Thursday, April 22nd, Year 2 of The Time of Covid.

Viruses and Volcanoes

If it wasn’t for the volcano, it might almost be safe to say that things are looking better than they have for a long time on both sides of the Atlantic, and even the growling, ash-spewing monster across the water seems to have lost some of its fury for the time being at least.


Covid restrictions are being lifted here in Barbados and in the UK. Our social media feeds are crammed with beaming faces and images of enticing alcoholic beverages sitting on pub tables ready to be imbibed, as people back home meet up with friends and family for the first time in months (and in some cases years), and enjoy an outdoor drink or two. It’s a happy time!

Here, we now have no curfew on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and an 11pm one on Thursdays and over the weekends. Bars are allowed to open, albeit at 50% of capacity (although I’ve not seen anyone counting), and indoor dining is permitted (not that you’d want to eat indoors here if outdoors is an option!) But, most important of all, the beaches are open all day again!

As far as we are concerned, it doesn’t feel as if we have any restrictions being placed on us at all anymore. We can pretty much do everything we were doing before Christmas, apart from go to the Drive-In Cinema and stay out after 11pm at the weekend – but I can’t recall many days when we weren’t long tucked up in bed by then!

But we don’t want to get carried away! We’re not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination. The steady decline in the UK has slowed, and it has just added India to it’s “red list” of countries due to concerns about highly transmissible and virulent new variant. Barbados has seen a recent new cluster based around a church in the north of the island, and this has been linked to an outbreak in the island’s main hospital. The US, one of the remaining sources of visitors to the island, has now banned travel to Barbados, deeming it a high risk destination (a tad ironic if you ask me).

Further afield the virus is still raging across the world with a total of almost 150 million cases and over 3 million deaths. India is experiencing a horrific surge of infections at the moment, with hundreds of thousands of new cases every day – and those are just the ones that are being tested!


As far as La Soufriere is concerned, she finally slowed down about six days after the first eruption. It’s not over though, as we are repeatedly being told. It’s just that she’s lost some of her energy and her eruptions are not reaching the high-level air streams that carry the ash east over to Barbados. Instead, it is being blown west into the Caribbean Sea by the surface winds that travel from east to west.

The long dark weekend is now well behind us, but it is one I will never forget! Life now is gradually getting back to normal apart from the endless sweeping, washing, and mopping required to sustain a modicum of comfort in our living space. The problem with the ash is that it doesn’t actually go away, it just blows around from one place to another. You can sweep your balcony one day and the next day it’s back again.

People are hoping for rain that might wash it away and into the soil, but rain will potentially bring its own issues. When ash is wet it clumps together in a thick black sludge that blocks gutters and drains. If it’s still hanging around when the rainy season starts in a few weeks’ time, there is a serious risk that this could lead to significant flooding. For this reason, we have been asked to gather the ash up in sacks and not to wash it down the drains.

Last Sunday (the last Easter stay-at-home Sunday) was declared a national clean-up day and everyone in the country was asked to clear the roads around their properties of ash. M worked with another local man to clear our area, and together, after several hours of hard labour, gathered well over 100 kg. of the stuff.

 I’ve been working inside the house. Ash gets everywhere. It blows off roofs and trees, and plumes up in clouds as vehicles drive through it. It settles on all surfaces; the floor, the kitchen counter, the dishes drying on the drainer, food and drink left uncovered, toilet seats, computers, books, and bedding. It’s even in the fridge! It sticks to your feet when you walk from the car to the house leaving black footprints on your freshly mopped floor. We keep a basin of water at the top of the stairs and a path of damp towels leading to the front door of the apartment. More towels strategically placed inside help prevent it being transported into the bedroom and bathroom.

It’s tough stuff to shift. The best way is to sweep and gather the worst of it then hose or jet wash the rest. But this is a problem in itself as water is a scarce and precious resource in Barbados. With every resident in the country hosing down their properties and cars, and businesses jet washing building and car parks, water supplies soon became depleted. Residents in St Lucy were without water for the entire week following the eruption weekend. I can’t imagine how awful that must have been for them. We’ve been having two or three showers day just to feel human! We’ve filled a number of containers with clean water for washing and the fridge is stacked with bottles of filtered water for drinking, just in case we too are affected.

Until a couple of days ago opening the windows was still impossible due to the amount of ash blowing around. Believe me, the nights in Barbados are very hot and sticky with all the windows closed and no air con. The fan gives some respite, but M finds that the noise disturbs his sleep. But, even as the amount of ash in the air lessened, it became apparent that we still couldn’t open the windows due the piles of ash on the windowsills, and caught in every nook and cranny of the shutters. As soon as we opened them it would all blow inside.

So, I spent an entire morning painstakingly cleaning the shutters so that we could once again enjoy the heavenly feel of the Atlantic breeze blowing through the house. It’s still bringing in a little ash and everything is covered in a film of it, but it’s worth it just to feel cool again. Besides, we’re kind of getting used to feeling a bit “dusty” all the time.

