Sunday 13 September 2020


Seated socially isolated all on board the bus were told we are being taken to our hotel in Auckland CBD, the Grand Mercure.  It sounded posh by name and busy given destination but remembering Auckland is currently Level 2.5 just reduced from Level 3. ‘We’ passengers flew into NZ accepting accommodation without consultation would be arranged. I remember playing STOP THE BUS, a card game, many years ago, and you could have one turn as a 'free ride' when you had no cards you could play. Today's reality was no choice in the matter, we were on a free ride and we followed like sheep. I knew I was following protocol and was allowed to enter NZ because I am a New Zealand citizen and I never forget that I was born here. I am proud to be a Kiwi, I think of it as the ‘beast’ country because dialectal play can hear ‘best’ as ‘beast’ but, as a time traveller, I’m lucky to see snippets of beauty and not pass judgement. We live in a beautiful world we, the human race need to respect Nature.

Free time under supervision

I think, in the time of Covid-19, NZ is showing the world how capable the people of this country are with their pandemic approach. It is only the Media that apply fool’s logic to selling papers. Fact is I barely read let alone believe what is written so I can only pass my mindful comments on this Blog.

I knew that I would be going into a Managed Isolation Facility and if I tested COVID-19 Positive at any time within 14 days, here, I would have to move to Quarantine. How do they monitor my health?  Like touching wood I touched my head that I am and will stay safe repeating in my brain, feeding the bits of the white matter still functioning, wash your hands after touching anything ... no touching your mouth nose eyes or anybody, and, wear a mask in public places – the 2020 Mantra. This was a carry on from my daily life in England where I wore a mask in the supermarket and shops. We have hardly been going to social places, over there. But 'hardly' doesn't come into it, if you go outside your 4 walls you are at risk of catching COVID and it will spread. Healthy paranoia where I think there are No buts to consider we are all in this epidemic crisis, be positive in staying negative, Be aware of the symptoms and know who to phone. When in NZ if you have any symptoms phone the Healthline or your GP. 

Auckland Airport (Akd) International Terminal was the same building but so different from pre-COVID-19 days. At the beginning of the bus drive to Akd CBD, I cast my eye over to ‘Dogtainers’ where Della left NZ for England to become navigator on NB Avalon Mist on 26 April 2012 beginning her flight to England. She was 5 ½ yrs old then. I have brought her Ashes home and, rightfully, her resting place is in Aotearoa. 

The arrival at the Grand Mercure was the beginning of my new routine. I was confident that it wouldn’t be complicated. I’ve been on the move, it feels like forever, and have had challenges greater than staying in a posh hotel. Maybe it is because I’m in my wise years that I’m not fighting control. I am not High Risk I am 'healthy' and with good health, I try to be considerate and empathetic.

No random person is allowed to enter the Hotel and Official Security is present 24/7 at the metal barriers gating the entrance to the Hotel. Luggage Bags are taken off the bus and left in a line for owners to collect. A social distancing queue forms, rub hand with a squirt of sanitizer and I was handed my room cards (I thought they were both door keys) and 2 vouchers for the laundry. I don’t remember how they knew I was me; I must have used my passport. Stay in queue until individual formal friendly seated interview where COVID-19 prevention and awareness was reinforced as well as the restrictions of Managed Isolation. I know I filled in a paper form involving choices for today’s lunch, dinner and breakfast for the next 2 days along with tomorrow’s lunch and dinner. How was I going to remember what I had ordered, it seemed like a lot. I was hungry from the plane journey, remember I have been on the move for nearly 24 hours, and more than pleased that they will give me lunch within the next  ½ hour in my room. I asked them if the kitchen was still open. “Of course” I was told and I thought ‘Wow’ until I realised I had set my watch 2 hours ahead of NZ time after I had mentally calculated it from UK time adjusting my watch when taking off from Dubai. I never bother to set UAE time when I am only in transit there, what’s the point. How do mobile phones automatically know where you are? 

I wrote notes on Sept 4th about arriving in NZ and the Grand Mercure. I'd never remember all this detail if I had not recorded it!

The Grand Mercure check-in was done and dusted and I was reminded, outside the Lift that only one person, unless you were in a group of 2 or more allowed in the Lift. Great, I am my own Bubble, on my own with my luggage to the 7th floor. Sanitizer shot to gel my hands after I had used my Room card on the black reader and pushed Button 7. The adventure continues until I reach Rm 718, easy number to remember 7+1=8. No need to write it down. I’m not used to card door keys but I won’t say that after 14 days. There was another card in the room kit I got, is that an extra key? I opened my door and opened my mouth at the size of the room and the great view from the window. The room was stocked with linen and packets of tea(s) coffee, hot chocolate. There was a milk carton in the fridge. I have a King-size bed and it is perfect and 4 pillows. It is a quality hotel room. I sort of got unpacked although it is easier to live out of my suitcase. I plugged in my computer and charged my phone. As soon as I saw my phone wasn't charging I thought it wasn't compatible with NZ power! Like me falling on the back of my head a couple of years ago my phone has never been the same since I dropped it face down on the tiled floor 4 months ago. In puzzlement, I saw my computer battery wasn’t charging so I thought there was a fault with the power. I almost phoned the Lobby.

