The rules for England’s lockdown changed yesterday, so we were able to escape Putney for the first time since, well, before we can remember, or so it seems.
In the last hundred days or so we have done not very much at all; some tennis, some golf (me anyway), some runs and walks. In the last week or so we have met up with friends in “socially distanced” gardens.
On Saturday morning, we were on the motorway when dawn broke. The roads were packed later in the day by all accounts, with as many as a third of all cars in the country out and about, but England was still sleeping during our journey. We were in the North by mid-morning; as we crossed into Lancashire the rain lashed down on the M6. Plus ca change, as they say here in Morecambe Bay.
Today the sun shone, it rained as well and the wind blew nicely. All in all, a typical day on the Lancashire coast. We are back in London in a day or so, but the government has given us further freedoms. What next I wonder?
We had a hike around the parks and commons of south west London today. It was a training day.
On some less than idle occasions over the last couple of years, I have undertaken a couple of long walks. A 100 kilometres yomp on both occasions, each of which has taken the best part of 24 hours to complete.
The organisers put on seven or eight of these long hauls around the English countryside each year. In 2020, all events have been cancelled so far. However, the Idle Skiers are signed up for a 50 kilometre walk at the end of September, starting and finishing in Henley and taking in the Chiltern hills.
We have no idea at all at the moment whether it will take place, but we thought we might get a few kilometres under our belts just in case.
On a blustery morning, which improved no end towards mid-day and then turned to heavy showers in the afternoon, we did a couple of circuits of Richmond Park, before leaving through the Robin Hood Gate, crossing the A3 and making our way home via Wimbledon Common and Putney Heath.
We covered about 27 kilometres in total, which is the furthest we have been on foot for a while. Skiing is far easier, but the June snow in Putney and Wimbledon is notoriously poor.
A similar trip is planned soon, probably just because it is there to be done. The Chiltern hills might have to wait until next year.
Golf courses are under strict rules at the moment, with social distancing required. Most amateur golfers have little trouble with that anyway, as we disappear into the trees in search of the elusive ball.
My golf season got underway today at the RAC. Under the new regime, the driving range is closed and each of the two courses has a starter to ensure the players stay apart.
So my first shot since early December was made under the watchful eye of one of the club’s professionals. No pressure at all.
To make things easier, I applied the Idle Skier’s first rule of golf, which is “leave the driver in the bag”. A five iron from the tee went about 130 yards and slightly to the right of centre of the fairway. A decent start. Even the professional seemed relieved.
It was hot day and as so often when I have not played for a while, my golf was warmish as well. So it was a good walk, not spoiled at all. It won’t last, the standard of golf that is, not the weather.
An essential part of golf for most players, in fact possibly the only reason most turn up at all, is the nineteenth hole. The doors were firmly closed though. If this lockdown doesn’t end soon, people will be breaking them down.
We have been let off the leash a little here in the U.K., just one small step towards freedom. For us, this meant the opportunity to play tennis for the first time since, well, Adam was a lad.
The courts where we play opened today. Yesterday, it was almost impossible to get through to them on the phone, but at lunchtime all was quiet.
So the long standing tennis rivalry between the Idle Skiers has picked up once more. It doesn’t happen that often, but I beat Mrs. IS in a short third set, played to break the deadlock from the first two sets.
The restaurants at the RAC are closed still, but afterwards we managed to buy a couple of sandwiches at the half way house on the Coronation golf course. As we ate them, a deer and its very young fawn emerged from the trees onto the eighteenth fairway. That was a real surprise.
If all this has to go on much longer, the bears from London zoo will be shopping on Oxford Street.
A hard fought tennis match brought a 3 – 6, 6 – 3, 2 – 0 result in favour of the Idle Skier. It will be different next time, I am afraid.
Sunny bank holidays bring a sleepy contentment to London’s suburbs and today, despite everything, was no different. Although it is early in May, it has been a hot. The parks and commons have been busy, but with still fewer people on the streets than has become usual.
It is not often we have a bank holiday on a Friday, but is the seventy fifth anniversary of VE Day. It should have been a day of celebration, but street parties, parades and church services have been cancelled.
I had to go to Barnes this morning. It is just a few miles round trip for us, but at the moment, it seems like a journey to the moon. I took the car and Mrs IS came along to do some sightseeing. It is a while since we have seen anything beyond Putney High Street and the Heath.
