Sunday Short Story – Quarantine

When Lynne arrived at her bubble friend’s house for their morning coffee she was surprised to find Eleanor in a state of agitation.

Are you okay, the effects of the second jab?’

‘Yes, no… let me get the coffee and I’ll tell you my news.’

Lynne could not imagine what the news could be, not much happened in Covid times and certainly nothing to put her friend in such a state, but there was something different about the house. The usual vase of cut flowers on the hall stand had disappeared and so had the orchid on the window sill. As she followed Eleanor into the kitchen she was puzzled to see the cupboard door handles tied together with stout string.

‘Go and sit down Lynne, I’m just trying to remember where I put the coffee.’

Okay, I brought that jigsaw, I’ll put it on the dining room table.’

There was a strange crackling underfoot as Lynne walked into the dining room and she realised she was walking on plastic sheeting that covered the carpet. Eleanor hadn’t mentioned that she was going to have decorators in. The exquisite mahogany dining table, recently inherited from an aunt, was covered in a heavy duty plastic tablecloth, perhaps her friend was planning to do some messy crafts.

When Lynne moved into the usually elegant front room her confusion increased; it now seemed most likely her friend had been burgled. The fireplace looked bare, gone was the antique urn with its arrangement of dried flowers and the crystal vase Lynne had given her for Christmas was no longer on the windowsill. She glanced around the room and took in a bizarre scene. The glass cabinet had a heavy quilt secured round it and the occasional tables all had wodges of foam taped to their corners. The three piece suite was covered in throws that looked like they had come from Wilkos rather than John Lewis and there was no sign of the embroidered cushions.

Eleanor walked in with two scruffy looking mugs.

‘Sorry about the mugs, they’re the ones Anthony used to keep down at the allotment. I’ve packed all the bone china away. I’m afraid I didn’t have time to make a cake… well I have been baking, but not for us…’

Before any explanation was forthcoming there was the sound of frantic yapping and Eleanor went to open the back door for Covina, the little dog she had acquired from the dachshund rescue centre. The dog rushed into the room to greet Lynne.

‘You’re surely not moving house, Michael hasn’t persuaded you to go over there?’

‘Goodness no, I wouldn’t even go to that dreadful country on holiday; they’re coming back to England, out of the blue, arriving at Heathrow early afternoon. It seems they are allowed to quarantine with relatives, me.’

‘Oh that’s wonderful news, at last you’ll get to see the babies.’

‘Hardly babies, three and four now and if they are like Michael was at that age… my head spins just seeing them on Facetime. So I have taken a few precautions, I don’t want to be responsible for them ending up in A&E. Forty four years old and Michael still has that scar on his forehead from the fireplace at our first house.  I was going to ask, you know you said you would love to have Covina to stay if I ever managed to go on holiday, do you think you could possibly have her now?’

‘Yes of course, though I’m sure the children would be gentle with her.’

‘I’m worried she might bite them; the charity did say she was best suited to a quiet home with an older person. I remember that time with my brother’s dog when Michael was three; it was his fault of course, shoving his hand in the dog’s mouth.’

‘Covina’s hardly a pit bull, but I suppose tiny fingers could be a worry. I shall enjoy having her.’

Eleanor kept looking nervously at the clock, she had the hands free house phone and her mobile by her side.

 ‘Relax you’re all organised, except… perhaps now the charity shops are open again you could get a few toys for them…’ she looked at the expression on Eleanor’s face ‘or maybe order on line.’

As if in answer to that suggestion they heard the door bell being rung frantically.

‘Ah that will be the Amazon parcels; Michael asked me to get some Lego sets for them.’

‘Aren’t they a bit young for Lego, choking hazards?’

‘Oh dear, I hadn’t thought of that.’

Ten minutes later Eleanor had located the scissors she had hidden away and they manged to get the boxes open to reveal several brightly coloured Lego sets.

Eleanor examined the writing and pictures on the boxes.

‘Strange people and vehicles, but it seems only under threes choke, so that’s a relief. But really Lynne I’m getting too old for all this; you wait years to get some grandchildren, then they go abroad and then there’s a world wide pandemic and nobody gets to see their grandchildren…’

Two days later Lynne turned into Eleanor’s road on her way to the post office and was alarmed to see an ambulance outside Eleanor’s house. After all the precautions she wondered what mishap had befallen the precious grandchildren. She wasn’t being nosy, she had to walk that way anyway. As she got closer there was a further shock when she saw Eleanor on a stretcher being wheeled down the front path.

