I haven’t been into London since late March but have needed to come back in for the first time, this week. I was a bit apprehensive about it, and I had no idea what to expect.
I’ve actually avoided most of the outside world for the last 120 days and am much less on top of the news than the rest of my family (mainly because I just can’t face reading about COVID-19 after a day of talking about COVID-19).
I thought I’d take a few pictures for anyone else who is curious about what it’s like. Here’s what it’s like arriving into London at 8am this week…
I got the 0703 train into London Victoria. I’d normally expect this to be packed. There were few enough people on it that everyone could have a group of seats to themselves.
Most people have their masks on before they get on the train. The odd person thinks they’re above it, and either waits until they’re sat down to put it on, or doesn’t bother at all.
My sister made me a mask out of some purple fabric. It’s double-layered, and has space in between the layers to insert a filter. Apparently you can use coffee filters between the layers of fabric; I’m not sure whether this is effective or just a bit of a fad perpetuated by social media.
Some people have their masks off their noses whilst they’re sitting on the train. It’s not really the idea, but I can see why they do it – sometimes you just want to breathe in some cool air.
Arriving into Victoria Station, it’s immediately clear that things aren’t “normal”.
Inside there station itself, it is completely quiet. I had to go into London 3 times this week, and on each occasion I could never see more than 50 people when looking in any direction.
Most of the station is shut. The coffee stalls and fast food places all have their shutters down. One little Pret outlet was open, but there were 4 people outside already so even though I was hankering after a coffee from a coffee shop, I avoided it as 4 people was positively crowded by my books.
I don’t think I’ve even seen Victoria station this quiet in the early hours of the morning. I wouldn’t say it’s unpleasant…
There are blue signs everywhere advising people to wear masks and keep their distance.
National Rail are giving away free face masks, and there are hand sanitiser dispensers dotted around the station.
There seemed to be lots of staff around wearing bright pink jackets. I wasn’t entirely sure what their job was – it may have simply been to make me feel like everything was being taken very seriously….
There are visual markers to help people remember how far apart they should be standing. These are outside the station, and I also spotted them just on the pavement along the road.
I haven’t had a coffee made by a barista since I was last in London. There are very coffee shops open, but Hermanos opposite the station looked inviting so I popped in. The coffee was good.
I had a 10 minute-ish walk along Victoria Street to the office. I’m used to being one of hundreds of people plowing down the street away from the station. It’s so quiet that you almost can’t avoid making eye contact with everyone you walk past.
It’s completely deserted on the streets, compared to a normal weekday rush hour. Walking along Victoria Street for 10 minutes, I reckon I passed no more than 50 people. I’d say about a quarter of them had a mask on.
I found myself avoiding pushing the buttons at the road crossings, but it didn’t really matter as there weren’t enough cars to really need the crossing anyway.
Inside the office, it felt a little more like normal. It’s still completely quiet compared to pre-COVID, but without a doubt being in the office itself carries more risk than the travel in and out of London. I’m much less apprehensive about the travel bit now.
I feel like it’s not going to stay quiet like this for much longer, and I’m a little sad about that, I think.