6th April 2020
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Days 8 - 12 in Self-Isolation
In this vast, empty space of Nothing to Do, I find it very comforting to impose a daily routine on myself. Even though it will only be for two weeks.
Despite the growing number of cases and deaths from COVID19 as a result of contracting the coronavirus Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister has been promoting the herd immunity theory. Large gatherings have still been allowed to go ahead. However, opposition is growing to this approach, and restrictions creating a lockdown are being promoted. Selfishly, I am hoping this will not affect my plans to do some shifts on Brownsea Island as a National Trust Volunteer as soon as I emerge from self-isolation. Meanwhile, I have a routine in place to help pass the time.
Very early morning jog/walking/bike ride around the harbour and then walk along the beach when no-one else is around.
Catching up with social media with plenty of time to react and interact.
Writing and researching new articles for my online travel journal.
Twenty-minutes on my exercise bike followed by some stretching exercises.
Dinner and television/radio to catch up on the news.
Wednesday 18 March 2020
I am out walking on the beach very early on this lovely sunny morning. As I head towards the Haven Hotel I notice some banners exhorting people to Protect Sandbanks. I remember now that two years’ earlier plans had been submitted to demolish the Haven Hotel and build a block of flats in its place. There had been a lot of opposition to the destruction of such a historic building on the sand spit. It was here that Guglielmo Marconi lived for eight years from 1898 while conducting his experiments in wireless telegraphy. At that time, the Haven Hotel was one of very few buildings on the sand spit and its remoteness made it ideal with experiments across the water to the Isle of Wight. Marconi’s company was based here from 1898 to 1926. He used a 120-foot wooden mast in the grounds of the hotel for his experiments. I was already familiar with this hotel as I worked on a weekend break here as a tour manager. During that weekend I vowed I would return to Sandbanks one day.
My meagre stock of food has run out. I plan a late night shop at Tesco, close to the flat. Once again it has proved impossible to get a slot for delivery of an on-line order. I am going to rush in and grab the few items I need – cherry tomatoes, salad and bananas, pay by contactless and run out again. In theory, this store stays open until eleven every night. It is only ten past ten when I get there but a notice on the door of the brightly lit shop informs me that it now closes ten o’clock. I walk home empty-handed. The coronavirus strikes again.
Thursday 19 March 2020
It is misty and fine rain is falling as I set out this morning. I have foregone breakfast in attempt to beat the weather I can see rolling in across the harbour. I jog a very short distance around the harbour first and then after continuing at a brisk walk for a while I make my way on to the beach. The rain has stopped and the weather is looking promising so I walk towards the Haven Hotel at the far end of the beach. As I scramble on the rocks below the terrace of the hotel I discover a huge hand carved on to one of the large blocks of stone dumped there as part of the sea defence. I am fascinated and wonder if it could have come from a large building. The boats that carried Purbeck Stone from Swanage to London would return full of old stone to act as ballast. I wonder if that could be its origin. I decide I will investigate.
I watch two brave people swimming in the sea. They are keeping their distance from each other and their shouted conversation reverberates across the water towards me. As the chain ferry springs into life and starts to chug across Poole Harbour towards Studland I turn back and re-trace my steps. Rain starts falling again but I don’t care as it is just so nice to be outside. It is not long before my shower-proof jacket is dripping with water and soggy jeans are clinging to my legs. Nevertheless, I still stop to admire an exceptionally pretty shell nestling amongst a large patch of shells washed up on the beach. This took me right back to my childhood when my sister and I would fill buckets with shells exclaiming over the beauty of each one, competing to find the most shells. On the Kentish beaches, we visited they were in short supply – here there are great swathes of shells on the sand.
Back at the flat, as I sit writing up my diary there are loud thumps from the roof above me. I had seen a seagull approaching like a bomber on a raid and sure enough it was on a mission. The noise that ensues as his catch is repeatedly thrown on to the flat roof to break it open is considerable. Every time we have gale force winds here the car park at the back of the building is carpeted with fragments of shells. In these strange times nature continues to behave as normal.
