Monday, 6 December 2021

Why I'm not prepared to travel anymore during covid.

The pandemic is not over and whilst more people are getting their booster (3rd) shots of the vaccine, many more people around the world aren't. This isn't just because they're just anti vaxxers, but because the vaccine isn't available to them, such as living in rural townships in Southern Africa, in environments where people don't have access to running water or electricity, can't socially distance due to overcrowding, yet travel into the towns and cities for work in shops, restaurants and people's homes.

When covid was first identified the end of 2019, we were planning our gradual relocation from Dubai to the UK, it started with moving the cat and dog over in February 2020, with me returning to Dubai in March for a month to entertain a friend and her husband and Peter's sister and friend who had booked visits out to see us before we relocated, the plan then was for me to fly back and forth month to month and Peter to come to the UK when work permitted. 

Covid scuppered those plans and after rescheduling a couple of cancelled flights with BA, I finally managed to get back to the UK, the last BA flight out of Dubai, the first day of lockdown. Dubai closed its borders behind me, but not after they'd had me sign a form to declare if I wanted to come back in the foreseeable future, I'd be required to enter mandatory quarantine at my own expense.

My MIL had been house and pet sitting and had to return to her home, so I had to leave Dubai. I didn't see Peter again until the start of August, when he was finally given permission to leave and return and I was given permission to re enter Dubai a few weeks later.

On arrival in the UK for me, Day 1 of the first lockdown, I arrived at Terminal 5 Heathrow, the queue for passports was long, all being manually checked and a leaflet handed out to me about how to isolate and for how long. On my flight I had to wear a mask, the plane was full. Some passengers wore full PPE as did the airline staff. Food and drinks were served as usual. I had no way of getting home, so a friend collected me, we wore masks, socially distanced and I stayed in her spare room. The following morning, she drove me to Watford train station. The trains were running but there were no ticket or platform staff, so with my case, I worked out to get to Northampton, changed to Birmingham then down to Malvern and a short walk home, where I dropped my case, picked up a shopping trolley and walked to Lidl to shop for the next 10 days. My friend called in to collect Bob for a daily walk, but no one checked up on me.

When Peter arrived in the UK in August, I'd then managed to purchase a car online, brand new from a garage in Birmingham. The garage were able to deliver because the receptionist drove down and had her sister follow on in her own car, because they lived together. They were allowed to travel further a field by then and it was their first day out and they were quite excited about the Starbucks drive thru now being open.

I drove to Heathrow T3 to collect Peter, to discover it was closed and re parked at T2. It was such a relief to see him after so long. We both had to quarantine for 10 days. He had to have a PCR test prior to leaving Dubai. Peter had to fill in a passenger locator form prior to departure from Dubai.

During his stay they introduced PCR testing for flying. The PCR tests had to be conducted with a certain lab and due to the timing of Peter's flight his options were Manchester or Belfast. He ended up with a NHS drive thru, which was accepted, but I had to drive home from Heathrow when I dropped him off via a lab in Bristol, at a cost of £150, before I flew out 3 days later.

On arrival in Dubai I had to have a PCR test and isolate at home until our results came through within 72 hours and had to download an app on the phone.

Getting PCR test in Dubai before leaving home was easier, booked online, turned up within an hours window and you stayed in the car to be tested, results came to your phone within 24 hours. The tests were throat and both nostrils. On arrival back in the UK, I collected my car from valet parking at T2 and drove home to isolate again for 10 days.

I travelled to Northern Ireland to stay with my son and his wife as my house sitters had arrived early and the wife was shielding, so I ended up with no where to stay. Birmingham and Belfast airports were like ghost towns

Travelling out for Christmas 2020 required the same procedure as above, however when I arrived, Peter was in Saudi and the borders closed on him over night, meaning he spent Christmas over there while I stayed in a hotel on the beach for a couple of nights. He was home for New Years and we walked to view the fireworks at the Marina, from near our house.

I worked for TV production with the European Tour in early December, we were required to mask wear and socially distance. As I went home at night, I was in a different bubble from everyone else. In January I joined the tour in Abu Dhabi where I had to PCR to cross the border and PCR on arrival and go to my hotel for 24 hours until the results came through. Then I had to stay in my bubble for 4 days on and off the course. I had to PCR test daily, which tied in with my flight to the UK 48 hours later. I left Peter in Dubai until my next trip and flew back to Birmingham, caught the train to Malvern and said goodbye to the house sitters who were waiting in their car, on the drive, for me to arrive. 

I had an exemption letter from isolating as I'd been in a bubble, filled in the passenger locator form and 2 days later my letter was revoked and I was told to isolate for 10 days, which I was doing anyway other than walking the dog. By this stage I'd had both vaccine does, 3 weeks apart.

