This week, instead of lying in bed listening and worrying and feeling outraged by the drunken noise of a pub kicking out at 2am, I have chosen to settle in for an hour on the sofa, to observe. There is an initial scuffle or two, mostly around a misunderstanding of who Milly was going out with, but nothing too violent, and then the crowd flows and ebbs around the market place, gravitating towards its various needs. Kebabs, taxis, each other. At 2.05 the loudest shouts are a variety of ‘fuck you then,’ or ‘fucking twat!’ but once the most disgruntled members have been encouraged away from the crowd, the noise becomes more friendly. Did you find your phone? How are you getting home? Have you got a rizla? I’ll wait here. Who’s phone is this then? Did you have a good night? It’s on 3% mate. Some kerfuffle and two police vehicles congregate by the bus stop, a Wiltshire Council man wearily pulls up his truck, empties the bin, replaces the liner and moves on to the next. Seagulls are gathering around the discarded kebab boxes. One girl has some very important but inaudable things to shout about her hair, and another runs across the road to leap into the arms of a boy. Among the sound of happy chatter and laughter are the intermittent clipping of heels and slamming of car doors. Couples form and wander around together, apart, together again. Groups of boys gather, hugging and laughing in their T-shirts and jeans, and girls with long pale legs and swishy hair walk around intently. A taxi is trying to pull away from a boy who runs alongside holding on to the door – I’ll give you fifty quid mate, I’ll give you a hundred quid! until he lets go and the taxi drives away to his friends laughter. Their names float on the air – Jessie, Freya, Ellie, Callum, and instead of drunken yobs, tonight I see my friends’ children. My niece and nephew, myself 20 years ago. These teenagers are excited about life, they are fearless, powerful and unswayed, oblivious to the concerns of a pandemic that have kept a lot of us locked up for months. Their need to connect is greater than their need for safety. Or warmth. They have looked forward to tonight, phoned each other, planned their outfits, assured their parents they’d stick together. They fizz with the energy and excitement about each other that I remember having, they are urgent and alive. Their need to connect is far stronger than my need to sleep right now, and I almost respect them for it.

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