After seven weeks of lockdown in England, we’ve taken the first faltering steps back to normality. It’s just a small step for the moment. For me, though, it means I’m no longer confined to walking distance of home. I can get in the car and visit places again.
Trouble is, nothing much is yet open. But simply to jump in the car and drive out of London was an adventure after so many weeks cooped up at home and in the immediate neighbourhood.
Right from the start, I have never perceived much a risk in driving – it’s the next best thing to floating around in a sanitised bubble. On the other hand, the problems start when you get out of the car. But that’s where common sense comes in.
There can now be few people who are not aware of the need for social distancing, frequent hand washing (to one chorus of Happy Birthday) and the importance of masks if they must use public transport. It’s not too difficult to remember and it all makes a big difference.
Still, whatever government slogans are promoted, there’s no substitution for good old common sense – something which many people seem to lack these days if the media is to be believed. After the fright of lockdown, it is clear some people are expecting the government to tell them when to brush their teeth in the safest way possible. In reality, despite the worries of the politicians and journalists, I think the general public in this country is pretty sensible and well aware of what has to be done.
My first drive was a short hop of 12 miles to the RAC’s country club, Woodcote Park, which reopened for golf and walking yesterday. The clubhouse itself was shuttered, and no drinks or snacks were in evidence. But the walks over the Epsom Downs are invigorating and impressive.
From the far end of the grounds, I was able to look down on the famous Epsom racecourse. It was a simple trip, no real objective, but it was definitely a change from walking near home, pretty as that is. I’ve walked a groove in most of the home paths in the past seven weeks.
From Woodcote Park, it is only a short drive to another of my regular haunts – Brooklands at Weybridge. Sadly, the museum grounds remain shuttered and it could be another couple of months before this type of attraction is allowed to reopen.
Since writing the valedictory article, the day before the museum closed in the middle of March, I’ve been more or less out of circulation. And this is one of the outings I’ve missed most during the lockdown. Normally, I can be found there once or twice every fortnight and I admit withdrawal symptoms have been painful. I was severely in need of a new injection, even from afar.
With this in mind, I couldn’t resist parking up and taking a peek over the River Wey towards the old clubhouse and the pre-war race fettling sheds. I was reminded that the river isn’t always a good neighbour. It has a habit of flooding and minor incursions are frequent. A few years ago the entire museum was engulfed and was closed for many months. Sadly, some famous old cars and motorcycles – including our friend Don Morley’s Brough Superior, were badly damaged and had to be painstakingly restored or written off.
With the sun shining obligingly, and the Jaguar I-Pace humming along, I felt more optimistic today than I have done in the past couple of months. I was impressed by the way everyone I encountered on today’s outing was adhering to social distancing. Even on the country paths at Woodcote Park, the occasional walker coming in the opposite direction would make an extravagant loop in the interests of distance signalling.
I even made a stop at the Cobham service area on the M25 motorway, taking the opportunity to top up the car’s battery. Arrangements were sensible, with just a few take-away facilities open and strategically distanced tables and chairs arranged outside. For the summer, this is a liveable sort of situation and we’ll get used to it.
Normal service to be resumed
There is obviously a long way to go on the road back to normal service. And there’s always the danger than a resurgence of the virus could force us all back to home confinement. But I’m feeling optimistic and hoping that we are on a gradual road to recovery. It’s surprising how just a little slack goes a long way to improving the public mood.
This week’s relaxations have also improved my phojo. Apart from a few desultory attempts, I haven’t done much photography since March. Indeed, 2020 is looking like it could be a real fallow period and I really must pull my socks up.
On today’s preliminary outing, I took out the Sony RX100 and the Leica SL2 with that old dog, the 135mm f/4.5 Hektor (named after Max Berek’s dog) which had I dusted down while working on David Askham’s excellent review of its successor, the 135mm f/4 Elmar-M which was published yesterday.
Despite this old lens being something of a fading star in the Leica firmament, it’s fun, cheap and produces what is euphemistically called “the classic look”. See what you think.