‘Oh Lynne, isn’t this embarrassing, Michael will tell you what happened.’

As her friend was loaded into the ambulance a frazzled looking man emerged from the front door with a wriggling, screeching child in his arms.

‘Nee Nah, Nee Nah, I want to go in the hambliance.’

The man’s voice was muffled through the child’s hair.  ‘Nice to meet you Lynne, I hear you have been a great support, but we’re here now; just as well now this has happened.’

What did happen?’

‘I’m not exactly sure; Mother was tidying up all the mess in the dining room after breakfast and she stood on some Lego and slipped on the plastic sheeting.’

Friday Flash Fiction 555 – Phone Call

Doris danced round the kitchen, her mood lifted. What was this music, that composer who died young, they played it at that concert they went to… Thank goodness for the radio to ease the monotony of kitchen chores. She was having a big tidy up, making space. It was just as well her son and his family were not coming straight to her after flying in from the USA. Their delayed annual holiday was starting with a further two week delay in quarantine at an air bed or b&b; for the best really, she had managed to avoid getting English Covid, she didn’t want to get American Covid. Cassie next door would help her order a big shop next week, though goodness knows what the children’s likes and dislikes would be this year. The top cupboards would have to stay untouched, Doris had not used her stepping stool since lockdown, the last thing she wanted was a fall and end up in hospital on a ventilator. She just needed everything to look orderly so her son would see she was still coping fine.

Doris was startled out of her conducting with the wooden spoon by the phone ringing.

‘Hello.’

‘Good morning, my name’s Natasha and I am calling from…’

‘Hold on a moment, I’ll just turn the radio off, I can’t hear you.’

‘Noo… Wait, what’s that music, I love it, I’ve heard it before, but I can never find out what it is… ’

‘Lovely isn’t it, I know the composer…’

‘Who is it?’

‘…but his name won’t come to mind.’

‘Do you know what the piece is called?’

‘Some rhapsody I think, don’t go away, let’s hope they tell us what it was before the news comes on.’

Doris held the phone near the radio and strummed the counter top with her other hand, it was that time they went with Mary and her husband, narrow seats, no leg room for the men, concerts like that were off the agenda now with social distancing.

‘Oh that was lovely, thank you so much, I’ve tapped it into my phone, I’ll download it later.’

Just as well Natasha caught the presenter’s voice, Doris had been so wrapped up in the gorgeous music she hadn’t heard what he said.

‘You are very welcome Natasha, one of my favourites. I don’t do downloading, I still have CDs. By the way, why were you calling?’

‘Oh er um I understand you were involved in an accident recently and may be eligible for compensation.’

‘No, no I’m fine, I have been very careful, apart from that time with the secateurs, where are you calling from, council covid welfare ?’

‘So you have not been involved in a motor vehicle accident lately?’

‘No dear, I haven’t driven for years and Cassie next door doesn’t have a car. I usually get the bus, but we’re not supposed to use those now. Cassie orders on line for me, I’ll have to get a lot more next week. My son and his family are over from the USA, I think we’ll have a good old English roast and I’ll make him his favourite chocolate cake, even if his wife is on one of her diets and I never know what her children are going to eat… ’

Strange, the young woman had hung up.

The Game Of Life- Covid 19 Edition

Essays submitted to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme detailing its listeners’ coronavirus experiences are to be archived by the British Library.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-52487414

The Covid Chronicles were launched in March when presenter Evan Davis asked his audience to write in with personal accounts of life during lockdown. Perhaps this is what I would write, though I have exceeded the suggested 400 words.

The last day life was normal for us was Burns’ Night, 25th January 2020. Friends came round for dinner, my husband cooked. The day before, his birthday outing of choice was a trip to Ikea, our last outing.

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Life hadn’t been completely normal since his cancer diagnosis in autumn 2018, but chemotherapy had gone well and 2019 was filled with what was normal for most of us last year, holiday breaks, long walks, family visits, going out with friends…

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By February this year things had gone off at an unexpected tangent and downhill. Family were flying over, driving down, coming in shifts and helping out with stays in three different hospitals. We were aware of the virus, but the main defence was hand gel; how ridiculous that seems now. The main entrance of Southampton Hospital, where his major operation took place on 2nd March, was like an airport; twenty four hour Costa Coffee, shops, cafes and people, lots of people. The intensive care unit was a quiet little bubble away from all this; you had to phone from the waiting room to be let in, but that was the only restriction.
On two occasions we were called into a little room to talk to a doctor, but after a few days my husband was on a ward. In the background to our little lives hospitals were planning for the virus to get worse, suddenly he was transferred to our local hospital and we were wondering how this Coronavirus was going to pan out. Our physiotherapist daughter had already been organising the NHS and her brothers and now she made sure our house was ready, persuading the ‘social care team’ I would cope fine in my new role as carer. I don’t drive, but I’m fit, we have great local shops, family would continue to come and stay at regular intervals and friends would be dropping in for coffee and jigsaws, what could possibly go wrong? The reluctance to let my husband go suddenly changed to a flurry of Covid 19 bed emptying activity on his ward.

