The hour was a day – 23 Mar 2020. And the day became a year. A year made from a patch work of shut downs and tiers. An unattractive coat that had to be worn.
The Man was not a man. It was the old Drovers’ road running alongside Swalcliffe Lea. The salvation for many seeking activity away from creeping depression, the onset of cabin fever, loneliness and much, much more.
And the many were not just the locals of Swalcliffe and Tadmarton. Some came from such foreign places as the Sibfords and the metropolis of Banbury. Soon the overflowing car park at Swalcliffe Village Hall became twinned with a pop up one at the other end of the Drovers’ road where it crosses the Shutford road.
They came in their hundreds. All ages strolled, power walked or jogged; from the very young to the very old. Some were pushed in buggies. Not even born before the crisis. Others had endured many national crises before. These people took it all in their slow stride and even brought picnics as respite from unexpected forced exercise. The children jumped in the puddles and ran through the mud. Happy were the dogs that did the same. Happy, because home offered the reward of a hot shower and a sleep before the fire.
The road morphed into different things for different people with different needs. For those who needed gossip it became a 17th century coffee shop. The wide diversity of animals and birds ensured that it will be remembered as a nature park. A garden shop satisfied the needs of horticulturists. Artists were in a studio enthused by the changing vista and colours; the sky blue beauty of the borage in summer and the frozen tears of the Mad Marston springs twinkling in the winter sun. Cyclists enjoyed a velodrome. Horse riders trotted along a bridle way. It was an outdoor office to many where fresh air sharpened the mind to resolve a problem that was impenetrable in the claustrophobia of a small make shift home office. In summer it was a balmy Mediterranean plaza to promenade along with a partner before supper. A concert hall appeared one hot weekend when musicians sat by the road playing their instruments. And a shop was there. Limited to honey and candles. But a shop nonetheless.
For many undeclared people it was a place of worship where they could commune with their God; alone, silently and directly. No ritual. How many thanks were offered for the blessing of our NHS? How many prayers for the recovery of a sick infected friend or relative? How many pleas were made for an end to this?
It will end soon. The hour will pass. But the Man will remain with our ghosts, those that went before and those that are yet to come.
Keep safe. The Sports Reporter