26th March 2022
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 104 Some Spring Outings
After enjoying some days out in Dorset this week I head back to the Italian Dolomites for the last ski of this winter.
Spring arrives in Dorset during week 104 of the coronavirus pandemic. A very different spring from last year when we were locked down. It brings with it extremes of weather, sunny days interspersed with periods of heavy rain. I spend a day training on Brownsea Island and a day exploring the Purbecks before flying off to Madonna di Campiglio, a fabulous mountain resort in Italy. It will be strange to be subject to compulsory COVID restrictions again now England has lifted all of them.
Monday 14 March 2022
Today is a day of writing reports and submitting expenses after returning from a trip to Folgaria yesterday evening. Yesterday evening I did a small shop in the local Tesco and could not resist some Portobello mushrooms reduced to 10% of the original price. Now I have no idea what to do with them so have challenged my friend, who is joining me for supper, to do something with the mushrooms and 2 chicken breasts I have retrieved from the freezer and which are not defrosting nicely in the kitchen. My friend brings some chicken thighs and vegetables to go with the mushrooms and chicken breasts. He roasts the chicken and adds the mushrooms and vegetables to some rice. It is a very tasty meal. Before eating we have a gin and tonic while admiring an amazing sunset over Poole Harbour.
UK data reveals 56 per cent rise in recorded COVID-19 cases Government statistics show 399,820 people tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the UK between 5 and 11 March, an increase of 143,956 (56.3 per cent) on the previous seven days. Ministers are also being urged to consider offering older people a fourth vaccine dose.
In the News Today
What will happen to Buckingham Palace now the Queen has 'permanently' moved out? Buckingham Palace's future is looking pretty questionable following news that the Queen has "permanently" moved out. According to a royal insider, the next royal inhabitant at Buckingham Palace will be Prince Charles and his wife Camilla Parker-Bowles.
China faces consequences if it helps Russia, warns US Russia has appealed to China for military equipment and support to sustain its invasion of Ukraine, senior US officials have said. With the country’s economy struggling from increased sanctions, Moscow has turned to Beijing for aid.
Tuesday 15 March 2022
As I did not set my alarm last night it is a very leisurely start to the day. After a late breakfast I set off for a walk with my friend. We walk around Poole Harbour and then along the short promenade below Evening Hill. We sit for a while enjoying the view across Poole Harbour to Brownsea Island. An indignant black-headed gull loudly expresses his displeasure at our presence which is very amusing. We head for the village of Lilliput and stop there for a coffee and a delicious almond croissant at Mark Bennett’s a very popular patisserie.
We continue towards Poole Park via thee the path around the harbour. Blue and yellow ribbons flutter from the benches by the path illustrating global support for Ukraine following the Russian invasion. Just before we get there we cross the road and buy some fish and chips from Parkway Fish and Chips. We take these into Poole Park and sit on a bench to eat them. It is a lovely sunny day. Luckily for us the local seagull population is distracted by some other people lunching al fresco who arrived before us. We walked part of the way back and then jumped on a bus to complete the journey home.
In the News Today
Gas and oil could be rationed in the UK amid 'crazy' price increases, MPs warn to help counter the growing global energy crisis. Petrol has hit more than £1.70 a litre at the pumps, and experts have warned that household energy bills could surpass £3,000 a year – a doubling of prices.
Thousands sign up to host refugees Nearly 44,000 people in the UK signed up to offer a home to a Ukrainian refugee within five hours of the scheme's launch, with Communities Secretary Michael Gove saying the UK has a history of "supporting the most vulnerable during their darkest hours"..
Russia's advances stalled - US official Nearly all of Russia's military offensives in Ukraine remain stalled, according to a senior US defence official. Even so, Russia continues to bombard cities, with reports of at least two large explosions in the west of the capital, Kyiv, early on Tuesday.
Wednesday 16 March 2022
An early start today as my car is being service and MOT'd and I will be waiting for it to be done. I swing confidently into the wrong entrance on arrival but rather than face a battle with fast-moving traffic on a main road I just hand over the keys and let the garage sort it out. British Airways requests submission of relevant documents for my flight to Italy. I have already done this – a passenger location from for Italy and a record of my three COVID vaccinations. Twenty-four hours later I am still waiting for them to be validated so I can do an online check in. So, I start a conversation with BA via their Twitter account and 11 messages later we establish the passport number on my booking is incorrect. I had changed it in my passenger details but a totally different number and expiry date has been recorded. Once that has been corrected my documents are quickly validated – have they not heard of error messages? It is a horrible day, wet and windy. When I get back to my flat I am sad to see that the flowers in the garden, so pert and pretty yesterday, have bowed to a battering from the weather.
Heathrow drops face mask rule at its terminals, railway stations and office buildings, although it is continuing to recommend that they do. Passengers are still required to wear face masks on flights if the country they are travelling to requires it.
