The prescribed once-a-day period of exercise, in my case a one hour daily walk along differing routes, is highly enjoyable, if usually uneventful. Like most people, I have become increasingly aware of the clearer blue skies and lack of noise; much less traffic and fewer fellow humans. I enjoy what is coming into flower, the birdsong (always the birdsong), and the sheer pleasure of movement.
On Wednesday 6 May I had almost finished my late afternoon walk, and was looking forward to a cup of tea in the garden with my partner before a 5:30 date with Gareth Malone’s “Great British Home Chorus”. Ten minutes from my house, I happened to glance to my left as I crossed the road to check for traffic, and saw a body lying curled on a grass verge, half way along the street. No one else was there. The body was a man of African Caribbean origin, wearing a brown jacket and lighter brown trousers. This much I could see from where I stood, several feet away.
In the time before Covid 19, despite my apprehension I would have got close enough to try to assess the situation. Was he perhaps drunk or drugged? Was he breathing? But not now. I decided to call for help, but which number did I call? Was this a 999 emergency? I rang 101, gave details, (no, I haven’t got close enough to shout to him. No, I can’t describe how he is breathing). Hello. I am social distancing.
We will send an ambulance, I was assured.
By this time an elderly couple had appeared in the street, had spotted the body, stopped and stared, and walked on towards me, looking concerned.
“An ambulance is on its way”, I said, “Did you happen to notice if he is breathing?”
“Oh yes”, the woman replied. She sounded quite excited. “Good on you for ringing the police. Nothing ever happens in this street, I’ll have something to tell my son on Face Time tonight”.
Within ten minutes of my call, a police car arrives. Two policemen get out, wearing latex gloves. We speak briefly. They manage to get the man into a sitting position.
An unmarked car, sirens blaring, speeds down the road and comes to a stop. Two more policemen get out. All four are now standing around the man who is clearly conscious.
Just when I think it can’t get any more surprising, a police van arrives, and four more policemen get out. I check my watch. All this has happened within ten minutes. I don’t know whether to feel delighted and reassured at the lightning police response, or concerned that they apparently had so little to do that day.
What the final outcome was, I don’t know. I had made the call - not just walked on, and had now been out much longer than the official hour. It was time to go home.
Jill Davis is finding that lockdown has reignited a reason, and presented opportunities to write more regularly and be creative.