Viruses and Volcanoes

A Covid Diary

During what I like to refer to as, The Time of Covid, I used this blog to journal my experiences during lockdown and beyond / kept a journal of my experiences during lockdown and beyond. At the start of the pandemic, my husband had just been diagnosed with a serious lung condition which placed him in the “very vulnerable” or “shielded” category and we made the decision to self-isolate a week before the official lockdown began. We expected to have to do this for 12 weeks and then return to our normal lives when it was all over. Little did we know what the coming year would bring.

Viruses and Volcanoes tells the story of my life in The Time of Covid as a wife, mother, grandmother and daughter from the first days of the lockdown in the UK and later, after we relocated to Barbados, on the other side of the Atlantic. It takes the reader through the shock and strangeness of the early days of the pandemic, the emotional roller coaster of the prolonged lockdown and the gradual adaptation to the new normal.

Viruses and Volcanoes is a personal, unedited and unapologetic narrative of the lives of a middle-aged couple during the Covid-19 pandemic. It was written in real time and is an honest and truthful account of our day-to-day lives between March 2020 and July 2021. As such, it captures the mundane and incredibly monotonous details of the lockdown life that we all experienced at the time.

My aim was not to entertain, explain or examine but simply to record my thoughts, feelings and experiences for posterity, during what was, at the start at least, a truly bizarre and frightening time. I wanted to capture how it felt when the world changed forever overnight before we all became accustomed to it, and it ultimately became our new normal.

I’ll apologise now for the fact that at times I was angry, frustrated, critical and judgmental, but this was my reality at the time. The journal also covers some of the facts and figures about the disease, the government’s attempts to deal with it and the ever-changing beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of our society as a whole.

Viruses and Volcanoes is available in eBook and paperback on Amazon for £9.99 and on multiple digital platforms as an eBook for £2.99.

Success! You're on the list.

Thursday, July 8th, 2021, Year 2 in The Time of Covid.

They think its all over …

Leaving Barbados

Well, we’ve been back in the UK for exactly a week today! Last Thursday we landed at Heathrow at 11 am. We had a good flight and, apart from an almost anticipated 2 hour delay at immigration, a pretty straightforward transit home. The car picked us up at 1pm and we were home by 2.30pm.

Flying in the Time of Covid is different from before, but not dramatically. You get the usual meals and drinks etc. after departure and before arrival, but for the majority of the time you don’t really see much of the cabin crew. If you want water or anything else during the flight you have to ask for it and obviously masks are mandatory throughout.

Our thoughts are very much still with Barbados. Tropical Storm Elsa upgraded to a hurricane just as it hit the country, wreaking devastation across the island. Thankfully, it appears that no lives have been lost but hundreds of trees are down, houses have been damaged and destroyed, roads blocked and many people have been without power or water for several days.

The airport was closed for a few days due to storm damage and, once again, we can’t believe quite how fortunate we have been. We missed it by just 24hours and would have had to change our flights and re-do our Covid tests etc. if it had hit before we left. Our whole Barbados trip has been marked by an uncanny series of lucky coincidences; when we first arrived we missed the need to quarantine in a hotel at our own cost by 4 days and when we departed, we missed the need to quarantine at home for 10 days by 24 hours, and that was only because Virgin moved our flights back by a day!

Home at Last

The past week has been a whirlwind of seeing friends and family and getting the house and our lives back to normal. Various pieces of equipment are revolting in an expression of their disgust about having been left unloved and unattended for 9 months; the shower in the ensuite and one of the radiators in the spare bathroom have both sprung a leak; the printer isn’t printing properly; the motor for the power shower has blown; the back gate, which was sticky before, is now refusing to budge; the gas and electric meter isn’t working; and the whole of the garden and outside space is in need of a good jet-wash and tidy up. I can’t remember where anything is in my kitchen and I have a list as long as my arm of admin type things to attend to. My priority was to do our accounts for 2020/2021 and I finished these yesterday and am slowly getting through everything else. By Monday, I think we should be on top of things.

It’s a weird feeling being back after being away for so long. It’s almost as if we’ve just been on holiday for a couple of weeks, but then it isn’t. In some ways it feels as if nothing has changed – we are seeing the same people, driving around the same streets in the same car, shopping in the same shops, watching the same TV, sleeping in the same bed, seeing the same views from our windows etc. etc. – then, every now and again, something takes us by surprise – new shops and bars on our village high street, a humungous new Marks and Spencer’s at the end of the road, new houses that have sprung up all over the place and grandchildren that have grown by several inches!