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At home things went as planned, some friends were already voluntarily isolating, but others came round for coffee. Our last family visitors left the evening after Mothering Sunday, by the time they were on their way home, on Monday 23rd March, the Prime Minister was telling everyone to stay home and close everything. We were already confined to home, now everybody would be at home; though I certainly wouldn’t have wished for a world wide pandemic just to feel we were all in the same boat.
My husband soon got The Letter – the most vulnerable people to stay at home for twelve weeks; I was now a shielder as well as a carer. By now we all understood the theory, it was a duty for everyone not to get Covid 19. My humble Covid Challenge, my contribution to the NHS was to keep my husband out of hospital and not get the virus myself as I am his sole carer.

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So here we are in our cosy little bubble, thanks to our kind next door neighbours and the local greengrocers, butcher and Co Op doing home deliveries, I don’t go near any shops. I only venture out for a walk and to our doctors’ little pharmacy; one customer at a time, the staff wear masks and shields. The amazingly fine weather and the garden have given lockdown a holiday feel. As a retired couple with lots of interests we’re used to having relaxing days at home; now every day is a relaxing day at home. Real carers are people who look after severely disabled children or partners or parents with dementia, for year after year. Apart from having to think what to have for dinner and cook every single day, life is easy and there is time for gardening, writing and blogging.

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In the Game of Life, Covid 19 Edition, over 35,000 people have died in the UK.

We have been given another extra turn and got some bonus points; loved ones and friends have been safe so far. Lucky to have a garden, not have to worry about losing a job or trying to home school children. Lucky that what happened to us came just before lockdown.

Have you written a Covid Chronicle or kept a journal?

Friday Flash Fiction – Dreaming of Ikea

James peered unseeing at his computer screen. How had he come to be given this impossible task; was his boss impressed by his organising of the company into working from home or had the new boy in town been given the job nobody else wanted? No one knew when or how the lockdown should be eased and whatever the Prime Minister said on Sunday, staff at MPJ could not just go back to work as normal. The open plan offices and hot desking at the big company were not suited to a pandemic. The simplest answer was to keep everybody at home, the alternatives to bring in a quarter of the staff or half the staff on shifts round the clock. There would still need to be a complex arrangement of work practices for every part of the building. James chuckled, imagining himself with a gigantic roll of yellow tape marking spaced out squares like the little grocers round the corner.
Then there would be the lists; who could work well at home, who needed to be in the professional environs of the impressive MPJ building? Cassie in her peaceful little home with only the geckos to disturb her was hoping to stay put. Those with young children or doing home schooling would surely be glad to get back, but couldn’t until schools were open again. James himself was more than happy to go back and his mother would be very happy for him to go back. If business in general got moving again he could carry on looking for his post divorce flat.
He pictured Cassie coming round to view his new place. From what he could see on Facetime her home looked delightfully haphazard and she herself described it as a mix of her late aunt’s furniture and Ikea. They could both cycle to Ikea and she could help him choose some unmiddleage, unsensible furniture and fittings. His ex wife had been proud of the fact that she had never set foot in Ikea; meatballs, mashed potato and refillable coffee cups would not be her idea of a meal out. Cassie would probably think it a good laugh and not be offended that he couldn’t afford a more sophisticated date. Not that it would be a date, they were just friends after all.
As if she had read his thoughts James’ computer pinged into life. Cassie was calling him on Facetime, she was early.

