Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Staying Alert in Week Eight of Lockdown

Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Staying Alert in Week Eight of Lockdown

We are starting the first week of relaxed restrictions but I am confused regarding the new government slogan - Stay Alert. I am used to be on the look-out for suspicious packages on public transport but how does that relate to a virus?

On the evening of Sunday 10 May Boris Johnson announced that some of the restrictions in place since the start of the lockdown are to be relaxed. But his message was far from clear and has resulted in some confusion. My understanding of his speech is that from Monday 11 May those who cannot work at home, in other words, workers in shops, bars and restaurants should go back to work from Monday but shops, bars, and restaurants will remain closed for the time being. From Wednesday people can travel as far as they like to exercise and stay outside for as long as they wish but not overnight. Scotland, Wales, and Ireland chose not to relax restrictions on lockdown in their countries and to retain the much clearer slogan stay at home. This division exposed a huge gap in our knowledge of geography as many attempts were made to cross the borders into Scotland and Wales by people thinking they were still in England. The anticipated rush to the beaches of Sandbanks started very early on the morning of Monday 11 May.

Monday 11 May 2020

The weather is definitely colder this morning and there is quite a strong wind when I set off on my bike at 5.30 am. I usually park my bike at the chain ferry terminal but as the chain ferry is not currently operating the place is busy with fishermen and I decide to continue to the sea pavilion and leave it there. But, I can’t find a bicycle rack so I chain it to the railings outside the Beach Office which is currently closed. I then walked along the beach towards the Haven Hotel. It is lovely on the beach. The sea is a long way out so there are large expanses of firm sand to jog on and long arms of exposed rocks to scramble over. The sea has been at work creating sculptures on the beach and I stop to admire them. I meet up with Rosmarie and George, the flat-coated retriever. So far, George has been very aloof but when I say my goodbyes and start jogging back to my bike he suddenly appears at my side. I stop and tell him to go back to Rosmarie but he starts barking and grabs my wrist as though he wants to pull me back to her with him. He sets off towards Rosmarie and I start jogging again, but not for long as he re-appears in front of me. I decide to take him back to Rosmarie and we walk back along the beach together. He finally gets the message when I start unlocking my bike but it seems the nature of our relationship is about to change. I notice there is a lot more activity around the harbour as I cycle back to the flat. I can’t help wondering how effective the Prime Minister’s plea that we should continue to practice social distancing is going to be.

Sand Sculptures Created by the Sea on Sandbanks Beach, Dorset   6300

Tuesday 12 May 2020

After doing my usual circuit on my bike early this morning I do find some bike racks tucked away behind a row of beach huts by the sea pavilion on Sandbanks beach. I walk along the beach to the Haven Hotel. There is a man fishing on the rocks below the hotel. He has just landed a huge chunk of seaweed. I decide this is not a good time to ask him if he has caught anything. I know, from speaking to other fishermen the fishing has not been very good in this area for some time now. I am about to turn back when I see a fishing boat coming out of the harbour. It is surrounded by a huge flock of seagulls – I have never seen so many birds around one boat. I stop and watch for a while. By this time Rosmarie and George have arrived and we have a chat. I try playing with George but he gets very excited and starts barking. Rosmarie is very sensitive about his barking annoying other people and whacks him on the back with her walking pole. so I stop. We walk up and down the beach with George trying to keep us together. I should enlighten him on the rules of social distancing. When I get back to the flat it is soon clear that today is going to be a bad day for connecting to the internet. The flat does not have a landline so I have to rely on hotspots. It takes me an hour to write an article on Latvia and then four hours of frustration trying to upload up. As the deadline approaches I am forced to give up. I manage to email it to my editor at Travel Radar and he uploads it for me. I spend the rest of the day working off-line. It is the second day of finals week for The Great British Menu – I missed the start of the finals yesterday and sleep through the second half of the fish dish finals this evening. The government announced today that we should start thinking about cancelling our summer holidays abroad. I hope this will not extinguish the light at the end of my tunnel – a trip to Latvia departing 30 June.

Seagulls Flocking Around a Fishing Boat Leaving Poole Harbour, Dorset  IMG 6887

Wednesday 13 May 2020

The public car parks in Sandbanks are open again and already filling up when I walk through them to the beach at 6 in the morning. As I start walking along the beach I see a working boat on its way back into Poole harbour. A sign that people have started working again. I catch up with Rosmarie and George and we walked together towards the Haven Hotel. George goes ahead of us and takes the path towards the chain ferry port. He stops and waits. Rosmarie suffers from arthritis and cannot climb over the rocks onto this path. She informs be that George would like me to go with him to the chain ferry port. No problem. We set off together. George likes fishing amongst the rocks and he stops to fish for a coat hanger wedged in the rocks. He is successful and then breaks it up into small pieces. I feel obliged to pick the pieces up and I take them to the bin in the car park at the chain ferry. I have to climb an iron ladder to get into the car park. George cannot come with me and I expect to hear him barking his frustration as I race to the bin and back. But no, he waits, paws resting on the wall as he whimpers his disappointment. When I get back to my bike it takes a while to persuade George that Rosmarie and I are going our separate ways. Finally, I succeed and head back to the flat and work. The internet connection is okay today and I re-start my efforts to revive my standalone edition of Adobe LightRoom. Adobe chat informs me it is because my updated operating system does not support it. But it does support the subscription service – at £10 a month - strange that. I don't want a subscription service. I need to find another solution.

