The whole day was spent in the classroom teaching, five lessons and then tutor time. Apart from myself, the room was entirely empty, rows of empty desks and chairs. The students were all online, behind initials, and the odd avatar, in Microsoft Teams meetings. Each lesson had to begin with a warning that it was being recorded. Conversation was possible with those who had microphones, and were happy to open the mic and share comments.
It must be the longest time I have ever spent seated. Usually, I spend the entire teaching day standing. Before the pandemic prevented the circulation of the classroom, I would have wandered among the desks, asking questions and checking progress. Sitting alone at a desk, talking to a screen all day, is a strange experience. It wasn’t even possible to have the classroom door open, the microphone might have picked up the conversations of anyone passing by, not that there were many people who might be talking, the corridors are deserted.
After a day of inactivity, exercise was necessary. At six o’clock it was dark and there was a hint of drizzle in the air. Pulling my scarf tighter and my hat lower, I set off to walk for an hour.
There were few people around, a few runners in bright lycra outfits, a few solitary walkers, one couple who walked in pace with each other.
Earphones or headphones seem a common accessory of those taking exercise, the streets and roads that are followed being incidental to the physical exertion and the programmes, podcasts or music that accompanies the walkers and joggers.
Sound seemed a distraction. After a day of electronic engagement, closing out the silence of the January evening was unattractive, what was more, it would have interrupted thoughts, distracted attention from what might have been noticed.
Perhaps it was just imagination that suggested that there might still be light lingering in the western sky, but the air was warmer and the breeze less biting.
Numerous houses still had Christmas lights, perhaps they were inspired to observe the full Christmas season, which lasts until Candlemas, 2nd February, the day when the church remembers the forty day old baby Jesus being brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. More likely, the keeping up of the lights after they have traditionally been taken down is an attempt at cheer in the pandemic greyness.
A few corner shops remain open, their windows a bright contrast among the closed businesses. Curtains remained open, in one house an old man sat inside an elegant drawing room, an abstract art canvas dominated a wall looking out toward the road.
The vivid colours of the painting, bright white and deep red, contrasted with the greyness of the winter outside.