It is wonderful to be back though. So many people have taken the time out to stop and welcome us home. I’m enjoying our lovely kitchen with all my amazing gadgets and my big shiny range cooker; our gloriously comfy cozy bed; and my writing desk with my huge monitor that doesn’t give me eye strain and neck ache. I can’t believe I wrote a whole novel with my laptop balanced on my knee on a cushion!

Covid Today

With regard to Covid, it all feels vastly different from the dark days when we left the country last September at the start of the second wave. People seem to be going about their normal lives with just a few restrictions still in place. Table service has become the norm in bars and restaurants, indoor mask wearing is generally adhered to (although we have both noticed a distinct lack of rigour in regard to hand sanitising and contact tracing compared to Barbados, and absolutely zero temperature checks) and there are restrictions on the number of people you can have inside your home. It very much feels as though these restrictions and Covid itself have become part of everyday life and something that we all just have to learn to live with.

This is largely due to the fact that despite the increasing numbers of infections, that indicate the start of a third wave, for the first time this is not being matched by increases in hospitalisations and deaths. Essentially, the vaccine is working! I have to admit that we feel much safer in the knowledge that we are “double vacced”. To an extent, it feels as if we have re-started our lives to where they were at the start of the outbreak back in March 2020, and I must admit it feels good!

Summer of 2021

We have a long summer to look forward to. We have lots of things planned with friends and family; Sunday lunches with our kids and grandkids; lots of catch-ups with friends over a coffee or a glass or two of wine; numerous belated birthday celebrations; a trip up north to see my parents and sisters; a trip to Sweden to see my son and his girlfriend (no quarantine for double vacced travellers returning from amber countries announced today!); a Trident Edge road-trip with my fellow writers to check out the locations that I have used in the book and see if I have adequately captured them in my minds eye; Granny play-dates with my friends and their grandchildren; and a weekend in Stratford on Avon with some friends. On top of all that we have an endless summer of sport to enjoy; Euro20 -deferred to 2021 – (football) is currently underway with England progressing to the final just last night; the British Lions (rugby) tour of South Africa is also in progress; we are entering the second week of Wimbledon (tennis); the Tour de France is almost half-way through; and the Tokyo Olympics start on the 23rd of July.

I have lots of writing projects on the go as well; after the road trip I’m going to edit and write the second draft of Trident Edge then get it beta-read, edited again, proofread and edited again before publishing; I’ve entered the NYC Flash Fiction competition the first round of which starts tomorrow; I’m preparing a submission for the fall edition of the First Line Literary Journal; I’m going to turn this Time of Covid blog into a book; and I also have an idea for a new non-fiction project called I’z a Bajan.

The Final Chapter

All of this, combined with the fact that the government is going to lift all restrictions from the 19th of July, tells me that this is good place to end this particular blog project. It started as a lockdown diary back in March 2020 and then evolved into an account of our Covid experiences in Barbados. My intention was always to bring all these posts together into a book, so that one day our youngest grandchildren will be able to read all about what it was like (for us at least) at the start of The Time of Covid.

It’s been a crazy 14 month rollercoaster of experiences and emotions; fear, disbelief, anxiety and confusion at the start; boredom, frustration and isolation in lockdown; hope and disappointment about ever falling and rising numbers; anger about the behaviours of governments and people (remember the covidiots?); making the big scary decision to leave the country; stress and tension about whether we would even get to Barbados and get there safely; taking risks; having the adventure of a lifetime; being overwhelmed with joy and relief when we got there Covid-free; relishing the warmth, the sunshine, the sea and the beaches and the overwhelming feeling of safety; experiencing a Bajan lockdown, a volcanic eruption, sargassum and a super-storm (which has since been dwarfed by Hurricane Elsa).

Who knows whether Covid-19 will ever go away, and who knows what remnants of our new way of life might persist into the future lives of our grandchildren. I know it’s not going to disappear overnight and that we are all almost certainly going to have to learn to live with it for many years to come, if not for ever. But, in terms of our lives and this diary, we have reached point that definitely feels like a natural point of closure, if not an end.

Keeping with the football theme from last night, forgive me if apply the words of BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme (when England won the World Cup in 1966) to the Time of Covid,

“They think it’s all over,”

– who knows when we will ever be able to complete the comment –

“It is now.”

Sunday, June 27th, 2021, Year 2 of The Time of Covid.

Time to go!

