climbing back

The bottles in my bag clink together as I sit down on the wall. The band tuning up on the roof of the boat is Parsimonious Monk, on stage for their first gig in about as long as it would be their last. As a seven-piece band, they were a grouping deemed dangerous and would be slapped down with £100 fines from Monday. Today is Friday and the sun is out, and between a bottle fizzing open and the bassist’s opening notes I’m stepping into a place that is here but not now. A warmth erupts over the towpath like a volcano of sound, melting and fossilising in place the passers-by who sit mesmerised by the sounds. Jazz classics, played Parsimoniously. Later, they slow and come to a halt, and there’s something missing in the air. The held-in-place regain their liquid form, flow on. Children stroke dogs they do not know, silhouettes form against the railing above.

The next band has never played together but you wouldn’t know it, and soon, I’m back in that world. As the setting sun catches the water, the reflections are mine: how liberating it feels to revert to a time BC. People are out, masked and sanitised, wandering unconcerned. It’s a millennial reminiscence, a nostalgia for a bygone year. On stage, Everton uses a jerrycan as a drum. Everyone I’ve ever known is here today. Yes, we keep a safe distance, no, we don’t hug like we used to, yes, I miss it.

For an hour or so we’d climbed back – all of us here at two-metre intervals along the wall – to a time last year. Free of fear, our lockdown shells melted in the music. The Big Smoke will smoke again in time, it seems.

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