18th October 2020
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Local Lockdowns Proving Ineffective in Week 29 of Lockdown
Week 29 of Lockdown in the UK is a week of uncertain weather but I still manage to get out nearly every day to explore my locality. And learn some more history of the area.
As the number of infections continues to increase at an alarming rate there is talk of another lockdown, a circuit breaker, to control the rate of infection. Discussions rumble on all week and finally, England opts for a three-tier system. What will be will be. I had hoped to sneak in another holiday but most of Europe is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of cases and travel is severely restricted once again.
Monday 5 October 2020
More pattering of rain on the skylight when I wake at 6 am this morning but the forecast promises better weather on the way. As lockdown continues this is one of the worst scenarios, prolonged bad weather. I can find places to visit locally in good weather but it becomes much harder when the weather is bad and indoor attractions are subject to pre-booking and limited numbers. Television is full of The Best of … The Greatest Moments … The Top Ten … not my favourite entertainment. Strictly Come Dancing is about to make a COVID comeback but the introduction of a same-sex couple does not enthuse me. However, I am excited at the thought of lunch with some friends. And I am not disappointed. We eat at the White Horse in Shenley village.
COVID-19 safeguards are in place. Wearing face masks to enter we sanitise our hands before registering our presence on the NHS track and trace app. The tables are nicely spaced to accommodate social distancing. We are soon seated and perusing the interesting menu. I really enjoy my Asian-Style Crispy Duck Salad. And coffee with a mini-dessert is a great idea. After eating we head for the local Tesco to do a food shop. The store is comfortably empty when we arrive but suddenly fills up. Most of the shoppers are not wearing masks and a long queue for the checkout makes social distancing impossible. I offer to pick up some items we can only get in the pharmacy next door and escape to the safety of an empty shop. When I return Tesco staff are monitoring the number of people in the store and I am unable to get back inside and join my friend. So I wait outside until she comes out. If the pandemic is teaching me one thing, it is patience.
It is reported today that experts have advised that contacts of those who contract coronavirus should ideally be tracked down within 48 hours. So the track and trace app is not working and another major glitch has been discovered - nearly 16,000 cases of coronavirus were not reported, an error with potentially serious implications. The rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the UK, particularly the north of England, means more lockdowns are likely. A leaked government document suggests that a new three-tier lockdown system is planned for England. And some more bad news – we are told a vaccination is not going to be available any time soon.
Meanwhile, yesterday in America, Donald Trump engaged in a drive-by outside the Walter Reed Medical Centre where he is being treated for COVID-19. This irresponsible behaviour, endangering his own staff, is a clear indication he does not understand the seriousness of the virus. Today Trump returned to the White House and told Americans to get out there and not be afraid of the virus.
Tuesday 6 October 2020
I wake to another dull dark day at 6 am. But the weather clears by midday so I get the bus to Shenley village. Lured back by the beautiful foliage I had noticed when we drove through the village yesterday. After taking some photos of the creepers on the wall of the Walled Garden I find a lovely circular walk through Shenley Park, cross country and into the village itself. This path takes me through Woodhall Spinney before I emerge at the far end of the village. I walk back along the main road past the old school house and the church. I linger for a while by the village pond. There is a tiny prison by this pond. The Roundhouse Jail, known as The Cage, was built around 1700. It was soon being used as an overnight prison. Toilet facilities were a hole in the floor draining into the pond. Relatives had to bring food and water to the miscreants. The Cage was last used in 1860 when a thief was imprisoned for one night and one day.
Wednesday 7 October 2020
This morning I have an appointment for the flu jab. I have had this since I started working as a tour manager over twenty years ago. As the average age of my groups often exceeds sixty the surgery had suggested I should have the jab every year – to protect my clients rather than me! But this is the first time I have been injected in a tent in the surgery car park. It is all very well organised and I am soon done and on my way to Watford. I intend to follow a trail around the town, the Wizards of Watford. It is fun searching for clues to complete the quest even though I am on my own. I don’t know Watford very well but I am discovering it has an interesting history. I start at the huge hornet stainless steel and bronze hornet hovering outside Costa Coffee on the High Street. It represents the nickname of Watford Football Club. The Hornets became the new nickname of the club when it changed to a new home kit of yellow and black. The trail takes me along the banks of the River Colne. Here I find an interesting statue of a diver. He stands on the place that was a freshwater lido in the early 1900s. Watfordians used to swim in the river here. Back in the centre of town, my quest takes me through the churchyard and down to a large water feature at the far end of the High Street before returning to my starting point. I did the whole trail in the allotted two hours and only failed to find one clue – I felt very proud of myself.