Well, our time here in Barbados is nearly at an end. We leave for the UK on the 30th of June, arriving back into Heathrow on the 1st of July. We’ve booked a chauffer driven car through Virgin to drive us from the airport straight home – its sounds expensive but it isn’t going to cost us much more that it did to hire a car for 24 hours, as we did when we left in September last year, and we won’t be squeezing into a minibus (aka Covid capsule) with a load of strangers, for the transfer to the car hire depot from the terminal.

It’s incredible to think that we have been here for 9 months! During that time we have experienced; a lockdown, a volcanic eruption, a glut of sargassum, a super-storm (this occurred a couple of weeks ago), I have published one book (Wait for Me and written the first draft of another (Trident Edge), I’ve had a column published in the Nation News, as Key Ways Consulting, we have done some Insights Discovery coaching and workshops with the Barbados Davis Cup tennis team and the Ministry of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce at the Barbados Government, we’ve met loads of wonderful and interesting people (this is going to be the subject of my next non-fiction book I is a Bajan), we’ve been to a multitude of new (to us) bars and restaurants and explored almost every beach on the island.

Thank you Barbados! It’s been a blast!

There are a number of Covid related things we have to do before we leave on Wednesday. On Monday morning, we have to go and get a Covid PCR test at the Barbados Testing Centre at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium near Bridgetown. That evening we need to complete the UK Government Passenger Locator forms and book another Covid test for after we arrive back in the UK.

Until just a couple of days ago, were were expecting to have to quarantine at home for 10 days, and do tests on Day 2 and Day 8 before we were released because Barbados was on the UK Amber list. But, last week the country was placed on the Green list and we are no longer required to quarantine and only have to do one test on Day 2. This is fantastic news indeed! It was going to be strange and frustrating to be back in the UK and so close to family and friends but still unable to see them.

So as we move into the next phase of our personal Covid experience, there have been 181 million cases and almost 4 million deaths worldwide. India, Brazil and the USA are still seeing extremely high rates of infection. The countries with the highest deaths rates are Peru with 5,732 per million and Hungary with 3,111. Countries with over 2,000 deaths per million include; Brazil, Argentina, and Columbia in South America, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Montenegro in Eastern Europe and Belgium, and Italy, San Marino and Gibraltar in Europe.

Here, in Barbados, the numbers remain low with a total of 4,074 cases and 47 deaths. The rates per million population are 682 cases and 22 deaths. New cases were almost down to zero a couple of weeks ago but we have seen another small spike over the past few days. And, while they accept that Covid will remain an ever-present danger for many months and probably years to come, things are almost back to normal apart from strict social distancing, hand sanitising and mask wearing.

And in the UK, there have been a total of 4,717,811 cases and 128,089 deaths. The rates per million population are 69,139 cases and 1,877 deaths. They have been battling with increasing rates of infection due to the Delta variant and the plan to open up fully has been delayed by another month. With over 18,000 new cases today, the daily numbers are more than double what they were when we came out to Barbados in September last year, when they were just over 7000. If we hadn’t been double vaccinated we’d be very apprehensive about our return!

The big news at the moment is that Matt Hancock the Health Minister has been forced to resign after photographs in The Sun of him in an intimate “clinch” with a woman he was having an affair with, demonstrated a hypocritical breach of Covid protocols (as well as outing his affair to the nation).

So, as we start packing and clearing out the apartment, we have mixed feelings about our departure. It’s sad to be leaving and we will miss all the lovely friends we have made here, and the sunshine and the beaches, and all the wonderful people of Barbados. However, it is also so exciting to be able to see our children and grandchildren again, and to be able to give them all a big hug and a kiss. It’s been so long.

For me, after nine sweltering months of sleeping under a mosquito net with only a sheet to cover me (and sometimes nothing at all), I’m really looking forward to feeling cool enough to snuggle up under my fluffy duvet in my big cozy bed!

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021, Year 2 of The Time of Covid.

Guest Column in the Nation News

A significant period of time has elapsed since I last posted about our Covid-19 experience, and that is a good thing! It means that things are going fairly well, both here in Barbados, and back home in the UK. Apart from a few blips in the UK with the ‘Indian Variant’, numbers are going down and things are slowly starting to open up.

Barbados has had a few consecutive days with no new cases at all, and the UK has had a few days with no deaths! Vaccinations are going well, with the first wave of second vaccinations almost completed in Barbados (we had ours on the 17th of May), and first doses now being offered to people 3o years and over in the UK.

We are going home on the 29th of June. As Barbados is on the UK’s ‘Amber List’, as well as all the usual tests and documentation we will need to complete before we leave the island, we will also have to quarantine at home for 10 days after arrival, and pay for tests on days 2 and 8 before we are released. A small price to pay for 9 months in a tropical paradise, instead of being shut up in our house all winter.

