Social distancing wasn't an issue when this photo was taken at the end of our Walthamstow back garden in 1961. That's me looking a bit unsteady on my feet in the middle, with my hands being held aloft by my aunt and uncle, who we lost in 1978.
'Whistles blowing, people get on trains...' is the opening line of today's tune. I'm not sure how much whistles are still involved in modern day rail travel (the line should probably now read '...buzzers buzzing...' or '...digital displays flickering...'), but all being well, I did get on a train on Saturday evening and will be getting on another one to come home later today. After much soul searching and consultation with my cousin in New York, I decided to take a trip to London to visit my aunt, who's been living alone in virtual seclusion since March. In contrast to last year's grand celebrations, her 91st birthday passed quietly at the tail-end of lockdown. With travel between the UK and USA a strict no-no, my cousin could do little more on the big day than phone her Mum, send a bunch of flowers via Intaflora and ensure that she'd received the latest of her twice monthly grocery deliveries.
I haven't visited my aunt since January, which in itself is probably the longest period I've spent away from London in my entire life. Clearly I was unable to travel there during lockdown and I feel a definite sense of unease about doing so now, but the way things are shaping up, this could be the last chance for me to check in with my aunt this side of 2021. I'll be doing my best to keep a strict social distance in spite of the slightly cramped surroundings of her East London terrace, though I will have to move a little closer when I whip out my phone to connect the surprise Skype call my cousin and I have secretly made plans for. My aunt is strictly non-tech savvy, so this'll be the one and only opportunity mother and daughter (and grandchildren) will have to clap eyes on each other this year. I dare say it'll be emotional.
Here are Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch, with a dark Dylanesque epic from 2015.