Thursday 8 October 2020
It is raining again when I wake up. It does not look as though it is going to stop. It doesn’t stop all day. I watch the news while I am having some breakfast and soon become engrossed in the main item. The last two Boeing 747s in the British Airways fleet are flying out of London Heathrow for the last time this morning. They had planned a synchronised take-off but it was not possible due to bad weather. It found it quite emotional. Since becoming a writer for the aviation website, Travel Radar, I have developed an interest in the subject. As I watch the two plans taking off I realise this would be a good topic for the website. I do some research and discover that British Airways has been flying the Boeing 747 since 1970. The early retirement of this popular plane, known as the Queen of the Skies has been precipitated by the dramatic decrease in air traffic caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
It is official. England is expected to be carved into three different lockdown tiers next week, with millions of people facing tougher restrictions. Pubs, restaurants and leisure facilities are expected to be closed in parts of the North. Under the proposals, people living in the strictest tier - tier three - are also expected not to be allowed to have any social contact with anyone outside their household in any setting. This goes a step beyond the current rules in Northern cities with high infection rates such as Newcastle and Liverpool - where people can meet other households outdoors - but not in their garden or a pub garden. The strictest tier will also come with a financial compensation package for businesses forced to shut up shop.
Friday 9 October 2020
As the sun has come out and the sky is blue this morning I decide to go for a walk. My adventure today is motivated by a news item encouraging people to get close to nature. It discussed how gardens are helping people during the COVID-19 pandemic. For those without a garden it was suggested an alternative is to love the trees in your road. So I set off to find some trees to love. And walked around Radlett for two hours. I start on Gills Hill Lane. Oak Close a small cul de sac off this road was the site of the Radlett murder in 1823. The victim, William Weare, a gambler, was in Radlett for a weekend of gambling. He was killed in Radlett but his body was disposed of in a pond in nearby Elstree. Apparently, a gambling debt was at the heart of this crime. It became the subject of many books and stage plays and is also commemorated by a rhyme. Walking down Gills Hill Lane and into Gills Hill it is hard to believe this prestigious residential area populated with trees and grand houses could ever have been the scene of such a notorious crime. and tree.
Saturday 10 October 2020
After a morning catching up on some writing I am lured outside to explore a park I have passed many times on the bus, Oxhey Park in Watford. I approached through the Bushey Arches that carry trains into nearby Bushey Station. Once through the arches, I joined the path that hugs the bank of the River Colne. I passed a bridge over the river. On the far side of this river, there is a large adventure playground, and the shouts of children having fun echoed around the park. I walked by the river for a while and then I noticed a large wooden art installation at the top of a large, grass-covered slope. I climbed up to have a closer look and discovered the Oxhey Conker, created by David Gross. It is impressive – a large scale version of the glossy conkers scattered around my feet.
From my vantage point, I have great views across the river to the town of Watford. It is lovely to see so many families outside enjoying themselves and plenty of space to remain apart from everyone else. I feel energised and ready for some more work when I get back to the flat. My aim is to finish an article due to be published online tomorrow so that I can return to Dorset early tomorrow morning. I succeed.
Sunday 11 October 2020
I leave Hertfordshire at 6.30 am this morning. I have a good run down to Sandbanks and I am unloaded and ready for breakfast by 9 am. It is a lovely sunny morning and it feels so good to be back here enjoying great views of Poole Harbour. This afternoon I am going for a walk with some people I have ‘met’ on the website Nextdoor Sandbanks. We are going to walk around the lake in Poole Park. I was going to cycle to the park but just before I am due to leave dark clouds gather. I decide to take the bus and, as I wait at the bus stop, it starts raining. As the meeting place is The Kitchen, a café in the park I decide I will still go as tea and cake would be a good alternative if we can’t walk. The rain has stopped by the time I get to the park and I have time to walk for a while before meeting the others. The sun has come out again and it is very pleasant. As I stroll past the tennis courts I notice a stray tennis ball on the path. I pick it up and walk over to the tennis courts. The owner is watching me. I try to throw the ball, overarm, back onto the court. It hits the stop netting and rebounds nearly hitting me in the face. I duck just in time and then have to chase the ball down the path. I have another go, underarm this time and it sails over the netting on to the court.
Just four of us walk together around the lake. One of my new companions is not a good walker and we are soon some way behind the other two. I don’t mind, just being outside is enough for me. But my companion is adamant she is going to have a rest and then turn back. I join the two in front of me. The conversation turns to COVID-19 as it always seems to these days. One of my companions announces she does not feel obliged to wear a face mask as it infringes her civil liberties. Wow, do people seriously think that civil liberties should take priority over the health of other people? It seems they do. But I say nothing as it is already clear this lady is not for turning. On completion of our circuit there follows a long discussion we discuss the possibility of tea and cake in The Kitchen. Two for and two against. Two of us find a table with two ladies already seated in the café – they had intended to walk with us but arrived too late. It is an enjoyable interlude and very COVID-19 safe. A lovely afternoon and good to meet up with people who like walking.
Some Government Statistics
By 5 pm on October 5, a total of 515,571 (today 12,594) positive COVID-19 tests have been recorded and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 42,369 including a daily total of 19. A week later on 11 October, the total of positive cases had risen to 603,716 (today 12,872) positive tests, and the cumulative total of deaths within 28 days of a positive test is 42,350 including a daily total of 65.
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