Smithfield 6am London goes on pic.twitter.com/c2le5KanpQ
— Henry Tapper (@henryhtapper) January 12, 2021
There is the London that you see in todays news clips, of deserted streets ,closed shops and empty offices. Then there is another London, of early morning joggers, of van drivers and of those who trade in the markets, buyers and sellers. This London is still open.
This London happens early, the Smithfield market opens at 2am and is done by 7, it is selling meat to the general public and in the east and west arcades shoppers arrive with trolley bags , loading up on bulk purchases which they trundle back home one way or another.
There are still a few cafes open, for the workers and for the shoppers. The lady who sold me a chicken asked “are you going to work?“, I smiled and said I was- though I only half believed my answer.
Londoners grip tightly to the comfort of normality , saying and hearing that question was comforting, we need to go to work – even though work is more likely to come to us.
As I ran down the hill towards Ludgate circus , I passed a lady, crouched in the doorway of the visitor’s entrance to the Old Bailey. I could see she was smoking a cigarette, I wondered if she was awaiting admittance, on her way to work. Or was she eking out the final hours of a long night on the street?
I will never know, our eyes met for a moment but then she turned away, preferring her privacy. London grants you anonymity – it is one of the few things you have a right to when you are on your own. But sometimes we can do more than smile, sometimes we can help those on the streets,
I now have Street Link on my phone, it links those who have no work or home to people who can help. Thanks to Matthew and Jo who introduced it to us last night on a call where they talked movingly about the work they’ve done over Christmas for Crisis.
In the early hours of the morning , when London is making its way to work, there are people watching out for others. to those who see London as a cold and unloving place, I would point you to the Whitechapel Mission, that opens its doors to the homeless on mornings like this. It has delivered 287,000 meals to those who need them – during the pandemic. You may not be able to visit the mission , but you can visit their website here.
London is still working, despite the enormity of the pandemic . It is a place where people look out for each other and whether in a comforting and kindly question, a smile or the full on help of Crisis or the Whitechapel Mission, it will get us through the next few weeks.
So long as we get to work, we can play our part. We must stay open, we mustn’t stop working for others – especially now.