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.

Wednesday, September 30th, Month 7 of our Covid-19 Experience.

We are finally here in beautiful Barbados and we made it by the skin of our teeth!

From the 1st of October, the UK will be deemed a high risk country and all visitors to the island will face and mandatory period of quarantine.

It’s been a week since my last post, and four days since we arrived.

Covid Test day was pretty straightforward and everything seemed to be going smoothly. We had a good drive down to Cirencester, the tests were done, we drove them to Cambridge and dropped them off at the lab about midday. We had a drive-through McDonalds to celebrate. Another 2020 first for us. It was another easy drive home, and later we had our final takeaway curry for a while. So far, so good.

Screen 4 assured us that the results would be through within 24 hours, but that deadline came and went and we had heard nothing. It was long and anxious wait. We spent the day doing our final bits of packing, checked in online and picked up the hire car we were going to use to get to Heathrow. But, we couldn’t complete the Barbados Covid- 19 Immigration Forms without our negative test certificate. I was checking my emails every 10 minutes. I felt sick. I couldn’t concentrate on anything.

It was odd, but we both felt as though we had developed colds since having the swabs taken. We began to question whether we had somehow picked up the virus! We even briefly discussed the possibility that we had been given it by the swabs and it was all some massive conspiracy! We both went a bit mad that day, waiting for our results. In retrospect, its more likely that our bodies were simply responding to the insult of having our tonsils and noses swabbed fairly vigorously for several seconds.

I managed to speak to Screen 4 on the phone around 3. They confirmed that our tests were negative but that there had been a problem with the certificates and they’d have to get them amended and send them to us later. The good news about the results soon dissipated as we started another period of waiting for the certificates to come through. Later? How much later? What if they didn’t come through in time for us to complete the Immigration Forms. Would they even let us on the plane?

(I did amuse myself by telling M that the reason for the delay was that we had both tested positive and they had had to double check the results. He was trying to relax in the bath at the time. His face was a picture!)

But they did eventually come through, around 6pm. I filled in the forms and we sat down to eat. But, I had absolutely no appetite. I felt mentally and emotionally drained. We were almost there. Just needed to get up in the morning, drive to Heathrow and get on the plane. We fell into bed and set the alarm for 4am.

We set off around 5am the next day (Saturday) and had a straightforward drive . After dropping off the car, it was slightly disconcerting to be transported to the terminal in a tiny mini bus with the driver and another man. We hadn’t been inside a car or vehicle with anyone else for a very, very long time. But, everyone was wearing masks and they were only allowing a maximum of four people on the bus at one time.

Check-in was utter chaos! We arrived just after 7.30 am and a few people were already in the queue. It wasn’t good. It seemed as though lots of people were being turned away because they had had their tests done too early. The cut-off was Wednesday at 2pm. There was crying, yelling and despair. Each check-in took forever and the queue got longer and longer.

When it came to our turn she tried to tell us that we’d had ours too early. She was looking at the time which was 09.30. But, she hadn’t realised that we’d had them on the Thursday and not the Wednesday. We had a moment or two of panic before it was sorted out.

Then, we were through! We had a coffee, our first coffee “out” together since March, and boarded at around 10.00. The flight left late due to the delays at check-in. We heard the staff saying that 40 people had been turned away. When we finally took off about 11.30 am (an hour later than planned) I actually had to fight back the tears of relief.

We watched some movies and tried to relax on the 8 hour flight. I’ll be honest, the whole experience at the airport and on the plane felt incredibly risky compared to how we have been living over the last six months. The only saving grace was that everyone on the plane had tested negative and day or two before.

On arrival in Barbados, we had our test certificates examined before we were allowed to enter the airport. Then, we had a temperature check and had to sanitise our hands. We then had to fill in more paperwork to allow the government health officials to monitor us for the next couple of weeks.

When we went through immigration, they barely looked at our passports and documents. We were expecting to be challenged about our length of stay but no-one said a thing. We were ushered swiftly into another queue where we were given some symptom and temperature forms to fill in twice a day for the next couple of weeks.

And so, here we are. Nicely chilled and settled in for our 6 months in paradise!

