10th May 2020
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: An Uneasy Fifth Week of Lockdown
I am concerned by the large groups gathering on a strip of sand by the harbour below my flat. I want to go out on the balcony and shout at them that the coronavirus is real and happening now.
As the fifth week of lockdown starts there is definitely a sense of rebellion and breaking out encouraged by continued good weather. Groups have been gathering on the beaches and staying there all day. A steady stream of cars snakes along the road that bisects the Sandbanks sand spit. The government has been criticised for doing too little – now people are complaining it is doing too much. I feel as though I am in the minority regarding my concerns about catching the virus. So, I continue to adhere to the restrictions imposed by the lockdown.
Monday 20 April 2020
I am up at 6 am as usual. It is the beginning of the fifth week of lockdown and no sign of the restrictions easing any time soon. I do my usual circuit on the bike and then leave it at the ferry terminal and head for the beach. It is another glorious morning so I am not in a rush to return to the flat where I will spend the rest of the day. So I sit on the rocks for a while enjoying the fresh air and the sound of the sea while making notes for an article on my iPhone. After setting off on my bike again I decide to take a detour down Old Coastguards Road. Sandbanks is, as its name suggests, just sand. It was formed from sand eroded from the cliffs further along the coast and washed up to form a sand spit. As it extended into Poole Harbour a lifeboat house, the first permanent building, was built here in 1865. But it took a while to launch the boat as the crew had to make their way here by horse-drawn cart down rough tracks. Next to be built, in 1876, was a row of coast guard cottages buildings. These cottages are still there, on Old Coastguards Road. This road is still sometimes referred to as Gin Alley a nod to the favourite tipple of one of its former residents. The lifeboat house is long gone. It was replaced by the Coastguard Station House. This building was acquired by a local family who demolished it and built a house on this waterfront plot called Coastguards in the early 1960s.
Tuesday 21 April 2020
I am out early again this morning and, as usual, I meet the same people including a woman and her black retriever. We have been exchanging greetings but this morning we decide the time has come to exchange names. Rosmarie is Swiss but came here in 1974 to learn English. While she was here she bumped into Peter her husband-to-be Peter. She really did bump into him. When she apologised he said she did not sound English and the rest, as they say, is history. They have a son and a daughter and both of them work for the Dorset police. The daughter is not married but the son must be as Rosmarie has mentioned not having seen her grandson since February. Her husband died twelve years ago so she lives on her own now with her dog, George. He is a great character and knows exactly what he wants. After a while George decides we have been talking for too long. He moves far enough away to avoid chastisement from Rosmarie and starts barking. We take the hint and continue on our separate ways.
The chain ferry stopped operating yesterday as it has been getting so few passengers during lockdown it has become uneconomic. The company that has operated this ferry since its inception, Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road and Ferry Company was unable to obtain any government funding to keep the ferry open. When I get back to the ferry terminal I can see they are removing the chains in order to tow it into Poole Harbour. Many people rely on this ferry to take a short cut between Poole and Swanage so it will be missed. It is especially popular during the summer months taking walkers and cyclists across to Shell Bay Beach on Studland. This ferry, Bramble Bush Bay, which came into service in 1994. It is the fourth ferry operating this service but it is the first one to have a name. Bramble Bush Bay a small bay close to Shell Bay. The first ferry, a steam-driven chain ferry began operating in 1926. I sit on the quay for a while to watch them working before returning to flat and my own work – writing about my experiences on the Inca Trail.
Wednesday 22 April 2020
This week is a week for introductions. During my regular early morning stroll along the beach, the Silver Jogger trots up and introduces himself. He then starts complaining because the chain ferry is now closed. I assume this is because he uses it to get to Sandbanks every day – I know he has to drive here in order to jog on the beach. But no, apparently he and his wife (he mentions her regularly as though he is amazed he has one) were intending to go across to Studland as foot passengers for a walk. I point out that foot passengers have not been allowed on the ferry for several weeks now. It used to be possible to go across on the bus but the service to Swanage was suspended last week. He jogs off and I make my way to the flat to wrestle with some more deadlines. It is great to have deadlines again and some purpose to every day during lockdown.
Thursday 23 April 2020
I had my first sleepless night last night. After a very nice evening watching the Great British Menu while cycling on my exercise bike and then the Great British Sewing Bee I just caught the beginning of the Ten O’clock News which I generally try to avoid. It was disturbing to hear that restrictions are expected to remain in force for the rest of the year. Especially now when other European countries are gradually opening up again. I was out on my bike before 6 and then jogging up and down the beach for a while trying to make sense of it all. It is such a beautiful morning with the sun sparkling on a calm sea that laps gently on the flat, empty beach that I soon calm down. I stop to watch two dogs digging frantically in the sand. They don’t care. Why should they? Life is good, walks every day. I realise there is nothing I can do either – just stay at home, stay safe and get on with my life as best I can.
