#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 69

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 69

Day 69

I rub my hands against my face in a vain attempt to clear my thoughts. I check the time. It is nearly dinner time and I am still working at the computer. I have spent the day scanning negatives and reading online articles. My brain is spent.

I close the computer and get up. Behind me on the sofa bed, my pinhole camera awaits, a roll of expired film sitting by its side. My test roll of 35mm is curled next to it, waiting to be inserted in the camera to find out how many turn of the advance knob I need to expose one frame of 35mm in a medium format camera. I consider doing it but my stomach is grumbling and I am tired. I leave the camera and film alone and walk to the kitchen.

My partner is already there, staring at the empty fridge. ‘What do you want to eat,’ she asks.

‘Well…’ I hesitate. ‘What is there?’ We still haven’t gone to the supermarket and what is left is not appetising.

’More cabbage, some carrots, a half empty pack of tomato sauce, and a flabby courgette.’

We stay silent for a moment longer. ‘I’ll have chicken and sweet potato chips,’ my partner declares.

‘Okay. I’ll do something with the cabbage, tomato sauce, and some veggie balls then.’

We start cooking, each of us busy with our own dinner. Half an hour later, we settle at the dining table with our plates.

‘We can go early to the supermarket tomorrow, can’t we?’

‘Yes,’ my partner affirms. ‘It’s Monday, Wednesday, and Friday that we can’t.’

We say nothing more of the subject but we know we both miss fresh food, salad in particular.

Dinner finished, I head back upstairs to the study to focus on my pinhole camera. I have time to relax and stay on the sofa with my partner but there is an urgency that pushes me to keep working. Soon I will have to go back to work and time will be reduced to dedicated chunks at either side of the day.

‘I’m going out for a bit,’ I tell my partner as I open the front door.

My camera around my neck, a tripod in my hand, I automatically follow the well-trodden path of our daily outings. As I approach the main road, I turn around. It is past 8pm and the roads are quiet. Today I will head to the nature reserve.

I follow the road in the opposite direction to my usual route, the landscape familiar but changed. Soon, I am walking on the bridge overlooking the nature reserve. The water in the Stoke Brook is low, the stream of water thirsty after too many dry hot days. I descend the steps to the footpath level and follow it to the lake. The grass is high, stray wheat mixed with wild grass, yellow against green. I recognise the path, the outline so familiar from countless hours spent walking and cycling alongside it in my once daily commute to work, but I do not recognise the shapes along the path. The grass is too high, the trees too bushy, and the nettles too many.

I step onto the parched verge to leave enough steps between me and other pedestrians and stop there for a moment. One of the thing I had been most excited about when moving to the area in September was to witness the change in the nature reserve through the year, see the decay and growth of vegetation, get to know the ducks and witness ducklings first weeks in the artificial lake. But I have missed all of that, the nature reserve paths too small and too crowded for me to venture on them. There will be next year, I remind myself and walk on to the lake.

I wait for people to leave the bench and settle by the water. I set up the tripod, take a light reading, do some math and figure that I will have to wait twenty minutes for the exposure to be correct. This feels so wrong. How will I not blow out the photo by exposing the negative to light for twenty minutes? But this is what I am being told after checking three times. There is much I have still to learn about pinhole photography.

I watch the ducks move lazily about in the sunset light. I can see no ducklings. A mouse swims under the bridge and disappear from sight. Each footstep behind me unnerve me, my body tensing, my head turning and glaring at people. This is a popular stop where I am sitting, but it is too small to maintain social distance rules.

No one steps my way as I wait for the exposure to complete. I want to apologise for glaring, explaining to all those passers-bys that I haven’t been here in weeks, that I have missed it so much, that I never get to sit peacefully by the lake because it’s always busy when I’m around, that please please please just let me have this one moment for me alone. But I say nothing because they too have a story I don’t know, they too might be carrying the weight of worry and they too might have wanted space at the lake instead of heading up to the meadow on the tump. But in the fading light of the day, I make this space mine.

The sky on fire, I head back home along the quiet streets of my commute. The oak tree by the caravan still stand, proud as ever, strong as ever. I nod to the tree and walk on, past the house that always has a car being repaired in its drive, past the house with all the flowers, past the house of customers I once helped set up one of the products I sell on their drive, past the narrow alleyway where cats often soak in the sun, across the road, and into my street to my house with its burnt grass and beer can stuck to the wall capturing the path of the sun.

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