As 2020 began I was drawn to things falling over (Brexit was finally happening) and in the subdued celebration of Chinese New Year one could sense the first distant ripples of Covid-19. After February’s gales, in March the pandemic stormed across the UK. Even with Johnson’s government packed with ministers chosen for their loyalty to Brexit rather than for their competence, who would ever have imagined that the UK would go on to suffer more Covid-19 deaths than any other European country?


In mid-March the Johnson government delayed implementing lockdown and other public health measures. The Prime Minister avoided emergency public health meetings and preferred to be photographed shaking hands in hospitals, and it soon became apparent that he had been as complacent with the nation’s health as he had been with his own. Businesses and public places were already emptying and central London had become strangely quiet. I remember photographing the woman with the visor, mask and gloves, and thinking that she looked ludicrous, yet after that morning it would be 4 months before I would again venture into the centre.

Lockdown in Leafy Dulwich

In spring my part of south London is at its verdant best, and 2020’s weather was particularly fine. Fear of the virus mixed with mundane anxieties over supplies of toilet paper, flour and eggs, but people soon found ways to use their time at home, learning to bake sourdough bread – or in my own case how to brew beer. Signs appeared praising the NHS, every Thursday front doors opened to applaud and express gratitude to key workers, and soon every street was decorated with discarded face masks and gloves.

The second wave

By the summer of 2020 people could meet again, even hug, I saw friends outdoors in London’s parks and shared my home brewed beers, and the city seemed almost normal once a variety of protests had resumed. Yet after this respite everyone feared a return to lockdown and as winter approached Britain had developed its own more virulent “UK Variant” of the virus. Again the government again delayed lockdown and masking requirements, and only a week after Johnson joked that we would all enjoy a “Merry Little Christmas” he was forced to put on his serious face and cancel everyone’s plans.

The beginnings of hope

The UK managed to kick off its vaccination programme ahead of more cautious countries. After my first vaccination in March 2021, it was 4 more weeks before lockdown restrictions were lifted and I felt ready to see if central London had returned to nature. I found an area where families were painting their own national memorial and marking each loss with a red heart. Johnson visited the wall in the middle of the night.

A nervous joy

My second vaccination had been scheduled for lunchtime on May 17, and the government then chose that day to allow pubs to reopen outdoors. Next door to the clinic was an interesting-looking pub (not the Wetherspoons shown here preparing for reopening) and while some people feel unwell after their injections, it made me feel like a good pint and a pizza. A new routine? Certainly later in the year I was back at the same pub after my next Covid jab!

During the summer leafy Dulwich’s residents developed a new habit of protesting against badly-planned road closures, a chess festival was staged in Trafalgar Square, and hundreds of naked cyclists rode through central London. Was normality returning?

Winter 2022

Unlike other countries which implemented “vaccination-plus” strategies including wider public health measures, the UK government was exceptional in its reliance on vaccination alone. So it quickly relaxed indoor mask-wearing requirements, was slower to vaccinate children (who always spread disease!), and accepted the resulting higher infection and death rates.

It then became know that throughout the Covid-19 lockdowns, when everyone else couldn’t meet friends or spend time with dying relatives, in Downing Street parties had been happening, bottles arriving in suitcases, and Johnson had repeatedly lied about them and about his own involvement. His apologists still claimed he had “got all the big calls right”, even after UK deaths reached 150,000 in January 2022. By the time he eventually resigned – after promoting a sex pest – that number was 200,000.