Friday 14 August

Today was a lockdown breakthrough: I went on a London underground train for the first time since March. Andy here in Peterborough was curious to see what London is like under lockdown, so we drove to Edgware and then took the tube to Charing Cross. This was our first experience of a tube train:

Nobody there. We gained a few passengers as we got closer to central London, the majority in masks but not everyone, it has to be said. We were masked throughout though it felt a bit hot. When we arrived at Charing Cross there were more TFL employees than passengers:

I have never seen a London train terminal so empty. Social distancing was never going to be a problem. At no point did I feel apprehensive: indeed I don’t anyway most of the time, as the current incidence of the virus is extremely low. Outside the station the city of Westminster has positioned hand sanitiser spots:

Apparently popular with some down and outs who drink it, as sanitiser contains a percentage of alcohol. Hm. We walked around Trafalgar Square: no street artists, no musicians, nor tourists. Lots of pigeons, that’s all. There is a new art work on the fourth plinth, which appears to be an ice cream with a cherry on top being attacked by a drone. It seemed so bizarre, it could epitomise the time we are living in.

We walked down Whitehall and saw the horse guards on their black horses, in full regalia with helmets, swords, scarlet uniform. Normally surrounded by hordes of tourists snapping selfies: today no-one. We chatted to the policemen on duty: yes they were here in 32C heat, very trying, they thought there is a slight increase in visitors, but in general dead quiet. I find the sight of all the theatres boarded up very disquieting. Out of date posters advertising plays which will never be performed. Almost as though an atomic bomb has fallen and everything is frozen in time.

We called into a Boots near Westminster Bridge to buy a sandwich for lunch. Usually the place would be heaving with Westminster office workers: we were the only ones in there. This can’t go on. How can a shop survive in these conditions?

We were back at the Charing Cross underground at 2pm, you might imagine a slightly busy time. This was the scene:

Andy was the sole passenger. We decided that it was not a frightening experience but also no fun. No buzz, no interaction, many places closed or restricted. The village pub in Northborough was more entertaining. Will the centre of London die, like Detroit? The times they are a’changing.

3 thoughts on “Friday 14 August

  1. So sad Jenny to see London abandoned. A Friday in August would normally be rammed with tourists wandering 6 a breast jamming up the streets to the annoyance of office workers.
    The fourth plinth has hosted some fabulous art work. The ice cream is apparently called “THE END it represents exuberance and unease. Topped with a giant, unstable load, the plinth becomes a monument to hubris and impending collapse. The surrounding architecture and its population are participants in a mis-scaled landscape, one that magnifies the banal, and our cohabitation with other lifeforms, to apocalyptic proportions.“

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  2. Well well, I am always suspicious when art works need an extensive explanation. Certainly the word apocalyptic could apply to many areas of central London now. It is an odd feeling to be there.

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  3. One of the features of this crisis that things which were already happening, and would have steadily kept happening, maybe over the next ten years: eg shop closures, decline of commuting and tele/home-working on the up, have been accelerated and have happened within the space of weeks. It is hard to get used to for that reason. What is to happen now to the magnificent and architecturally noteworthy buildings in the centre of London. Maybe some will turn over to living accommodation, like former warehouses in E London, etc. Fancy living in the Bank of England?!

    We shall see…but how long before we see, is anyone’s guess!

    The passenger train network has already been reduced to a social service in virtually 100% state ownership. I commuted to work for 35 years, endured misery and union tyranny, and of course forked out for season tickets, and now this! We woz robbed!

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