The silence of the afternoon is broken only by the song of a blackbird. It might be after three o’clock, but there are no children’s voices, none of the shouting and laughter that fills the air when school gates open. There are moments when I wonder where the children have all gone. Within half a mile, there are two large primary schools, within a mile, two further primary schools and three secondary schools: if the students are all at home, then why are gardens not filled with the sounds of the presence of hundreds of voices? Sometimes it seems that Hamelin-like, they may have disappeared.
The blackbird’s voice is suddenly supplemented by the whistle of a train, and lines from the opening chapter of Winnie the Pooh come to mind.
One day when he was out walking, he came to an open place in the middle of the forest, and in the middle of this place was a large oak tree, and, from the top of the tree, there came a loud buzzing-noise.
Winnie-the-Pooh sat down at the foot of the tree, put his head between his paws and began to think.
First of all he said to himself: “That buzzing-noise means something.You don’t get a buzzing-noise like that, just buzzing and buzzing, without its meaning something.If there’s a buzzing-noise, somebody’s making a buzzing noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you’re a bee.”
Then he thought another long time, and said: “And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey.”
And then he got up, and said: “And the only reason for making honey is so as I can eat it.”
To follow the relentless logic of A.A. Milne: if there is the sound of a train whistle, then the only thing with a reason for making that noise is a train. And if there is a train, then the only reason for there being a train is that railway services have resumed. And the only reason for railway services resuming is that the world is returning to normal.
Turning to look out of the window, a locomotive and carriages in the distinctive dark green of the Great Western Railway went rattling across the viaduct. Had I been on that train, I could have been in London by teatime.
A small bear would have found great reassurance in such a sound.