Neighbours Part XIV

There have been developments at our block of flats since the last episode of the Neighbours. Flat 12 has now sold, and it’s not been sold to a Buy to Let investor. So the longest standing couple in the block are having to move away, which is a shame. Flat 8 is now on the market, so the young lady there will also be seeking new accommodation.

The new girl in Flat 2 stopped me to chat yesterday. She’d been worried that her music might have been disturbing us. It turns out that she’s not been having too much luck with her new flat. The lights didn’t work when she first arrived, the gas hob then tried to electrocute her, there’s black mold on an internal wall and now she has carpet moths laying eggs under her feet.

Her music hasn’t been disturbing us – modern blocks have pretty decent sound proofing. The revelation that she has an infestation is a little disturbing though. She seems a nice enough person, but we find that we now like her best from a distance. Let’s say two metres, minimum. Which is convenient, because we can all pretend this is to do with the virus, not her bugs.

Today’s featured photo is a ten minute walk from home. Bournemouth Gardens follows the deceptively named* River Bourne from the sea to about a mile inland, where it disappears into an underground pipe**. The river runs right through this shot, but it’s out of view. You can see a bridge that crosses over it. And behind the bridge is the plague of homeless drug addicts that fester in the park. I know this is unkind of me. But. Well. Sometimes, I am unkind. I’m afraid they do not make good neighbours.

* it’s a stream, at best.

** of course it doesn’t. It appears from, not disappears into the pipe. Water runs to the sea, not from it. But most people will walk inland from the coast.


The Roadmap

Ladies and gentleman, we have a roadmap out of this unholy mess. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The promised land is within reach. Boris has spoken, and his words are righteous and bring joy throughout the land. Meh. Who am I kidding. I’ve watched his speech and it looks more like a bloody atlas than a simple roadmap. And this being the UK, there’ll be hundreds of potholes, numerous cul-de-sacs and a ton of roundabouts to be navigated. Anyone who has ever driven here will know just how easy it is to suddenly find yourself driving back in the direction you’ve just come from. With punctured tyres and collapsed suspension.

By at least one measure, we in the UK have the strictest lockdown rules in the developed world. We also have amongst the worst death rates. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last year, it is that national comparisons are a tricky, complicated business. Nonetheless, it will be nice to get back on the road to normal. And we have a route of sorts. A very British roadmap, drawn up by the uk government, providing England, and England alone, with a simple four step plan detailed in five easy to follow steps.

But let’s focus on the good news. Our late April domestic road trip looks doable. Bergerac in June? There’s still a bit of a question mark over that, but we’ll know more by the middle of April. The Hyde Park concert in July? That is looking good. And providing all goes according to plan, holidays in September and October look very promising.

This release from lockdown isn’t going to be considered fast enough by some. I suspect most people will accept lockdown for a little longer. It’s not that much of a hardship. I mean, most people are very clearly not obeying any of the social contact rules anyway, and haven’t been for sometime. Perhaps that’s why the number of infections today edged up slightly, week on week.

But one thing is for certain. I’ve not had a haircut for so long that I now need the services of a shearer, not a barber. But they’re all shut so I’ll do it myself. I bought the clippers in the photo for about £43.99 from Amazon last April. They’re really rather good. I would normally pay about £15 for a cut at a hairdressers, so I needed three uses out of these clippers to make my money back. Tomorrow I will put them to work for the third time.

I’m thinking of really cutting back to the scalp. A Grade 2. The last time I had that cut, it was administered at RAF Halton on the first full day of basic training, back in May 1999. Mrs P isn’t quite so keen on this idea. I will need to be discreet. Stay tuned…


Summer Holiday – Booked

Today, I have been quite the ballsy one. Chock full of bravado and daring-do. Spunky, even. Brave as a Rolex dealer strolling in full bling bling mode through a favela in Rio. Adventurous. No, not adventurous. The word just isn’t strong enough. Basically, today I strode onto the internet packing a pair of cojones the size of jet engines falling out of the Colorado sky and booked some flights to Bergerac for late June. A summer holiday!

I know, what an utterly ridiculous notion. A summer holiday indeed. Lockdown must have gotten me all a little delusional. But it’s too late now, I’ve gone and done it. I’m committed. Ryanair sure won’t be giving me my money back when I come to my senses and realise I’ve been an utter buffoon. I’m going to have to see this one through. But…don’t think I rushed into this without giving the pros and cons of such a risky endeavour at least a fleeting moment of thought.

The Pros

  • If some of us don’t start booking holidays sometime soon, there won’t be much in the way of holidays left.
  • These flights were dirt cheap. Less than fifty quid each, return. And paid for from the ‘Refunds 2020’ fund that we have set aside.
  • Ryanair will allow us to change the flights without penalty twice before the end of October, if necessary.
  • Mrs P and I, by my reckoning, will likely have had our first jab more than a month before take off.
  • We really, really want to go someone warm that is not England. A soggy beach hut on the south coast just won’t cut the mustard.
  • Infection rates are plummeting. And If the virus is seasonal, then June is surely out of season for it…?
  • We’re currently cold and bored and locked down, and now we have a holiday to look forward to and dream about.
  • We can hotel shop. Fun times! And they will be free to cancel right up to (or very close to) date of travel. No risk, which is how I like it.

The Cons

  • A new variant appears, one that laughs in the face of vaccines and eats our existing anti-bodies for breakfast. It’ll probably be the El Chapo variant.
  • A lack of take up on our flights leads to it being cancelled. Perhaps I should give the airline some free advertising…
  • Boris decides that all travelers who have been silly enough to try and keep the industry alive must have tests on the way there and back at a cost of £100 each way, per person. That, I’m afraid, is holiday over. You can’t add £400 to a four night Euro break.
  • Or worse, that he decides that everyone returning to the UK must quarantine at the sort of expense that has the bailiff and bankruptcy industries rubbing their hands together with glee.
  • Someone decides that vaccine passports are needed to travel (a perfectly good idea) but that a holder is only considered inoculated – and therefore permitted to travel – after the second dose. Which would be a ridiculous idea given the current data on effectiveness. At least permit travel for one dosers within 12 weeks of that jab.
  • The FCO decides that the time won’t be quite right at any point in 2021 to ease the don’t travel anywhere advisory.
  • Macron gets in a big huff about something and decides to say ‘Non’ to visitors who’ve had the AstaZeneca jab. Oh the absolute scenes that would cause.
  • The vaccine rollout is delayed and Mrs P and I are left hanging on for a dose of AZ’s finest corona juice.

I am, as I have tried to be throughout the pandemic, pragmatic. I’ve no intention of taking foolhardy risks. I’ve suffered at the hands of a virus quite enough in the last couple of years thank you very much and have no desire for a repeat performance. But one wants to enjoy life too. And I fully accept that life will never be a zero risk event.

The bottom line is this. The cost of our flights was low enough that we could walk away and lose the cash without feeling too devastated. Indeed, the disappointment of not having our holiday would hurt more. There’s plenty that could go wrong between now and June. Heck, there’s plenty that could go wrong between now and dinner time – this is still 2021. Mrs P and I will just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best.

But I feel a growing confidence that normal is on its way back. Ultimately, the decisions that need to be made to reopen travel corridors are not ours to make. We are at the mercy of the powers that be. Some experts see May 1st as the date things get going. Others believe August is more likely. Boris will give us a clue tomorrow evening as he reveals his roadmap out of lockdown.

Stay tuned.