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 appeared the first distant ripples of the Covid-19 pandemic. Gathering with the gales of February, the storm swept over the UK in March, and by April it was clear that Boris Johnson’s government – packed with ministers had been chosen for loyalty to Brexit rather than competence – had been as complacent with the nation’s health as he had been with his own. Even in such hands, who would ever have imagined that the UK would 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 best, “leafy Dulwich” indeed, and 2020’s weather was particularly fine. Folk took to lockdown with a bemused mixture of anxiety and enthusiasm. New pastimes like baking sourdough bread and getting puppies became staples of “middle class lockdown bingo”, while every Thursday front doors opened to applaud and express gratitude to key workers and especially the NHS. 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 seemed almost normal as protests resumed. But as autumn turned into winter Britain had developed its own more virulent “UK Variant” of the virus. By December Johnson was cheerily wishing the country a “Merry Little Christmas” one week and then putting on his serious face the next week as he cancelled everyone’s plans. Yet somehow, almost miraculously, Britain seemed to be leading the world with its vaccination programme.

Spring 2021, the beginnings of hope

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. Johnson visited it in the middle of the night.

Summer 2021, a nervous re-emergence of joy

My second vaccination was at lunchtime on May 17, coincidentally the day the government allowed pubs to reopen. While some people feel unwell afterwards, I felt like a pint and a pizza at the pub conveniently next door to the clinic. Not, I add, at the Wetherspoons shown here. In Dulwich, local residents developed a new habit, protesting at road closures implemented as temporary measures, while another sign of normality was a chess festival in Trafalgar Square.