Today's Calls, Part 5: celebration or caution?

from Today's Calls: Pandemic Pieces on BBC Radio Devon by Kimwei



Today calls for celebration because it’s your birthday and everything is open again. We can even stay out overnight, so perhaps a campervan trip to Dartmoor, where the hedges have grown high with 3 months of no trimming and we strain our necks to see the rolling fields over their wild heights. The sheep have grown shaggy and bold in our absence, sitting right in our path until we honk and swerve around them. We drive slow though a lane lined with bracken and brown cows - each has a pure white stripe and a feeding calf and we’re so close we could touch their fur, which is long enough that I ask why it is we don’t shear cows and knit with their wool. You say how this is the best birthday ever as we park up on a hill, brew tea at sunset, and drink in both, as if for the first time.

Today calls for caution because even though they say Grandad can go back to work, I’m not so certain he should. At 64, ok that’s not 70, but he’s never been quite fit, starts to drown whenever he gets the flu until the doc gives him some meds to fight the phlegm and then he can breathe again. I hate the thought of him going to into people’s houses every day, putting up their shelves, hanging doors. I wake up in the night when his face flashes into my dream, pale through a ventilator mask and I want to call him right then and tell him not to do it but I know he’ll just growl and ask if I can pay his bills then. I can’t.

Today calls for celebration because the whole town is open and compared to the emptiness of lockdown, this feels like a carnival. I walk up the high street as if tugging at an invisible leash, to the park where my friends are waiting. I’ve got my favourite sunflower patterned mask on and they have their own styles: one wears a halloween grin, another a rainbow. We beam like the sun to see each other and I can see their eyes smiling. We take up our drums, make a semi-circle spaced 2 meters apart, I raise the whistle to my lips, then we all raise our drumsticks in the air and I give the signal, and BANG, our first rehearsal in 3 months begins.

Today calls for caution because the shops are crammed, the streets so are full I can’t go anywhere and stay shielded. I wish everyone would wear a mask - do they know that when they don’t they confine me to these 4 walls? I set an alarm for 3am, dress, and stroll down to the stir quiet beach, to the startling flatness of the water and the harvest moon on it like a glowing island. I keep thinking about how we have all lost someone by now, or know someone who has lost someone. I walk back, hollow. The boys who race their cars on the seafront have given up their game for the night, but they have left their mark - a stone wall to the public gardens with a car shaped bite in it: ruined, caved in.

Today calls for celebration for everyone except for the cat, who had the city to herself till now. But the humans and cars are back and she’s terrified, shooting in through the cat-flap all big tail and screeching. We decide we have to do something - she’s shredding the sofa on a daily basis. I remember we’ve got a cat-harness with a lead somewhere, so I dig it up, wrestle her into it and we carry her to the park across the road, setting her down by a tree she might scratch. Instead she shoots straight up it, pulling on the lead in my hand. I’m scared she’ll strangle herself. You say “let go”, I say “I’ll never get her down”, you say “then you’d better get up then with her”, so I do, pulling myself onto a low branch and settling till she stops her meowling and picks her way down to me. We carry her home gently, place her lovingly on the carpet and instantly she runs to claw the sofa.



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