Lockdown 2 (Day 17): Norwich

Saturday 21st November, 2020

A day spent doing less.

I walk to Chapelfield Gardens and spent some time there enjoying a couple of cardboard cups of tea in the fresh air.

The park is a convivial setting. Nearly every bench seat around the perimeter of the park and those bordering the elegant, empty bandstand at its centre has people meeting and talking. Despite blustery conditions that lift up whorls of dry leaves in flurries, people appear relaxed and happy. They are enjoying being outside and socialising at comfortable distances. There are nods and smiles, polite greetings exchanged between passing walkers.

Some people simply come to the gardens, as I do to enjoy a change of environment. One woman has a book, is well wrapped up with a heavy coat and a smart blanket. She has a flask for her hot drink beside her on the bench. She seems settled for the duration.

The play equipment is well used by young families. Parents talk while their children stretch and climb and slide and trip over their growing feet and hesitate before breaking into shocked bawling. One dad walks from the gated play area carrying a plastic potty. He is looking for somewhere to distribute the contents in the borders, or shrubbery. By the careful way he holds the toddler’s plastic toilet bowl, I suspect that it is pretty full and its liquid contents are slopping around with each step he takes in his quite tidy clothes.

As I start to set off home I notice a pack of police officers have come into the park. They are grouped loosely around two or three adults on the far side of the gardens. As I exit a gate to follow the road down towards the main shopping area, I note two female officers, wearing yellow reflective tabards over their uniforms are chatting casually by a long brick wall. They do not appear to be back up for a serious policing operation.

There is a sense that this is all a public relations exercise being carried out for effect. There is no edge to the presence. There appears to be no van to carry off any miscreants. The manner in which the officers of the law are clustered simply raises curious glances from the occupied park benches, they provide a distraction for the friendly twittering. I expect to find a press release sympathetically adapted to explain the mildly mysterious goings-on here in a local free sheet during the coming week. These gardens are just a short beat from the main city police station, which is on the south side of the impressive Norwich City offices; they are a convenient and photogenic setting for PR photoshoots.

Incidentally the city offices are an Art Deco construction from 1938 that carries the reputation as the finest city hall built in England during the inter-war period. It is an impressive and elegant structure. I suspect that far fewer people are employed there now than it was designed to accommodate originally. A national newspaper today carries articles designed to soften up the population for further cuts to central government spending on local services in months to come.

These public gardens are a much valued amenity. They are well maintained and well used. Who will be running a bookkeeper’s eyes over the value of this space as a result of the Chancellor’s next budget statement? How will the cost-benefit analysis of this space be spun out?

The evening dark arrived before the afternoon football matches had been completed. Therefore the evening felt uncomfortably long.

It is exactly a month to the Winter Solstice after when we are treated to longer hours of daylight. This next month will be the challenge.


CLP 21/11/2020