Diary of a Lockdown, day 3: making this up as we go along

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Blossom on Mitcham Common 26 March

Today’s hot topic is the protocols of social distancing. How do we organise ourselves on the occasions we need to leave the house to get to the places we need to get to without breathing droplets of coronavirus all over our fellow man?

We’ve not done this before. We don’t know the rules. It’s not like queuing for a bus or driving on the left (or right depending on which country you’re in); there isn’t a set of tried and tested habits to conform to for the greater good.

But today I’ve noticed people attempting to create some protocols. The Tesco’s local in Streatham has a one-in-one-out policy and warning tape at 2-metre intervals along the pavement outside indicating where people should stand while queuing.

The deputy head of a local primary school posted on Facebook a suggestion that pedestrians always walk on pavements on the left-hand side of the road, so as to avoid the tricky negotiations of on-coming people in a narrow space.

At congested Brockwell Park in south London, community-minded locals posted laminated signs asking runners to move onto the grass so that people with less mobility and parents with buggies could take priority on the paths; this hasn’t been wholly popular with gym bunnies now flocking to open spaces and within less than 24 hours, the signs have been taken down.

The fear among south Londoners is that if we fail to work this out and people continue to move around in close proximity to one another, the councils will close the parks – as they already have done in other parts of London.

Our family headed out to more spacious Mitcham Common for our dog walk today, where it was much easier to stay apart from fellow walkers. Whether word will spread and a bow-wave of Londoners will sweep out through the suburbs as their local parks get increasingly crowded remains to be seen.

The late afternoon sun was casting long shadows on the common; geese and swans on the lake squawked arrogantly at our dog when she got too close; gorse and blossoms splashed colour against a clear sky; if it weren’t for the chill in the air, it might have felt quite summery.

The highlight of the journey home was scoring a packet of loo roll in our local Sainsbury’s – the rumour on our street’s WhatsApp group was to ask staff at the check-out and they’d find some ‘from the back’.

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