BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘pandemic’

#365daysofbiking Hard days

Monday January 18th 2021 – I’d had to go a long way for work. It was tough. I left early and called in to Birmingham on my way back to collect my bike which had been left in safe keeping for my return at a nearby work site, the better to avoid commuter trains.

It was around 6pm, and the city I’ve always loved, my home, my heart – was dead. After a day of travelling, empty stations, closed cafes and lonely trains, a deserted, almost post-apocalyptic Birmingham was very nearly the straw that broke me.

There were people about. People who were fearful of contact and closeness of others – understandably. I was like that too. Masked, hostile people.

Trams and buses swept past, nearly empty each one.

But then I stopped, and I looked: The lights were the same, the wet sheen on the tarmac. This is still my place. It’s still beautiful – if now more eerily so in it’s sparseness – but it will return. The spirit lives on. We’re just in hard days.

I did what I always do – got on my bike and rode home.

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#365daysofbiking Ain’t nobody home

Thursday January 14th 2021 – One of the toughest bits of the pandemic for me personally – and I am, of course, aware there are much worse things going on – has been the darkness in roadside pubs and restaurants during lockdown.

Never a great pubgoer, I do like the atmosphere when you pass a busy pub at night. They always seem so warm and welcoming. And this winter that’s been largely absent.

I’m glad to note though up on Chester Road North, the Hussey Arms, although well and truly shut, has kept the lights on.

It’s like a little beacon of hope in the darkness.

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#365daysofbiking A shot in the arm

Tuesday January 12th 2021 – If we’re ever to escape the awful pandemic sweeping through the world, we need mass inoculation and fast – and for once, it’s good to see the UK government responding faster than the rest of the world.

The Oak Park Active Living Centre in Walsall Wood – what used to be termed a leisure centre – is open again in lockdown, but not for swimming or gym activities. It’s open for business as a mass vaccination centre.

When I passed in the evening all was quiet, but it had already been in use for some days, with the elderly and vulnerable arriving by appointment for a swift and courteous vaccination.

I’m not daft enough to think this will bring back normality quickly, but it’s certainly the beginning of the fight back and I salute it. I too will be there when called with my boots blacked.

My thanks to all working on this program, a true demonstration of the power of science.

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#365daysofbiking All things must pass

Monday January 11th 2021 – Life is grim in the UK right now: The pandemic is claiming higher and higher numbers of people every day, and the economy is taking sustained hits from it and Brexit. It’s taking superhuman levels of self discipline to be able to just listen to a radio news bulletin.

But all is not lost: The darkest hour comes before dawn and the vaccine is being distributed quickly and professionally. It’s nice to see science working so well.

In the midst of all this I ride my bike to and from work as usual, in an often alienating world of masked up, hostile fellow citizens. Some days it feels like normality will never return.

But it will, and the spring flowers know it. Jack in the Green has tapped the ground with his cane, and everywhere you look fresh green shoots are optimistically shooting skyward, in anticipation of the warming spring sun.

They know like we must all  know deep down, that these cold, grim days will pass. And so they will.

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#365daysofbiking Ghost town

Sunday January 10th 2021 – I was on another test ride late and had to drop off a package to an isolating relative, so I nipped to Burntwood after tea.

This current pandemic lockdown isn’t like the first: People are having to continue working, many more kids are at school as the children of key workers and it’s just not as quiet as the first.

But right in the centre of Burntwood at 7pm on a Sunday, and it was like the proverbial ghost town.

It felt very eerie indeed.

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#365daysofbiking Seeing it out and moving on

New Year’s Eve, Thursday December 31st 2020 – I really hate New Year’s Eve. I’m so glad it’s curtailed this year – the forced jollity and camaraderie, coupled with the ‘we will have fun!’ attitude really kills it for me.

But there is one tradition I always uphold at the year end: A reflective ride to somewhere quiet, to think about the year and in my own way, see it out.

And like most folk, I’m bloody happy to see this one out of the door in person. With bare hands, if necessary, and a large blunt weapon. It’s safe to say it’s been a terrible year.

The pandemic has been awful for us all, and the future, at least until we get the population vaccinated, looks very uncertain. Yet all most of us want, me included, is things back to normal. To be able to stop at a country cafe or pub again. To meet friends. To be with family.

In the dead, icy calm of Chasewater, we rode up the frozen snow to the top of the pit mound as night fell, and waited in the still for night to properly come in. There wasn’t a soul around apart from me and my pal: From here, we could hear the terminal seconds of this terrible year ticking away. It felt good; cleansing.

Back down at the dam, on the way back it was very cold, but the lake so beautifully peaceful: Until a raptor disturbed the gull roost which must have been several tens of thousands strong. The cacophonous taking to flight of the flock was stunning, as was the similarly swift return to peace.

My word this year has been tough – but not as tough as it has been for many, I’ve been lucky. But it has affected me and I feel it deeply. And I’m sorry, readers, that I abandoned this journal for a few months in summer. I just couldn’t cope with it at that time. I’m sorry I let you down. I promise I will not waver again.

So here’s to a new year, with maybe better prospects. Hopefully we’ll meet again this time next year – with a full year’s photos between – and recall this year as a past, distant and very bad memory.

Here’s to that thought. Happy new year to you all: Let us not dwell on the past. We must move on.

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#365daysofbiking A changed world

Christmas Eve, Thursday December 24th 2020 – I had a busy day – the errands mounted up, last minute shopping for groceries, dropping off presents and so forth. My last task was to nip into Walsall wo pick up some vegetables in the early evening.

It was a crisp, clear evening and the riding fast but easy in the nippy air. I decided to return through Pelsall, to check out their Christmas tree.

Unusual in the borough that it’s planted, it was handsome and looked lovely in the memorial garden.

But what a strange Christmas Eve this was: Early evening, nobody around.

What a changed world we live in at the moment.

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#365daysofbiking Thank god that’s over with

Wednesday December 23rd 2020 – The end of work for another year, and surprisingly late. I normally aim to finish at least a week before, to better enjoy the build up to Christmas, but this year, with so much shut and not happening, little point but to stay at work.

I did, however, feel relieved it was over. It’s been a long, hard autumn-winter period, and at least from now the evenings would open out and the days become lighter.

As I crossed the Silver Street Bridge I glanced back, and felt my solitude in the dark, and quiet. This pandemic year has been a hideous, scary, awful year at work.

Thank god it’s over with.

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#365daysofbiking Splendid isolation:

Monday December 21st 2020 – I can’t get used to Walsall deserted, especially at peak times. The effects of this pandemic will resonate socially for years, in ways we’re only just beginning to see – the death of town centres is clearly being accelerated.

The town’s Christmas tree, today standing in splendid isolation in St Pauls Square is an excellent specimen, though and cheered me up. The twenty year out of time, brutalist, newly renovated bus station beyond it looked welcoming, too, if only for the want of passengers. Must say the warm white lighting in there was a clever choice.

It’s hard to believe that this is 4pm on Monday before Christmas. Strange days indeed.

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