Friday 20 March 2020
It is very cold today and the wind is very strong, whipping the sea into a frenzy. It is great while the wind is blowing me along the beach but not so great when I try to take a photo with the wind trying to whip my iPhone out of my hand. It is hard work when I turn back into the wind. Strong gusts tug at my hood occasionally blowing it off my head. Even the dogs are struggling to stay on their paws. I stop to watch a woman with five West Highland terriers fluffy fur flattened against their little bodies as they struggle along. Back at the flat my inbox is full of bad news. My trip to the Scilly Isles as tour manager with a group organised by TravelEyes due to depart in April is cancelled. As this trip was in the UK I had been hoping it would still go ahead. Now, I have no trips in my diary. The prime minister, Boris Johnson, announces that all theatres, restaurants and cinemas will close. He warns that these restrictions may be in place for the rest of the year – a sobering thought.
This afternoon I learn that my beloved Brownsea Island will close today, indefinitely. This is a real blow for me. My career as a volunteer started when the Olympics were held in London in 2012. I decided to continue volunteering and was delighted when I was accepted as a volunteer on Brownsea Island four years ago. The island and its castle have a very interesting history starting from its days as a coastal defence, then a private home and now it is a sanctuary for scouts and wildlife.
Saturday 21 March 2020
It is another blustery morning on the seafront today but the sun is already shining. Even though it is early, just after seven, there are already dog walkers strolling around the harbour along and joggers pounding the pavement. Three swans bob gracefully on the unusually choppy water in the harbour. I guess they have been blown off route on their way to a fresh water lake nearby. Or, they may simply be looking for people and a source of food. When I reach the beach the wind is whipping the sea up into a frenzy of foam. Strong gusts throw particles of foam into the air like snowflakes in a blizzard. The gulls are stationary in the air above me, helpless and unable to take the direction they want and then blown backwards the way they came. I am so engrossed in taking photos that I fail to notice the incoming tide swirling around my feet until the water penetrates my trainers soaking my socks. But I still spend some time trying to capture images of the foamy sea.
When I get back to the flat I check my mailbox and there is a note from the local church offering to help self-isolators like myself with shopping and prescriptions. The message includes details of local shops offering delivery services and contact details for people needing help or advice. I find this comforting even though I am hoping I will be able to get through this on my own. I make a coffee and select my daily treat before a session on social media. One of the major problems for me living with a cupboard full of food is rationing myself to one treat a day. Two years ago my blood pressure suddenly went very high. My weight had been creeping up – three course hotel breakfasts the most likely suspects. My GP warned me that if I did not start losing weight, and quickly, I would have to start taking medication to control my blood pressure. I had tried dieting many times in the past but this time I resorted to self-hypnosis tapes. It was amazing, my attitude to food has changed completely and suddenly I find salads and fresh fruit more attractive than ready meals and doughnuts. But it has had its consequences - the expanse of a new wardrobe. As I need some more fruit and vegetables I decide on an evening shop in Tesco. The entire fruit and vegetable section had been cleaned out and there was very little on the other shelves. I was aware there had been crowds of people around the harbour and on the beach today so I should not have been surprised by this. Especially as all the restaurants and hotels in Sandbanks are now closed.
Sunday 22 March 2020
For the first time since I arrived here I don’t sleep very well. Restrictions amounting to lock down in the UK are due to come into force tomorrow. I suspect the crowds who turned up here yesterday were having a last day out in anticipation of what lies ahead of us. This is exactly what the government did not want to happen. I am worried about coping with this solitary life for weeks or even months. I am up really early and set off to take some exercise. I take a credit card and a shopping bag with me in the hope Tesco will have had the promised delivery early this morning. My spirits lift once I am on the beach. Most of the people who pass me exchange cheery greetings – from a distance. It makes me feel a lot better. It is another beautiful day and the wind has dropped. On my way back to the flat I do a very quick shop at Tesco. There has been a delivery, the shelves are full and the shop is empty. I go in. I treat myself to a Meal Deal – a Hoisin duck wrap, fresh pineapple chunks and coconut water for Sunday lunch. The rest of the day passes very peacefully as I work on my diary. I feel a lot calmer now and ready to face whatever these unprecedented times will bring. I watch the sunsetting this evening from my window. Whatever happens the sun will continue to rise and set over Poole Harbour every morning and every evening.
Some Government Statistics
On 18 March 2020 the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has risen to 2,626 and 104 people are known to have died. By 22 March 2020 there were 5,683 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK and 281 deaths.
More next week.
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