Looking up to 7th floor from smoker's deck 2nd floor

I forgot the card-key fit a wall mounted card slot near the door and that would initiate ‘Thunderbirds’ (all system’s go) to the electrics in my room. How different this is to my life without electricity, in rural Portugal, during the 1990’s a.k.a last century, and in the last decade living on Nb Avalon Mist then Nb DolcieBlue. It may sound like a summer holiday but it was my lifestyle choices. The years fly by and I remain slow adapting to technology.

The view directly down from my room

The first night I was jet-lagged, and my brain had a mist cover surrounding it. I have the King-size bed all to myself and it is so comfortable. The room was cool and the duvet was thin and no extra blankets to throw over it. I was too tired to sort out the wall switch for the ‘Heat-Pump’ as we Kiwis call the air con. Too many buttons in the contest and I didn’t think I’d win. 

Heat pump dial

I went to sleep and woke up disorientated, lost in a dark room. The white blackout curtain worked and let no night light into the room. So much so I thought I was, at home in our Kinver Cottage, walking in the dark to the Bathroom and I didn't want to wake my husband up. I was disorientated and my call became urgent. Somehow I found the porcelain loo and it was not in the wardrobe and woke up to the here-and-now, I was in a Hotel room in NZ. It was weird. Has that ever happened to you in a foreign room, keep it clean?

I’m going to continue, this Blog with an idea of daily routine in Isolation. I am Day 12, the penultimate day of Managed Isolation. Obviously, the first 24 hours are full of the dawn of a quiet new life with contact being made through either loud or soft knocks at the room door. Then there are daily phone calls for advanced menu selection, and sometimes housekeeping needs from Hotel reception, Ministry of Health Nurses, and sometimes Aviation Security. I was not slow in phoning Reception for them to phone 0800 numbers for me. The days pass quickly, I am not bored, I have my Uke and my computer with me. I have Hubby, family and friends I chat with using social media to make calls. I can book ‘walkies’ under supervision every 2 days.

The wheels on the bus go round and round...

Walkies every second day for about 1 hour including the bus trip to the nearby Auckland Harbour where a gated managed area close to the Ferry Terminal is available to groups of 'Isolators'. I turned up at the Lobby on the second day with the intention of going for a walk. “No, you cannot go for a walk today because all the booking slots are filled and you must book a time." It can be 9 am, or 10.30 am and there are 2 walk times in the afternoon.” I figured I’d go for the 10.30am slot which had to be booked after 6 pm 2 days before the walk. Be ready for the bus 10 minutes before your allocated time, if you don’t turn up someone may fill your space. So it was obviously not a walk along Queen Street. Socially distanced in the bus we were transported to the Auckland Harbour to walk around a rectangular fenced area with 2 sides bordering above the harbour. It is a nice view and good to get some fresh air. No one jumped! The Hotel only has the ‘Smokers’ deck on Level 2 if fresh air is sought outside of ‘Walkies’, there you sign in with Security, young Army cadets. Remember few people smoke in NZ, these days.


I have been on the 10.30am walk every couple of days. I keep thinking of it with the picture in my mind of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and the supervisor is Nurse Ratched- “The best thing we can do is go on with our daily routine.....Medication Time.” It is not remembered by anyone I talk with and there are few people to talk with. Today I booked for the 9am walk, this shows I'm not institutionalised! It risked raining and one of the Security asked me if I'd like an umbrella. Sure, thanks. There was no wind so no chance of being Mary Poppins.

Every morning, after breakfast, there is the sound of a trolley been pushed in the distance that gets closer along with a soft knock at every occupied room with a gentle voice saying “Health check.” The first time when I opened the door I was told to wear my mask then open the door. My temperature was taken, 36.3C mostly, and a verbal symptom check given. I asked the Nurse how I was going to get checked at home, she told me it was my responsibility to stay aware of the symptoms. Fair point, to her.

On Day 3 I received a phone call to bring my signed letter and passport to have the bud-stick nostril COVID-19 test. It was uncomfortable but it didn’t hurt. I understand that it’s not like that for everyone. It’s amazing that the bud up a nostril feels, to me, like it is close to the back of my throat and it probably is. Not only is it pushed along the nasal passage it is turned 6x in both directions before it is pulled out. 2days later I got a Negative test result which is positive news. The test is repeated on Day 11 verging on Day 12. Because I arrived in NZ at 10.57 a.m. on September 2nd the time of my Departure is 10.57a.m. September 16. I think it is Day 11 but I’ve had the Day 12 test. Oh, if I think about it too much then I’ll get confused. I wait for my test results.

Baked crumpets, honey & cream cheese, toasted almonds

Thai style market fish...

Croissant...I asked for jam. 

