I’ve Become A Nervous Traveller

In an effort to be super-organised, I prepared my posts for this week in advance. When I looked at it, I realized, everything has changed over the weekend. So my plans were all changed on Saturday. I will not be seeing my family at all this week. That is because I live in London. We are in Tier 4. So it would be very wrong of me to travel up to the North of Wales or England. So I will be here – probably catching up reading and cleaning my little nest thoroughly.

Anyway…here is the post I originally scheduled for today!

Transport, Road, Outdoors, Travel, Train

I am hoping for a smooth journey, but secretly anxious, What if it all goes wrong? What if it is a travel disaster? It’s been such an odd year, what if the rail networks cannot cope with the influx of travellers?

On Thursday I will be taking my suitcase to work and after working most of the day, I will head to the railway station for a three hour journey ahead of me. The following morning we will drive into Snowdonia.

I have made this journey countless times, but this year I feel nervous, much more nervous than ever before.

I am going to take a book to read on the train. I have some books written by bloggers that I want to start reading so that I can add them to CARAMEL’S CORNER Book Reviews. It will be a great opportunity to read.

In the past, the train journey would have been horrendous – crammed in like sardines, people sitting on the floor near the doors to train if there was space to do so. I believe this year will be different. I am told we will be on socially distanced trains. I hope so. I really hope so. Otherwise I am going to be super scared about seeing my parents.

First Car Fling

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Passing my driving test was the most amazing feeling on earth! I remember looked in the newspaper to see if there were any cars I could afford. For £300 I had my very own set of wheels.

That night after I picked up my new car, my friend Adrian and me went for a drive. I drove and I drove and I drove. Adrian and I sang our hearts out all the way from Milan in Italy, all the way to Edinburgh in Scotland!!

Woooh hooh! Driving license is the greatest freedom! No looking back for me!

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The short post above was my response to the….

…hosted by Cyranny’s Cove

£11 For An Entire Carriage

I mentioned in another post that when we travelled up north recently, we paid £11 for each ticket. Normally I am thankful just to be able to have a seat. Many a time I have been on that train and it has been packed….every seat taken and people standing up all along the central aisle as well as in the open space near the doors.

But for £11 each, we ended up with an entire carriage to ourselves!

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It was kind of bizarre. However, all my anxieties over travel were allayed when I realized we were being well looked after at Euston and on our own for the entire journey. If it wasn’t for the bizarre station staff at the end destination I would have been a very happy bunny.

From Practical Precautions To Paranoid Pandemonium

You do not need me to tell you that 2020 has been pandemonium…and it is not over yet. I have a feeling that this American election is going to mean that 2020 ends on a bang – not in a good way. What I mean by that is whatever the result is, there is going to be a lot of whinging.

Year 2020, Grass, Graphic, Nature

I did not start this post to talk about politics. Oh no. I felt I wanted to write a post for Paula Light’s MONDAY PEEVE (please don’t tell me it is not Monday, I am not in the mood). Yes, that’s right, it is one of those weeks. After being with my family and Jack I have come back to London in a flump. I am a bit of a grump because of feeling discombobulated by this year. But I am not the only one, and I do not want to have a general peeve about a situation we are all in.

Coronavirus, Quarantine, Mask, Covid-19This is a more specific peeve. I totally understand that we are still very much in that phase we need to STAY ALERT. I would only encourage everyone to take precautions, especially in line with local guidelines. I do believe that most people have tried to do their bit to observe guidelines that they can see our designed to protect. However, there have been lots of people with their own interpretation of what social distancing means. At times when people with different attitudes cross paths, conflicts can occur. I have seen it at work, patients yelling at each other, because one patient thinks some else was too close to them.

Here in London, it’s all a bit weird. Everyone seems to be either interpreting the “guidelines” differently (and I acknowledge with all the chopping and changing, not many are sure what the those guidelines are from day to day). but as far as it effects me, this is my day to day life now. As well as wearing PPE at work for many months, now I wear a facemask when I go shopping. That’s a legal requirement (as far as I understand) although some people have exemptions. I am still not using public transport on a regular basis, but recently I caught the tube to Euston Train Station, so of course I wore a facemask for the whole journey.

