Lockdown across the globe

Travel Talk

I have loved travelling in Europe and especially within France for many, many years. In recent times, after I retired from my main career, I have concentrated on my past escapades and written about my adventures and photographed many of the places that I have been too. I plan my modern day trips quite carefully and set off for them about half a dozen times a year. For now though, the world is in uncertain lockdown difficulties and my new world order has crashed around my ears. I suspect that things will never be quite the same again.

Calais I cherish my past routine of a late-night drive in my motor to catch an extremely early ferry from Dover to Calais. I adore searching for the French coast as it begins to emerge from the early morning mist.

For the last couple of years or so I have spent the first two nights of my trips in a rather scruffy but quite clean hotel in Calais itself. It is lovely and cheap. I have been a volunteer for the refugees that camp in pitiful conditions towards the coast. I operate from a very scruffy, some would say squalid, warehouse and chop firewood for them. Fire gives them warmth and the ability to cook their own food. It’s about the best that I can do. There is a very energetic and devoted team at the warehouse that provide clothes, tents, log fire fuel and two hot meals a day for all of the refugees. It is a fragile contribution to their lives but has continued now for a number of years. I am unable to go at the moment of course. The refugees have to deal with the virus as well as all their other severe problems. I often recall my humble contributions to their lives with much affection.

I take my departure from the warehouse after two days and set off along the beautiful coast road leaving Calais. I head towards the south west to begin my next writing trip. I like to stay in Montreuil sur Mer, a splendid rural town not far from Le Touquet. I meet a few friends there and enjoy their culture and practice my stunningly appalling French language and pretend to be one of the locals. Not for now though and I don’t know when I shall be able to go again.

Montreuil town centre by Wolffoxylady / CC-BY-SA Wikimedia Commons Like all of us, I just wait and hope that the next time will come along before too long. I worry about everyone’s health and of course my own. I worry about what will happen to our economy both here in my own country and in France along with the rest of Europe and beyond. I desire so much to get back to familiar places, people and activity. I yearn to return to the wonderful world of travel writing and European adventures. The last seven years have really been the best time of my life for so many different reasons. I think that life events have given us all a bit of a reminder and a shock about something.

My travel writing has taken me also to discovering many places in Britain. The West Country gave me much pleasure. I wrote about Stonehenge and the great cities in that region. I wrote about the Cambridgeshire Fens and the history of steam pump land drainage. I have written about Wicken Fen and Cambridge City as well. All now is on hold.

Stonehenge The worldwide lockdown due to the coronavirus is a shared experience for all of us living on this planet. Ordinary workers, politicians, medics and the rest of us have to accept such a large change in our lives. There is nowhere else to go. We cannot stop the world and get off. I should imagine that the centre of the Pacific Ocean, (not on a cruise liner though), and the International Space Station are perhaps the safest places to be just now.

I reflect regularly on many of the European countries where I have worked, played, lived and enjoyed my life. Britain of course, but also France, Ireland, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Norway, and Poland. There have been many other places too. I have such wonderful and nostalgic recollections of them all and I miss so much embracing them. Life for me better return sometime soon to where it was before this overpowering disease reared its head. I love the sense of real life and freedom by experiencing the wide open spaces of sky and openness that I feel when I surround myself amongst the open stretches of France, Europe and Britain. These environments make me feel truly vibrant and I love to describe them.

I sense so much the loss of the old life that has temporarily disappeared. I miss travelling in my car and by train and boat. I miss going to the pub and to the library where I have written so many of my travel articles. My dear friends miss their families as well along with their grandchildren. I am a bit luckier than many though. I spend half my week in my house in the bleak Fens. Cambridge The other half of the week I spend in the splendid City of Cambridge. I cheat a bit and sneak off once a week to my new family’s residence in the City. I have to look over my shoulder now and again. I would say that Cambridge is my home if I were stopped. I think it probably is many ways; it’s where my adopted family is and I love them.

There are other things that I am deprived of as well. It is a little awkward currently to stay in touch with the vastly changing events in the aviation industry stemming from my previous career interests. Meetings have all been cancelled and there is little direct information. Church services have all stopped and my ancient steam driven computer does not have the software to receive them online. So much is all gone. I miss nowadays as well the anticipation and childish excitement waiting for the ferry departure in Dover docks. A simple emotion but I have always valued it. I feel that such things are quite the most inspiring aspect of my current life.

Dover docks I love so much to write about my impressions. I find so much reward when my musings are published on the internet for all to read. It is for you dear reader that I share my adventures. I miss all of this social contribution just now. It is wonderful to describe premier French, British and other European landmarks that I have seen and experienced. It is splendid to describe principal European events as they occur. Paris in France is my favourite location and London in Britain. Both cities have so much to research and explore and photograph. I loved also feeling as a complete full blown European before Brexit came along. I took pride in it. Oh how life has changed.

I have learnt to travel in Europe and Britain on ‘the cheap’. It is quite easy and the resulting experiences are so life enriching. Simple, grass roots stuff is always my aim in my style.

I can’t wait for a normal life returning soon and getting back to my old bad habits. I have a feeling that it will not be too far off somehow. Peace and safety to us all. Maybe just around the corner perhaps. Fingers crossed!

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Bob Lyons

Retired airline pilot and European explorer

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