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Last Wednesday night in the sort of bold move we should all aspire to, Channel Five put on 28 Days Later: a film where London's population is completely obliterated by a rabid infection leaving a group of survivors and rage-induced zombies in its wake. 

I didnt watch it, I was doing something equally risky: sitting in a restaurant eating food and drinking red wine, and telling someone how I felt. But I know a thing or two about disaster films because of the summer I spent holed up in the British Library, writing 20,000 words about how cinema deals with the end of the world. 

And if there's one thing 28 Days Later does it well, it's showing London post-apocalypse. A young, peaky looking Cillian Murphy wakes up from a coma in Guys' Hospital having missed all the fun, and meanders over Westminster Bridge (it's not nearby, but we'll let that one slide) trying to piece together where the hell everyone is. We see him wandering through normally frenetic parts of the city (down The Mall, somehow winding up near Bank, again, don't question it) - wearing surgical scrubs and yelling "hello?" to no one down quiet streets.

The whole idea is that it's taken a disaster - a viral pandemic - to render London as empty as this. But actually, that's not the case. Those shots were filmed at around 4am just after sunrise in the middle of summer. I mean yeah, they had to close the odd road, but this vision of London wasn't complete invention - the bulk of the scene was already there. So although those opening scenes feel surreal and improbable, it's entirely feasible that if you were to get up - or stay up - and walk around at that time, finding your own version of a deserted London wouldn't be such a reach.

But that's how British disaster films do it, they go for gritty reality. They look and feel accurate, always skirting uncomfortably close to home. They don't wrap up with love stories and neat endings, they leave you wondering what happened - a little bit on edge.

Hollywood is more hopeful. They like their apocalypse with a happy ending; overwrought with feelings and CGI backdrops and borderline ridiculous saves. There's a place for both, I think, and at the moment maybe we all need a bit of the latter. But for some reason I'm always drawn to seeing life reflected, to knowing exactly how it is. 

In the quiet neighbourhood restaurant in north west London on Wednesday night we handed back the menus, and the waiter disinfected our hands with an alcohol spray. Through the gap into the kitchen, I could see a chef cooking our food wearing a mask. While we ate, and talked, a small pristine white dog wearing a hoody occasionally dropped by our table. Outside, it started very lightly to rain.

The next day, my work sent an email telling everyone they could work from home. And couple of days after that, my housemate got a cough. Not a fever, just a cough, but enough that when the announcement came on Monday night (even though I've got no symptoms) I decided to take the government advice and self isolate. 

But hey: I've got food, I know others in the same situation, I've got housemates who don't want to kill each other (yet), and during the week at least there's work, a semblence of daily routine.

So here we go: two weeks inside. It might not be the end of the world. 
 
 
Read more thoughts from London here.


Three things I think you might like.


1. Read absolutely anything except an endless slew of messages from your mate's pal whose hairdresser said she'd seen this god awful report from a front line somebody and has these thoughts about the whole thing. Ask this lot to send you something good instead.

2. Listen to this if you're WFH and need a hand getting out of bed.
 
3. Go nowhere. Stay at home. I know, it's dull. Check on your friends, especially the single ones, or people living on their own. 

More things you'll actually want to do in London.

PS.

I know some of you read this in different places around the world, and I hope you're all doing ok wherever you are. Also, if you've watched or read anything good lately, let me know. And if you're not into watching disaster films in a crisis, this is unexpectedly great.

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