We’ve started to get out and about again too. My first excursion was to the supermarket on the Tuesday after the eruption. As we had no warning or time to prepare, we hadn’t stocked up with food etc. and were badly in need of supplies. We were completely out of fresh vegetables and the contents of the freezer were rapidly depleting.

Driving is another new challenge. The car always is like a furnace in the Barbados heat but now you can’t use the aircon or open the windows due to the ash billowing around. So, you just have to sweat it out under your protective mask, hat and glasses. It’s a mind over matter thing!  The supermarket was incredibly busy with long lines and crowded aisles, but it was gloriously cool and clean. I would happily have waited in line there all day, browsing on my phone and humming along to the latest tunes being played over the tannoy system, rather than face the sweat and grime outside!

On the Saturday – a week after the eruption – we took a break from cleaning and went out for drinks with some friends to a somewhat dusty beach bar. It was crowded with people “letting off steam” and discussing their various ash cleaning experiences. Every few minutes a gust of ash from the beach would blow over us, causing us to cover our faces and don our masks until it passed and we resumed our conversations. We went home filthy but happier and more relaxed than we had been all week.

The beautiful beaches have been a sorry sight. The once golden sand, dark and dirty with a mixture of ash and the rotting remnants of the sargassum that hit in the week or two before the eruption. The normally crystal clear, turquoise blue water, grey and murky. But, once it became clear that the ash had stopped falling and the high priority locations like the airport and the highway had been cleared, the government soon focused on clearing the beaches.

And now things are getting better every day. Every day there is less ash to sweep up on the balcony and stairs. Every day we feel confident enough to open more windows wider and for longer. The roads are better, and we can now drive with the car windows open. The beaches are looking better. The sea and sky are blue again. Yesterday we went for our first swim since the eruption.

Through it all the people of Barbados have been amazing! Smiling, cheerful and unfailingly resilient, they just “get on with it”. Farmer’s crops have been wiped out, animals have died, business have lost yet more trading days and revenue, people are exhausted and aching all over. But people get back to work and their daily business as soon as they can. They don’t moan or complain. They help each other. They continue to be thankful for what they have and enjoy life on their beautiful island whatever she throws at them!

Last night we were kindly invited to the birthday celebration of Julian Armfield, a local author (The Aintree Legend, You Win Some You Lose Some and Absolutely Barbados) and retired BBC racing correspondent. It took place at a little local place on the far south-east tip of the island called Chicken Rita’s. It’s basically a rum shack where “Rita” serves arguably the best fried chicken on the island, with chips with salad which you eat outside on plastic tables and chairs alongside scrap-hopeful cats and chickens. There was no salad due to the ash, but nobody gave a damn, and a great time was had by all, including the cats who managed to get into the box containing the leftover coffee and walnut birthday cake for a moment before they were spotted, and the cake was rescued!

This weekend, to celebrate M’s birthday, we were due to spend the weekend in a little luxury at The Beach Houses on a mini staycation. Sadly, it was cancelled due to the ash but we have re-booked for a couple of weeks’ time – fingers crossed. Instead, we have booked a late lunch at Tapas, a highly recommended south coast Mediterranean restaurant with beautiful views of the sea and hopefully a spectacular sunset! Again, fingers crossed and third time lucky and all that! We have booked this twice before. The first was cancelled due to the infamous “bus crawl” outbreak and the second due to the eruption! Let’s hope it’s not us that’s jinxing it!


I’m not getting much writing done what with all the cleaning, and resting and recovering after cleaning, and comfort drinking in between cleaning and resting and recovering! But I am cracking on with the sequel to Wait for Me. I’ve had such great feedback and reviews that it feels really easy and actually quite exciting to write the sequel. I can barely contain myself when I think about where I am going to take Lisa and Anita this time and what I have in store for them! When I do manage to take the time out to write, I can’t get it down quick enough. It’s only when my neck and shoulders are aching from sitting at my laptop for too long, that I am forced to stop or pay for it later! I’ve already written over 20,000 words and five chapters.

Sales for Wait for Me have been good but do seem to be tailing off, particularly for the paperback. By the end of March, I had sold 78 copies and 44,000 Kindle pages had been read under the Kindle Unlimited scheme. My first month’s royalties came in from January’s sales at £128.21. They will be considerably less for February and March. I need to think about doing some more promotion. I did a Face Book ad in March which might or might not have paid for itself in sales, or “washed its own face” as our son the aspiring property mogul would say about one of his well-performing rentals. I’ve experimented with an Amazon ad campaign for April but have yet to see any real results from that. I’m going to wait until that is over before I try anything else.

It’s lunchtime, a cold beer is calling me from the fridge and my neck is starting to ache. Fingers crossed, between now and my next post, things continue to improve for everyone both here and at home.

