Silver linings

Part one: new places

Last time I wrote a newsletter, the major adjustment to my life was that I’d no longer be dragging myself to the gym of a Sunday afternoon. But now nobody will be going anywhere ever again! The good news is that this has freed up many hours a day to devote to my meditative practice of imagining worst case scenarios in hysterically vivid technicolor. This is not the only silver lining, though, so please enjoy the first in a series of Things That Actually Aren’t Completely Terrible Right Now.

The morning after the lockdown announcement, I ventured out on my first open-air exercise jaunt in many, many years. I rose bright and early so I could practise good social distancing and arrived at my local park full of the noble promise of doing a health run. But immediately I was thwarted by that universal portent of doom: a laminated printout in all-caps.

CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE!

“I thought Boris said the parks would stay open!” I called out to a man who was wrapping chains around the gates. 

“Privately owned!” he yelled, with a smirk. “Back to the pavement!”

(He’s right: the park is actually the grounds of a big house bequeathed to the community by a nineteenth century indelible ink magnate, described ill-bodingly by its website as a “businessman, Conservative politician, and interesting character”.) 

It occurred to me that I did not want my once-daily outdoor activity henceforth limited to the discarded-Kleenex-strewn pavements, whatever chain-man said, and so I decided to become an explorer of the world. Carrying on up the road in search of anything vaguely green and publicly accessible, I happened upon a grubby little patch of limp daffodils outside some flats. But after a couple of uninspiring circuits of its path, I concluded that my journey was not yet over and continued on my way. 

A few minutes later I reached the cemetery. Over its walls hung lush and verdant foliage, which looked promising. The gates had the letters CREMATORIUM welded into them, which isn’t one of the better-known synonyms for “uplifting local exercise spot”, but they were wide open and the place was deserted. Tentatively I stepped inside and before long found myself in a vast, grassy necropolis, all crumbling mossy mausoleums and wide acacia-lined avenues, silent save the chirping of cheery birds too stupid to know there’s a pandemic on. For added picturesqueness there was a tiny abandoned stone chapel at its centre. Bingo! I had found the other-people-free workout location of my dreams. (I trust that the benefit to the public of avoiding the offensive sight of my daily constitutional outweighs the ire of the Victorian luminaries who rest there in perpetuity, and that, more importantly, I’m not going straight to hell.)

Anyway, the cemetery must be one of the most aesthetically pleasing places in my polluted, built-up area, and yet until this week I’d never bothered to visit. Our straitened circumstances have forced me to venture out of the miniature zone around my flat to which I normally confine my daily activity, and for that I am truly grateful, etc. Now, off to nibble on a custard cream and perhaps take a little scroll through the terrifying statistics of the day. Stay well!

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