5th July 2020
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Downs and Ups in Week Thirteen of Lockdown
As week 13 of the coronavirus lockdown begins I realise this is the longest time I have spent in one place since I started travelling in 1996.
Unsettled weather continues to keep visitors away from Sandbanks but it does not stop my early morning exercise. The chain ferry comes back this week linking us with Studland and Swanage again. Boris Johnson, our prime minister paints his private jet red, white and blue at a cost of a million pounds. The coronavirus is loosening its grip on the UK allowing more businesses and non-essential shops to open up again. Shopping is the last thing on my mind as I am planning a trip to Italy next month.
Monday 15 June 2020
Soon after I start my early morning walk on the beach with Rosmarie I see two small blue tents in the lee of one of the groynes. There are three men standing on the groyne above the tents and one huge suitcase on the sand. I take a photo and we walk on. When I look back more people have emerged from the tents. They begin taking the tents down. We continue walking and picking up litter. Well, I do most of the picking up and Rosmarie does the spotting. She can see a half-buried bottles from twenty yards away. We walk to the end of the groyne. Fishermen are notorious for leaving wads of newspaper along the groynes. They wrap their bait in it. I look back down the beach and see a line of seven adults and two very small children walking along the beach in the direction of the Ferry Bay car park. This is the nearest place where there is direct vehicular access. I being to suspect illegal activity. I know they are foreigners as I heard them talking earlier. When I get back to the flat I report what I have seen to the police. There is a system for reporting non-urgent issues. I don’t get a response. As we greet passing dog walkers we get news of a seal having been spotted off Sandbanks Beach. Nature is thriving – even the sea horses have returned to our waters.
Just after I get back to my flat my iPhone pings - an ominous ping and I suspect the text message brings bad news. I am right. British Airways has cancelled my flight to Verona on 10 July. But they have not cancelled my return flight on 24 July. I can change the outbound free of charge (or get a refund) but can only change the inbound if I pay for the difference in the cost of the original flight and a new flight. I check the flights. I can get one to Verona on 17 July. I can get one back to London on 01 August which will cost me €19. I re-book both flights. At least a trip to Italy is still a possibility. I am so looking forward to getting back to my beloved Madonna di Campiglio in the Dolomite Mountains and seeing all my friends there.
Non-essential shops opened today. The queue for Primark in Brighton started forming at 3 am this morning. Easyjet started flying again. The first flight was London to Glasgow. From today face coverings are compulsory on public transport and for staff, outpatients and visitors to hospitals. More businesses can open (see note in diary). Football stars again this week but behind closed doors. Crowd sounds will be played to create an atmosphere.
Tuesday 16 June 2020
When Rosmarie and I arrive on the beach at 6 this morning the first person we meet is Dave, the bus driver. He has two dogs, Millie and Marley. Both of them are remarkably lively considering Millie has had both hips replaced by the Supervet and Marley suffers from a heart murmur. Dave has been furloughed and although he found it difficult at first he has come to terms with it. We amble on, slowly. Rosmarie suffers from arthritis and uses walking poles. I pick up litter as we go. I have run out of plastic carrier bags and I am using a bag that once contained nine Andrex toilet rolls. It does the job. As my bag was full by the time we get to the Haven Hotel I continue on my own to the Ferry Bay Car park to empty it in the bins there. The chain ferry is back and lanes have been set up in preparation for queues of cyclists and foot passengers. Despite rumours to the contrary, they will be allowed to use the ferry when it becomes operational again tomorrow. On my way back to the flat I stop to get some milk from the local Tesco. I ask the manager, Andy, if he could spare us some of his plastic carrier bags for litter collecting. He says no as people have been taking photographs of litter piles up around bins featuring Tesco carrier bags. I decide not to tell him I was one of those people and my images have appeared on BBC television and in the national and local press. He very kindly gives me a large wad of bin liners.
Wednesday 17 June 2020
It is very misty this morning when I set off on the bike at 5.30. On my first circuit of the spit, I see a man with a suitcase at the bus stop near the chain ferry. I suspect he spent the night on the beach as no holiday accommodation is open in the area. I wonder if he knows he has nearly two hours to wait for the first bus today. By the time I meet up with Rosmarie, I am very damp from the mist that has been swirling around me. Sadly, we immediately come across lots of litter that has been dropped by the bins (most of them empty) and abandoned amongst the dunes. I clear up the mess around the bins but leave the rest for the council pickers. There is just too much for one person and besides, I want to walk as well. We walk on. By the time we reach the Haven Hotel the contents of my bag include a large glass vase (broken) and two empty champagne bottles. I walk along the path to the Ferry Way car park to empty it in the bins there. As I approach the iron ladder up to the car park the chain ferry looms out of the mist. It is so good to see it back. Now the cyclists can go across to Studland which will reduce the numbers circling the sand spit – at speed. I spend the rest of the day writing and in the evening watch an episode of a favourite series – British Bake Off: The Professionals. One thing I am really missing during lockdown is my visits to a coffee shop to enjoy a decent coffee.
