11th October 2020
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Flags and a Flight in Week 28 of Lockdown
During week 28 of lockdown in the UK I visit two unusual attractions, a memorial to COVID-19 victims on Sandbanks Beach in Dorset and the British Airways i360 in Brighton.
This week I continue my quest for new adventures and experiences. Cocooned in a small flat on my own in southern England it is hard to believe that the north of the country is being ravaged once again by COVID-19 with record-breaking numbers on new cases now a daily event. As more local lockdowns are introduced and closures and curfews in the hospitality industry are considered I keep busy finding new places to visit.
Monday 28 September 2020
This morning I follow my usual routine, two circuits of the spit on my bike and then a walk on the beach. The beach is very unusual today as it is covered in lots of red and white flags. I meet some of my dog walking friends and they tell me the flags are an art installation, a memorial to those who have died from COVID-19. I go back to have a closer look. There is a man standing right in the middle of the flags taking selfies. I walk slowly around the outside trying to get some images of the flags without him in them. This proves to be very difficult so I move closer. I raise my iPhone – he stays put. I lower my iPhone and sigh deeply. I repeat this process at least three times and finally, he realises I want to take a photograph and he moves out of the way. After taking some photos we have a chat. He is the security man guarding the installation, In Memoriam by Luke Jerram. It is part of the Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival. It commemorates those who have died from COVID-19. He does not like me wisecracking about people taking the flags to make bonfires on the beach. Clearly he has no idea what has been going on this summer. This evening I drive back to Hertfordshire.
Tuesday 29 September 2020
Brighton is my destination today. My journey there on the train passes very pleasantly as the train is not busy and the WiFi on board works. I arrive in Brighton just before midday and walk to the seafront. I have an invitation to visit the British Airways i360. When I reach the seafront I immediately spot the needle-shaped tower with a huge donut-shaped viewing platform gliding slowly up it. There is some confusion regarding my booking – the lack of it. The young man in the ticket office sorts everything out and I am on my way. Next stop temperature check and security. I sail through both and emerge in the boarding gate, a large terrace overlooking the beach and the sea. Out to sea are the ragged remains of the old West Pier. Behind me is one of the renovated Italianate toll booths that stood at the entrance to the West Pier before it was destroyed by fire.
I watched the 12.30 pm flight coming in to dock. A majestic sight reminiscent of a science fiction film. The viewing platform dips silently below the terrace. Its passengers disembark and it then rises to our level, the doors slide open and we board. The maximum capacity is 200 but currently reduced to allow social distancing. There is plenty of room to wander around and enjoy the panorama of Brighton and the south coast on both sides. I have been rewarded for my patience at check-in with a token for a drink from the bar. I choose the local Brighton gin mixed with a Garden Tonic. My twenty-five-minute flight passes very quickly. After a quick tour of the souvenir shop, I go next door to the West Beach Kitchen and Bar for some lunch.
I eat inside the restaurant. It does have tables outside on the terrace but it is autumn and getting chilly. My table by the window has a lovely view of the pebble beach and the sea beyond. I start with the excellent house Prosecco (Italian) to toast my successful flight on the i360. Some very interesting dishes are featured on the menu - all using local produce where possible. But, I am in a traditional English seaside town, and the fish and chips are irresistible. I am not disappointed - they are really good. I finish with some local ice-cream. The Brighton Rock flavour really does taste like its namesake.
In the News Today
Boris has to apologise when it becomes apparent today that he does not know the new local lockdown rules he has just introduced in the north and north west of England.
Wednesday 30 September 2020
This morning I settle into my Hertfordshire routine. Work first then a walk. I write two articles and then, as I have run out of milk. I decide to walk to Tesco in Radlett. It won’t be very scenic but I do have a hill to walk down and then up again so it will be good exercise. Even though it is raining it is refreshing to get outside. Radlett Is not very busy and the parking spaces in front of the row of shops are still fenced off to facilitate social distancing. A stark reminder that the pandemic is really happening. I am shocked to find the majority of shoppers in Tesco are not wearing face coverings and no attempt is made to suggest they should be wearing them. I understood face coverings in shops were now mandatory. But PM Boris does deliver his messages in a ‘please, if you don’t’ mind, could you possibly…” manner so it is not surprising. I grab some milk and get out of the store as quickly as I can. I jog back up the hill to the safety of my flat.
