There was about 45 minutes when the Sun rose high enough to clip the corner of a sharp angled brick building, before pouring into the piazza and giving the air some light and warmth.
Several people in the partitioned off café terrace turned their chairs so as to face up to Helios as his chariot rushed by. For a moment I was reminded of my visit to Terrassa in Catalonia early 2018, it’s bright plazas, its parks, its relative warmth, my youngest son relaxed and at ease with his teaching, talking with me at a café about his plans to work abroad long-term, he happy to have crossed over La Manche.
Covid-19 has certainly encouraged al fresco socialising in England and at Marzano’s, under the huge convex glass and steel roofing of The Forum carbuncle, every table and spare chair was taken with chatterers, their talk burbling up and carrying on the cool northerly breeze.
Two boys, (maybe not even in their early teens), rode repeated circuits up a slope and then jiggled down the steps on mountain bikes with fat tyres and front fork suspension. They had found a route between groups of college age teenagers huddled in groups. The boys were able to play uninterrupted despite the number of people about, but as with most teenage entertainments they did not persist for long. Seemingly bored at a lack of attention, they took off in search of sensations other than the bumps of steps.
The apparently un-staffed new car display looks evermore surreal, taking up space in the piazza. How long will these gaudy vehicles be allowed here?
A couple of police officers with luminous reflective tabards over their uniforms loom over a man they appear to be in the process of arresting. There is no confrontation. Perhaps they were just exchanging horse-racing tips? The trio are gone when I next look over.
Around the cenotaph and flower bed terrace above the market every bench was full, along the walls small groups of people collected in the sunshine to chat. This is what these spaces were designed for!
It is wonderful to witness a shift in England’s social behaviour to outdoor socialising at every dry moment. Rain is less common in Norfolk than other parts of England, but goodness it gets chilly. The Continental feel of these public gatherings is a gentle compensation for the privations brought on by the pandemic, but counts for little against the reported 612 deaths in the UK today.
The tilt of the Earth’s axis is most noticeable at this point of our solar orbit, the Sun’s light coming in so low to our latitude that we squint into shadowed faces of people walking away from it, their hair is backlit, halo’d, their shadows snaking across the paving slabs.
The Prime Minister and his cabal have told the nation to enjoy a short and small Christmas, suggesting that this will minimise the number of excess deaths that will arise from the relaxation of pandemic rules to allow this predominantly irreligious nation to celebrate the second tier Christian feast in a defiantly pagan way. For me Sunday 21st December is the day to celebrate, the Winter Solstice is nigh.