I Was in London When the Queen Died, and Now the Lights Are Out

Deathly quiet in the capital

Liam Heitmann-Ryce-LeMercier

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Road closures on Westminster Bridge and lights off at Britain’s seat of power [Image courtesy of the author]

September 14th, 2022

The body of Queen Elizabeth II has returned to London and the capital seems split in two tonight. The central tube stations — Kings Cross, Leicester Square — are as busy now as though it were 8am, with as just as many people heading into the city as there are heading home. The heat of the underground has become viscous, syrupy, gurgling onto the pavement like sea foam.

Yet around the primary seats of power within the capital, the streets are lined with policeman, steering pedestrians clear of empty roads guarded at either end by black BMWs, their blue-and-white lights silently flashing to announce nothing. Downing Street is barricaded by steel gates and machine gun-wielding security guards, twice as many as usual; Westminster Palace stands behind a human chain-link fence of policeman that extends across four lanes of traffic.

From every corner of London, and from elsewhere all over the country, people are flooding toward the city now. The usual haste with which Londoners stride through the tube is no longer motivated by the 9 am starting gun of Teams meetings and email relays, but a simple need to escape the human crush of too many fascinated feet.

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Liam Heitmann-Ryce-LeMercier

Gay writer who will always talk to strangers // Australian, 27 // Keith Haring & classical music // https://www.clippings.me/liam_hrl_96