Looking at Stoke Newington


journal covid-19 london

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. Young professional, woman, 27, media. Smiley headshot, second photo featuring Aperol Spritz. In the meantime I’m sitting in the armchair. I’m watching the kitten bound around with a mouse toy in her mouth, jumping over Emma who’s dozing in bed. I’m looking at the bookshelves, two of them double-stacked on every shelf. All of it says that the life we have is getting too big for the place we’re in.

We’ve been cycling up to north London, to Stoke Newington. The forty minute journey is a little trip into our potential future. A few days ago we went up there and sat in a local park to see Emma’s friend, who is also living in the potential future, somewhat more idly shopping for flats to buy. He and Emma send RightMove links back and forth. More recently she and I went together and sat in an old graveyard that had been made a public park. We walked down the high street and tried to imagine in outside of its plague state: with people inside the restaurants and pubs rather than in queues outside the food shops with their masks on. We liked what we imagined. We imagined the breakdown on inside and out the pub in the summers as people spill onto the pavement. We imagined the cosy recess of the bookshop on a winter evening.

I’m going to be a little untethered from the present now that I’m thinking about this other time and place. We are still here for now. Last night we made everybody gnocchi and too many cocktails and sat out in the warm evening until midnight. But a lot of my mind is now idly making inventories of our possessions to remember to take away. My dreams take place in a mishmash of all of the flats we’ve looked at online and liked.

I’ve taken next week off work; I was sick of feeling stressed about it. I don’t have any great ambitions for the time: pin down the new flat, keep exercising, do some reading. I know in my heart I’ll spend all the time thinking about the life Emma and I will soon be expanding into.

P.S. I don’t think I can talk enough about the newfound joy on riding the bike around the city. It’s being found for the first time by so many people at the moment; we’re all just floating around the place in a way we didn’t know was possible.