George Fishing in the Rocks on Sandbanks Beach  6945

Thursday 14 May 2020

This morning I left my bike chained to the railings outside the estate agents which was as near as I could get to the place where Rosmarie parks her car. I am concerned that George’s antics when we part company will get us both into trouble. My plan is to walk back to the car with them and then collect my bike. Today, George sees me as I am approaching and races towards me. He briefly acknowledges my presence and then races back to Rosmarie. He is full of pent-up energy. I blame the chilly wind that plays with our hair and whips the litter into spirals above the sand. Sadly, visitors bring litter. We pick up the most obvious dangers to dogs and wildlife – bottles, cans, and plastic bags. Another regular early morning walker doubts the wisdom of this as we may be risking infection. But we carry on until we can leave our bounty with Terry, one of the voluntary litter pickers who regularly patrol the beaches. My plan works and a very docile George ambles back to the car with us. I say goodbye and battle through the wind back to the flat on my bike. Even though I could go out again I am discouraged by the number of people walking, jogging, cycling, picnicking, and sunbathing so I stick to my regime – one outing a day. Anyway, I have work to do – writing an article on Albania. This was one of my favourite trips as it was so different from any other country I have visited. We concentrated on southern Albania where beautiful landscapes are studded with ancient settlements and castles. As it was Thursday and clap for the NHS (and other frontline workers) I went outside at 8 in the evening. The beach was still crowded but no-one was clapping.

The road to Piluri in Albania 8287

Friday 15 May 2020

I have finally found a legal parking place for my bike – not far from the road where Rosmarie parks her car – a bike rack in front of the North Haven Yacht Club. George is much calmer today when we meet up. The wind has dropped and it is another beautiful morning. As we walk along the beach we still pick up any rubbish that catches our eyes. When we reach the Haven Hotel George and I continue along the path to the chain ferry. Today, the tide is low and George can get around the end of the harbour wall and into the car park. His sudden arrival is a shock to the fishermen on the steps. I grab hold of his harness before he can eat their bait. I have run out of food so, after my walk, I catch the bus to Poole. I am the only passenger all the way there. Before heading for Sainsbury’s I go for a stroll in Poole Park. There are people playing tennis. This has been allowed since Wednesday but only with people from the same household (in theory). The golf courses are once again restricted to golfers. Contact sports are still not on the agenda – much to the annoyance of a gentleman on Twitter who thinks if people are allowed to play tennis they should also be able to play football. On my way back to Sandbanks there is another passenger on the bus – the Lady in the Mask. I have encountered her before. She comes so close I wonder if she is going to sit next to me but a warning glare stops her in her tracks and she immediately sits down a safe distance from me. I am feeling daring this evening and decide to make an omelette as a change from a salad. As I am short on cooking utensils I have to use a wok. I quite like the charred effect this produces.

People Playing Tennis in Poole Park, Dorset  6965

Saturday 16 May 2020

I am on a mission this morning. I am writing an article about Bournemouth for Travel Radar. I decide to link it to a Red Arrows tragedy that occurred here a few years ago as aviation is the main theme of this website. I know there is a monument on East Cliff above the beaches so I catch the first bus to Bournemouth. When I get off the bus I walk along the Westcliff promenade. Already there is a lot of activity on the beach beside me. I pass the funicular. It has been transporting people from the clifftop down to the beach for over 100 years. I find the Red Arrows monument. And, to my relief, some public toilets that are open. Once I have taken some photos I still have time for a quick shop in Tesco. It is a very quick shop as a row breaks out when two young men start mocking an elderly gentleman when he politely asks them to keep two metres distance from him. There is no control over the numbers in the store anyway so I decide it is time to leave and make my way back to the safety of my flat. I am finding the sudden lack of social distancing very unnerving.

The Funicular on Bournemouth Sea Front in Dorset   5160055

Sunday 17 May 2020

Today I am meeting my friend for a walk. It will be the first time I have socialised since 12 March. I am both excited and nervous. Ringwood is our chosen meeting place. I have been there before and seen signs to Riverside Walks so we are going to investigate them. I drive to Ringwood and meet Sue, who lives in Winchester, in the large car park at the Furlong shopping centre. We set off through a deserted town and follow the signposts to the walks. But the path peters out very soon after we cross the river. I ask a local where the path goes. It soon becomes apparent that the most of the river bank here is in private ownership. She directs us to the Trailway, an abandoned railway line. This involves walking along the main road before turning into a residential area. We are so busy talking we miss the track on to the Trailway and have to re-trace our steps. The path is quite narrow (single track) and we are constantly jumping out of the way of cyclists and joggers. Nevertheless, it is good to be out and having a good old gossip. It is a circular route that brings us back into the town. A coffee shop is open and serving takeaway coffees so we stop for one. We part soon after that and I head back to Sandbanks for more work and my treat of the week, the next episode of Killing Eve. Actually, I cheated and watched it last Monday as soon as it became available on the BBC iPlayer. But I will watch it again just to enjoy the black humour.

Walking in Ringwood in the New Forest in Hampshirejpeg

Some Government Statistics

By the morning of Monday 11 May, 223,060 tested positive for the coronavirus in the UK and 32,065 have died, an increase of 439 in the past 24 hours. By 17 May 243,695 people have tested positive and 34,636 have died, an increase of 170 in the past 24 hours. The figures now include deaths in all settings, not just in hospitals.

More next week

Valery Collins is the Experienced Traveller
Valery Collins 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 and regularly contributes guided city walks to