Travels in a Plague Year: What Now?

In the planning for some years, the next twelve months were to be something magical and exciting. An odyssey to assuage the yearnings of the most hard-bitten traveller. Then out of the blue comes an insidious microorganism which has brought us to a standstill before we really got underway.

The idea was to uproot ourselves from our bucolic existence in rural Australia and to sprout anew in the land of Boris Get-Me-Outa-Here Johnson.  Giving London a wide berth, having been there many times in the past, the aim was to base ourselves in Doc Martin territory.  That’s the south west counties to non-devotees of the curmudgeonly medico.

We exchanged this……..

Having looked into a number of accommodation options, we settled on a housesit in a tiny South Devon hamlet where we would care for an elderly brown labrador and three cats while their human went to Australia to visit her daughter.  Our host was looking forward to spending a relaxing two months thawing out and learning to be a grandmother.

……. for this

Landing at Heathrow on a cold, overcast morning at the tail end of winter, we picked up a rental car and got on the road.  Jetlagged and weary from semi-circumnavigating the earth, the ensuing five-hour road trip was mind numbingly scary.  Fending off exhaustion, we refuelled at a pub in Burnham-by-Sea, Somerset. The rejuvenating qualities of bangers and mash washed down with a local scrumpy should not be under-estimated.

Navigating the narrow, hedge lined lanes of Devon, we finally made it to our home-away-home for the next two months.  Or so we thought.  All-important introductions – to our animal charges – out of the way and a hastily consumed tasty meal prepared by our host, we escaped into sleep.  At least for a few hours.  Accursed jetlag.

For the next three weeks, more often than not accompanied by Honey, the 14-year-old lab, we explored our surroundings; trekking the vast undulating, treeless expanses of Dartmoor, the rugged Devon coast, the lanes, public footpaths, fields and towns of this beautiful part of England.

Rolling fields of South Devon (top left), Horn’s Cross, Dartmoor (top right), Totnes, Devon (centre right), Starhole Bay, Salcombe, Devon (bottom)

Then the world came to an end when that toselled-haired, spoilsport Alexander Boris de Piffle (?) Johnson shutdown all pubs and eateries in these fair isles. Alright there was more to it than that. In reality he sent the country to the naughty corner …. for a longtime. Thus, our globetrotting exploits spluttered to a halt. No springtime in Portugal, no Eurovision in the Netherlands (YAY! there is a mythical superhero), no bouncing from one Baltic state to another, no walking the Adriatic coast of Croatia, no savouring the food and wine of Georgia and no drinking mega quantities of home distilled horilka1 with my wife’s relatives in Ukraine (much to the relief of my liver).

And to top it all off, Honey the dog’s human decided against serving out her full sentence in the colonies, cut short her stay and sped home on the last available flight after only three weeks.  Plunged – as she was – into solitary confinement for 14 days, we weren’t going to be cast out onto the streets immediately. But with homelessness in prospect, we pleaded our case to rent the downstairs flat until this coronavirus thing blew over. Thankfully she agreed.

So, in these apocalyptic times, we have resorted to exploring our environs on foot in an ever-increasing arc.  At other times, you’ll find us doing what comes naturally; working in the garden. 

“You travelled to the other side of the world to do what you ordinarily do at home”, I hear you say.  To wit I reply “Yeah! So, what’s your point?”.

To be continued……………………..


  1. In Ukraine, the traditional distilled beverage is called horilka. The word comes from the Ukrainian verb for burning – hority. It’s pretty much a blanket term that could refer to any strong spirit, including vodka. Traditionally, horilka is distilled from wheat or rye and it has the same alcohol content as vodka. By definition, it’s the same thing as vodka. Don’t say this to Ukrainians, though.

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