Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Still Alert in Week Nine of Lockdown

Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Still Alert in Week Nine of Lockdown

We are now at the start of week nine of lockdown and the second week of the government’s directions to #stayalert. It seems to me that confusion still reigns and the requirement to maintain #socialdistance has taken a back seat.

The hot weather is enticing people to travel hundreds of miles in order to spend a day on the beach or in other beauty spots. A sudden huge surge in the number of visitors to these places overwhelms resources. Litter and alcohol-fuelled violence become real problems. Social distancing is impossible. Although Scotland and Wales are still under strict lockdown this has not stopped people attempting to cross the borders. A regular excuse being they did not know they were in another country. I keep to the same regime I have been following for the past eight weeks. An early morning bike ride followed by a walk on the beach and then at the flat for the rest of the day.

Monday 18 May 2020

I wake at 5 am and my next article is in my head so I make notes before getting up and getting ready to go out on my bike. I do my usual double circuit of the spit and I am on the beach before Rosmarie arrives with George. By then I am sitting on the rocks watching a man on the beach with a tripod but no camera on it. There is a boy with him who is dragging a long stick across the sand. When Rosmarie and I start walking along the beach I see that the boy has written excerpts from the bible in huge letters in the sand with his stick. By then the man has put something on his tripod. It looks like his mobile phone. It did seem as though he had been taking videos of the houses that back on to the beach. He picks up a large holdall and moves along the beach. The boy follows, reluctantly.

Scriptures in Sand on Sandbanks Beach, Dorset

There is a lot of litter on the beach. The good weather and relaxing of lockdown rules brought large crowds to the area over the weekend. We manage to ignore it for a while in the hope our voluntary picker would be along soon. However, as Gerry does not go along the path beneath the wall of the Haven Hotel and there were a lot bottles and cans on this stretch I started to pick them up. George helps by fishing plastic bottles out from amongst the rocks. He also found one large shoe, so big it could have belonged to a giant. We fill a plastic carrier bag that was amongst the litter. When we get to the end of the path I climb up the iron ladder into the car park by the chain ferry terminal. I empty my booty into one of the bins there and keep the carrier bag in case I encounter more rubbish walking back along the beach. I do, and fill the second bag by the time we reach an alley that goes down to the road. There is a rubbish bin at the top of the alley so I empty the bag into the bin – George came with me. We finish our walk at Rosmarie’s car where we say goodbye and I walk to my bike and cycle back to the flat. I stay there for the rest of the day wrestling with the problem of what to do about my photography processing software. The only way I can continue using Adobe Lightroom is by taking out a monthly subscription which I don’t want to do. Eventually I talk myself into buying twelve months for the price of nine.

Litter Around the Barbecue Area on Sandbanks Beach, Dorset

While I am working I detect a slight smell of burning. I suspect it is someone having a barbecue on the beach across the road but I cannot see any smoke. Later I discover a massive fire started in Wareham Forest this afternoon. This forest is a few miles away, just beyond Poole. This fire burned for over a week involving firemen from three counties and destroying 220 hectares of woodland. The remains of a portable barbecue were found at the centre of the fire and is believed to have been the cause of the fire. Earlier this week the fire service issued an alert for Dorset, with easterly winds, low humidity and dry heath land increasing the risk of wildfires. I spent a very pleasant day exploring Warehamlast year so was sad to hear of this disaster.

Walking in Wareham

This evening I have my first alert as an NHS Responder. I have been joking that there are more responders in my area than people in need of help but it turns out to be true. I called the woman requesting help - I must have been the fifth or sixth person to call her. Whatever her problem was it had either been resolved or she had forgotten she had a problem while overwhelmed by phone calls. I never found out what assistance was required.

Tuesday 19 May 2020

I follow my usual routine today. I go out on the bike at 5.30 am and do a double circuit of the spit before locking the bike up and joining Rosmarie on the beach. George is in a playful mood today and after rolling in the sand bounds up to me, brushes against me and then rolling over onto my foot – this is despite my protesting that my trousers were clean on today. As we stroll along a man appears through the double gates of one of the large houses that backs on to Sandbanks Beach. He has a strange contraption under his arm. I watch, fascinated, as he inserts a batter the size of a briefcase into it and wades into the water with it before lying on top of it and paddling out to sea. The flick of a switch and he is riding high on a hovering surf board. And that was the only excitement today.