Back home the numbers continue to rise. Over 7000 new cases, and around 70 deaths, yesterday and today. We are so lucky! It feels very safe here compared to the UK. Now that we are finally here. I’m going to try to stop thinking and talking about the virus so much. I’ll update this blog as and when there is something significant to report. In the meantime, I’m going to concentrate of 3 projects. Finishing the second draft of Wait for Me, getting the second draft of Rachel written and get that book published, and start work on a new project – The Beaches of Barbados!

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2020, Day 101, Week 15, Month 4 of Self Isolation.

The New Way of Life

I’m fed up trying to think about interesting things to write about life in the Time of Covid now. Let’s face it. Now that the initial drama is over and things are beginning to ease there’s not much to say.

I’m sure you’re as fed up reading about what I did and didn’t do, what I baked, what we had for dinner and what we watched on TV, as I am writing about it. To be honest, I have other writing projects, and other things in general that I’d like to focus on now.  I’m doing a Business Planning session with a client on Saturday, I have my biography to finish, my novel to edit, people I want to invite round to our garden or visit in theirs, bike rides to go on etc. etc!

So, from today, I’m going to take the government’s lead and only post on an ad hoc basis if there is anything interesting to report. Just assume that unless I say so, there is nothing new to tell you.

The purpose of this blog was to record, for posterity and our grandchildren, what happened and what life was like for us all in the Time of Covid. (I love saying in the Time of Covid – it reminds me of the book Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. If you haven’t read it – do so!

So, if you are one of my grandchildren reading this 20 years later, I wonder what life is like for you now?

Was the Time of Covid just something that people talk about that you can’t even imagine, let alone remember. Like our parents used to talk about “The War”. During the war we didn’t have this, we didn’t have that, we couldn’t do this, we couldn’t do that, we had ration books and powdered eggs but everyone came together and we were all happy despite it all.

Or has the time of Covid left a mark on your lives and you don’t know what life was like before it? Do you wonder what it was like when people kissed and hugged each other when they met, do you wonder what it was like when you could browse around the shops, travel on buses, trains and planes without wearing a mask? Do you wonder what it was like when you weren’t served from behind a perspex screen? Do you wonder what it was like when people didn’t carry hand sanitiser round with them all the time? Do you wonder what it was like when people crowded into bars and clubs and went to concerts and sporting events with thousands of other people, all getting hot and sweaty and really close to each other without any fear or concern?

The way we live our lives now has been marked by significant things that have happened in the past. The fear of terrorism has gradually changed a lot of how we live our lives, without us thinking it is strange or unusual. Concrete barriers at the entrances to roads and bridges to prevent vehicle attacks, metal detectors and bag checks to get into buildings and events, and rigorous rules and procedures about what you can take onto a plane in case you are carrying a liquid bomb disguised as a bottle of mouthwash or a shoe bomb hidden in the sole of your fancy trainers. You’ll never know what it was  like when you could wander about freely wherever you wanted and take anything you wanted into a sporting event or a concert, or onto a plane. But, that has become the norm for us. We don’t even think about it any more. We just know that we can’t take any toiletries in our hand luggage when we travel, we know that we will have to take our shoes and belts off to get through security, we know that we will have our bags searched when we go to a concert, the football or the rugby. We know we have to allow extra time for security checks. That’s just how life is now.

Will the things that we all find so strange and restrictive now, in the Time of Covid,  be just how life is for you? Something that you just accept as normal?

Or is it even worse for you now than we can imagine? Wil the mark of the global economic depression that followed the pandemic have changed the course of your life in some way? Has global warming changed the way you live in way that makes The Time of Covid look like a little blip? Have new and even more deadly viruses ravaged the planet?

I hope not. I hope life has gone “back to normal” for you. I hope that my first scenario is your truth 20 years from now. That the Time of Covid is just something that older people talk about, that happened in the past, that you can’t even imagine and wish that they’d stop talking about.

The News

This is the last time I am going to report the news – again, unless there is something really important to say.

Today, the main story is that the Covid antibody tests might not be reliable.

Several police have been injured trying to control illegal street parties in London.

Royal Mail is cutting 2000 jobs and Swiss Port who supply regional airports with support services are cutting 50% of their workforce. Quantas, the main Australian airline, is cutting 6,000 jobs.