La Soufriere Eruption – April 2021

A dusting of icing on the covid cake.

As if the past few months haven’t brought enough challenges to the people of Barbados, mother nature has now well and truly iced the cake with a liberal sprinkling of volcanic ash!

La Soufriere is an active volcano in the north of St Vincent that has been showing signs of increased activity for the past few months.

On Friday the 9th of April, she finally blew, in an explosive eruption at 08.41 in the morning, sending clouds of ash miles into the sky and all the way to Barbados, 100 miles or so across the sea to the east.

Before I go on to describe our experience here in Barbados, I have to say that, first and foremost, my thoughts go out to the people of St Vincent. Anything we are experiencing here can be nothing compared to what they are going through. There have been images circulating on social media of people walking down streets covered in ash, homes and cars engulfed by ash, people fleeing in tiny boats with smoke and ash pouring into the skies behind them. So far, we have not heard of any casualties, but I understand that thousands of people are still huddled together in emergency shelters, all over the island, as I write.

On Friday, we first heard about the eruption, on social media in the middle of the morning. At the time, it appeared that most of the ash cloud was going to pass us by to the north. By midday this seemed to have been the case, so we cheerfully headed down to the beach thinking that we’d dodged a bullet! Little did we know …


As we enjoyed a beer at our favourite little beach bar, the skies to the west began to darken.

I logged on to social media to discover a stream of posts about subsequent eruptions, bigger than the first, and more ash clouds heading our way. We headed home to get under cover. But, again, it veered north at the last moment, provoking jovial claims that Barbados has her own field force!

So, Friday night we went to bed wondering what all the fuss was about. A tiny part of me was a little bit disappointed. I’m going to be completely honest here, so please don’t judge. I think I’ve said before, I have a morbid fascination with the power of nature. I think it’s linked to my equally morbid fascination with all things apocalyptic. I feel guilty, because I know that these events have devastating consequences for people, that I would never wish on anyone, but I still can’t help being strangely excited by a really big storm or high winds and torrential rain. I have never experienced an earthquake, hurricane, or tsunami and of course I hope I never will. But a part of me has always wondered what it would be like to see mother nature venting at her worst!

And now I know. Saturday we woke up to more darkening skies. The sun could barely peek through the ash-laden clouds that filled the sky. More massive explosions had occurred overnight and in the early morning. Neither of us heard or felt anything but we didn’t sleep well. Dogs were barking and howling on and off all night and M was calling out in his sleep, dreaming that ash was falling on him, every time the mosquito net brushed against his leg. As the morning progressed, a soft film of dust was settling over anything outside, and we decided to move indoors.

And that is where we have been ever since. Indoors with all windows and doors tightly closed and the fans on. We spent Saturday afternoon watching TV – a first in Barbados – and consoled ourselves with a tot or two of rum. It was a very strange day, as wave after wave of ash passed over the island and the deposits on the ground got thicker and thicker.

Each ash cloud reaches us about and hour and a half after the explosion on St Vincent. Skies get dark in the west as the cloud approaches, and the skies in the east take on an eerie yellow glow. At 3.30 yesterday afternoon, day turned to night. Birds stopped tweeting and all other sounds were muffled by the thick layers of cloud. Even the sea was quiet. You can smell the sulphur in the air. Your skin feels dirty and gritty. It irritates your eyes and throat causing sneezing, nose-blowing, and throat-clearing – no actual coughing yet. We went to bed on Saturday night, not knowing what the coming day would bring.

And, so far, it has just brought more of the same, actually a little worse. During the night, the wind picked up. It too, had been unusually quiet yesterday. It blew ash in at the bottom of the east facing shutters in our bedroom. I’ve blocked them up with towels now and the other rooms seem ok, but now we have a light film of ash over everything in the house. Not a lot, but you can feel it when you walk barefoot on the floor and, when you pick up your phone or kindle, you have to wipe it off. There is a film of ash on my keyboard as I type. Fingers crossed all our “devices” will survive this!

This morning at 06.30am, we went outside, during a gap in proceedings, to see what things were like, and were so shocked by what we saw, that we let the door slam behind us! Locked out, on our balcony at 06.30 on a Sunday morning with another ash plume rapidly approaching. We decided it did constitute an emergency, albeit of our own making, and sheepishly called the owner downstairs to see if she could let us back in! Of course, she did, and was very understanding.

It’s now just after 9am and another cloud has just hit from an explosion a couple of hours ago, with another to follow. I’m tracking them using a service called doesn’t seem as if anything else has occurred since 7am. Fingers crossed! Nevertheless, it’ll be another day snuggled up in front of the TV in 30 degrees. We have thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow. Hopefully it’ll rain and wash some of it away.

In the meantime, spare a thought, and if you can maybe a donation, for the people of St Vincent.

