Wednesday 22 April 2020

There'll Be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover

"Sailors" buying tickets for an "essential journey" on the
Severn Valley Railway at a forties weekend
I write in my fourth week of confinement to my home, save for the essential daily exercise (which is in fact rather less than daily because we have found plenty to do at home and don't always drag ourselves out!) and the essential occasional delivery of groceries etc to a relative in his nineties who is not going out at all. As the so-called coronavirus "lockdown" continues I am really missing the freedom to travel, even if only to the next town! By now three trips to London for various purposes have not happened, a wedding next month will not be happening, and Easter in Canterbury did not happen, and nor will the planned group outing to the brewery at Wainfleet All Saints.

Worst of all is not knowing whether our special tours planned for later in the summer to mark our fortieth wedding anniversary will happen: nothing has been cancelled yet and all bookings still stand for the time being, but no-one knows whether that will continue to be the case. meanwhile I have no idea when I shall be able to book Advance rail tickets and no inclination to make firm plans for any further trips. There is still a booking for a tour of Italy in the autumn and I hope that is far enough in the future to go ahead, but who knows? If there is a second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak then perhaps autumn tours will also be at risk. Ironically, that tour was supposed to be happening right now but had already been postponed for other reasons!

So I am stuck at home, neither travelling nor enjoying my time planning any travel except in the vaguest sense of thinking about where to go and when "when all this is over," as people keep saying, reminiscent, so I understand, of wartime! Our mental list, which I really must get round to writing down, will have to be ticked off a bit faster once we are able to leave home again, and I fear that the railway service will not be quite the same - how sad that so much investment will leave travel companies, like every other business, with little or no income for so long. What will train travel be like "when all this is over"?

One thing I have been doing, and much quicker than I imagined possible, is constructing my new model railway layout which is a reminder of holidays in Switzerland and based upon the RhätischeBahn in Graubunden canton. I hope to write separate series of posts about that in due course. Meanwhile, I thought I would write a piece now on the (vague) plans for where to go when this is all over - bearing in mind that it could be any time of any year and that the UK and other nations will not necessarily open up together and that "Brexit" may yet complicate things. I have just applied to renew my passport because although it does not expire until next March I may need to have six-months' validity beyond a travel date after September ...

United Kingdom Vague Plans

Whatever else we do, there must be a holiday in Britain some time, surely? The current plans for the summer stand for now, with hotels booked in Edinburgh and Chichester and on the Purbeck peninsula in Dorset, and a Royal Scotsman tour of the Scottish highlands. No other train tickets have been bought but I would now be thinking about it, and whether I should also book a hotel on the Isle of Wight, as we have done the last few years, to precede Chichester. Indeed I am thinking about whether I should book that hotel - provided that I can cancel it again if necessary. And should we drive to Dorset in case the trains are not back to something like normal? Meanwhile, though, we can begin to plan next year!

A priority next year will be to book again anything we have not been able to do of our Ruby Wedding celebration tours, that is the Royal Scotsman and the country hotel in Dorset with all the family, but we do not yet know if we shall need to do that! Otherwise, we have yet to visit the English Lakes, easy with a change of train at Birmingham New Street for us, and we'd like to go to Liverpool, for which I had already begun basic gathering of information. I am also beginning to miss Cornwall, so it is time to go there once more, perhaps trying the refreshed Night Riviera service, assuming it resumes after all this is over ... And local trips to East Anglia and Lincolnshire will be back on the impulse-travel list!

Europe Vague Plans

Assuming that the Italy trip in the autumn is OK, we can plan other trips to the continent, but if that is cancelled we shall rely on Great Rail Journeys to come up with something similar for next spring, again, assuming the business is still operating then.

We were also intending to return to Le Locle in late spring to enjoy the lake at Les Brenets when it still has plenty of water in it from the Jura meltwater and to do a little more ancestor research. So that would be the trips "hung over" from this year. Otherwise we should like to return to the French Riviera and I think that would be a fitting celebratory tour when this is all over, an emphatic return to normal - but it remains to be seen, of course, whether there is enough demand for travel for all that still to be available.

I do hope that the railways will be able to bounce back. Less commuting, maybe, as people learn to work from home when they can, but if people can also learn to enjoy the world as it is with fewer cars on the road and fewer aeroplanes in the sky, then just perhaps the railways and buses can come into their own, once we have the confidence to sit near strangers again. A world of just five weeks ago seems almost as remote now as the 1940s ...

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