Sat 06 21
Lockdown In London
4 min read
As someone who lives on the outskirts of London and that usually works in the city centre I am frequently surrounded by busy crowds of commuters and tourists alike. With everything that is going on in the world right now it is unsurprising that the buzzing city I know and love is normally alive with commuters and tourists, but it has been transformed into an eerie and hauntingly quiet ghost town, with nothing but the roar of empty buses or the sirens of ambulances ringing through the (now much less polluted) air.
This is what you can see if you live in London right now.
The London Eye
I am normally fighting to get through the crowds here, either to grab a coffee from my locals on Lower Marsh or to leg it up a bridge into the city. On this day, however, not a single stroller or ticket-wielding soul made an appearance. The Golden Jubilee Gardens, a lovely little green space perfect for watching the sun go down, was luckily still open, but anything leading up to the ferris wheel was cordoned off by steel shutters. The pigeons even took shelter — staying home, I imagine.
The Golden Jubilee Bridge, my local entryway into the West End, was empty. I stopped to take a video and a couple of photos on the middle of the bridge, and all I could hear were the choppy waves of the Thames. By the time I reached the other side, only lines of retired buses filled the quiet streets leading up to Horseguards, Whitehall, and Trafalgar Square.
The famous square, home to Nelson's column and the now four iconic Sir Edward Landseer-designed lions, was empty. Buses still continued to roar around its roundabout roads, with the sounds of sirens and emergency services ringing in the air.
Haymarket and St James's Street
Part of the beating heart of London's theatreland, two buses and a man walking his dog replaced the hundreds of tourists, business types, and movie crews that usually run riot up and down its busy streets.
The most haunting site: an empty Piccadilly Circus. While the lights of the famous neon lights still shone bright, the Statue of Eros's steps remained empty, there were no singers entertaining the crowds, all the shops, restaurants, bars, and theatres were shut, and I counted a handful of people waiting to do a shop in Whole Foods. It was also the cleanest I'd ever seen the landmark, with no rubbish or throw-away daily newspapers in sight.
London's premier shopping destination was the definition of a ghost town. No cars, buses, or taxis roared up the street's famous curves, and except for the lone walker, John Nash's legacy avenue remained lifeless.
Rainbow flags continued to flutter and the odd couple were out in typical Soho force walking their designer puppies — the only bit of normality I eyed in the area. The pubs and bars of Old Compton Street were sealed shut, with local favourites Cafe Boheme and Cecconi's completely boarded up.
Hundreds flock to see this piazza bloom into a floratopia come spring and summer. Its elegant plaza, once home to several singers, larger-than-life entertainers, numerous dishy restaurants and date night spots, boutiques, and the cutesy Apple Market only had a few security guards walking through it.
This is the bridge with the best view in London (so I think, anyway). I counted two, maybe three cars, a lone jogger, and a handful of cyclists whizzing along. The most noticeable thing? How fresh the air was. I've lived here the majority of my life, and never have I been able to down a gulp of London o2 without coughing (or gagging).
Leake Street Tunnel
Street artists in London, up and down the country, and across the globe descend on this artsy tunnel to leave their mark. I walk through here most days, and 90% of the time, whatever I saw the day before has been either freshly inked or totally marked out. When the place last played host to several graffitists, the last art piece I vividly remember seeing was a pale male figure kitted out in red, wearing a face mask. He was still there.
Over the years I've associated this square with the art of protest, flocks of wanderlusters, and the bells of Westminster Abbey. On a sunset walk towards the parks, a dozen or so cars, empty buses, groups of friends (not social distancing, that's for sure), and a few police officers manning the gates of the Palace of Westminster were the only signs of life I encountered.
St James's Park
This is my usual walk to my office in High Street Kensington. Normally packed with runners, commuters, wannabe photographers, and just your plain average joe feeding the ducks, my local Royal Park was virtually empty. Still, there were inkinings of normality: the giant pelicans still continued to be mischievous on the park rocks and the birds still hung around the watertight gates of Duck Island cottage in search of a chance meal. They might be waiting a while.
Whilst the Queen remains in self-isolation at Windsor Castle, her London HQ stands unscathed, surrounded by an army of tulips and daffodils saluting spring's arrival. A news crew continued to report near the gates and couples, presumably self-isolating together, walked the streets and took the opportune selfie in the eerily quiet palace gardens. The sounds of ambulances roaring down The Mall were almost comforting.
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