Courtesy of UWI Seismic Research Centre

Barbados Lockdown – Wednesday, April 7th, Year 2 of The Time of Covid.

Is the end nye?

Well, it might actually be starting to feel as if this is finally coming to some sort of end. Not “the end” – we’re a long way from that – but “an end”.

Here in Barbados, we have just had the Easter Weekend. Normally, we are told, a massive celebration of festivals, fish fries and parades. This year we were under a “Stay at Home” directive for the Sundays before and after Easter, and Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday.

However, under a slightly bizarre (but hugely welcome) anomaly we were permitted to travel back and forth to restaurants. To drive straight there, and straight back, and maintain social distancing, mask wearing and hand sanitising at all times (except when eating of course!) I suspect this was largely to minimise further disruption and anxiety for the struggling hospitality industry on the islands, who, as you can imagine have been very badly hit.

We took advantage of this and enjoyed a wonderful lunch at a restaurant on the spectacular northern most tip of the island called the Animal Flower Cave (it’s attached to some caves that are normally a popular tourist attraction, but which have been closed due to the pandemic). The food was fantastic, the views magnificent and we were even lucky enough to see a few whales passing by!

Barbados has a vastly different feel to it, so far as we are, into the Time of Covid. Other than the Welcome Stampers (a one-year visa for people who can “work from home” from here), and the usual retired long term visitors, virtually no-one is coming into the island for a vacation, in the traditional sense of the words. Canada and the UK, two of the main tourist markets, are not permitting vacation travel at the moment. The US still does (surprise, surprise) and we have had a recent spate of Americans on the beaches, some of whom are openly flaunting the social distancing rules in a way that is more than disrespectful to local people, who have had their traditional Easter family beach parties, exercise classes and “limes” all forbidden.

The beaches remain closed, apart from the two slots for exercise between 6am and 9am and 3pm and 6pm. The 9pm to 6am curfew has been expanded by one hour to end at 5am. I’ll be honest, that’s not really affecting us much! I’m not feeling any desire to leave the house at 5am, at the moment anyway. Bars are still closed, unless they serve food which most do, and most places will serve you a rum punch or a cold beer, as long as you have a snack at the same time. Tourist attractions are still closed, team sports are forbidden, and pleasure craft trips are not permitted. However, the numbers look good with new cases in single figures for over a week now. Schools are due to reopen on the 20th of April. We are hopeful that the beaches might be opened again soon, as we have seen a few cricket pitches being made ready for play, which could indicate that team sports might be about to resume.

Back in the UK, restrictions are starting to be lifted again. People have been allowed to meet up in small groups outside. Businesses are reopening and people are going back into the office. I’m not totally up with the details as I’ve been focusing on what’s going on here. But fingers crossed for everyone back home that all goes to plan. The high vaccination rates should help prevent a third wave, as is currently happening across Europe, where many countries, like France and Germany, are all going back into lockdown for the third time.

Sometimes, it just hits you how utterly dystopian and futuristic it all seems. At the Mall closest to us, on entry you have to present your face to a small screen that takes your picture and temperature at the same time. A robotic female voice then tells you that your temperature in normal and you are permitted to enter. It feels as if we are living in a sci-fi movie.

So, on the basis of all this, we have booked our flights home for Tuesday the 29th of June. We will have been here for nine months! There will be test on departure, and more tests and quarantine on arrival and only time will tell we will see if the flights are still running by then. It’s beautiful here. Hot and sunny all the time, relaxing and safe, but I am looking forward to getting home.

Barbados Lockdown – Friday, March 19th, Year 2 of our Covid-19 Experience.

We’ve had our first vaccination!

A quick update!

After my last post, we both got the vaccine!

Exactly one year, to the day, that we both went into self-isolation.

Maybe, at last, there is an end in sight to this whole sorry business.

M went down to see his doctor in the morning for a routine check-up. He asked what he should do about the fact that he had registered on the 17th of February, (a month ago!) but had not had an appointment sent through yet. She said to go to the local (St Philip) polyclinic and wait on line. He was to take his letter from his UK consultant that outlined his medical history and his Barbados ID Card.

Unfortunately, by the time he got there at 1pm, they had given away their last ticket for the day and there were already long lines of people standing in the sun. But, we had heard of a few people that had managed to get the vaccine fairly easily, a few miles further north at the St John polyclinic. One friend had walked straight in, late in the afternoon, and another had only waited three hours – a slight significant improves on the average four plus hour wait.

Travel is a funny little feature of life in Barbados. Generally, local people don’t like to travel far outside their own parish. But, Barbados is a small island. 21 miles long by 14 miles wide (at the widest part). So nowhere is really very far away. The northern parishes are the least populated and so it figures that their vaccination centres are less busy.

So M made the arduous 10 minute, 6 mile journey to the St John polyclinic. He arrived to find on man in the queue ahead of him. He waited longer in the observation area after he’d had the vaccination, than he did to receive it. Then, because they had opened a vial, they asked him and the other man if they knew anyone who would like the vaccine as they didn’t want to waste the remaining doses.

