Dear Readers, it has been a remarkable few weeks. On Friday 13th March I headed off for my big 60th birthday trip to Borneo, something that I’d been planning for over a year. At the time there were no travel advisories for Malaysia, and the main problems with Covid-19 seemed to be in China (where it was seemingly coming under control), Italy (in lockdown) and South Korea. Malaysia had a small number of cases, and Singapore, where we were heading to at the end of the trip, had the best results of any country in containing the disease. However, for the past ten days it has felt as if we are surfing just ahead of a huge wave. Singapore was closed, so that part of the trip was cancelled. Malaysia announced a lockdown, so no new tourists arrived. We were the last visitors at each place that we stayed, and the staff and guides at the lodges had no idea when they’d be able to work again after we left. Our plane home, on Sunday night, was packed with people who’d gotten stuck all over Asia. Out of 60 planes leaving from Kota Kinabalu, 56 were cancelled. I am so grateful and lucky to be home, and am also full of sadness, both for the beautiful but benighted country that I visited, and for the terrible effects of this virus. And don’t get me started on the inadequate responses of our own government.
So, I have lots of things to share with you, and I will start a daily blog from Thursday so that I can take you all with me on my Borneo adventure (minus the mosquito bites). But first, I wanted to check in with you and see how you are all doing. I know that different places are in different degrees of lockdown, but here in the UK all non-essential shops are closed along with schools, churches, and other meeting places. Physical distancing is supposed to be observed, with a 2 metre gap between people who don’t live together when in public spaces. You can go out to exercise once a day (and I’ve already had a brisk walk around Coldfall Wood, where most people seem to have got the message about keeping their distance). The police now have powers to enforce the closures and physical distancing but it will be interesting to see how that goes. The measures are supposed to be reviewed in three weeks, but realistically I expect this to last for a good few months at least. I am able to work from home, which is great, and for me I think that the key will be to get into a routine – it would be so easy to disappear into a black hole of online Covid-19 news and general nonsense. I recognise, again, how lucky I am in so many ways: I am in good health, my husband is also my best friend so we won’t be throwing things at one another as the weeks go on, and it’s easy to get to the local shops that are open for food. I am joining one of the local voluntary support groups so that I can help with shopping or picking up medications for people who are totally self-isolating, and that will help me feel connected. Plus, the garden is full of birds and the fritillaries are in bloom, so nature, as always, helps to make me feel grounded.
My biggest worry is Dad. His nursing home has been in lockdown for several weeks now, with no visitors allowed. On Sunday he developed a chest infection and was admitted to the local hospital. He is now improving, but has to await the results of a COVID-19 test, which is taking two days. This seems like a very long time to wait for test results – if Dad is getting better I suspect he doesn’t have the virus, and therefore is blocking a bed for someone who is much sicker than him. Plus, his dementia makes him extremely distressed in unfamiliar surroundings, and visitors are strictly limited. Fortunately his favourite carer from the home is going to see if there’s any way that she can get in to see him today, which will help, and hopefully he’ll test clear and be out on Wednesday. These situations always make me feel helpless, and it’s even worse when I can’t get down to see him myself.
So, I would love to know how you’re holding up under the strain of the current situation. It’s an anxiety-provoking time for us all, and we will need one another more than ever. How are you spending your time? Are you, like me, looking at the clutter and deciding that this might be the time to make life a bit simpler? Are you able to get out into the garden or into nature? What hobbies or pastimes calm your nerves? And do you have any advice for the rest of us? We are living through a historic time, and there will be lessons to be learned that will resonate through the years to come. How we look after ourselves and one another may give us valuable information about the kind of world that we want to live in going forward.