Baked Tofu, Avocado & mango salad

Smashed Avocado, whipped Feta, sourdough bread

I tell people I’m getting FED UP in Managed Isolation. The food is generous, Breakfast and Lunch and Dinner.3 times a day the meals are delivered in a large paper carrier bag. The courses are in plastic containers and there are always packets of plastic cutlery with paper serviette and sometimes a bottle of filtered water All containers are put back in the paper bag and left for collection outside the room's door. Of couse when a delivery is being made you can hear packages being left outside the door followed by a solid knock on the door. I always call out "THANKYOU" and they have disappeared before I've opened the door. I have put some pictures but I ate a lot in 14 days. I don’t need to comfort eat. Latterly I’ve tried to reduce my portions and eat some of the fruit and cake extras. I do not like throwing away food and I do not like eating too much, it is uncomfortable and my exercise routine is limited. Every day the phone rings for orders to be taken for lunch and dinner the following day and breakfast for the overmorrow. I have a 7-day daily menu. The meals are of Asian fare and are tasty. The porridge and the croissant are a favourite, and there are fresh fruit and small bottles of filtered water. Some days there are surprises. Always expect the unexpected; I can cope with the food choices.

I have absolutely no negative comments to share being under the care and generosity of Managed Isolation. I remain positive that I will be COVID Negative and I will happily use my COVID tracer app when I am out, live in the community. 


Don’t touch, wash your hands and keep your distance.....tra-la-la



Sparkling waters Auckland Harbour. America's Cup soon 







Tuesday 8 September 2020


We are living in the time of New Normal (NN). Life on the Cut is now a memory drying up never to be forgotten. Blogging is my escape to capture and share moments of my time. I have had dreams some I have lived and others may remain a daydream.
I think I will remain Lady Lock-n-Lol in ‘Blog-land’ as I capture random moments happening in my real-time using my free gift of words. Given my opinion, to-be-fair, I’ll endeavour to be truthfully honest telling my honest truth given my experience it believe it or not....