Fifteen minutes later, we were both in the car heading back up to the clinic for me to have mine! There were a few administrative shenanigans’ when they realised I didn’t have an ID number but we managed to get around that. By ten past four we were back in the car heading home! I was a bit stunned by how quickly it had all occurred after weeks of waiting a worrying about whether M was going to get his or not.

We had the AZ vaccine, some of which, was gifted to Barbados by the Indian government a few weeks ago. We are due to have our second dose on the 25th of May, so, by the time we return to the UK in July, we will be as immune as we can possibly be!

That was Tuesday. Today is Friday and I have had absolutely zero side effects. M had a sore arm for a day and that was it.

Happy, happy days!!!!

Barbados Lockdown – Tuesday, March 16th, Year 2 of our Covid-19 Experience.

Further easing of restrictions.

It’s exactly one year since M and I went into self-isolation!

Things have the “feel” of getting back to normal here.

All shops and business have been allowed to re-open. Indoor dining is permitted in restaurants. Curfew has been pushed back to 9pm.

Still no large gatherings or “liming”. No congregating at the bar! Beaches still only open from 6am to 9am and 3pm to 6pm. Social distancing (stay six feet away from people not from your household or social bubble when in groups) and mask wearing are still required.

The numbers are going down and the death rate has slowed. Despite the recent outbreak, compared to the UK, the picture is better now, and has been right from the start. Although we haven’t been able to get the vaccination here yet, and we would have both had it by now in the UK, we definitely made the right decision in coming here.

Cases per million population: UK 62,573 Barbados 11,967

Deaths per million population: UK 1,843 Barbados 132

Even in terms of vaccination rates, Barbados isn’t doing too badly! Up there at number 11 in the world rankings! UK 38.6% of population. Barbados an impressive 18%! I was actually quite surprised by that figure.

On a personal note, we have now entered our 3.5 month extension. We moved house at the weekend and are settling in to our new home. It’s a spacious two-bedroomed, first floor apartment with a wonderful outside space and beautiful view of the sea. Compared to the last place; smaller with no pool, less expensive, but much more comfortable, cleaner and tidier, and far better equipped.

I’m up to 3.5 K on my Couch to 5K journey. Never thought I’d get this far!

We are even starting to have a social life again!

Tonight we are actually GOING OUT to meet some friends for dinner in an open air, roof-top restaurant with a sunset view.

Tomorrow, the same friends are coming over for lunch as they go back to the UK on Saturday. Local aubergines are in season and absolutely delicious, so I’m cooking a Moussaka.

Next week I’m even getting my toenails done, and going to try and get my hair cut!

Barbados Lockdown – Wednesday, March 3rd, Year 2 of our Covid-19 Experience.

As we approach a year since we first went into lockdown back in the UK, here in Barbados, the decision has been made to ease some of the restrictions that have been in place since the 3rd of February.

I was a little surprised as the numbers still aren’t great. However, I think it comes down to a mix of economic concerns, and (we are told) that all the new cases are coming from just a few identifiable clusters, limited to a few distinct households.

As you can see from the graph, the curve is moving in the right direction. The first half of the recent double peak reflects the prison outbreak back in January. If you “ignore” that peak, you can see a steady increase followed by a steady decline. Fingers crossed, that this trend continues.

Unfortunately, deaths continue to rise, as is always the case as people infected 2 or 3 weeks ago succumb to the serious complications of the virus.

Anyway, we are now permitted to visit the beach between 3pm and 6pm as well as our 6am to 9am slot. The nighttime curfew between 7pm and 6am remains in place but the weekend curfew has been lifted.

Some shops have been allowed to re-open, and restaurants are allowed to provide curb-side pick-ups (takeaways). Supermarkets are still operating under restricted hours but can open on Saturdays now.

It means a lot in terms of what we can do! We can exercise in the morning slot and maybe go for a swim in the afternoon, rather than cramming it all in in the morning. This means we don’t really need to get up at 5am every morning, but so far we have found it hard to break the habit. We seem to have discovered the joys of being out and about at sunrise. It’s cool and the light is incredible. There is something to be said for having spent 3 hours exercising at the beach and still have the whole day ahead of you as you enjoy a coffee on the balcony at 9am!

Sunrise on Pebble Beach

Shopping wise the implications are tremendous. Because the vegetable street vendors are open again, we don’t need to go to the supermarket as often and stand in the long lines in the sun. But, because, like us, other people don’t need to go to the supermarket as often now, and we don’t have the pre-weekend panic buying, the lines are shorter anyway. The fish market is open again now too, so we’re going down to buy a big fish today and get the freezer re-stocked!

For me, it’s just nice to know that I don’t have to cook every single meal, every single day, if I don’t want to now. The option of picking up a roti or something special from one of our favourites eating places is something comforting to have in my back pocket. It’s the little things.

