Catford looks like it’s been dragged through a hedge backwards. Everywhere you look people have taken the opportunity to dump unwanted furniture and household junk. Many businesses remain resolutely shut, some boarded up with optimistic To Let signs. Advertising hoardings display just peeling relics of a time when businesses could afford to advertise. The only people who look cheerful are the crowds of moped drivers, visors up and enjoying the sunshine outside kebab and chicken shops. Everyone’s comfort eating, and the Thames has the highest concentration of microplastics from fast food containers of any river in the world.
Running along the river bright and early in soft, refreshing rain last Sunday, we weren’t aware of the breaking microplastics story as we admired the new urban planning that has created wooden sun loungers for all on the promenade outside the posh flats around Greenwich. In the lush planters, there are water fountains that have not yet been declared a Covid hazard. There’s artwork, an eco garden centre, interesting sculpture, pretty gardens and shady spaces. And boats a bobbing on the tide. Away in the distance, the Thames Barrier is our weekly destination.
I won’t be needing to run any further, since my September marathon is finally cancelled, and the only exertion on the horizon is the virtual Bewl 15. My favourite summer race, which usually sees its devotees charging around the pretty Kentish reservoir, has become a physically distant one, but my friends and I intend making it as sociable as is legal, by running the route on a week day, at the crack of dawn, preferably in the rain to avoid the crowds. We will have to bring our own cake and ale, which is the usual refreshment after the effort.
That’s something to look forward to, in the absence of anything else to look forward to in this, Week 16 of loosened Lockdown. No Berlin, little gainful employment (plenty of unpaid work); no money ( a wee bit more from HMRC in August); no marathon training; no parkrun. Many runners like me will be bereft if the cross country season is cancelled (and England Athletics are being particularly cautious about letting runners compete in anything exciting…despite cricket, tennis and football all being given the green light. Basketball was one of the first sports to be allowed. Why? All the players get to hold the ball. Is it because they only bounce it for seconds, the virus doesn’t get a chance to stick? Answers on a postcard. I’ll be sure to de-contaminate it).
As usual, my Covid 19 voice of reason is MD (Dr Phil Hammond) in Private Eye. He writes comfortingly about an appealing mnemonic, CLANGERS. No soup dragons here, just
Connect, Learn, (be) Active, Notice, Give back, Eat well, Relax, Sleep
I describe the reasoning behind this slightly tortured Pollyanna-ish aide memoire to my running mate, who is a hospital consultant, as we run along the feelgood riverside at Greenwich.
‘Medics love acronyms,’ she mutters, scathingly, going on to explain (as MD did, to be fair) that all these goals are easily achieved if you aren’t cast low by debt, depression, poor housing, a lack of self esteem and unemployment. When all these harsh realities bully their way into your life, riding on the coat tails of a global pandemic that’s terrifying everyone -no matter how rich and successful they are – you’re likely to be exhausted and more interested in the next Deliveroo dose of cheer than a bracing run along the river with your more fortunate girlfriends. And microplastics will be the least of your worries.