Hover Surf Board off Sandbanks Beach, Dorset

Wednesday 20 May 2020

It is very misty when I set off on my bike at 5.30 this morning. Just after I have chained my bike up Rosmarie arrives and we walk to the beach together. George is very anxious to get going and bounds off along the nearest groyne that stretches out into the sea. These banks of rocks with a path running along them have been built as a defence against erosion by the sea. George is put out to discover a fisherman at the end of it. He likes to go to the end of each groyne and bark at the waves. As we wait for George to return the fisherman walks down the groyne towards us. He has a fish in his hands – it is quite a large with a big fin on its back. The fisherman tells us it is a smooth hound and related to the shark family. I take a photo while Rosmarie discourages George from trying to eat the fish. The fisherman says he is going to throw it back but first he wants to show it to his friend. After his friend has taken some photos the fisherman gently lowers the fish into the water. It does not swim out to sea immediately but lingers in the shallow water just off the beach. George is not slow to miss a second opportunity and splashes into the sea. The fish takes the hint and we watch as his fin streaks through the water out to sea and safety.

Smooth Hound Fish Caught off Sandbanks Beaach, Dorset

We carry on. When we get to the Haven Hotel George is already on the path to the chain ferry terminal – still lacking a chain ferry. The ferry has been damaged by a falling chunk of concrete and will not return at the end of the month as anticipated. George clearly expects me to follow him. I do so. At the ferry port we find several people fishing and a large pack of raw fish that has been abandoned on the steps down to the sea. I am lulled into a false sense of security when George ignores it. I empty the litter into the rubbish bin and we head back to the beach. I realise George is no longer with me and when I look back he has a trophy in his mouth – the pack of raw fish. I race back to him and grab the fish. He has managed to open it and in the tussle that ensues he extracts a whole fish from the pack and runs off with it. I give chase and while attempting to retrieve the fish it breaks in two. I throw my half into the sea and George eats his half. We continue on our way but when my attention is distracted he doubles back again and re-appears with a second fish. He races past me but is stopped by Rosmarie who is waiting for us on the beach. She has the same experience and gets half the fish while George gulps down the rest. I am cross with myself for not picking up the fish and throwing it away when I first spotted it but I thought it belonged to one of the fishermen. Now my gloves smell of rotting fish but I don’t let it spoil the rest of our walk.

Fishermen on the Harbour in Sandbanks, Dorset

Thursday 21 May 2020

I am up just after 5 am and out on my bike soon after that. When I get to the North Haven Motor Yacht Club where I leave my bike I notice quite a large increase in the boats moored there so I take a photo. Rosmarie arrives soon after and we walk to the beach together with George. When we get to the beach I cannot believe the amount of rubbish just thrown on the ground around the rubbish bins. I take a photo. Meanwhile George is busy investigating a tent that has been pitched on the beach. There are two tents and a windbreak. Staying anywhere but home overnight is still against the rules and camping on the beach is permanently forbidden. George wakes the two people in the small tent and I can hear them grumbling as we walk away. We walked along the beach greeting people as we go.

Tents on Sandbanks Beach in Dorset

There are more people on the beach this morning. No doubt there will be more tomorrow as from 22 May this will be the only beach where people can walk their dogs until the end of the summer. Generally, as from 1 May every year this is the only dog walking beach but the rule was suspended this year due to the lockdown. Rosmarie tells me that the local council has rescinded their threat to ban cycles from the promenade that stretches from Sandbanks to Bournemouth. They had intended to ban them from tomorrow due to people cycling in large groups and going too fast. For this reason, I am never tempted to cycle there. When I get home I work on my next articles for the TravelRadar website. I have two slots to fill today. I did the early slot (7am BST) last night so I can do my early morning bike ride and walk on the beach. I finish the second one in time to post at 15:00 BST. The days are going really quickly with all this writing. My annual subscription to the LightRoom Plan has turned out to be a mistake. It includes storage on the iCloud and takes my images straight there – this does not work for me. I asked lots of questions about how it worked and the information I got was incorrect. It should have been clear to them that it would not work for me. I complain, cancel and get an immediate refund. Now I have to find another way to download and process photos – and quickly.