The vaccination programme seems to be well underway, even if it does seem to have been a little chaotic in it’s implementation. M registered on the 17th of February for an appointment but has heard nothing since. They said that once all the over 70’s had been given theirs, they would start working through younger people with underlying medical conditions, like him. However, it seems that the general public have been turning up at vaccination centres without appointments and are being given the vaccination regardless. Meanwhile, the people they say they are prioritising, wait at home for appointments that never materialise.

Whether you have an appointment or not, if what we have been told is true, you are looking at a wait in the sun of 4 or 5 hours.

On a more positive note, Immigration called me during lockdown to tell me that my citizenship has been approved and, when the office re-opened this week, I was able to go in and pay my fee. Now I just need to wait for them to send out my certificate and I’m good to go for an ID Card and a Passport!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’ve been trying to keep fit during our time here and I recently decided to start a Couch to 5K programme. So far, I’m up to running for 20 minutes in two intervals with a short walk in between, and its going surprisingly well! Today, we also took part in an aqua-robics session in the sea!

The only other bit of news is that we’re moving next week. This house is far too big for us and we don’t really use the pool as much as we thought we might. We have found a lovely 2 bedroom apartment, walking distance from a gorgeous little beach, for a fraction of the price we are paying for this place. When we booked this, we were expecting that some friends and family would have come out to visit us in the new year. Of course, this has not been possible so when we decided to extend our stay, we also decided to look for somewhere smaller. We will stay there for anther three and a half months before we come home on the 1st of July – all being well

Barbados Lockdown – Thursday, February 18th, Month 12 of our Covid-19 Experience.

The lockdown, or “National Pause”, in Barbados has been extended until midnight on the 28th of February.

The lockdown, or “National Pause”, in Barbados has been extended until midnight on the 28th of February. In addition, the curfew has been extended from the hours of darkness (7pm until 6am), to include weekends. This weekend, for the first time, we are not allowed to leave our homes, for any reason, from 7pm on Friday until 6am on Monday. They are also planning to tighten up their monitoring of compliance with the restrictions, and will be dishing out severe penalties including large fines and even prison sentences, to people who breach the conditions of the directive.

It is all because the numbers are not going down, and it seems that not everyone is adhering to the protocols. Several people have been arrested, and taken into custody, for running illegal parties (limes), or opening their business when they are not permitted to do so. To be honest, on the rare occasions when we have been out, on our way to and from the beach or supermarket, we have been surprised by the large number of cars on the road and people that are about. But, you could argue that we were contributing to these large volumes ourselves!

Sadly, deaths continue to rise. A couple of days ago the country lost their first healthcare provider, when a nurse succumbed to the virus. Tragically, on Monday a 9-year-old girl died from Covid-19 related MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children). This has shaken the island community to it’s core. Especially as it was also revealed that around 40 other children are seriously ill with similar symptoms.

On a more positive note, the island has started it’s vaccination programme after it was gifted a batch of the AZ/Oxford vaccine from India. M has registered for his, as a citizen with a serious underlying health condition, and we are waiting to hear when he will be offered an appointment.

As expected, the past couple of weeks have been very different to our lockdown experience in the UK. We get up at 5am every day, and leave the house at 6am to head to the beach to make the most of our 3 hour permitted exercise slot. We walk, jog or swim, and are usually back home just after 9am for coffee and breakfast. When we need to, we pick up some groceries on the way home.

Sunrise on Bottom Bay

I use the term “picking up some groceries” very loosely. Shopping has been the most challenging aspect of lockdown in Barbados. We tried to stock up as best as we could before the Pause but, by the second weekend, we were running out of a few things and fresh vegetables in particular. With all shops being closed on Saturday and Sunday, we thought we’d do a little shop on Friday. Well, it’s fair to say that we were well and truly shocked by the length of the queues, or lines, as they are referred to here. Every shop we tried, had long lines of people outside, winding around the block and down the street. Rather than stand in the blazing mid-morning sun for an hour or so, we decided to make do with what we had in the house and try again the following week.

We tried again on the Tuesday. We still had to queue but it wasn’t as bad as it appeared and, when we made it inside, the shop was uncrowded and well-stocked. Once we got ourselves into the right mindset, the soothing background tunes and the air conditioning helped to make it a relatively stress free experience. Nevertheless, we did a fairly big shop to avoid having to repeat the experience too often!

Other than going to the beach and the supermarket, our days have been spent sitting on the balcony, writing, reading, sewing, and listening to audiobooks and podcasts. In the second week, we were entertained by Mia’s (the Prime Minister) dulcet tones being broadcast from vehicles touring the island, reminding everyone of the need to stay at home, wear a mask and wash their hands, and motivating them to “beat Covid” together. It was quite strange and all felt a bit Orwellian, but doesn’t everything these days?

