Yes, the intrepid couple that brought you the sights and sounds of their world travels for over a decade, hasn’t been back on the road since the last week of December 2019. We have started cruising the neighbourhood a little, visiting with our friends. Among them, we helped our friend Chef Michael Durkin celebrate the post-confinement re-opening of his restaurant in nearby Saintes, the cool gourmet Restaurant 29 – my hot tip should you ever be in the area! On that occasion, to practice safe driving after partying by not driving at all, we stayed overnight at the charming Un Chambre en Ville B&B in the pedestrian zone of Saintes’s historical town center.
It was the first time in 15 months that we set foot in a public venue and it wasn’t easy. We have since undertaken two further overnight outings, practicing the current protocol governing our lives. We have also talked a lot about our aspirations and expectations for future travel and we are in accord in suspecting that there may not be any more grand voyages to foreign shores happening for us.
Humanity is locked in a state of peri-pandemic fluidity during which the customary act of planing future trips resembles rather a game of chance than considered planning. Early in 2021 when we were anticipating an orderly and swift rollout of anti-CoV-19 vaccines across Europe, we booked a summer cruise. The ship was scheduled to depart from Edinburgh, cross the North Sea and sail through the fjords of Norway’s rugged coast all the way up to the North Cape. I’ve wanted to make this trip via the Norwegian postal service for as long as I can remember. The postal boats don’t do it anymore, neither did our cruise ship. Norway wisely kept its borders closed to foreign tourists, while the UK slid into chaos owing to the delta variants of SARS-CoV-2. We would like to spend the next Christmas season in Málaga, but the Spanish incident numbers are climbing and French residents are discouraged from to crossing into Spain – while our own numbers are climbing dramatically, again. We already bought tickets to fly to Texas in March 2022, something we originally wanted to do this year. Well, actually we wanted to meet our kids on a Caribbean island for a fabulous tropical vacation after they had to cancel their plans to come to France for my 70th birthday in 2020. That Caribbean dream didn’t pen out either, so we’re crossing our fingers hard for next Spring in Texas. Other travel ideas we had nurtured for some time, like Mongolia and Japan, now seem definitively out of reach.
In the news one often hears expressions like “going back to normal” and “it feels more normal” referencing actions, events, behaviours and attitudes of the past. We long for those “normal” pre-pandemic conditions but have to make do grudgingly with the current state of affairs. I postulate the NOW, the life we presently live is the norm. It is the reality of our existence. The lifestyle we experienced up to March 2020 will never be restored. We, as people and as communities must adapt to the consequences and circumstances brought about by the virus.
Since we are vaccinated, we feel less threatened now by SARS-CoV-2 than we had been at the some time last year. However, largely owing to the irresponsible behaviour of our fellow humans in the industrialised nations, combined with the huge segment of the global population without access to vaccines, we will be exposed to constantly evolving variants of this highly contagious bug for some time to come, possibly for the rest of our lives. This is our normal now.
The common cold viruses HCoV-229E and its partner in crime HCoV-OC43 and others were first identified in the 1960s, while the really nasty human coronaviruses emerged in the 21st century, starting with SARS-CoV-1 that was identified in 2003, as was HCoV-NL63, followed by HCoV-HKU1 a year later. MRSE-CoV was identified in 2013 and it is considered a potential candidate for a future pandemic. Lastly, so far, humanity encountered SARS-CoV-2 which spread with lightning speed across the globe, while we observed in amazement and dread the slow responses of most governments and the WHO.
I can’t help but wonder if there might be some kind of correlation between climate change and the emanation of ever more virulent strains of viruses?
To lighten the mood a little, I’ll insert a couple of pictures from our overnight excursion in late June to the Hotel-Restaurant Le Domaine Sources de Fontbelle near Angoulême. The estate is nestled into an almost overwhelmingly verdant valley with ancient trees, springs, and caves.
Governments have let us down during this pandemic by putting politics above science. I accuse them of pandering to the electorate and their commercial “sponsors” by invoking Privacy Rights and, especially in the US, the all-important Freedom with a capital F as an excuse for their lack of leadership in the face of a deadly pandemic.
Wearing a mask does not curtail any known freedoms, it is a sanitary measure. Wearing a mask protects those around you from your potentially contaminated breath and vice versa, because (insert drum roll here) SARS-CoV-2 infects through respiratory aerosol distribution. It moves from human to human in those tiny, invisible bubbles of your exhaled breath. That is the reason why most infections occur indoors where people literally breath into each other’s faces.
The virus needs us as a host. Without us, it will die. The more humans the viruses can reach, the greater are their opportunities to multiply and spread. Variant forms of SARS-CoV-2 spread faster than previous generations because they have changed in ways that make them stickier. They adhere more easily to the cells of the human respiratory system. The more of these improved viruses are in circulation, the more people will get infected, allowing further evolved mutations to try their luck with us too.
- Unless we wear masks to slow the spread of viral particles.
- Unless we vaccinate ourselves to slow the viruses’ ability to adhere to our cells.
Then why isn’t everybody chomping on the bit to follow these simple strategies? I think, at least in part, it may be a combination of misinformation and mental laziness. Far too many people let their opinions be shaped by the crap they read on social media, which is not at all dissimilar to hate and jealousy induced village gossip that drove witch burnings and pogroms in former times. These days, we have every conceivable type of it-girl, spirit-healer, self-help-guru, anti-vaxxer, conspiracy nut, white supremacist, and who knows what else spreading their venom in the internet. They reach not just a few town folk, but millions of susceptible believers. Additionally, we have the outright liars and political shysters who deliberately mislead their constituents for personal gain. And the lemmings who never bother to fact-check a single soundbite while blindly following their chosen Pied Pipers.
Thus the pandemic continues.
Instead of concluding the post with a description of potential longterm effects of CoV-19 infections, I’ll post some more pretty food pictures for you. I took these during my husband’s 77th birthday dinner at L’Aquarelle.