A Langholm man’s perspective on the capital in quarantine
By Nicol Nicolson
THE FIRST thing that strikes you in present-day London is the abundance of delivery drivers. I live on a street saturated with takeaways and, when evening falls, there’s a long line of motorcyclists outside each of them. On otherwise traffic-free roads, there are just buses and bikes. The buses have a handful of people on them at most.
In term of pedestrians, the determined runners are still pounding the pavements in reasonable numbers. The only other people you see are construction workers, or shoppers queueing outside pharmacies and convenience stores that are limiting their numbers. For a city normally buzzing with workers and tourists, it’s all slightly surreal.
I’m considered a key worker, as a journalist employed in public service broadcasting. I’m required in the office on roughly two out of every three days I’m on the roster, but the newsroom at ITN is operating with a skeleton staff. Reporters are starting their shifts from home. Newsgathering journalists are making calls and setting up interviews from their sitting rooms. As many of you will have witnessed over recent days, Skype and FaceTime have become the new normal in our broadcasts. Those correspondents who do appear in the studio are perched at a distance from the presenter. Similar social distancing is observed in the newsroom, where we’re used to having to climb over each other to get anything done. Editors are working from vehicles in the car park. Graphic designers are providing templates we can all use so that they don’t have to travel to work.
As the underground and other train operators are running limited services, I see photos and video each day demonstrating overcrowding on the network. Mercifully I’m able to walk to and from the office (about 45 minutes each way) so I haven’t observed this first-hand. When I’m not working, I try to get to one of the city’s parks and get some relatively fresh air, and in recent days people seem to be getting better at making a conscience effort to stay two meters from others. The city, when quieter, feels cleaner. Perhaps that’s partially down to the crisp, dry days we’ve been enjoying lately. But I’d imagine pollution is dropping daily.
Those who know me will know I’m not a city person. I’ve just landed in a career that largely requires city living. The biggest transition personally has been adapting to the idea that I’m no longer free to travel north to Scotland’s countryside and coast at my favourite time of the year. But when I consider the sacrifices that our NHS workers are making, it puts the inconvenience in context. And while the pressure of my job has certainly heightened in line with the pandemic, I acknowledge that the strain pales in comparison to what others on the frontline of the fight against the virus are enduring.
Eventually London and the work I do here will return to a more recognisable state. But as the cheers and applause rang out around my neighbourhood on Thursday evening to celebrate the efforts of our health workers, I felt more than ever that we – as a country – are all in this
together, and I’m hopeful we’ll come out of the crisis a more compassionate and caring country. In the capital, where those qualities are often sorely lacking, this can only be a positive step.
To everyone in Eskdale, stay safe and I look forward to seeing you again very soon.