August 31st I launched my travel to the other side of the world. I’m not unfamiliar with this journey but the flight was different from my previous flights, over the years, with Emirates. I won’t even begin to count the times I have flown to NZ, ‘lots’ gives an idea. The media, depending on which means you get the news, are the unelected party and our judgement on events relates to how we digest the information given by someone else who can get paid for enlightenment, greedy fingers. So I’m writing down, in the time of Covid-19, my flights x 2ish and the Managed Isolation in New Zealand. I flew Emirates from Heathrow to Dubai (using my innate humour I rename Dubai ‘Do-don't-Buy’), and Dubai to Auckland with a surprise touchdown in KL (Kuala Lumpur). I think the KL stop was to change crew or is it to top up jet fuel. Either way, passengers didn’t have to leave the plane. To break the monotony the video will show landing and take-off, I know that Pilot computer will be 100% safe.
Originally I booked, in January 2020, to fly Birmingham to Christchurch in early March. 4 Days before my departure, my Mum was told that I would have to wait 14 days before I could visit her at the retirement village where she lives. This was an NZ Government Directive as I was coming from a country where Coronavirus was active. I could go to NZ but the purpose of my visit had been to see my Mum. A long way to go for an even shorter time and, I felt, a higher risk that I could catch the virus on a plane or going through busy massive Airport Terminals. I did not hesitate to cancel my flight rebooking it, at cost, for November 2020. I certainly did not want to “catch” or “spread” the virus and 2 Aeroplanes including the transit through Dubai Airport and, later, the transit through Melbourne Airport made me feel that “I was asking for it”. I didn’t invite my lucky star, in this case, to play with my logic. It could be written as listen to your head not your heart.
On 23rd March Coronavirus was officially recognised as a pandemic in the UK and Lock-down Level 4 began. Worldwide, countries began to lockdown; I think this could graphically show a Domino effect which has begun the New Normal of this century. I do not question keeping a 2m distance, not touching people and regularly washing my hands and wearing latex gloves if I was at the supermarket etc. I rarely went out only when necessary to walk Della and we knew her final days on earth were closing in. We, my husband and I, are lucky to have Nature Reserve at our doorstep. 4 months later and Covid-19 safety levels lowered to Level 3 soon to be Level 2. I really felt the need to see my direct family in NZ and hoped that the sensible measures to fly there would give added safety to this journey.
I rebooked my flight through my Travel Agent, Flight Club. Emirates were not flying into Birmingham or Christchurch. Hakuna Matata.  Chris will drive me to Heathrow and I can sort out a flight from Auckland to Christchurch. It’s not a freebie but it won’t break the bank. The ‘plastic- fantastic’ is great for being able to act and pay quickly. Crikey I haven’t thought of the ‘bankcard’ descriptor ‘plastic-fantastic’ since last century... it’s not real money. Do we believe it now? Paper money and coins are no longer essential to have at hand just a mind filled with bleeding pins and passwords.
The countdown to August 31 started. I’m sure it was close to 6 weeks away and it felt like it would be ages until it was D Day or should I say ‘F’ Day. I knew I would have to have 14 days Managed Isolation when I arrived in NZ and a couple of weeks later the NZ Govt said returnees would have to pay for the Managed Isolation Facility unless you meet exemptions or waivers. NZ is a closed border in the time of COVID 19 but I am fortunate that I am a “Kiwi” and my people will let me in. I am staying over 3 months so I will not be charged for the Managed Isolation Facility. It is costly and the taxpayer aka NZ Govt is funding this. At the time of changing my flight, I had no idea if I would be charged for Isolation or not. I was not going to compromise love for my family.
Now fast-forwarding the weeks to ‘F’ Day, Emirates informed me they had made a change to my Flight time Dubai to Auckland meaning I would have 1 hour from landing at Dubai to get to the Departure Lounge for my flight to Auckland. A year ago I could have walked the walk, at speed, confirm the departure gate listed on the video screens and follow the sign-posted route. Kind of like a treasure hunt but all this terminology labelling is New Age! I knew it was a long walk and I also knew that I would find it challenging to walk the distance, at speed, and the thought of doing it was giving me stress. I asked my Travel Agent to contact Emirates and ask, on my behalf, for Flight Assistance to get me to the Departure Lounge. Breathe, now I had trust there would be help for me at ETA Dubai.
10 days before Departure I received another Email from Emirates stating I needed to have a hardcopy certificate showing I was 2019-nCoV PCR negative within 96 hours of flying from Heathrow. That meant the swab test using a long cotton bud stick scraping, not scratching, both sides back of throat (gag reflex) followed by the same cotton bud scraping up the back of both nostrils. I think if I had been sent it in the post I wouldn’t have gone as deep into my orifices, so to speak. It wasn’t painful but it was uncomfortable. Oh, yes, fact is that I had to book a test to happen within 4 days before I flew and be confident the test result would be emailed to me in time to print out the official certificate before I left home base to be driven to LHR. Someone from the Clinic phoned me in the evening of my done ‘test’ day to say my swab was on the way to the Lab. I don’t get phoned regularly on my mobile phone so, at first, I thought it was a ‘cold’ call. I was expecting to tell the caller to go to where the ‘sun doesn’t shine’ so I didn’t take in the full message. I know the person identified himself and told me the result would be emailed to me and I thought they said Saturday. No email received on Saturday, they must have said Sunday but, hey, I was leaving on Monday and it was Bank Holiday and who the f knows what is going on. In the old days, no one worked Sundays and Bank Holiday was a Holiday except shops were open. We are in the year of Covid-19 and Lock-down Levels. I phoned the Clinic, on Sunday, and to my relief, someone answered and found my result and emailed it there and then. Relief, I could keep breathing and pack my bags. Positively I was happy to be Negative and could print out my certificate.
Flight Day arrived. I, always, have mixed feelings about going away. As per usual, on a trip to NZ, I fly alone. I’m going home. It’s a long journey to fly to NZ, I’m always told that and I always respond that the journey feels long until the plane takes off then the destination gets closer by the minute.
Chris suggested we leave our cottage early arvo and travel along the county roads through the Cotswolds in the direction of Oxford before joining the M4. Was he keen for me to go? That’s my imagination working overtime. Anyway, a slow drive sounded good to me. The English countryside is beautiful with vintage villages popping up. We drove through the Cotswolds thinking stop for a cup of tea at Stow-on-the-Wold. BUT there were too many people walking in the village, it is Bank Holiday and no way could we pretend to social distance. I didn’t want to take any risk of being contaminated by community infection. We kept on driving; at least dehydration removed any pressure for a wee stop!
Close to Oxford I was clock-watching...Knee tap... gotta big date, mustn’t be late.... I had 1 ½ hrs to get to Terminal 2. The M4, busy with lots of traffic moving at a ‘standstill’ 60mph speed into a long stretch of motorway works. OK we were moving but the end was not in sight. I assumed it was Londoners returning to the ‘big smoke’. Chris said “Don’t worry, be happy we’ll get to Heathrow Terminal 2 at 5:30pm” and, as promised we were there bang on time.
Goodbye and I pushed my wayward trolley, heavy with my luggage, to enter the Terminal. Squirt gel rub on your hands, wear a mask, don’t touch and social distance at least 1 metre. I have been telling people that I am naturally repellent! The Brits are not naturally metric but, apart from the road code, the signage is. I know that I am 1.7m tall at the end of the day. ‘Fractionally’ (a touch of imperial in the equation) I am taller in the morning before gravity pulls me down.
No queue at the Emirates Check-In and ‘First Class’ Checker-Inner hand signalled me a ‘countermove’. Paperwork checked and Boarding passes and luggage card given. Crikey my suitcase weighs 28 kg! There will be questions one day from Air NZ. I’m not heavy it’s my extra-large plush Samsonite suitcase if there’s space I am obliged to fill it.
I double-checked that I will get assistance at Dubai Airport to get to the Departure Lounge there. The check-in chap said I could get assistance here at Heathrow pointing to a counter nearby. Super- bem. I had no cause for stress I was cool calm and, literally, collected. I sat down and waited for my ride. Sit and not be judged. It is only self-judgement that finds the party a guilty user! Conversations, in your head, can torment one’s wellbeing and actions. I am empathetic for others but I block my understanding of me. Stop it I am in my wise years, no shoe size meets my age now!!
Waiting for the fast buggy at LHR

