My instinct during the current unpleasantness has always been to stay in the house. This is, I should add, my instinct at the best of times. When I feel anxiety it is very often around the thought that I might be stranded somewhere and unable to get home.
I don’t quite have the mindset that “home in France” is home, however. In my case, home is not where the heart is, but where the job is. And I won’t be retiring for a few years yet: the years do grow longer as that day grows closer.
So the risks of travel during the pandemic have stressed me out. My older daughter has been in Copenhagen during this time and I have not been to see her, because I’m just too anxious about it, and I would neither enjoy the visit nor be good company.
My OH, on the OH, has been to Denmark several times, and is the driving force behind our visit to France this Christmas. Had it been up to me, I’d have bailed at about the time the word “Omicron” hit the headlines. We were here last summer, and that was stressful enough, even at one of those rare low points of the curve. The pre-departure tests we took did not come through in time, and we had to stop off in Southend on the way to Folkestone for an emergency test. I’ve lost count of the number of extra crossings I’ve booked for contingencies, and the number of times I’ve amended them.
Any time I find myself at the mercy of events and other people, I feel anxious, and the high stress of that summer trip is still as sharp as vinegar.
So here we are again at a pandemic peak and the feeling that events are out of control is not remotely helped by our corrupt government, led by a scary clown. Working in a school, I’ve seen the rows of empty seats and seen the long list of staff absences, and like many people I’ve wondered why they didn’t shut the schools early.
It feels as if another lockdown is coming down the tracks. And, as I said, I’d have given up on the idea of going to France weeks ago, but then I’m not the one with the elderly parents and the packed calendar of social and family events planned.
The truth is, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t travel here. We’re living in our own house, and to get here we were sitting in our own car. We’re not staying in a hotel and picking buns off a breakfast buffet every morning, so we’re no more of a risk and no more at risk than we would be staying in the UK. Given that cases are more out of control in our clown theme park of a country than they are here in France, we’re probably safer.
But. The paperwork. The tests: the same tests as you get for free, only you have to pay for them. And the ever-shifting goalposts. We paid for one set of pre-departure tests, used them 48 hours before (our main concern being to give enough time for the results to come through), uploaded the results, and received confirmation that we were good to go.
Except, but. The British government, seeking to spread alarm, suggested that case numbers might go up to a million a day, and the French, in response, tightened the rules.
So we needed to use our coming home tests because we needed more departure tests. In order to fit in another test before coming home, I had to book another crossing, a day later. Which means my OH will be arriving home – if all goes to plan, that is – at around six in the morning, and has to go to work that same day.
We arrived here about 7:30 am. It was a long night. We knew everything might take longer, so we set off around 5:30 pm last night. The queue for check-in was horrendous (top tip: use the left lane – it opens out into more check-in lanes than the right lane). Once through that, my OH had to queue at pet control with the cat while my younger daughter and I beheld the wonder that was the queue to check travel documentation inside the terminal. These were all the people who clearly hadn’t been in my mindset, and had decided to get their declarations and test results checked manually by staff at the terminal. Big mistake.
Then came customs. Another tip: choose the right hand lane because it opens out to more lanes for passport checks. This, strangely, was much quicker than it has been in recent years. Even the British side seemed to barely glance at them, and the French were almost back to their normal selves. We did happen to be going through at peak panic: lots of people in big, expensive cars, trying to get onto French soil (which is technically just the other side of the passport control?) before the 18th.
Anyway, in spite of all the queuing, this was good, because nobody searched our car for illegal foods, which means the Maris Pipers got through safely.
So we’re here. We have to quarantine for 48 hours (please don’t throw me in the briar patch!), but people have been around and left us food, so we’re good. And I’m trying not to worry too much about the ever-moving covid goal posts in terms of the return journey. The last little wrinkle was that after about 450 miles the car beeped, advising us to check the oil, which was nearly empty. Luckily I had some emergency oil in the boot, so we’ll worry about that another day.