I’d just like to start by saying a big ‘Thanks!’ to everyone for the lovely comments on my last article. Everyone on this little Isle is fighting their own battles right now and to be surrounded by so many kind souls really helps keep spirits high.
There have been a couple of questions asked about my journey back to the Island and while the image in my previous article summarised the numerous journeys I booked (and which I had cancelled or missed) I wanted to expand further on them to help give a better understanding of how I got into this situation. Should you only wish to hear about my time here in the Comis, please skip this part.
When I left for Thailand there were no recorded cases of the virus in the UK and there were only 40 recorded cases in Thailand over a 6 week period.
Like I said, hindsight is a wonderful thing and if I knew then what I know now then I most definitely would not have travelled, alas I did and here we are now.
Here’s how my travel back panned out…
My return flight was booked for April 6 with Emirates.
On March 22 I realised the situation was getting quite serious all over the world and, not wanting to be trapped there or have family and friends worried, I booked the next available flight – this was 3 days later on March 25. It would have gotten me to the UK the same day and then I would fly to the Island.
Emirates then grounded their flights.
I immediately booked another flight with Etihad through Abu Dhabi with connecting IOM flights.
The UAE then closed its borders.
I immediately booked another flight with Oman Air.
Phuket to Bangkok. Bangkok to Muscat (Oman). Muscat to Heathrow.
The Isle of Man then announced it was closing its borders on March 27.
The flights I had booked meant I would be landing in Heathrow on March 27. I had a hire car booked. I would drive from Heathrow to Liverpool to make the last boat to the Island before the borders shut with only hours to spare.
The Muscat to Heathrow flight was cancelled.
There wasn’t another one for 12 hours.
As I waited in the airport in Muscat I realised I was going to quite literally ‘miss the boat’.
We flew out of Oman on that flight 12 hours later. It was all very overwhelming.
Landing in Heathrow I felt completely hopeless. The borders to my home were closed and there was no guidance for what to do. At this point I had spent A LOT of money on flights, hotels, food and drink. I had no idea when I’d be able to get home or if I was able to get home at all.
I had family in Ireland, as did the people I was travelling with. We decided that given there was no end date to this whole situation, we’d be best keeping our costs as low as possible and staying with family was the best way to do this.
We booked a flight from Heathrow to Dublin.
Up until this point we had not had any instructions on social distancing or isolation. Flights were booked as normal i.e. people in each seat, less than 2cm apart, let alone 2 metres, and people were only wearing PPE out of choice. Landing in Dublin we were given information on social distancing and told we had to self isolate for 2 weeks.
Should we be carrying the virus we didn’t want to pass it onto any of our family so we found a cottage in Ireland to ride out the following 2.5 weeks.
Ever since I was in Oman with no sim card and unable to make calls/Skype/Whatsapp due to local laws – my amazing friends in the IOM had been contacting the government on my behalf, for which I honestly cannot thank them enough; good old Manxies!
After I found out I was being repatriated I drove from Sligo to Dublin, got a ferry from Dublin to Holyhead and from Holyhead a taxi to Heysham. This was literally the only route I could find that would get me there in time to comply with my exemption notice.
That brings you up to speed.
This is my story and from the moment I started my repatriation in Heysham, it is pretty reflective of others I have spoken to, however, I cannot speak for everyone. This is just my personal account, I thought it would be interesting for people to understand the circumstances and perhaps help others that come after us to prepare. I am not sugar coating anything, nor am I exaggerating or bending the truth. This is a raw and honest account of my experience and the thoughts I am having, as I have them.
We have been here 7 days now and I haven’t heard of anyone (fingers crossed) that has any symptoms. Many of us were in strict quarantine for 2 weeks before we came, which undoubtedly helped.
I take all the rules really seriously and have done from the beginning. I would never forgive myself for putting anyone’s life in danger , so I am fully supportive of whatever measures we need to conform to as a society. We absolutely must protect those who are vulnerable. Having been here for a week now however, I still believe there are ways we could do this that doesn’t involve being made to feel like a criminal and social outcast for the duration of our time here.