Local councils all over the country are about to go bust due to a combination of lack of income and additional costs associated with the pandemic.

New York has imposed a 14 day quarantine for people coming into the state from other states in the USA. Failure to comply will result in sever fines and people are being asked to self-police it by reporting people they know who have come in from other places and are not isolating.

The Numbers

154 new deaths. Total 43,08.

New cases 652 – lowest for a while. Getting closer to the 500 mark that will give us the confidence to relax a little.





Tuesday, June 23, 2020, Day 100, Week 15, Month 4 of Self Isolation.

The New Way of Life

100 days in self-isolation. Well, it’s not really isolation now. Slowly but surely, we are creeping out and about again.

Today was a big day in many ways. The good weather has returned, the government has announced the easing of the majority of major lockdown measures and we ventured into the city!

In the morning, we drove into Birmingham as M had made an appointment at the Apple shop to get his watch repaired. Our plan was to stay outdoors as much as possible and avoid indoor shopping centres and enclosed spaces. We were armed with a selection of masks and hand sanitisers.

We parked in a car park that we knew was fairly open and airy and walked down the outdoor ramp rather than going through the shops. It was quite busy. Lot’s of people about, even though only a few shops were actually open. Mask wearing outside was about 50%. As ever with this whole thing, some people observing social distancing and some completely oblivious.

The queue to get into Apple was well-organised. Multiple staff and security outside handing out masks to people who didn’t have them, taking temperatures and enforcing social distancing. We waited outside for about 15 minutes, before joining another queue inside. The building was the old Waterstones shop. A huge, open, high ceilinged, air-conditioned space. My only concern was the couple behind us who were closer than I would have preferred and were wearing their masks down so that their noses were exposed. The woman had a horrible cough. One of the assistants asked them to put their masks on properly.

Eventually, we were shown to our own table, manned by a masked and gloved technical assistant. After he had diagnosed the problem and arranged to have the watch sent off for repair or replacement we were directed out the back entrance via taped black arrows on the floor. All very strange. I wonder how long we’ll all have to carry on like this for.

During the interaction, we found out that Apple had closed at the start of the pandemic, before they were forced to by the government, and had paid the full salaries of all their staff ever since, without help from the furlough scheme. They had also provided free mental health support for all their employees during the lockdown.

As there was nowhere to go and we had nothing else to do, we headed straight home after the appointment.

By now it was scorching! It felt like the hottest day of the year so far and this is just the start of a hot spell that is predicted to last until Friday. We’re going to try and take the bikes over to Rutland Water on Thursday.

We took a picnic and out beach chairs down to the Village Green and met up with a friend for a few hours. We’d planned to leave at 6 as he wanted to watch the football, but I actually had to come home early as I was too hot. We sat at the edge of the green, under one of only a few shady spots. But it got smaller and smaller as the sun moved around and we were forced to retreat again and again. Eventually, I gave up the fight and retreated all the way home to the cool of the kitchen and a few cold glasses of sparkling water from the fridge.

I’d defrosted some leftover curry in the morning for dinner. We watched  a sweet little Irish movie called Dating Amber, before having a relatively early night.

The News

Lockdown is lifting but scientific experts are warning us to prepare for a second wave.

So from the 4th of July:

  • 2 metres is down to 1 metre
  • Pubs and restaurants can re-open
  • Holiday accommodation can re-open
  • Two households can meet outside or inside and can stay over.
  • People from different households can meet outdoors in groups of up to 6
  • Hairdressers, libraries and churches can open

There is a lot more detail about what can open and what cannot, but it all comes with lots of social distancing and safety requirements and will all be stopped at a moments notice of infections are seen to rise.

In the meantime, infection rates are surging all over the USA. The world believes the virus in out of control over there, along with places like Brazil and India.

Go Outdoors has gone bust, with retailers quarterly rents due tomorrow!

The daily Downing Street press conference on coronavirus has been stopped.
From now on briefings will be on an “ad hoc” basis.

I’m not sure how I’ll find out about numbers of new cases now.

I think I might start doing this blog on an ad hoc basis too now.

The Numbers

280 new deaths, taking the total to 42,927.

921 new cases.