Girls, Women, Young, People, WearingAs far as I was aware, keeping a distance was still supposed to be very important. In the local shopping precinct there are arrows and signs asking people to observe a “one-way traffic” system. Do you think anyone follows the one-way system? Not when I am walking through the concourse.

I went into a shop recently where they have just installed self-service tills. Self-service tills have been around for years, and I often use them. However, even though I was the only person arriving at the tills, a member of staff still wanted to bound up to me, seize the two items I was purchasing from my hands and operate the self-service till for me. She was just inches away from me the whole time. Perhaps I look like someone who is incapable of operating a self-service till myself…I don’t know?

Tube, London, Underground, StationTo be honest, there are times when it is nearby impossible to keep a distance from other people here in London. I have not used public transport in a long time. I have been walking everywhere for months, but the pavements and supermarkets have been getting steadily busier. Everyday, I pass very close to people. I am sure we breath in the same air. I am not overly anxious. I have never been anxious for myself from the start of the …you know. My main concern was always eliminating ways I could become a vehicle for the virus because I was working with vulnerable patients.

As you know last week, I travelled up to the North of England. There was some even weirder weirdness than anything I have seen in London. Parts of the North have been under stricter social distancing these past few weeks because of a surge of cases. But I was travelling to Cheshire and so far, they have not had the stricter lockdown measures reinstalled. However, like the rest of the country, I expected to see facemasks and some social distancing in operation.

I was nervous about travelling across the country. But I had nothing to fear. Normally, I am thrilled to find an empty seat on a train from London to the North. But for an £11 ticket, on this occasion we had an entire carriage to ourselves. That’s right, there was nobody sitting in the same carriage as I was (except Jack of course). We still kept our facemasks on the whole time.

On the day we arrived the rain was absolutely teeming down. On arriving at the station up north, I wanted to use the Ladies. There was one of those yellow plastic display boards outside that said “CLEANER AT WORK” on one side and “CAUTION – WET FLOOR” on the other side. I presumed they had put it there because of the rain water all over the station platform. When I pushed the door open and walked in, there was only one free cubicle (I think there were six cubicles in total.) I was only surprised because since arriving on the platform I had only see three other passengers. On leaving the cubicle I washed my hands at the sink at the same time as two other women. We automatically spaced out across the bank of sink basins. A member of the station staff came in and started to clean the sinks at the same time as we were using them. She was standing right next to me while I was drying my hands. (This may not seem interesting, but wait for what happened on my return journey through the same station).

Jack and I made our way up to the barriers to exit the station and bundle into the car of one of my relatives (who does not like mobile phones) waiting to collect us. I have been to that station many times and that is always the way out of the station. But the barriers would not open for us. I looked for a member of staff. There were three of them huddled together, not wearing facemasks. When I tried to tell them the barriers were not opening, the guy I spoke to looked at me as if I was in idiot. He told me that we had to walk to the opposite side of the station to leave.

Woman, Platform, Waiting, Train, TracksSo we traipsed through the empty railway station and left on the opposite side of the station. We then walked around the station in the pouring rain. The rain had been very heavy so the pavements were flooded with several inches of water, we had to walk into the road (which was a national speed limit A-road, but fortunately pretty quiet at the time we were rumbling along with our suitcases). I did have an umbrella, which Jack held over us to keep the rain out of our faces, but by the time we made it to the front of the station where the car was waiting for us, we were soaked and our suitcases were soaked.

I was upset when we reached the home of the family members we were staying with. The anniversary card and gift I had bought were soaked through. My shoes and clothes were wet too. That’s what happens when instead of being allowed to walk through a barrier inside the station, you are made to walk around the station in heavy rain. It made me disgruntled. In London a simple cordon ensures a one-way flow of traffic in some rather cramped stations, or else there is no one-way system. Here we were up north at a large airy station with hardly any passengers to be seen and we were given a drenching by a monsoon shower to welcome us.

