Saturday 8 August 2020

Travel in the Age of Corona

Benedict Ambrose and I will soon be embarking on a voyage to Poland, and I have been instructed by a reader-in-the-know to warn my small audience, so that you are not constantly refreshing for updates.

There are some hoops we have to jump through this time. First, we had to not get sick, and we have managed, thank heavens. Second, we have had to fill out a form informing Polish health authorities where we are going and where they can reach us, should our plane have been full of contagion. Third, we will have to fill out a UK government online form no earlier than 48 hours before we return to Britain.

We have our top-quality homemade cloht masks, but these are difficult to breath through after half an hour, so I broke down and asked B.A. to buy the standard made-in-China blue ones. It hurt me very much to contribute to the Chicom economy, especially as the spread of the Wuhan flu is the Chicoms' fault. B.A. also bought two small bottles of hand sanitiser, made in the UK.

A short trip to Kraków from our idyllic country retreat is in the cards, and I have already bought and printed our train tickets, as the Polish train website earnestly encouraged me to do. I was assured by one of the train companies that I would not be made to prove that my travel is essential. To be honest, I'm not clear on this week's sentiments about moral justification for travel, either in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, or  that of Mr Duda & c. As it happens, not going to Kraków would now be a gross social solecism, as I have made two appointments to see fellow journalists there.

I have also printed small maps, both of the route from our Kraków hotel and of the route from the nearest railway station to our country hotel, in case of emergency. I even know what time the sun will set the day an emergency might befall us. Walking 45 minutes along Polish country roads is one thing, but doing so in the dark is quite another.  I am not worried about vampires and ghosts or even chicken-slaughtering farm dogs; I'm worried about Polish men drivers.

Sadly, my conversational Polish is not in as good nick as my conversational Italian. For the past five months I have faithfully been phoning up my Italian tutor for hour long conversations about Arcivescovo Vigano, il nostro povero papa Francesco, and going for long country walks. I have recently been listening to Polish stories while pedalling away on our exercise bike, but I am not certain I have a thick enough layer of Polish overlaid on my consciousness to keep the Italian emerging or, indeed, from forgetting everything I know the moment I am introduced to someone's mother.  

However, I have my books to take with me, and presumably I will be able to do a solid two hours of Polish reading on the flight. My primary goals are to relax, to read interesting books, to write descriptions of beautiful vistas, and to eat delicious things, so I will not be striving with might and main to converse in Polish. I will, of course, do my best, and I hope to see some old films. I am partial to old Polish films.

A week's holiday from the internet! On the one hand, heaven, but on the other I wonder if I will fall off the wagon and make B.A. pass me his laptop.

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