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That's right, a TRAVEL POST ! WOOOO !
For obvious reasons, it's been 18 months since I was last in the UK. This is by far the longest I've ever been away. Although living a gilded cage is incomparably better than living in a dung heap, it's still... not ideal. I love working from home, and long may this pandemic-induced trend continue. But that doesn't want to mean I want to be literally caged up here forever.
Travelling in times of a pandemic is a bit different to normal. The worse part wasn't the new procedures themselves, but the disorganised mess of figuring out exactly what the regulations are in the first place - both on the Czech and British sides. In the end I had to email both governments to determine what I should do, because both had confusing instructions though for different reasons. The British had a nice, clear website with, easy-to-follow, contradictory instructions and webpages that were updated out of step with each other. The Czechs had a horrendously over-complicated flowchart that was plastered with random symbols for some reason. Fortunately, somewhat incongruously, both responded promptly and cleared up this mess very easily.
The procedures I had to follow were :
- Book flights. EasyJet have not yet resumed their Bristol service, so this meant a Ryanair flight through Stansted and a National Express bus to Cardiff. This was all very cheap, but added an extra 7 hours (!) to the journey. And the extra complication of finding the different route in the first place, of course.
- Get a negative test result within the 72 hours preceding travel to the UK. This meant searching for a host of testing centres until I found one that definitely gave me the required documentation. I paid the equivalent of about £20 for this, which I found out on the day that I needn't have done since two tests per month are covered by Czech health insurance.
- Book a test for day 2 after arriving in the UK. This was relatively easy since the Welsh government insists on using one particular supplier, but it cost a stupidly expensive £88. Which is utter bollocks because that's the same price they used to charge for two tests.
- Fill in the UK's passenger locator form, which is easy but needlessly tedious. For some silly reason you can't do this until the last two days before you leave, which is irritating and pointless. The Czech equivalent on the way back asks for all the same information but can be completed in a small fraction of the time simply because it has a better, more concise layout. It also doesn't try and make you feel like a criminal in the way the British one does with its constant veiled threats.
- Print out all this documentation plus my EU Digital Covid Certificate (a.k.a. vaccine passport), in order to avoid the need for 10 days of self-isolation. This meant a trip to the office on the day of departure.
|The number of other planes I saw at the airports was about the same as the number of cars in the car park.|
|I thought about putting the jam on first on one and second on the other, just to really annoy the internet, but I was hungry.|
|That bottle was full when we started, and it was emptier still by the time we finished.|
- The shot glass is only to be used by Ian McShane in the wild west.
- The Talisker glass gives the best results if you absolutely need to drink your whiskey as soon as possible. It is also the most satisfying to hold.
- The Penderyn glass is the best if you're the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty in the 18th century and are having an important meeting to plan a mission to measure longitude. It gives the most smokey results by far, but loses all of the other flavours.
- The Norlan glass is easily the best under all other circumstances. They're expensive for glasses, but not as expensive as the Borg-assimilated pumice infuser they sell (whatever the hell that is), or the £450 it'll set you back for a box and four glasses. They're pretentious twats, to be sure, but they doing something right.
- Drambuie is completely unaffected by any glass as it overpowers everything.
|This is Cardiff's city hall, not far from where I bought the cheese.|
|Which I feel was a very productive day.|
|We don't know much about them, except that surely great-great-great-granny is very likely to be haunting someone somewhere. Incidentally, I re-read Dracula before I bought all those new books. Just thought I'd mention that.|
I found them a hugely interesting read. He died when I was very young so I don't remember him all that much. The letters are... a warts-and-all view. He talks about the "wogs" and "coolies" and "dirty Indian villages", as well as breathtaking scenery and other places which are basically hell on Earth (Port Said in Egypt is apparently a "godforsaken place"). There's also a deep homesickness, something I can certainly empathise with, a burning desire to return to family and home. That was particularly poignant for me after so long away. And there's also a very deep affection for my grandmother. Racist, yes, but that doesn't detract from their other aspects.
And of course there are the amusing anecdotes. Like making a hammock for the ship's dog because dogs get seasick, something he was particularly insistent on because he knew my grandmother wouldn't believe it. Or being granted special and exclusive privileges to play the ship's piano, or trying the "American drink" Coca-Cola for the first time and thinking it was "OK, nothing special". My personal favourite part though :
I also had an air mail from your mother with a lock of Keith's hair [that being my uncle, then five months old]. The lads in the mess saw and pulled my leg unmercifully. They said that it came from an entirely different part and not from Keith at all. You can guess what they meant. Anyway they were only jealous.
There are many mysteries in the letters. We don't have my grandmother's correspondence at all, so we're only getting half the story. We don't know anything much about the enigma that is my grandfather's brother. According to the letters he did something he should be ashamed of but we have no idea what, or if this should be read ironically. We don't even know how he died, since my grandmother gave completely contradictory accounts ranging from "torpedoed in the war" to "had a lorry accident". Ho-hum. And we don't know what crisis was happening that prompted my grandfather to insist that "we'll get through this", which feels quite different from the usual homesickness.
Even so, what we do have is a treasure trove. God knows what future archaeologists will think when they dig up old computers and uncover Facebook. Probably they'll run like hell.