“No Travel” Tales #6: Another Walk

Where walks were once a means to an end – a form of transport to another more exciting destination – they are now an appreciated activity in themselves, one of the few we’re allowed to enjoy. Speed-walking has therefore become a rare sight as we no longer have the desire to rush home, exhausted by its familiarity. Instead, we favour a steady saunter, resembling the very people we once hated – those who stop at the bottom of moving escalators or amble during rush hour. Humans have begun to mimic the lives of canine companions, as heightened senses mean sniffing each and every aroma, barking when someone comes within two metres of you and… no we’re still doing our business indoors.

Road rage has been replaced by social distancing bust-ups, of which there are two extremes: the overly cautious and the perilous. Witnesses attest to a man knocking a cyclist of his bike with a two-metre stick, only to see it snapped in half and thrown back in his face, while rumours circulate about the man in a giraffe onesie sheepishly led away from a gathering in handcuffs – possibly destined for the zoo.

Our current reality is far stranger than fiction, with literary techniques such as pathetic fallacy no longer a suitable indicator of our mood. In literature, a pandemic would surely be accompanied by a muggy atmosphere, indicative of the stresses weighing us down, while biblical floods would represent the tears we’ve been shedding.

It would be erratic and temperamental, a reflection of our mood swings and inability to predict the future. Fog would descend on the streets, residents unable to discover a way out of this mess, alarmed at the thought of an impending apocalyptic thunderstorm. 

Instead, the weather gods taunt us with an uncharacteristically hot spring, stockpiling sunshine for the one time that we’re asked to stay indoors. Yet, this paradoxical situation is a blessing, allowing us to briefly forget the crisis at hand. That is, unless you’re a hayfever sufferer, stifling a tickly cough so as not to become the victim of a witchhunt.

The natural world now dominates man-made arenas of life. Street signs are partially concealed beneath vines, losing letters but gaining a new identity, while botanical-like gardens and wisteria-strewn houses do their best to shelter us from the hysteria. Melodic chirps and tweets fill the silence as birds assume the place of former roaring aircraft, unaware of the reason behind their newfound domination of the skies. Meanwhile, tree-lined promenades revel in their understudy role for the out-of-reach Champs-Elysées.

Formerly dismal areas also get a glow-up in lockdown. Cordoned-off playgrounds now resemble conceptual sculpture parks, the kind that only the truly pretentious art-lovers would understand. Underpasses lose their dingy reputation, instead transforming into a Narnia-like entry to another world – a parallel universe free of coronavirus but filled with the clinking of corona bottles, tactile behaviour (our only exception for PDA) and a return to weather-dominated conversations.

The beauty of it all can be somewhat unnerving, leading you to wonder whether the picturesque streets and smiling neighbours form the sequel to The Truman Show. This paranoid thought is quickly curbed by flashing blue lights, deafening sirens, and billboards that no longer advertise KFC but champion the NHS.

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