I have been so impressed and thankful for the way Barbados has handled the pandemic that I felt compelled to write a ‘Letter to the Editor’ of the national news paper, The Nation News. I was surprised (and delighted) when they gave my little piece an entire page and categorized it as a “guest column”!

This is what I said:

“On the 29th of June we will be leaving Barbados after spending the last nine months here. For medical reasons, we left the UK last September, to avoid the second wave of the pandemic back home. Before we leave, I feel compelled to share my feelings about how impressed we have been with the way Barbados, as a tiny country, has handled this global crisis.

At the time we left, we had barely left our homes for over six months apart from to exercise or buy groceries. We knew there was a chance that we could face lockdowns and other restrictions in Barbados but were prepared to take that risk. Whatever happened, having to “stay at home” in the warm sunshine of Barbados where we could spend a lot of our time outdoors, had to be better than facing a long cold winter locked up in the house in the UK.

The day we set out for Heathrow we were nervous and fearful of contracting the virus on the journey. We hired a car to travel to the airport to avoid the need to interact with others on public transport but were horrified when, after dropping off the car at Heathrow we were transported to the terminal in a small mini-bus with several other strangers. We tried to keep as far away as possible from other people in the check-in and security queues, but no special precautions were being taken to ensure social distancing, and, other than being asked to wear our masks for the entire flight, and being offered a reduced meals service, no other measures were in place to help us keep our distance from our fellow travellers.

The moment we arrived in Barbados we heaved a huge sigh of relief. Now, here was a country that was taking this thing seriously! We were taken by bus to a special part of the airport where our temperatures were taken, we were “sanitised” and our negative test results re-examined before we were even allowed into the terminal.  We were given clear advice and instructions about what to do over the next 10 days from the public health team at the airport before we were allowed to leave. Once we got to our accommodation (we had rented a house in St. Philip) we were required to take our temperatures twice a day, record them on a form we had been given, and send them through to the Public Heath team by text message.

Although we arrived before the travel quarantine protocols were in place, for those 10 days, we tried to avoid close contact with other people unless it was absolutely necessary. We did have to go out to buy groceries and get a thermometer and were reassured further by the checks and precautions that were in place in shops and businesses. Hands were sanitised, contact details taken and temperature checks performed everywhere we went. Sadly, I can say that we had not witnessed such rigorous adherence to sanitising and social distancing procedures back in the UK.  Even mask wearing was not widely enforced at the time we left home and was not compulsory for children. In Barbados everyone was wearing a mask, from the octogenarian on his early morning walk, to the tiny tot on her way to school.

 It was clear from the outset that the people of Barbados were treating the virus with the degree of caution it warranted, and were respectful of, and compliant with, the guidance and advice of Prime Minister Mottley and her government. For us, this was a massive relief and we felt safer and more relaxed than we had done for a very long time. In those early days, I lost count of the number of times we congratulated each other on our decision.

And so, it has continued. Numbers have gone up and down. Crises have come and gone. The country has faced its own second wave with increased death rates and various clusters and outbreaks, including the now infamous “Boxing Day Bus Crawl”. There have been curfews and lockdowns and other restrictions that have been followed by one and all, almost without exception. Then, as if to add insult to injury, just when it was almost all over and things were slowly starting to return to normal, the country was hit by a devastating ash cloud from the La Soufriere eruption on St Vincent.

Throughout it all the people of Barbados have remained cheerful and positive. Smiling and joking. Making light of what was in reality, a very difficult situation for many. Just getting on with what needed to be done without complaint or excuse. They are truly one of the most resilient and strongest nations I have come across and I am both grateful for the way they have made us feel welcome and at home during our time here, and proud and privileged to have borne witness to their fight against Covid-19.

One thing that I began to think might have been the only negative aspect to our decision to ride out the second wave in Barbados was a potentially missed opportunity to access the vaccination. My husband is a Barbadian citizen and has a medical condition which placed him in one of the priority groups for vaccination during the early days that it became available in Barbados. Unfortunately, I am and too young and too fit and healthy to be eligible at this stage in Barbados but would have been offered it in the UK. I have applied for citizenship by marriage and, while this has been approved and I paid the fee back in March, I am yet to receive any documentation that would enable me to obtain an ID number. So, I just assumed I would not be able to get the vaccine until I got home.