Cyclists in Sandbanks, Dorset

Friday 22 May 2020

It is raining when I get up but as it clears up very quickly I decide to carry on as usual. Rosmarie and I meet them on the beach but at a different place today. Rosmarie wants to avoid walking George past the huge piles of rubbish that surround the overflowing bins. I don’t blame her. The abundance of litter is a hazard to dogs and sea creatures when it washes into the sea. We collect as much as we can carry as we walk along the beach.

Overflowing Bins on Sandbanks Beach in Dorset

I am back at the flat before 8 am which is when my ‘shift’ on breaking news for TravelRadar starts. Today is my first day on breaking news duty for TravelRadar and it involves writing posts as news breaks. Soon after I start news comes through about a Pakistan International Airlines plane crashing near Karachi airport. This is good first-hand experience for me but I lose my Wifi connection soon after I start writing and have to pass it on to another correspondent. I am able to pick it up later and write two articles during the day. There is also some breaking news in the UK. We learn that Dominic Cummings drove with his wife and child from London to his parents’ home in Durham during the initial period of lockdown when everyone had to stay at home. At the time his wife had symptoms of coronavirus and he displayed symptoms the next day. His excuse – he needed to ensure childcare for his son and he had no-one in London. This may be acceptable but his outing to Barnard Castle before returning to London two weeks later cannot be excused on the grounds he needed to test his eyesight. If that was true why did he take his wife and child with him? Cummings refuses to resign, the Prime Minister backs him up and the country seethes as not even an apology is forthcoming. Many fear that others will see this as an excuse to break the rules. (The controversy continues to rage at the time of writing 7 June 2020).

Dominic Cummings Breaks out of Lockdown

Saturday 23 May 2020

Today is shopping day and I head for Poole on the first bus. It is a double decker bus this time and I am the only one on it all the way to Poole. With the 2-hour gap between buses I have time to wander for a while. As I make my way to the old town I pass a block of flats where I family of 5 are playing on a tiny lawn. It reminds me that many people have not had the same luxury of space that I have been enjoying – albeit on my own. After wandering through the narrow streets of the old town and admiring the luxury yacht moored on the town quay – it is the size of a small hotel - I make my way to Sainsbury’s. I am delighted to discover their toilets are open – two mugs of coffee are taking their toll. Next stop Wilkinson’s and pick up some white vinegar cleaner (highly recommended but not widely available) and 2 notebooks (a bargain at 50p each). On the bus going back there are three other passengers – two come up to the top deck with me, but keep their distance and the other one stays downstairs.

Super Yacht Moored at Poole Town Quay, Dorset

Sunday 24 May 2020

It is a blustery, sunny day in Poole Harbour and I have never seen so many kite boarders enjoying the perfect conditions in the shallow harbour. The wind is so strong it tears some of them from their boards and they drop like stones into the water. The experts are performing crazy tricks high above the sea. The beach is littered with fluttering, brightly coloured kites. A profound blue sky above the sea is flecked with them. I grab my camera and go down there to take some images. A young man tells me that everyone is enjoying their freedom. Their exhilaration is infectious. I suspect their lack of social distancing may go the same way. I go back to the flat to process my images. I have now lost my standalone LightRoom software since a technician at Adobe took over my laptop and synced everything while setting up my subscription LightRoom. When I cancelled my subscription I asked them to restore the settings and images for me but my request was ignored. However, since than I have remembered a workshop I did at the Apple store in Watford. It covered processing iPhone images using Apple software. I found a way to use this for all my images and it works well. Another day has flown by.

Kite Surfers on Poole Harbour in Sandbanks, Dorset

Some Government Statistics

As of 9 am on 18 May, there have been 2,682,716 tests, of which 246,406 tested positive. As of 5 pm on 17 May, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 34,796 have died in all settings, an increase of 160 over the past 24 hours. As of 9 am on 24 May, there have been 3,458,905 tests, and 259,559 people have tested positive. As of 5 pm on 23 May, of those tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 36,793 have died in all settings, an increase of 118 over the past 24 hours.

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