Waking up in York, having finished my job, I had the day to myself to get back to London. A beautiful day behind the wheel of a van. I got lost in Yorkshire.
At one point I drove down a little path – so unused that the grass between the tyre tracks was worryingly high. I thought I might get stranded so I drove faster than sensible to chop it or be able to coast. It was so narrow there would be no turning so I pushed on as far as a closed gate. “Beware of the bull” said the gate. Shit.
There was a bull near our place in Jersey. It once chased my half brothers as they cut across the field. I didn’t want to be chased by a bull. Nobody wants to get injured enough to go to hospital generally, and these days doubly so.
I very carefully opened the gate as the only way forward was through. I inspected the horned beasts for udders and was satisfied I was in no immediate danger when they all seemed to be women and to be profoundly uninterested in me, just hanging out and chewing.
I made it through the field, and closed all the gates, without getting rushed. I then decided to try and observe the delights of Yorkshire from the safety of the van. Isolated and safe from bulls. And eejits.
This decision bore out when I got to Ripley. I did almost a decade of summers, around this time, playing happy Shakespeare in the grounds of Ripley Castle. In all the years I did it I’ve NEVER seen so many people sitting around on the lawns and every spot of open grass. The ice cream shop was open. Because ice cream is essential…?
With no pubs open and nothing else, everybody from all the neighbouring villages had descended on this tiny little boutique town with one road. I drove through in slow-mo like I was in a zombie movie. Then I drove round and through one more time, getting a couple of snatched photos in places that used to be significant in those sunny times – places that weren’t thronged with people.
I’m not sure if it comforted me or annoyed me that people are as thoughtless in Yorkshire as they are in London. It seems everybody on my Facebook is being careful and then I look out the window.
I put a fire under myself and motored back in record time, through the deserted A roads, occasionally stopping for petrol, frequently deliberately puddle-ducking down little lanes, taking in the countryside from the van, getting a sense of how little is open, but how many people are defiantly gathering in outdoor spaces in large numbers. Under different circumstances it would be great to think so many people are playing outside, connecting with nature and taking pleasure from natural beauty. But it can’t help but ring strangely with me when it’s likely there’ll be a second spike of this as a result and who knows who will suffer.
Then I got home and discovered that my lovely neighbor, who now reads this occasionally, is terrified of snakes. Best get Hex back home. I’ve been looking for an excuse to go live in Hampstead. Looks like I’ve found it.