Holidays in the Covid era – just plan for the worst

by Andrew Allison

Back in June, I said to my wife that we need to go on holiday. She immediately agreed with me. The country had been in lockdown for over three months. With a four-year-old to keep amused, both of us were going stir crazy.

I immediately thought of Brittany. The beaches are wonderful. It is full of history. But I decided against holidaying abroad because I knew that France could be put on the quarantine list. It was the right decision. When I heard that half a million British citizens were holidaying in France when the Government imposed a new quarantine law, I was gobsmacked. In all honesty, I do not have any sympathy for them. They knew that the Government could put France on the quarantine list. They took a risk, and the risk did not pay off.

We instead rented a cottage in Devon. We had a beautiful view of the Devon countryside. And because of the location, we could easily get to the South Devon coast and North Cornwall. We even paid a visit to Land’s End and got our photograph taken at the famous Land’s End sign!

Covid-19 has changed the way we live and go about our business. Gone are the days when you can walk up to a bar, order a pint, and drink it sitting on a stool whilst chatting to others. Instead, you have to queue outside, register your details before you enter, order a drink, and immediately move away from the bar and find a table. That is assuming that you are allowed to go to the bar. Table service is the order of the day in many pubs, and anyone seen hovering around the bar area is immediately told to sit down.

Some pubs are taking Covid-19 restrictions to ridiculous lengths. We visited a pub in Exeter which had taped off some tables in the beer garden. All the tables were at least two metres apart, but this pub wanted outdoor social distancing of about 15 metres!

It was getting cold so we decided to eat indoors. After giving them our contact details, we were escorted to our table and told to order at the bar. There was a thick line running down the full length of the bar which we were told we could not cross. To pay, I had to move forward in the direction of the card machine as the member of staff behind the bar moved backwards. I then had to move quickly back behind the line. This was despite the perspex screens erected to protect staff and customers.

Whilst we were eating, an elderly gentleman, who was obviously hard of hearing, tried ordering some food. Being more than two metres away from the person taking an order highlighted the folly of this pub’s Covid practices.

“Would you like bread with that?” “Sorry?” Would you like bread with that?” “I can’t hear you.” This “conversation” went on for a few more rounds without the poor man being able to understand what was being said.

Did the woman taking his order suggest to him that he should move closer to the bar? Of course not. He went back to his table and his wife completed the order. Madness.

The madness didn’t end there either. When I went to the lavatory, two of the urinals were covered with thick black bags. They even put black and yellow tape over the bags. They did the same on one of the two wash basins.

If they were trying to convey a message that it is safe to visit their pub, they need to go back to the drawing board!

As I have alluded to, all pubs are required to ask you for your contact details at the entrance, but this is not the case with all of them. I am not going to name those establishments we managed to enter and leave without them knowing who we are, but there were a number of them. There are also (thankfully) a number of pubs which socially distance tables, make sure that the tables are cleaned before anyone is allowed to use them, and then, basically, allow customers to use their common sense. Yes, there are establishments which insist on marking out one-way systems, but there are many which do not.

I had an interesting conversation with one of the volunteers at the South Devon Railway. We visited on Saturday 1st August – the first day the railway had opened its doors since March. Sadly (and I knew this before we arrived), the steam trains were not running. Instead, we could look at the engines and even go into the engine shed which is not normally open to the public. I loved the character of the station and the various old advertising signs highlighted how much life has changed over the decades.

I asked the volunteer if he knew when the trains would be running again. I was told that the railway could not afford to take the risk of preparing to run trains because the Government could prevent them from doing so at a moment’s notice. I can understand why they have made that decision. The day before, Boris delayed the opening of casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks, and beauty treatments that involve the face, such as eyelash, eyebrow and threading treatments. This was devastating news for those businesses that had prepared to reopen, only to have the rug pulled from underneath them. What I thought was particularly cruel was giving a day’s notice to brides and grooms that they could no longer have up to 30 guests at their wedding.

If you are thinking about going for a late summer break, my best advice to you is do not go abroad – not unless you fancy two weeks of self-isolation. We had to endure that back in March and I would not recommend it.

Those of you who have shielded for months deserve a medal and I take my hat off to you.

The weather isn’t always great in the UK, but at least you know that you can holiday here without going into quarantine on your return home. We found that we could find places to eat without having to book in advance.

Attractions such as the Eden Project and Paignton Zoo require visitors to book in advance. This was a pain as we had a half-hour slot in which we were required to arrive. If we had failed in that mission, we could have been refused entry, despite paying in advance.

Planning is important. If you do that, you will have a great time, weather permitting, and hopefully you will feel refreshed. I certainly am!

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