London Lockdown has Sprung
Today is a big day for the UK! While the rest of the world has coped with the global pandemic by going to Starbucks daily, going thrifting and making videos about it, going to school, and hanging out with friends and family —- the UK has been in lockdown since December. That meant that we were not supposed to get out unless it was for groceries, a medical appointment, an essential worker, or one hour of exercise. Thanks to the vaccine, they have started to lift restrictions from today. London was in lockdown. London was empty.
We are set to have a gradual lift, which begins today. All previous outdoor sports activities are allowed to reopen. You can meet up to six people outside for a socially distanced visit. It happens to coincide with the first Monday of Spring, and by some miracle, we have a little heat wave to warm us up for the next few days, too. For now, London might get some new life.
As mentioned in previous posts, one of the joys I have found of living in the UK is the weather. It is a point of conversation and contention for some, but for me, I love it. Saying that, winter is long. It is a struggle to get through. Without the fun gloves and scarves to cheer you up and the thin thermals to keep you warm while making you not feel too puffy, it would be gruelling and more miserable than it already is.
Yet, the moment that Spring arrives in London, there is a big sigh! It is as if we all say “Wow! We made it!” Spring is not taken for granted — it is relished. It is usually this time of year when the shops celebrate with large bouquets of flowers around their doors. Instagramers emerge from their cafes to be spotted in the wild as they snap and post their way to more followers. It is also when I have done a few private London walking tours for those wanting to take a walk to enjoy some of the spring celebrations.
It is hard to tell, but I hope that the shops will once again adorn their doors with spring bouquets. We have two weeks of six person social distance meet ups before the shops officially are allowed to fling open their doors again. I feel like they would take advantage of this opportunity to welcome customers, the season and the joys of business once again.
I am continuing to offer London virtual tours through zoom, but I have also started a new venture. I have been teaching online classes/virtual tours through Outschool. It has been great fun, as I meet kids from all over the world to learn about history and London in general. I have two series of classes: Basic London History and More London History. Through the Basic London History series, I am teaching in chronological order. We start with the Romans and make our way to the 1900s. In the More London History series, I select a topic like Bridges, Theatre or the Royal Family and we learn all the facts while also taking a virtual tour via photos, videos and Google maps. Of course, my love of costumes has not been forgotten — I have at least three costume changes for each class! You can find me here: https://bit.ly/outschooltours
The question of when I can get back out onto the London streets for face-to-face tours is all down to the vaccine — of which I have not yet been offered. Once myself (and my husband) have been vaccinated, I will feel more confident getting out into the world to mingle and mix, while still wearing a mask and offering air high-fives for a little while longer. Safety for customers is important, but you can’t have a tour if the guide is sick! I’ll probably get a little more exercise as I opt for the bike over the underground for a little while longer.
Until then, I am thrilled to get back to the open-water swimming that I started back in June. They are reopening today, and I have a booking for tomorrow. With the heatwave headed in, I am hoping the waters will be cool enough for pleasure, but warm enough so that I am not too shocked. My plans to join the 10 dips below 10 degrees club were thwarted by the pandemic, but with so much time off since my last swim, I don’t think my body needs a super shock to the system. I’m also eager to cycle a bit more. I have a plan to make at least one long trip each week across London in some fashion, and a few shorter cycles the rest of the week. While my days of triathlon are mere memories on my Facebook account (11 years ago!), I can still enjoy the cycle and the swim in my own way. Let’s be honest, I never enjoyed the run part, and since my knees are trashed from years of cheerleading, tennis and dance, I’ll use them as a good excuse not to run.
Cycling in London is so pleasurable with construction workers taking advantage of light traffic during the pandemic to finish off the cycle paths around the city. More and more, it is sheer pleasure to hop on a bike and have your own dedicated lane to keep you safe from traffic. Some lanes are still open to the cars, but many have their own path and barriers. London cycling should always be attempted with a helmet — for those tourists who are contemplating the Boris bikes, please be safe.
I’m sure, dear reader, you have noticed that I am bouncing around topics like a little bunny. We are also counting down to Easter this weekend, with extra giddiness for those who only have to work four days this week. London shops are filled with hot crossed buns, the traditional pastry for Spring, where the bun marks the end of Lent, cross representing the crucifixion of Christ and the spices of the pastry representing the spices used to embalm him. While that might not sound appetising, they were once taken on sea voyages to avoid shipwrecks. So, we now know exactly why the Evergreen is stuck in the Suez Canal —- they forgot to take hot cross buns with them!
London shops and grocery stores get very inventive with their hot cross bun recipes, and I always enjoy trying some of the new flavours that pop up. This year, I was intrigued by the strawberry and white chocolate on offer at Sainsbury’s, the mocha ones from Waitrose, and the cheese and Marmite one from Marks & Spencer. Sadly, the pandemic pounds have caused me to outlaw bread and sugar for three weeks, meaning by the time I’m ready, they will all be sold out!
Finally, yesterday was the day that the UK caught up with American by springing our clocks forward one hour in order to enjoy British Summer Time. So the clocks are already thinking ahead to warmer days, when the sun will shine and the birds will sing, and the London tour guides will be bouncing around the streets of the city with their vaccine in arm and their customers in tow. The process of moving the clocks forward always makes me happy, even though we lose an hour — we gain the promise of more light in our day. With the sun rising earlier and setting later, it just feels like we have a new opportunity to grab each day by the horns and say “I own you!” Timing is everything.
Once a few chores are finished inside so that the house is fully in the Spring Clean mode, I will be making plans to add a few more to do items on my list and use the motivation of time, weather, lockdown release, and the season to jumpstart new projects. I can already see some effects — I added ginger and mint to my morning lemon water — a culinary perk that has made me feel extra special. I challenge you to embrace the new season with all your might --- because the Spring sunshine truly represents the light at the end of this tunnel.