I am now in a “support bubble”. This means that I can go round to my mum and dad’s and actually go inside, that they can come to mine and actually come inside, and that I have actually had a hug for the first time in 12 weeks. I have also had a cream tea of sorts (tea in a takeaway cup, scone in a wrapper) somewhere other than my own garden for the first time since the middle of March. And I have been round the gardens at Quarry Bank Mill and Tatton Park. And, hooray, the Premier League resumes next week. Now, if I could just have my hair cut and coloured, so that I could a) stop having to clean spray-on wash-in hair dye out of the bath and b) look rather less like I’m about to start singing an ’80s power ballad … . OK, I’m always singing ’80s power ballads, but the look doesn’t really work in 2020. But hooray for support bubbles, scones and snapdragons.
Has anyone else wondered if somehow they’ve fallen down a rabbit hole into a world where everything’s completely mad? I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare and the (Mad) Hatter all turned up on my doorstep.
I cannot think of any other time in history, or even in myth or legend, where you haven’t been allowed to hug your own family and friends. It really is strange. But, hey, thanks to the support bubble, we’re getting somewhere! A “support bubble” is an arrangement between a single adult household and one other household to form a “bubble” within which social distancing need not be observed. Fortunately, our situation’s straightforward. Mum and Dad are together, so I didn’t have to choose between them. My sister isn’t a single adult household, so they didn’t have to choose between her and me.
And, hooray, unlike Dunham Massey and Lyme Park, Quarry Bank Mill (Styal) and Tatton Park are letting people into the gardens. Even better, the weather has actually behaved this weekend. Blue sky! It feels like … well, it feels like the grass court season should be here, but it isn’t. Oh well. But at least there are flowers. It’s so lovely to see big gardens, full of flowers, again.
And so peaceful. The public parks, especially at weekends, are full of kids on bikes, adults on bikes, kids on scooters, dogs … it’s like playing some sort of computer game in which you have to try to steer a path (at a 6 foot distance!) between all the hazards. That’s why I’ve kept saying how ridiculous it was that big estates like Tatton Park were closed. With so few places open, it was inevitable that we’d all be crowding into public parks.
Tatton Park, although National Trust members don’t have to pay to go into the house (which isn’t open ATM) or gardens, isn’t run by the NT, and, with all due respect to the NT, its management have shown a lot more sense, by getting the tearoom open. The nice Gardener’s Cottage is shut, but The Stables tearoom is open for takeaways. There’s a big outdoor seating area in the courtyard anyway, and more space has been made so that more tables and chairs can go out there. They must have made a lot of money today. Good for them. It made me think of Mrs Merriwether in Gone With The Wind, pulling herself together and selling her pies, instead of bemoaning the collapse of her world. A lot of local cafes and restaurants are doing takeaways now. Good for all of them. I very much hope that they all survive this horrible time.
And I really needed those peaceful gardens this week, because there seems to be so much anger and hatred everywhere. What happened to all that talk, in April, about community spirit, when Captain Tom Moore was inspiring us all? This week’s been awful. Say you’re upset because someone vandalised a statue of the man who saved Britain from the Nazis, and someone accuses you of being a racist. Point out that most policemen would are neither racist nor violent, and someone accuses you of “white privilege”. How did the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests become twisted like this? The Guardian newspaper prints a cartoon depicting Priti Patel as a bull with a ring through her nose. Whilst you don’t expect decency from what the Guardian‘s become, overt racism, and in a way that’s also religiously offensive, from a well-known newspaper is very shocking, particularly so at a time when so many people have been speaking out about the damage done by racism. A woman who’s been a victim of sexual violence says that she thinks there’s a need for single sex spaces, and she’s threatened with rape. What is going on here? These are very difficult times. We need to be working together, not hurling vile abuse at each other.
And as for the fact that, after 12 weeks of working from home, we still haven’t had so much as one e-mail asking if we’re OK …
But we have support bubbles. And we have scones. And we have gardens. And we have each other. And, this weekend, we also have sunshine!