Street/life

I never thought much about being able to walk down a street.

It’s something you do every day, to get to your car, to the train station, to the bus stop, to the school, to the shop, to your neighbour’s house. You leave your house and walk down the street. You don’t even necessarily look around you. You’re busy with your phone, or maybe you have kids with you, or maybe you’re thinking about what’s going to go on at work today, or will you get to the train on time.

But that’s all changed now. Going out onto the street, out into the world, really feels like an adventure.

Compared to being in the four walls of home all day, going out into the street is like some kind of a treat, something to be treasured. “Outside time” is now so precious, it’s a chance to see something different, and also, maybe, to see things differently. I take the time to look around me now when I’m out. I look at the sky. I look at people’s gardens. I relish the opportunity to move my legs and arms and walk and walk and walk, even if it’s just down residential streets, row upon row of housing.

On Saturday I took a long walk with my husband and a friend who has just recovered from the virus. This was her first time leaving her house in nearly two weeks. She was also enjoying being out and walking along the local streets. She usually cycles, so this meant she was seeing things at a slower pace than usual and I think that was OK for her.

We ended our walk at the bottom end of our high street, which usually houses “Europe’s longest daily street market.” The street has shops down either side and on market days two rows of stalls down the middle of the street, selling everything from fruit and vegetables to watch repairs, to Turkish gözleme to handbags to bedding. It’s a busy, noisy day out.

Any other Saturday, the market would be super busy. It’s hard to make your way down the street. It can take several hours to walk from one end to the other due to the volume of people who are out doing their weekly shopping. The food stalls in particular do good business, with queues of people waiting to get their cheap fruit and veg. There is usually a queue at the butcher shop too. They have up to a dozen people working there on Saturdays.

Today this high street was not its usual lively self. The stalls were mostly missing. The throngs of people were also missing. Those people who were out on the street were queuing outside the few shops still open – food stores, toiletry stores. The safely distanced queues occupied a long stretch of the street away from the shop doorways – 2 metres is quite a distance. I was just happy that we got into the Turkish supermarket during a quiet moment when there was no queue.

Although not having to push and shove to make our way down the street was nice for a change, I also found it strange to see this street so empty. It’s a market street, it should be loud and noisy and crowded. It shouldn’t be ghostly and quiet and uninhabited.

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