26th April 2020
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: A Third Solitary Week in Lockdown
Cocooned in a little flat on the coast of Dorset it is hard to accept the reality of the coronavirus pandemic. That thousands of people are dying all over the world.
Watching the news does bring it home. I see the distress of NHS workers and other frontline workers at the inadequacy of the equipment they are using and the lack of sufficient personal protection equipment. It does make me realise what a tough time they are having. So, I am doing my bit and staying alone in the flat all the time apart from my daily exercise and only shopping when necessary. I wish I could do more.
Monday 06 April 2020
As it has rained heavily during the night and it still looks grey and unpromising outside I decided to forgo my early morning walk and have two sessions on my exercise bike instead. I also need to do another shop and have to work out the complexities of the new timetable that started yesterday. Except it did not as there are no longer any buses running on a Sunday. There is a Tesco store close to the flat but it is so small it is impossible to maintain a distance of two metres between people and no-one is counting how many people are in the store at one time. Also, getting the bus into Poole is more of an adventure than walking a short distance down the road. So, I start the day with a leisurely breakfast and catch up on the news. It is all about professional footballers this morning. A Manchester United player is in trouble for hosting a party and is being investigated for not living up to the standards of the role model he should be. At the other end of the scale Ryan Giggs is offering accommodation to NHS workers in his hotel so they can keep working while and remain separate from their families. The debate about football clubs intending to put their non-playing staff on furlough rather than the players take a reduction in pay to support them rumbles on. It is also announced that a tiger in New York has caught the coronavirus from his keeper. One had to wonder how he managed to do that. I amused myself by doing the very short exercise session with the Green Goddess who has a regular slot on BBC Breakfast before finally getting down to some work – writing my first piece for TravelRadar.com. The topic is the Almsgiving Ceremony in Luang Prabang – a highlight of a trip to Laos. Just looking at the photos brings back some lovely memories. That brightened up my day. I am the only one on the bus into Poole and back again and spend the rest of the day working – it feels good to be working to a deadline again.
Tuesday 07 April 2020
Now that I have suitable attire for going out on my bike I set myself a task this morning – to cycle to Westbourne to collect a prescription from the Boots pharmacy there. I pump up the tyres and study the map before setting off. The route takes me up Evening Hill – a real challenge with my short legs on a teenage bicycle. But I make it to the top without either getting off to walk or falling off. When I turn off the main road I can see the signpost for N25, the route I have to follow, but I decide I know better and carry on past the turning. The road peters out into a dirt track. Undeterred I follow this and had it not been for a helpful cyclist who stopped while I was puzzling over the map I would have ended up where I started. Finally, I make it to Westbourne and find Boots. But the door is locked. An assistant appears on the other side and indicates I should walk down the road a bit and then turn left. This takes me through another pharmacy where an assistant directs me to the back entrance of Boots. Rather an extreme measure to control the number of customers I think. Prescription collected I head back to Sandbanks. I take a different route as I remember walking back from Westbourne once after misreading a bus timetable and assuming there were no more buses that evening. I whizz down the hill and join the promenade at the bottom. An easy run back to the flat where I spend the rest of the day working.
Wednesday 08 April 2020
I am awake at 6 this morning as usual and decide to take the bike out for some exercise. It is eerily quiet on the sea front this morning without the usual parade of joggers and noticeably fewer dog walkers. Every car park, public and private has now been securely fenced off so that could be the reason. I am sure people will return when they work out where to park. When I raise my iPhone to take a photo of the rare sight of a completely empty car park a gentleman with his dog scuttles out of the way. I wonder if he thinks I am a spy reporting on breakers of lockdown regulations. The police have been patrolling the sand spit but the only time I have seen them stop is when the go into Tesco for a Costa coffee. I do a circuit of the spit which involves two little hills – enough to make my heart beat faster – and then abandon the bike to walk along the beach. The weather is noticeably warmer this morning. There is not much happening on the beach. Two paddle boarders disobeying the ban on water sports and a JCB pushing sand back into the sea where they think it should go rather than leaving it where nature is putting it. I listen to the news when I get back but it is not good. Some experts say they can see no end to the lock down and are anticipating a ten-fold increase in the number of deaths in the UK. I turn the television off, have a coffee and then do some social media which seems to fill up the rest of my day. That and dozing in front of the television. I have taken to watching quizzes in the hope of improving my general knowledge but they all seem to ask the same questions.
Thursday 09 April 2020
I am up and out early again this morning doing a circuit on the bike followed by a walk along the beach. The numbers are building up again and it is quite busy. Walking back from the beach this morning I notice an unusual building and decide to do some research on the internet. I don’t manage to identify the building but I do discover that there is a Sandbanks Community Group. I decide to join as it seems I am going to be here for some time yet. There is a history section on their website but it does not answer my question. I email them and although I do not get an answer I get the name of a University Professor at Bournemouth University who may be the man who knows. He does and identifies it as the caretaker’s cottage for the Sea Pavilion behind it. Now this little cottage is a desirable residence right by the beach.