Hey it was fab to be pushed to the front of the queue to go through Security. I had to walk through the metal detector, I am not bionic, and I was not wearing any metal accessory. Once checked I was able to sit back on the wheelchair to the electric buggy, waiting area, which would take me to Emirates Departure Gate. Google Search, days later, Assisted Passenger etiquette at Heathrow. I probably have a Hidden Disability, I’m out of condition. I am told by Google that it is customary to give a tip to the ‘pusher’. It never crossed my mind, it’s silly wrong but vivid right, I was blinking under the Airport Light.... (I could make a parody of ‘One Day Like This’ sung by Elbow...great to play on my Uke). Right come back to earth, Sarah.
Waiting at Departure Gate Heathrow to Dubai.

I was at my second waiting for transport, this time it was going to be a mechanical motorised people carrier. All onboard and we scooted past the pedestrians. Yee ha but I did keep my mouth shut! It was the best way to get to the Departure Lounge and wait for the boarding call. I walked, in line, the rest of the way social distancing. The 380 plane was quiet. I love travelling on the BIG plane and I had 4 seats for my comfort. Face mask always on, I could lie back along the seats after take-off, making sure I had my seat belt fastened.
And Flight EK4 jetted off to Dubai. I made a loud sigh, no one heard and I was happy that the long journey to NZ was getting shorter. No turning back, now, and I didn’t have any concern about Dubai, I was booked to be assisted and I’m of a trusting nature. The flight was good and the crew were busy helping people with children. I hardly had contact with the crew. I was thirsty as I hadn’t had any liquid since we left Kinver. I went to the galley and asked for water and I was quickly handed, by a gloved hand, 2x 86ml pots. Alcohol was limited to wine or beer. Nowadays I do not drink either of them; I always say I drank more than I should when I was younger and resilient, so I was happy being suitably topped up with juice and water throughout the flight.
Onwards and upwards. I brought my headphones with me and thanks to Google and Amazon I had bought the correct Airline Headphone Adaptor for my jet plane flights. Experience of ‘sardine’ class headphones meant that using a good pair of headphones would override the engine noise, and so they did.
I dozed off. I don’t remember feeling turbulence over Europe where some flights, I’ve been on in pre-COVID 19 years have had the feeling of dropping and bumping through the stratosphere. I guess there is not the air traffic around and what’s going on land and ocean. I think it will be an interesting study; I have no facts to back up what I am bleating and that is as far as I will take it.
6 ½ hours after leaving LHR, EK 4 landed in Dubai. There was no waiting for ground traffic to get out the way, there was no ‘air’ traffic moving on the tarmac.
No waiting around to disembark and no sooner had I walked off the plane there was uniformed Travel Assistance each with a wheelchair. All I did was say “Hello, my name is Sarah...” And they checked the list and told me to sit on a wheelchair give the pusher your boarding pass and passport then I was whisked me away. I tell you no stress involved and straight to the front of the line for security checks and onward through the huge Dubai Airport. I glimpsed empty Duty-Free shops and marvelled at how empty the terminal was. This is certainly the nicest way to cover the distance. It would have been a long walk. I was pleased to bite the bullet and ask for assistance. Thank you very much. Comes a time.....

