Diary of a Lockdown, day 71: time travel

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Learning from Bella: the pleasure of a garden plot

As lockdown rules continue to be eased, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to walk the dog. Now that six people are allowed to meet in the open air and households can mingle, the local parks and commons are crammed with people enjoying each other’s company – and the sunshine.

So our Lab-Collie cross Bella had just meander round the local streets and nearby nature garden today. She turned three last week. She has a great life anyway, but lockdown has suited her well. Her ‘flock’ of people (us) is never far from sight; we are keen to take her for walks; and during what was the hottest, driest Spring on record, the back door was almost always open, with squirrels, foxes and all sorts of interesting smells within easy reach.

I’m learning from her the pleasure to be had from whiling away the time in a shady spot in the garden, taking in the almost daily changes in the natural world at this time of year.

The irises and sage flowers are fading, but lavender is beginning to bloom and with it come butterflies. Pink foxgloves have popped up in unplanned places and the first glimpses of strawberry and raspberry reds have burst into the “fruit patch”, although slugs or snails got there before I could pick any.

There is a timelessness about sitting here in the garden. Memories pop up of my Dad, who died 25 years ago in April. At this time of year, he used to find a sunny spot in a deckchair after work and soak up the early evening sun. His was a rambling country garden in the midlands; mine is a more constrained patch of south London; but backing on to others it forms a little oasis of green, birdsong more dominant during lockdown than traffic noise.

Smells take me back too. On today’s walk with Bella I plunged my nose into a fullsome white rose; its scent time-travelled me back at least 45 years to childhood attempts to make perfume potions from petals, that always disappointed.

The teens are making the most of the easing of restrictions, meeting friends and the eldest playing basketball and football. What can I do? I understand that in their limited timeframe these last ten weeks feel almost like a lifetime in which they have missed friends, their solidarity and banter. But I’m full of dread that they risk bringing sickness – or worse – into the house.

The truth is that we’re all missing something. And since news ten days ago of Dominic Cummings’ blatant flouting of the rules he himself had helped to set, it’s hard to challenge anyone who argues their needs are ‘exceptional’.

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