I could not have been more wrong. The day my husband went to the David Thompson polyclinic to get his vaccination I stayed at home, only to get a call to say that, to avoid wasting the contents of the vial that had been opened for his dose, they wondered if I would like to be vaccinated as well. I jumped at the chance. We received our second vaccinations on Monday the 17th of May so are now fully vaccinated and hopefully immune for our journey home.

So, I just wanted to say; a huge THANKYOU to Barbados and that you should all be proud of your people and your government, who have by far punched above their weight in the global fight against Covid-19.

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!!!!

Wednesday, September 23rd, Month 7 of our Covid-19 Experience.

3 days until departure and it’s all kicking off again!

The Numbers

The number of infections has risen dramatically since I last wrote. Experts say it is doubling every week and if we don’t do anything to stop it we could have ten’s of thousands of new cases every day by mid October. There were 37 deaths yesterday, and 4,926 new cases.

Globally, there have been almost 32 million cases and almost 1 million deaths.

The News

We’ve officially moved back up to Level 4 and increased restrictions are being put in place. Last week Birmingham and Solihull were placed in a kind of new local lockdown. This essentially banned people from meeting other people from different households in private homes or gardens. The rest of the country were banned from meeting anywhere in groups larger than six.

Yesterday though, Boris addressed the nation again and announced even more restrictions. Masks are going to be compulsory pretty much everywhere indoors, for everyone. Although people can still go to pubs and restaurants, they now have to close at 10pm. People are being asked to work from home again, if they can, and all the steps that have been taken towards easing lockdown, are being cancelled.

Testing has been a shambles, with long queues at walk-in and drive-through testing centres and results taking days to come back. The government has admitted that demand is outstripping supply.

The New Way of Life

I’ve been so tense over the past couple of weeks it been killing me. With regard to my biggest fears:

The UK is deemed “high risk” by Barbados and we have to stay at the airport until we test negative, or go into the quarantine facility when we arrive.

So far, we are still allowed to travel but the rules have been tightened up a bit. Now, before you can board the plane, you must have a negative test, performed by a clinician, within 72 hours of arrival (previously this was departure).

This has meant that we now have to drive to Cirencester tomorrow to have the tests done then, to ensure that they get to the lab in time and avoid paying an extortionate price for a same day tracked courier, we are driving to Cambridge to drop them off ourselves.

It’s a hassle but its worth it for the peace of mind. We will get our test results in time and we can be reasonably confident that everyone else on the plane will not have the virus.

We catch the virus before we leave and are not able/allowed to travel at all.

3 days to go and so far so good. We have been isolating and been very careful so this is becoming much less of a concern now.

We catch the virus en route and are quarantined on arrival.

Still a possibility, but the new rules make catching it on a plane less likely. We have got masks, plastic face shields, gloves, hand sanitiser, santising wipes for the journey and we are hearing that airports are generally very quiet at the moment.

We have also agreed that if the worst happens and we are asked to quarantine on arrival, we will consider the “quarantine hotel” option, if we can afford it. We don’t fancy the government facility at all.

Birmingham goes into lock-down and we can’t hire a car to get us to the airport.

It doesn’t look as if this is going to be problem now. Very little can change between now and Saturday and the car is already booked. We pick it up on Friday.

Phew! The closer we get the less likely anything can go wrong, barring the flight being cancelled or Barbados closing their borders to us.

So, tomorrow is test day, Friday is final packing and picking up the car, then we are up at 4am on Saturday, to leave at 5am and drive down to Heathrow to drop the car and check-in at 7.30. Fingers and toes all crossed!

Tuesday, September 8th, Month 7 of our Covid-19 Experience.

Another month has passed and it appears that the second wave has begun.

The Numbers

There were just 3 deaths yesterday, and over the past month the number of daily new infections has remained relatively stable at between 500 and 1000. It never really fell below the magic number of 500. However, the last couple of days has seen an alarming increase with 2,948 yesterday, and 2,988 the day before.

Globally, there have been over 27 million cases and almost 900,000 deaths.

India is now top of the leader board with over 75,000 new cases and 1,129 deaths in the last 24 hours. The USA had over 25,000 new cases and 286 deaths. Numbers are high in South America and Mexico. Russia had 5,185 news cases and 51 deaths. In Europe, death rates remain under 50 per day but are rising. Spain, Italy and Germany all had over 1000 new cases and France had over 4000.

Globally, Peru now has the highest death rate per million at 907. Following them we have Spain at 631, UK at 612, Chile at 609, Bolivia ta 599, Ecuador at 598, Brazil at 597, Italy at 588, USA at 584 and Mexico at 523. Belgium is still an outlier at 854. All the usual caveats apply relating to differences in testing, case definitions and accuracy of data.

