Missing London: in the shadow of Brexit and pandemic.

Initially, I wanted to wrap 2020 up in the last post, but last year was honestly something else, so I figured it does deserve some proper closure. The following post is mostly about the first half of last year and about living in London during the first lockdown.

Of course, the situation in London (and everywhere, really) is still terrible. I check the news daily, and I can’t wait to see the numbers dropping down permanently. The reality is terrifying, but there are also some silver linings. I’ll never forget the sights of deserted London, but I also won’t forget the amount of kindness and support I’ve seen in London during the coronavirus pandemic.

So there we were, last January, thinking the most unforgettable moment of the year was going to be the 31st of Jan. Little did we know then. But after the whole neverending saga, I honestly didn’t think I was going to see the end to it. EVER. Those were confusing times. I’ve lost track of what the predictions were, who would be able to come and visit, whether there was going to be a deal or no deal, hard Brexit, soft Brexit, utter confusion. So on that last day of January, I was partially convinced that something unexpected would happen and that this was not a done deal yet. Nothing happened though, so we celebrated the last day of England in Europe in the only way possible.

And yes, the following week consisted mostly of jokes like “how are you doing back in Europe?”

I remember the exact time I’ve heard the first news about that new virus. I was in the pharmacy, and one of the colleagues showed me an article. In the beginning, I didn’t think it would be that serious. Maybe something like bird flu, or swine flu at worst. Then again, little did we know.

At first, there was chaos. The numbers were growing, cases emerged, Italy was already pretty bad. However, in England, it didn’t seem that serious yet (I’d like to remind you that initially, we were going for the herd immunity…), and when I was out for the last time, 08/03/20, the city was still full of people.

One week later, Poland closed the borders, and I was so upset that I couldn’t go home for the holidays. Meantime, the risk in the UK was raised from moderate to high. I felt a bit reassured as if the situation was finally taken more seriously. There were gossips about a total lockdown coming soon, and the first signs of panic were, of course, empty shelves.

Then, on March 20th, some more restricted measures were introduced. Pubs and restaurants closed (take-away only), and other places, such as gyms and theatres, were soon to follow. But at this time, we still didn’t have to wear masks or anything in my pharmacy, so I was just obsessively washing hands, lifting brows on people who weren’t obeying social distancing rules, and generally hoping for the best.

In the second half of March, as more and more people started to stay at home, my way to work started to look quite different than what I was used to.

But also, the first signs of general support started to show up. Clap for Our Carers inaugurated on 26th of March. Many restaurants were giving out free coffees and meals for NHS staff.

And they were the most appreciated.

Thousands of people volunteered to help those who were the most vulnerable. I called dozens of patients to ask whether they require delivery of their meds. It was a win-win situation, as they didn’t have to worry, and I could go for walks and chat with people (from the distance, of course). That is mostly what I remember from that Spring. Preparing and delivering medications, and talking to people. How are they holding up, how we in the shop are doing. Do they need anything, are the staff healthy. And, of course, that, like everything, THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

At the beginning of April, Her Majesty made her uplifting speech, and Captain Tom Moore began Tom’s 100th Birthday Walk For The NHS, which was, well, movingly beautiful. Random messages of kindness were everywhere throughout the city.

One of the three Vogue’s covers, June 2020

Some pictures from deserted city, or Living In A Ghost Town, if you please.

The streets were empty, but there was still so much kindness around. As if we were craving it. Everyone was insecure and, honestly speaking, quite anxious. I remember that lady that told me once “Dear, you have no idea how much I’m panicking.” Well, I don’t know why she assumed that I was steady as a rock there, but at that time, she needed some conversation. And, even if I didn’t have enough professional knowledge (or a crystal ball, for that matter) to tell her how things would be, I could speak reassuringly. And it did the trick. I feel like everywhere people were trying their best. This is how I remember the COVID-19 pandemic in London. People were helping each other. This too shall pass.

There were also people who were still coming to the shop with cough and fever, but that was a different story. Me, on the other hand, I dropped the black dress that I was usually wearing and changed it to the white uniform, which kept people proper 6 feet away from me on my way home.

The dress was cool though.
But not as cool as the masks’ shortage.

And then came summer. In the middle of May, we were allowed to meet in parks, obeying social distancing rules of course. And in the middle of June, most retail shops and restaurants re-opened.

Primrose Hill, 21/06/20
Trafalgar Square, 10/07/20. I don’t remember it being this empty either.

And nothing tasted as good as that first beer in public. Outside, but there were also other people. To be fair, that was a whole different vibe.

Whole. Different. Vibe.

And that was London’s first lockdown for me. Luckily, I was healthy, and to be honest, working helped me a lot during that time. So as I’ve said, the pictures of London’s empty streets will stay with me forever, but so will the image of people’s kindness, patience, and goodwill. Stay safe, everyone.

This too shall pass.

3 thoughts on “Missing London: in the shadow of Brexit and pandemic.

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