Dubai Airport

EK448 to Auckland, a Boeing 777 direct to Auckland. The flight was nowhere near ½ full and I had a window seat and 2 spare seats and no one in the seats directly in front or behind me. I felt that along with the few people on board I was being chauffeur piloted to NZ. It wasn’t romantic and I appreciate that Emirates are keeping the service going to NZ. Previous flights are now in my memory bank. Will the new normal be temporary, how long will it last, how long is a piece of string? On all the flights and in all the Airports facemasks must be worn. At Dubai Airport I had been handed a travel hygiene kit negating any excuse to follow the anti-COVID rules.
I was surprised we landed in KL, and a week later looking at my boarding info it is marked as a stop. I suppose some passengers left the plane there. Thinking back I had thought that NZ had grown more culturally diverse looking at the passengers waiting to get on the flight and I’m sure there weren’t as many people that were at the Departure Gate Dubai now queuing for Immigration NZ. What do you know?
Passengers in Economy
The flight was uneventful. There was turbulence en route but not as vicious as I recall previously. There was a time, 2013, I was flying to NZ and the drinks trolley had got to my row with the Air Steward about to pour drinks when a random act of extreme turbulence hit the plane, it was the Boeing 380, and anyone who had been poured a drink watched as the liquid left their plastic glass and decorated the overhead compartment above them. I still have fits of giggles thinking about it. There would have been vocal sounds as well. Thank goodness for autopilot!
I dozed on board from KL and missed the start of daylight over Australia. There was time for breakfast but I did not fancy noodles, I’d already had similar a few hours before. What might have appealed to me had been taken. New Zealand was only an hour away; maybe there will be food available when I wanted it like now at the Managed Isolation. I had reset my watch from British time to read 13 hours ahead of summertime GMT. That was a mistake and for a few hours in NZ, I thought we had arrived an hour later than planned and I would have to wait a few hours for dinner. I was about to enter Managed Isolation where my day was managed.
15 ½ hrs after leaving Dubai EK448 landed at Auckland Airport. I walked, steadily, to Immigration. The Duty-Free shops, for last-minute purchases, were nonexistent and the familiar lane choices for Immigration were gone. Everyone and there weren’t a lot of passengers, had to wait. As soon as a space became available body temperature reading was taken by thermometer ‘gun’ -a light shining on your forehead or was it your ear, and a verbal symptom checklist to answer. The Immigration Officer did Passport control. I have an NZ Passport and the officer told me it hadn’t been signed. Like dropping my mobile phone face down on the tiled floor I was told that often people forget to sign their passport. I’ve learnt that dropping your mobile phone and shattering its screen is common. Anyway, I did say to the Immigration Official that I didn’t think anyone looked like me, she agreed but said I still had to sign my passport and to do it now.
I’m getting close to the finish of my Flight saga. All that was left to do was to collect my bag and trundle down the Customs Lane and remember to declare food. I only had unopened Bendicks Chocolates at special request from my older Bro. I declared them then had to put my entire luggage on the scanner belt. All in order I was allowed to exit into the main terminal. There were no people hanging about and no one is being met.
It was there that Managed Isolation began. It was straightforward.
“Welcome Home. Your bus is waiting for you as you leave through the door. You will be going to The Grand Mercure, a hotel in central Auckland. You will be told what is happening when you arrive at the Hotel. Please social distance and do not sit next to anyone on the bus unless you are travelling in a Bubble. ” 
That’s that. Please read my next blog where you will hear what it is like in Managed Isolation for me. I am sharing my experience and I am not being paid to share this experience.
If you have read this Blog- Hakuna Matata = No problem (Kiswahili)    bem = good (Portuguese)

Saturday 25 July 2020



Nb Dolcie Blue

DB is at Whilton Marina Ltd for Brokerage which means she is for sale. I thought we would live on DB forever and a day. She is an ideal home for living on water and has brought us a lot of joy travelling the Canals and Rivers in England. I have health challenges and regrettably need to live on land. I loved living onboard DB and was very reluctant to make this decision. I need to keep positive and a fortunate person is going to invest in an affordable home on the water and live a comfortable life away from the hustle and bustle of land life. 

In 2013, under instruction from us Colecraft built DolcieBlue.

Spray foam in action

Morso Squirrel

Ikea kitchen -great storage and soft close cabinets. Not to mention 3 wall cabinets and glass splashbacks.

We had started our life on a Narrowboat in 2011 after Chris bought Nb Avalon Mist (53 ft) with the aim of returning to live in England from NZ with Della, our Miniature Schnauzer. We made some changes to AM's layout in 2012 but decided, in discussion with Colecraft, we wanted to go longer in length (we did not want to 'stretch' AM ) and we could maximise on the width by building in the style of a Dutch Barge. That way DB remains accessible to the Narrow Canals. With our experience of life onboard we knew what we needed for a functioning Narrowboat and what we wanted to have. We agreed our boat essentials and she left Colecraft, as a 'sail-away' and Chris, a Carpenter, did her fit-out. 

Me and Della on the Daybed ages ago


Day 1.

This could be the last cruise of Chris & Sarah on Nb DolcieBlue (DB). We leave our C&RT Leisure Mooring in Kinver at 9 am on a cold summer’s day (June 27) gusty wind with the possibility of showers given by an online choice of micro-climate weather forecasts. Yeah, right, whatever the weather we’ve packed the right clothes to wear. The challenge of blustery winds is not my steering choice and I need to keep DB’s flat steel bottom on the straight and narrow canal. I should take reassurance that she has been built to weather all conditions. Hey, as long as our precious lump of gorgeous steel floats and me, being the Captain, stay alert with the steering all will be fine. In our favour there is little traffic on the Canal, hence the reason to be cruising before holiday boats start on the Cut on July 4th.

2 days before the big cruise we drove our cars to Whilton Marina from Kinver and the Sat Nav estimated it would take 1hr and 23mins. I followed Chris until I lost sight of him at a crucial turn onto the M6. I cannot see through trucks. I got the motorway turning wrong 3 times. Why is there so much traffic? I stopped at a Petrol Station, for a rest stop to adjust the volume on my SatNav and phone Chris who answered saying he was not moving on the M6  due to a RTA ahead. It was enough to reinforce the positives moving at a slow pace on the Canal i.e. low-stress levels and little traffic. 

