Chester, Covid-19 and keeping your distance

Are you all safe and well? Fingers crossed that is the case if you are reading this. I hope you and the ones you love are okay.

This week, we went to Chester for a minibreak, a holiday booked months ago. By the time Sunday arrived, the doubts had set in—was it safe? Did it make us irresponsible to go ahead with it? As this was pre the isolation advice, we decided to go ahead…

Sunday through till the Monday afternoon was okay—the trains, restaurants, hotel and bars quieter than normal, though it was hard to judge as I’d never been to Chester before. Nothing to compare. Then the announcement went out that people should stay at home as much as possible, and avoid ‘unnecessary’ contact.

Chester Zoo

The following day dawned… my birthday. What to do? Chester is famous for its zoo, which features regularly on Channel 4’s The Secret Life of the Zoo. Was it still open? Yes. To do our bit for social distancing, we walked the three and a half miles there instead of taking the bus figuring we might as well add in immunity-boosting exercise.

The lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) regarded we gawping humans through half-closed eyes—their fears and worries only immediate. Where’s my food and is anyone stealing it/trying to hunt or fight me?

Enough to make you jealous of such simplistic thought processes, hmm?

Up close to the jaguars

Chester does a fair bit for conservation, reflected in the animals it keeps. Sumatran tigers (magnificent), painted dogs (fabulous looking), African elephants, orangutans and more. On the day, I got the closest to a big cat I suspect I will ever get. The jaguar enclosure had a large simulated-jungle bit undercover and one of them wandered right next to me as I stood next to the glass panel.

A privilege indeed.

Later, we stopped off at one of the Wetherspoons in Chester where people drank defiantly. Eat, drink and be merry… for tomorrow we die, right?! The manager told us later they were asking customers to sit at alternate tables and buy drinks by card payment only.

Quieter than normal, he said, but what to do but stay open when Wetherspoons employs some 43,000 people in the UK?

They’ve no choice now anyway, as pubs, cafes and restaurants were ordered to close on Friday—the government promising employees will get paid.

The joy of birdsong

One thing that struck me while we were in Chester… Sandy and I took ourselves out for a few walks. The city walls, down by the river and along the canal, and everywhere I heard plenty of birdsong and saw lots of birds. Isn’t it likely so much staying at home will benefit the wildlife in this country as it puts a temporary stop to human encroachment?

Come Tuesday evening, the visitor attractions in Chester began to close. Restaurants and cafes stayed open but were empty. Service was attentive and quick in all the places we went into as staff pounced, glad of something to do.

We cut our holiday short.

The lucky ones

Back home—one eerily quiet train journey later stations overrun by staff with little to do—I know I’m one of the lucky ones. Type 1 diabetes aside, I’m healthy. I don’t work in the hospitality or retail industries. I’m not trying to find work and my part-time job is easily do-able from home. Ditto the copy writing I do on behalf of clients.

At some point, people will need entertainment, which might lead to a surge in e-book sales. Perhaps people will crave the escapism of romcoms with happily ever after endings such as the ones I write.

One cheery story here—Man proposes in Iceland.

Finally, I have an amazing partner and family—all of whom will make the next few frightening months easier to bear. How will people on their own cope? Or those in unhappy/abusive relationships? People who need care, rely on visitors if they are housebound or who are homeless? I know this sounds trite, but I hope I can find some small way to help those who aren’t as fortunate as me…

Stay safe, sanitise and don’t panic buy, folks!