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Published: April 2nd 2020
I concluded my last Travelblog with the obvious statement, that future releases were going to be thin on the ground in the foreseeable. The UK finally joined the consensus of a lockdown being a smart idea, in the light of the COVID 19 cases rising dramatically by the day. In such as Italy and Spain, the measures had already been in place a while with no obvious effect on the death tolls being reported. TFB started with polite requests, the day after we returned south from our trip to Scotland. However other than the demise of most of the sporting calendar, it seemed business as usual. The schools were still open and the unseasonably warm temperatures, had seen those who were on holiday or had time in their hands head for a stroll in the sunshine. The NEPSR basked in sunshine. The queues stretched out along the bottom prom from the fish and chip restaurant and even the mini golf was dusting down the effects of winter, in anticipation of a bumper pre-Easter trade. The events of the next few days saw the requests turn to instruction. Pubs, restaurants and cafes were ordered to shut up shop as soon as practical
on the Friday night. Takeaways were still permitted, but even that was knocked on the head. The world headed out to exercise. The National Trust closed their houses, but maintained access to the grounds of their properties. They were soon swamped with visiting hordes. News items showed queues of cars heading towards the coast and other areas of natural beauty. It was in the rules laid down by TFB and crew, so the masses thought they were doing as requested. The concept of social distancing hadn't quite caught on at this point. We were in for a bit of a shock in the coming days and before long all unnecessary travel was prohibited, all non essential shops ordered to close and all we had to look forward to was a single bout of daily exercise.
The Man in Montreal came up with the suggestion that I do a blog on the mundane happenings in the new environment, in which are now forced to inhabit. I thought about the probable limited content, but figured if I could write a blog solely about the dwarf population of Wroclaw anything was possible. I wrote that as an experiment to see if content
had anything to do with viewing figures. It currently sits well above some other trips I have recorded, so I concluded not. My normal method of writing a blog is to basically go for a wander and record what I see. In that sense, nothing has changed. As part of my daily permitted exercise, I will record what I see. Alas, there will be no football match at the end of it. We might have to make do with a viewing of two random people from the same household having a kickabout on the park. The Coronavirus Times was thus born.
As I start to write this entry, it coincides with a planned trip to London. The trains were booked and the Travelodge secured at a decent price. We had to pull the plug on the trip to coincide with the new world order. There would have been little point in being there anyway, as pretty much all of London has shut up shop. At the very time I would have been planning to capitalise on the very happy few hours in The Warwick just behind Regent Street, I am sat nursing one of the ever decreasing supplies from
The Steel Thistle
the fridge. The garage is fairly sizeable, but a scouting mission only unearthed a mere 11 cans of Guinness remaining. The good people at Travelodge had done their best to minimise the disappointment at being denied a few days away. The room booking was on Saver Rate, so basically a "no show" means you forfeit your payment. They were allowing a transfer of any Saver booking for a future date up to the end of December 2020. I tapped the computer and was pleasantly surprised to see an E Voucher credit drop into my inbox within an hour or so. You frankly couldn't have wished for anything more from the company, who must also be feeling aggrieved at the damage to their business. The train tickets have proved a little more complicated. I had already picked up the tickets, but as the train company had actually cancelled the 2 journeys we were entitled to a refund. The transaction proved impossible to initiate online, so I awaited a response to my email in good faith. It duly arrived, so what looked like a financial write off situation was averted. In the words of TFB, we weren't being penalised for doing the
Tin Tin & Snowy watch over the titles.....
"right thing". We cancelled our 2 days of holiday at work to carry them forward, so that was another consolation.
I generally work from home most days, so the instructions from the employers to head off into the sunset until further notice hasn't really changed a great deal in my weekday routine. After the initial surge on sorting out tasks to respond to the current situation, the work flows have noticeably diminished. The Ministry of Bus Stops is nothing without buses and most operations are on emergency timetables. If essential travel is the order of the day, you do not really need a 10 minute frequency. The Other Half on the other hand is struggling with the obsolete technology she was handed. There are cries of anguish and much muttering to be heard from our kitchen most days.