This evening I join the clapping for the NHS. But when I emerge on my balcony I notice groups of people have come down to the sea front and are all standing together cheering. So much for social distancing. As this has now been established as a weekly event permanent displays are appearing and one of the luxury apartments behind me has NHS written on a window in flashing fairy lights. It was heart-breaking to hear on the news today that several doctors and nurses on the front line have contracted the virus and died from it. Many people are blaming the lacking of personal protective equipment. Adequate supplies are difficult to obtain due to a worldwide shortage.
Friday 10 April 2020
Today is Good Friday. It will follow the same pattern as yesterday and tomorrow. Home alone with a spell outdoors to exercise. But on waking up I can’t help remembering that I should have been spending Easter working in the Scilly Isles as a tour manager for TravelEyes. They organise holidays for groups of visually impaired and sighted travellers. I have been working for them for a year now and really enjoy it. I have met some amazing people and had some great experiences with them. Most recently, on a fantastic city-break in London. No good moping, I get dress and grab my bike and after a furious spate of pedalling I am sitting on the rocks surrounded by the beauty of the beach. However, I can’t help thinking about TravelEyes and wondering how they will survive the present crisis. I hope they do and I will soon be travelling with them again. Back home I have news from my family. They are all doing well and my sister, Lizzie is sewing laundry bags and surgical gowns for the NHS. This reminds me that although I have volunteered to be an NHS responder and I am constantly on duty I have not been called upon to assist anyone yet. Maybe tomorrow. Meanwhile I have an article to write which will keep me busy.
Saturday 11 April 2020
Today I have to go shopping in Bournemouth. This is not strictly true but I am worried about running out of my favourite muesli and the Tesco in the city centre is the only place that stocks it. It is another glorious morning so I decide to jog along the promenade towards Bournemouth and then climb the steps up to Canford Cliffs and catch the bus from there. It is a lovely walk and I arrived at the bus stop in plenty of time to catch the bus. I am the first one on this bus but we pick up two more passengers on the way into town. I have plenty of time – over two hours – before I can get a bus back to Sandbanks so I go for a walk in the Central Gardens. These gardens are still being maintained and lots of lovely flowers are in bloom. There are people jogging, walking and cycling on the parallel paths that run either side of the River Bourne but not as many as I had expected.
I walk as far as the flyover carrying the Wessex Way over the gardens and find some very striking artwork on the supporting columns beneath it. This is the Upside Gallery a project that has transformed the drab concrete pillars into works of art. I cannot linger long as I need to get back to Tesco and I might have to queue for a while before going in. In fact, there is no queue and I can go straight inside. I take advantage of an invitation to use the hand sanitizer before starting to shop. It does not take long – three bags of muesli and I have finished. I still have time to spare so I browse the books in W H Smith which is open as it is also a post office. They are selling off their Easter Eggs but I manage to resist the temptation. The bus back to Sandbanks is busy – five passengers in total. Once back at the flat I discover I have been sent all the details necessary to start posting on the TravelRadar.com website and, not being technically-minded it takes me a while to figure it all out.
This evening I watch the film Victoria and Albert on television. Having twice visited Osborne on the isle of Wight it was interesting to discover more of the story and to wonder how true it really is.
Sunday 12 April 2020
By 6.30 am this morning I am out on my bike and head for Sandbanks Beach in front of the Haven Hotel. The car park there is securely fenced off but I have discovered a very small gap I can squeeze through. Another reason to be thankful to my GP for having cajoled me into losing weight. The sun and the tide are still very low. The sea is lapping gently on the verge of large expanses of untrodden sand. As the chain ferry trundles off on its way to Studland I can see the chains above the water. The Singing Swimmer has just emerged from the water but she is not singing today. There are three more swimmers in the sea and their socially distanced voices echo across the water to me. They are discussing the meals they have been cooking. Mike announces that he and his wife are going to bake a Simnel cake later today. My mouth waters at the thought of it. It reminds me that today is Easter Sunday. Their conversation moves to people breaking the rules and sitting on benches in public parks. I am sitting on some rocks enjoying my surroundings (alone) so technically I must be breaking the rules too. What strange times we are living in. As I am pondering this the Silver Jogger ambles over and points out that as I have been still for ten minutes it could count as sun-bathing rather than exercise. As he actually lives in France but he and his wife are currently staying in their holiday flat in Dorset and he drives here every morning to go jogging I resist the temptation to suggest I may not be the only rule-breaker.
Some Government Statistics
By 6 April 2020 the number of people that have tested positive for the virus has risen to 51,608 and 5,373 have died in hospital. It has now been revealed that the figures do not include deaths in the home or care homes. Seven days later, 13 April 2020, these numbers had risen 88,621 confirmed cases and 11,329 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