OR: If everybody in the park has a cold, how come they’re not sneezing?
Today is the second day of UK Lockdown Part 2: The Return Of The Shopping Delivery.
As serious as Covid 19 it is, and as horrendous for those who have been affected by coronavirus; this lockdown feels a little less… “locky” than last time.
A socially distanced walk down the high street reveals that a few more shops are open this time than last. (Nando’s was closed but that was due to a broken pipe.)
Yet when we got to the play area in the park, it could have been any other day of any other year.
Kids ran around gleefully, parents either chasing them frantically or sitting on their phone as their little one tumbled sideways off the bottom of the overly polished slide.
Most adults, and I include myself and my partner here, are wary of the virus and adhere to social distancing.
(Being honest, I measure two metres apart by roughly estimating two metres apart. My partner measures two metres apart by imagining the wing span of a Boeing 747. Still, better safe than sorry. Or refused take off.)
Our 3-year-old — our 7-month-old usually sleeps through all of this — embraces the playground as much now as he did pre-lockdown. More so now actually, because before lockdown he didn’t like the swings. 8 months is a long time in a pre-schooler’s life.
In fact in this sequel to the original (the one that came in the days before we had to wear masks), the playgrounds being open is an escape to innocence.
“Is it because the germs are back?”
Our son doesn’t know about coronavirus or the devastating effect it’s been having on our world.
The only time it may have had a direct effect was when we saw his Nanny, my partner’s Mum, during the first lockdown days.
Worried that he may have caught something from pre-school, we were cautious about him getting too close.
It was all so stark back then, wasn’t it?
Then today, as he was flying up in the air at a height close to that achieved by a Boeing 747 — ironically not a height that my partner is comfortable with — a little girl ran to the swing next to us.
“Don’t go on that one,” panicked her Mum as her daughter bounded towards it.
The little girl, probably about two years old with blonde, bouncy curls as if she knew she’d feature in this narrative and had mistaken it for a fairytale, stopped.
(If only Goldilocks had payed more attention to her Mum, those bears wouldn’t have had to pay for new furniture.)
“That swing is too close,” the Mum said, pointing to the ones on the next frame. “Let’s go on these ones instead.”
“Okay Mummy,” said the girl as she dropped her head and wandered across the bouncy grey flooring.
“Is it because the germs are back?”
It was a very matter-of-fact question. It was as matter-of-fact as the notice in Nando’s window that said the pipe was broken.
“Yes,” said her Mum. “It’s because the germs are back.”
It felt dystopian. It felt real.
It added a new reality to the constant information about the pandemic and wearing a mask. Words that are truly dreadful but seem to have become commonplace in 2020.
The girl smiled at her Mum in the way that children do when they are sharing the information they’ve been taught. Mummy would be proud.
Her Mum just looked stressed and a little sad as she produced an anti-bac wipe to cleanse the various chains and bars of the swing.
I felt sad too.
The innocence of the park, the sheer escapism of playing in a child’s environment, usually untouched by the ridiculous self-importance of the adult world, had been sullied.
Life was real again.
Then, all of a sudden. It wasn’t.
“WEEEEEEE! I’m catching the clouds!”
My son shouted as he rose up, both arms in the air and head tilted back at an angle that meant he giggled upside down as he swung back.
The germs are back. Although, they never went away, did they?
Hopefully if we can stay as far away as plane wings, they’ll have vanished beyond those clouds our son was trying to grab.
Then we can all sit side-by-side on the swings and just play. That’ll be a good day.
(It’ll be even better if Nando’s gets that pipe fixed and we can go for lunch afterwards!)