Journal

This morning I woke up in my own house to sunlight. I got up and took a shower, the water pressure was great. I sat at the kitchen table and listened to the news, and then practiced my Spanish for a while. I hung out some washing to dry. Nobody came along. I had forgotten how it feels to start your day quietly and at your own pace. The weekend was an endless blur of stress and back strain, but we’re in here now, a home of our own.

The Black Lives Matter protests have become the story of the day. Hundreds of thousands of people in cities all over the world have been demonstrating for over a week. We joined the end of a march in Brixton first, hearing about it from a friend who saw it pass through Kennington and cycling out to join the fray. It was the first crowd I’d been in in months. It made the fact that people were shouting in one voice even more striking.

We’ve picked a new house. It’s going to be a house! It’ll have a garden and stairs and space for the cat, space for us to work and relax. We’re leaving in three weeks unless some recalcitrant property manager or landlord gets in the way. Outside, COVID-19 measures had begun to relax and things had begun drifting slowly toward normal. Then a few days ago the US exploded with protests against police violence in response to the murder of a man named George Floyd by a policeman in Minnesota.

The quiet of Abney Park in Stoke Newington We’re getting ready to leave the house. The idea of moving out of this place and into one of our own, already a firm intention before lockdown began, has become a serious one again. Subtly depersonalised pictures of the room we’ve spent so much time in have been taken, and posted online. We are responsible for reviewing applications for our replacements.

The sound of the birds near the sea The restrictions on movement were lifted a bit. We’re allowed to sit down in the parks rather than hurry through them on the purpose of exercise. Almost immediately, tiny groups in sunglasses and with beers in hand have appeared. We are also allowed to drive a little way for our recreation. Emma drove us down to the cliffs in Sussex.

In some other countries they’ve been re-opening society, slowly. Here things are fraying; many are talking about making decisions for their own mental wellbeing all government advice besides. On Sunday we said, “We’ll see what the Prime Minister says tomorrow.” “…If we don’t do it by those dates, and if the alert level won’t allow it, we will simply wait and go on until we have got it right.” “We will come back from this devilish illness.

We slept unhappily and woke up wary aliens to one another. I shuffled downstairs for breakfast and coffee but there wasn’t any milk. I’m known to shower first thing every morning, with stubborn regularity, but today I masochistically let the discomfort and sadness of yesterday fester on my skin and in yesterday’s clothes, which I slipped back on to lay on the bed. The cat curled up against me as I started reading, creature next to stone golem.

All week we’ve been building up to a big trip to the supermarket — the real, have-to-drive-there megastore. The others wanted the Big Shop experience; Emma wanted to give the car some use, save it from sitting unused and rusting for the duration of the spring. Some of them have also grown tired of the tight loop of stocking the kitchen just-about with grocery box deliveries and trips to the (still beloved, by me) corner shop.

Dried pasta, soap, and toilet roll are high value items. There is much hand-wringing and shaming about who goes to the shops when and to buy how much (particularly the old and the medical front line). There is also hand-wringing about lovers trying to reunite before travel restrictions get fiercer. People are guiltily cycling around London and slinking into one another’s kitchens and bedrooms. The NHS are taking volunteers for logistics workers, who will drive medicine and equipment around, drop patients off at home when they’re discharged.

During the eight o’ clock cheer, somebody was blowing bubbles that drifted down the street. I hung out the bedroom window and took more care to try and see the other people in the windows than usual. The girl who sits at her laptop in the bay window opposite was smiling and slapping at her window. Two figures in white stood at a pair of windows on the third floor opposite.