Covid-19, A Rural Diary - Searching for Summer - Part 1
As the rains come down once more and the nights grow shorter and chillier, I am reminded how fleeting our British summers are and how so often they disappoint. Last year was an exception - endless days of sunshine amidst the darkness and despair; this year was not. We were back to the usual snatches of summer amongst seemingly endless grey and cool. No consistency, no settling into a rhythm. You grabbed the sun where you could - eating outside, going for a dip, hanging out washing - but most of the time it was dreary and spirit-crushing.
Much as I wanted to enjoy the undoubted beauty of this coastal Kingdom of ours, I had an equal need to escape the prison that this land has become in recent times. And, overcrowded as we are, with the complications of delayed holidays and celebrations due to Covid, attempting to find anywhere to stay had also become like hunting for hen’s teeth. Instead we bit the Covid bullet and attempted to negotiate the minefield that our Government had created to get out of gaol. The stress of wading through and understanding the ‘traffic light’ system and all the new rules and regulations for travel abroad for a family of five, all of us with different vaccination status, was almost not worth the effort. Let alone the cost. My husband bore the brunt of it and at one point the holiday we had dreamed of in April was cancelled as we couldn’t face all the logistics, extra costs and travel uncertainties which were involved. Then we were told we wouldn’t get our (substantial) deposit back on the sailing boat we’d hired so in the end we decided it was the lesser of two evils to go than stay and, anyway, we couldn’t find anywhere else in a ‘green country’ (let alone our own country) either sensibly priced or available in the midst of the school summer holidays. And so we scrabbled around at the last minute, filled in a thousand online forms, rearranged airlines and flights, queued for vaccinations in London, sorted our domestic arrangements and managed - just - to get everything together to fly out to Corfu in late July.
Contrary to expectations the journey out was exemplary. No queues at Check-In, lots of smiley staff - even at security! - and generally a very pleasant experience compared to the normal horrors of modern-day air travel. We arrived at our hotel at 11pm and squeaked a drink in before the poolside bar closed, breathing a sigh of relief and relaxing in the warm air to the sound of the cicadas. We had made it. We had escaped the dreary UK. We had jumped every hurdle put in our way. We were finally on holiday!
And boy, was it hot! I can’t complain because that was what we had been looking for - but a heatwave hit both home and abroad and even being on a boat surrounded by sea didn’t seem to stop me getting frequent heatstroke! I have clearly lived in the north of England for too many years now and my blood has thickened! Gone are the days where I swanned around Milan in 40 degrees hardly batting an eyelid in an apartment with no air-conditioning beyond open windows! No, I am clearly getting old and found myself complaining and huffing and puffing like my mother. Oh dear!
But heatstroke aside, how lovely it was to be surrounded by a deep blue ocean and clear blue skies for seven days; to be together as a family enjoying the simple pleasures of a vessel powered by wind, of jumping off the back to swim around in cool waters and of sitting in a traditional Greek taverna sampling home-cooked food with a backdrop of masts, olive trees and moonlight.
After a week of so much endless blue before the eyes, it was quite a shock to come home and see green and grey once more. I don’t think I have returned from any holiday and noticed it quite as much as I did from this one. The contrasts in light and colour were phenomenal and it took me a good few days to adjust my vision from something so light-filled and blue to something so lightless and grey-green. Normally I adore the green of the beautiful nature which undoubtedly surrounds us here, but without a blue sky to illuminate it, I felt deflated and lacking in energy once more. So was it worth the effort of getting away? Yes, quite simply, it was. And I know how lucky I am.