Thursday, 7 May 2020

From Mill Hill to UCH, a lockdown journey through London as you've never seen it before

#Lockdown - Strange times
These are strange times we live in. The clip from the Sunday Times on the right, sort of sums up my thinking, nothing seems quite right. But life goes on..... sort of.

Today I had my annual cancer scan at UCH, which for those of you who don't know it, is near Euston Station. It is a journey I've made many times, I used to work around the corner from it for a couple of years in the mid '80's and since 2015 I've been a regular visitor. Today was a bit different. It was the first time I'd ventured beyond the confines of my lockdown routine(apart from a quick trip to the cash and carry in Watford to pick up provisions for a covid19 relief scheme from our cash and carry). It was the first journey on public transport and I have to confess, I had a mild feeling of trepidation.

As I was thinking about this, I realised that this journey was likely to be unique. I have no reason to go into town normally during the crisis, so I would see London as I've never seen before in all of my 57 years and nine months. I realised that this was a unique opportunity to catalogue the journey. So I decided to snap away as I made my way in. I shared these on twitter but thought that for my beloved blog readers, I'd give the full story. The plan was to catch the 9.16am train from Mill Hill and walk along the Euston Road towards UCH. Here is what I saw, preserved for posterity.

So I set off down Millway. Normally at this time the road is busy and there is no a parking spot to be had. Hitting the Broadway, again this was deserted. This would normally be backed up, with queue's etc for buses.

So we reach the Thameslink Station. Usually two minutes before a morning train departs, there would be people rushing up the stairs and a packed platform. The platform would be packed and the train would have people standing. This was the view today, one nice touch was the poster thanking the NHS in the train cab window.

The train passed through a succession of empty stations on its journey, stopping to pick up few, if any passengers, giving me time to admire some of the rather decent sights of railway architecture and street art in Kentish Town. Alighting at St Pancras, I was greeted by an empty station. It is strange to think that there are as many people as there have ever been in London, but none of them are out and about. When the govt briefing says 95% of people are not using public transport, I hadn't really got the scale of that. If you are familiar with rush hour trains, you'll realise just how odd this seems to a regular traveller.

Reaching ground level, the normally packed concourse, full of people with suitcases for international travel to and from France are missing, Midland Road was empty. Emerging to the sight of the Crick Building, I was reminded that this work formerly went on in Mill Hill at the NIMR, now a building site for Barratts flats. I wonder how many people will pay a premium for a luxury flat after lockdown. I suspect that homes with gardens may have a bit more of a premium than previously

Making my way down Midland Road, again I was struck by the lack or people and traffic. It did give me a chance to fully appreciate the magnificent modern architecture of the Crick Institute and the neo Gothic Splendour of St Pancras.

On the way I passed the Rocket. Often I'd stop here for a half after my scan and a spot of lunch, no chance of that. Just off the road was a long row of unused Boris bikes.I was under the impression that cycling had increased, but clearly not with Boris Bikes

A sign of the times, the Welcome collection shut up and closed. An interesting board on the window about anti biotic resistance. I was interested to note that some semblance of normality was still there around Euston. The HS2 building works were still active and the Evening Standard seller was getting ready for a days work. I also enjoyed the witty repurposing of the Euston Road sign by clean air campaigners, noting the normal high NO2 levels. At the moment this really isn't a problem though.

I made my way past Gordon's cafe. I must have walked past this dozens of times, and not really paid any attention. I do wonder how many vegans will be pleased to be mentioned in the same breath as Halal meat. We are reminded of the swinging 60's by the appearance of the Telecom Tower, known to most of us old schoolers as The Post Office Tower. It added a semblance of normality. I liked the touch of the message thanking NHS workers, as this was visible next to UCH, this seemed most appropriate.

And so I arrive at The Macmillan Cancer Centre for my scan. Normally I just walk in, not being with the plan, this is exactly what I did, to get a good telling off. The lady on the door was most unimpressed. I said "I've got an appointment downstairs". She said "have you had any symptoms?", I replied that I hadn't, so she made me apply some hand gel and sent me on my way.

As I waited for my appointment, I realised the just how strange London is at the moment. It made me wonder what on earth our normally bustling city is like at night during lockdown. Sadly I doubt that is something I'll get to see.

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