The streets are empty, says one shopkeeper, bus-stops are empty, no-one is out buying, last month was deserted at the end of the student semester.
Austerity, we agree, has put paid to people’s spending. And fearful uncertainty for the future.
I remember, I say, that other time of austerity, growing up in the 50s, when there was so little, none of the imports we’re accustomed to now – peppers and avocados, Italian coffee, French cheeses –
We’re spoiled, she agrees. And tells me how, when she was small, she was sent to someone who had an allotment, to buy potatoes from him. And the pail was so heavy, the potatoes were covered in earth and mud, I could only carry it a few feet then had to rest and put it down; and then when I got home, they had to be washed and peeled – and there were cabbages too and turnips, but that was about all. Yes, we’ve become used to so many things since then – we’ve been spoiled.
And the question hanging in the air that we turn over endlessly in our minds and our fingers – what will happen in the future, and I think, once I’ve bought two boxes of incense and said goodbye, that maybe this is part of what has to happen, an erasure of taking for granted – the selection of food and the heating of houses and the clothes that we buy and that hang in our wardrobes while, all those decades ago, winter coats had to last, winter boots too and winter meant deep snow and ice formed on the inside of windows.
It’s true that the streets are not crowded, but there are plenty of illuminations – in parks, in shop windows and house windows and there’s little sign that the world of commerce will close up shop, that the carousel will slow down and its gears will grow rusty and disappear in the long grass, like the branches I collected in winter, and got covered over in summer growth. I found them just the other day, when I peeled off the damp and withered foliage, its lank tendrils rotting on the branches of pine. I pulled out the branches – one day, I’ll saw them into logs for the fire.
But it could be that the signs are there, and the shopkeepers notice, whereas I live in the country, dig potatoes out of the ground, cut up logs for the fire, pile on layers of clothes to keep warm, dig a path to the gate when it snows. Which it hasn’t, this winter, not yet.
|Misty morning Moon|
On the walk home from the bus stop there’s nothing between me and the night sky and I stop to watch the round Moon, screened by a filter of cloud, then it’s as if it melts it with its brilliance and all round the Moon there’s a sheen of pink, a gauzy light and there’s one star above it, far up in the sky and I remember this morning, watching a plane flying through misty cloud, in a straight line, and thinking how planes are things of such grace, so seeming-assured yet so vulnerable, and in my mind, I hold it up in the sky, in its trajectory feathered by cloud, to its safe landing, its airport, its gentle descent to the earth.