The upside of it all is that I have got lots of writing done. I have been so encouraged by the feedback on Wait for Me, that I have decided to write a sequel rather than re-visit The Ice Factory or start something new. It’s great fun writing about life in a Zombie Apocalypse and people seem to want more so why not? I have already written 6347 words! At this rate, I’ll have finished in a year or so! Well, we’ll see …

It’s my dad’s 93rd birthday today.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Barbados Lockdown – Tuesday, February 3rd, Month 12 of our Covid-19 Experience.

So, in the final month, of the first year of our Covid-19 experience, we have entered lockdown for the second time! This time in Barbados! I somehow think that this one will be a very different experience to the dark days of March and April in 2020.

Who would have thought that the past year would have been such a strange roller coaster of new and frightening experiences, scary and exhilarating choices and decisions, and the adventure of a lifetime!

Last year, on Monday the 3rd of February, we had just returned from a 3 week holiday in Barbados, and were looking forward to going to the pantomime in Birmingham with our grandson, the following afternoon. Little did we know that the next month the whole world would be in the grip of the pandemic, and that we were about to begin the strangest year of our lives. Nor had we any idea that we would be back in Barbados by the autumn, this time for an extended stay.

On the 12th of January I wrote about the second wave that Barbados had been experiencing since Christmas. In many ways they appear to have regained some control over the surge of infections, but the situation remains worse than it was back at the start of the pandemic for them. They have now had a total of 1585 cases and, sadly, 14 deaths. They have admitted that the virus is now spreading in the community and that some cases of the highly infectious UK variant have been detected.

For this reason, a week or so ago, the Prime Minister announced that there will be a “National Pause” (aka lockdown) from the 3rd to the 17th of February. The hope is that this will serve to eradicate the last traces of the virus on the island.

The basic message is “Stay at Home”, unless you have to go out for medical reasons, to buy food or to exercise between 6am and 9am.

The existing curfew has been extended to 7pm to 6am, during which time it is forbidden to leave your home for any reason except a medical emergency.

Masks are mandatory in all public places.

Parks and beaches are open between 6am and 9am only.

All shops, bars, restaurants and street vendors, except for a few large supermarkets and bakeries, are closed. Supermarkets are open for restricted hours only from Monday to Friday, and are closed at weekends.

It’s not going to be so bad though. It’s warm and we can sit outdoors. We have a pool. We can still do our exercise in the early mornings. The freezer is stocked up. Mia (the PM) has suggested we all use it as time to Rest, Reflect and Renew and that is exactly what we plan to do. I’ve been taking a break from writing since I published Wait for Me, so it seems like a good time to get going again!

On a lighter note – 2021 cozzies come with matching masks!

Testing here remains an issue, particularly in relation to travel. Many countries, including the UK, Canada and the US, now require negative tests before people are allowed to enter the country. In addition, many people are rushing home before prolonged and costly “hotel quarantines” are introduced. This has placed an excessive demand on the testing services, and obtaining results before travel has become an unpredictable and stressful experience. There are many stories of people who have not received their results in time and have not been able to board their flights.

The big story that broke yesterday is that Captain Tom (now Sir Tom) the great British icon of positivity and stoicism in the face of the virus, has died from it! It is not just terribly ironic that the very thing that made him famous has killed him. It is also, for me, symbolic of how, at the moment, it very much appears that all around the world, the virus is winning the fight.

RIP Captain Tom.

Tuesday, January 12th, Month 11 of our Covid-19 Experience.

Well, who would have thought so much could change in the space of a week or two! 2021 has brought with it a wave of infection across the world like nothing we have seen before!

Last time I wrote, just after Christmas, things were fine here. Now, Barbados is experiencing their own second wave! Cases have increased dramatically over the past week.

Up until Christmas they’d had a total of around 300 cases. Today they have 878.

Barbados Active Cases

No-one knows how the virus got into the community. It could have been due to one of the many breaches of visitor quarantine protocols that have occurred over the last few weeks. Some of them were very high profile involving a Love Island star, Zara Holland, and her boyfriend who tested positive and tried to flee the country, and a couple in quarantine who invited a prostitute to their hotel room for a “threesome”!

But, it could just as easily be due to a Bajan National visiting their family for Christmas. One circulating rumour involves a man collecting some Christmas stuffing from his brother who was still in quarantine!

Whoever was responsible for the initial infection, it was unleashed on the Bajan community through a “bus crawl”, that is now being described as a “super-spreader” event.

The Bus Crawl took place on Boxing Day and was attended by members of the prison staff and their families. It involved several buses “crawling” from bar to bar with much drinking and dancing involved. There remains no doubt that a very good time was had by all. However, the fallout is that almost everyone who attended has since tested positive and has passed the infection on to their families, friends and colleagues.

