We just had a strange week. A real strange week. Nice but not so nice.
These past couple of months information about where we were in the fight against the virus was up and down and up and down again. Back at the end of summer we were foolishly hoping that the coronavirus was almost beaten. But these past few months have just been weird. The media blows really hot and then really cold. One day they say everything is great, we have vaccines, we can all look forward to Christmas. The next day they are saying 2021 is looking scary than 2020 and we will probably be having lots more lockdowns and strict social distancing measures until next summer.
The amount of notice people are given to change their plans is so small. All the non-essential shops in whole swaths of the country are told you can’t open tomorrow. People panic and rush out to stock up on all sorts of things. Everyone’s plans are thrown up in the air. Or sometimes, like in the case of Ben and I, you can be literally up in the air when everything changes down below!!!
By the end of October, statistics started picking up again. England was put into a national lockdown. So Ben made the decision to cancel our flights over to the US for Thanksgiving. We felt it was the right decision. But it became hard for Ben when his mother was taken into hospital after having a small stroke. Ben was anxious. Ben’s sister felt it was all due to his mum being very distressed that Ben (who is the favourite) was not going to visit.
Ben found it a very difficult deciding how to handle Christmas. His folks were anxious to see him, as was his sister. They know we were overseas a few months ago. They know we will be overseas again at the end of January. They kept telling Ben how many of their neighbours children had travelled home for Thanksgiving and seemed upset about us cancelling our plan.
I just kept saying to Ben that I don’t want to put anyone at risk, but I will support him always in his decisions. Ben is so much closer to his family than I am to mine. (That is another subject.) The O’Connor family are also very persuasive – maybe it is a Greek thing. I could tell Ben was keen to comply with their wishes.
Then the media started to broadcast that we had vaccines ready to be unrolled. In addition, the English Prime Minister was giving everyone the green light for five days with family over the holidays. We heard from other American friends who live in England that they would travel back to the US for Christmas. Our area was put into Tier 2 after the National Lockdown. Our current home is in a very rural area, but Ben travels around for work, and I sometimes have had to travel for work too.
So we were packing our suitcase thinking that our trip to the US was safe, with all the precautions airlines have in place. Then three days before we left, we heard that London was being put into Tier 3. We don’t live in London, but we had been into London a couple of times in December to go for walks and outdoor eats with friends. Now we were anxious. We had our Covid tests – negative.
Then, while we were in the air thousands of feet above the Atlantic, the news was breaking that London was being put into Tier 4 and that there was a mutation of the virus that was even more easily spread. When we arrived in the US, we were in shock at reading the news. We checked the UK government website and our village was still in Tier 2 at that time. But because of being in London for visits, between the airport and the home of Ben’s parents we read online media reports sensationalising the new variant and started panicking!
The drama of Ben ignoring the cab line-up and searching for a cab driver who was young and asking if he lived alone or had contact with anyone vulnerable was one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen my gorgeous Ben do! I also thought the cab driver was kinda quick to yell that we were his friends to other drivers. Ben insisted on loading up our luggage into the trunk of the cab himself and then said we ought to double up our face-masks so as not to put the driver at risk.
Ben decided that we would wear facemasks and keep at least a two metre distance from his family the whole time we were under their roof, and that there would be no hugs and kisses. What a weird way to visit family! But that is exactly what we did.
When we left England, our area was in Tier 2. But now we are back, we are also in Tier 4. That means virtual lockdown. But to be honest, it has been like lockdown for us over in the US. Ben thought it best for the two of us to stay out of sight, so that our presence did not disturb anyone. People are scared about the virus. If the neighbours knew we were coming from the south of England with this new variant of the virus, they may be upset. We were up in the air when it was all being announced.
I can’t let myself worry. Ben has said not to worry too. We departed from England thinking it was safe. We got there. It all went smoothly. We had our own bedroom and en-suite bathroom, which was the only bathroom we used the whole time we were there. They were the only rooms in which we moved freely. We wore facemasks as soon as we exited the bedroom. We were concerned that we don’t want to make any of Ben’s family ill.
I was grateful that Ben gave me the task of sanitising everything “communal” several times a day – light switches, door and cupboard handles, bannister rails, kettle, tea and coffee jars, milk cartons. I took my role very seriously! Ben asked me to keep changing the hand towels and tea towels.
Ben arranged distance between us and his family by moving furniture around so we were always on the opposite side of the room from the others, and wearing facemasks while we chatted and laughed. Ben and I always sat separated from the others and near to an open window, which I think accounts for the crick in my neck – all that cold wintry air wrapping around us. Dinnertimes were hilarious. Ben said we would take shifts for breakfast. He did not want us all criss-crossing and using the toaster and the kettle at the same time.
On Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day, we got dressed up for dinner and had a real nice family meal. Ben decided he and I would dine at our own small table which he positioned four metres away from the main dining table – with us sitting next to the open French doors, which made our food go cold very quickly. Four metres because we obviously could not wear a facemask to eat.. I felt like he and I were on the naughty table.
But we have still had a great time. Ben’s sister is very confident in the kitchen. She has worked as a professional caterer. I was more than happy for her to decide what to cook. I prepared all the potatoes and vegetables for her to do her magic. She occupied the kitchen. I worked in the utility room which has lots of work surface and a large sink. So we were working in different rooms.
I wanted to go for walks so much, but we couldn’t. Ben did not want us to be seen around the neighbourhood even at night. So I tried to do a work-out in the bedroom and I skipped in the utility room. It is so hard to eat that much food and not be able to go for a long walk.
The US coverage of the new strain of coronavirus that was discovered in England and is now popping up all over the world was scary. We felt like we were bringers of the plague. I saw Ben stressed but trying to be practical and make the most of the fact we were there. His mother was clearly thrilled that Ben had come. He spent a long time talking with his parents. I was mostly trying to make myself useful or talking on the phone with my parents.
Now that we are back, we are quarantining of course. For now, the two of us can be content which each other’s delicious company. Although we are in a rural village, our area is now in Tier 4, so I imagine our life is not that dissimilar to our neighbours right now.
Not long after we are out of quarantine, we are supposed to be travelling again. A number of countries have barred travellers from England, so Ben has been on the phone to his boss asking how that effects us. I think it may be a case of we don’t know until the day before whether we are allowed to travel. Decisions that effect people’s work, lives, vacations, education, and all sorts of other areas of life seem to be made at a moment’s notice leaving us with so little time to plan or be prepared.
Ben said we will pack anyway, and be prepared for the possibility of a sudden last minute departure. I would be relieved if the trip is cancelled or postponed. There are always projects here in the UK that Ben can be kept busy with. I have to say travel is freaky at the moment – it is not enjoyable, it is kinda stressful at every step of the journey and you have to be prepared for any kind of chaos. Personally, I would not recommend it unless you have to – mainly because now we are told the virus is becoming more easily transmissible – if we had known that before we were above the Atlantic, we would never have travelled – and also because travel is not much fun at all anymore.