Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: An Invasion of Inflatable Paddle Boards

Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: An Invasion of Inflatable Paddle Boards

As we enter week 11 of the lockdown the hot weather continues to draw large crowds to the Dorset beaches. We could be in the middle of a normal English summer, not a coronavirus pandemic.

The residents of Sandbanks are desperately seeking a solution to overflowing rubbish bins, illegal parking and boy racers late into the night. An increasing number of locals are picking up litter on the beaches to protect the dogs that walk on them and the wildlife that lives there. Local authorities are overwhelmed and understaffed. But help is at hand as the forecast predicts rain and cold weather.

Monday 01 June 2020

I am up early and out on the bike by 5.30 am. It is a lovely morning and the sun is just climbing above the trees that line the residential roads. I lock the bike up and head for the beach. Rosmarie and George are further along the beach than usual. I soon discover why as I approach them. Two small tents have been pitched on the sand in the lee of a groyne. Rosmarie had moved down to the next bay as she did not want George investigating the tents for food. As we wander down to the end of the beach I gather up quite a lot of litter. I take this to the rubbish bins in the Ferry Way car park. All the bins there are overflowing after a busy weekend here. Walking back along the beach we see the Singing Swimmer – happy as ever. She hails me and splashes out of the water towards her belongings. She presents me with a bundle of surgical gloves. This kind woman, having failed to discourage me from picking up has brought me some protection. I am very grateful.

Campers on Sandbanks Beach, Dorset

During the morning I receive a message from the chairman of our community group. He is requesting photographs of the chaos of the weekend. I have several I have taken for my diary so I send them to him. A little later I get another message asking me if I can forward some larger copies of my images to the Bournemouth News. I am doing that when another messages announces the BBC will be in Sandbanks to do some filming and interviews. We are all invited to go and have our say. I decide not to join them as I have an article I have to finish today. This evening I have the very strange sensation of seeing my photos being shown on the BBC news. The next day some of them are in a report in the Mirror.

No Room in the Bin on Sandbanks Beach, Dorset

The phased re-opening of schools begins today with reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils returning first. Other primary school years are expected to return in the coming weeks. After that secondary school pupils will start going back to school. Many schools in the North-West of England did not reopen due to an increasing number of infections in this area. Even though the coronavirus threat has not changed more lockdown restrictions are eased. There are concerns that this is happening too soon but the Prime Minister has decided to carry on regardless. Horse racing returned to Britain today but behind closed doors.

Tuesday 02 June 2020

When I arrive on the beach this morning it is littered with bottles and cans. These include a number of empty champagne bottles. It fills my small carrier bag and a second one I find amongst the litter. The caretaker of a block of flats that backs on to the beach is busy scrubbing graffiti off a wall. He tells me he has had to do this early every morning for the past few days. Charcoal from the portable barbecues is being put to more than one use. I walk back up to the top of the Midway Path to empty my two carrier bags in the bins. There is a mountain of rubbish beside the bin even though the bin is not full. I read a proposal in an article that people who live near beaches and beauty spots should pay extra for the privilege. The writer was clearly not aware of the voluntary efforts made my local people to keep these places looking nice for everyone.

The Morning After Clean up on Sandbanks Beach, Dorset

I decide to walk down to the water’s edge and pick up any litter down there. By the time Rosmarie and George join me at the bottom of Midway Path I have filled two more carrier bags and emptied them in the bin. We stop in one of the small bays so George can chase his ball into the sea. He does this a few times and then makes it clear he is ready to move on. By then I have filled my two carrier bags again so George and I scramble over the rocks to the Ferry Way car park. The bins here are full and overflowing so I have to leave my two carrier bags on top of the mound of rubbish. On our way back to join Rosmarie, we meet an Italian fisherman. I chat to him in Italian discussing all the places we both know. I feel very nostalgic for Italy a country I have been visiting regularly for the past twenty years.

