Getting on with life06 September 2021
Not that long ago I did a day-trip to London that served one real purpose: Mark the start of me finally being able to finally get on with my life after many months in limbo. While successful within the limitations of the time available it was the prelude to two much longer weekend trips with overnight stays rather than rushing in and out either side of half a day. There is still much that still needs to be sorted out, but compared to before my return I am pressing ahead with my future. When this year started my expectation was that the year would be as good as gone before my life was back on track, but now I feel that I am ahead of that expectation.
Getting in and outAfter what happened last time with the trains I was not going to mess around with them again and simply drive in. Like many times in the past I parked up around Golders Green and took the Northern line into the city centre — the area has an hour of residents' parking on weekday mornings, but for people like me coming in for a weekend this is not a problem. Residents Parking is not enforced on bank holidays but as it happened I was on my way back before that time on the bank holiday Monday. Given how near it is to central London it was surprisingly easy to find parking spaces. The 49 miles of driving burned five litres of fuel which works out at £6–7 which is a lot better than a £49.80 train ticket, and on all measures the trip is so much nicer.
The saving more or less pays for somewhere to stay overnight and it is noticable how much of a difference this makes. Two nights leaves a full day without worrying about check-in, although the full three-night stay over the bank holiday weekend was a bit exhausting. For the second trip I had considered a different route in and out, but in the end stuck with the familiar.
Anti-jabbersOver the first weekend I met up with some old friends who admitted to me that they have not been vaccinated, and although I kept my immediate thoughts to myself it was akin to admitting to never using condoms — a mitigatable but fundamentally risky life-style choice that has significant stigma in society. I suspect that some of the skepticism on their part is down to not really knowing the fundamental differences between the adenovirus (AstraZenica and J&J) and messenger-RNA (BioNTech and Moderna) vaccines, as well as the vaccine resistance of the Beta and Delta variants, but overall I felt that it was more excuse rather than reason. They are at least sensible in that they are isolating, but they have a very long wait if their exit strategy is vaccines with fundamentally different mechanisms.
By the time they admitted this they not only knew that I recently had my third jab, I had also aired my support for mandatory vaccination because I did not want the life-style choices of anti-vaxxer scientologists perpetuating the pandemic. It is doubtful that the UK government itself will ever mandate compulsory jabbings but there is already a trend towards de-facto requirements to get jabbed, such as Delta airlines which is now charging unvaccinated staff higher insurance premiums. I have personal experience of the difficulty and expense getting pre-travel PCR tests and I doubt it will be feasable to rely on them once trip cancellation rules are tightened up. I am personally avoiding super-spreader events but that is down to an existing dislike of ultra-crowded places rather than any fear of infection, and my stated attitude is not letting Covid trash any more of my life. Vaccination won't stop me catching the Delta variant but since I won't end up in hospital as a result, I consider this an acceptable risk of the rebuilding of my post-lockdown life.
Up the hillThe bank holiday Sunday turned into a mellow walk through Muswell Hill which is a part of London I would choose to live in given no limitations, and its relative distance from the underground network has meant that I have not gone there as often as some of my other old haunts. This is the sort of place to go when time is no object. which quite often has not been the case when I swing by London — and the pub skittles in The Railway Tavern seem timeless. One of the other places I dropped by was one I am convinced I last saw back in late-2012, possibly before I went off to New Zealand but could have also been in the earlier part of 2013 when I had to make a three-week trip back, but on the whole I prefer to do without the sentiment of the past.
CashlessThere was one place I dropped by that asked for cash since their card machine was broken, and I was not even sure if any of the banknotes I was carrying were still legal tender. The first notes I pulled out were some Euros which clearly would not be of much use, and then when I did find some actual UK banknotes I was informed that my crisp-new Elizabeth Fry fiver had been discontinued four or five years ago. Thankfully I did have some still-legal tender but it did make me think about how much the change to a cashless society had been accelerated — a lot of places told me they really went card-only for security reasons. I wondered why I even bothered taking a wallet because the two cards I was using — Oyster and credit card — I was keeping in my phone case.
Party timeOne of the things I had intended to do with my original Welcome London trip but never got round to was attend one of the meetups organised by meetup.com, a major objective of mine being to meet new people and this is something I finally got round to. It started somewhere just off Dalston but some people, myself included, eventually drifted off to Shorditch. It was not quite party like it's 1999 but I honestly cannot remember the last time I actually went to a nightclub — probably 2017 and even then that was a date rather than a group outing. I don't have much liking for this style of standing-only club but part of me felt the need to go somewhere like this that had been made no-go by Covid-19 — having had three vaccine doses and the likley prospect that Covid is here to stay I have accepted that sooner or later I will get exposed to the virus.
A successful trip?In terms of what I want out of my new life — namely being able to go out and do stuff — these trips were precisely the sort of thing I wanted to do after all that has happened over the last eighteen months, and between them they more or less covered everything realistic I wanted out of my new start. Things are still far from settled but in the month since I returned to the UK things had advanced far faster than I had ever dreamt of; there are still plenty of loose ends still dangling, as well as some new headaches, but this is far better than the psychologically-damaging inertia I had suffered since the start of last year.