#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 10

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 010

Day 10

Freewheeling down familiar bike paths, it was difficult not to feel happy but I could not give in to the feeling fully. Ahead of me was another person. I rang my bell to let them know I was here and swerved at a wide angle to pass them.

It was exhausting to constantly calculate distances in my head, to stay fully alert to the world around me. I wanted to enjoy being back on the saddle. I wanted to feel the wind in my hair, the prickle of the early morning chill on my fingers. But I couldn’t let those sensations dominate.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a black cat standing guard in the middle of allotment plots. I heard a gull battle an empty sandwich wrapper in hope of one last crumb. But I didn’t stop to watch them as I normally would have. I pedalled on, the world around me ephemeral and endlessly changing.

In half an hour, I had arrived by the river. I laid down my bike on the ground and emptied the content of my pannier by my side. I arranged the stove, cutlery, and breakfast ingredients neatly before dangling my feet over the water. I took a deep breath but stopped myself as a runner went past.

The sun was rising above St Mary’s Church spire. The water laid still and high in this part of the harbour controlled by sluices and the harbour master. Boats stood quiet and I wondered if anyone lived in them.

I turned my stove on and poured some milk over my granola. Two swans drifted by and looked at me, curious to see if I had any food to spare. It was quickly evident I didn’t so they departed without a sound.

I focused on the water and the stillness of the world around me. A bus drove past on the street opposite and I realised I had not seen a single car in the city centre. I imagined what the city could be like given to pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport. Bird songs were so much clearer than they normally were, conversations softer, and my mind almost at ease.

As hard as I tried I found myself unable to relax more than a couple of minutes at a time. As soon as the pounding on running shoes could be heard, my body tensed and it was all I could do not to let anxiety overtake me. Still, it wa nice to be by the river.

I finished my cup of tea and tried to stay a bit longer. There was no one on the path behind. I counted the seconds expecting to hear the rhythm of feet but no sound came. I breathed in and out as slowly as I could feeling the air enter and leave my lungs. I had never been so aware of my breathing and of every change in my throat before. I inhaled deeply one last time before standing up.

I packed my pannier, applied some hand sanitiser to my hands and handlebars, and cycled back home along a normally busy road. But today it was mine giving me all the space I needed to think of nothing else but the motion of my legs and the wind in my hair.

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