In Lockdown, Parks Are The New Nightclubs

Hannah Nathanson

From ELLE

Bikini bodies, basslines to make your bones shake and enough sexual tension to cut through steel. No, I’m not talking about the last time you went out clubbing - now a distant memory. I’m talking about Crystal Palace Park last Tuesday evening.

Because recently, there’s been something in the air during my daily walks. It’s not the usual nervousness about keeping two metres apart, or the disdain for people who jog too close, it’s Sex.

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The humble park has become the new nightclub. A giant, open-air hotspot that never really closes (there are gates to jump), and where bushes have become the new dark corners to sneak off to.

There may be no queuing for drinks at the bar, but there is a long line for Mr Whippy – the two-meter distance is actually the perfect range for some harmless flirting. Plus, you can tell a lot by a person, and the type of evening they have in mind, by the ice cream choice they make.

Gone is the crowded, sweaty dancefloor, and in its place are satellites of revelry spread across the green with people dancing to forget and others dancing to be seen.

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You see, as the weather heats up, so it seems are we. People are peeling away from their lockdown existences and they are ready to show some flesh, and flirt. Especially young people, who should have been doing exactly this for the past ten weeks but have been denied all social contact.

Everywhere you look there are bare bodies soaking up not just the sun but the subtle, and not-so-subtle, glare of hungry eyes; the attention that has, up until now, been so sorely missing from people’s lives. Finally, there’s an audience to dress up, and down, for.

And just like in a nightclub there are different social groups on show. It’s a bit like a 90s teen rom com where the new kid at school walks through the corridor and someone points out the different groups of people to hang out with.

There are the cool kids definitely getting up to no good, or at least thinking about it. They’re sipping ironic bottles of Corona while dancing to a summer soundtrack played on giant speakers that have been wheeled for miles to the most central (read: prominent) spot in the park.

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Then there are the sporty ones. They’ve spent most of lockdown working out, and now that restrictions are easing, they’re taking their workouts – and their unbelievably ripped bodies – outside for all to see. It’s amazing how many press-ups one can do when there’s an admiring audience.

Next up are the prospective lovers. After weeks of messaging, they’ve finally met up on a first date. Sat on opposite edges of a blanket, they’re sharing a once-cold bottle of wine and a family-size packet of crisps. You can spot them easily because the no-touching rule makes the air around them turn hazy with tension. But however well the date is going, it will most likely end prematurely with someone needing a wee.

And it’s not just in big cities where peacockery is now on full display. Someone in lockdown in Cambridgeshire noticed the ‘previously quaint (bordering on twee) banks of the River Cam look more like a Magaluf beach over the Bank Holiday weekend. There were thong bikinis, beach umbrellas and boozing teenagers everywhere. It was great!’

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After months of lockdown and gloomy news, there’s definitely a carnival spirit in parks and outdoor spots. You might have noticed it already, maybe you’re a part of it with the wrist stamp to prove it. If not, look out for it on your next walk or the next time you’re standing in the queue for an ice cream, where the party inevitably starts. Who needs a round of tequila shots when you can get and a 99 Flake?


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