Over the weekend, one of my local parks was locked up by the council and I felt as if another door had been slammed shut.
Pretty Brockwell Park, near Brixton, is where I used to do my weekly 5K Park Run when I was a proper runner (not a wheezy occasional one, as I am now). Its steep paths and wild ponds are where I walked with friends before we were cut off from each other.
Dotted around its 125 acres is a gorgeous lido and two cafes, which were shuttered up weeks ago. It has featured in music videos and even a Hollywood movie (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.).
But recently the park has had a more important starring role.
Susanna Reid argues everyone shouldn’t be punished for the actions of the few, after Brockwell Park (pictured) was closed because 3,000 people visited despite being in lockdown
It is a vital breathing space for an area that has a high density of families with young children living in small flats on housing estates or in tower blocks. Families who are locked in with no green space, for whom the phrase ‘staring at the same four walls’ is depressingly accurate.
As the sun shone last Saturday, 3,000 people flocked to the park’s hilly open spaces. I am sure most went in good faith that they could stay away from others who had the same idea — but, sadly, some visitors were sunbathing and socialising in groups.
So, on Sunday, all park-goers were punished for the actions of the few who thought the rules didn’t apply to them, as the council decreed it couldn’t cope with the numbers and the gates were shut.
Meanwhile, setting a shocking example to young fans desperate to have a kickabout, Spurs manager Jose Mourinho broke the rules by running a training session in a local park.
With too many people abusing their right to get out, by socialising, holding barbecues and trying to get a suntan, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has threatened to take away our precious outdoor exercise allowance.
If you felt claustrophobic when he said that, you weren’t alone. A daily walk is the silver lining of what feels at times like a very dark cloud. So this is my plea to the Government — national and local — to keep our parks and green spaces open.
Move people on when they’re not following the guidelines, please don’t make everyone suffer. The majority of us are playing by the rules and only going out to work, do essential shopping, care for others, get medicine and take our one form of exercise. That exercise is essential if we are to ward off another public health crisis that is on the horizon and growing with each new restriction: the consequences of a long period of inactivity and the effects on our mental health of being stuck inside.
Susanna (pictured) argues keeping people in cramped accommodation will cause frustration and despair
Shutting people away, cooped up in cramped accommodation, is a recipe for frustration and despair. It is impossible for families in one-bedroom flats to get space from each other. No garden, no balcony, no patio means little activity for children.
Those frontline workers we’re all so grateful to for their heroism also need to stretch their legs, take a walk with the children they are rarely able to see around work, or run off a difficult shift by pounding across the common.
Lockdown is bearable if we know we can glimpse the outside world occasionally. Seeing trees, a big expanse of sky, walking on grass. Getting out isn’t a luxury — it’s a necessity.
On Friday, I went for a walk when the common was quiet. I follow the rules, as does almost everyone I see.
In it together
My good friend Rob Rinder sadly lost his 92-year-old grandfather to this awful virus, and has only just recovered from it himself. It’s so important to keep supporting one another, so Rob and I have been video-chatting. He’s even played piano to me while wearing a onesie — the ultimate in quarantine chic.
I’ve been wearing wellies so I can walk across the muddy grass and avoid the pathways, which are only a metre wide.
As the sun shone at the weekend, I chose to stay home. I am lucky — I have a patch of grass 30ft x 12ft big. I have a hula-hoop I can use to exercise, a line to hang out the washing and a chair I can sit in to read the paper. These simple activities keep me fit and sane.
Millions of people cannot do the same, and it’s they who really needed some time in the park.
The Communities Minister Robert Jenrick gets it — and on Monday issued a stern warning, not to those who enjoy the parks, but to the councils: only shut our green spaces as a last resort. He reassured us that there are no imminent plans to cut our daily breather.
With such confusing messages from different branches of government, I can only hope his calmer response will win out.
Easter weekend is almost upon us. We are approaching the peak of this devastating disease. Keep your distance, keep to the rules and we can keep our parks open.
‘You’ll eat what you’re given’ is the rule at mine
Susanna revealed there isn’t any fussiness over the lack of choices in her fridge
There’s a new (but also very old) rule at mealtimes in our house: You’ll eat what you’re given.
There’ll be no more fussiness now the fridge isn’t stuffed with choices.
At the moment we are lucky to have eggs and potatoes. So Saturday night’s dinner was a Spanish omelette that I can pretty much guarantee a month ago would have been at serious risk of refusal. We’re also awash with carrots. I’ve been ordering a veggie box from a local wholesaler and we have a glut of them, so soup is next on the menu.
I’ve even grated them into pancakes. Maybe I’ll get round to making my first ever carrot cake — I can’t see the boys turning their noses up at that.
My ironing hasn’t piled up, because I refuse to do any!
I’m tackling the mounting housework by telling myself it’s a useful form of indoor exercise and, just as Mrs Hinch promises, I’m finding a certain amount of satisfaction in sweeping the floor and cleaning the hob.
However, I will never enjoy putting away laundry, which stays piled up on the counter until it begins to topple over and I can no longer reach the kettle.
There’s another chore, on the other hand, that I simply don’t bother with. Never have, never will. Ironing.
I don’t even have an iron. Yes, it means I can’t own crisp, white shirts — but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. My clothes simply emerge pristine from the dryer. Jeans don’t crease and, for work, stretchy Lycra holds its shape.
It’s one pressing concern I’ll never be adding to my list.
Football’s top scorers
They’re not all rushing to take pay cuts, but some Premier League footballers are doing good.
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, who grew up on free school meals, is working with the charity FareShare to provide food for children who usually rely on school meals.
Former Liverpool, Chelsea and West Ham star Joe Cole has donated thousands of pounds of his own cash to Heroes — Help Them Help Us, which raises funds to support NHS workers.
And at my club, Crystal Palace, Wilfried Zaha has offered 50 properties rent-free to NHS staff.
Definitely the greatest goals of their careers.