Saturday 19th December – the low point of the pandemic so far.
Trouble had been brewing all week. You sensed that politicians (especially Boris Johnson) were in denial, but the case numbers spoke a different truth, something ugly was happening in London. The ambulances sped around, not this time the deserted streets of London, as they had in London, but streets full of people doing their Christmas shopping
It was not just the politicians who were in denial, so were we. Which is why the news of a press conference at 4pm yesterday felt so ominous, “to cancel Christmas at this stage would be inhuman”, the statement of the Prime Minister on Wednesday had reassured but the science had not.
Areas currently in tier 3 in south-east England, including London, will enter tier 4 from tomorrow morning
PM Boris Johnson says tier 4 "will be broadly equivalent" to November's lockdown
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) December 19, 2020
When it came, as always coming late, the news was awful. Families with their bags packed ready to get out of London to their folks in the country, people readying themselves to jet off for winter sun and those who were readying to receive them, awful. Or so it seems to us this Sunday morning.
Many have already travelled and now face the uncertainty of whether they should return or stay within a bubble in which they may be the unwitting carrier of disease and even death.
As I ran along the Thames Embankment for my evening run, traffic was backing up as families cued to get east out of the City while they could still travel (legally).
Crowds have been spotted fleeing London's train stations on the eve of the capital being plunged into strict Tier 4 restrictions. https://t.co/6T8HIc5FgI
— LBC News (@LBCNews) December 19, 2020
The railway stations were packed, more than 10% of people surveyed following the announcement said they intended to resist and stick to their plans for Christmas.
It rained in London last night, heavy winter rain which gave little comfort.
Anyone else in tier 4 a bit teaey tonight? I'm a bit unable to sort myself out 😢
— Eve Keith (@EveK1979) December 19, 2020
The eldest in our society have endured most, not just in this pandemic but in life, we still have many in London who lived through the blitz, my mother came within a torpedo of being lost at sea , a child on an Atlantic convoy – evacuating to the USA.
For the generation who survived that time, the immediate future was the austerity of the fifties, the ever present threats of TB, Measles and of the Flu. Life wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t in today’s abundance.
In my Church, Stella and I are amongst the minority with a purely British heritage, for most of our congregation, the alternative to 21st Century London is Accra or Lagos or Colombo or Panaji. The certainty in getting old in Britain -0f the NHS, of Care of Universal Credit and of the safety net of an egalitarian society are not certainties in most of the world.
Nor are they certainties for those in London who have fallen below the net. Thanks to Crisis at Christmas, no-one should be sleeping rough next week, but many will, those driving out of London last night drove past tented villages under Charing Cross , Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges. Some tents are visible but most are hidden in the cracks where we cannot see.
Our perspective is of our kind but though the City , Tower Hamlets and Dalston are neighbors, their residents rarely mix, what little contact I have with those locked down in the social housing of the East End is on YouTube on a Sunday morning or when its doors can open, at the Wesleyan Chapel in City Road. Bless Matthew Demwell and Jo Shepherd who will be spending this Christmas working for Crisis. We need their perspective, Matthew spoke feelingly to us on a Zoom call last Monday about this.
Boris Johnson didn’t cancel Christmas
I am comforted by the radio at night, last night one show on Five Live kicked off with a comment from a lady who pointed out that the spirit of Christmas is not in the crackers and booze and TV specials but in our hearts.
Those who have survived worse moments in our countries history, those whose families originated from countries where deprivation is the normal and those who live with and care for those who haven’t the comfort that people like me enjoy, may find it easier to cope with the knock-back of last night, for they carry the resilience of love in their hearts.
For me and Stella there will be no family reunions in the West Country and I am sorry for those we won’t be visiting as I know they looked forward to seeing us as much as we did them. But Christmas is not cancelled, it too mutates and we can find ways to show our resilience, through the deep reserves of courage and personal endeavor within us.
When I finish this blog, I am due to run to the London Fields Lido where I have a slot booked to swim outside for thirty minutes.
— London Fields Lido (@LDNFieldsLido) December 19, 2020
Thanks to this tweet I will still run there.
We are pleased to announce that we are going to…STAY OPEN!!!! 🥳 🦾🦾🦾 pic.twitter.com/TQL51rcGo0
— London Fields Lido (@LDNFieldsLido) December 19, 2020
I will run though the wet streets of the City, of Hoxton and Haggerston. I will pass though the Whitmore and New Era Estates, past Columbia Rd, Broadway and Netil Market. I hope, when I finish swimming , I will be able to attend the morning service at Wesley’s Chapel and then get home.
This is my way of dealing with uncertainty, happily it seems to strengthen my physical , mental and spiritual health. Getting out of my home and close (but not too close) to fellow Londoners, makes for some normality. The greatest present I receive at Christmas time is the smiles and recognition of those who I don’t know who I pass on my way , in Church and at places such as the Lido.
We can’t cancel Christmas if Christmas is in our hearts.
Following Government announcement we can confirm that @WestReservoir @LDNFieldsLido will remain open!! 🏊♀️🏊♂️
We look forward to seeing you all tomorrow. #swimforall #teamwestres #teamlido #teamhackney #swimmingmotivation #outdoorswimming #ilovehackney #hackney #bettertogether 💚 pic.twitter.com/dTgC1a2NdO
— Better Hackney (@BetterHackney) December 19, 2020