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 Out of date posters advertising plays which will never be performed.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.