What is a City but the People?

West End resident, Jessica Toale reflects on the past year…

In March last year the shutters came down on London. The once bustling streets were hushed. Restaurants and shops closed their doors for the foreseeable. And we all ran out of toilet paper. The intervening months saw us lurch from hope to despair as the city opened up and then closed down again. The past year has undoubtedly been a trial. Lives have been lost. Opportunities and freedoms curtailed. We have all experienced unimaginable stress and emotion in coming to terms with what is so often described as the ‘new normal’.

But despite this collective trauma, there have been silver linings. The ability to look up and appreciate the awesome architecture of central London without worrying about causing the equivalent of a human traffic jam. We all got healthier. We had time to reflect on the things that were really important to us. And we were able to pursue new or dormant hobbies. I also gained a renewed sense of community. When the crowds died down and the streets cleared out, I suddenly met people I had lived alongside for years yet never properly knew. I got to know the café owners, the pub landlords, the construction workers and the artists who call this small corner of London home. We have been able to share our worries and anxieties but also make light of the times we are all living through, making the best we can of it. Central London unwittingly became a small village, and as a result I have forged new and lasting friendships.

Even though the days have felt like a perpetual Monday morning, I feel lucky to live in such a unique corner of the world. And even luckier to have made the new connections that have breathed life into this unusual time.

Words and photography by Jessica Toale. Jessica is a political and international development consultant, writer, Labour candidate in London’s West End and law graduate. IG @jessica.toale

This article was originally published in the Spring issue of My Soho Times magazine. CLICK HERE to view online.

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