My Virtual School – playing in the street

24 April 2020. A family along the street have bought a ride-on pink and white unicorn. With purple saddle. Also a paddling pool. They have taken over a central communal garden plot for afternoon-long family playtime and picnics. The dog would love to join them but the smallest girl is about his height so he might end up on unicorn duty. He watches them from the sitting room balcony, tail wagging desperately. Another family have bagged the 6-7pm slot. Father plays football with his young son, the sound of the ball bouncing around the buildings, accompanied by a dad-style commentary on how to improve. Mother brings out a chair to sit and watch, while their little girl scoots up and down the street on her tricycle. It all has a Utopian air – ideal family street-life of the 1950s.

I saw a suggestion from some government official that because so many families with young children are out on the streets playing and riding bicycles, it might be a good thing to continue after lock-down ends. And so we should close many residential streets to cars. Better for the environment, safer for key-workers to get to work by bike. Generally pleasanter all round. Apart from the logistics and inconvenience he (or she) seemed oblivious to some crucial factors, viz, that no one is going anywhere because we’ve been asked not to; that everyone is taking full advantage of that hour’s exercise (which most seem never to have done before); and the weather is perfect for bikes. Try it in November. In the dark.

How grateful we should be for that exercise slot. A friend in South Africa was sighing over it yesterday. Total lock-down. No one allowed out for anything except absolute essentials. She has been shut in for three weeks with a toddler. Even walking the dog is forbidden. In Spain, although adults could go out, all the children have been in lock-down for six weeks. A friend in the US is ashamed of the protests going on there in the name of ‘liberty’. In Germany, Angela Merkel has said that this whole situation is a challenge to democracy.

But science is making progress. Human trials for a vaccine have started in Oxford. And today we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. Beautiful photos of the birthplaces of stars. Both great international collaborations.

I have changed my music to some jazz violin by Grappelli. Definitely time for a lighter mood.

This is my personal Mass Observation blog. I invite anyone, particularly members of Radley College community,  to join in to create a group record of this important period in our history as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.

© Clare Sargent