Brexit festival is ‘recipe for failure’ and an irresponsible use of £120m of public money. Shrouded in confusion even as it begins the controversial Unboxed festival is a “recipe for failure” and a “prime example” of a large-scale project with aims that are “vague and ripe for misinterpretation”.
In the News Today
Russia and Ukraine 'draw up 15-point peace plan' that would bring a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops – in return for commitments from Kyiv to become a "neutral" country and accept limits on the size of its army.
Thursday 17 March 2022
We are going to Brownsea Island today for some training prior to the island opening to the public this weekend. To save time I cycle to the National Trust shed on Sandbanks to get a parking permit. I whizz back to the flat and start preparing breakfast and a packed lunch for myself and my friend who is also a volunteer on Brownsea Island. We are in plenty of time for the first training session for volunteer pier wardens which lasts just over an hour.
After the pier warden training we go straight into the Visitor Experience training. It is lunchtime when this training finishes so we take some chairs out on to the balcony of the Sea Loft, where the training was held, and enjoy the fresh air and wonderful views over Poole Harbour while we eat our lunch.
After lunch we go and have a look in the Engine Room which has been turned into a little museum relating the history of Brownsea Island. We take photos of each other as the face of Baden Powell, the man who started the scout movement with a camp on Brownsea Island in 1907. Next we walk to the Visitor Centre which has been revamped to concentrate on activities. A manager is working there and puts on two videos for us – red squirrels in nesting boxes with their babies and a blue tit with her babies. These videos were not made on the island but as we have red squirrels and blue tits nesting here they are relevant. Now we have done our training we can look forward to doing some shifts on Brownsea Island.
Has Covid become less dangerous than flu? Most people infected with Covid-19 in England now have a marginally lower risk of dying than people who catch seasonal flu, owing to “a combination of high levels of immunity and reduced severity of the Omicron variant”.
Hong Kong running out of coffins as it suffers a surge in Covid deaths. The president of the city’s Funeral Business Association said that Hong Kong would use up its remaining 300 coffins within the next two to three days.
Friday 18 March 2022
I spend today exploring the Purbecks with my friend. We stop in the village of Kingston situated at the highest point of the Purbecks. We have a coffee at a lovely old pub, Scott Arms. Sitting outside in the garden we enjoy the view of Corfe Castle two miles away. Scott Arms is a very old inn with a rabbit warren of rooms inside whose walls are decorated with paintings in every style imaginable.
Next stop Worth Matravers where we have lunch at the Square and Compass – homemade meat pasty and Dorset apple cake. We sit in the garden to eat on a stone seat at a large stone table. This area of the garden looks as though the furniture has been recovered from Stonehenge.
After eating we go for a walk and follow a path down to the cliff top. It is a lovely walk up hill and down dale. When we reach the cliff top we sit for a while on the grass and marvel at the great views of the Jurassic Coast. Behind us is one of the old quarries where the famous Purbeck stone was gathered.
In the News Today
Putin lays out peace terms Vladimir Putin has set out his demands for a peace deal with Ukraine during a phone call with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The main demand is that Ukraine should be neutral and should not apply to join Nato, undergo a disarmament process to ensure it wasn’t a threat to Moscow, and there would need to be protection for the Russian language in Ukraine and a “de-Nazification” effort.
P&O sackings are ‘dastardly’ Anger is growing after P&O Ferries sacked 800 staff without giving them any notice. P&O Ferries sacked nearly a quarter of its staff yesterday via a video message. Men in balaclavas were seen removing crew members from ships. Unions have called for mobilisation.
Saturday 19 March 2022
My taxi arrives at 2.10 am and takes me to the coach stop for my National Express coach to Heathrow, Terminal 5. I am going back to Italy but this time it is a holiday not work. As the coach goes directly to Heathrow, via Ringwood, Southampton and Winchester, I can relax and catch up on some sleep. This holiday has been changed five times due to COVID and I had booked my flight during lockdown when Club class was a very good price, so I am travelling in style today. As soon as I have checked in I make my way to the British Airways lounge for some breakfast and a small glass of champagne.
The flight to Verona leaves on time and arrives a few minutes early. I enjoy the comfort of Club class and a second breakfast. At Verona I have a three-hour wait for my transfer to Madonna di Campiglio. It is possible to get there on public transport but it involves three changes and takes a minimum of four hours. In the winter there is service at weekends known as the FlySki shuttle. The convenience of this shuttle makes the wait worthwhile and I always have some work to do. I arrive at the Hotel Lorenzetti late afternoon. After checking in I get the hotel shuttle bus into town where I catch up with some friends – it has been nearly two years due to COVID – and hire some skis. I am delighted to find the skis I have been using for the past few years have been put to one side for me.
Hotel Lorenzetti has always had a good reputation for its excellent food and COVID has not damaged that reputation. I have smoked salmon as my starter followed by fillet steak in a pepper sauce and a huge mixed salad. Due to coronavirus pandemic salads are now served at the table rather than being set out on a buffet. But this is the only noticeable change and no doubt the buffet will be restored when Italy ends all restrictions at the end of March.
