We knew quarantine was a possibility when we set off for France but is the enforced 14-day self-isolation we now have to endure a price worth paying for a trip abroad? Certainly, I felt refreshed from travelling in France in our campervan again, I enjoyed being back in mainland Europe, following an unplanned path, hearing different languages and discovering new places. Not everyone will think we should have travelled but we tried to be sensible and chose France because the Covid-19 cases were low when we left and we were cautious during our stay. We are able to quarantine, there is nowhere we have to be, so yes, it is worth it but I wouldn’t want to do it again and quarantine is tough. My first thought as I wake every morning is how many days we have completed and how many are left and I am only grateful that this self-isolation has an end date.
I understand how much worse this could be and there are many who have to be in quarantine for longer and for reasons other than a selfish need for a holiday abroad. I am humbled, remembering my house-bound neighbour in Salford. She remained mostly cheerful but rarely went anywhere, had a paid carer who called in once a week for some cleaning and basic shopping and I would visit and complete an internet shopping delivery for her regularly. For two weeks I am experiencing her dependency and I am not enjoying it. I am frustrated that I can’t even nip the short distance to the paper shop for our weekend newspaper while grateful to our kind neighbour who willingly does this. I texted him on Saturday morning and minutes later saw him heading off. He delivered our papers through the letterbox, ‘Should I leave the money in a bowl of vinegar?’ I asked.
At least, unlike my ex-neighbour, we have the IT skills to do our own internet shopping. We don’t usually have supermarket deliveries as our local Lidl is so handy but I signed up and got our first delivery the day after we arrived home. A second delivery should see us through the 14 days and will break up another day but I can’t really get used to not being able to bob out for something forgotten or just desired. This feels more like house arrest than quarantine.
Every day feels the same seen from the same place and I am grateful that the Tour de France had to move to September, as watching the cycling and the wonderful French scenery gives some structure and variety to our day. Our Renault needs a new van battery as it is now coming up for six years old. After an internet search I was excessively excited to find out that they could come to us and fit a new battery on our drive. Hurrah to a day that isn’t another Groundhog Day.
I am happy carrying out a spot of light pruning with the warm sun on my back but generally find gardening more of a responsibility and duty than relaxation. Gardening does get me outside, provide some exercise and pass the time. In these strange times, working in the front garden has become most interesting as I can linger and watch the rest of the world going about its business. I was lurking in the front garden pretending to be gardening when I heard the familiar clink of an empty aluminium can rolling down the street. On automatic I ran out to the road to pick the litter up and put it in our recycling bin. Walking back the 50 metres with the can I realised that could have cost me a £1,000 fine for leaving our home and garden!
We practice tai chi every day for balance and strength but it is the rhythm of walking that I miss the most. Even during lock down we could walk and we covered many miles. Through this quarantine I am like a caged animal pacing around our tiny garden and bungalow. In hindsight we should have booked a holiday cottage in large grounds for at least some of this self-isolation. I appreciate our quarantine is for the good of the wider public health but it isn’t doing much for my own mental and physical health.
In Iceland returning holidaymakers are not treated like lepers. Icelanders are given two coronavirus tests seven days apart, if both tests are negative they only need to quarantine for seven days. On the Isle of Man residents can pay for a test and only need to self-isolate for seven days if it is negative [a risky option as maybe 20-30% of negative results are false]. Unfortunately, England can’t be bothered to come up with anything more humane than 14 days of self-isolation.
We were so careful in France the chances of either of us being infectious with coronavirus is small but if we do have the virus is 14 days long enough to self-isolate? One study suggested that 97% of people will display symptoms within 12 days of transmission [99% will display symptoms after 14 days]. Let’s hope neither of us develops any symptoms as that will make our quarantine even longer. With too much time on my hands, I worry that we might be one of the around 80% who are asymptomatic and wonder why, if travelling to France is so dangerous, no one in authority thinks we should have a coronavirus test.
Reading novels is getting me through these hours and days. They take me to different places and [most importantly] to a world that hasn’t got a clue what coronavirus is. I can curl up in an armchair and lose an hour or more reading, my mind in another place. Without books I would be truly lost.
Am I looking forward to completing the 14 days and being free once again? Of course. And what wonderful thing do we have planned for our first day of freedom I hear you ask. I had thought a walk on the beach to see the view across Morecambe Bay, veggie fry-up at Rita’s Cafe, a browse in the Old Pier Bookshop and coffee at the Beach Bird would be the perfect introduction back into the world but it turns out we have something more mundane to do. My partner needs a dentist appointment and the only date available was first thing on the morning of our release, so our first post-quarantine trip will be travelling back to Salford [no NHS dentist has space on their list within many miles of Lancashire] for a dental appointment. Life has become so topsy-turvy since March 2020 that after 14 days of staying in, even the dentist will be an exciting escape.