Tenderly it comes to life. A seagull perches on a shop-sign to survey the scene. The street has been silent too long, trapped in a hibernation from which it has struggled to awake at times, an unnatural near-death episode in its long history. Fourteen months of let-down, of lockdown, twice partially freed and twice re-frozen, sinking back into the chill of a slowed-up metabolism. And now something’s happening. Everything’s happening.

The same shop colours are quietly speaking, it seems; after the let-down, the lockdown, there’s a subauditory clamour, a signalling, a quickening. I slowly walk up the pedestrianised precinct to let it come through. Barclay’s cobalt blue, a jeweller’s and pawnbroker’s bottle-green, Santander’s scarlet, Wetherspoon’s dark navy blue. There’s information in the air, I can feel it, for a moment I’m charged with it. After the lockdown, the lowdown. A barber’s red-and-white stick of rock. A clothing store’s olive green. An olive-tree outside it takes the signal, transforms it: suddenly it’s there, the vociferous news, the leaves thrill to the wind, it’s starting up again.

Some shops have failed. But the street has said something, not just for the current escape but for the driven current itself. Not just for the age but for the ages. I pass a busker with all the surrounding colours it  seems, and then some. She’s a one-woman street vaudeville, or voix de ville; the olive-trees have passed the signal on, for a second it’s at full throttle, it’s what I’m here for . . . I turn and make my way back.

Incredibly the seagull’s still on the shop-sign. How long did all that take?

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