I headed back out to Dubai in April, my son and his wife had travelled over from Northern Ireland to collect the dog and the neighbours looked after the cat. I flew 2 days after the last lockdown, via Terminal 2 and had to catch the train and spend the night before my flight in an airport hotel. I found a local testing lab to have my PCR done before flying. I also had to apply for permission to enter.

On arrival in Dubai another PCR on arrival and isolate until results came through. Then came the bad news. There were no flights between Dubai and the UK and Dubai was put on the red list. At this point, we'd moved out of our villa, had our furniture shipped and Peter had taken early retirement. We were homeless and stranded. We booked a hotel for 2 weeks in the Marina with the intention of having a couple of weeks fun time, but realised we were stuck there until June 14th at the earliest before the first flight out, which we were booked on. 

Then all of a sudden there was a flight to Birmingham via Amsterdam on June 3rd. So we booked, arranged PCR test, filled in passenger locator forms and booked and paid £2400 for mandatory hotel quarantine. 

We were concerned we might get stranded in Amsterdam, but it was costing us money to stay in Dubai anyway, so we either took this flight and risked not being allowed in or we stayed put for another 2 weeks minimum. It was 11th October before Dubai were removed from the red list.

At this point people were travelling via other countries before arrival in the UK and enjoying a 2 week holiday on a beach somewhere then just flying into the Uk for 10 days isolation from an amber country. In the meantime people were flying from the UK to the same destinations for their holidays and covid started spreading further, mutating more and more countries going on the red list and people started complaining about the extra costs that they hadn't factored into their trip. Dubai was on the red list due to it being a hub. At this point in time, Dubai had one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and lowest cases. We'd both been double vaccinated, my age group wasn't being offered the jab in the UK until June/July and Peter would've only had one vaccine by that point if we'd been in the UK and every trip we'd made to the UK was entering a country with the highest death rates from Covid in Europe and most of the world.

Our arrival at Birmingham airport was a traumatic experience. We identified ourselves in the red route with all our documents and were informed that we'd been identified as a risk to the UK, had to sign a form and agree to staying in the Crowne Plaza for the next 11 days or we would be arrested and fined.

Border control and Home Office staff acted despicably towards us, wouldn't answer questions, made a huge show of escorting us to the 'prison bus' wouldn't answer any questions, barked instructions at us and had me in tears even before I left the airport.

Hotel quarantine was depressing, 11 days in a small room. The food was good, but repetitive, hotel staff were kind. I spent every day in the room and managed 10.000 steps a day. Peter was collected daily by his handler for 15 mins in the exercise yard. Our security were dreadful and arrived for their shifts 5 in a car, no masks on, and took their fag and meal breaks in groups outside our window.

The irony was we were 4 hours unsupervised in Schipol airport, we flew with amber country passengers who only had to isolate on arrival. We received no support from track and trace, just a pile of paperwork to read through and eventually got through to someone from a volunteer group who was able to give me a listening ear because no one could answer any of our questions. We had mandatory PCR tests on day 2 and day 8.

We heard some horrendous stories of poor hotel accommodation and below standard food that was delivered cold, wasn't halal and just left outside hotel rooms and had to be eaten cold after sunset due to it being Ramadan. Also tests were going missing and people were being forced to stay in quarantine a further 11 days. Also people were stuck on buses for several hours and driven miles away from the airport then forced to find their own ways back to complete the rest of their journey.

We did get a call from track and trace informing us we'd had close contact with a passenger on our flight from Amsterdam who had since tested positive for covid and we were to return to our home and isolate for a further 6 days. We explained we were in mandatory quarantine in a hotel and were prevented from leaving for a further 6 days, at which point we were informed that if we failed to isolate the police would be involved. My response was 'bring it on' 

I've yet to write about the mandatory quarantine because a lot of people claimed we were attention seeking, that if we chose to travel we deserved what we got and just plain tough luck. I did physically write a diary, I may type up one day but for now, I'm still struggling with what was an illegal imprisonment in my opinion.

It's also why I won't be travelling again anytime soon. I've written this at the end of November, as the Red List is reintroduced and travel is banned from South Africa due to the new variant and other countries are introducing new measures. I'd hate to have to be finding somewhere that carries out PCR tests in a country where I don't speak the language. Portugal have declared a State of Calamity.

It has cost us 1000's of pounds on top of flights to travel just to see one another over a 15 month period. We missed out on being with our children, watching our first grandchild grow. Now with another grandchild and Peter now being retired, we can't afford to risk getting locked out of our own country again.

I've recently been travelling back and forth to Northern Ireland visiting my new grandson. I LFT test before and after. I'm desperate for Australia to reopen its borders to tourists so we can see our son who lives there, it's been almost 3 years since I last saw him and I need to visit Germany sometime soon to visit close friends, but until more people get vaccinated and infection rates fall, I won't be going anywhere. I turned down work opportunities in Dubai in November and have cancelled plans for more work in January. We'd even considered combining it with a trip to South Africa, our former home.