The Old Port of Monopoli in Puglia, Italy    8746

George and I arrive in the Ferry Way car park at the same time as the refuse lorry so I just throw the bags into the back of it. The three of us walk back up to the road by then I had more litter but no bag. I put it in the bin at the end of the road. We don’t go straight to the car but do a circular walk down some wooded footpaths that go around the back of the houses. I did not know these paths existed. They were deserted and shaded so it was very pleasant strolling along. It was George’s decision to go this way. When we got back on the main road he had refused to go in the other direction and waited until we followed him.

The Footpaths of Sandbanks, Dorset

When I arrive back at the flat the daughter of the owners of Flat 3 and her family are having a picnic breakfast on the lawn. I chat to them for a while. It is the first time we have said more than a passing hello – these days there is time to talk. I spend the rest of the day writing an article for the Travel Radar website. A minimum of three articles a week and my own on Sunday is keeping me busy during lockdown and I am learning a new style of writing. I was disappointed to learn today that my web editor is moving to another role. His advice has been invaluable. By late afternoon it is really hot and still. Usually, when I go out on the balcony there is a refreshing breeze but today the air just hangs heavy. I open some windows in the flat in addition to the wide-open patio door but it does not really help. Outside the crowds continue to arrive, every parking space is filled and the little beach by the harbour is carpeted with people. Hertsmere MP, Oliver Dowden, replies to my email about Dominic Cummings in which I queried the failure of the government to sack Cummings for breaking the lockdown rules by testing his eyesight on a family trip to Barnard Castle. It is a pathetic attempt to excuse the inexcusable. He suggests I watch a recording of Cummings’ arrogant interview on television. He does not mention Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle. And he does he reply to my response pointing out this omission. As the day-trippers start packing up and leaving so the youth of Dorset moves in – large groups of them arrive and they stand around on the beach, drinking. There is no social distancing so it is not surprising we are rising up the list of areas with the most infections. When I go to bed at 10.15 pm it is so hot I have to have a window open in the bedroom and I am woken several times by people shouting on the beach.

Hanging Out by Poole Harbour, Dorset

Today hundreds of protesters turned out in Bournemouth to demonstrate following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. This new movement Black Lives Matter has been demonstrating throughout America and now it is sweeping through England. The result of this is large gatherings without social distancing.

Wednesday 03 June 2020

After a long period of hot, sunny weather the forecast is bad for today. When I get up at 5.15 it is dry and some streaks of light in a grey sky encourage me to get dressed and go out on the bike. As I complete my first circuit of the spit it starts to rain. I decide to keep going but as I complete my second circuit the rain gets very heavy. I cycled across the big car park to the sea pavilion looking for somewhere undercover to leave my bike. I am still contemplating a walk along the beach. I find a rail in front of the takeaway café to tether my bike which is protected by the overhanging roof. I walk on to the beach and watch a tractor at work smoothing the sand beyond the dog walking section. There are piles of litter around the rubbish bins. The rain had eased off but then starts falling in earnest again. I am sure Rosmarie will not be walking George today but I cycle the short distance to Salter Road where she parks. Her car is there and she and George are inside. I am dripping we by then so after a very quick conversation I head back to the flat. The rain continues unabated every item of clothing I have on is soaking wet by the time I get there. It rains all day – on a deserted Sandbanks.

Grooming the Beach in Sandbanks, Dorset

Today the total number of deaths in the UK from COVID-19, 359, is higher than the combined total that the 27 countries in the European Union reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) which was 330.

