Shakespeare in windy streets with the Rabbi.

A sharp fresh wind is persistent in the quiet streets of London, moving the air from corners that have been stagnant for decades. The sun is bright and clean, like alpine sun. I have been describing a large circle through a town in lockdown, avoiding contact, observing and considering. It’s 11.45. There’s a queue outside Marks and Spencers. Everything else is shut and isn’t going to open at all. M&S open at noon. The queue is longer than it would normally be as each person in line is isolating themselves from the person in front of them. It’s hilarious and strange and sad. I walk past semi visible in my triple filtered gas mask, ski jacket and gloves.

For breakfast I had cold gammon and eggs with reblochon. I mourned the lack of good chutney. We all have a cross to bear. On the whole I’ve eaten very well in this enforced downtime, primarily because I’ve got a well stocked larder and the time to think about how to put it all together. If I could find a way to manufacture the peaceful headspace I’ve found myself in over the last few days and keep it despite having a show in the evening… Pehaps if could learn that trick I’d live a bit longer.

The city is flushing. That’s what it feels like. All the shops have colourful signs on the doors telling us how much they value our custom but sorry they’re closed. The wind rushes past their bolted doors, down the empty roads. The traffic noise, usually my constant companion at home, is now just an occasional engine. For however long it takes, people are cutting back on moving. On everything.

I am joined in my sunny morning walk by my local rabbi. We’re making friends through the mask. He loves his Shakespeare. In some ways he’s a valuable consumer. A fan. He brings me a box set of BBC Shakespeare on DVD. It’s a lovely thought and I accept it smiling. I’m not sure I’ll watch much of it. I’ll try a few. It stinks of miscast famous people being impressively impressive on camera. The rabbi loves his Shakespeare but he’s clearly dumping it on me. “I’ll get it back to you when this all blows over.” “No no, keep it keep it.” I might even have to watch one ahead of the next time we meet: “Oh and wasn’t Helen Mirren just wonderful as Rosalind?” I’ll dig out the boxes and see who’s in them. Maybe watch one of the plays I don’t know so well.

The magnolias are out and nobody is on the streets to see them. This precious time when we shift into Spring. The daffodils and the warm winds, the sun and the memories. Partly I was walking to think. I can’t think too well alone in the flat. I grew up playing in the garden. And it’s Mother’s Day today. I always need to think at this time of year, as the death anniversary swings round again and hits me in the back of the head like a wiffle ball. And I am terrible at thinking without moving as many of you who know me well will attest.

Happy Mother’s Day. Happy Spring. I hope this blows out with the spring winds, or we are going to have a shitty summer. I’m off to chant for better things.

Tomorrow I might stop leaving the house altogether despite all my precautions… Lockdown means lockdown don’t you know? Oh the times…



Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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