The News

Over the past month, people have been gradually getting on with their lives, creeping back to work, venturing out to bars and restaurants, and meeting up with friends and family. The schools went back this week and universities go back in October.

But, the weather is getting cooler and more and more of these activities are taking place indoors.

The depth of the recession in beginning to reveal itself too. More and more businesses closing and laying staff off. Some estimates say it could be the worst for 300 years!

The summer has been one of cancelled overseas travel plans, an ever-changing pattern of post-holiday quarantines and “staycations”.

Infections have risen in isolated areas from time to time prompting local lock-downs or increased restrictions from Aberdeen to Manchester. So far, Birmingham and London have avoided this.

The recent surge appears to be more generally distributed and, as such, far more worrying. It remains to be seen what the government response will be. I think they are terrified by the prospect of another lock-down and the potential impact on the economy.

The New Way of Life

We have been doing a bit more too, seeing friends and family at both our home and their’s (sometimes inside the house). I’ve been shopping in town and visited the supermarket when I could get an online delivery slot. I’ve been out to a local Farm Park with little A and my daughter and sat inside for a bit while she played in the soft-play area. M even went to the pub last week. He met a friend outside in the afternoon but they ended up indoors when it got too cold.

I’ve finished the first draft of the biography I was writing and it is now with the beta readers. Hopefully, it should just need one more big edit before we think about getting it published. My goal for the next 6 months is to finish and publish Wait for Me.

The big thing on the horizon now is our trip to Barbados. As the numbers rise I’m watching nervously to see if we are going to make it there safely or not. When we first decided to go, I wanted to go in early September (now!), as I predicted a second wave at the start of the month, but M wanted to wait until later, as he didn’t want to have to come home in the middle of the second wave.

As I expected, the second wave seems to be here already, and it all depends how quickly it builds. The main things that could go wrong are:

The UK is deemed “high risk” by Barbados and we have to stay at the airport until we test negative, or go into the quarantine facility when we arrive.

We catch the virus before we leave and are not able/allowed to travel at all.

We catch the virus en route and are quarantined on arrival.

Birmingham goes into lock-down and we can’t hire a car to get us to the airport.

We just have to hope that things remain stable enough for us to travel and arrive safely. We are self-isolating again, as much as possible, and I don’t really see what else we can do at this stage except watch, wait and hope.

Monday, August 3rd, Month 6 of our Covid-19 Experience.

I thought it might be a good time to give a little update on our Covid-19 journey as we are now entering our 6th month since lock-down began, and the numbers are rising again.

The Numbers

Deaths rates remain low with just 8 yesterday but it was Sunday and the numbers are always low over the weekends. There were 74 on Friday and we will see how many there are today.

When I last wrote we were getting close to “our” magic number of less than 500 new cases per day. Yesterday, there were 743, and this number has been slowly rising over the past week.

Globally, there have been over 18 million cases and almost 700,000 deaths.

A key hot-spot is still the USA, where the virus is raging with around 50,000 new cases and 1000 deaths a day. Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Peru are still countries that don’t seem to have the virus under control.

Numbers are rising in Spain (who seem to have stopped publishing their numbers over the past few days) Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Australia.

The highest death rate per million population is still the good old UK though, at 680.

Spain is 608, Italy 582, Sweden 568, USA 478, France 464, Brazil 443. It’s still qualified by differences in testing, case definitions and accuracy of data. Belgium remains an outlying anomaly at 849 per million.

The News

So, people started going on holiday again after “air bridges” were created between different countries. There was uproar when this was “closed” with Spain after just a couple of weeks due to increasing numbers. People returning from Spain were required to go into 2 weeks quarantine on their return causing carnage at this end!

In the North West some restrictions that had been lifted have been re-imposed and people are no longer allowed to meet in each others homes or gardens. Bizarrely, they are still allowed to go the pub, or go to work and shielding has officially ended! It’s all about juggling public safety with the economy. We seem to have moved from a herd immunity, to a stay at home save lives, to stay alert save lives to a work and spend and bugger the consequences strategy.

Masks are now compulsory in shops and public indoor spaces. That caused a massive uproar too. Oh please, just get over yourselves. Yes, there are some people for whom this is difficult (it’s really tough for the hearing impaired in particular), but for the majority it is not. Yes, it’s hot and uncomfortable but really? I love the thing I saw on social media – if you don’t like wearing a mask, you’re going to hate a ventilator!

But I know its tough! Businesses are closing or downsizing and people are losing their jobs in the thousands every day. 

