A welcome old friend

It happened as I was on my regular route to work one morning this week. There was nothing unusual to report - the same children outside the school, the same workmen hanging around the roadworks on the corner that never seem to end; and the same reckless pedestrians invading the cycle lane.

But then one sight stopped me in my tracks. First of all it took a while to register the scene before me - after all just a couple of years ago this was one more of the regular fixtures on my morning journey listed above.

But this time I was filled with that sensation of delight when you bump into a long lost friend; someone you haven't seen for years and you feel the smile widen on your face as you get closer.

It made me think of how we've got used to the absence of certain regular features of our everyday lives over the last 15 months.

The empty desks in the office as colleagues are still home-working are no longer strange; the quiet streets instead of rowdy crowds rushing to the football stadium on match day are now less eerie; and it doesn't feel so awkward being introduced to someone and not kissing them or shaking their hand (in fact on occasions not having to do that anymore is almost a relief - I hope that's not a sign that this enforced lack of closeness will not be completely reversed).

However that morning's encounter was a real indication that things are slowly getting back to as they were.

That refreshing early morning boost of optimism came as the red double-decker open-top sightseeing bus, with its sprightly yellow letters across the side, drove into view. Perhaps it was my imagination but even from a distance I had the sensation that the driver's smile - behind his mask, but reflected in his eyes - was almost as wide as mine.

I used to think those buses, the same wherever you go, were a rather tacky side-effect of mass tourism. But this week it seemed like a returning hero doing a victory lap around the city. I almost expected everyone to stop and cheer.

The bus was empty of passengers, but it was still early. Perhaps its role over the next few weeks will be to take 'bubbles' of cruise passengers around the sights. It's a pity they won't be able to hop off and on to sample the delights of a traditional bar or shop, but it's better than nothing - especially after so many months of uncertainty for the tourism industry.

Just a little bit further to go, I thought, as the vaccination age falls, more hotels open and more people dragging suitcases invade the cycle lane near the bus stop.