Julie Hamill: Time to pause in the heart of London

Julie Hamill: Time to pause in the heart of London

Friday night in London and I have two friends’ events on the same night that I juggle to get to: Alistair Morrison’s Time To Pause film premiere on Davies Street, then Keeley supporting The Folk Devils at The 100 Club. I manage to make it to both. They are quite brilliant in opposing ways.

Alistair has made a studious, must-see experimental documentary of interviews with a thousand people from around the world isolated during the Covid-19 pandemic. The cleverness of the title relaxes the viewer into contemplation of a period where everything stops and perspective is regained.

Babies are born as terrified infectees are rushed to hospital to die alone, with medical staff distraught and destroyed in an acknowledgement that their life-saving skills are useless. The film explores the many negative and positive contrasts of lockdown, a different dawn of creativity in art, dance and music, as well as reflecting on everything from parcel-washing to pot-banging and conversations through windows.

I noted the clever editing of Alistair himself, a simple repetition of how the initial novelty of another new day can quickly go stale: wake up, coffee, shower, muesli, milk, wake up, coffee, shower, muesli, milk…and repeat. The overall feeling at the end is of sheer desperation for the warm scent of a simple cuddle, revealing the importance of deep human contact.

I have my time to pause in between the two events as I walk from one venue to the other, embracing the thrill of London at night.

I leave the film and walk up Davies Street through glistening, rich Mayfair, passing some air kissers outside Cipriani – Moi, moi! – and two friendly doormen outside Claridge’s, where I turn right. I continue up Brook Street and cross a zebra crossing where a black cab stops and the driver smiles as I make it quickly to the other side.

I reach Regent Street and it’s like arriving at Wonka’s. Buses sweep past and four cyclists swerve alongside them as they all fly through Oxford Circus. Late night shoppers emerge with their bags of new goodies, faces full of “where shall we go next?” and there’s a queue for the man selling candied nuts, the aroma of which is melty. Mostly, though, people are just walking, rushing, heading to something or someone.

And so on to the 100 Club for the other side of the coin, just a short amount of time since lockdown. A shoulder-to-shoulder sweaty basement filled with people excited to be “amongst it”.

My longtime pal Andrew is the drummer in Keeley’s band and I watch him with pride, free in the moment to thunder the drums to fantastic new tracks in a crowd of music lovers, united in their passion for a live gig. I see lots of attendees comfortably alone but not lonely, “not any more”, I think, as they sway safely in the atmosphere of a lovely big blanket.

Back outside London’s epicentre, I look up and over, side to side, at the lights and buzz that surround me, a happy dot among many happy dots.

I jump in Andrew’s car with his wife Tanya for a lift home.

I needed Time To Pause to remember how good it is to be back.

Julie Hamill is a novelist, a radio presenter and more. Follow her on X/Twitter. Support OnLondon.co.uk and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Image from Keeley at the 100 Club, 15/3/24.

Categories: Culture

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