As with many castles Chateau L has a moat and a fully functioning drawbridge. We are a welcoming bunch and so normally the drawbridge is down. People come and go as they please, and it is only when we go on holiday and need the extra security that we raise it. And release the crocs, lions and so on.
Right now the drawbridge is up and the portcullis down. And we, the residents, are behind it. This is most unusual, but then again we are in a very unusual situation. Like many, I am aggrieved that my life has been so disrupted. My holiday plans - and predictably there were loads - have been blown away in the blink of an eye. Israel, Argentina, Venice and Finland are all cancelled. A family trip to see my Grandmother in America in May will almost certainly go the same way and even now, in March, I am not remotely confident that a summer holiday to Croatia will go ahead. All my advance planning, all my squirrelling of air-miles and real money, all my research into nice things to do and see, all my mental bird lists. First world problems as they say, and very very selfish. I am also having to work from home on a permanent basis which I do not enjoy. I am one of the lucky ones though that can work from home, others have jobs where they cannot, or jobs that have simply evaporated into thin air. Imagine being in the hospitality trade right now, or being a hairdresser or taxi driver?
Now that we are officially in lockdown, which unfortunately was entirely predictable given the mass migrations to coastal beauty spots, national parks and second homes at the weekend, my thoughts are inevitably drawn to what I can do. And like many I pondered the Government statement on the rules and wondered where particular lines were drawn. In short, I wondered how I could bend them to my advantage, which is probably a natural reaction.
My eyes lit up on the "you may exercise once a day" or whatever it said. Ah-hah! Right, once a day I will "exercise" on Wanstead Flats, and I will take binoculars as they would be lonely at home. Up until today I had not actually done this. I confess that on reflection I felt a little stupid birding even in a loose group on Saturday, even though we tried our best to remain six feet apart. This was before the lockdown of course, but it really hit home when something I read compared the possibility of sharing recently exhaled air, even outdoors, with that exhaled by vapers. How often do you seem to walk through a cloud of fruity air whilst out and about, even though the nearest e-smoker is some distance away? I think the problem with this virus lies in it being invisible and undetectable. It lulls us into a false sense of security. None of the gang were coughing on Saturday. Well, apart from Richard but he assures us that he's had it since before Coronavirus was a thing. Oh and Bob, but he is always coughing and has done for years. But we were all breathing....
I have been mulling over this since Saturday and this morning I decided to go out and see what it was like. By myself, just me. So with a spring in my step from three full days of not leaving the house, just before eight I trotted out onto Wanstead Flats for a spot of birding. Sorry, I mean exercise.
Good grief. Wrong decision! It was positively heaving for so early in the day. Dog walkers, joggers, walkers, cyclists....And me, contributing to the problem. As birders we tend to be well versed in actively avoiding people, but this took all my skill built up from years of practice. People seemingly made bee-lines for me. I found myself constantly dodging into copses, doing wide loops off the path, all while people out and about serenely carried on in straight lines. If you asked a resident of any of the major cities that this has so far affected what their view of a London "lockdown" is, you may be surprised at what you hear. We are useless, completely useless. Yes it is a big city, and yes there are not that many large open areas, but come on! If several million people go outside every morning for a nice stroll (including many who probably wouldn't normally even visit a park!) then far more draconian measures are just over the horizon.
So I find myself asking if I really need to go out in future. I know I want to, but do I actually need to? I can do my best to avoid people, but with the best will in the world it is virtually impossible in Wanstead, there are just too many people in too small a space.
I think it comes down to this. The only guaranteed way of not catching COVID-19 is to stay home. This has the added benefit of also not transmitting it to anyone, just in case one of us actually already has it and does not know about it. We don't feel particularly vulnerable, but plenty of people we would normally see or meet might well be. As far as our family goes, I am the one who has undergone the most segregation from the fine citizens of London - my last trip on the tube was 13 days ago. But my kids were still in school only four days ago, as was Mrs L. They, and hence me too, are well in the infectious zone, but each day that goes by, each day that we can keep this up and remain symptom free is another day closer to safety and some semblance of peace of mind. If I can get up in time, I may do one further trial much much earlier in the morning in the hope of avoiding the new "rush hour", but what I am not going to do is reset the clock every day just to get a bit of birding in. It is just common sense and decency.
Drawbridge up, portcullis down.