Bunting, Flags, Blowing, Breeze, WindAnyway…I had a fantastic time with my relatives and tried to forget the bleak arrival. Eventually, we had had to tear ourselves away from the family and make our return journey to London. This time, we were able to pass through those barriers at the front of the station with ease. I was hoping things would be simpler on our return journey. But I had not reckoned with what would happen when I wanted to use the Ladies toilets again before we boarded the train.

I arrived at the Ladies toilets to find the same yellow caution sign outside the toilets. I pushed the door open and went in. This time there was nobody else inside. I chose a cubicle and went in. After around half a minute I could hear a woman’s voice speaking to somebody else. I was inside the cubicle, so I was not sure what was going on but I heard the woman saying, “You’ll have to wait, I need to go in first. Just wait here until I tell you you can come in“. I did not hear the reply from the other woman, but then the first voice said, “That’s what the sign is there for“.

Wc, Toilet, Purely, Public ToiletWell, by this stage I was almost ready to leave the cubicle. I waved my hand across the sensor to trigger the flush mechanism. I could hear the same voice calling out, “Just stay there. I can’t have anyone near me. I’ll tell you when you when I’m finished”.

I opened the cubicle door and recognising the same little lady who had cleaned the sinks the day I arrived, I walked past her and went to use the sink at the opposite side. She then started to yell at me, “I told you to stay where you are. Are you deaf or something? I can’t have anyone near me when I am working. We are supposed to be keeping at least two metres away (I was around four metres away from her at this point, still wearing my facemask). You were supposed to stay in the cubicle until I have cleaned the rest of the toilets and sinks. I will tell you when you are allowed to leave“.

I am so glad the facemask was hiding my expression. Genuinely I did not realize she was addressing me. She could have perhaps knocked on the door of the cubicle to make me realize that she was telling me to stay inside the cubicle. I was bewildered by what she said to me, especially as several days earlier she had decided to stand next to me and clean the sinks at the same time as three of us were trying to wash our hands and make out way out onto the platform.

Washing Hands, Wash Your Hands, HygieneAlready in the process of washing my hands, I paused, and then replied, “Why don’t I just finish off and get out of your way?” I held my hands under the heated air dryer. I could hear her mumbling but could not make out her words. Once the dryer had stopped, I indicated that I would pass to make my exit. She said to me, “Why can’t you just follow the rules? Haven’t you heard of coronavirus?” I was baffled. I was truly baffled. By this point I was ticked off. Falling back on what is normally a reminder to other people that I have been in the trenches during this pandemic, I said, “I work for the NHS“. She said “You should know better!

I just made my way out, wondering when it became so stressful to use the Ladies toilets at a railway station. I am not surprised the travel industry is in a pickle. We have all had to adapt to what has been asked of us (which is important). For the most part people are doing what they have been asked. But then we venture out away from home and find a whole other set of rules.

Upset, Sad, Confused, Figurine, UnhappyOr perhaps not. Perhaps there is not another set of rules at all. Perhaps we are just coming across people at different ends of the spectrum. The spectrum that starts with people who don’t seem to care at all…has a middle zone of people taking sensible precautionary practical measures to protect themselves and other people…and at the other end has people who seem paranoid and pedantic.

I empathise with all sorts of business and retailers who are trying to get the balance right between “customer service” and keeping staff and customers safe. But even when you have to ask a customer to observe a rule, there is a polite way to do it. Frankly, I thought that the member of the station staff cleaning was rather rude. However, she obviously thought I was inconsiderate. Somedays I do not know what to make of it. I am going to draw a line and put it behind me because I don’t feel bad.

Corona, Mask Duty, Protective MaskJust like the vast majority of people, I have made many sacrifices as was asked of me, including holidays, social gatherings and freedom to do as I please. I have worked overtime for months. The first time I have seen my family since December and it was a great week. I wear a facemask all day at work and whenever asked to do so. I keep a distance wherever possible. I have even gone the extra mile and stopped using the communal kettle and microwave at work, I always take a flask and a salad for lunch. I know that I have been taking sensible, reasonable, practical precautions and have completely changed my lifestyle because I care about interrupting the spread of a virus that threatens precious older and vulnerable people. So I am not going to let one station employee belittle me and label me inconsiderate.

