Surviving British Quarantine
Life in BC’s Lockdown
My quarantine back in Canada was nothing like my quarantine in the UK.
Canadian quarantine began pretty much when everyone else’s did. On March 18, my 30th birthday, on the return drive from a backroads adventure with my mom, I wondered aloud to her whether my place of retail employment would be shutting its doors soon because of COVID. She naturally didn’t know, and nobody else really did back then either, but later that day I popped onto Instagram to post photos and saw an ad declaring that my company had indeed shut its doors. It wasn’t until the next day that the email from my bosses came, telling me that we were all laid off, and while that implied a job to return to after the pandemic lockdown, (should I want it) I couldn’t help thinking a different translation: “Happy birthday—you’re fired!”
Thus began a strange time of no movie theatres, extremely awkward trips to the grocery store, and general disapproving griping because our province had questionably closed not just all of the provincial parks, but all of its remote recreation sites as well. Thankfully, British Columbia is enormous, with plenty of trails on crown land and Forest Service Roads (FSRs) to explore, so this did not cancel hiking. The BC government recommended that people stay home, but we were not forced to. So long as we kept our social distance from others, it was perfectly fine to roam, which my mom and I did joyfully. Due to her previous health battle, my mom had been forced to retire last year, so she was home all the time, and with myself unemployed, it was actually kinda wonderful. Here we were, best buds, with all the time in the world, and while it sucked that we couldn’t do stuff like go see a movie, COVID-19 gave us a chance to be two peas in a pod again, like we were when I was a kid.
English Isolation Is Different
Quarantining alone in London has been wildly different from quarantining in a locked-down British Columbia; my parental buddy isn’t here with me, most notably—she’s literally on the other side of the planet in a wildly different time zone and I have to limit the amount of time that I talk to her because my “cheap” international phone plan is prohibitively expensive (and she does not have Wi-Fi out at the cabin.) I also can’t go outside—no refreshing walks around the neighborhood, no romps in the beautifully vast nearby parks that would be so fun to wander in allowed.
I can go into the back garden, but it is puny, paved with sidewalk blocks instead of soft grass, and it is often populated by other people in the multiflat building where I am living, people whom I must avoid because of my isolation. Because London can be a tad sketchy (according to my host,) and we are on the ground floor, I haven’t really seen the sky in a week since I have had to keep my room’s blinds shut. Heaven forbid a less-than-honorable male make note of my lone female existence. (I have found myself missing my pre-trip fantasy of spending quarantine gazing out over a picturesque London cityscape for hours, or, you know, at least a regular London street.)
Isolation has been one big long blur of sleeping, reading, writing, drawing, watching stuff, listening to a certain very popular backpacking podcast and eating the dark chocolate Oreo cookies that I intelligently brought from home. For most of the experience, I have had insomnia, until I foolishly angered my problematic left shoulder that had gotten painful from my lying on it in an attempt to not see the glow from a streetlight outside. Attempting to massage the afflicted shoulder, I blundered, injuring it instead by accident, and the past few days have been filled with me slathering odorous Tiger Balm on it several times a day as well as using one of my Platypus Softbottles as an impromptu hot water bottle to perform heat therapy on it. My body, finally tired because it had something important to do (fixing my messed up shoulder,) finally cooperated with the whole sleeping thing and at last my sleeping schedule is looking somewhat normal again. I actually woke up at 8 a.m. this morning and didn’t need a nap afterward!
Thar Be Doggos
At first I felt like a German shepherd stuck in a chain link kennel; all this amazing historical British stuff around me and I couldn’t remotely investigate any of it. If I did go out and was caught, I faced a £1,000 fine—that’s $1,740.66 Canadian—so I have obediently stayed put. Being trapped indoors has not been all bad though, especially because my host happens to be guardian to two adorable dachshunds, Arthur and Medusa, who have been my nearly constant companions. Thanks to them, I haven’t lost my marbles, and it’s been fun experiencing what life is like when you have a dog. (I have only ever had kitties.) I’ll always remember our quiet afternoons together, all three of us flopped on my bed, a dachshund on either side of me while I watched stuff on YouTube or wrote.
Some Kinda Gross Culinary Adventures
I have also had a lot of time to test out the cooking setup that I made for this trip, and I have learned that pasta sides cooked with it are less than appetizing. (The texture is just… weird. Pasta noodles need to be boiled, as it turns out, or they just feel like dough soaked in hot water. Yick!) Rice, ramen, and soup mix on the other hand cook up just fine though, and I suspect that couscous will be a great option as well once I can get to a grocery store. I’m looking forward to seeing what English grocery stores are like!
It’s Nearly Over!
I’m pleased to say that the light at the end of my quarantine tunnel is now bright and close; very soon now I will be free to explore the (British) world again. I can’t wait to charge forth into the outdoors again and I am extremely eager to hop on the early train that I have booked to take me north to Scotland. I plan on giving myself two days to get my legs back just roaming around as a happy tourist (as well as ferreting out some isobutane canister fuel) then I’m going to hit the trail, which I’ve literally been dreaming of while in isolation! It’s truly amazing to think that soon I will at last set foot on Scottish soil once more and I will be doing my almighty best to hike the trail as fast as possible. Most thru-hikers race the change in seasons—I will be racing a potential rumored second lockdown. I’m determined to get to Cape Wrath, and I am endlessly grateful that I have the chance to try.
Well, I have a novel that I borrowed from my kind host to finish up, and a few more movies that I want to watch before I escape this place where I have hibernated. A tasty looking cheese and tomato sandwich is staring at me from its plate—at least I’m going into this thru-hike well fed and well rested. The next time that I post a blog here on The Trek, I will be in Scotland, somewhere on the trail chasing north. While my hurt shoulder is still bothering me a bit today, I am not too worried, because my backpack has never affected it. If I sleep on my right side or my back and don’t use my left trekking pole then it should be just fine. As for the rest if me, I will be starting with a few days of low mileage to start things off gently.
I can’t wait to finally get to the trail!
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