All the HK ers are dutifully wearing their masks. I know this because I’ve just spent the past 12 hours seated between 2 older than me men. Both wearing their masks, only removing to eat and drink. And thankfully keeping them on each time they coughed. And cough they did. I would have asked to be moved, fearful of being the middle of a potential COVID sandwich but the flight was packed. Not a spare seat to be had.
All the non Asian faces were maskless. And some also coughed, happy to share everything with all us. No temperature checks after we disembarked and just a leaflet from Public Health England saying to call NHS111 if we had any symptoms. Staying indoors is not compulsory unless you’ve been to Wuhan or Hubei within the last 14 days. Of course I haven’t and I jolly well hope my two flight buddies had not either, or been sharing hot pot with anyone who had. All so hit and miss and unreassuringly random. But atm my plan is still to self quarantine to be absolutely sure.
The airport express in HK is super efficient and great value for money. The Heathrow express is not. But I want to get home ASAP now and so I stump up my £25, for my pound a minute journey to Paddington, where I plan to catch the Bakerloo line to Marylebone to get back home. London to Stratford upon Avon, via Birmingham. All a bit long winded but it’s the best great British transport can offer me.
Only today the Bakerloo line isn’t stopping.
I’m told I can go back up and catch a bus. At this point I want to cry. At this rate I could fly back to HK in the time it takes me to get from London to home.
So I scan the departure boards, take a punt and jump on a train to Evesham. Evesham is a 20 minute drive from home. But guess what?If I go by train it will take me 2 hours.
I’d say that’s 2-0 to HK then.
But I know I will be home today and cannot wait for my final destination.
Got to hand it to you Hong Kong, you never leave me short of material to blog about.
After last year’s mega trip I said I could not think how this year’s trip could be any more exciting. Well, am not sure ‘exciting’ is how I would describe finding myself in the middle of a Covid-19 crisis, but it has been one hell of a ride. But now, it’s time for home. And I am ready.
I spoke to Martin this morning. He is in Cuba, so communication has been limited to the times he has been able to buy a wi fi packet that works with our 12 hour time difference. We were to trying to figure out the best way for me to self quarantine, so I don’t unsuspectingly pass on the lurgy to him and then he to his 90 year old vulnerable Mum. Given that nobody seems to really know exactly how it is passed on, whether you can be an asymptomatic carrier (I am sure you can), or exactly how long the incubation period is, (varying reports from 7 to 14 days+), there was a mutual scratching of heads and a lot of “don’t really know”.
Anyway, the best thing we came up with was we would have chats through the cat flap at Stratford and he would go and stay in a hotel until he returns to Cornwall after his working week, with me following on a week later. Not quite the homecoming I had planned.
I shall give it all further thought after I’ve read my new book.
Since I saw Guanyin at the monastery the other week, she keeps popping up, everywhere. Then I suddenly remember that my Mother worshipped her and there is a little shrine still in place at my eldest sister’s home.
Perhaps there really is such a thing as The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. … (Baader-Meinhof is the phenomenon where one stumbles upon some obscure piece of information—often an unfamiliar word or name—and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly).
And I learnt today that due to Guanyin’s Buddhist roots, she is the only Chinese deity not offered meat or alcohol during worship.
I hate it – that crunchy noise I make when I don’t change gears smoothly in my 18 year old car, whose clutch and gear box have probably seen better days.
It feels a bit like that whenever I get to the last few days in Hong Kong. That time between the end here and the start of being there, exacerbated by trying to figure out the self quarantine process that doesn’t come with very clear instructions.
Today was the first of several goodbyes, a gathering of belongings. I am trying to be fully present and enjoy these precious days, but my mind is always running ahead of me. How does the Airport Express thing work again? Do I really need to bring a bunch of year of the rat stuff, so lovingly given, half way across the world? How will customs react to this home made massage thing Mr Leung has made for me, as I have no hold luggage?And a bunch of other getting into homeward bound thinking. All 3 weeks sooner than I thought.
Who gets the bike? Who might like a yoga mat? Who might want the precious alcohol rub and facemasks, or should I be bringing them home? crunch, crunch, crunch.
Time to upgrade to an automatic car and find the nearest thing to a HK charity shop that might like a strange assortment.of donations.
Back in the UK, the situation changes on a daily basis. I read a woman with corona virus caught an uber to Lewisham A&E. That in a separate but equally bizarre incident, an infected doctor did two shifts in an A&E in Brighton. Who would have thought to worry about being out and about in either place a week ago?
Just goes to show, life is a risky business however prepared and protected we think we are. Here, even if I stay at home 24/7 I am not guaranteed 100% safety. Numerous builders have been visiting to quote on an extension, Mr Leung catches the minibus to the outdoor market every day, and neighbours, who nobody knows where they’ve been or who they’ve seen pop in and out. One close neighbour has been ill and hospitalized overnight. Not for Wuhan virus, but hospitals are maybe not the best places to be right now.
Set against all of this, last night Mr Leung, if I have understood correctly, told me that in future he would rather I did not spend any time with my family and/or Winnie. This of course I sort of understand and I am also very grateful for all my host family’s kindness, but with all the recent comings and goings I am not eager to agree to what effectively might be 4 weeks of a weird sort of quarantine . And then this morning I hear that the builders arrive to begin work Tuesday and it will be very noisy and dusty between 8am-6pm. An interesting conversation follows.
Of course practically everyone, including me, has an opinion on the virus. And, as the situation changes on a daily basis, both locally and internationally, the response to any given situation seems also to change. Here, as UK citizens were, and still are, over Brexit, people are very divided and vocal. Three key themes pop up continously. Carrie Lam, the Chinese and the virus. Many a heated debate. Some from behind masks, others barefaced, brazening it out. I sit at meal times with a mixture of amusement and horror, watching as someone who believes everyone should be forced to wear a mask, repeatedly uses his personal chopsticks, to help himself from a shared dish…
On and on and on. So many opinions. Where one should or should not go, whether it’s safe to meet and eat in or out with friends and family. Whether it’s worth shelling out £35 on a box of 50 flimsy masks that were made in China (for the record I did, mainly to be seen to be doing the right thing by my hosts rather than believing they really do offer protection now I’ve done more research).
My head is a mush with it all and my phone is clogged with all the updates on the situation being sent to me.
I need to get away for a day. Come back to my own rhythms and thinking, even if only for 24 hours. And be alone to figure it all out. So just for the moment I’ve come into the city. I have had, what I hope is a solution focussed conversation with the Leungs, and told them I would like if at all possible to continue to see my family and friends, and will move out if needs be. It seems we are all concerned for each other’s safety but have different ways of assessing risk. I stick to an arrangement to meet up with my big brother, his wife Willa and Winnie. Great to be with my big brother, as I haven’t seen much of him so far this trip and mostly I feel very comforted and calm in his presence. He is always eager and happy to tell me stories about life with my Mother, but talking about who might be my Father is a definite no go area of discussion.
Later, I head to the far end of HK Island where I can be alone. Just me watching all my own thoughts coming and going. I know I can figure stuff out given time and space.
I pass the temperature check in the empty foyer of the Travelodge, clutching my box of masks that cost more than the room and 500ml of hand gel that is quadruple the cost back home.
The sight of a king size white empty bed and four plump pillows and a big soft duvet, in a huge by HK standards, room, has me smiling with relief and joy.
With much love on Valentine’s day, this day a year ago, I flew from HK, home to the UK, after finding my birth family. HK has a very vibe right now.