23rd December 2020
Happy Borismas 2020
Wishing all visitors to this page a lovely Christmas wherever you may be. And for those of us locked down in the UK – a merry Borismas
I was dropping off my case my flight to Madeira when I discovered it had been cancelled as Portugal had closed its borders to all arrivals from the UK a few hours earlier – with immediate effect. A new strain of COVID-19 has been discovered in the UK and is spreading faster than other variants. London and a large area of the South East are now in Tier 4 which is virtually full lockdown. By the time I had made my way back to Dorset more than fifty countries had imposed a ban on arrivals from the UK
Circumstances took me to Dorset just before the first lockdown in the UK and have kept me there ever since. Dorset is in Tier 2 and subject to restrictions but not a ban on travel. Of course, I am disappointed that my trip to Madeira but it was entirely unexpected and I do have a plan B involving some bottles of Prosecco and home-baked Christmas produce from a local bakery. Plus, some long wintery walks on the Dorset coastline.
2020 is certainly a year to remember but maybe not for all the wrong reasons. For many it has been a time of reflection, re-direction and relaxation. As all my work relates travel and that was now impossible and I faced months without any work to keep my occupied. So, I got out my ‘to do’ list which never gets any shorter. But before I started tackling the first item on the list – sorting and cataloguing my photographs – I was asked if I would like to write for a website. It was a big commitment – three articles a week. And it was on a subject I have never written about, aviation. I was working with an experienced editor and he taught me a lot, not only about aviation but also about writing for the internet.
I soon slipped into a regular routine that lasted for several months. I would get up at 5.30 and jog or cycle along the Sandbanks sand spit and then walk on the beach before returning to the flat where I would write for the rest of the day. I did venture out once a week to either Poole or Bournemouth on the bus (they were running nearly empty) to do a food shop.
How did I end up in Sandbanks for lockdown? I was working in Italy when it closed its borders due to the coronavirus. My trip was cut short and when I got back to the UK I had to self-isolate. But the first available delivery slot was 7 days away. I had to go out to get some food so I decided that if I had to drive to a supermarket I might as well continue for another 100 miles to Dorset and do my ‘time’ down there. But, before my 14 days’ self-isolation ended the whole of the UK went into lockdown so I had to stay where I was. I was very lucky to be able to spend lockdown in such a lovely area. We did suffer massive invasions of visitors from all over the UK when the restrictions were eased but I kept out of their way.
My goal was to keep safe so I was fit to fly to Italy to see my friends at the first possible opportunity. They live in Trentino in Northern Italy and there had not been many cases of COVID in that area. On July 17 I was on the first plane to fly out of London to Verona and enjoyed two fabulous weeks walking in the Dolomites and staying at the fabulous Hotel Lorenzetti. The COVID safeguards were strictly enforced and I felt very safe there. I was very happy that I was able enjoy a second trip to Italy in September. By then the number of infections in Italy was also rising. There was a possibility I might have to self-isolate on my return but Italy remained quarantine-free until after my return to the UK.
Of course, my wings were clipped by the second national lockdown in England in November. I managed to get back to Dorset before it started and spent another four weeks keeping out of everyone’s way – walking early in the morning and staying in the flat for the rest of the day. During this period, I stopped writing for the aviation website in order to concentrate on my own coronavirus diary and to do some writing for a West County website. My plans to spend Christmas in Italy have been cancelled – first by British Airways cancelling my flight and then by the hotel advising that Trentino was suffering badly during a second surge of COVID cases. The thought of having to go into quarantine on my return to the UK did not deter me but my friends’ concern for my safety was not something I could ignore.
My planned Christmas did not happen. I am still working for Solos Holidays although I have not led a trip since March. Despite the company’s best efforts to organise a tour to Madeira over Christmas border closures made this impossible at the last minute.
There will be other Christmases and to date I have been luckier than many regarding my COVID experience.
So, in conclusion – take care, stay safe and let’s raise a glass to a better 2021.
Valery Collins is the Experienced Traveller
An excellent raconteur, Valery has been writing about her experiences on the road since she started travelling 25 years ago. After publishing 4 books she turned to online travel writing and photography. Today she is editor, features’ writer and reviewer for ExperiencedTraveller.com and regularly contributes guided city walks to GPSmyCity.com