Friday 24 April 2020
I am awake at 5.30 am before my alarm goes off but I get up anyway, get dressed, and go out on the bike. I cycle to the beach where I meet Rosmarie with George. The latter has been in the sea today so he is very wet so I say hello from a distance. He likes to ‘fish’ for stones and to bark at the waves. We chat for a while and then go our separate ways. I don’t linger on the beach for long as my fridge is empty again so I need to do some shopping. I finish an article, have an early lunch, and then get the bus into Poole. As the buses only run every two hours now I decide to take a brisk walk along Poole Quay first. There is no-one around and the statue of Lord Baden Powell looks very lonely. He is looking out to sea, towards Brownsea Island which is where he held his first camp that laid the foundation stone for the scout movement for which he was responsible.
I have to queue at Sainsbury’s but it was not long before I was inside. While queueing I get into a conversation with a guy I assume is homeless. I offer to buy him some food and drink but he refuses. This is my way of ensuring they are not just begging for money to buy alcohol or drugs. He refuses. I ask him where he will spend the night and he says he has a place in a hostel but no bus fare to get there. I flip him some coins. With everyone being encouraged to use contactless cards for payment during they get many donations. As the queue moves away from him the woman in front of me informs me the ‘homeless’ man lives just across the road.
Saturday 25 April 2020
My stock of muesli is getting low and I can only get the brand I like from Tesco in Bournemouth. So, I decide to combine a shopping trip to Bournemouth with my daily exercise. I start by jogging along the promenade in the direction of Bournemouth. After a while, I am distracted by a large stone shell in a little garden at the bottom of Flaghead Chine. I stop to take a closer look and then decide to walk up the chine to Canford Cliffs village and get the bus into town from there.
When I get to Bournemouth I have two hours until the next bus so I decide to take a brisk walk through the Central Gardens to the Upper Gardens. A lot of shrubs and flowers are in bloom and it is very pleasant strolling along by the River Bourne. But time passes quickly and I soon have to race back to Tesco to make sure I can get my shopping done in time to catch the bus. I have allowed some time for queueing but there is no queue. The town centre is deserted and the few shops that are open are nearly empty. I do not take long to fill my rucksack with three bags of muesli so I have time to browse the books in W H Smith – I have the whole department to myself which is weird. I return to Sandbanks on an empty bus.
The bus is crowded on the return journey to Sandbanks – five of us on board. A parcel arrives at the flat soon after I get back – some outdoor clothing for me to review. It looks very nice so I look forward to trying it.
Sunday 26 April 2020
I am up at 6 am and have some breakfast while starting to work on my next post for TravelRadar which is due at 2 pm today. I had already done the plan but I am still pleasantly surprised when I upload the draft to the website it goes amber for readability okay. I am not allowed to publish anything that gets a red symbol for needs improvement. If only I had studied English grammar at school I might understand the difference between active and passive verbs. I finish it by 10 am and start working on the next instalment of my diary which I have neglected. This takes me until the early evening. Time for my daily exercise. I decide to take on the challenge of Evening Hill to see if I can cycle to the top of the hill without having to get off the bike. This is not easy with my short legs on my teenager-size bike. I succeed but it was an obstacle course of parked cars and groups of cyclists. Generally, the cyclists are coming towards me but because they take up so much room – way beyond the marked cycle track – cars are swinging across to my side of the road. When I reach the top I stop at the viewpoint. It is a wonderful panorama from here overlooking Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island and Poole itself. The wooden benches and picnic tables scattered on the grassy area here are all empty. I discover a memorial to Lady Baden Powell up here. Her husband and his sister founded the Girl Guides movement and Lady Baden Powell later became the leader of this organisation. Back at the flat I turn on the television to catch up with the news. The government has decided the spread of the coronavirus is still at a dangerous and delicate state and the lockdown restrictions will remain in place. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is returning to Downing Street this evening. He has been convalescing at Chequers (with his fiancée) following a spell in hospital after contracting COVID19. He will start work tomorrow. Spanish children under the age of fourteen were allowed outside for one hour with one adult today. It is the first time they have been allowed to leave the house in six weeks.
Some Government Statistics
By the morning of Monday 20 April 501,379 tests had been concluded, of whom 124,743 have tested positive and of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 16,509 have died an increase that day of 449. A week later, on Sunday 26 April 669,850 tests had been concluded of whom 152,840 tested positive. Of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 20,732 had died, an increase in the past 24 hours of 413. However, the numbers always seem to go down at the weekend, possibly due to a delay in reporting over the weekend.
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