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A Socially Distanced Walk Along The River Thames


The United Kingdom is in its second week of lockdown, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has encouraged people to head out once a day for exercise as long as they keep their distance. So NPR's Frank Langfitt takes us on his outdoor stroll.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: I live in Weybridge. It's a quaint town upstream on the Thames. Walking through my neighborhood, it's mostly red brick houses, and there are couple of women chatting on the sidewalk.

LAURA JACKSON: My name's Laura Jackson (ph). I'm 27 years old, and I'm a personal trainer in Weybridge. And this is my best friend (laughter).

KARIMA FARL: My name is Karima Farl (ph). I'm 27, and I'm a personal banker.

LANGFITT: Now, the government's ordered almost all businesses closed, but banks are considered essential, so Karima is still going to work every day.

FARL: There's a lot of people that we have to still help that can't bank any other ways, maybe people who don't have debit cards or can't make shop purchases with cash, et cetera, because shops aren't taking cash.

LANGFITT: Many supermarkets have reserved opening hours for health care workers and the elderly, so Laura says she bought some meat for Karima at the butcher today.

JACKSON: Because she's still working, she can't get into the shops at the right time to get things, which are absolutely just running out. So we offered to do it on our one walk of the day the other day.

FARL: What is that, lamb? Lamb - I'm very excited. (Laughter) I'm very excited.

ARCHIE GREENSMITH: I am Archie Greensmith (ph), and...

BEN: I'm 9.

ARCHIE: I'm 9, and I go to school (laughter).

LANGFITT: Archie's mailing letters with his parents today. This is part of their daily exercise. And that was Ben (ph), his dad, prompting him.

ARCHIE: I've gone to homeschooling now because all the schools are shut down. I miss some of my friends. I don't miss my teacher. But...

BEN: (Laughter).

LANGFITT: Archie says his teacher is strict, so he prefers his mum, who gives him more attention.

ARCHIE: I just - if I have a question, my teacher normally is with somebody else. And my mum is always with me, if you know what I mean.

BEN: A bit more helpful - one-on-one rather than one-on-30.

LANGFITT: A short walk and now I'm on the banks of the Thames. It's a sunny day. Everybody who would be normally at work or school is out kayaking, running or biking. Phil Stafford's (ph) 72. He wishes he were working. Instead, he's sitting on his antique yacht as the bumpers rub against the dock. His boat doubles as a floating restaurant. Phil says he planned to open for the season 10 days ago.

PHIL STAFFORD: Our friend, the prime minister, Mr. Boris Johnson, told everyone who runs a restaurant that we had to close on Friday evening. All my bookings for the rest of the summer have been canceled, so I'm spending my time now playing my piano.

LANGFITT: He steps inside his cabin and launches into a Randy Newman song. It's called "Bad News From Home."


LANGFITT: Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Weybridge.


Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.