Yesterday afternoon I found myself in a nondescript motorway service station on the M1 somewhere between Nottingham and Chesterfield, waiting for Ed to buy a cup of coffee before we continued north for a much longed for day out in the Peak District to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. Physical distancing rules meant that I couldn’t join him in the queue – it was restricted to one adult per household – so I stood by the exit instead, watching people come and go.
I love dramatic, moody, Vermeer light, and I love summer thunderstorms too. Yesterday was very hot and humid, and so I was glad to hear a storm roll in. I asked Minou to pose for me, as always, and she patiently indulged me. She’s a very good portrait sitter.
The streets are dusty and yellow, the first leaves fallen from the linden trees providing crunch under foot on my evening walk. The air feels thick and heavy with fumes again, as people choose to drive everywhere rather than risk the bus or train. On Elvetham, my favourite neighbourhood cat conducts a spot bath on the warm bonnet of her human’s car, left foot stretched out into the last of the day’s sunshine, toes splayed, oblivious to the comings and goings around her.
In the co-op, I wait for another customer to make his selections before entering the aisle myself, behaviour which feels positively retro by July’s standards. For the time being, the requirement for spaced queues outside supermarkets has been set aside, and personal space in shops has shrunk, too. Facemasks make people bolder and more willing to cast aside the 2m rule, a thin strip of cloth encouraging them to feel invincible. I wear my mask, but keep my distance too.
At the moment life feels much calmer, but I can’t help but sense that it’s a pause, not the end, and that ‘normal’ is still a long way off. These heady days of summer feel like a brief reprieve before we head indoors when the weather cools and the infection rate climbs again in the autumn. I hope I’m just being a pessimist.
Sutton Park is one of my favourite places in Birmingham. Yesterday evening Ed and I went for a walk around the Bracebridge lakes. It’s my favourite part of the park because of the horses, and we got lucky because we saw them. If you want to see the Sutton Park ponies but find them a little bit illusive, the best time of day to go seems to be early evening, around 6pm or so. The Sutton Park horses keep to themselves in the woodland when it’s very busy, but tend to graze on the open heathland to the north of Little Bracebridge Pool when it’s quiet. If you arrive and can’t see them, search the treeline across the heather because sometimes they’ll be in twos and threes and are a little harder to spot.