Here, among the leafy lanes of the new suburbia, which we used to call the countryside, the spring this year seemed better and more colourful than ever, with a ‘host of golden daffodils’ on display in gardens and hedgerows followed by good old English bluebells (not to be confused with the imposters imported from Spain and sold by the tonne in garden centres at one time) which were magnificent, bringing a much-needed sweep of colour in the woodlands and hedgerows around St. Mary on the Wold.
Many of our keen gardeners, mostly, it must be said, of a certain age, and able and knowledgeable enough to have grown their own perennials and biennials and husbanded shrubs from last season, have seen their gardens bloom in a way that must have given pleasure to even the most anti or ‘can’t be bothered with all that’ residents, many of whom have found that it’s possible to use feet for transport during the pseudo lockdown of the last few weeks and have taken to walking around the lanes in quite large numbers, either to pass the time or, judging by the size of some waistlines, trying to do something positive about their level of fitness.
Either way it’s good to see many people enjoying the benefits of fresh air and exercising. Interestingly it’s people of all age groups, mum and dad with quite young children obviously enjoying what in earlier times we would have called ‘quality time’, Lycra-clad young men and women running or jogging – and that’s another interesting thing mostly the really ‘fit’ runners and joggers are women, often alone, while men seem to make up the majority of cyclists pounding around their favourite route or training, in their imaginations at least, for the next ‘big race’ which will bring them fame and fortune and celebrity status, if only within the confines of their local cycling club. This spring was something to savour and in marked contrast to my usual admittedly early, morning exercise walk accompanied by the dog, when the scent of all those blooms and cut grass has mostly replaced the stench of un-serviced diesel cars and vans and the unpleasant smell from cold petrol engine fumes apparently being sanitised by catalytic converters.
It’s quite surprising that so many people have obviously discovered the joys and merits of lawn mowing, and homes that previously showed little sign of occupation, never mind gardening skills, all now have manicured and tidy lawns and, even more surprising, cleaned and polished cars residing in driveways, some ‘proud’ owners even going the extra mile and using tyre-finishing products. Now that really is a revelation, as one of the benefits of living here in the countryside is that for six to eight months of the year, any sort of journey will leave your vehicle looking as if you have just returned from a major international car rally which took place across miles of mud and countryside.
Not to go into great detail, but there are, as you may expect or not depending where you live, farms with livestock that often leave deposits on the road, along with horses that for some reason always leave their calling cards in the most unexpected places, outside the driveway to a house for example, and these days remains uncollected. Long gone are the gardeners who would rush out with bucket and shovel to collect said deposit for their prize-winning roses. Also there is the mud from tractors which are these days the size of a World War One army tank. But this is all outweighed by seeing a rather nice sunrise across the field of rape seed, accompanied by birdsong, the bleating of lambs or a ‘Turner’ red sunset fading behind the hilltop that surround us here in the Wold.
So, truth to tell, here in predominantly middle-aged middle-class public sector employed and retired St Mary on the Wold, it has, all things considered for most been quite pleasant. Not for many the problems of little income, of keeping young children amused and occupied while living in and unable to leave your high-rise apartment, or worries about future job prospects, problems very real to those unfortunate people who, through no fault of their own, face a future that, difficult as it may well have been over the last few weeks shows all the signs of turning even more difficult in the coming months if not longer.
But for the moment there are more supermarket delivery vans in evidence, along with courier vehicles. The district council has remarkably managed to keep refuse collections going, although it is a private company who are now contractors. Our roads have been cleaned, again by a private contractor, and much to the surprise of residents more used to the opposite, it’s been possible to arrange a ‘talk’ by appointment on the phone with a doctor from the health centre. Even a police vehicle has actually been seen although, to be fair, it was driven by one of those uniformed police employees rather than a police officer. Perhaps it was responding to a call from a ‘concerned resident’ – one of the thousands of people who have called the authorities to ‘report’ neighbours for unsocial activities, such as going for a walk too often, talking while not observing social distance rules, having unauthorised visits from family or friends, or groups of young people sitting talking to each other in public places. One friend tells me that where he lives this has been going on quite openly since almost day one, with his neighbours hosting family group meetings at home for the entire weekend, hugging and kissing on departure and so on. It’s amazing that little has been made of this in the media, local or national.
So, life here seems set to continue as it did pre-virus, although how that will endure does not, at the moment, seem to be exercising very many minds. As one young person said on social media: “It feels like a long school holiday really. I’m still being paid and the weather is fine and hot.” Raise any doubts and those apparently can, for the moment, be parcelled up and placed in the box marked ‘the future will take care of itself’.
In any case the print and broadcast media, if the events of the last week and more generally since before last December, will be following its own agenda, irrespective of what the population wants. If readership and viewing figures are any guide is definitely not at all what they want to read, see or hear. Many can see what is going on, which seems to be a coordinated attack on the government, its spokespersons, ministers and Boris Johnson in particular.
Part 2 will be published here tomorrow.