relentless 80s Christmas music, and I close my eyes to imagine the world painted pink as it is each spring.