There are now new priorities in everyday life. The availability of food is now an important consideration. We spent the days after our return from Scotland stocking up the Outlaw. The recommendations were on the horizon that the over 70s should stay at home, as they were especially susceptible to the impact tod the virus. We therefore left her with
her 2 freezers brimming with choices to prevent the need for multiple visits to any supermarket in the next few weeks. I made a schoolboy error by leaving a pack of 15 cans of Guinness behind. The Government had assured all the availability of essential supplies would not be interrupted, so I adopted the 1914 approach that the situation would revert to normal in a few weeks. It retrospectively seems an optimistic view. The older folk might be at higher risk than others, but they lived "through the War". The bomb at the end of the road didn't get them and there is spirit of invincibility in their dialogue. "The War Years" were also more fun apparently. The routine of her long retirement was in disarray with the cancellation of crafting class, church services and the like were all cancelled. Of course, none of this ranked with the crisis that could be imagined if you couldn't get "a paper". The need to record the My Mail loyalty points was paramount. We returned south to empty shelves and bare freezers. The priority further north had been taken care of, but we found ourselves looking at a bleak selection of products. The
The Recreation Ground
A lack of goalmouth action......
products that had been raised in the last couple of weeks remained missing in action or in very short supply. There was no toilet paper, pasta, rice, eggs and the freezers had been decimated. There will probably be discoveries of toilet roll stashes in households for years to come. I began to feel like Top Cat, scratching around in bins for any scraps left. The simple things in life begin to take on new meaning. Who knew what excitement there was to be had finding a solitary tin of beans hiding on the bottom shelf? It had been missed by those unwilling or unable to bend that far. A balanced and varied diet was now in reach, if only another tin of beans was located. We could have beans on brown bread one day - beans on white bread the next! As well as the bare shelves, the advent of the Coronavirus lockdown has meant other changes to the supermarket experience. The local store has a Disney type queuing system. The barriers snake round a section of the car park. The floor space into which you are channelled is marked out with the 2 metre social distancing measurements, so you
The Bird Feeder
can keep the relevant space gap from the next shopper. The entry door is controlled by security and it is "one in, one out". The checkout staff are protected by perspex screens, making it feel more like a banking arrangement. Cash is frowned up to avoid contact and the rise in contactless transactions will probably see a corresponding rise in fraud, as well as people forgetting their PIN numbers. The breakdown in the arrangements comes in-store, as the shoppers compete for various short supply items. It is as though there has been a mental breakdown and instant amnesia on the processes that they have had to follow to get into the store. In theory, some product lines are being restricted to 3 per customer. However I read with interest that this is now being relaxed, except for such as the new "gold" currency items like toilet roll. Alcohol rationing has also been retained. We are being encouraged to visit weekly, but whether that it the widespread practice is debateable. The shopping experience is also complicated by reduced opening hours and special times for "critical" workers and the vulnerable, older members of society. The former is essentially directed at NHS medical
.......painting in progress
workers, but seems to being widely taken advantage of by all and sundry if reports are to be believed. The latter is catering for the over 70s, who you will recall from a few sentences ago are meant to be isolating indoors.
As we have the inability to roam at will, the focus of activity has now centred on the house. The lawnmower had been in the usual winter hibernation. A creature with a mind of its own, it regularly decides that spring has come too early and steadfastly refuses to start. The trusty petrol Hayter Harrier is approaching a big birthday - it will be 30 next month. I am therefore pleased to report, it fired at the second time of asking in 2020. As any prospect of getting it serviced in the current climate looked remote, I was chuffed to bits. Simple pleasures. The temperatures had prompted the grass to rise towards the sky, so the first cut was possibly overdue. Moss had made itself at home in the wet, but mild winter and with the garden centres closed, attempts to remove it were restricted to multiple scarifying sessions. The neighbours fence blew down in Storm Dennis
and the replacement was looking a bit out of place in colouring to the rest. The Other Half dispatched me into the garage in search of suitable fence paint to rectify the matter. I returned with the disappointing news - I had located a supply. The disappointment was mine, due to the inevitable instructions that would follow and she had me assigned for duty early on Saturday. I looked on the bright side that it had occupied me for a few hours. The weather is set fair for next weekend too and with the clocks changing, we have more daylight on an evening. I await the further instructions, which are guaranteed to follow.
