Then & Now
Holly Peters, Plymouth’s Young City Laureate
11th March 2020
Running late, again.
Rushing out of the door stuffing a bag of crisps and a chocolate bar into my backpack. Shouting goodbye to mum. Rushing up the hill, racing the double decker to the stop. A neighbour, who I don’t know the name of but recognise the friendly face, smiles at me warmly, her arm stretching out like a wing.
I make it in time.
A light drizzle of rain, barely noticeable. Coat tucked around my chin, a shield against the lingering winter winds.
‘Good morning,’ the driver sings. I slide into a seat and put my bag on the ground leaving the chair beside me empty.
I pull out my book, losing myself in the story and annotating the margins, until I see the familiar first glimpse of North Hill. The barbers. The Spar. All the same as it had been the day before. I ding the bell. Thanking the driver before hopping off.
At work, I greet so many customers that they all blur into one, the stories they tell me melding together. Racing around the shop, folding clothes, touching hangers. Smiling at the people I pass, barely noticing as they walk too close.
11th June 2020
A summer shower. Another one. One that lasts for hours. It doesn’t look like June at all.
We zip up our raincoats and hook the leads onto the dogs’ collars. Our spaniels, Dotty and Booby, wag their tails excitedly, jumping up at the door, unphased by the weather. Always eager to embark on the great outdoors. The outside world, as we’ve come to know it.
I no longer have to argue with my siblings to get one of them to join me, now all three of us go.
We climb the hill, it’s wet but warm. The grassy banks thrive, green and glistening.
We add on detours and extra paths to breathe in fresh air for as long as possible, stretch our legs. The route a wriggling thread. We pass the building site that hums with activity and wade through the still forest where the ceiling of thick leaves cradles us. Rain or shine.
12th March 2020
The whirr of the machines, the spray of the water fountain, the clang as weights drop to the floor. We laugh as we walk into the gym, hair scraped back into ponytails, barefaced. Our water bottles swing at our side.
There’s a table in the centre filled with blue roll and spray bottles of blue sanitiser. Knots of people surround the equipment.
We set up a circuit. The countdowns pass by until we lose focus, energy drained. We stretch off and make for the door. Unaware that would be our last visit for months.
12th June 2020
Floating past the oven door, the smell of cake fills the kitchen as it rises out of the pan. Butter and sugar whipped into buttercream icing. Swirling mounds. Something we don’t usually have enough time for.
Flour powdered over the surface for kneading cookies. My sister’s new speciality.
Surfaces filled with delicious treats: brownies, cupcakes, sausage rolls, cookies, banana bread.
The kitchen, the place to go when there’s nowhere to go.
13th March 2020
As a family we go out for dinner. Dad’s birthday. Table for six. The loudest people in the restaurant. My older brother makes a joke about the name of the beer as he orders, but the waitress is unimpressed.
We clink with our cocktails together. Devour our burgers and chips.
Afterwards, we play crazy golf. Brown eyes versus blue eyes. We laugh our way around all eighteen holes, oblivious.
Brown eyes won.
13th June 2020
I sit at my desk and write this lockdown diary. Document the elastic days that are simpler than the ones we have known. Hours on end to spend learning, educating, discovering. Growing.
We have enough distance from the past to grieve what was good but dissect what was wrong. The shadows, the smudges. The inaccuracies, the injustices. Enough time to work out how we fix them. To provide water and sunlight so something can grow from the mud and dirt.
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