There was bunting on a few houses and some Union flags flying, but by and large, south west London seemed to be dozing through the day. It should be sunny again tomorrow, but then it is set to turn cooler. Let’s hope it is just the weather which is taking another downward turn.
It rained today for the most part, with an outbreak of sunshine late on.
We opened the champagne this evening though, despite everything going on in the world. At 5.31pm today, I logged off from the office computer. After 36 years and six months lawyering, I have retired.
The cup on the right of the photograph refers to the Lord Nelson Inn, Southwold, which I have mentioned previously is our favourite pub in the British Isles. As a retirement trip, we should be in Southwold (and the Nellie) in a couple of weeks time, but that seems unlikely to say the least.
In the words of the great Yogi Berra (the baseball player, not the resident of Jellystone Park), “it ain’t over till it’s over”, so it might be more accurate to say I have almost retired. I do have some consultancy work to do for the firm still. That said, the heavy lifting is done.
This morning, I was talking on the phone to a colleague who lives nearby when a plane went overhead; we shouted “plane” simultaneously. A single flight caused as much excitement as when the Wright brothers took to the air in 1903.
On any given Monday, in fact any day of the week, in times past (is it really only a few weeks) the planes headed over Putney and into Heathrow so frequently that three would be visible at any one moment. The long haul flights would come in during the the very early morning, followed by the European commuter traffic and so on through the day. As I write, in the mid evening, the flight paths would be busy still, but tonight the sky is empty.
It is not the only plane we have seen in the last few weeks of course, but I have wondering all day where this one came from and who was on it.
On the ground in Putney, we continue with the “new normal”. Meals seem to have become more important and comfort food is high on the list. In the last few days, we have had steak and mushroom pudding and chocolate cake. It is a good job we are running most days, otherwise, when we ever exit this lockdown, we would have to do so sideways.
For those in the front line of this pandemic, it must be the most testing of times. For the rest of us though, it is not so much “keep calm and carry on” as “keep calm and do nothing very much”.
We have been in London for almost a month now. The days pass quickly, quite remarkably so. The minutiae of daily life keeps us occupied and we have most definitely caught up on our reading. On the other hand, it seems an eternity since we landed back in the U.K. Time seems to have speeded up and slowed simultaneously.
Putney is quieter with each passing day. The high street looks like an Edwardian photograph, with just a few cars and buses in sight. London squirrels and foxes have always been pretty confident animals, but now they strut the town as if they own the place. Even the wild flowers are making their way off the Heath and taking root in suburban gardens.
Today has been a working day and tomorrow is the same. As for Wednesday, I have checked my diary and I see that I have pencilled in tidying my sock drawer.
The Idle Skiers have been back in the Smoke for a week now. Except, it’s not the Smoke at all anymore. The number of people travelling each day has dropped to a fraction of normal times. Here in Putney, we are at the junction of the South Circular Road and a major road to the A3; traffic and pollution are facts of life. Overhead, planes head into Heathrow in a more or less constant stream.
Central London has been quiet for a few days, but today the first time there was a real difference in the suburbs. The roads were almost deserted. We saw one plane taking off from Heathrow to the north east. I am sure there were more, but Putney too is quietened.
The weather has been mixed for the last couple of days, with rain interspersed by sunshine; yesterday afternoon it sleeted for a while. Tonight though, the clouds have cleared and in their place, a crescent moon shines brightly.
Our horizons have shrunk to home, mixed with a quick dash to the supermarket and the occasional run on Putney Heath. The internet means that work continues for me almost as normal, despite everything. We need more life skills though. An ability to cut hair would be a good start.
After a few months away, I was by necessity forced to the supermarket yesterday. After all the press comment on shops being stripped bare, the shelves were fuller than expected. It can be worse on a normal Sunday.
As I made my way around the supermarket, I thought I would buy Mrs IS some flowers, it being Spring and all that. When I reached home, I took them in first, so they weren’t crushed. Mrs IS was crestfallen; “Is that all” she said, imagining a diet of daffodils for the week. All I can say is, you do your best.
We are though starting from ground zero in terms of food supplies and with the supermarkets rationing what you can buy, we might yet be eating the flowers.