3rd: Back to UK. For some reason, I arrive in the UK with the soundtrack from the Beatles song Back in the USSR ringing in my ears. The ferry journey has been unusually pleasant, with fewer than usual passengers, most of those on the boat being truck drivers from all over Europe. Although masks are mandatory on the boat, most travellers are seated drinking their beers and eating snacks with the mask around their neck rather than over their face. It is not surprising. Draconian regulation always results in a backlash. It is a blustery day with a cold gusty wind and the sea is stormy and heaving. When I walk out on deck, groups of truckers are smoking together, chatting in Spanish, French and Portuguese, none of them with their mask on.
In the absence of a full complement of tourist passengers, the DFDS ferry has refocused on freight transport. The lorries were allowed on first and are let off first, while passenger cars are now the lowest priority, the opposite of the usual plan. Interestingly, the foot passengers (which I assume includes cyclists) are now top priority, even above the truckers in the pecking order: a French voice announces that foot passengers (pronounced “food” passengers) may disembark before anyone else, whereas in the past I think they have only been disembarked after the car decks have been repopulated.
We have a spectacular view of the lorries from the car deck. Our car is immediately above the lorry deck, and we can see each of the huge trucks lumbering slowly down the ramp, squeezing through the narrow pathway with incredible skill. I try to think how this will all work after Brexit, especially if there is a no-deal.
At passport control, a weary-looking woman asks us in a voice full of gloom and burden: Have you completed your personal locator form? We nod vigorously, like well-bred children attending Sunday school. The lady peers at us with tired, suspicious eyes. How long have we been in France? Three weeks, I reply. The immigration officer reminds us that we will need to self-isolate for 14 days once we get back home. I am tempted to ask obtuse questions such as, So how are we going to buy food if we aren’t allowed to go down the supermarket? What if we have a medical emergency that isn’t The Virus? What if an aged relative suddenly becomes ill and can’t cope on their own? Instead, I attempt a joke. “Three weeks of fun, and now two weeks of penance!” The officer doesn’t even crack a smile as she hands back our passports and wishes us a good evening.