After blogging weekly throughout both lockdowns, it seems only right to document my experience of the beast itself… albeit 4 months later. It’s been a busy time!
Let me set the scene (before the scene, before the scene)….
It is December 2021 and we have a big birthday party planned for the Eldest the week after Christmas. After near on 2 years of cancellations and uncertainty, we began planning this party together in October – “now that Covid is over.” We went for tea and cake in town, armed with a notebook, where she listed her invitees and chose her theme- a fancy dress, arty crafty, pinterest-heavy affair based on the movie franchise Descendants, (the Eldest is very much my daughter!)
We had a lot of fun planning and preparing, but, in the run up to Christmas (in a Vicarage no less), I admit it was no mean feat! We made costumes, baked themed food and froze it, enlisted a couple of teenagers to help make the decorations and sourced supplies for all of the games. There was high anticipation for this event!
I can only recall with nausea then, the anxiety produced by the threat of Covid so close to a seemingly trivial thing. I mean, I get it … there’s much worse things going on in the world! Nevertheless, there was another new variant, numbers were rising, school staff were dropping like flies and the rumours of another lockdown days after Christmas were rife.
“Oh the party? Well, that won’t be happening anymore will it?” A school Mum mentions casually at the gate.
Husband is a school governor and begins to question the ethics of hosting a mixed-bubble event the day before schools go back, despite Bubbles apparently being a thing of the past. Nevertheless, I have an almost-eight year old who sobs hysterically at the mere mention of postponement, not to mention a garage full of hard-worked supplies and cake still to make.
I just can’t do it. I can’t cancel it! But, as I make and bake and communicate through my Christmas break, the cloud of potential isolation hangs heavily above my head. Trivial as these things might be, the mental toll of uncertainty on a naturalborn planner really is quite heavy!
Still, we plough on regardless; reluctantly take tests the day before, praise God they are negative and refuse to allow Husband to take another one on the morning of, (just what is he trying to do to me?!) And… the thing happens. The party goes ahead, it is a success, the Eldest beams, and the several no-shows actually mean that the room is not too crowded and nobody catches Covid!
Halle- flippin’- lujah!!
Later that week my best friend arrives from Australia and I realise I had been so afraid of one of us going down with it that I hadn’t dared to get excited. And then… she was here! For the first time in five years, we hung out in person. I managed to find and book a spa day the night before and so we chilled; we had massages and the therapist asked how on earth I had so much tension if I didn’t have a job? (I mean, besides the downright ridiculousness of this question, she had also obviously been asleep the last 2 years, right?!). We then sat in a private hot tub in a darkened room, talking about all of the things it is far too dangerous to record on voice notes and pretending not to acknowledge that the couple who went in before us probably – nay almost definitely- had sex in here. Still. As far as good company in dirty sex pits go, this was great!
Next up, came “the window.” Now, the backdrop to all of these other “trivial in the grand scheme of things, yet stressful in reality” issues, was that, due to fears over the new Omricon variant, France had locked down its borders to British tourists. The issue? Well. Again, about year ago, when the third lockdown was in full swing, we had booked a group holiday to Disneyland Paris with some friends from theological college. You know, “as a treat for when all of this is over.” (Because it was definitely going to be over by February 2022, right?!)
And so the remainder of January and February formed a kind of murky window of time, during which France enforced, complicated and then relaxed rules against Brits. I started preparing the kids for “IF” we do or do not get to go to Disneyland (thus draining the magic a wee bit), not-so-secretly hoping that we would catch the darn bug and get it over and done with in time beforehand! The main stress being that, up until about 3 days before we went, you had to provide a negative test result to get into the country… and there were 16 of us going. I don’t know the exact infection rate at this time, but really… our odds of making it together in one piece seemed pretty slim!
I really don’t want to bore you with this bit, but it’s safe to say I’ve never been so anxious about a holiday in my life. Having checked the cost of postponing the trip I realised what an amazing lockdown deal we had actually secured and that we would be paying double the price to go any other time. As a Northerner, this is a pretty difficult thing to hold lightly!
In the end, whilst I stopped short of keeping the kids off school, I did pretty much isolate myself from as many groups and meetings as possible in the weeks beforehand, wearing a mask in mask-less venues and coming across as slightly unhinged to anyone who asked if I was l looking forward to it...
Until finally, we reached THE week!