Thursday 18 June 2020
This morning I am just starting a second circuit on my bike when a deer appears on the road in front of me. She clatters off in a panic. I get off the bike and creep slowly around the corner in the same direction fumbling for my iPhone as I go. She has disappeared. I stand and wait. I am rewarded by some movement above me. Looking up I see her gazing at me from the front garden of a large house. I manage to get a photo before she bounds away. I am not sure where she has come from. There are deer on Brownsea Island and they do swim across to the mainland. There are also deer on Studland and in Luscombe Valley Nature Reserve. Today it is very dull and a bit chilly on the beach but this does not keep the regular dog walkers away. It does deter visitors and there is not much litter. On my return to the flat, I join a webinar about Slovenia. Webinars are a new experience for me. Some are very good and impart useful information. Others are just one long dreary advert – but at least I can just switch off. The Slovenia webinar was very good and made me want to jump on a plane and go there. If only. This evening a young couple take up residence in the flat next to mine. After my solitary sojourn here it is strange to have company but quite comforting as there are still people on the beach below us until the early hours of the morning.
Friday 19 June 2020
When I wake at 5 I can hear the rain pattering on the patio door so I text Rosmarie to say I will not be walking today. I suggest we meet tomorrow. I don’t usually walk on the beach at weekends when it gets crowded but it should be okay early morning. Rosmarie responds immediately to say she is happy to do that. I start working on an article about private jet travel. I want to find out if people are chartering private jets as a safeguard (it is easy for social distance) or as a way of getting around border closures and restrictions. I send emails to twenty private jet companies and I am delighted when some reply very quickly. I soon have enough information and images to put together an article which I publish this afternoon. I receive a letter today informing me that my appointment for new insoles next week has been cancelled. This is disappointing as we are being told normal service is being resumed at NHS hospitals. However, I called them to see when I might get another appointment. The news was not good. They cannot predict when I might get another appointment as they are expecting a second spike of covid19 so everything is on hold. I will just have to hope the old insoles do not fall apart before I get another appointment. I have needed insoles since I started having problems with my knees - leading to a total replacement of both knees.
The news breaks today that Boris Johnson is repainting the UK prime minister’s plane changing it from grey to red, white and blue — for $1.1 million. I suspect this is another idea emanating from his lockdown breaking aide Dominic Cummings. Why is he even thinking of his private plane when businesses are going bust, children are missing out on their education and people are struggling to keep going, mentally, physically and financially. The World Health Organisation reported today that the coronavirus pandemic is “accelerating” after a record number of infections were recorded yesterday. Nearly half the newly reported cases were in the Americas, with significant numbers also in south Asia and the Middle East.
Saturday 20 June 2020
I had a restless night last night but no reason for this. It was quiet outside. Maybe lockdown is getting to me. I try to keep occupied but there are times when I wonder how much longer I can remain optimistic. I feel better after exerting myself on a bike ride and then strolling along the beach with Rosmarie. It is still cold but the sun is shining today. I am content to remain in the flat for the rest of the day writing and arranging a visit to the New Forest. Now we know holiday accommodation can start opening up from 4 July, subject to proper safeguards, I thought it would be interesting to re-visit the Balmer Lawn Hotel where I stayed pre-coronavirus lockdown. I am going to take my bike in the car and explore the area around Brockenhurst. Something to look forward to. This evening there are a few small groups of young people huddling together on the beach despite the cold weather. They are using portable barbecues to keep themselves warm.
Sunday 21 June 2020
I awake early this morning as more wild weather rattles the windows. Raindrops lash my balcony door, the wind whistles across the harbour and the road is dotted with mini-lakes. I have run out of bananas to eat with my muesli so I have a coffee while waiting for the local Tesco to open at 7 am. By then the clouds have blown away and the sun is shining. Time for a quick scurry to the supermarket. Kite surfers start arriving soon after I get back to the flat. I watch them battle with an ever-strengthening wind to pump air into the huge kites. It looks as though the kite boarders will win the Battle for the Beach today as there is no sign of the Paddle Boarders. As the day goes on a few paddle boarders do appear and so do a lot more windsurfers. It is amazing how they manage to whizz across the water without colliding with each other. The occasional paraglider drifts across the sky above them. The young couple in the flat next door depart this morning. I am on my own in the block again. But not for long as the owner of the flat below me arrives this evening. Although I know him we don’t make contact – some of us are still very keen on keeping a social distance. I work all day and fall asleep quickly tonight. But I am woken by the blaring of car horns. Curious, I look out of the window. There are some teenagers on bikes, without lights, taking up the whole road to the frustration of motorists trying to get through. The cyclists are probably high on nitrous oxide. I find lots of the little canisters every morning on the beach. They are intended to be used in devices for icing cakes. Instead, they are using them to blow up balloons ...
By 15 June 296,857 people have tested positive and 41,736 of those have died, an increase of 38 in the last 24 hours. Although weekend statistics are always low due to delayed collection of figures. Seven days later, on 21 June, 304,331 people have tested positive and 42,632 of those have died, an increase of 43 over the past 24 hours.
More next week