Saturday 11 April 2020

A day in the life of a fruit and vegetable delivery driver..

I am now entering my third week working part time delivering fruit and vegetables to people’s houses across London. Many things catch my eye in this extraordinary period we are all experiencing.

Amongst the fewer cars and very little congestion, it is the delivery vehicles, emergency services and the largely empty red Double Decker buses that appear mostly to occupy our roads. Most drivers including the bus drivers are patiently allowing each other through and each time we wave a hand to say ‘thank you.' A higher number of cyclists and joggers too are making use of our emptier roads and streets. It is the all too familiar black cabs that are noticeably not present. 

I drive on into Wandsworth. The children are happily enjoying their brief interlude of being outside in the streets, playing with a kite, hopscotch or with some ball upon the careful watchful eye of their mothers and being told to keep their distance. Mothers are talking to one another across the streets without the noise of cars (except my own purring electric one) or a plane above which under normal circumstances, would make their conversations entirely inaudible.  Amusingly I notice the fathers taking it upon themselves to do their duty and pushing their sleeping babies in their prams whilst going for a nice stroll.

I drive through Clapham on toward Greenwich, South East London and enter a street upon a hilltop of identical looking Victorian houses. People are doing DIY on their homes. I observe a man standing on his ladder outside his semi detached house. This particular gentleman clearly wanted to be different; he took it upon himself to paint his house bright red. Here, like in South West London, there are many spring blossom trees covering almost the entire residential streets with fantastic array of white, blue pink and yellow colours. It seems urban nature is displaying its magnificence and no doubt taking this moment to breathe their new lease of life.

I head Northwards to Stoke Newington, Tottenham Vale and the North East. I could not help noticing something outside my normal world; a Jewish community in their traditional clothes walking the streets, entire families keeping close to one another at the same time keeping themselves apart from other families, with their children beautifully dressed in bright tasteful colours and similar patterns of clothing. They seem happy with little concern on what might be going on in the outside world. It then occurred to me they were celebrating their Passover. In Highbury many young men and women in modern semi high rise buildings sitting on their balconies either reading their books or tapping on their laptops, generally relaxing and soaking in the glorious sunshine.

It is the cleanliness of London that also caught my attention, very little litter in the parks, on our pavements and on the side of our roads. With almost entire high streets shops closed, pubs have transformed themselves into bakeries. There are the large queues outside the supermarkets in some places as long as the eye can see. The long queues too outside the small garden centres, the pharmacies, the local butchers and particularly large are the ones outside the occasional wine merchants. It is the social distancing that makes them appear long and yet with a little patience I guess they move quickly enough.

I witness too the suffering. There is an increased level of sirens and ambulance drivers on our main roads. They turn their sirens off once they enter a residential street so as not to abruptly frighten this peaceful new way of life that we are slowly coming to terms with. An elderly looking gentleman is taken out of his home in a wheelchair with a heavy mask around his face. He is carefully taken into the ambulance and driven off to the closest hospital where no doubt our formidable nurses and doctors will take care of him.  And at times I deliver fruit and vegetables to those who are suffering from this terrible illness. It takes a simple knock on the door to inform them that food is outside. I feel they too are not forgotten.

A life exists in London but it is a different one. A respectful, calmer, patient and more compassionate world appears to shine through on what might be considered at times a darkened and more brutal one. A kindness seems to have descended upon this great city. And nature appears to be enjoying its brief interlude of its newly found freedom. Even when looking out from my own home in Twickenham, a plane normally descends every 45 seconds, today there are practically none. Frankly I don’t miss them. Instead, the birds and lots of them are singing unusually frantically as if for the first time telling us they are in charge. Above all, it is this time for one other that is so precious and discovering what is essential in our needs, something I felt we had lost in the days if not years before, as I endeavour to drive on in this eye opening journey under this testing time of Easter….

Happy Easter to you all!!