I live in a particular kind of Newcastle street- two rows of brick-built terraces which face inwards with walled front gardens and a paved walkway in between. These were built over 100 years ago for railway workers in Backworth. The rear of the houses on my side of the street faces south (with a row of tall trees on the sightline behind) and are a wonderful example of defensible space, with lots of potential for seeing people fron a safe distance. I have had time (plenty of it in these lockdown days) to make it a place to experience the joy of now- the straightforward pleasures of sunshine and new growth as the spring gathers strength.
Sitting outside with the back door open to sweet-smelling air, and birdsong it is the room in my house which has the sky as a ceiling. Like a big, messy, sprawling version of James Turrell’s Skyspaces. Here are the four walls and some of the objects and plants that share it with me, not forgetting Millie the cat.
Apparently it used to be common practice to leave the gate to the yards open to the back lane- some of the older residents still do this (they also happen to have beautiful yards full of life and colour)- and my gate has a big hook for this purpose.
But mostly my gate is shut- I prefer the privacy. I can see the tops of people’s heads as they walk by (if they are tall enough) and some of them offer a wave or greeting. And, when All This is over, it will be a sociable space again.
Until then there are birds for company, chattering rooks, raucous magpies and seagulls, cooing pigeons and lots of cheeping and twittering from the little birds some of which are occasional visitors- wrens and blue tits looking for bugs to feed their little ones.
One of the joys of this strange time in lockdown is experiencing the present. I am grateful for it, so important and USEFUL in the context of uncertainty and fear. In the moment, now, when everything is OK, I feel deeply grateful for the peace and security and community I have in this place, the sweet air, lack of aeroplanes and other traffic noise, the colour and fragrance of the things that I have planted and are growing without a care- the lilies of the field, and the back yard.