Melbourne and the state of Victoria in Australia have declared a disaster so that the army can enforce strict lock down and curfew rules. Honestly, it still might come to that here. It might have to. Some people are acting as if it’s all over. Going on holiday. Shopping. Drinking in pubs. Eating out in restaurants, Flocking to beaches and beauty spots. Partying.

I know we are technically “allowed to” but for God’s sake! Where is your common sense? Look what is happening to the numbers! IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT YOU!

But, of course, for every one who is behaving like an idiot, there is another poor soul who is still terrified to leave their home. I feel for the previously “shielded”  who have gone from being locked inside their homes to being told they have to go back to work, practically overnight!

The New Ways of Life

So what about us? We’re some where in the middle I suppose. We’ve been seeing a few friends and family in our garden or theirs. When we can we meet outdoors rather than by Zoom, we do. We still get our main groceries delivered weekly, but we’ve been to a couple of shops once or twice for “essentials” (fully masked up of course). We even had a pint outside a country pub we came across on a bike ride. But, generally, we have continued to spend most of our time at home, going out just to exercise and watching movies in the evenings (we’ve burned through virtually every box-set we want to watch).

We are counting the days to our journey to Barbados. It still seems rather precarious. As the numbers go up the airport check-in and the flight feels more risky. I’ve ordered us a couple of plastic visors for the airport, and maybe even the flight.

Barbados have been testing everyone who arrives in the country, and in the past 2 weeks 24 people on incoming flights have tested positive and placed in their quarantine centre. 12 were nurses on a flight from Ghana and the others were returning nationals from the USA and UK.  I would imagine the majority were form the USA but I don’t know. The locals are getting anxious, understandably so. But, what will they do without tourists? The economy depends on it.

Personally, I think everyone should be tested before they get on the plane. At the moment, I don’t think its compulsory and you can be tested on arrival. However, at the moment the test results take 24 to 48 hours to come back and are required 72 hours before travel. It’s still possible to catch it within those 72 hours, especially in a crowded airport! Today, we heard about a new 90 minute test. That could work if everyone had that done before they got on a flight. It would mean longer check-in times but could be more effective?

Anyway, everything seems to be changing on a daily basis at the moment. By the end of September they could be better, but they could just as easily be worse again. We will see …

Saturday, July 11th, 2020, Day 118, Week 17, Month 5 of our Covid-19 Experience.

We are definitely on our way out of this at last. Numbers are going down and lock-down is easing. It’s not “back to normal” but some semblance of normality is being restored.

The Numbers

48 new deaths in the past 24 hours. Total “official” deaths 44,650.

New Cases in the past 24 hours, 512.

So, it’s all getting close to the magic number of under 500 new cases a day. Only then, will we start to feel confident about the level of risk out there.

Globally, there have been over 12 million cases and 500,000 deaths.

The current hot-spots and countries that don’t seem to have the virus under control are the USA and Brazil. Sweden is also seen as a country on the “red” list with travel restricted to other countries, due to their “relaxed” approach.

The highest death rate per million population is still the good old UK though, at 658.

Spain is 607, Italy 578, Sweden 547, France 460, USA 413. It’s all related to testing, case definitions and accuracy of data. Belgium remains an outlying anomaly at 844 per million.

The News

Last Saturday, a week ago today, was dubbed “Super Saturday” as all the pubs, bars and restaurants opened again, albeit in a very restricted socially distances way.  Hairdressers and barbers opened too promoting a flood of people rushing to have their lock-down locks trimmed and their roots re-done.

Lots more things are permitted now, to be honest, but we’ve lost track of what’s allowed and what isn’t. People can meet outdoors in larger groups and a couple of households and meet indoors and even stay overnight. I’t a rapidly changing situation and its different in different countries in the UK, so is all got very confusing.

The New Way of Life

For us, its still a very cautious approach. I’m reluctant to do anything that involves being indoors. I’m happy to meet people outside. At the end of the day, current estimates suggest that only 1 in 4000 people currently have the virus in the community, so whatever we do, we know the risk is low.

Last Saturday, I went round to my daughter’s garden for the afternoon and early evening and spent time with her and my granddaughter. Such a precious few hours after so long apart.

I’ve booked a hair appointment for the end of the month. I walked up to one of my fellow writers’ houses yesterday with the other two members of the group and we had a lovely drink and a chat on her patio. Today we’re going round to another friends garden for a drink this afternoon.

The weather is better again at last.

The big news is that we are definitely going to Barbados!

We have booked and paid for the house and booked the flights. We fly out on the 26th of September from Heathrow.

