This is the beginning of the sixth week of having to stay in the house, though for me its week 7 as I made the decision not to go to work a week before the government made it compulsory. The graphs of new deaths show the nation past a peak that occurred in around the 2nd or 3rd week of April. New cases seem to be levelling though what that means is uncertain given the low level of testing. It seems that the NHS was not overwhelmed and, overall, coped admirably, though first person stories from some of our staff who still do shifts in intensive care made it clear that some London hospitals were under heavier pressure than others, with one nurse to six ventilated patients in one unit. The newly built Nightingale Hospital at the Excel Centre, familiar to me only because of motorcycle shows, is getting ready to close and only had a few dozen patients – it was prepared for upto 4000 I remember.
So there is a sense that the worst of the clinical crisis has been averted. But the economic effects will be much more long-lasting. I heard on the radio today that the government are currently paying the wages of a quarter of the workforce. Now the problem is how to move out of this lockdown toward more economic activity. Even our local Borough Market faces that problem in microcosm. This Saturday noticeably more stalls were open, more of the ‘non-essential’ delis and artisan stalls. What’s not there are the prepared food stalls nor the hundreds of tourists. So, the market seems like an old-fashioned place where you go to find fresh produce once again. But how will they reintroduce the street food type stalls and will enough people want to buy from them to make it worth their while? And will more people make the whole market crowded and unsafe? On Saturday there was a slightly less nervous atmosphere down there – and on the streets, in fact in the afternoon at about 4.30 I walked down to Leyland on Southwark Street and as I queued outside to get in, it seems that this could be any sunny weekend afternoon, with people walking up and down and driving as usual. The Leyland worker organising the queue told me, while I waited, about his woeful experience of getting the virus, along with his wife. They both sounded very ill from his description and stuck for 5 weeks in a flat with only a balcony for fresh air. He told me that the characteristic total loss of taste was, for him, a ‘result’ because, he said, his wife’s cooking is terrible.
I think that there are more people now on the streets. Today there was a long queue to get into Tesco on Tooley Street, now my go to store for groceries and gin. The self checkouts are too small for the large shops that I and most people seem to be doing so you end up calling over the assistant to rescue you from till malfunction about 4 or 5 times before being able to pay. When I get home with the shopping, I spread it out on the garden bench and spray everything with disinfectant and wipe it down before washing my hands and putting everything away. It is tedious but could well be necessary.
Work continues on line but it seems to take longer to do anything though it is amazing to be in work and getting paid when so many people are not.
At the weekend, after trying to cook one more time on our old wok with the surface bubbled and peeling off, we bought a shiny new one which was delivered just as we were starting to cook dinner today. I say delivered, what I mean is discovered outside in the porch left some time during the day. We cooked some tasty tofu in harissa with a salad, partly from the garden, and rice from the trusty rice cooker. Eating during lockdown has become a prominent pleasure, as it has I think for many people.
Also delivered today was a lens from Ebay for using with the slide copier, also on order (another lockdown project is copying a hundred or so old family Kodachromes). Amazingly it can focus down to a couple of inches away from the front of the lens.
Building work continues on the former Vinopolis site. After many months of groundwork the structure of the buildings is emerging fast. The continual noise is reassuring of economic activity continuing.