8th May, 2020.
There is a party on my street celebrating VE-Day that I’m deliberately avoiding by sitting on a deckchair, here in my back garden, with a cool Corona beside me. I can hear the polite cacophony of middle-class jubilation well enough from here. Laughter, the occasional calls for ‘cheers!’, and an endless loop of music from generations before mine. Vera Lynn has sung The White Cliffs of Dover around nine times during this afternoon, and doubtless many more times elsewhere.
And, good! I am not a grouch, not on a day where we commemorate the dead, and certainly not a public grinch. A troll who loudly declares humbug out of some strange incessant idea that if he does it long enough, people will look past his terrible ugliness and abhorrent manner to see a wealth of character that exists only in his delusions…
No, I observed the silence, I watched wreaths laid by memorials on the news by royals and figures, and now, having remembered the past in our Ever-Moving Present, I enjoy this day to myself.
The party is not for me. I am the youngest on the street by half, excluding the giggling weans of maybe one couple, so I stick out, don’t fit anywhere, and stay in one place hoping not to be noticed, like a parrot on a perch in the middle of Crufts. The last time something like this blossomed out I stuck around to say hi, answered the endless questions about future partners and work I could never foresee, and then left after a couple hours, having consumed the polite amount of daytime beers and cocktail sausage rolls. It’s not a place for someone of my highly strung nerves and dragging spirit, so I have this garden with myself, a book for stimulation, and the sun, should It deign to shine through the clouds.
Curiosity though did beckon me to look out the front window, past the net-curtains, and see the spectacle of the Viral VE-Party. Chairs in groups of two or three, each laid out for the individual homes in the cul-de-sac, with maybe a table from the ones with forethought, all six feet apart from one another. Some longer, given the odd number of houses here. The circle of dead space in the middle was huge, but it was observed faithfully. It is the seventh week of lockdown, and restrictions are yet to be lifted for our own good. But with chipper spirit and patriotism beckoned by the calendar, and the all-important, ever-elusive Good Weather, people have found a way to enjoy their day in their own manner.
There is talk of lifting restrictions next week, a push back into normalcy. But when infections still rise and people still die within the hundreds every day, is it too soon? Is it too much to consider keeping things as they are when we can enjoy one another just fine while sticking to the rules? Should we not be finding ways to keep safe as we are.
The Old Spirit is often bombastically invoked for such things, but it would do a disservice for meddling men afraid of holes springing from their deep pockets to command us all to go back to it. The dead should be remembered, efforts thanked for, and The Present celebrated. Sacrifices for capital are a bad taste today…
I return to my deckchair. It’s admirable looking at them, but my comforts are here and I could not pretend otherwise if I had wanted to.
As I read, a bee landed on my shorts. A short fuzzy lump taking a rest a worrying distance from my groin area. My arms raised in an instant, thinking it a wasp for a second. If it had been I would have crashed my copy of Songs of the Doomed down again and again, not caring for the consequences for my future children, but the fat hairy body held me back with good sense.
Seeing a bee so still and so close was interesting, It’s large unmoving eyes, black ovals that may have been focusing on me or the hundred other things that he could observe from his position. I readjusted myself, kept reading, allowing him to rest. Eventually, he flitted off in the blink of an eye after a good few minutes. He may have reacted to me raising my hand to grab my beer, but regardless, I was alone again now. My excitement on this day-off from day-offs was done and I went back inside, content with a day well spent.