Reflections from a home front: 1
On Wednesday, the husband and I staged an early morning raid on Boots, returning triumphant with one pack of paracetemol and one tiny bottle of hand sanitiser apiece. The gleaming green contraband miniatures, furtively produced from below the counter on whispered request, now have pride of place on the kitchen dresser. An odd start to another of these increasingly odd days.
Just as unimaginable a few weeks ago would have been the deserted streets, now cleared of every last student, tourist and tout. The river, too, is as clean as the Venice canals, with only the moorhens to stir the water. Older residents are recalling the Cambridge of their youth; for younger ones it’s a complete novelty. But the silent cityscape, like all the others flashed on our screens in last night’s news, feels like the most insistent reminder (and somehow they’re needed, so unreal seems the situation) of what is actually happening in the world. Especially poignant, as I walked through the streets in a state of heightened awareness, were the serried ranks of laminated posters flapping about on all the church railings.
Here is the poem that began in my head as I cycled home, listening to the birdsong on the fen. You can hear me read it by clicking on the play button.
Round town the railing posters still remain
Like shiny prayer flags flapping in the breeze,
Recitals clean forgotten, plays unstaged,
Classes culled, unfinished symphonies.
The cherry’s sparrows chatter unaware,
The darkling thrush still trembles out his soul.
Sing for us now, you creatures of the air,
Until the day our songs can rise once more.