It has been yonks since I’ve had a day steering DB. I am skilled and safe working the Locks but over the past 14 months, which have been land-based, I’m a ‘falls’ risk so I’m locked out of the Lock job. I can keep my balance behind the wheel on DB and I steer her well.  I stand on my trusty footstool, in front of DB’s wheel where I look clearly ahead over the roof or down her Port side to get a clear view ahead. When DB is moving I can feel the rudder responding to the wheel and her Bow moves accordingly. The wheel turns easily and is never held in a static position when DB is on the move. Always keep mindful of the position of the wheel and remember how to measure rudder position with the wheel. 

The stern frame, canopies and Wheelhouse frame are packed away, Bow and stern ropes untied, centre ropes tied in position and DB leaves our home mooring in Kinver. Lips pucker and I run through a mental checklist -handbag- it's in the car! It’s not an item I can live without. I glide DB into mooring at the Kinver Sanitary Station and I could walk, not swim, back to retrieve my bag. All aboard the ‘good ship Lollipop’, I take her at the speed of ‘tic’ past the motley bunch of Narrowboats at Kinver moorings to nearby Hyde Lock.  Amazingly I got DB into the Lock without touching her sides on the Lock wall. Only 66 Locks and 109 miles to go!

The Staffs & Worcs Canal is a familiar run and I smiled knowingly what to expect apart from the unexpected! Day1 a total of 2 on the move.

The Anglers are out. Coarse fishing is natural social distancing and not a new normal- they sit canal side at least 2 metres apart. At one of the locks, there was a family group or 2 right on the Lock mooring! I kept my mouth buttoned but DB's nose indicates they need to move out the way.

Bottom Bratch Lock

Soon we arrive at the Bratch Locks expecting a Lock keeper and volunteers to be present. No offical-dom was there and Chris said the Bottom Lock gate had a rope wire-tied on it to prevent being opened and no signage saying what was going on. I phoned  C&RT and an automatic answer informed me “only in an emergency call for assistance”. I checked  but no information given about the Bratch Locks. It is Sunday and there is bugger all traffic on the Cut. Will there be anyone there when tomorrow comes? 2 hours later the rain had stopped, we took a walk past the Locks and both agreed we should take DB up the Bratch. Chris always has a wire-tie at hand and the Bottom Lock will be left as we found it!

We cruised on to moorings above Dimmingsdale Lock. Pat on the back, Good effort to get here.


It was lovely to be back in bed on DB. Della used to sleep on her doggy bed arrangement that used to be next to my side of the bed.  I didn't mind Della having her space. She didn't have a 'doggy' smell or moult so always a clean space. Now I am able to step out of our bed and walk around it.
September 2017- getting my confidence on the Narrows

I was ready to get behind the wheel. An early start and no traffic would mean that ‘the Narrows’ just past the Shropshire Union Canal turn might be, fingers crossed, clear of traffic. The Narrows is @500 metres of very narrow++ canal going through a rock cutting. Normally one of us would walk the towpath to warn our presence to an oncoming boat but we figured we'll just keep on moving. Do not mention "No Boat" until the run is completed. DB was cushioned by the long grass towpath side and I didn’t let her scrape the rock wall on the other side.  Moving DB slowly, steadily and surely I shouted with glee at the appropriate time “Great we are through!”  Sure enough, as soon as those words are said another boat came into view. The only communication was thumbs up.

There are some awkward bends on this part of the Canal, blind bends and bridges. Always blast the horn! Today there was more oncoming boat traffic but no steel kisses. 

Did I mention that weather, today, was forecast strong winds blowing all day and temps not even close to being summer.

By evening, we moored in Penkridge. There was only us and another boat moored up. I've never seen it so empty.
Morso Squirrel on a summer's day.

Chris lit the fire and DB warmed up. The Morso Squirrel is effective and there is always firewood available. Collect it when you see it and again, excellent storage on DB to carry wood. We did not see the point of having gas heating, gas is expensive and heating uses up the gas bottle quickly. (We learnt this from having gas heating on AM). There is the ability to put in a diesel fire on DB.
Moored boats we had passed, today, had chimney's smoking. To be fair DB doesn’t get cold but an overcast sky with light rain falling is not even heartwarming. I think the cabin walls lined with carpet are an excellent touch, minimising maintenance and I used to have coloured felt patterns decorating parts of it. I do miss our homely touches.



Another day and no time to rest. Every day we are passing by people walking on the Towpath and we always get a positive response to DB’s vibrant pattern. On this cruise, I was saying "Even on a cloudy summer's day DB looks colourful and people always smile." In fact it makes me happy to see the colours of the Wheel House roof as it lies on the steel roof and I get an eyeful while I'm steering DB. Some people say it is like 'Elmer', I say I had not heard of Elmer and after a Google search, I say Elmer copied us. The pattern is random, like life on the Canal.
Surgical Blade is my decorating tool of choice.

The use of coloured vinyl print is an affordable way to decorate a steel boat, the colours don't fade and the shapes can easily be replaced.

