Wormwood in the days of the coronavirus
Today I ventured on an exploration of Wormwood, at a time of the pandemic and London under lockdown. This little walk is my day’s exercise.
I wanted to see how the area transformed, at this particular time.
The path by the canal was busy enough. People going about their business. A woman with her baby in a sling, carrying her Sainsbury’s shopping.
A man doing some wood work outside his boat. Cyclists, lone walkers, dogs.
We pass a white sheet fluttering in wind, with the sign: Covid-19 contaminated area
Every 10th person we meet is wearing a mask.
A missing boy poster, which makes me feel sad. He is called Max Rollins. (Maybe you can help?)
The place looks the same as it always does, yet it feels different. It actually appears more busy, but equally and intriguingly, it is more itself: It feels less of a forgotten in-between zone, maybe because now the whole of London has become one. So Wormwood is no longer out of place. In fact Wormwood, having practiced being deserted and overlooked and ignored for years, now has a confidence about itself that other parts of London, in their absence of crowds, lack.
I climb up the small pedestrian bridge, ready to study the rows of sleeping trains of the Queen Elizabethan Line. To my dismay I find a man speaking on his phone, in Portuguese, perched right in the best spot. I understand one word he says to the person on the end of the line: coronavirus. He is friendly, but doesn’t appreciate I came here to film and now that he is standing here, I am not able to film while keeping a two meter space between us. So I retreat. And think to myself how strange it is: we have all become so conscious of our human proximity. It’s like the reverse side of touch, we make detours to avoid each other, as a form of respect and friendliness.
We are all potentially contaminated, we are all a potential threat. And again, Wormwood makes all this weirdness feel quite normal, because one could never feel comfortable here, even in the old days, before the pandemic.
Standing up on the bridge, watching all these singular people strolling along, I am reminded of Steve’s words from few years back, as we stood right here. Steve talked about the hope of a 4 day (or was it 4 hour?) working week and the idea of busy working people who have no time to just idly stroll and stare, the way Steve and I love to do. Yet here we all are now, little lost, little out of place, little without a purpose, questioning the meaning of our previous existence. Wormwood is our new home.
But Wormwood doesn’t really have these existential questions. It really does not need us humans. It doesn’t care for close contact. It is doing just fine without us. At the time when the old way of life has disappeared, Wormwood is coming into its (dystopian) own.