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A change of scenery

May 31, 2020

The past few months I’ve existed over a smaller area than in many, many years. Life has vacuum packed itself to – at best – a square mile. It has contorted itself to cling to the networks of previously unexplored streets on our doorstep in much the same way plastic clings to the contours of udon noodles.

Things have relaxed in recent weeks, it’s true. Unlimited exercise means absolute freedom – provided you don’t need the toilet. But even though my morning commute closely resembles a stumbling act from shower to desk, my horizons have remained much the same as before. Back when leaving the house was only permissible for essential shopping, one daily exercise, or an unbroken 260-mile car journey to Durham to check one’s eyesight—

No, sorry, that last one doesn’t apply to the likes of you or me.

Unlimited exercise presupposes unlimited leisure time. However, complaining about free time as we careen into the deepest recession since 1930 is the absolute definition of first world problems.

But the thing I’ve come to appreciate over the last few weeks has been the relative freedom of an evening cycle. To escape into the countryside, whip past fields and hedgerows, climb whatever counts for a hill round here, and see the city crouched low in the thinning sun is to squeeze the very best from this particular lemon.

And it’s made all the better by the relative quiet of the roads. Although maybe that’s because if you find yourself round this way when you’re aiming for Barnard Castle, you really should have gone to Specsavers.

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