We managed to use our Virgin air miles for the flights and paid less that half price, but the travel insurance was eye-wateringly expensive. It’s down to a combination of Covid-19, the length of the trip and our combined pre-existing medical conditions, including of course, M’s bronchiectasis. Lets just say it was more than three times the cost of the flights! Ouch!

My gallstone hospital appointment was pushed back again until the end of August so I’ve cancelled it altogether. It’ll have to wait until we get home next year. The last thing I needed was to add another £500 quid to the costs of the insurance because I was “waiting for surgery, or the results of tests or investigations”.  I’ve waited for years to get this seen to, so another 6 months wont make any difference.

We just need to book the car to get us to the airport, as we are planning to give our own (leased) car back to the garage. That’s proving problematic too though. Because we changed the car just over a year ago, we are only part-way into the agreement and may have to make a significant payment to get out of the contract. Depending on how much this turns out to be, we may just have to keep it and continue to pay the monthly payments while we are away.

We also have to get Covid-19 tests within 72 hours of when we fly. Not sure how that will happen yet – we’ll have to see what the process is at the time.

We’re such a pair of old crocks now that we’ll need to “stock up” on all our medications. I’m going to try and get another shoulder injection before we travel too. I had one before Christmas and its beginning to wear off now. If I get one before we go it should get me through till we come back.

In Barbados, we think we are going to try and manage without a car. Cars are really expensive out there and there is a good bus service. We are also thinking about buying bikes for local shopping and beach trips etc. We would still hire a car for a few days every month to do a big shop and go a bit further afield for beaches and to eat out. The other option would be to buy a second hand car and sell it back to the dealer when we leave. Hiring even a small car for the whole six months would cost about £4000-5000!

When we get there, M needs to get his Barbados passport processed and pick up his ID card that he sorted out when we were there in January. I’m going to apply for my citizenship by marriage as soon as I get there. We’re also going to open a Barbados bank account.

With regard to the other things I said I needed to check last time:

  • Council Tax – no reduction for house being unoccupied
  • House and contents insurance when the house is empty for 6 months – costs less as they remove some cover for things like valuables and bikes etc. I’m going to take all our valuables to my sisters in Yorkshire before we leave
  • TV Licence – I think I can get a rebate
  • Gas, Electric and Water – our payments will reduce after our usage goes down.
  • Telephone and Internet – still need to find out about this
  • The Car – as discussed above
  • Dental Insurance – need to maintain this but try and go to the denist before we leave – Covid-19 permitting.
  • Mobile Phone Contracts – we’re going to keep these on at first, to maintain contact with home but maybe buy new sim cards when we get there.

Now have a long list of stuff to do including:

  • Get the house and garden clean, tidy and organised
  • Buy a new Kindle
  • Gather all the documentation for my citizenship application
  • Get in touch with our clients in Barbados to try and re-arrange the workshops that we postponed due to Covid-19
  • Get everyone’s birthday and Christmas presents for all the events we are going to miss while we are away
  • and on and on and on …

Better get busy!




Wednesday, July 1st, 2020, Day 108, Week 16, Month 5 of our Covid-19 Experience.

The Numbers

176 deaths, 43,906 total.

829 new cases.

Global over 10 million cases and over 500,000 deaths.

The News

The virus is still ripping across other parts of the world. Brazil and South and Central America and India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are all reaching their peaks. The WHO says the worst is still to come.

The UK has been recognised as the most badly affected country in the Western World.

A local outbreak in Leicester has led to the city being the first city to be locked down locally under the Track and Trace schemes. Bradford, Barnsley and Rochdale look set to follow in their footsteps.

As businesses prepare to open, and furlough schemes come to an end, 12,000 job losses have been announced in the past couple of days.

The New Way of Life

No real changes for us. Seeing a few family and friends from time to time in our garden or theirs.

Weather has been pretty awful for the past week.

Other than that, not been anywhere or done anything new or particularly interesting.

Barbados seems to be considering opening up to visitors in August. They are now officially Covid free and are easing their own lockdown.

We’ve started tentatively preparing for a late September departure with Virgin from Heathrow. We sat down and worked out the finances which are ok.

Need to book flights, travel insurance, hire a car to get to the airport, and confirm the house.

In the next week we are going to find out about whether or not we can suspended or reduce the following, and whether we need to notify them:

  • Council Tax
  • House and contents insurance when the house is empty for 6 months
  • TV Licence
  • Gas, Electric and Water
  • Telephone and Internet
  • The Car
  • Dental Insurance
  • Mobile Phone Contracts