I can’t remember who said that if you thought going into lockdown was difficult then try getting out of it. Whoever it was, they were spot on.
Like most rule-adhering folks, we’ve tried hard to follow guidelines; sticking to home, lurking around immediate environs, spending on only essential items. But now we’re being told to venture out and boost the economy. Henceforth, time to spread our wings. With more than a tad of trepidation, we embarked upon a weekend break in coast-hugging Coldingham.
Packing and timing were key to this brave new world. It reminded me of the gap-year Down Under with handwritten emergency telephone numbers tattooed to scraps of paper, Traveller’s Cheques stuffed in the back of rucksacks and a paper map detailing the whole of our Antipodean adventure, but in such small scale that it was assumed a day-trip from Brisbane to Sydney (a mere 622 miles) was possible. Hmm, a story for another day.
Anyway, back to the current journey where enough water was packed for a trip across the Sahara and even a (lidded) bucket included in case of roadside emergencies and the absence of clean public facilities.
If you’ve ever seen footage of baby polar bears emerging for the first time from their frozen den - blinking and vulnerable, managing astonishment while maintaining a modicum of ‘chutzpah’ - that just about summed it up.
Joining a motorway for the first time since March, the pace of life was all rather terrifying.
“Goodness, isn’t everyone driving so fast?” mother moaned.
“They’re only doing 60” retorted a child, “you just need to get used to it!”
Like most folks, these days I don’t go anywhere without the ‘Covid pack’: mask, gloves, hand-sanitiser, tissues, all immediately accessible at purchasing flashpoints.
Similar to the carrying of a gas mask in war-torn Britain, it doesn’t guarantee the Grim Reaper be kept at arm’s length but it does offer better odds than travelling without and on this adventure is was top of the kit list.
Stopping for fuel and snapping on Latex hand-coverings, it was with shock that I watched the bloke next to me cough and, yes dear reader, hurl bodily fluids across the forecourt! Did he not realise that zillions of potentially harmful droplets had just been released into the atmosphere? Clearly not. Next stop was the outside newspaper stand where he removed a tabloid from under a protective plastic covering.
“You know,” I ventured to the untroubled assistant inside the garage, “that newspaper stand could be a bit of a bio-hazard.”
What wasted words. From behind the safety of a Plexiglass shield, he just grinned, shrugging aside my interfering comment.
Fuming, I did what most good, campaigning Brits do when they feel passionately about a subject and wish they could make a difference, i.e. slunk away and muttered to nobody in particular.
Next stop, a (nameless) drive-thru fast food outlet where passengers in the car in front of us were advised that they were welcome to come into the store should they wish to survey products more closely.
“But we don’t have a mask,” they bleated.
Apparently, not a problem. “Don't worry, most folk have been going in and out without them all day,” said the cheery chappie hanging out of the delivery window, seemingly oblivious to the fact that masking-up in shops became law in Scotland 48 hours earlier…
Arriving at the destination, all was well in our socially-distanced bubble until a late-evening beach stroll was mooted. Strict instructions about not letting your guard down when even in a seemingly innocent and airy coastal environment were duly noted by all assembled youths.
We needn’t have bothered. Dozens of teens were already gathered and partying, Ear-popping music ripped through the night air, fires blazed, bodies intertwined. We’d stumbled into Glasto-on-Sea. If it wasn’t to the backdrop of an evil pandemic, this was childhood Nirvana.
Next day’s Covid-rules at lunch in Berwick were even harder to explain. No face-coverings on waiting staff (admittedly at the time of our visit, this wasn’t mandatory but clarification was tricky to children oblivious to the crossing of a national border), no disposable menus, no rules in the bathrooms.
In hindsight, it was lovely to escape our lockdown and exciting to see, hear and taste a little of what we’d been missing for the last few months. But, just the baby bears in the BBC footage, I was jolly glad to get back to the safety and clear rules of my very own burrow.
To paraphrase Dorothy, there really is no place like home.
20 July 2020