I know a lot of people who have grabbed the chance of a foreign holiday when they've been able to, they've arranged PCR tests and lateral flows on their return. A lot of these people are now complaining about the additional costs as from today December 6th. How their holiday was ruined with the sudden changes, the panic and costs of getting a negative PCR test, the fear of being stuck abroad at their own cost, missing time off work and having to 'cancel Christmas plans' as they didn't think the new rules would effect them and had to stay longer to wait for PCR results. I have NO sympathy for them. They've knew our story, they didn't think it would apply to them.

I've friends who have been separated from loved ones for 2 years or more now, who have taken the risk for a long weekend and I have every bit of empathy for them as they've travelled. At least they've had somewhere to stay should they not be able to get home.

Have you travelled during covid? Was it for work? To see loved ones? Or just for a holiday?

Saturday, 4 December 2021

Week 48 - One Daily Positive and Project 365

I've had a migraine brewing all week, probably because I'm away from home, sleepless nights with a new born and I expect I've eaten some wheat at some point also. I gave into it on Friday morning and stayed in bed till midday.

It's been a stressful week with Freddie, back and forth to hospital until he had to stay in for a few nights. It's a worrying time, but he'll be alright in the long run.

No real idea what I've been doing this week other than lots of washing and housework, dog walking and baby cuddles.

331 Saturday Over to sons house for the day whilst his FIL started insulating the loft, we couldn't find a hammer so I ended up tidying the cupboard under the stairs in an attempt to find it, not found, but cupboard nice and tidy now.

Molly follows me everywhere, regardless of whether I have the baby.

332 Sunday After a lazy morning and a Sunday lunch, I moved into sons house this evening as he's back in work tomorrow and mum is still struggling after her c section.

Teamed with a bright yellow jacket, this is how I walk the dog.

333 Monday Relaxed morning with Freddie then son had to take him to the ED. Evening spent putting up Christmas decorations. 

334 Tuesday A chilled out day with Freddie and mum and out to the retail centre in the afternoon. 

In charge of bathing and dressing Freddie so selected the outfit his dad (on the left) wore when he was born, 26 years ago.

335 Wednesday Freddie had visitors so I popped out with the dog to the local coffee shop for lunch. Freddie had to go into ED in the evening again.

Molly the dog is fascinated with what this is.

336 Thursday Son home from work early to deal with Freddie, he ended up back in ED, DIL had a friend round for the afternoon and I spent the time dragging empty boxes out the attic. In the evening we went round to DILs parents for dinner.

My last cuddle with Freddie for a couple of weeks.

337 Friday Had a long lie in after waking with a migraine which I nuked with meds. I then spent the day cleaning, washing, ironing and dog walking and packing to go home on Saturday.

We were left unsupervised, so had a photo shoot.

On the blog this week:

Blended families - step parents, step children and the next generation

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Friday, 3 December 2021

3rd-5th December 2021 - Post Comment Love

Welcome back to #pocolo with Stephanie from Lifeat139a and I.

I can't believe it is December already. Do you have your tree up yet? It is over here in Northern Ireland at my son and DIL's house. I had planned to have mine up this week and I have parcels to post and cards to send as well as wrapping a few presents and hand delivering them to family and friends. I should be going home this weekend to get sorted then back for a few days nearer to Christmas. 

Child 2, his wife and Grandchild are spending Christmas with us, so I'll be busy getting everything done, including a food shop and a couple of events already in the diary, I may have to juggle or just cancel.

So in between lots and lots of baby cuddles, I'm planning to spend my spare time (when baby naps and chores are done) just reading, watching TV and blogging and having a pre mini Christmas over here.

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Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Step Parents, Step Children and the next generation.

We are parents to 5 and grandparents of 2.

And that is that. There is a biological mother of 2 somewhere and a biological father of 3 around but for the purposes of our family, we are mum and dad to 5 since 2000 and Granny and Grandad of 2 over the past 2 years.

Whilst 2 children have contact with their biological father and he is Grandad to one of the grandchildren we share, there is no other Granny to the other grandchild. Both of our DILs parents are Nanny and Grandad. We aren't involved in our children's lives with their other parents, but are a bit more involved with their wives family. For instance I'm currently staying with my DIL's parents whilst visiting our new grandchild.

Only a few people other than family really knows which child belongs to which parent. When we meet people, like new neighbours or colleagues we just say we have 5 kids and 2 grandchildren. As we get to know people, they soon find out which child belong to which parent. The 2 eldest are my husbands, the other 3 are mine. No children together. 

