Filming around an emptying city

It’s warm again. I’ve been filming all day. I asked the director if I could blog it and he told me I could blog it once it’s made, by which time I’d have forgotten about it and I’ll be doing something completely different. So with no clear line on what I can or can’t say I’m not going to say much. Always err on the side of caution.

We’ve been going around London landmarks with a bunch of great big polystyrene things. Set them up, get a quick shot, into the van, next stop. We buzzed by Parliament, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and Covent Garden Market. We met a few nice cops, and a slightly more insistent private security bloke. The less power the more bluster.

Polystyrene is light, in theory, but oh God my fingers and my triceps are aching after some long hauls. We got some nice shots though so it was worth it. I think it’ll look good and serve the purpose for which it was commissioned, and I’m happy with my part in it, which was lots of carrying and a little bit of improvising around a script.

I finished work at 4pm in Old Street. It’s just a couple of hours walk home from Old Street. Despite being tired, I’m not a fan of public transport when I’m not in a hurry these days. Too expensive anyway, and now there’s way too much neurosis. So I’m halfway home by shanks’ pony and I’ve stopped in an old City of London boozer for a non-alcoholic beer. Cheers.

I love walking this city, and it’s interesting to see what’s functioning and what’s shut. I think we are only now beginning to contemplate the extent to which this pandemic will reshape the city centres. We still think it’ll all ping back at some point. Maybe it just … won’t.

The food outlets that cater to city workers are mostly closed with signs telling us they’ll be back. The hairdresser’s academy is going great guns though – packed with young men and women in protective gear snipping away.

My friend wrote on Facebook that she had to get her stuff back from the office. Everybody talks as if it’s temporary, but it wouldn’t surprise me if working from home becomes the new ant farm. I fucking detest offices for all the little powerplays and the one-upmanship and the false friendships. But actually it’s got to be good for people to not be able to choose who they spend their time with. Plus you end up getting much better at being a person if you have to work around the shape of other humans. You can even make actual friends.

Social Media is pushing us hard enough into isolated bubbles, and in the UK we are still favouring the politics of sitting in a locked box scratching at the sides. A lot of people don’t like anybody that isn’t exactly them.

If the office buildings sit empty though, what’s going to happen to them? They won’t turn into hotels because “Sven is just going to Zoom us from Germany – we don’t have to fly him over”.

Maybe they’ll end up full of hairdressers and artists. Maybe they’ll mostly sit empty. Maybe all the cities will start to look like Detroit in the wake of this fucker. Who knows. But I’m happy to set up a charitable company and take custody of an empty building to make good theatre that I believe in. If anybody has the building going. I have a few good ideas bouncing around right now.

Meantime I’m glad to be back on set. More of that please… More. Of. That.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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