To say that it feels like we’re living on the set of a disaster movie is somewhat of an understatement at the moment. Yesterday, reality bit when our part-time Prime Minister, flanked by two of his senior advisors laid out the Governments latest plan to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. Schools will remain open but people have been asked to ‘avoid’ non-essential journeys. Also pubs, clubs and restaurants, although they’ll remain open. People are being asked to self isolate or work from home. This change of policy has been brought about because of the modelling of the projected death toll from doing nothing, over half a million (mostly elderly or infirm) dead. No doubt this thought will upset some people, but I can’t help thinking that if the pandemic had happened in 2015 that would have been Brexit sorted!
Now the rest of us have got to muddle through the next few weeks/months, without any real clue how this is going to pan out, or how long it’s going to last. During that time we’ll no doubt be bombarded with all sorts of mixed messages and policy changes from Government, scare-stories and speculation in sections of the mainstream media and total tinfoil hat paranoia and fuckwittery on Facebook and Twitter. What a time to be alive!
Meanwhile, some of us have still got to try and earn a living. So, my thoughts go out to all the self-employed and those on contracts that make the future look decidedly uncertain. Part of the fuckwittery I’ve been talking about is the idea most people can work from home. Really? How does that pan out for tradespeople? Is a plumber going to fix your pipes over the internet? Or the driver of the bus or train that’s taking nurses and other health professionals to work? Or the people who staff the power stations and national grid that supply the electricity to power the gadgets that will keep you amused whilst you self isolate? Because it seems that we’ve had two outbreaks right now. One’s the Coronavirus, the other is rank stupidity.
Right now I’m out and about to get pictures for a magazine showing the effects of the pandemic on public transport, so I’m heading into Manchester to see how numbers are panning out there. I’m currently on a train from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester Victoria and whilst passenger numbers are down it’s busier than I expected at about 60-65% loaded after calling at Rochdale.
Once in Manchester I walked across an eerily quiet city centre from Victoria to Piccadilly past the usual groups of homeless people. I can’t help wondering how these poor souls are meant to self-isolate, unless you count living on the street as ‘isolation’? A Coronavirus outbreak here could spread those these vulnerable people like wildfire.
When I arrived at Piccadilly the lack of passengers was very noticeable, as was the lack of custom at the bars and eateries up on the mezzanine floor. They were deserted. What there was an increase in was the number of people wearing face masks. This has always been a familiar sight amongst the Asian (mostly Chinese) community over the years, so what was striking was to see how it’s spread to Europeans. I went to check out the trains to/from Manchester Airport. They’re well below their usual capacity and I think this will only get worse as what I was seeing was people returning home before the airlines cancel more flights. I reckon if I came back in a week they’d be almost deserted. The other thing I noticed was how more and more electronic billboards are displaying notices about the Coronavirus.
Well, that was a depressing few hours. Rather than hang around in Manchester I headed over to the Wigan – Southport line in the hope of getting pictures of Porterbrook’s bi-mode Class 769s which are on test on the route. As always, these things are hit and miss. They were shown in Real Time Trains as running, the timings had been entered into the Special Train Plan today, but it never turned up. I first stopped off in Burscough, but as the weather was on the turn I ventured out to my old home town (Southport) to get the shot. When it was obvious the train wasn’t going to turn up I had half an hour to kick my heels wandering the town centre, ‘admiring’ the closed down shops and pubs on empty streets whilst remembering what a vibrant place it was when I was growing up there in the 60s-70s. and trying to recollect what it looked like then. It wasn’t just the buildings I didn’t recognise, there were no familiar faces either, but then I left in 1986. It certainly didn’t feel like home.
Now I’m heading back into Manchester in time to see how busy the rush-hour may be and get a last few pictures before heading home to my own self-exile. From what I’ve seen today it’s clear that some people either didn’t get the memo about avoiding pubs or are just choosing to ignore the advice. I was amazed to see a group of elderly people who’re obviously in the most vulnerable group heading into a pub in Burscough. I wonder what it’ll take for the seriousness of the situation to register with some of them? When some of their number croak?
Manchester was quiet. Very quiet, Piccadilly especially so – as these pictures taken after 17:00 show.
The city centre wasn’t much better as it was pretty obvious that a lot of people who can avoid travelling are doing so. Even so, it’s surprising how many who’re clearly retired and don’t need to be travelling are still doing so. Right now it feels like we’re in the ‘phoney war’ period of the pandemic as some people aren’t taking it seriously because they’ve fallen for this ‘blitz spirit’ nonsense, pretending if they ignore it, it’ll all go away. I wonder how long it’ll be before they’re disabused of these notions?
I’m on the train back to Halifax now and there’s a bay of four people in front of me. It looks like parent and son or daughter in law who’ve been out on a jolly and who’re all clearly pissed. There’s a lot of bravado about the situation, but I notice granny has a bottle of anti-bacterial hand cream on the table in front of her!
I suspect that’s the end of my travels for the rest of the week. I’m back to self-isolating and working from home for the next few days, so expect today’s pictures to appear on my Zenfolio website tomorrow, along with yet more vintage shots from 1991 whilst I wait for the next chapter in these chaotic times to be written.