Day 18

A clear, still night and a tawny owl’s calls are distinctly audible at 2 a.m. The three-quarter moon casts silver light on the bedroom wall through a gap in the curtains.

Day comes with sunshine accompanied, at last, by warmth. I spent a couple of hours soaking up sunbeams stretched out on a bench; birdsong and a hover-fly for company.

When could I last find the time to lie on my back and watch clouds shift shape against the blue sky? August, in a Somerset field, on a blanket with you?

We speak by phone. You ask, “Why aren’t you here?”

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CLP 04/04/2020

Day 15

April already! My day is consumed with detailed work, but it is still light enough for me to set out walking just after six in the evening.

Bard Hill is covered in hawthorn bushes glowing with white blossom – it looks as if it’s snowed. I stop halfway up the traffic-free lane to listen to the bees. Bumble bees at every hawthorn. So big that occasionally they disturb a tiny white petal causing it to tumble to the ground.

The bees produce a deep buzz as they power their wings at top speed to defy gravity, but they fall silent when they land and start probing for nectar. The overall buzz I hear is a series of slow waves that coincide with one bee settling to drink, then another lifting off to seek fresh fuel.

Up on the heath I see some lads setting a small fire while they smoke and drink a can or two of beer. There’s been no sustained rainfall for weeks. One is arguing that building a fire is unsafe, the other offers reassurance that it will not spread.

At my intervention from the road they put it out. I bid them a good evening. They apologise and reply in kind. I leave them to their illicit adolescent pleasures.

As dusk forms deer are more confident to come out of hiding and I see them nibbling grass at every turn. I lose count of them and of the hares that are sitting upright in the fields that slope toward the sea. A hare on the road ahead is surprised at my appearance, so it races full pelt down the lane towards the village. It is unable to get off the road because of the steep banks on either side and the pace of its escape. It disappears in a dust cloud around the long bend.

Turning toward the house I wait and listen to a robin in full song. Such a common bird; such a beautiful singer. I walk on and find another exercising its voice with equal subtlety and variation just twenty-five metres further along. No cars come to disturb the performer or audience.

A rumour is confirmed late tonight. A local deliveryman has succumbed to the coronavirus. Contact tracing isn’t part of the government’s plan here.

It is close to a half-moon tonight. We often celebrate the full moon as it was full when we first met. Now any light in the dark is precious.

We are content to message “goodnight” tonight.

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CLP 01/04/2020

Day 13

The rhythm of the day is beginning to lose its pattern. Middle of night interruptions to sleep come without pressure to return to dreamland. Distance from others is becoming accepted; is there any point going out there?

Eschewing television as formulaic, lacking originality, dull, I choose to listen to music. Lyrics bore me. Orchestral compositions, quartets, quintets, pieces for solo instruments, jazz. The Nau Ensemble’s interpretation of Joy Division tracks holds fascination.

A day within, with only the most cursory contact with nature and that being the cool north wind as I put a banana skin in the compost bucket. I see the fresh greens and yellows of cowslips through the window. A small brown bird flies into the depths of the roadside hedge. The sun pops out before more clouds darken the sky.

I finish “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by Yuval Noah Harari. The last chapter is about meditation. It makes sense. As I read it you are meditating in your apartment near the lakeside. I smile at the coincidence.

Come evening, the excuse to draw the curtains and shut everything out is welcomed.

I study cricket statistics online after supper, reviving specific memories of seven summers. Particular incidents return to mind vividly. How much of what comes back to me is true? Which of my stories correctly align with the figures on the scoresheets? Some stories I carry in my head are exposed as myths by the numbers.

Team mates and opponents come back to life; even one recently deceased. He provokes mixed responses. My recollection of him not entirely squaring with the eulogies posted on the club website. He was more complex than what is being written there.

Each person I recall produces a string of stories, emotions, connections to other people, places; often nothing to do with the cricket at all. My emotions twitch in response to what I read, revive, recall.

Before sleep comes again we share pillow-talk from our distant pillows. You laugh heartily tuning your soft, lilting voice into rich, base notes from your belly. It is that deep laugh of yours, the one that I feel in my stomach too.

We take care with our words. We know not where our conversation leads, but for now we are are going nowhere. There is no tomorrow.

CLP 31/03/2020

On Separation

Boxed heart stays constant

Old fears prowl; rattle casket

Rhythm misses beat

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Contactless eyes dumb

Imagination finds voice

Tremors felt in gut

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Misunderstandings

Fill up conversation voids

Muddy evidence

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Dig gently for truth

Listen to answers; reflect

Retire to consider

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Never forget this:

Distance forms Hall of Mirrors;

Boxed hearts stay constant

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n.b. We are not alone. Keep the faith.

CLP 30/03/2020

Day 12

British Summer Time, the forward shift of clocks by an hour, has blown in on a gale straight off the North Sea. Hailstones are spat at the window. Some of the ice pellets stick before slipping slowly; disintegrating as they slide, leaving a tear stain on the pane.

The hazel bush flexes in the gusts, before springing back to a position south of upright, unable to fully right itself.

Blue tits make brisk trips to the jangling feeders dangling on the frame. Flights are brief hops. No stopping for rest as rest is impossible when balance so precarious.

The wind strokes the pasture. The grass becomes fluid; water running up hill.

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CLP 29/03/2020

Day 8

Yellow, everywhere. Gorse, daffodils, primroses and by a flint wall, forthsythia, (the Easter Tree).

Along the top road the dark oaks still lack any leaf-cover, so the setting sun bounces off the gorse on the heath through the gnarled woodland. The sky a celestial blue, the display of blooms pure gold.

The pillows of colour belie the vicious nature of the spines that protect the gorse flowers. The petals unfolded from soft green pods, catch attention from a distance; the thorny branches protect these open purses from deer.

On the heath the call of chiffchaffs is added to the mixtape of song.

At the feeder in the garden word is out that stocks have been replenished and inter-species rivalries seem put aside.

A pair of goldfinches gorge themselves, accompanied by two greenfinches who cling onto adjacent perches, The greenfinches are big, muscular creatures by comparison to their multi-coloured neighbours.

Greenfinches are grim-faced with beaks like secateurs. They feed in bursts, making sure to turn and look over their shoulders for threats, or to threaten. They carry a permanent scowl. They wear simple olive green camouflage, the colour of fresh leaves, but even these dour birds sport a dash of yellow on their wings, a corporal’s single stripe.

Today is warmer. Any air out of the lightening wind seems soft on the skin. There is less need to move with such urgency; to hunch; to wrap up. Momentarily an outward, calming breath is possible when outside.

Text messages and emails are exchanged with friends and family as acceptance of abnormality settles on us, but there is a sense of dread stalking the strong, spring shadows.

Our children, (under-equipped, untested), assume their hospital duties with stoicism. They see the consequences of infection; set up ventilators; switch them off.

Our conversation edges along a cliff ledge. Untethered due to distance as we are, I offer my hand. You concentrate determinedly on the positioning of your feet.

By bedtime Venus, low in the west, is dressed in her brilliant white best.

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CLP 26/03/2020