I want to tell you about an amazing thing that happened to me. I went for a walk. That really is it, but it was the highlight of my year. I’ll explain why. Since March I’ve been shielding due to having severe asthma. While I can exercise without being out of breath, I’ve had a string of chest infections which have left me on medication strong enough that justify shielding. I decided to follow the government advice to the letter, primarily out of fear of catching the virus.
I live in a first-floor flat and have no outdoor space but better to be inside and mildly demoralised than outside with a lethal virus. I’d remained steadfast but had begun to wonder if I could nip out for a safe walk at 4am just to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. Then, seemingly out of the blue, the advice changed and like a prisoner who’d demonstrated good behaviour, I was let out early.
Do I think I’m completely safe out there? No. Am I cynical about the motivation behind the timing of a morale boosting announcement? Of course I am. But allowing myself out wasn’t based on my trust of Boris Johnson. It was because it came at a time where I’d begun to reconsider my own balance of risk. I was ready to carefully go out and this gave me the shove I needed.
Crossing the threshold of the flat felt weird. I’d not appreciated how much I’d grown to view it as an emotional as well as physical boundary during lockdown. This symbolised so much. As I walked to the park, I could feel that I wasn’t in full control of my eyes. It was like they were being directed remotely. I was looking at all the normal things on my street like I was a tourist, finding the exotic in the mundane abroad. In fact it was more vivid, it was like being an alien looking at an entirely new world. When I got to the park it was overwhelming. The last time I’d been there was in March and it was thick with mud. All of a sudden I’m back and bang there’s colour everywhere. Flowers spilling out, the grass yellow from the sun.
I walked for two hours, absorbing shapes and light like a baby would. When I got back, I was shattered. My eyes were tingling from the stimulation. Either that or the pollen. I still haven’t been able explain to myself how it really felt. If you’ve had this experience then you’ll know. While words may fail me, the feeling never will. I’ll remember that walk for the rest of my life.
The Political Party with Matt Forde is on all major podcast platforms. His tour dates are at Mattforde.com