The original plan had been to travel to London with some friends heading to Heathrow and to get the train from there. However, upon checking their flight details we became rudely aware that TUI had cancelled their holiday with no explanation or notification! An emergency meeting ensued, during which we managed to book them a new last minute trip from the North, and book ourselves some train tickets and a hotel near St. Pancras for the night. France finally dropped the requirement for pre-travel tests, Disneyand reinstated their fireworks display, I talked Husband out of doing a test on the morning (AGAIN!) and we got a decently priced train to travel down on- despite booking so close to departure. Things were looking up! Two hours on a train would be way easier than the van to Heathrow anyway, hey?!
Flipping railway-damaging, train-cancelling, crowd-imducing STORM. You just couldn’t write it could you?!
After being told that a taxi would take 2 hours, I dropped Husband and kids off at the overcrowded station, took the car back home and posted the keys through the letterbox. Realising that I’d left my house keys with Husband, I chose the darkest part of the back garden to do a quick nature wee, before realising that this was the only spot also featured on CCTV. Cheese!
Promptly ran back to the station to find Husband and kids in a heavy throng of hopeful travellers, with a steady flow of replacement buses arriving to replenish the supply. It was going to be a long day …
In the end we allowed 4 trains to leave over 3 hours, before deciding they weren’t getting any emptier and we just needed to go. Now, here’s the important bit. I thought that we had agreed to get on this next train no matter what! And so when it arrived and I bundled the children on with the folded down pram and heard Husband shout from behind me that there was no room for the cases and saw him run down to the next door… I thought he was, you know… getting on it?!
And so when the Eldest started to cry that Daddy was left behind, I reassured her he was just on a different carriage and continued to lift the Youngest onto a vacant seat and to make sure that the Middle Man was leaning against me. During which time the rest of the carriage were apparently watching a distraught gentleman with 2 suitcases running down the platform, screaming “get off the train!” to a woman who wasn’t paying the least bit of attention!
The doors close, the train pulls away and the phone rings.
“I’m not on the train!!!”
(I have to note at this point that for a man who said he’d rather pluck out his eyes than go to Disneyland, he sounds really upset… )
“What do you mean you’re not on the train?!”
The Eldest starts to wail, but the rest of the carriage are thoroughly enjoying the drama.
“I told you there wasn’t enough room! I thought you were following me!”
“And I thought you were just getting on the next carriage…”
“No, babe. We were meant to stay together!”
“No, we agreed to get on the train no matter what! Five people, two suitcases and one pram might well need to split up, to be fair…”
“OK get off at the next stop and wait for me.”
“But… what if there’s not enough room for all of us on another train? Am I not better off just getting to London and waiting for you there?”
This part of the conversation is of great interest to the other passengers, who soon start weighing in with their own opinions. One lady has been waiting to get on this train for seven hours and wouldn’t be getting off for anything- even stranded husbands. Others are evidently scarred by his poor traumatised face and would like to see us reunited.
I am genuinely undecided! The next stop is the only one on the direct journey to London and it is 3 minutes away. Just in time, the phone rings again.
“I got on another train- it’s empty! Get off next stop and get on this one.”
And so swiftly we do. Ten minutes later, Husband is waiting for us with a table seat and a smile on his face! What are the odds?!
Thankfully, the rest of the trip is pretty smooth and by 8pm the next night we are gathered at Centre Parcs Paris, bewildered, with a grand total of 8 adults and 8 children wondering how on earth we actually pulled this off?!
The whole holiday is indeed fabulous and totally worth it. It is strange to be in France now, where masks are still compulsory- even outdoors- and we are perturbed to find that the Disney-bots paint fake ones on us when we attempt to have photos without!
The most surreal bit though is that, whilst insisting heavily on masks outdoors, they also cram us onto buses like sardines upon leaving the fireworks display.
“If we don’t all have covid by the end of this night, I’ll eat my mask!” I joke with another passenger who is far too close to my face.
Lo and behold, 4 days later, at home and with a slightly dry throat, there it is:
For a few days I feel like I’m nursing a really bad hangover and can’t get enough sleep. For the rest of the time, however, I feel relieved that I caught it at Disneyland and not before! I also feel very jammy to get it first, as Husband won’t let me touch food and prefers to keep me out of the way. And so basically, I spend the next 12 days recovering from all that has gone before; drink alot of tea, take a lot of naps and watch two whole seasons of Emily in Paris in my pyjamas.
Does Covid get anymore magical than that?!
It takes over a month for the rest of the family to catch it- at the same time! Poor Husband! – by which point we have started our journey with the Homes For Ukraine scheme. But that’s another story for another day…
For now, thanks for reading!
You have a MAGICAL day!
God Bless xxx