Over the last couple of weeks I have done a number of things that have pushed my risk of catching Covid 19. I haven’t caught it – presumably thanks to being double vaccinated – but have felt in jeopardy on a few occasions. With the exception of our planned trips to Scotland (lockdown restrictions permitting) when Eldest Son and his fiancés’ baby arrives and then for Christmas, I plan to reduce my exposure to the pandemic a bit in the next few weeks.
For the first time since the pandemic struck, Long-suffering Wife (LSW) and I went to a large indoor event. We attended two very interesting talks at the Cheltenham Literary Festival along with a few hundred others who were mostly masked and who were, by and large of the age that would have been double vaccinated. Any feeling of risk of contagion was quickly overtaken by my interest in what was being said.
The first talk was about the Labour Party and whether it has any chance of winning an election any time soon. The conclusion between three Labour party sympathisers seemed to be a resounding ‘no’ but the reasons and the possible deflections to that verdict were well set out in arguments that seemed to spill new thoughts and ideas every few seconds.
The second talk concerned the recent history of Northern Ireland. This is of particular interest because Youngest Son (YS) and his Belfast-born partner are now making their careers and lives in Northern Ireland. Having visited a couple of times, we love the country and want it to succeed. The risks to that success are rooted in history there, recent disinterest in Westminster, and the touch-paper lit by Brexit. It was a fascinating talk and increased my wish that the current difficulties around the new Northern Ireland Protocol agreement with the European Union can be resolved soon and relatively painlessly.
Then, last week, I travelled up to London. I hunkered down in a corner on the train up and then walked across London to our flat. On the way I visited the new Marble Arch Mound. The Mound and the view from it was a lot less impressive than the scaffolding on which it is built but the light show inside was a nice bonus.
The main purpose of my London trip was to visit my dentist there for a check-up and hygienist appointment that had been postponed several times over the last year due to the pandemic. The Covid protocols in the dental surgery made me feel very safe and I got away with just a couple of bloodied gums and some new dental hygiene advice.
I felt less safe on the tube to and from a football match (it wasn’t quite coincidence that my football team – table topping Forest Green Rovers – were playing at Leyton Orient the day after my dental appointment!). Despite guidance that masks should be worn, only a minority did so. Fortunately I only needed to be on the tube for four stops each way.
At the match itself, masks were completely absent but the excitement of the football always swamps any feelings I have of Covid risk during games.
The visit to London was a lovely break. I visited an unusual and stimulating exhibition by Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama at the White Cube gallery in Bermondsey. His art there incorporated old maps (which I love), ideas about colonialism and the story of his renovation of a bat infested grain silo complex. The White Cube is a wonderful space and it’s free to visit.
I also got to see Middle Son (MS) and his partner at the football match but also for dinner and lunch. It was great to catch up with what they are up to. Dinner at Bottega Prelibato was excellent and felt pretty safe.
However, it was during that dinner that I decided that I would forgo another planned London trip the following week during which I was scheduled to see the band Tourist with MS. The idea of being in a cavernous, enclosed space with several bouncing and singing, young and partially vaccinated people felt like an overstepping of the Covid risks. MS and his partner were able to use the tickets and I’m left with regret but well-being.
Other safe events were a visit by YS and his mate on their way to a holiday in Wales and a simultaneous visit by a couple who have been decades-long friends from London. All had gone beyond the call of duty by having recent lateral flow tests – something I need to get in the habit of doing – before visiting us. It was an extremely convivial weekend full of chats, walks, good food and a local art exhibition by a West Country chap called Stuart Voaden. His day was made too by the fact that our friends purchased some of his work. We all had fun.
What felt less safe – although it was fun too – was a visit to the local pub last week. For a few weeks now, since the weather got colder, I have been drinking inside rather than in the pub garden. Even during the busy recent Quiz Night the environment felt relatively Covid-free. However, the ‘Jam Night’ last week was a night of full blown sing songs and, as I left after a few noisy beers, I wondered if that had been my peak risk of infection during the last few weeks. I’m going to go to the pub on quieter nights for a while.
Everyone has a different feel for the balance of risk in relation to Covid. I know that I’m lucky that I can choose how much risk I take. The last few weeks have been interesting in helping me determine what is and what is not ok for me in advance of my booster jab and, one hopes, a final decline in Covid cases.
Postscript: Just one more shout out for our Café-au-Lait dahlias which have given me so much pleasure as cut blooms over the last few months. They will continue for a little while yet until they are blasted by the first frost.
Also, I am pleased that my limited range of vegetable harvest has been decent again this year. I can’t grow a lot of things since I struggle to protect them from mammals both large (deer, badgers) and small (voles, mice). However, some basic fencing and conservative plant choices have meant we have plenty of squash, chard, beetroot, onions and potatoes stored in the old stables as we enter winter.