The one where I start planning for the easing of restrictions, reflect on the Europe of thirty years ago and we get ready to abandon the Dublin Dodge in favour of the Spanish Swerve and the Paris Pause.
So there appears to be a light at the end of this super-weird tunnel that we find ourselves in. Things are getting back to normal, or to the ‘new normal’ at least.
It is strange how our fear of the virus suddenly disappears when the weather turns nice. People who had been refusing to come out of their houses or had been screaming at anyone who came within 10 metres of them at the supermarket are now suddenly out celebrating the new freedoms.
Beaches have been packed to capacity. This is hard if you live in a beach town and find it crammed with traffic, strewn with litter and devoid of any semblance of social distancing. I can’t remember the last time I went to the recycling bin and didn’t find at least one person peeing there (Note to Brighton council: if you are going to allow cafes to serve beer through little hatches then you need to open toilets).
I’m really torn. On the one hand I think we’re nowhere near ready to open the economy fully, but on the other I feel as if I will explode if I’m not able to get a haircut and take a little trip soon. Not necessarily in that order.
It’s ok for people who have a garden/have a car/have friends or family nearby/are living off a fixed income to lecture the rest of us about how it’s too soon, but for those of us who are barely surviving, with our anxiety levels through the roof, we need the chance to make up our own minds based on our own health and how much we want or need to do a certain activity.
We have seen non-essential shops open a couple of weeks ago, although we still weren’t suppose to travel on bus or train to get to them. We have to wait another week before pubs, hairdressers and hotels are officially permitted to open.
It’s unlikely I will go to a crowded pub, because I’m not so bothered about them, although I’ll happily enjoy a meal in a pub garden during the week when it’s less busy. I am still attempting to make a hair appointment, but probably for just a cut rather than for a colour, so I can be in and out within an hour. Like I said, we all need to make our own decisions and weigh up the pros and cons.
Most importantly, there is talk of air bridges to other countries with lower levels of infections, so that tentatively we will see the end to the FCO warning against all foreign travel (invalidating any insurance should you insist on travelling) and the end to the requirement for 14 days of quarantine when you come back into the UK (as long as you visit places the government have decided to green-light’).
Two new phrases have entered our vocabulary, to join the Dublin Dodge (where you travel back through Dublin to avoid quarantine). There is now the Spanish Swerve (where you travel through Spain to avoid the quarantine that is likely to remain attached to Portugal), and the Paris Pause, where you use Paris to change planes from pretty much anywhere else.
Quarantine always had more to do with the government playing to the xenophobic gallery of middle England than it did with any real belief that we are saving lives. In order to have any impact, it needed to be brought in right at the start of the pandemic and not now when we have one of the highest incidence in Europe.
I am waiting to see how things progress before I book an overseas trip. I’m in no hurry, although I’m rather afraid that if I leave it too long we will be back in lockdown and I will have missed my chance.
It’s unclear how much will be open when we do get to our destination anyway; if you just want to lie on the beach and drink Sangria that’s probably no problem, but if you’re looking to do anything more quirky/interesting then you may be out of luck.
Some people are saying that Europe will be like the Europe of thirty years ago, before mass tourism made many of the destinations untenable. It might be a good opportunity to visit places like Dubrovnik or Venice, without the cruise liners and the crowds. I haven’t made any decisions yet though and I’m waiting to see what is possible.
Meanwhile I am celebrating the change of travel regulations with a hire car and a two-day trip around the South Downs National Park in Southern England. I am expecting hill walks, country pubs, white cliffs and the odd castle or two (which may remain closed, but whatever).