February 3, 2023

There was a point this week when I feared I might have gained more than just fresh air, exercise and good chat on Sunday’s ride. Typically, the very first time we had returned to having an indoor lunch stop since the start of the pandemic, we had a message the next morning from one of the participants that they had tested positive for Covid. As I was sharing a table – indeed sat opposite to them for the whole of lunch – that put me in the front line for a possible infection.

Obviously the first thing I did was to instantly contract a galloping case of imaginary Covid. I was pretty sure it was nothing other than a combination of a mild cold, slight allergies and a dose of hypochondria, but none of these things show up on a lateral flow test. Fortunately neither (so far) has any actual real Covid and, having had a grim bout of it in the summer, I’m pretty sure I would have known if I was really infected (I will keep testing to be sure though). Hopefully my immune system – fortified by 4 jags and July’s infection – has done the job and fought it off. I’ve suffered no long-term effects from our first round but I’m not keen to keep rolling the dice on Long Covid.

Nor am I keen to pass it, or anything else, to anyone else, particularly not the Pepperpots. So I’ve had an unexpectedly quiet week instead of the busy one I had anticipated. There are, it seems, no real rules about Covid any more but cancelling my indoor meetings and staying well away from most people seemed like the responsible thing to do. In the end it was probably unnecessary, but on the whole a little inconvenience is better than a lot of regret. And it’s no bad thing to discover that the world does keep on turning without you after all.

I have been out on the bike though (it’s the best boost to the immune system I know – if you’re a real doctor, you can fight me on this) and we have exciting road mending news. Not sure how long it will take to restore my link to the quiet route in town but even the most entitled local drivers aren’t going to get past the massive digger they’ve parked across the road (although I’ve no doubt some of them have tried):

Digger parked across the closed road

Also we are (to channel Margaret Thatcher) a great-aunt.

First few rows of a knitted baby hat.

Knitting has commenced.

What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been

July 25, 2022

And we’re back, after not quite 24 hours of travel back from the US, mildly surprised to have made it almost without a hitch AND with our luggage to boot. TransPennine Express had laid on a little mild travel chaos in the form of a broken train door for our journey home, and it was sobering to walk past the massive queue to get into Manchester Airport as we made our way out, but on the whole the return trip went about as well as anything involving two planes, three trains and a drive home could be expected to go.

Swimming in the lake

As holidays go, it’s fair to say, we’ve had better ones. Fortunately we were staying with family and could isolate ourselves effectively enough on the screened back porch, enjoying the hot weather and trying not to snack too much. The sole upside of getting Covid while on vacation is that you really are forced to kick back and relax (despite, in my case, having a bit of work to do, because being on holiday and contracting coronavirus don’t stop the joys of the freelance life…). And now we are recovered and we are rested, jetlag excepted, and we even managed a bit of holiday-type activities towards the end once the Covid had relented.

Man 'hovering' on two jets of water

(We didn’t actually do the hoverboard thing, just admired the guy attempting to look nonchalant while being held up several metres in the air by two jets of water)

I even got a bit of cycling in towards the end. The rides were all pretty short and gentle and on the flat, but didn’t leave me feeling out of breath or too exhausted. I’ve heard from lots of cycling people that Covid can leave you pretty wiped out, even (or especially) if you were pretty fit to begin with. This afternoon I’ll be heading down into town and the ride back up our hill will be the moment of truth. Although, if I do struggle, it may just be three weeks of largely lounging around and eating that are at fault. Wish me luck.

Bike trail through the woods

Welcome to the New Normal, Just Like the Old Normal…

September 11, 2021

The last few weeks have seen a lot of ‘firsts’ for me (and, I suspect, for many of you), as I’ve been ticking off a number of ‘first X since the pandemic’. Today was my first parkrun since 14th March 2020, when we all stood around talking about herd immunity and speculating about what the future held. It was at once weird and utterly normal to be back. I was delighted that the elderly woman who used to be liberated from her care home every week to sit bundled up in a chair and act as a marshal was back at her post and still going strong, and slightly discombobulated by the new route, which has been modified to ensure better social distancing at the expense of making me much more likely to get lapped by the speedy folk. Other than that, the main sign of the profound changes we’ve all been through over the past 18 months was the willingness of more drivers than usual (including a posse of motorbikes) to ignore the park road closures because what force do a ‘road closed’ sign, line of traffic cones and, indeed, a large crowd of people standing in the way, have against the divine right of motorised traffic to go wherever the hell it likes?

Indeed, in general, despite case numbers in Scotland being higher than ever, it seems we have collectively decided to carry on as more-or-less normal, just with more face coverings, weird elbow bumps instead of handshakes and stroppier drivers. I’m not sure I am comfortable with this, but equally, I am fully vaccinated and I don’t want to miss out on some of the things which are happening as we resume ‘normal’ life. My response has been to take a cost benefit approach to balancing the risk of getting and spreading COVID with the benefit of going out and doing things again. Outdoor stuff? No problem (it was such a joy to replace grim Zoom meetings for a gathering in the park for the Bigtown Cycle Campaign on Tuesday). Eating indoors in a restaurant crammed full of strangers? Not so much. Head to England to celebrate someone’s life – or a missed wedding? Yes, albeit with trepidation, and leaving a long gap afterwards before going to see my parents. Agree to take part in a panel on women and cycling infrastructure, possibly without checking beforehand that it was an actual in-person event? Why, yes! To be honest, this last was organised so far in advance that I hadn’t really believed that it was going to actually happen, but it is and it’s suddenly next week, and I think it is one of those things which is worth the risk, whatever the risk currently is. As well as the opportunity to radicalise a few more cycling women, it is also a chance to meet up with some fellow campaigners who I haven’t seen since this whole thing started, and spend some time setting the world properly to rights, possibly with the addition of some alcohol. This, more than anything, I have sorely missed during these strange and socially distanced times and if the opportunity is snatched away at the last minute, I shall be bitterly disappointed..

As my legs have been reminding me every time I go up and down the stairs today, it has been a long old time since my last parkrun and those conversations about what the future might hold. I don’t think any of us had a clue then how long it would be before we gathered together again at what a friend of mine calls ‘jogging church’. And nor do I have any clue whether this new normal will be any more permanent than the old one. But maybe it is time to seize the opportunities we have – cautiously – while we can. Assuming – in the traditional caveat that gets less and less theoretical as time goes on – we are spared.

What are you doing in your new normal?