Today is a grey day. The same colour as my mood. Stepping outside at 7am the air is still and the dawn chorus subdued - the opposite of my thoughts and future plans, which keep whirling around and around in my head; like autumn leaves caught in a windy up-draught. London has been in lockdown for eight weeks. I’m finding it difficult, now.
Today the two lock bridges are empty. No need to rush. Steve spies three goslings with their Canadian mum and dad so we stop halfway across to watch them, foraging at the water’s edge. Having seen these babies, I’m now keen to get to the pond at Ham Common to check on my nesting swan. I’ve been keeping an eye on her. There is no one else around. So rare and so eerie. It is 20 minutes before we catch sight of anyone - a man, standing on the edge of the pond. Through the overgrown reeds and foliage on the little island I cannot see the usual white flash of the swan on her nest.
There’s lots of other bird life but still I can’t see the swan - that is until she glides right under my nose, showing off her six beautiful, fluffy and chirruping cygnets. All are swimming and exploring ahead of her, while she keeps a rear-guard watch on her precious family. The pond is very busy this morning - ordinary ducks, Canadian geese, swans, cygnets and the exotic Mandarin ducks; which I kept referring to as Peking ducks until the ‘walking encyclopaedia’ beside me corrected me..... Mandarin/Peking; same part of the world to me. Only difference is that one is a duck and the other is a dish on the menu of a Chinese restaurant!
On we walked. Ahead of us two big dogs leapt from separate cars, greeting each other joyfully; their tails swishing back and forth like windscreen wipers in a heavy downpour. They were so very pleased to see each other. Taking a different path we walked through Ham Woods and were instantly enclosed in a velvet green cloak of lush foliage; both calming and comforting. Emerging onto an undiscovered (to us) road we navigated our way back to the river, this time passing different homes and gardens.
I was keeping an eye on the time as we were having special guests at today’s carpark coffee. Stephen and Stephen (won’t forget their names, will I) who live in one of the bottom flats, were coming back from Folkestone. Big Stephen has his flat there and they chose to live in that during the lockdown. We have been keeping in touch via a twice-weekly FaceTime. Little Stephen entrusted me with the keys to his flat so I could collect the mail and water the plants while they were gone. I’ve really missed them. Both of them are good company and fun.
Back home I was straight into the kitchen to make peach, oat and coconut muffins. I was standing at the bench, dusting the muffins with icing sugar, when the two Stephens pulled into the car park. Both looked up through the windscreen, smiling and waving at me. How good to see them. Their smiling faces and a good early morning walk, boosted my mood no end. It was time to make the coffee, head downstairs and take our seats in the car park, along with some of the other flatmates to welcome them back.
FOOTNOTE: as I said, London has been in lockdown for eight weeks. At the beginning, and as each new day dawned, the news became more and more frightening. Death was at our door and the number of people passing away was horrifying and unbelievably sad. So many people were putting others before themselves - serving in hospitals, care homes, supermarkets and in transport. Risking their own lives and some succumbing to this awful virus. Slowly we adjusted and our life “inside” became the norm. Slowly we are emerging, having travelled through a dark tunnel and coming into the light. We are like owls; blinking in the brightness. Sometimes it feels just as scary coming out as going into lockdown. Not for everyone, as social distancing on the streets seems to have been forgotten by some. However, we are the lucky ones; we are alive and well. I am looking forward to the day we can get on a train and go and see our son.