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‘Good timing Cass, I need a break, you won’t believe what I am supposed to be doing.’
‘James, haven’t you heard? Two deaths from work, one of them the boss’s daughter.’
He tried to take in what she was saying. ‘How, what happened?’
‘Covid of course.’
‘But we haven’t even heard anyone from MPJ was ill.’
‘I think both families were keeping it quiet, it hasn’t been officially announced, one of the girls in my office called me. It really hits home, this is real James.’
It didn’t feel real to James. He didn’t know the boss had a daughter and Cassie hadn’t said who the other person was. But then it came to him that if it was someone from her department could she get it…’
‘Cassie, don’t worry, they must have caught it elsewhere, you would have it by now if… we’ve been off work for seven weeks.’
Her face cracked into the familiar smile. ‘I know, despite the figures, the hundreds dying each day, over thirty one thousand already dead and now close to us, but I still don’t think it could possibly happen to me.’
James laughed, glad to be back on lighter ground. ‘Same here and it won’t.’
‘You didn’t mind me calling early, interrupting work, I just wanted someone to talk to, it’s the first time I have felt alone since all this started. The girl that called me was just being polite as I’m their supervisor; there’s a little group of them, been there years; they’re all going to Zoom tonight over a glass of wine, shed lots of tears for their friend…’
‘I’m in the same boat, new boy who hasn’t got any friends yet.’
Cassie smiled again, a smile that always lit up the computer screen.
‘You know what James, it sounds awful and I’m not one to get excited about going out shopping, but I just have this sudden longing to go to Ikea and wander round their make believe world, eat a plateful of comforting meatballs and mashed potato.’

Two Metre Movement

Writers can still keep writing in isolation and quarantine, but what of photographers? No more traveling to local beauty spots, let alone visiting exotic locations, no more turning up at weddings and social gatherings to take formal and informal shots. One of our local award winning photographers has still been busy; Emily Endean has been using her daily exercise to walk to the homes of volunteering locals and snap them at their front door or in the garden – while staying at a safe distance on the pavement. A piece of everyman history, recording what we hope will be a unique year, not the new normal.

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Gardens were already important to many of us, but have taken on a new significance in isolation for those of us lucky enough to have one. Are they a zoo compound or is your front garden your own little stage where all life takes place? We stand in it to chat safely to neighbours or passers by; on Thursday evenings we stand at 8pm to clap and bang saucepan lids for the NHS and all carers.

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Hopefully a few or more flowers will brighten the daily walks of others. No one could have foreseen back in the autumn, when we were planting bulbs and wallflowers, how much time we would spend enjoying the splash of colour. With garden centres closing there has been dismay among gardeners looking forward to getting their bedding plants; we like to fill in gaps as spring flowers fade and plant up pots and patio tubs for the summer. Luckily our local greengrocer’s has been delivering plants; tidying the garden and planting is perfect for fresh air and exercise.

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I had my chance to take part in Emily’s project on Sunday. If you want to stroll around peeping at homes and seeing who lives there, visit Emily’s website here.

https://www.emilyendeanphotography.co.uk/post/the-two-metre-movement-people-in-quarantine

Friday Flash Fiction – Shopping Delivery

Tom turned into the quiet road and parked outside number nine. An old lady was standing in the front garden wielding a pair of secateurs, the only sign of life in the street. He wondered if he had the right address, there was a lot of shopping for one old lady living alone and how was she going to carry all those bags inside? Well, not his problem, Tom was just glad to have a job. What a lark, this coronavirus thing was a blessing in disguise. People assumed he had lost work because of the world wide pandemic, not because he was a loser who had never held down a job for more than a year or managed to float a business successfully. What he did have was a clean driver’s licence and enough muscles left to heft trays out of the van.

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‘Good afternoon.’ The woman stood firmly behind a large bush as if that would shield her from the virus.
Tom nodded as he pushed his barrow up the garden path.
‘Just ring the doorbell, my son will be down in a moment. I hope we have free range eggs this time.’
As Tom retreated to the front gate the door opened and a tall fortyish chap stepped out. Tom chuckled to himself, imagine being quarantined with your mother at that age, but he looked fit so surely he could get the shopping for her. The mother was still talking.
‘How many deliveries have you done today?’
‘This is my thirtieth’ he lied.
‘Oh wonderful, a true hero; not that I need a delivery, quite capable of doing my own shopping.’
‘Er hmm, well we have all had to change our routines Madam.’
‘How wide an area do you cover?’
‘The whole town… anyway I must…’
The son was hovering on the doorstep, obviously waiting for Tom to get back in his van and remove the threat of infection.

‘Mother, let the poor chap get on his way.’