I am just going to hope that she does not use that rather questionable term “…are you deaf?” towards any other passengers. If she does, I think she is going to get herself into trouble.

Mr Portillo, If You Are Reading This…

I forgot to tell you…I was walking to work recently, when I realized that Michael Portillo was walking towards me.

Three things went through my mind. The first thing I noticed is that he was wearing pinky red trousers. The second thing I noticed was that he seemed shorter than I am, although Wikipedia claims he is three inches taller than I am. I guess I was walking down hill and he was walking up hill, so he may have seemed shorter at the time.

Anyway, I have no connection with human politics, but I have watched Mr Portillo present some travel programs including one where he travelled in Australia – heart skips a beat.

For a split second I wondered if I should say “Hello, I have enjoyed your travel programs”. But I didn’t. Partly because I was rushing on my way to work, and partly because there were a number of people walking up the hill. It seemed quite a crowded section of the high street. It doesn’t seem clever during social distancing to go greeting people I don’t even know in the middle of a crowded part of London.

But Mr Portillo, if you are reading this, I just wanted to say, I genuinely have enjoyed some of your travel programs, especially when you were over in Australia. I would have liked to have seen more. Perhaps if you go back, you could explore Adelaide.

Skyline, Night Lights, City, Night

Travelling Companions

I was going to take some time off during the summer again. Last year someone paid a fortune to live in my little nest for a few weeks while I was out in Australia. So we were planning to do the same this year. Rent out my flat while I went away again.

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Jack thought it will be a great idea for us to have a holiday together. He knew he was going to be abroad working on projects a lot. He wondered if at some point we could squeeze in a week’s holiday abroad. All those ideas seem futile now.

If we had have been able to have a holiday together, I can already see that he and I have slightly different ideas about where we would want to travel, the accomodation we would enjoy and what we would want to do. Me: somewhere with a comfortable temperature (if we were going to do extreme temperatures, I would prefer a snow holiday over a hot one – sweating night and day is not comfortable), stay with friends in their home, do normal stuff with our friends, fit in with their way of life. Jack: somewhere hot, nice hotel, luxury pool and restaurants, do things we would never be able to do back in England.

I wonder what kind of travelling companions Jack and I would make!!! If the travel industry is still there when the smoke and dust clear from the air, we might give it a try. There could be trouble ahead!!!

Perfect Days Versus Flashbacks

It has been a perfect weekend. Glorious! It’s still a little on the chilly side of course. Certainly not picnic weather yet! But I am sure the weather will be kinder to us soon. Perfect days ahead.

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Nonetheless somebody kept me warm and snug throughout the weekend. It was a great weekend. Perfect. I needed that so much. Jack could tell I was tired though.

He also seemed a little anxious about my decision to go to Australia while he is Africa for a couple of months. I told him it’s a time of year I dread because I have vivid flashbacks of what happened to me just after my birthday. I told him that last year was the first time it really felt different. Being on the opposite side of the planet was a huge relief to me. There were so many different things to distract me. Perfect days.

Koala, Animals, Mammals, AustralianI explained how upset I was to have come back without any photographs. ALl my pictures and videos of kangaroos, koalas and kookaburras lost. This time I am taking a cheap digital camera out with me instead of my tablet, in the hopes that this time I will have some evidence of my trip.

Jack obviously made the connection to me wanting to see Goldfinch. I acknowledged that I want to see him very much, but I told him about the conversations Goldfinch and I have had about accommodation etc. I also want to see a friend I made when I was out there last year and whom I have been emailing ever since.

Anyway…I need to reassure Jack. He seemed anxious in case there was something wrong with him and I. I said the only thing I am finding hard is his absence. I would have loved to spend that difficult time around the summer with him.

