How Are We Doing?

Waterlily in frog pond, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Borneo

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.

Bornean Daddy Long Legs spider

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.

Pig-tailed macaques in Sukau, Borneo

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.

Spiders Web, Sukau, Borneo






21 thoughts on “How Are We Doing?

  1. Gail

    I’m relieved you are safely home and look forwards to hearing about your trip. It must be really worrying and sad, not being able to see your dad, but from your descriptions, he’s a remarkable man. Also, you seem to have made a great choice in his home and although it’s not the same as if you were there, you’ve ensured he gets the best care.
    Keep safe, keep strong. Much easier said than done – but we readers depend on you to brighten these dark times. xx

  2. ravenhare

    I’m so glad you got home okay. My heart goes out to you over your father. I can’t imagine how difficult that situation must feel. I pray he’s clear of the virus and gets back to his familiar surroundings.
    As for us, we’ve been isolated for a week now. Fresh food is impossible, but we brought our freezer when we moved here and tins from the well stocked winter hill farm cupboards we always needed up there. We won’t starve and we’ll need to be more creative.
    I’ve been in the garden. There’s no veggie garden here …yet! I’d got seeds before this happened so new moon and I can start planting again today. Early tatties are in already.
    Otherwise we’re coping and feeling lucky that we’ve got our home with stunning views, a new garden to explore, and good wildlife and woods around us. We’ve got many kind people offering help …but that puts them at risk for shopping and that worries me if they’re doing it for our benefit.
    Take care, stay well, be safe, xx

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      So glad you and Liz are doing ok – your new home looks absolutely stunning, and I’m sure you’re both used to managing under trying circumstances. It’s good that you have neighbours willing to help – I guess they’d be shopping for themselves, so helping you out wouldn’t put them at much more risk? Plus helping people out always makes us feel good, so you’d be positively doing them a favour 🙂

  3. hanorah21

    I look forward to hearing about your trip. As for me, I have far too many books – several bookcases of them, far too many unfinished embroidery and sewing projects, a new fancy camera to master, a garden requiring attention, several books begun but not persisted with, learning Gujarati (with difficulty). On the other hand, there is the internet to suck me in and all those books lurking so how much progress I’ll make is anyone’s guess. We live in hope. Plenty of shops nearby: Polish (a challenge), Indian, Middle Eastern, Pakistani – it’s as good as going on holiday. I’ll shut up as I’m wittering. Stay safe.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      You sound like you’re on top of things, Hanorah21 – my problem is always deciding which of my ‘projects’ to tackle first, which usually leads to me going down the internet black hole. Gujarati sounds like an interesting language to learn!

      1. hanorah21

        Deciding on which to start with is difficult and can be so overwhelming that I go back to reading another chapter. Gujarati is tricky and I’m having trouble just with the alphabet let alone trying to get the hang of speaking. I have friends I visit in Porbandar and the frustration of not being able to communicate at all, especially in the villages, is what motivates me. At 77 I know I’m supposed to find learning difficult but I suspect most people would find Gujarati a challenge. Sorry about your father. I have been following your blog for ages (from the time you were feeding sandwiches to the foxes) and feel I know him and knew your mother too.

      2. Bug Woman Post author

        I went to a seminar on ‘how to age well’ and one of the things they mentioned was that the harder a thing is to do, the better it is for your brain, so Gujarati sounds perfect. I am very impressed! And yes, not being able to communicate when you go to visit must be very frustrating. I wonder if, when this is over, you have any friends or neighbours who speak Gujarati that you could practice with? That really helped me when I was learning French for my trip to Cameroon…

  4. Charlie Bowman

    Being confined to barracks is certainly going to be a challenge for those with mental health issues. I worry about my mother, nearly 73, confined to a house adjacent to noisy, inconsiderate neighbours and without any realistic outlet for escape. She therefore cannot enjoy her garden in this nice weather! Best.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      That’s awful about your Mum, Charlie – noisy neighbours can be such a nightmare. Let’s hope that the lockdown doesn’t last for too long.

