19 March 2020


The virus has driven friend Robbie back to the UK from Lebanon, where she is a volunteer teacher in schools that are currently shut down. A plus for us, as it enables us to visit her in the little flat she rents in Deal, and lives in when not working overseas or visiting Australia, where she owns a house in Trentham.
On Wednesday morning we have our last breakfast at a cafe in Winchester where we've become regulars, pack up and catch a train to Southampton Airport, where we pick up a hire car. P has ordered a Kia, but when he's finally finished the 15 minute exercise of filling in paperwork, he's presented with the keys of a Volvo XC turbo, a huge car with all the latest in electronic gizmos. It's so different from anything we've driven before that it takes us 20 minutes and a bit of Googling while sitting in the carpark before we know enough to adjust mirrors, turn off the radio and the windscreen wipers, and get it to move. But finally we're on the motorway and we have a very comfortable drive to Deal. 
Robbie tells us that there are shortages in Sainsbury's in Deal, so we stop at a convenience store en route where we are successful in acquiring eggs, but not potatoes, the other staple she is missing.
Once in Deal we catch up on news of friends and family, then ignore the request to self-isolate and go for a walk along the front. It's a lovely walk beside a shingle beach and a calm sea where someone is sailing a yacht. We see the local lifeboat being retrieved, and the memorial to Julius Caesar who landed on this spot in 55BC. In the distance we can see ferries still coming in and out of Dover, probably with freight rather than passengers. We meet several friends or acquaintances of Robbie's - it seems that oldies here have decided they still need a walk once a day. There is conscious social distancing, no hugging. Back at the flat Robbie cooks us roast lamb, the first evening meal we've had for several days, as we've been avoiding restaurants since Monday. As her flat is tiny (living area, one bedroom and bathroom over a big double garage) and her table is about 1.5m square it's hard to stay 1.5m apart, but we are being reasonably circumspect.
We stay here until lunchtime  tomorrow, when we'll set off in the hire car for Heathrow. Hopefully there will be a Qantas flight at 8pm as scheduled to bring us home.

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