Last week we celebrated my birthday with a couple of days away on the South Downs. Two years ago was rather different. While Boris Johnson was comfortably accepting assurances that he never broke any rules, we were worrying about whether we were allowed to sit down and eat a cereal bar half way through our permitted daily exercise. Spoiler alert: we did.

Friday 17 April 2020

It is 5 weeks since I went to a café. That old, BC (Before Covid) life is fast disappearing. It seems another century, another era.

The Easter weekend was dominated by skating. On Bank Holiday Monday we did the big one – skating into Central London – through Barnes, over Putney Bridge and up the King’s Road. Familiar places with the unfamiliar feel of almost empty roads. The London plane trees are now fringed in yellow/green and the sun glinted off the river at Putney in a spectacular way.

We saw three other people when we rested on a bench in Sloane Square to eat a cereal bar (is that allowed?). Otherwise it was just the ghost of Peter Jones. Will I ever shop there again?

We skated up a deserted Sloane Street to Hyde Park, with its few central London residents scattered around. We paused by the Albert Memorial, admiring the overabundance of gold leaf, and headed for Brompton Cemetery and home. Unlike Hyde Park, Brompton Cemetery was heaving – joggers, cyclists and a couple of other skaters.

The whole trip was over 20 miles. We felt very proud of ourselves and absolutely knackered. I haven’t done 20 miles since my marathon days.

After that I didn’t go out on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Tom and I had a casual stroll along the tow path. And on Thursday my sole exercise was a trip to Tesco Express. It is much less crowded now, though I was annoyed that the young guy in front of me was pissing about photographing aubergines. I couldn’t move until he had finished. Like Paddington Bear, I tried a hard stare. Maybe exchanging photographs of aubergines is the new substitute for sex.

Spring is moving fast – gloriously, abundantly. Candles are now out on horse chestnuts. The cherry blossom is drifting into gutters, to be replaced with apple blossom and wisteria. Tom photographs bluebells.

The big event of the week was Tom’s birthday. I wrapped a large pile of presents, mainly gathered before the last milonga when I wandered around Soho, visiting the Algerian Coffee Store – a long, long time ago. Tom was particularly taken by Botts Every Flavour Beans. Zoomed Mike and Gilly (our son and his wife), ate simnel cake and watched Belgravia. Not quite the ballet at the Royal Albert Hall that I had paid for, but a birthday all the same.

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