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James sighed, he supposed his mother’s only social life these days was shopping deliveries. She had practically raced to the front door when his Amazon parcel arrived, eager to wave and thank the bloke before he slipped out of the front gate and into his white van. Perhaps he should order some things on Amazon for her, just for the fun of getting parcels of her own, though he couldn’t think of anything she might want or need with a house full of books and CDs, a bedroom full of clothes and a bathroom full of toiletries. Maybe Cassie would have some ideas.
‘There’s enough shopping for a year, James.’
‘We might need it, I couldn’t get any more delivery slots, you’re not vulnerable enough.’
‘I am not vulnerable and you know I prefer to do my own shopping.’
‘We could order some things from Amazon, they never turn you down and you can get absolutely anything.’
‘I can’t think of anything I need.’
‘How about something fun for your birthday, as I can’t take you out for dinner or the theatre.’
‘James, you have never taken me out to dinner or the theatre on my birthday… or any other time.’
‘Erm, no, not when Dad was still alive.’
‘…and you were still married…’
‘Next year then, in the meantime you could take up a new interest.’
‘I have plenty of interests, or did until we all went into lockdown.’
‘Something you could do indoors, I could help you set up a vivarium for example.’
‘You may be forty four, but I can still see through you; the only one who wants a vivarium around here is you, but surely even Amazon can’t deliver geckos.’
Not for the first time James felt himself descending back into childhood, he had to get out of here, get his own place, but when were things ever going to return to normal? He envied Cassie her solitary life in her little house with the large vivarium; it sounded as if she had always been single, though she hadn’t really said. But she would laugh and sympathise with his predicament. Strange that neither of them knew where the other lived; perhaps it would spoil the on line nature of their friendship, put pressure on a perfect relationship. He looked at his watch, an hour till he could log off from work and log on for a Facetime chat with Cassie.

Silly Saturday – Sensible Shopping

All of us are under quarantine, but some are more quarantined than others. We’re all isolating, but some are insulating – a combination of being insular and isolated and some of us are incarcerated. Wherever or however you may be, you still have to eat and if friends or neighbours have offered to ‘get a few things’ for you don’t turn down the offer, they may not offer again. Here are a few handy hints to make it easy for you the shoppee and they the shopper.

When they say ‘a few things’ they actually mean at least two hefty bagfuls of shopping.
If they say it’s no trouble, they mean it’s a whole load of extra fun which will fill their empty hours of isolation.
Do be polite and grateful for their help with such phrases as
‘I never shop at Tesco.’
‘I never shop on line, I like to see what I’m getting.’
‘Wednesday’s no good, couldn’t you make it Tuesday?’
‘Make sure they don’t put anything in plastic bags, I’m a plastic free shopper.’
‘Make sure the Sainsbury delivery van doesn’t park outside my house.’

You will need to make a list and it is important to remember that on line some items may not be available and if they go to the real shops, some items may not be available. Make your list clear, it’s not easy shopping for someone else. Here is an example of a helpful shopping list.

One loaf of Happy Fields medium sliced multi grain organic gluten free bread.

One pack of BRITISH butter, unsalted from Daisy Dairies, Somerset.

Two outdoor reared ( in Dorset or Surrey ) pork chops, the ones without the bone in.

A free range chicken, woodland, not corn fed, between 1.5KG and 1.74KG.

A bag of Lincolnshire potatoes, not too big, not too small either, potato size, not the bag…

Bunch of bananas, green, so they will keep.

Ten tins of Heinz Tomato soup, must be HEINZ.

Six tins of Ambrosia rice pudding – full cream NOT Lite.

Two packs of Green Grass Farm Extra Strong Mature Irish Cheddar, the pack with the green stripe and picture of black and white cows, not the red stripe and picture of auburn cows.

Three packets of Fair Trade breakfast tea leaves, NOT tea bags, not the supermarket own brand, the blue and purple box, not the green and red.

Seven packs of Tassimo L’OR Latte Macchiato Coffee Pods, not Costa latte and NOT caramel latte, six or five packs will do if they haven’t got enough.

 

When the day of expected on line delivery arrives, don’t forget to helpfully remind your kind neighbour that some of the shopping is for you by phoning or texting every hour to ask if it has arrived yet.
When at last they phone or message you to say the six shopping bags are now outside your door, reply quickly with a grateful message such as
‘I hope they are not too heavy for me to carry inside’ or ‘I hope they had everything.’
Finally, they may be too embarrassed to mention payment straight away, so don’t you mention it either.

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The Game of Life Goes Global

The Game of Life is being played on the biggest scale ever with the worldwide virus scare. A game of chance with good odds for most of us, but with the rules being made up as we go along and every team making up their own rules, or so we might think… But it is viruses that make the rules, mutating at will; do they have an agenda? It is not hard to believe that Gaia has her hand in this, as travelling and normal life grind to a halt it must be good for the environment and non human creatures.

