So Day 1 back to work amid COVID-19 was interesting. I got the train to Charing Cross with wary commuters, wrapped up in medical masks, gloves and scarfs. People are attempting to social distance but on a train which is barely 1 meter across trying to navigate the seating plan is an effort in itself.
I change at London Bridge for my connecting train, everybody is so eager to exit the carriage that social distancing is flouted, especially on the escalators. I do what I can but it’s definitely less than 1 meter apart. Walking up the strand in the early morning is eerie to say the least. There are a few rough sleepers congregated near to the Sainsbury’s, I see a couple helping one another to put on medical masks. The air smells fresh, smells less polluted, a couple of vehicles can be seen in the distance, swerving and turning off the main road.. in spite of the movement on the street it feels apocalyptic.
Most of the shops and restaurants are closed, nobody running for coffee, picking up a hit sandwich for breakfast before hitting the office for the day. Checking my watch I see it’s 8am, I need to hurry up and get myself to work. A jogger passes me Lycra running shirt and a yellow top, headphones in and talking, I don’t recognise the language… but the intonation could be followed… he was on the phone to a loved one, a parent, grandparent, sibling it doesn’t matter. The wind blows and chills me, my fingers numb, the contents of my bag for life a bottle of water, jar of coffee, home made soup and an umbrella are my rations for the working day.
I see a lady in a beautifully fitted navy winter coat buckled at the waist smoking a cigarette as she made her way to her destination on the opposite side of the road. Her brown hair casually coifed and designer sunglasses resting on the tip of her small nose. A homeless man tries to make conversation… I couldn’t hear what he said, but spare change or a cigarette are the best guess. She waves him away and proceeds to make her way down the Strand… her nonchalant gesture palmed off the man, with his sky blue sleeping bag slung over his left shoulder. Were the lady and I even experiencing the same street? The same London? Possibly not but we were definitely in the same pandemic held fear… the same fear that had now been added to those less fortunate souls… the waft of desperation danced freely along the wind, as it blew down the same street, encircling us three individual souls trying to get through a new way of life.