Eventually there had to be some kind of upside to Coronavirus lockdown, the stay at home sentence which bans spending time with anyone outside of your household or going out for non-essential reasons.
The mental health challenges are obvious. We put all plans on hold. We have to process the grief of everything being turned upside down. We are lonely and miss people.
But I have noticed that neighbours are rallying together. In the development where I live, flats are either studios, one or two bedrooms. They are small spaces. We keep mainly to ourselves in a way that Londoners do. I’ve written about this before – it’s the big city bubble, the mutual agreement not to disturb each other. Now that we’re trapped though, it’s time to communicate.
One neighbour figures out how many steps it takes to walk round the large car park of the development and we chat as we try to keep steps up on our permitted exercise breaks. Another helps to get my bike road worthy so I can take a wobbly spin round the now quiet streets. People ask if you need anything from the shops. That sense of community is here. Things had to get pretty bleak first, but here we are.
Delivery drivers bring us goods from the distant outside world. I thank them profusely. They are working without enough protection to keep us supplied. Along with the Internet, they are our lifelines.
On my daily walks, I observe my neighbours like never before. There are couples on balconies, the ones who share a bottle of wine on their patio or the ones who exercise together. There is a family who sit outside with their shisha pipe, whilst others entertain babies and toddlers. We’re all in this thing together now, trying to make the best of our homes, trying to stay well and healthy.
Nature is also booming. Is it my eyes or do the flowers seem brighter? The tulips bursting open towards the sun, the daffodils in every corner, pink blossom dancing in trees. Squirrels are getting bold, ravaging inside plant pots and finding treasure. Birds sing to accompany my fractured sleep. Cats swagger around, blissfully free of the virus worries. Look, they seem to be saying, when humans stop messing up the world we can actually enjoy it too.
So the neighbourhood returns. And in a strange way, so does hope.