Dear Diary, someone’s thrown a spanner in the works.
Day 0. Monday September 12.
We’re walking back to our flat after touring the almost deserted (tourist season is effectively over) Cutty Sark site when I start to feel a bit “off”. It’s a lovely sunny 20°C/68°F day, but I feel both a bit chilly and yet weirdly “warm”. It can’t be the pie and mash lunch we had (I did NOT opt for the jellied eels!), although in hindsight I now remember craving comfort food as soon as I woke up this morning, and Ted remarking that he was surprised I wanted a big lunch after our deliciously food-heavy weekend in Portishead, so maybe something was already “off” with my system.
If we were normal people living in one place, I’d simply go home and not think any more about it, but we’re not that kind of normal. We’ve been in 29 countries so far this year, had more than 150 Covid tests (daily on our 141-day world cruise), and taken almost every mode of public transit.
We head to Boots and buy some self-testing antigen rapid tests, and the rest, as they say, is history. The “wait 15 minutes” tests come up with the dreaded 2 lines in less than 2 minutes. We are both positive for Covid19.
We immediately notify our friends in Portishead.
Day 1. Tuesday September 13.
Ted has started to cough and says his throat is sore. He’s a bit tired as well.
We’re both a bit warm. A Tylenol for me, and an Advil for Ted, very quickly brings our temperatures down to feeling normal.
I’m really, really, really tired, and just want to sleep, but there are a couple of things that need to be done: (1) check the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) for the rules about what we should do now that we’ve tested positive, and (2) check the supply of food we have in the flat.
The NHS says we should:
• try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 5 days
• avoiding meeting people at higher risk from COVID-19 for 10 days, especially if their immune system means they’re at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, even if they’ve had a COVID-19 vaccine
This starts from the day after we did the test (today, hence “day 1”). We have only one big, stupidly extravagant event planned for our time in England, and that is on September 27th, which would be day 15. We also have local theatre tickets on day 9. We’ll make a decision about that play on the day, based on when we attain negative test results, and go masked if we go at all.
A quick fridge and cupboard check confirms that we have food for 3 days, including today.
I head for bed (in the end, I sleep about 16 of the day’s 24 hours). On one of my waking trips to the kitchen to make tea, I notice that Ted has discovered the itv4 network and is watching old episodes of Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett, and Roger Moore in The Saint.
Day 2. Wednesday September 14.
I’m feeling a lot better, although still a little bit tired. I guess in my case it’s true that sleep heals. Sadly, Ted is feeling worse. He’s coughing more, his throat feels clogged, it hurts to swallow, and he has no appetite, although he manages the spaghetti with a mild tomato sauce and sautéed mushrooms that I throw together for our evening meal. I make endless cups of tea for both of us, to keep liquid flushing through our systems. Ted is taking Advil for the sore throat pain. He has developed quite a sexy rasp to his voice, but when he clears his throat it sounds EXACTLY like the mating call of a bull moose. Be still my beating heart.
Ted is keeping amused on his ipad, and with afternoon television programming. I’ve got access to our Ontario library for ebooks, so between frequent short naps I start and finish State of Terror, by Louise Penny & Hillary Rodham Clinton. The heroine of the thriller is the female US Secretary of State (I wonder who Hillary based her on?), and one of the villains is a former celebrity President named Eric Dunn, who is a very thinly disguised Donald Trump. Despite the obvious references it is still a well-written political thriller, and the plot tie-ins with Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache detective series and Three Pines Quebec are fun for fans of her novels (like me).
Day 3. Thursday September 15.
I’m feeling pretty much back to normal. There’s no point in wasting a test kit, though, since we’re not doing anything until both of us can.
That said, we’re out of food. After researching the available grocery delivery services and what is involved in setting up an account, I go back to the NHS guidelines for “if you need to leave your home” and decide that, KN95/PPE2 masked and sanitized, I will go grocery shopping.
Ted, desperate for some fresh air, comes along on the walk. We meet no one along the way.
I’m in and out of the M&S Food Hall in under 20 minutes, touch nothing that I don’t buy, speak to no one, stand near no one, use contactless payment, and put my own groceries into our bundle buggy. We now have food for the next 7 days (all our small fridge will hold).
I also visit the local pharmacy for more Advil, Tylenol, and throat lozenges, and it is here where our UK experience is so very different from buying these kinds of things in Canada.