The house inside is now had a mini spring clean, but there will only be so many times that will be happening. The house is full of books to read, but most would be a re-read. As you would probably envisage, most titles relate to travel or football. The time lag on delivery for ordering from such as Amazon is now quite extensive, unless you have invested in Prime. I like the printed word as a rule, but I have resorted to a couple of e-books
in desperation. If you can't go to a football ground, you can always read about going and make future plans. It is travel of sorts and not dissimilar to staring at an atlas in the old days. Mementoes of former travel lie around the house. Others would call them clutter. They remind us of trips past at this time. A piece of genuine 1989 Berlin Wall. Priceless. Well, to me anyway. A piece of Zebra rock only available to those who have ventured to Kununurra, Western Australia. A piece of Crocoite from Zeehan, Tasmania. A carved nutshell from Namibia. The turntable is also getting some hammer. I am digging out material I have not played for a while and dropping it on the turntable. I made a start on a healthy selection of The Cure 12 inch singles. It seemed as good a band title as I can muster in this crisis, as I don't possess any Vaccines material.
The daily exercise directive from central Government allows some respite break from the house. The powers that be are keen on us not driving to a place of exercise, which means the route options are not the most varied. We
The Cure - Lovesong
12 Inch Single
could head towards the canal, but experience soon taught us half the world followed suit. In a normal world, no problem. In a world where social distancing is required, the limited width of a canal towpaths does not allow for a wide berth unless of course you fancy joining the moor hens and the swans in the water. We therefore tramp the streets of our neighbourhood. The walk actually takes longer than usual. We probably walk twice as far, continually crossing the road to maintain distance from others. It is a bit strange too, walking down the middle of the road on a main artery into the city. Traffic is so light, the usual danger in such a practice is absent. The more prosperous enclaves are busy being remodelled. The fashion for spending £600,000 or £700,000 on a property on a large plot and then promptly knocking it down is at the forefront. A number of the creations are tasteful examples of modernist architecture, but others are sadly examples of money overcoming good taste. A few of the resulting creations are now back on the market at obscene sums approaching £3 million. As part of my normal blog process, I
The Chimney Pots.... The King & Queen
would normally be photographing to illustrate my point. However, I figured the inhabitants and their surveillance systems might get the wrong idea and think I was casing the joint. I content myself taking photographs of the spring flowers to add to other random shots from the garden.
The very noticeable addition in all local communities at the moment are the rainbows. Rainbows are a symbol of support for the NHS. Parents have encouraged their kids to embrace the campaign and drawing, canyoning and colouring rainbows now forms part of the home schooling curriculum. They come in all forms - posters in windows, stickers, chalk on the driveway and tree trunks wrapped in colour. The eagle eyed might have noticed in the bookcase photograph, a title called Somwhere Over The Rainbow - a great read by Gavin Bell on a journey round South Africa. It was a partial inspiration for my first entry on this whole Travelblog adventure. I look forward to the day, when we are indeed somewhere over the rainbow and such adventures are an option again.
We walk round to the local churchyard and past the Almshouses. The current situation feels like we are on some
sort of war footing. The plaque on the gate reminds us of yesteryear, when folk did not come home from other conflicts. This time though, we face an unseen enemy.
My blog concludes, as it usually does, with football. My own football "career" is on hold. The outdoor facility operated by the Nottingham Forest Community arm has been closed along with all gyms. The pause at my age is deeply worrying. I have been playing since early childhood and there is a distinct danger of not not getting going again. There will be no match today and the local recreation ground hardly substitutes for the new Wembley of the Midlands. There are no turnstiles, tea huts, golden goal tickets or half time 50/50 draw. If this were the Northern League, the bus shelter on the far side would be the Main Stand. It isn't, it is empty and buses are few and far between. The 3 pitches are largely devoid of life. This could be the forerunner of the "behind closed doors" conclusion to the season. A father and son tamely pass a football between themselves. Mis-control is order of the day, as another ball slips underneath the outstretched
The Main Road
..... a main arterial road into the south of the city - deserted at 1700 hours.
foot. The expression of Dad suggests he has resigned himself not to give up working at any point in the near future, in order to guide the young lads career into the higher echelons of the game. A young Cockapoo - which seems to be the designer dog of choice these days - runs frantically around after his own ball. He looks pleased to be out, but hasn't understood his briefing on social distancing. He rushes through the midfield up to a complete stranger at speed, eager for a spot of fuss. The dog almost takes him off his feet, as he jumps up for the attention. Over the top of the ball on this occasion was an understatement. It is a move that is worthy of a yellow card and could be the worst "tackle" of the afternoon. He is ushered away by his owner, before the stranger gets out the red card. The afternoon ends goalless in front of the minimal attendance.
Stay safe everyone.
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