Thursday 04 June 2020

The weather is dull but dry so I go out on the bike. I am only wearing a shirt and my showerproof jacket and it is not long before I realise I need another layer as it is much cooler than yesterday. I do my first circuit, cut the second one short and race back to the flat to grab a fleece. As the weather was so bad here yesterday the bins are empty and there is no rubbish on the beach. It is safe for us to start our walk by the sea pavilion. As I have run out of plastic carrier bags I am using a plastic bag that once contained toilet rolls. I pick up the odd bits and pieces lying in the sand but there is not much. When we meet Mr Staunch Conservative by the Haven Hotel he tells us there were four young men on the beach clearing up all the litter yesterday. He thinks they were doing it for nothing but it turns out they are council employees who got to our stretch of the beach much earlier than usual. It is lovely on the beach, cool but refreshing and we meet most of the people we usually see so quite a lot of chatting. Even though I have hardly any litter compared to the last few days George still makes it clear he wants to go along the path to the Ferry Way car park so we go down there. It is high tide so George cannot go around the end of the sea wall – well, he could but he clearly does not want to paddle in the sea any more. He goes back to Rosmarie and I go up the iron ladder and take my rubbish to the bin. The bins are not full so I can empty my bag and keep it for another day. We re-join Rosmarie and set off for home. I spend the rest of the day writing. By late afternoon the wind is very strong attracting many kite surfers. I watch them when I take the walk to the local Tesco to get some milk. Recently, in the evenings there have been long queues outside the store – people buying barbecues and booze. This evening there is no queue and very few people in the store so I get some milk and my favourite meal deal as a treat for supper – duck hoisin wrap, fresh pineapple and coconut milk. The harbour is back to normal after the daily invasions during the hot weather.

Collecting Litter on Sandbanks Beach with George

It is announced on the news tonight that from 15 June face masks will be compulsory on public transport. More shops will be open that week, more people back at work and more passengers on the buses.

Friday 05 June 2020

When I look out of the window at 5 this morning, I can see streaks of light in a grey sky. Branches bend in the wind but it is dry. I am soon on my bike and circling the spit. For once the wind is in my favour and I have soon completed two circuits. Rosmarie and George arrive as I am locking my bike up and we head across the car park for the beach together. There is a young man in the car picking up litter. I had heard rumours of volunteer litter pickers having been seen here yesterday so I go over to say hello and thank you. The young man is very defensive and I feel obliged to say I appreciate what he is doing before ascertaining that he works for the local council. I go on to say we regularly walk on the beach at six in the morning but don’t see any council pickers. He tells me they start at 6 am every morning but at Durley so they don’t get to Sandbanks Beach until 10 am. And they are, like many organisations, short-staffed. I thank him again and re-join Rosmarie. I have my toilet-roll bag with me again but there is hardly any litter today – one piece is a clean, re-usable Tesco plastic carrier bag so I use that. It is windy on the beach but still very pleasant. As we walk back along the beach. George goes ahead and we find him waiting patiently by a freshwater tap. He is thirsty and wants a drink. I push down on the tap and the water flows and he has a drink before he and Rosmarie set off for home. By this time the wind is really strong and blowing straight across the harbour. It is so strong I struggle to keep in the cycle lane as I wobble along. The water in the harbour is unusually rough. But, I don’t notice it coming over the harbour wall until I get soaked as a wave crashes over me.

A Blustery Day by Poole Harbour in Dorset

It is good to get back to the warm shelter of the flat. As I work I can hear the clatter of seashells scuttling across the flat roof above me as the wind gets beneath them. I am on breaking news duty today for the Travel Radar editorial team. This involves regularly checking the news feed and alerting the editorial team to any breaking news. I pass on information about Etihad’s first flight ever to Cuba but volunteer to take the breaking news that BA is considering a legal challenge of the government’s quarantine measures due to come into effect on Monday 8 June. This is more my area of expertise than aviation. A man arrives and re-attaches the chain across the drive then paints it white. I feel ready for the next invasion of visitors. In the evening I start sorting out my images of Sandbanks. I have now taken close to 2,000. I have found another box set, the White Princess, starring Jody Comer (Villanelle in Killing Eve) and watch the first episode. I am going to restrict myself to one episode a day. This evening I attempt to make a tuna omelette which results in a soggy mess – but I eat it with some small plum tomatoes. I have an early night and do not set the alarm. I can hear the wind howling and rain pattering on the window pane as I drift off to sleep.

A Windy Day on Sandbanks in Dorset

Today, the government announced that hospital visitors and out-patients would be required to wear face coverings, and that hospital staff would have to wear medical masks, even if they were not in a clinical setting. The guidance will come into force on 15 June, as more businesses open up and more pupils return to school. Also today the UK became the second country to record more than 40,000 coronavirus-related deaths, after the US.

