Life in Lockdown – Lockdown Story – Reporting from Lockdown
Caption: Craig Gray
Caption: Craig Gray
It’s funny how things work out. One minute you’re scaling a mountain skirted by emerald green tea plantations two kilometres above sea level in Southern India, the next you’re back in your hometown on the South Coast of England, self isolating alone in a tiny flat, in the midst of the biggest pandemic since the Spanish flu.
It was while I was staying on the outskirts of a small town called Munnar, a hill station in the Western Ghats mountain range, that the virus began to take hold in Italy. At first it was almost a joke with the locals. ‘Are you from Italy?’ they began to ask any Western backpacker, on the bus, in the street, but always with a smile. There was as sense that something was going on, but it was happening far away. The smiles soon faded however, and by mid-March the local government had began to firmly recommend that any tourists leave the area, and indeed the country.
The attitudes of the people had also changed. Travellers were being refused public transport, service in restaurants, even the rickshaw drivers, normally annoyingly persistent in their efforts to win a fare, had stopped asking if you needed a ride. An atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion permeated every interaction with the town’s citizens. They were frightened of us, and rightly so. The most high profile cases of the virus in Kerala at that time were after an Italian flight landed in Kochi only two weeks before, and recently there were reports of a group of English travellers ignoring quarantine advice and disappearing into the country illegally.
Local police insisted all tourists keep to their accommodation, and advised that we get tested for symptoms at the local clinic. This did little to appease the town’s citizens however, and after a group of housewives came to air their grievances at the gates of the hostel, I made the decision to head back home. Indeed, with increasing reports of airlines cancelling flights I began to realise that if I didn’t go soon, I may struggle to make it back at all.
I arrived back in the UK on 21 March, following an excruciatingly dull 19-hour stopover in Bahrain airport. Heathrow was noticeably quiet. The M25 eerily deserted. It was like returning mid-way through a Stephen King novel. With only about £100 to my name, and job possibilities disappearing left, right, and centre due to the government banning mass gatherings, and closing the pubs on the 20th (my marketable skills are bar management and events), I was lucky to find a good friend with a spare room.
I am fortunate. I left to go travelling last August, and was due to return at the end of April. There were many people I met in India who had only just begun their ‘trip of a lifetime’ and were having to cut things very short. A few months ago I was anticipating, and in fact almost dreading, coming home to a country that had been divided for so long and, with the election of Boris Johnson last December and his remit to ‘Get Brexit Done’, not looking to be particularly united any time soon. Such issues seem to have paled into insignificance, rightly or wrongly, as we now enter our fourth week of lockdown, and the daily death toll shows no sign of slowing.
Whether the government is managing this crisis well or not, is not for me to say. The empty streets, the deserted beaches, the long but orderly queues in front of every shop, tell me that as individuals we are taking this seriously. We are suffering the biggest disruption to our daily lives in most people’s living memory, and although it’s very easy to point out a (very small) minority who seem to be unaware of the gravity of the situation, lets not forget that most are doing everything they can to help. Even if that means simply staying at home and watching telly.
When you’re at your door clapping the NHS, or Boris, or whoever else you feel is deserving of some recognition for the work they are doing at this crossroads in history, don’t forget to clap for yourself a little bit too.
Craig’s report is the first from our series ‘Life in Lockdown’ featuring lockdown stories from people in Dorset and across the globe. ‘Life in Lockdown’ aims to shine a light on how people’s lives have been affected by lockdown and how they are surviving. They will share their experiences and tips for living in lockdown. We will be publishing the reports online over the next couple of weeks and in the upcoming May 4Dorset magazine. If you have a lockdown story you would like to share please get in touch as we would love to hear from you
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