What’s the air like where you are? In the rural part of England where I live the air is fresh – apart from on busy roads – and a contrast to London where, on a fleeting visit pre-lockdown, the air was of dismayingly poor quality.

The Air That I Breathe, a love song by Albert Hammond, in collaboration with Mike Hazlewood, was written in a smog-filled city. It’s been covered by many artists, including Phil Everly, and was a huge hit for The Hollies in 1974 – well worth a listen!

Can we avoid polluted air? Masks have been commonplace items of clothing in some global cities for a long time as people try to avoid breathing in stuff that could damage their lungs. Elaborate and colourful masks were used as far back as the 15th century, not for health reasons but for fun, to impress, and supposedly to hide one’s identity at masquerade balls. By contrast, a highwayman’s sinister mask was definitely worn to hide his identity – someone such as England’s 18th century Dick Turpin – and to put fear into the people he held up.

The wearing of masks today is more mundane. At present their use is to help prevent the spread of coronavirus by creating a barrier between people and the air that they breathe in and out. All that I need, the song says, is the air that I breathe, and to love you. Let’s hope that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, the air that we breathe and the love that we give and receive, will be such that all of us may breathe a sigh of relief.

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