Outside, it's dark, and has been for five hours now. The clocks have gone back to GMT, and after work time has become the type for staying in.
Each evening, a new breed of driver shatters the otherwise quiet town centre of Shrewsbury with the sound of deliberate backfiring, unsilenced motorcycle exhausts. It's been going on for weeks, this dystopian ritual of explosions: I imagine it as a lockdown strutting of paltry stuff, a defiant emptying out of thoughtless rage past the early-closing pubs.
Anticipating the earlier sunset, wishing to avoid exercising in the evening streets, I went out midday for my walk in the park, an eye on my watch to get back home in time for the next videocall class. The sun eeked itself out from behind the showers, and the riverside paths beyond the weir were golden-brown with autumn leaves embedded in mud. I walked cautiously. Even in a pandemic, there are dog owners who don't pick up after, and twice in the past fortnight I've come home with stinking dog mess caked into my soles.
After class, catching up on the admin. which grows heads like a hydra, I needed to search my emails for Hope, looking for the last email I'd written to her. I tapped 'Hope' into the search bar, pressed Return.
What I found was that almost every email I write contains hope:
I hope you are well.
I hope we can meet before too long.
I hope you feel better soon.
I hope you are able to find time for yourself.
Search your inbox for Faith, for Charity. You may not find them there. But Hope, Hope, Hope. It's everywhere, littering words like golden leaves in all the mud and mess, its small, round, comforting sound topped off with the softest of plosives.
Photo credit - Mike Powell