In the News Today
More than 2,500 Russian bodies ‘sent to Belarus in dead of night’ to disguise the true number of casualties in Ukraine, doctors have suggested. Locals in the Homel, a region in south eastern Belarus less than 150 miles north of Kyiv, have told of hospital wards crammed full of “terribly disfigured” soldiers and morgues overflowing with corpses.
Sunday 20 March 2022
Another innovation due to COVID is the purchase of ski passes which has to be done online. I hope it is as straightforward as promised. I use the code given to me by the hotel to take advantage of the low season discount. I don’t accept the offer to include insurance as I have my own. Insurance is compulsory when skiing here and must include third party liability. My QR code to collect my ski pass from a machine by each cabin lift is emailed to me within a few minutes of completing the transaction. When I arrive at the Pradalago cabin lift I collect my ski pass from the ticket office as all the machines are being used to validate ski passes – this has to be done every day. I present my code and my COVID passport and I am soon on my way to the top of Pradalago – after a slight blip as I have forgotten to remove my old ski pass from Folgaria two weeks ago. It has been through the wash and is in a sorry state but still prevented me from getting through the barrier.
I start skiing from the top of Pradalago – my favourite starting point. It is still early and the slopes are empty. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and a light mist wreathes the slopes across the valley. I ski the slopes at the top several times using the short Zeledria chair lift to return to the top. After a while, I ski all the way down to the bottom where I discover the Fortini chair lift has been replaced by a new Fortini Cabin lift. To get on this lift I have to ski across the bridge. People are waiting to go through the gates which are blocked. I suspect they only let a certain number of people through. Another nod to COVID. This lift has ten heated seats and holes in the floor for skis which are taken inside. While I was waiting for the gates to open again there was a rebellion. Skiers climbing over the barrier or ducking under it - then someone found a gap and everyone started pouring through it that shouting they had paid for a ski pass. Bewildered staff could not do anything to stop the flood of people. I waited until the gates started working again and, despite people trying to push me out of way I was able to jump into a half-empty cabin straightaway and was soon back at the top. I stop for a coffee at Ristorante Viviani – café con ginseng.
After my break I ski down to the bottom of Pradalago and turn off on to the run that goes to the bottom of the Spinale cabin lift. I take this lift to the top of Spinale where I discover a new chair lift at the top. I ski down the slopes beside this lift to find the start of this lift. It starts from the nursery slopes at the bottom of a new, wide blue run in the Grosté ski area. This chair has six heated seats and a hood that can be pulled down for shelter when it is cold or snowing. I carry on past the new chair and go all the way down to the nursery slopes. These slopes are not in use due to a lack of snow. The last natural snowfall was on January 5 and since then they have been making artificial snow during the night to cover the pistes. This snow has improved a lot over the years and is now as good as natural snow. But, it is a strange landscape with stripes of white on otherwise bare slopes.
I leave the nursery slopes on an old, very slow two-man chair. As it is warm and sunny it does not matter that it takes a long time. From the top of this chair lift I ski down the run Fortini to the bottom of Grosté. My legs are telling me they have had enough for one day so I call the hotel for the shuttle bus and go back to the hotel for lunch followed by a lazy afternoon and another lovely dinner this evening in the hotel’s elegant restaurant.
Booster jabs from next week - people in England will be invited to book an additional Covid booster. The jab is being offered to adults over the age of 75, care home residents and the most vulnerable over-12s, with around five million people in the UK eligible.
In the News Today
Plans for Queen to pace herself her workload has been “under review” as palace aides work with royal doctors and she is “unlikelyto ever undertake hours of investitures again”. Duties that require her to walk significant distances or stand for extended periods will be curtailed.
PM compared Ukrainian struggle to Brexit and is under fire for comparing the struggle of Ukrainians to people in Britain voting for Brexit. In a speech to the Conservative Party's spring conference, the PM said Britons, like Ukrainians, had the instinct “to choosefreedom”.
Boris tells Zelensky: I’ll push Ukraine’s interests at key NATO summit and will use a top-level meeting of Nato leaders this week to “advance Ukraine’s interests” as Vladimir Putin’s troops commit more “abhorrent attacks”. He also stressed that Britain would be stepping up its economic, military and diplomatic efforts to help Ukraine and to seek to bring the war to an end.
Some Government Statistics
The government has changed the way it reports COVID-19 statistics and no longer gives daily totals but from Monday to Friday it gives a 7-day total with no statistics reported on Saturday and Sunday. In the last 7 days, by Friday 18 March, the number of people who tested positive is 552,198 bringing the cumulative total to 20,093,762. The number of deaths within 28 days of positive test is 752 in the last 7 days bringing the cumulative total of deaths to 163,511. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate this week 185,273 an increase this week of 814.
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 four books she turned to online travel writing.