Saturday 06 June 2020

I did not set my alarm last night but I still wake up at 5 am. This is beginning to feel normal to me. I start working as soon as I get up as I have an article to finish first. I spend the rest of the morning working on the next instalment of my diary for my own website, Experienced Traveller, and catching up on social media. I just need 900 more connections on LinkedIn to reach my goal of 10,000. After lunch, I set off on my bike to visit Rosmarie. As I am getting the bike out of the garage a few large drops splash on to my face. I decide to risk it. Then I notice the handlebars on the bike are out of alignment with the front wheel. I can’t work out how this could have happened. But, then I realise I have just jammed the basket on to the fitting on the front and in doing that twisted the handlebars. I take the basket off again and adjust the handlebars. Finally, I am on my way. I have studied my route but I still get lost twice. I enjoy the ride as the roads are quiet. Rosmarie has a lovely little bungalow with a conservatory at that back where we can sit and talk two metres apart. George seems pleased to see me but he is still subdued as he has been for three days now. Rosmarie thinks it is because he is getting old – he is nearly nine, and he is a pedigree. We sit and chat over strawberries and ice-cream with a sanitizer on the table between us. There is a lovely little garden at the back. While I am there two rats appear from the other side of the fence to feed on the bird food that has dropped to the ground from the bird feeders hung on the branches of a tree. Rosmarie intends to put some poison down tonight. She has not brought the holder for the poison just a sachet. I suggest she puts it in a shallow dish so she can remove it in the morning to prevent George from eating any of it. When I leave I cycle down to Poole and find my way to Sainsbury’s. I chain my bike to the cycle rack outside the store and rush inside to use the toilet. I have needed to go for the last hour but, in the current circumstances, did not want to ask Rosmarie if I could use her toilet. The store is very quiet and it does not take me long to do my shopping. I then cycle down the High Street to the seafront and make my way back to the flat through Harbourside Park.

Cycle Path by Poole Harbour in Dorset

Today a total of 27 police officers were hurt during anti-racism protests in London. The protests - sparked by the death of George Floyd in America - were largely peaceful, but were marred later by disturbances outside Downing Street. Further demonstrations took place across the UK including Bristol, where the statue of a prominent slave trader has been pulled down. It was also announced that the World Health (WHO) has changed its advice on face masks, saying they should be worn in public to help control the spread of coronavirus.

Sunday 07 June 2020

It is still cold but the wind has dropped and the sun is shining. I work at the flat all day mostly on my diary which I finished in the afternoon. Sunday is generally deadline day for me. Paddleboarders are enjoying the calm harbour water when a heavy shower sees them frantically packing up and heading for home. As I am about to go out for a walk Rosmarie sends me a message to say she will not be walking on the beach tomorrow as George is not well – she feared a tumour. She will ask the vet to call in the morning. I ask if she wants someone there with but she says she would rather be on her own. I can’t help worrying about the rat poison she had been intent on putting down in her garden last night. I did suggest she put it in a shallow dish in the gap under the fence where the rats come through. I take a late evening stroll around the harbour and stop to admire one of many Art Nouveau buildings in the area. Sandbanks passed from private ownership to Poole Corporation in 1894. The peninsula was divided into lots that were sold at auction. But they fetched very little due to the fear of building on a sand spit. However, it was already becoming popular as a seaside resort and old tramcars, railway carriages and wooden huts were being used as accommodation. After the corporation declared this shanty town to be a health risk and cleared the area building began in earnest. A lot of houses and bungalows were built during the 1920s and 1930s. One of the most striking, that has not been swept away and replaced by an apartment block, is 59 Banks Road. Probably built between the 1930s and 1950s this elegantly curved residence has a distinctive roof and a dining room floor encased in windows.

Art Nouveau Architecture in Sandbanks, Dorset

Some Statistics

As of 9 am on 1 June, 276,332 people have tested positive in the UK and, of those tested positive, 39,045 have died - an increase of 111 in the past 24 hours. By 7 June, 286,194 people have tested positive and 40,542 have died, an increase of 77 in the past 24 hours.

More next week