With lockdown restrictions ever-so-slightly eased in the last few days, I went for a walk with a friend today. Just a Sunday afternoon stroll around Douglas, avoiding busy areas and all properly masked and distanced. It wasn’t the most carefree or relaxed walk, with all those rules to remember, but it was the furthest I’ve been in quite some time.
On the walk, my attention was drawn by Myrtle Street. I know that sounds like a Silent Movie-era ingenue with a tragic private life. For those unfamiliar with the town dubbed “The Naples of the North” by that noted humorist John Betjeman, it’s actually a road in the financial area of Douglas. With one side of the street consisting of offices that have been converted from a terrace of houses built before the invention of the car, parking is at a premium. Usually, the left-hand side of this photo is bedecked with vehicles, seven days a week.
To see Myrtle Street absolutely car-free was a striking thing. Obviously, it’s just a temporary state, caused by the current weirdness, but to see the line of the street uninterrupted was unusual and pleasing. In a slightly spooky, disaster-movie kind of way. But that’s very on-trend.
When normality returns, it will clearly be a different kind of normal. Will an increase in people working from home lead to a noticeable reduction in car journeys? A few years further down the uncrowded road, will the introduction of driverless cars mean that there’s less demand for parking spaces? To quote car-using crime-fighter Hong Kong Phooey – “Could be”.
I’m as keen as anybody for reassuringly familiar aspects of life to return, and the streets of central Douglas being car-lined used to be very, very familiar. If when the vehicles return, they’re slightly fewer in number, I think we could cope. Myrtle Street may not look like it does in this picture again, but it was good to see the old street pause and take a metaphorical breath.