New Year’s Eve in Trafalgar Square

An almost empty Trafalgar Square as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve

One intrepid reader ventured into Central London on Thursday night to celebrate New Year’s Eve. She didn’t have much fun.

Last night I went to London. I live east of the city and drove in down the A11. Which, for those who don’t know, goes right past the Royal London Hospital, as mentioned in yesterday’s newsletter.

I could not resist a little drive round the block to go past the ambulance and A&E entrance of the hospital. Only one ambulance to be seen and no people. Pretty bloody unusual for 10pm on New Year’s Eve…

Carrying on, I parked in Covent Garden, which was deserted except for covid marshals. On the way, I took another detour over London Bridge to see the river. It was boarded up on the sides. Lots of ‘guards’ in high vis but there might have been fireworks set up on it.

Having parked, Covent Garden was like a ghost town. I got a Boris bike and went for a ride. Trafalgar Square was totally boarded up. Large police presence, not many people. Picadilly and Leicester Square were empty. Then I went down Whitehall towards Parliament Square – it was getting close to midnight by then. Loads of police, including the Tactical Support Group (TSG) and horses. A few hundred people waiting. Most people in very small groups or pairs, all very calm and well behaved. I did not see any sign of the protestors organised by Piers Corbyn but they might have been blending (no placards).

I stopped on the Embankment about 50 yards from Westminster Bridge. It was five to midnight according to my photo of Big Ben. Then, at about two minutes to midnight, the TSG decided to move everyone on…

That made the crowding bad as everyone was being shepherded in the same direction and there was a fair bit of traffic so people could not walk in the roads. Seemed a mad thing to do – to wait until so close to midnight.

One of the police horses was getting extremely fractious (I am a horse person for a living, I can tell) and it was between myself and the bike rack where I was going to return the bike, so I held my ground. A police woman told me to move along. I said no way while that horse is between me and the exit. Even she could see it was dangerous so she let me be and then the clock struck.

There was massive cheering, the fireworks went off across the river and then everyone did start dispersing, without being asked really as there was no real reason for staying.

As we left I found myself beside a young woman with a scooter. Turns out she was a nurse of 10 years experience at one on the large London hospitals. She said it was busy and hard work, everyone was doing 12 hour shifts, but no worse than usual for the time of year. She said she had decided to come (unmasked) because she had been working so hard she was treating herself to a night out because it was a historic night and you would never see London like this again on New year’s Eve.

She said people’s good will kept them all going at her hospital, but many of her colleagues felt as she did, that the measures were out of proportion to the risk and the NHS has been badly managed in preparation for this crisis. She said the staff shortages were being created by constant testing so many staff perfectly fit for work were sitting at home.