Covid-19

As 2020 began I was noticing things falling over – after all, Brexit was at the end of January – and then over Chinese New Year the first distant ripples of the Covid-19 pandemic appeared. The storm gathered with the gales of February and then swept over the UK in March, and by April it was clear that Boris Johnson’s government had been as complacent with the nation’s health as he had been with his own. Still, even with a government chosen for loyalty to Brexit rather than competence, who would ever have believed that the UK would go on to suffer more C-19 deaths than any other European country and the most damage to its economy?

Disbelief

In mid-March the government was cheerily avoiding a lockdown, the prime minister happily skipping emergency briefings while shaking hands as he flounced around the country putting on white coats or whatever other fancy dress suited the photo op. Yet already businesses and other public places were emptying and central London was strangely quiet. I vividly recall thinking that the woman’s visor, mask and gloves seemed a ludicrous overreaction, and never thought that it would be 4 months before I would again venture into town.

Lockdown in Dulwich

In spring my home area of Dulwich is at its verdant “leafy Dulwich” best, 2020’s weather was particularly fine, and folk took to lockdown with a sort of bemused anxiety. Baking sourdough bread and new puppies became such clich├ęs, “middle class lockdown bingo”, while every Thursday front doors opened to express gratitude to key workers and especially the NHS and soon every street was decorated with discarded face masks and gloves.

The second wave

Summer brought a respite when you could meet people again, even hug, and central London protests resumed. By winter, Britain had produced its own more virulent “UK Variant” of the virus, Johnson was wishing the country a “Merry Little Christmas” one week and then cancelling it the next. And somehow Britain seemed to be leading the world with its vaccination programme.

A new spring

Getting my vaccination at the start of March, it was still another 4 weeks before lockdown restrictions were lifted and I felt ready to see if central London was still there and hadn’t returned to nature. I found one area where people were painting their own national memorial.