Lockdown London

A lonely Sir John Betjeman in a deserted St. Pancras International station

This is an excerpt from the script I wrote for an edition of The London Podcast which I produce and present. There’s a longer version in this site as a copy sample. You can hear the full show here. Economist, broadcaster and The Times columnist Simon French has said of it, “Adrian has a great rhythm to his podcast. London Lockdown blended just the right amounts of informed opinion, high quality content and engaging style.”

Imagine largely empty London streets, even in the so-called rush hour. Big Ben’s been silenced till next year anyway, but there are few people around to miss it. Shaftesbury Avenue — at the heart of  normally bustling Theatreland — virtually deserted. And many moments when there’s no traffic on Westminster Bridge — or just a solitary bus. It sounds a lot like scenes from the disaster movie 28 Days Later — but I suppose that’s not so surprising since Danny Boyle’s film centres on a virus wreaking havoc with normal life. 

My descriptions of a drastically quieter London are, as I speak, the new normal. So you don’t have to imagine them at all — they’re reality. But not far from the quiet streets is the suffering that comes with this corona virus — a real deadly threat, not a fictional plot twist. Not far from Westminster Bridge, which features in the movie, is one of London’s top teaching hospitals, St Thomas’s. There people are literally, tragically fighting for their next breath. Two weeks ago one of their number was the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. By his own admission his life was saved by St Thomas’s staff. And his brush with death took place on the other side of the River Thames, from where his voice normally booms out in the House of Commons. If he could be struck down, then it seemed anyone could. Our thoughts are with everyone struggling with Covid-19 at the moment and all those who’ve lost those they care about to the illness…

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