  5. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    Glad to hear that you had a great holiday (if cut short) and got back to Blighty OK. Switzerland is a week or two ahead of the UK in terms of closing restaurants, bars and non-essential shops etc. That said, the numbers of cases and deaths is higher here than the UK, which is quite alarming given the population of only around 8 million. (Ticino, the nearest canton to Italy and the big cities are worst affected). However, we are lucky to be living in a relatively remote part of the country, where it’s quite easy to avoid contact with others. Our shops are quite well stocked (not too much panic buying gone on) and life for us now is simply a case of staying at home and only going for short walks around the chalet. (I’m thinking of digging out some old walk photos, which I’ve not posted, to keep everyone entertained!) Stay safe and well! 😊

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Switzerland is a bit of an anomaly in terms of number of cases, isn’t it, I wonder why? I guess it’s something of a hub in Europe for the financial sector, plus there’s all those mountains and skiing and stuff…I’m really glad you’re not much affected at the moment, I have visions of you both skipping around the chalet like Julie Andrews 🙂

      1. Alittlebitoutoffocus

        Ha, ha. 😀 Well, the hills are not quite alive with the sound of music at the moment, I’m afraid. And, yes, the numbers per capita over here are not good, though I suspect the fact that people cross the border into Italy quite easily around Locarno has a lot to do with it.

  6. Anne

    I am thrilled you were able to enjoy part of your long-planned holiday AND that you reached home safely. South Africa will be locked down for an initial three weeks – this after previous measures of self-isolation. I bought yarn this morning, have books to read, and am very grateful for recent opportunities to take photographs (unwittingly providing ‘fodder’ for the next few blogs). We have a garden and must take a deep breath along with everyone else and hope …

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Hi Anne! Yes I saw that South Africa was locked down and I wondered how you were, but it looks as if you are very well prepared! I’m going to blog daily during shutdown, and I’m already finding out lots more about my lovely readers. In other news, all the frogs have disappeared from my pond (I hope it’s not the blooming heron again), but they have left a mass of frogspawn, so hopefully it will be tadpoles soon….

  7. trailriderincentraloregon

    Thank you for this warm, insightful communication. I’m sorry to learn your vacation had to be aborted but glad you managed to get home and are safe. Here in the States, we’re confined, too, and unhappy–and very angry about our government’s inadequate responses. Fortunately, I have a small acreage and am doing long-overdue tree-limb trimming and such. Plus, I have a few large animals and always can find ways for them to keep me busy. Keep writing, Bugwoman–I enjoy your blogs!

  8. Helen Fraser

    I’ve been following your blog with enjoyment for several months now, and I can clearly visualise your father from your words and photos, Bug Woman. I’m so sorry he is having this distressing experience, and you too. I am lucky enough to have an allotment just 5 minutes walk from home. I have just got back from abroad, a Rescue flight after spending the winter in Fuerteventura, so I have lots of officially approved, positive, outdoor work to do there, plus socialising, at an appropriate distance! I feel very lucky!! I also have a long list of crafting and handwork projects to choose from. I do look forward to your upcoming daily blogs about your trip. What interesting circumstances you have travelled in, though of course I am sorry that you couldn’t complete the trip.

  9. gertloveday

    I’m very happy you are home I was a bit concerned when you posted about your trip having been in Singapore during the SARS epidemic. Like you, my partner is the one person I could go through this with. We are taking brisk morning walks, reviewing our whole music collection and even thinking about revisiting the films of Ingmar Bergman which we have somewhere. The hardest thing for us is that our daughter is having her baby in a month and we wont be able to hold him for some time.
    I look forward to reading about Borneo

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      It’s so hard about your daughter, Gert….let’s hope this doesn’t all drag on for too long. We are heading out to the cemetery for a walk every morning – as a friend of mine says, the inhabitants won’t be bothered by the virus! And yes, we dodged a tricky situation in Singapore – when they say lock down, they really mean it.

  10. Sara

    Hello Bug Woman,
    I live in Enfield, just a short distance from Finchley. I’m pleased you arrived home safely from Borneo and look forward to reading about your exotic holiday in the days to come. I hope your father improves rapidly and is back in his nursing home very soon. We are passing our time sorting out a cupboard which was full of “very important paperwork” and having looked at it realised it was mostly out of date, and not important, so shredded some and put 3/4 of the rest of it into the recycling bin. This task was extremely satisfying and we will now look through our bookshelves, cupboards and wardrobes to recycle and dispose of our clutter. We have kept in touch with family and friends by phone, email and FaceTime, walked around our garden and the New River which is nearby keeping 6ft apart from the others out in the sun – the sun is shining so we smile.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      What a great way to spend your time, Sara…so many of the bits of paper that we keep because we think they’ll be ‘useful’ turn out to be years out of date by the time we actually get rid of them! And I am very partial to the New River – I did a blog about the Islington portion of it a while back.


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