Here in the United Kingdom, things are waking up again, with many pandemic-based recalibrations advancing to new venues. Things are much the same as before, but personal space is now strangely buffered, with in-person interactions altered in subtle ways. For instance, who would have imagined the need to explain that you are smiling while in conversation because your affability is otherwise obscured by a mask?

A queue at Kew

Welcome to this past week, where city life of all sorts–including the current wave of mass demonstrations–has new Q and A. Should social justice override public health protections? How many in line at the store? How many will they let in? Are masks needed?

Here, there are “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations in London, where people wear masks and do the best they can to follow social distancing guidelines. Meanwhile, Kew Gardens has reopened, yet the rules assure low-density visits, punctuated by distancing warnings, and long queues for bathrooms and refreshments. Today at Kew, a squirrel ran by at top speed, exhibiting shock at people actually onsite.

In my new book (release date pending), I ask readers to imagine the sudden alteration of their customary surroundings and to consider the disappearance of everything familiar in their daily life and routine. I had no idea that my casual questions would be so immediately relevant:

Imagine the paths you are so used to vanishing, along with the people and places that are so familiar. How would you recreate this central experience in your life, and how would you help to create your city’s shared essence?

Sustaining a City’s Culture and Character: Principles and Best Practices

Both today in London and yesterday in Newbury, 67 miles to the west, I saw the importance of creativity and collaboration going forward. In Newbury, the owners of two restaurants near to one another were discussing how to share outdoor seating for after 15 June.

Newbury

As the process of “place-return” continues, we each might think about what comes next in adapting to new circumstances. More than physical alterations of place, we need more that is grounded in shared visions of mutual support and community.

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