Thursday 01 October 2020
This afternoon walked down the hill into Radlett to explore Scrubbitts Wood. I miss the main entrance at my first attempt and walk around the outside of this small wood. Before the town of Radlett came into existence the area was covered by forests which were cleared to make way for agriculture. But some wooded areas remained as houses took the place of cultivated fields. Scrubbitts Wood is in the Green Belt has been designated as an Open Space accessible to the public. I find my way into the wood which has several undulating paths through the trees. I meet a man with a dog and he asks me if I have taken any good pictures. It seems a large camera around one’s neck is as conducive to conversation as a dog on a lead. We meet again, in the High Street, as I am making my way back to the flat. This time we just exchange broad grins.
Friday 02 October 2020
This afternoon I walk down the hill into the centre of Radlett to visit Tykeside Gardens. These public gardens are beside The Brook, a tributary of Tyke Waters that runs through the town. I have read that the gardens include an area known as Lautertal Green that features a large monument. I circle the gardens twice looking for a large monument. Each time I disturb two teenagers canoodling in a dark corner. I sit on a brick wall to work out where this monument might be. I am sitting on it. Three small plaques and embedded in the wall. They are the coats of arms of the two twinned parishes – Aldenham Parish (Radlett is part of it) and the parish of Lautertal in Germany. Lautertal Green is engraved on the wall. Somewhere in Lautertal, there is a similar monument in an area designated Radlett Platz. Mystery solved, photo taken I stroll back up the hill.
In the News Today
Breaking News today – Donald Trump, president of the United States, has tested positive for COVID-19. He is 74 and technically obese plus his attitude on physical activity will all work against him. He believes his body is like a battery, the more he uses it the quicker it will run down. He ranks as the world’s worst for disinformation about COVID-19. He is lagging behind in the race for the presidency and people are already voting as Jo Biden edges ahead of him in the polls.
Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, claims the actions of an SNP MP who travelled by train to Westminster with COVID-19 symptoms are "utterly indefensible, says. Margaret Ferrier is facing calls to resign having also admitted she tested positive before making the return rail journey. The MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, who has been suspended by the SNP, says she deeply regrets her actions and has informed the police. Party leader Ms Sturgeon says: "It's hard to express just how angry I feel on behalf of people across the country making hard sacrifices every day to help beat COVID-19." Ms Ferrier was among the MPs who called on No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings to resign over his visit to north-east England during lockdown. Former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson said if Ms Ferrier "had a shred of decency" she would resign. A few days later Margaret Ferrier defended herself by announcing COVID-19 symptoms make you do strange things.
Saturday 03 October 2020
It is raining when my alarm wakes me at 6 am this morning. I can hear the drops pattering on the window panes. It looks as though it is set in for the day. I have plenty of writing to do, enough to keep me occupied for more than one rainy day. By late afternoon it has stopped raining so I walk into Radlett to savour another piece of its history. I have been reading the history of this little town so I am seeing it in a new light. During the nineteenth century, three large estates flanked Watling Street which goes through Radlett - Kendals, Newberries and Aldenham Lodge. Each estate surrounded a mansion. Their owners enjoyed all the privileges of landed English gentry, renting some of their lands to tenant farmers, and acting as squires in the local community. In those days the houses in the Radlett area were those for workers on the estates. The flintstone cottages in front of the railway station are remnants of that era. They were built by the Phillimore family in 1852. Today they are occupied by small businesses.
Today there is some doubt regarding the accuracy of new COVID-19 cases recorded today. The figure of 12,872 is the highest recorded in the UK during the worst of the first wave in April. But back in April far fewer tests were being done.
Sunday 04 October 2020
I hear the rain on the skylight as soon as I wake up. When I check the news there are flood warnings in some areas of England. Storm Alex is moving in from France. It looks as though I will be spending another day inside. I get up, have some breakfast and work into the afternoon. But I am not really in the mood. The dark, dull day and constant rain is not a day to go wandering – rather one to sit in the warm and dry sipping a gin and tonic. The idea appeals and I have the vital ingredient, a lemon in the fridge. First I have a long soak in a hot bath the aromas of a yin-yang Moulton Brown body wash floating around me. I head for my stock of gin and tonic miniatures – souvenirs from the days British Airways went around Economy with a free drinks trolley. Wrapped in my fluffy, full-length dressing gown I drape myself along my sofa. Ice crackles in my gin and tonic as I check the television guide. The musical, Cats, is about to start. Perfect.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on 28 September, a total of 439,013 (today 4,044) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 42,001 including a daily total of 13. A week later on 04 October, the total of positive cases had risen to 502,978 (today 22,961) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 42,350including a daily total of 33.
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