You know those moments that come from time to time when you realise that the narrative has changed and that we’re not in a post war realistic novelist’s universe any more? That science fiction is happening right now? I have a memory which must date back to the 1970s or early 1980s of a newspaper headline seen on the tube.It was in the Guardian. I. can recall the old font they used back then. The phrase “radiactive zone” caught my attention and lodged in my memory. Maybe I thought about J G Ballard, which seems like the sort of thing I would have thought back then. Over the years since I have sometimes wandered into a Ballardian landscape. You expect that sort of thing in east London near a body of water, or in the western suburbs near the river. Ballard country.
We’ve lived in a science fiction landscape during the lockdown. Think the opening sequence of 28 Days later or the Day of the Triffids. Where have all the people gone? Anyway that’s what I thought when I looked through this set of photos taken by one of my neighbours.
It’s a fine day but the streets are almost empty. Just a solitary figure and a lone car waiting for the lights to change.
That period of deserted London didn’t last all that long really but I remember the unexpectedness of walking through lightly populated streets.
I remember how bright it was, like a summer’s day, but without the unnecessarily blistering heat of the last few days.
The empty buses running through empty streets. At first they didn’t even want you to use your card.
Mostly though I walked. To a supermarket, to a pharmacy, to the post office. Waiting in the placid queues with all the other patient people who didn’t mind the delay. After all, where else were we going?
Normally quiet streets were even more quiet, it seemed.
And familiar sights seemed almost willfully tranquil.
If you didn’t know something was going on you might be fooled into thinking it was all perfectl normal.
Or you might think that’s an impressive building – I wonder what’s inside? Surely something must be going on in there?
Most of these places I saw with my own eyes but our photographer went to places I didn’t see during the lockdown,
Along with some I did.
The oddest thing for me is how ephemeral it all turned out to be. Whatever the ultimate outcome, the lockdown may just be an episode.
But let’s not forget why it was happening.
Thanks to JT for these pictures. I’m sure we’ll feature more images of the lockdown in future weeks.
If all goes well I will be back at Local Studies very soon. I’m looking forward to sitting in the archives again. I might see some of you there.