First, there are two kinds of drug stores here: stores like Boots (which, comparable to Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada or CVS in the US, sell a wide variety of non-drug items like toiletries, makeup, cleaning products, snacks, and gift items in addition to having a pharmacy), and real pharmacies which just dispense healthcare items. Second, analgesics like Tylenol, which are on the shelf in Canada in a wide range if strengths and quantities, are “over the counter” medications here. That means they do not need a prescription, but they must be requested from the pharmacist.
Drugs have different brand names in different countries, so we’ve learned to ask the pharmacist for the drug, not the brand. Advil is ibuprofen. Tylenol is acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol. In both cases, the pharmacist asked whether I wanted regular strength or extra strength, which determined how many tablets I’d be allowed to buy at one time. In the case of the ibuprofen, I was allowed 24 x 400mg tablets; for the paracetamol, I was allowed 32 x 500mg tablets. In Canada, we can buy bottles of 100, right off the shelf, and no one blinks if we buy 2 or 3 of those large bottles when they go on sale. Costco sells extra strength Ibuprofen in mega-jars of 400 tablets. It’s a different world in many ways.
The other notable difference is in packaging. Nothing rattles around loose in oversized bottles. Everything is blister packed inside cardboard boxes.
Medicated throat lozenges (Strepsils) are also over-the-counter, not free access.
Now that I’m feeling better, I’m also hungry, so as soon as groceries are unpacked it is time for a sandwich, tea, biscuit, and another novel: The Maidens, by Alex Michaelides, a psychological thriller set in Cambridge. It’s easy to read a book a day when I’m stuck inside.
Ted has discovered a cable channel called US5, and is watching old episodes of Murder She Wrote and Law and Order. He still has no appetite, but I’m pushing tea (slightly milky, since he’s finding it hurts his throat less) and vanilla smores fudge, which melts in the mouth before gently sliding down a sore throat.
So far, Ted has lost 2 lbs and I’ve lost 4 from what were already our best “fighting weights” since spending 2 months walking everywhere in Europe. He seems almost pleased, but I’m adding a biscuit to go with each of my cups of tea, since I’m now at the low end of where my body is comfortable being.
We have tasty British sausages and smooth buttery mashed potatoes for dinner. Ted even manages some salad, which bodes well for his sore throat improving.
I have enough mental energy to spend an hour on WhatsApp with son #2 and his wife helping them plan hotels for their driving route at the end of this month from Ontario to their new home in BC. Nine days on the road with 3 high energy boys means an indoor pool is an absolute must, as are suites with at least partially separated sleeping areas. That’s not easy within military relocation guidelines, but I think we found some good options.
Fairly early to bed.
Day 4. Friday September 16.
If I hadn’t done that initial Covid test, by today I’d think I had just had a quick bout of … what? Flu? It has been so long (at least 4 years) since either of us have been sick that I can’t even come up with a good comparator. I feel totally back to normal, except that I still took an uncharacteristic afternoon nap while a load of laundry was in the washer, and I’m suddenly really hungry. Those 4 pounds lost over the past 3 days should return pretty quickly.
I have coughed a bit today, but that’s not unusual for me. After age 50, I suddenly became hypersensitive to certain kinds of scents: perfumes (with very few exceptions), certain very strongly scented flowers (like lilies), scented candles, plug-in air fresheners … and whatever it is that companies use to add scent to detergents. “Smells” trigger my cough reflex, and that last one is the worst, so doing laundry today (I couldn’t find unscented detergent to replace what our landlord had stocked for us) and napping under scented covers may be all today’s cough is about. We’ll see.
Ted is marginally better today, as evidenced by the fact he’s back on his computer researching photo-editing software, but he’s still far from good. At least he has a bit of an appetite, and his moose calls have been downgraded to caribou. His throat is still really uncomfortable though. All I can say is that I’m really glad we both had our full complement of vaccinations – I would not have wanted to see him sicker than this.
Tonight I booked our bivalent vaccine appointments (the formulation that better targets the Omicron variant) online for the October week during which we’re back in Ontario. We visit the grandkids in British Columbia in October as well and then head back to Europe on a river cruise. I’ll feel more secure with one more jab.
I think today, staying in all day and frittering away the time blogging and responding to emails and Facebook messages may officially have been the least exciting day I’ve had in 2022. Ted says it was very exciting installing his new photo editing app, so I guess all’s good. We’re just having our umpteenth cup of tea and catching a couple of episodes of Workin’ Moms on Netflix, possible because we travel with our AppleTV, before then turning in early. Again.