I have just walked the mile to my local railway station, passing through near empty green spaces, bisected only by heavy traffic, still desperate to journey into the City. Pollen is still present but somehow the air feels fresher. Descending the hill and approaching the outskirts of the villageI realise It is nearly four months since I have made this trip. I begin to wonder who else might be venturing out today, given the lessening of lockdown.
The answer comes quickly. Local cafe terraces are full, many customers holding empty cups stained with froth and traces of chocolate. Long queues outside Greggs, compete with a snaking line beside Gail’s. The village has returned to life. The station platform is largely empty, and I board a train toVictoria. Hurriedly, I affix my mask, specially sourced by a colleague in Singapore. Surprisingly there is only one other person in the carriage as we swiftly head to central London.
The mask isn’t that comfortable, and my glasses keep steaming up. I am tempted to remove them but don’t, partly because I am reminded by on-board posters to wear a face covering and keep my distance. As we approach Victoria, I replay the many times I have made this journey. As I step onto the concourse, everything feels eerily quiet. Less than a dozen people have disembarked from my train. A small handful, all masked up, approach to board the recent arrival. The station is well guarded by station employees, highly visible and well protected.
I pass by the bars, fast food outlets and concourse supermarkets. On the East side of the station they are all still closed. I approach our office that it tucked away above platform one. Warm lights and a friendly face greet me in our foyer. A four-month pile of post and parcels is handed over. Hand gel is freely and easily available. The corridors and staircases feel as though they have been recently cleaned.
I get to our office door. I go in. It feels calm. iMacs still in place. Trade magazines continue to litter desks. The odd file still needs a home. I switch on a printer and bring my computer to life. Everything is working. Everything is familiar. But it is not the office I once knew. Time to help shape the ‘new normal’.
Written By: Kevin Read