23 March The Journey Home

Our Cruise up until now had been well organized and a lot of fun. We were now in unprecedented circumstances and no one was coping well. To be fair to disembark three thousand people when no country wanted us there was never going to be easy.

We left our luggage at the theatre entrance and were herded inside. We queued to fill in yet another form and received a number 10 stuck onto us.  Then we waited again.

“Will all passengers with number 2 go below” and we waited then number 3 was called then number 4. The guy on the stage who was trying to sort things out was getting stressed. Then it all got just too much for him “Anyone who has a number go below”

So we traipsed out and collected gloves a mask and our luggage, but it seemed we had not had our temperature checked.  We had to go in again it was now total chaos. We had been over two hours and where our luggage was, was a toilet. So I made a quick call, but for some reason that totally defies logic, they had taken this opportunity to clean the ladies.

Once outside the ship we were in some alien hostile world.  We were huddled together on a cold windswept dockside. Across the road was a terminus with two men standing guard.

I was not dressed for this and no one was helping so I crossed into the building, followed by the other passengers who had been standing with me.

We passed through stopping various times to hand over forms and answer questions. At every stop nobody told us what was going on or where we should go next. We wandered around lost until finally we arrived outside again and saw a row of buses. We were not yet free though we had to wait until we had permission to get on.

I put our cases into the boot and got on the bus “Fill from the back and leave a seat between you” we were told.  We had all been dancing together and socializing until an hour ago, even herded together in the theatre. One guy was most put out when told to sit separate from his wife “We were sleeping together last night” He said.

It took us nearly an hour to reach the airport. Once there we again did not know where to go, eventually we found a queue for the plane we were due to get on.  I got to the Check in and Andy was there before us. He got through but when we got there, there was a problem.  At first we got no indication what it was then she said “The gate is closed”. She asked who was in charge and we told her we had just been dumped here. Then she asked how many were for this flight. I turned around and shouted “WHO Is ON Flight 238?” everyone in the queue behind us put their hands up.

We now had all the check in desks occupied and were not going anywhere. Next She said that Viv Was now Ok.  We both said “That is not happening, we fly together or not at all” Then there was more panicking.

Eventually we got a new flight number and headed through flight side. Once there we saw Andy “You’ve missed you plane” Viv said. We pointed him to the information point, which by luck, we happened upon. Until then we too had been lost, there was nobody in the airport giving directions and no notices telling us where we should be.

We managed to get some crisps and a drink in a kiosk but otherwise we were left totally alone, It was like some post apocalyptic world.

Up until now we had been kept separate but here at the gate we could sit together, but as we passed through we were again separated, until we got down onto the tarmac. Then we were herded onto a bus like cattle and driven at speed across to the other side of the airfield. On the plane we were again made to sit separately. If we had got contaminated on the bus, we could now keep it to ourselves.

I found out how useless the face masks are. Unused to wearing one and not of the best quality I was constantly touching it. If I get Corona I know exactly where from.

Some good news Andy is sitting opposite Viv on the plane, we don’t know how but we are happy that he has made it.

We arrive back safely to Heathrow and there is some semblance of sanity here. People are still wearing face masks and keeping their distance, bur things seem to be moving normally. We see Andy again at baggage reclaim and we talk about getting a car. He does not have his licence with him, so I agree to take him home. It will add to our journey time, but I could not just leave him.

At the Enterprise desk there is just a phone and we order a car.  We are not yet into this quarantine thing, and it was only later we realized what a contamination risk the phone was.  We have eaten nothing for hours and at the office Viv fights with the vending machine, eventually getting two chocolate bars. We have a Dacia Duster to drive home in, it brings back memories of the 1980s for me, but this one seems a better car. It never occurs to us that we could have got contaminated by the telephone.

We finally drop Andy off just before midnight in Stafford, and we have trouble opening the boot. No one had thought to tell us how to operate it. We managed to get it open but did not know how. Luckily we had Andy’s bags out getting ours out could be done in daylight if we have a problem. It is more than an hour home from here but Viv has bought a sandwich so we stop off to eat it. The traffic is good, because I think people are not travelling. When we finally arrive home we are greeted by Mary and a very cold house.

I still struggle to open the boot, but somehow it opens and we get our luggage out. It seems I am not the only one to have problems. when I returned the car to Chester the guy there said that one lady had her shopping in the boot for a week and could not get it out.

We called at the local Coop on the way back. I stayed in the car while Viv got some essentials. Many of you will already be familiar with the routine, but to us it was an alien world, one way walking, social distancing and only fifteen in the shop.

Did those so desperate to get off the ship know what they were leaving for? I wonder.

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