The prison has been badly hit, affecting both staff and prisoners and the Barbados Defence Force has been brought in to run the prison. Multiple shops, bars, restaurants and businesses have closed all over the island. A curfew has been imposed from 9pm until 5am and people from different households are not allowed to gather indoors or outdoors. These restrictions began on New Years Eve, and will remain in place until the 14th of January.

Quarantine protocols have been tightened up and visitors are confined to their rooms until they have a second negative test. Thousands of tests have been conducted over the past week and a huge backlog has been created. People in quarantine are waiting as long as 10 days for their results and incurring large hotel bills as they wait. People trying to get out of the country to destinations (like the UK and Canada) which require a negative test within 72 hours before departure are not getting their results in time and having to re-book their flights multiple times.

And in the UK, things are even worse as well. Numbers are now ridiculously high, deaths rates are soaring, the NHS is drowning and a second National Lockdown has been imposed.

Those of us who hoped that 2021 would bring better times have been sorely disappointed.

But, a glimmer of hope can be gleaned from the fact that the vaccination programme has begun, with 2 million people in the UK having received their first dose.

When is this all going to end?

Sunday, December 27th, Month 10 of our Covid-19 Experience.

Latest update on our pandemic experience.

So Christmas is over and it seems like an appropriate time to write a Covid-19 update. We have been in Barbados now for exactly three months, and officially have another three to go. However, we are now considering extending our stay until June, as things at home seem to be getting worse, not better!

Since September, the numbers have continued to rise, more lockdowns have been imposed, and a new tiered system of restrictions has been developed, dependent on local infection levels.

Initially, the government was intending to allow the relaxing of restrictions for five days over Christmas, but this was revoked at short notice, after a new, more infectious, variant of the virus swept across the UK. Christmas mixing was cancelled in many areas, and everywhere else people were permitted to mix with just one household, for one day only, with overnight stays forbidden.

A raft of countries reacted to the new variant by closing their borders to UK citizens, but it seems that it might be too little, too late, as the new variant has already been detected in many other countries in Europe, and around the world. Let’s hope it doesn’t reach us here!

The good news is that a vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, and others are following close behind. However, it is going to take a very long time to get everyone vaccinated, and a list of priority groups has been developed. The elderly, and health and social care workers, are first on the list, with estimates suggesting that young, healthy people may not receive theirs until 2022!

People have had enough. There have been tears and tantrums over cancelled Christmas plans and many people have been unable to travel home for the holidays. Hundreds of lorry drivers have been trapped in their vehicles for days, in huge queues near the ferry ports. There have been rumours of food shortages and other horrors, and the anti-maskers, anti-vaccers and conspiracy theorists are having field day! But, generally, people are resigned to their new ways of life in a depressed kind of way. All this, and Brexit is just around the corner! Estimates suggest that things are not going to begin to improve until the summer.

Christmas Eve

Here in Barbados, life ticks on in a relatively normal way. Their protocols seem to be highly effective at containing the virus. Things are slowly getting busier. People are still being careful. More and more flights are coming in each day, and more and more people are appearing on the beaches, and in bars and restaurants. Every week a handful of people test positive on their second test but, because they have been in quarantine pending their results, there has been no community spread. Fingers crossed it continues in this way!

We had a wonderful Christmas and did things we could never have done at home. Of course we missed our family and friends back home, but we couldn’t have been with them physically anyway. On Christmas Eve, we set the sun in a south coast restaurant called Naru. We had a champagne breakfast picnic on the beach on Christmas morning and then had our Christmas Dinner at the Atlantis Hotel in Bathsheba. On Boxing Day, we were invited to a beach party by some people we have met here, and spent the day, swimming, chatting, drinking rum punch and eating hot, buttery, roasted breadfruit.

Writing wise, since we have been here, I have completed the biography project I was working on with a friend. My Rachel, was published in December and, so far, is doing really well. I am very close to publishing my first novel, Wait for Me. The manuscript is currently with a friend who is formatting it for publication for me, then I need to do a final read through to double check for any typos or glaring errors. It’s very exciting!

How quickly life can change. This time last year, we had some blinds for our dining room delivered from China. The manufacturers enclosed a packet of Jelly Beans in the package. M refused to eat them in case they were contaminated with the new virus that was causing problems in China. I laughed at him and gobbled them up! Who’d have imagined that that very same virus would, 12 months later, have wreaked havoc and misery across the whole word, infecting over 80 million people, and killing almost 2 million.

The official death toll in the UK is now over 70,000. Excess deaths are higher, over 80,000. Just before Christmas, there were 39,000 new cases in 24 hours and 570 deaths. Rates of hospital admissions are as high as they were back in the peak of the first wave. The only positive in all of this is that deaths rates are lower, almost half of what they were back then. Perhaps they are learning how to manage the disease better?

This graphic representation from the Guardian captures the situation well. Because they were not testing in the community in the first wave, you can’t really compare daily cases, but hospital admissions are likely to be an accurate reflection.