At the end of the day I have paid £875 for a ‘hotel stay’ – a price I understand that has been subsidised by the government. We could, at no cost to the government or ourselves, self isolate at home like the rest of the population (including those who have tested positive), cook our own food and sit in the garden if we have one. This would not only come at a reduced financial cost to the Government but have less of an impact on our mental health.
I do however appreciate the public concern for us returning to the Island and I’ll continue to do whatever is asked of me.
The people who I’ve been exposed to have honestly made what could have been a really tough gig, much easier. I get really excited thinking about our 12 O’clock ‘exercise time in the yard’ as we now like to call it. My two fellow ‘inmates’ and I (apologies if anything thinks this is in poor taste but making these jokes helps me to underplay the whole situation in our minds) sometimes bring some music and a bottle of beer to toast ourselves after our daily workout. Security knocks on our three doors, we come out, wait and walk in single file to the exercise area… I’m always delighted to see them.
The lovely security woman, Nikki, is super cool and chatty and said she had some biscuits waiting for us which was just so sweet. To have security watch while we exercise, with the police van and camera is one thing, but when someone treats you with such kindness, you sort of forget about the conditions you’re under. Shout out to John from reception too who has been a legend and nothing is too much trouble. They are both helping to make things significantly easier and light-hearted for us… I owe them both a beer when the pubs re-open!
I got my much anticipated delivery on Saturday. I mentioned before that we were allowed one delivery over the 14 days of clothes and toiletries and my amazing friend packed me a bag with all the essentials and a few little extras which has literally made my week. I owe her, big time.
To anyone coming in on the future sailings that will be staying here… bring snacks and drinks with you in your luggage if you have the opportunity. There is a small fridge, so you can store bits in there and the days are long so little treats are a godsend.
I’m still not sure why we cannot have food and alcohol deliveries like the general population… It’s these small non-essential things that really help to make this strange experience feel more ‘normal’.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful (I am VERY glad to be back on Manx soil, full stop) but the inability to cook food and to be at the mercy to the type of food, I would only ever eat once a week, is a pain. There are bigger problems in the world for sure, but this little room currently is my world and food is such a big part of it. Day 7 and it’s the first time there’s been a salad on the menu… I am seriously looking forward to some vegetables.
When we arrived, we were all allocated an exercise time. We seem to have lucked out with our 12pm slot… not as cold as the morning and the sun has been shining every day. I can see some others out at 9am which I’m not sure I would be loving after an 8.30am breakfast. I believe any requests for changes of times have been refused. I’m not sure why, there is plenty of room for another group to join us and not be anywhere near in proximity.
The days are very similar now, following below schedule:
08:30 – Breakfast delivery. Definitely my favourite meal, fruit salad is massive and the eggs are spot on.
09:00 – 12:00 – Spent catching up on messages and emails, shower and getting ready for exercise.
13:00 – Lunch is waiting.
Plain ham sandwich, crisps and an apple/orange. There are other sandwich choices available but I can’t eat mayo so plain ham it is!
13:00 – 18.30(ish) – This is the longest part of the day for me, it seems to drag. I tend to spend it reading, looking out the window, or watching terrible daytime TV. I get the odd bit of core work/yoga in too, despite the previous carpet burns!
18.30 – 19:00 – Dinner. I wish I could say something positive but I can honestly say that I won’t be eating pasta for a while after this. If you’re not keen on pasta, you might be a little hungry.
19:00 – 23:00 – I use this time to check in with family and friends and get a laugh. I like to go to bed with positive thoughts so I’m so grateful to have some funny, intelligent people ‘around me’ to keep my head in the game.
I was told today that someone had tied a sheet in knots and lowered it from their window. I absolutely love when people can find humour in challenging times. It made me laugh so much.
Best of luck to others arriving on the sailing tomorrow. Stay safe to everyone x