On my bike and out at nine o’clock under the overcast sky. Within minutes of making my way past the point of no return, it started raining. When the tarmac path turned to compact soil there was no noticeable change in the firmness or smoothness of the ride, not just yet.
The leaves are down, loosely heaped, brown papery and making the swishing and swooshing rustles that evoke childhood, when they piled up knee-high, over the top of Wellingtons, tickling the knees, falling into the lip of my boots. Soon the rain turns them slippery under my tyres. There are several trees down too.
The shallow roots of a fallen silver birch have pulled up a thin plate of hard soil, a disc of black earth standing on its rim.
A jay rises in diagonal flight from the trackside across my path. It carries an oaknut held in its beak as it heads home. Further on a sparrowhawk drops from an overhanging branch into a frantic low flight straight in front of my wheel. The hawk follows the track in front of me, before flipping right and flipping left and up into open airspace and then away into the shadow of the woods.
At the part of the old rail line where the trees are longer established, taller, denser, darker, there is a muntjac deer keeled over just to the left. It reminds me of the one I had seen in the spring on Salthouse Heath, caught in the wire fence. This one had simply been caught from behind. These deer have short, sharp horns and look as if they might be able to inflict some pain if confronted, but not this time.
Before I turn back to base I explore a woodland path on the bike. It opens into heathland before being fenced off. On the heath moles have been busy. A freshly built molehill of considerable size stands in the track. It is good to know the moles are active here. It signifies healthy supplies of earthworms and grubs that are good for the soil.
At the new outer ring road I am able to join a brand-new cycle path, which I naïvely assume will take me all the way around the city and back to base, but I have to turn onto an arterial road and am then directed past the airport. The red and green runway lights are on, but nobody is flying. A row of smaller passenger jets is lined up on the northern edge of the airfield. The tailfins are logoed with an image of the Union Flag. They look smart, brand-new. Redundant.
I get very cold in the heavy rain. I take the Holt Road, which becomes the Cromer Road, which becomes the Aylsham Road down the long slope toward the city centre. By now the enjoyment of two hours out on the bike has kicked in and I feel almost elated when I get in and strip for a shower.
In the mid-afternoon, taking advantage of the lack of commercial flights, the USAF or RAF carry out military flights over the city. The noise, as I have mentioned on several occasions, is close to unbearable.
My generally improved mood is easily sustained through the day due to the inner warmth from cycling and the hot water of the shower. I replenish by depleted reserves with the last steak from the freezer.
My eldest son called. All seems well there, as it is feels here today. I listen to the FA Cup 3rd round draw (Bristol City away in early January) and then spend a little time reading some of Pablo Neruda’s collection, ‘Residence on Earth.’ My playlist for the evening includes Tartini’s La Sonata del Diavola and then Fontaines DC’s latest album. I enjoy both.
A couple of leaves from the silver birch trees next to the balcony blow into the apartment. I leave them on the floor for decoration.
Lockdown 2 ends on Thursday, but as a Tier 2 location I do not think there will be any differences from these days in the second lockdown. The Foreign Secretary has indicated that Lockdown 3 will be on the cards to tighten things up again after Christmas.
I remember that Britain is an island and islands, even continental islands like Australia, have made good progress, even with a population there of 22 millions. Why hasn’t the British Isles been able to get a grip on the problem? Don’t answer that, please.
CLP 29th November 2020