Posts Tagged ‘travel’

As with last week’s about medical stuff this post won’t be on the macro stuff, on national policy or anytghing, but how covid has changed what I do, what consequences it’s had for me.

And, maybe, on what it’s going to affect for me during the next couple of months.

So, travel.

Once upon a time, I had a car. I had several cars, but I’m no longer in a position to have one. For a start, I really couldn’t afford to run one. Not only the petrol costs but the ongoing costs that come along with owning and operating a motor vehicle: annual MOTs, maintenance and repairs. So, no.

I gave up the car long before I moved into my current place and have only rarely driven since. It bugs me, nbut not as much as it used to. Because I really liked driving. I enjoyed every bit of it. Even the less pleasant bits of it, like being stuck in a traffic jam weren’t that much of a problem, and even then any irritation I felt wa sbceuase of the circumstances, not the driving itself.

But, as I say, that’s in the past.

But before the pandemic hit, I’d only occasionally walk to the shops, or anywhere really. I’d gotten used to the usually excellent bus services in London. Yes, I live north of the Thames so I can’t really talk about bus services south of the river, but the reason why I know I can rely on the busses is mainly thanks to the Citymapper app. It’s the most accurate (leaves Google’s similar functionality in a hole, in my experience) and far, far better than TfL’s own app. Busses tend to arrive when the app says they will and the journey time is usually pretty much as predicted.

BUT then the pandemic hit and, for a long time, I simply wasn’t allowed to use busses other than for The Very Important Stuff, and even after that restriction eased, I wasn’t that eager to travel by bus while a chunk of the people who went on them insisted on not wearing masks.

But for most of the past year, if I wanted to go anywhere, I had the usual four choices:

  • Walking
  • Bus
  • Tube
  • Bicycle using Santander bikes

(There is an other alternative, the one I use when I visit my social bubble (and my closest friends) in Richmond: the overground train. But that’s maybe once a week and is only very rarely crowded, so any concern I have is… muted.)

Walking
The most obvious, the one that should be the default, and the one that probably would be default… if it wasn’t for the fucked-up foot.

But that fucked-up foot does tend to remind me that it’s fucked-up every so often, sometimes with huge amounts of acute pain.

But when it doesn’t, then I walk. During the ‘you’re not allowed out except for shopping/medical/exercise’ period, I developed the habit of going for a ‘Daily Constitutional’, just an hour of not-very-fast walking, accompanied by a podcast or an audiobook. As I’ve said elsewhere, my only rule was that it could not be a news-based or current affairs podcast; I wanted, needed, a complete break from the news while out.

Of all the decisions I made during pandemic, that was probably the wisest I took. Apart from listening to some great audio – I reacquainted myself with Simon Russell-Beal’s George Smiley and Simon Moffat’s Hercule Poirot, among others – having that break from ‘important stuff’ was essential. I don’t think I realised how essential at the time, but I very much appreciate it now.

I’m lucky to live where, in about eight different directions, there are comfortable, delightful walks, without too much of a steep incline on any of them. Whether I want to head for Kilburn, or Baker Street, or Hampstead, or Swiss Cottage… lovely scenery, wide open spaces, and unless it’s bucketing down, some decent protection from the worst of the rain.

And then there’s Lisson Grove, along side the canals, and various areas of greenery.

The one place I’ve not walked to, sadly, though it’s within easy walking distance, is Regent’s Park. I keep meaning to but it’s just far enough away to walk to and just off the main roads enough…

…that I’m genuinely concerned about my foot twisting and I’ll be far enough away from somewhere to sit and recover, or to grab a bus back… and I’ll have a very, very unpleasant walk back.

So, yes, I’ve been doing a lot, lot more walking since the pandemic hit. Much as when I gave up smoking, I have no doubt I’m actually fitter as a result, even if I don’t actually feel it.

Busses
Yeah, the famous red bus. Once I started re-using them, I noticed I was doing a mental check at every stop; were the number of people now on the bus, or the number not wearing masks, enough to make me uncomfortable. The moment that number tripped over an entirely personal, entirely arbitrary target… I got off the bus and waited for the next one.

It’s been interesting, seeing the % of those wearing masks increase (in the early days) from a novelty to a pleasant sight to the default. But those days when I could with a flair degree of accuracy predict how many people would be wearing masks when I got onto a bus…? They’re gone. They’re long gone.

I have no idea, these days, none at all, when I board a bus, how many people will be wearing masks. Could be almost 100%, could be fewer than half.

And that worries me. Not enough always to not uses busses, especially if it’s back from a big shop, but it’s a constant low level concern when I get onto a bus these days.

There’s another worry that’s constant as well. It’s not something I worried about at all until a couple of weeks ago, but now it’s always there. One of the inevitable consequences of the restrictions has been that on each double seat… you either get a couple. Or one person, sitting alone. That iron rule has started to crumble.

It’s only happened to me twice, where someone has gotten on the bus, and then sat next to me. On both occasions, I immediately stood and moved away, standing the rest of the journey if necessary. The first time, I did it automatically, astonished that anyone would sit next to me. But the next time it was a deliberate act. As it will be, the next time. Until this thing is 100%, totally, and completely over… no, I don’t want to sit next to anyone on the bus. At all.

The Tube
There was a time where I’d use the London Underground on a regular basis. Then covid hit and I think I went a full year without stepping on a tube train. There’s no doubt that it’s faster than the bus. The higher fair doesn’t bother me, not much. What does hugely concern me however are the other people, even less likely (without reminders) to wear masks and far less likely to observe any distancing.

I don’t feel… comfortable on the tube, and more and more will take it only when I have to, when travelling by bus is not a sensible alternative. I’m sorry that’s the case, because I used to quite like the efficiency, speed and availability of the London Underground. I wonder if I’ll ever get that back. I hope so, but I don’t think it’ll be in the near future.

Bicycles
For the first time, during lockdown, I actually envied people who had bicycles. For a short period of time, I kept an eye on freecycle and on second hand sites for anyone getting rid of theirs. That feeling went away but never wholly, I’d quite like a bicylkem but can’t really afford nor the replacement if it’s nicked. Every summer I use the ‘Boris bikes’, the Santander bikes for a few weeks and though they’re not the easiest nor most comfortable of rides, they’re relatively cheep and I do get a bit of decent exercise with fresh air.

I’ll probably start using them again soon for a few weeks again. Maybe.

(As I was typing this, an email arrived selling electric bikes. Out of curiosity, I hit the link. Oh, they’re only two thousand pounds or more each. Erm, no.)
OK, that’s today’s entry. I’m off back to the flat, walking… accompanied by, today, The History of Rome. We’re up to the Second Macedonian War. So that’ll be nice.

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.