As the country emerged from the first national lockdown, we all relished in the heat. The summer of 2020 felt like the end of an imprisonment. Our walks no longer confined to an hour, not spending day after day in the same four walls wishing we could see something other than magnolia paint and a TV screen reminding us of the rules. Now, we were free. Free to gather in small groups. Our haunt of choice was the same for many: Millennium Bridge. Joining the two sides of the River Ouse’s south bank, we perched on what we affectionately called “the stoop” as often as we could.
Someone always brought something to eat. I’m not sure you could call it a picnic as such, but we never went hungry. There was often a speaker, playing the music that had been soundtracking our lockdown as we discussed how we had managed to keep ourselves sane through the isolation of the past months. When there wasn’t a speaker, we made our own music. We collaborated with such fluidity you would hardly know we’d been apart for so long. Each note we released was a content sigh of relief.
We talked until our throats were raw and dry, we’d soothe them with a drink and then talk some more. We’d been out of the loop with each other for so long that there was never a lull in the conversation. Some of us had made huge life decisions, others had made small changes to themselves that nonetheless made them appear like someone completely new. We shared everything, perhaps because we were worried we might stop needing each other, on those evenings sat on the stoop together. We bonded over our new respect for the friendships that had survived the lockdown.
The pandemic wasn’t over, but we were finally together again, letting the balmy summer evenings under trees warm our souls and the river cool the tempers that had been bubbling during our confinement. Of course we missed our favourite cafes, pubs, music venues, and other haunts. But this city is built on more than businesses and curated spaces. It is built on love and lasting bonds that unite us and enable us to overcome the challenges we face – individually and collectively. York is all of us, York is these evenings – and us, sat by the lulling waters, we are pretty darn special.
Owen Powell (Adapted by Lottie Brooke)