With 4 of the children being boys, people will then say how nice it must be to have a girl also and ask if she is married, has kids. We will then say she is disabled and lives in a care home, then when people ask if we knew before she was born of her disabilities, it is at that point I say I'm her step mother as I can't answer those questions and we explain the set up of our family.

Over the years people have said to my husband 'oh you have one of each, whilst others will ask me if I would've liked a girl. For some reason people seem to think a woman is disappointed with only boys and a man is disappointed with only girls. Then they'll add 'well as long as they're healthy, that's all that matters.' Well our daughter is healthy, she just lives in a care home due to complex physical disabilities.

We've had friends who know our situation state that they are blessed to have one of each and a complete family and others who have said god has rewarded them with two 'normal' children. We tend not to stay friends with people who have that attitude.

The latest conversation people feel free to have with us is about our grandchildren. Whilst I'm pleased to say we have one of each, it doesn't stop people who know us telling me that a biological grandchild will feel a lot different to a step grandchild for sure. Mostly these people don't have other children than their own biological ones to care for, or if they do have step children the set up has been that they haven't lived with them, or met them when they teens or even adults.

The thing is as a parent and a grandparent we have no say how a child or grandchild will feel about us either as a step parent or a biological one.

Our children have always referred to us as the Parents, if someone says 'your mum/dad' they've never corrected them, my husband and I are often addressed as Mr and Mrs (surname of my children) but they've always used our first name as the step parent, but introduced us as their mum or dad. 

Our grandchildren are fortunate that they have additional grandparents, they'll work it out for themselves when they're older, but for now it makes no difference whether we're biologically related to anyone or not. We're family and that's all that counts.

But it does hurt, that people suggest I may love a step child or their child any less than I love the ones I'm biologically related to. You might think you have good intentions, but I'd rather you kept your comments on our family set up to yourself, I've explained how it works. 

Due to where our children live, I tend to spend more time with child 2, his wife and their child. I'm not closer to them, I don't love them more, I just live nearer. I'm the only Granny their child has, DIL's mother is Nanny and lives nearby so spends more time with them also, this grandchild has 2 Grandads. Child 4 and his wife and grandchild live near her parents, their child will spend more time with Nanny and Grandad than with us as Granny and Grandad, there is also another Grandad who the child will grow up knowing. Does it matter that that child 2 is my step son and child 4 is my biological son? Does it mean their child will love us any less? No they'll just grow up into a family that is accepting of them and them of us.

We are parents to 5 and grandparents of 2.

This was a blog post I had originally asked John from @dadbloguk who himself is a step child and writes often about step/blended family dynamics, to post on my behalf anonymously for fear of feedback from people identifying themselves or for discussing our children who are now adults and may see this differently. However as with all things on my blog, this is from my perspective on our family and how family life past and present, informs my life choices. It's a conversation I had recently with child 4 and his wife. I don't write the details of events, just how the events have affected me. Family and friends are welcome to comment, ignore or ask if they don't understand something I've written.

Saturday, 27 November 2021

Week 47 One Daily Positive Project 365 - it's all about Freddie.

I've been suffering with a bad back, due to lack of mobility. Too much time this week has been spent sitting cuddling Freddie. I've had to take myself out on long walks, borrowing various dogs to join me. It is however getting very cold out there and we had our first frost this week and light snow on Friday. I am however getting plenty of sleep.

I'm staying with the in laws, a few miles down the road. Son returns to work next week so I'm moving down there's to help mum and baby get into a routine with baby and his additional needs until he has his surgery sometime in the new year. 

Peter has been sorting out issues with the flat in Wales, it appears the water damage has come from a leak in the flat above, tenants in there know nothing about it and the property maintenance company haven't replied to my email yet, so I'll have to chase that up next week.

I've lost track of what we've done this week other than cuddling Freddie.

324 Saturday A lazy morning, Freddie time and off to Belfast. Christmas is in full swing as were protests against covid passports. 

325 Sunday A day of Freddie cuddles.

326 Monday A long walk and coffee stop, down to sons in the afternoon for Freddie time and off for a long walk at Hillsborough.

Granny, Freddie and Nanny

327 Tuesday Day spent with son, DIL and baby, helping with sorting out the nursery, putting clothes away and moving things into the attic. Lots of baby cuddles and 2 dog walks.

Peter is having to get to know Freddie via video chats for the time being.

328 Wednesday A day of Freddie and popped to the supermarket.

Smiling for his Granny? Nope, it's wind.

329 Thursday Coffee in the village then afternoon spent on the laptop while the DIL's grandparents visited for the afternoon.

I'm still sitting outside as much as possible.

330 Friday Over to son's then out for a coffee and a walk, back to theirs to finish tidying the nursery and cuddles with Freddie while they started putting the Christmas decorations up.

Freddie having some awake time. Our other grandchild asked where his eyes were.

On the blog this week:

I had a rant about tenants and rental agents this week.

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