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Meanwhile, if we zoom in like Google Maps to my family, even without the virus there has been drama. Our daughter has clocked up five different hospitals visited, with her younger son and father in hospital at the same time. Luckily the little one is fine. After a year and more of being well, Cyberspouse’s condition went off at an unexpected tangent and he has been in three different hospitals. Now I am officially a carer, having persuaded the discharge nurse and social care team I would manage – not mentioning that once I was back on my computer writing I would probably forget all about him! Luckily our daughter is a physiotherapist and has been organising us, her brothers and the NHS. Our aim was to get him out of hospital before it went into virus lockdown!

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Blogging and writing was put on hold and once my scheduled blogs ran out it was quite liberating to know there was no chance of writing anything or catching up with fellow bloggers. But what a fund of material I have acquired in my head; a blog about the NHS and patients and visitors…

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Latest virus update… Cyberson 1 now back in the USA has to stay home as he has been to the UK within the last 14 days. Team H are now self quarantining as our son-in-law came home from work with a sore throat and cough. Cyberson 2 can’t come down as his boss’s wife has symptoms. We are lucky all the family got together before the virus kicked in. How have you and yours been affected by the virus?

Au Revoir or Adieu?

Whether you jet set on business or love going on cruises, you can’t have failed to notice there are more hazards to travel lately. Your cruise ship may weigh anchor and keep all the passengers hostage – in quarantine because of Coronavirus, which we now have to call Covid19, though that doesn’t slip as easily off the tongue. If you’re lucky you may get to have your own videoblog as self appointed spokesman to your national television channel and the folk back home. If you’re unlucky you will have a cabin without a balcony, a government that will not evacuate you and test positive for the virus.

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Is flying any better? You may not be allowed on the plane if you have a temperature, you may not be allowed off the plane until you can be hermetically sealed and sent off to a quarantine centre; though that could be the start of a pleasant fortnight’s holiday if a nice hotel has been commandeered. World wide plague is not the only hazard for fliers. Storms hurling themselves across the Atlantic to Europe have caused mass cancellation of flights, but that is better than the Ryanair passengers on a flight from Prague, that in hindsight should have been cancelled. Thrice, pilots attempted to land at Bournemouth Airport as passengers screamed and hyperventilated. They abandoned the attempt and with petrol running low were diverted to Brussels from whence they returned to Prague…

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Although I hardly ever go anywhere outside this kingdom I can give advice on ocean liners and airliners. Cyberson 2, builder and pyrotechnics expert, has often worked at Southampton, sending up fireworks to farewell passengers on their trip of a lifetime, or often their twentieth or perhaps their last… The first time he worked there, one of the regular workers on the docks described the arrival of an ocean liner ‘The first thing that happens, they bring all the bodies off.’ Whether this is due to the age of the passengers, the vast amount of food provided or terminal boredom, I cannot say, but it sounds like a good way to go. Perhaps if you pay extra you can have a burial at sea. My longest voyage was on ‘The Pride of Bilbao’ from Portsmouth to Bilbao and back again on an off season excursion, where the only hazard was the live entertainment.

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Storm Dennis was not the only problem at Heathrow Airport on Sunday as ‘technical issues’ created chaos. Whiteboards, marker pens and extra staff were drafted in to ensure chaos continued. When I worked at Heathrow I won’t pretend I was not occasionally envious of passengers jetting off somewhere exotic, but mostly I was glad I could go home and would always advise DON’T even THINK of flying at Easter or Christmas. One Christmas Eve, working in Singapore Lounge, the evening flight was delayed, putting Christmas on hold in Singapore and Australia for those who celebrated it. I cringed as a young colleague said in a loud voice in front of the passengers ‘That’s ALL I need.’ We would be late finishing, but she only had to get home to Osterley Park and none of us were going to miss Christmas.

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Singapore Airlines treated their customers with oriental respect and had letters printed out and delivered to them explaining delays. When we worked in British Airways lounges catering staff were left to soothe disgruntled passengers. The huge lounge in Terminal 1 catered for the many short haul flights, very different from the serene atmosphere of quieter business lounges. There was an endless  surge of passengers, the buffet bars constantly replenished, platters of sandwiches devoured instantly. I only worked there a couple of times, but one weekend a story came from our colleagues. There was a strike on; passengers kept coming in, but none went out. Then the British Airways staff abandoned the desk leaving the catering staff to deal with the ever increasing braying mob; in the end they called the police.

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What were your worst travel experiences? You can tell us about your good journeys, but that might not be so amusing…