The following was written by Mudchute Playworker, Penny Wilson
In the early days of lockdown the spring was such a joy.
Do you remember the chicory flower coloured skies and snow falls of pink cherry blossom. Do you remember the eerie quiet and the stillness? I don’t think I had ever heard silence before.
For the first time ever I appreciated the true value of a garden and the liminal nature of our street. In other countries I have wondered about the elders who sit at a regular spot in the village, just sit and watch and nod hello and watch and sit. It’s like watching the river. Always changing.
I found myself becoming an amateur sitter. And as I sat, I thought, well, if this is the End Of Days, I am going to live and love every second I have left. I am going to cram my time full of Moments.
It struck me how I was learning a lot from the early stages of Coronavirus. You have germs. I have germs. Some of them may be very nasty. By keeping away from each other We are looking after each other. It feels like an obvious thing to say now it has become a sort of new second nature. But it felt, in those days like a new community of strangers, interdependent and mutually trusting each other with each other’s lives.
This is the sort of thing we sitters think.
We developed a protocol for our Elevensies sitting outside our street door. A cup of coffee. Three cushions or chairs for time spent together as a socially isolated group, the dance of distances with our neighbours, standing aside with a nod and a smile to make room…
So there we were on our doorstep, sitting and knitting and trying to find new words to capture the colour of the California poppies outside the neighbours house, when from high window. We heard our names echoed between the boys. ‘It’s home schooling.’ ‘Our first day’ ‘maths then literacy’. A harassed looking mum peeped out of the window and pleaded for them to do five more minutes school time, then they could have a break and a window chat with us.
They grumbled and stomped back into the improvised school room. Mum went back in to try and get some of her own work done.
And sure as anything, five minutes later their heads popped out again shouting for our attention.
‘ Penny. Penny. We’ve been writing poems. Can we read you our poems Penny? Mine’s quite long Penny, but I’ll read it to you anyway.’
So I stood like some sort of Romeo gazing up at the high window and one of the boys read me his poem.
I can’t remember the exact words, but they had strength and charm. They were about two birds. One of them flying freely and singing and exploring the skies and trees of the woodland. The other in a cage, trapped and bored and frightened.
It was the I realised that I could hear the birds singing in the absolute quiet of Tower Hamlets, and the only thing that was missing Iain the stillness of our street was the sound of children playing.
We could have that happen very easily.