I had a strange situation recently. I was over with some friends in rainy Chelsea. When I was walking to meet them I found my mind flooding with memories that distressed me. I was walking along having to fight the horrible images from that night that were running through my mind. It was overwhelming. Within a short time I had tears streaming down my mouth and I had to bite my scarf because of the sensation I had to scream. Very strange for it to happen at this time of year in an area that does not remind me of the park where it happened.

But flashbacks are a weird thing. You don’t know when they are going to creep up on you and what might trigger them.

I am going to Australia because I had a wonderful time there last year. It was very helpful to be far away from London. I am going because Goldfinch is an amazing friend. I will have to be careful because I know my heart is still split between Goldfinch and Jack. It’s good that Jack raised the issue and we were able to discuss it. I would not want any issue to come between the two of us.

 

Where Are You Now?

I heard a song playing on the radio at work. It choked me up! I was walking home with the words “Where are you now?” echoing around my head.

Silhouette, Traveller, Mountains, LightWhile one of the most gorgeous men on the planet is in a remote part of the world, he is cut off from communications. I start to fear all sorts of things may have happened to him. What if an anaconda found him when he was sleeping? Or…no, I won’t list all of my bizarre anxieties.

Travel is wonderful. I am happy for him. But my mind keeps on going over all of the random hazards and dangers that could harm him in some way. I can’t bear to think of him being hurt.

Where are you now Goldfinch? All I need to know is that you are safe. I want you to be happy, healthy and free. But I need to know you are safe!

Watching The Skies

I mentioned in my post yesterday that it is agonizing not being able to send a text message to Goldfinch to ask him how his journey is going.

I gazed up at the sky last night and I contemplated how long he was going to be travelling through the atmosphere. From down here, planes can look so much like stars except that they wink at you and move slowly across the sky.

To help me settle my worries about Goldfinch’s long journey, I was watching flight tracker yesterday and the night before. It is so cute…it shows the progress of the aeroplane and says whether it is on time or delayed. So presuming everything has gone well and Goldfinch has not been delayed at passport control.

So if all has gone well, Goldfinch should have landed and should be at the home of his parents. I worked out by looking at the world clock on my tablet that his plane was due to arrive at 10.30pm GMT. So while I was getting ready for bed, Goldfinch was arriving back home.

I sent him an e-mail while he was up in the air. I didn’t want it to be too long…he is hardly going to want to read an entire novel from me about every thought and feeling that I have had since we parted at Heathrow. But I think I said plenty for him to know I have been watching the skies the whole time and begging for his safe arrival.

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When It’s Time To Say GoodBye…I’ll Be Waving Up At The Sky

We now have a leaving date! When I say “we”…of course I don’t mean we, I mean he. Goldfinch has booked his flight back to Australia. The plan is for him to spend some time here in London with me, just before he travels, and I will be with him right up to the last minute, when he says goodbye to fair old English shores.

I do understand security concerns at airports. But it is so hard having to say goodbye near the check-in gates and not be able to wait with him in the departure lounge. Not to be able to wave to his plane as it takes off. It just is not as romantic as the olden days.

In all honesty, it may be a good thing that I am not allowed past the check-in gates, I might be tempted to throw myself on the floor and grab hold of Goldfinch’s legs to stop him leaving me!

No…instead…I will have to be content with watching Goldfinch vanish behind a wall. And that will be it…GONE! Not knowing when, if ever at all, I will behold that beautiful smile again.

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There is no way I will be able to pick out the aeroplane carrying Goldfinch far away from me. I will be looking up at the sky waving at every plane, (just in case) until they disappear without a trace.

I am going to spare you a dramatic description of the stab of pain that will gush into my heart at that point. I felt it once last December when he went away for five weeks to spend the holidays with his family. There is no doubt in my mind that is going hurt more this time round. But I have known this moment was coming for over a year. So now is the time to be brave, to muster all my strength and help make every moment wonderful for Goldfinch.

Last December, I walked out of the terminal in tears. But as I made my way down the escalators to the Piccadilly line of the London Underground, I started hatching a plan to surprise him based on every little scrap of information I had heard him mention.

This time round…aaaaaaah! I think I will finish this post before I become too weepy.

 

 

 

 

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FOWC with Fandango — Trace