And here it was, then. The end of the world. The apocalypse we’d been practicing for with a thousand comic books and film franchises. The streets deserted, the population edging around each other, adorned in protective gear to save themselves from infection of the deadly virus. Shops shut. Businesses closed. No cars on the road.
But underneath the slow simmer of dread and disbelief, there was birdsong. A sweet, chirping tapestry of nature, swelling in volume, no longer competing with planes and cranes and traffic. Rippling grasses, wide open empty spaces, an uninterrupted sky not bisected with white trails of jet fuel.
We moved from place to place in our second-hand red Skoda as restrictions lifted. A tent, refreshments, bags of clothes and toiletries in the boot. It was our shell, and we were the snail. The crab. The turtle. Any kind of animal that hefts its house onto its shoulders and sets off on an adventure.
We swapped the wide-open swathes of golden sand along the Dorset coast, for the old-world charm of Norfolk, for the faded grandeur of the seaside town of Great Yarmouth – pitching our tent in fields, on hilltops, and amongst sand dunes and sleeping under the stars. We were alien visitors to British landmarks. Nothing was open, no people were around. We walked past museums we wouldn’t enter, browsed menus we would never sample, and gazed into shops at trinkets we would never own. We could only look. Ghosts, drifting around the streets, soaking up the sunshine.
He was in the army. I was unemployed. As the virus ran roughshod over normal life, it also neatly severed the ties and responsibilities keeping us apart. We found ourselves together at last, our relationship gathering pace as the miles on the clock ticked by. Our Skoda the backdrop for a modern-day love story.
5,000 miles and we were used to sleeping curled in the grass together like speech marks.
10,000 miles and we confessed our love.
25,000 miles and we knew it was a relationship that would outlast the end of the world.
45,000 miles and there were three passengers in the car, two fully formed, one a work in progress.