As we got closer to Great Haywood I am warmed by sun shining on the lovely countryside.  The weather brightened after some early morning rain. After Tixall Lock there is the Broadwater often busy with Boats but not today. Of course, a boat decided to ‘wind’ just as I came into view, apparently to wind on the wide water you want to keep the boat in motion to complete the wide turn. I followed it until it moored leaving me with a clear run to the junction with the Trent & Mersey Canal.

I’d forgotten there was an Aqueduct to go over, I could see a low concrete siding to Port and before I could ask Chris to tell me how much room to the starboard side a resident boater yelled out “SLOW DOWN”. I was already going at tic, was he warning me about he Aqueduct? I lost my concentration and DB kissed the concrete to Starboard. At the junction, I blasted the horn to warn possible boat traffic but kept moving while checking the canal was clear as DB was turning. No problem and a comfortable turn onto familiar territory.

The weather today is staying dry and the canal is virtually mine until we get to Rugeley. Keep right, starboard, to oncoming traffic. After the wide 45° bend after the River Trent Aqueduct I was aware of a moving boat, I moved starboard and DB got up close and personal to a hobby angler fishing from his patio. Social distancing, don't touch, at least I could see him.

There are a few bridges to pass through in Rugeley and there were 3-4 boats on the move. Why do boats seem to meet close to bridges? Signage indicated there was a floating JCB in action before one bridge and DB was waved through. Maybe a couple of inches to spare. BREATHE. I can do this! It is a happy thought to know that with my helming experience I can take on obstacle challenge.

Armitage Tunnel

The smell of Fish & Chips greeted us when we moored in Handsacre and the sprinkle of rain drops was a timely reminder to stop, eat and relax. We hadn’t planned to have F&C but they filled the spot.



I was back into the routine of waking up early. Small pot of tea, the large pot is no longer on DB, have a shower, drink tea then cruise off. Most days I have cereal but I had no Banana today. I had toast with fresh tomato and basil.

Sourdough Bread baked in a 'Dutch Oven' in the oven. 

I’ll digress and write about Sourdough Bread. I recently started making this type of bread after my friend insisted on giving me a Sourdough starter and instructions on how to make the dough. When we lived in Portugal I used to bake Bread in our Bread Oven. I thought my days of making bread were done and dusted. Moving on to 2020 I am very happy with making sourdough bread and if I was living on DB I would make certain that I baked our bread. It is easy to feed a Sourdough starter to keep it alive or leave it dormant in the Fridge. DB has excellent kitchen space for bread prep and 'stretching' the sourdough, and a normal size oven to bake the bread at high temperature in. I know DB is a boat and I should call the kitchen a galley but I don’t have to get on my knees to get to the back of a cupboard!
Chris in the Kitchen.
The 2 single Pullman's which are positioned both sides of the folding tables make a practical change to the DayBed and dining chairs we used to have. The Daybed was comfy but when it was used as a double bed it blocked the entry to the kitchen. The Pullman's are not fixed to the floor so they can be moved to a position of choice and used as 2 single beds or a double bed within the main cabin
The cruise along the Canal is beautiful even if the weather is crap. It is early summer and there is a lot of verdant vegetation to pass along with the sound of chirpy birdsong. The birds must be happy. DB has a 'hospital silencer' and I can hear the birdsong giving music to the rural cruise.

Approaching our first Lock of the day I saw the silhouette of a humanoid holding a windlass at the Lock Gate indicating is a boat on the rise! I dropped Chris at the Lock mooring then kept DB, un-tethered, expecting that the wait would be short. Chris chat chatted for a long time. I think the other boater must have been lonely. The Lock filled very slowly. I couldn’t be bothered to tie up and there was not even a slight breeze so I went indoors and washed the dishes.

At Fradley Locks a volunteer at each Lock assisted Chris. No wind today, clear entrance into the Locks followed by the turn onto the Fazeley&Birmingham (Coventry arm) Canal.

An Angler called out “Why do you Canal Boats have to get so close to the Towpath?”
I could think of words in response but thought I’d use my selective hearing. I've got to concentrate on the awkward turn to get under a bridge.

No Locks and the threat of rain made for an easy run. There are certainly places we could stop at but no Della and no need to stop, we are on a mission. As per the other days there was a lack of boat traffic and I knew we would be reaching 3 Locks once we passed the Birmingham and Fazeley junction with the actual Coventry Canal.

Can you believe just as we passed the Junction and a moored Narrowboat pulled out in front of us! I suppose they didn't expect traffic as they didn't look behind them as they jumped on their boat. I blasted my horn but they kept on going meaning they arrived at the Locks first. I almost gave them a hand signal at the Locks but I thought 'Breathe' I’ll social distance. I do not want to help them let alone meet them. Yes, they had made me angry with their thoughtlessness. Isn’t Canal life supposed to be love and peace?

 Another long cruise and we moored up near Alvecote and towpath walkers said there were ruins of an Abbey nearby. Given that the sun was shining and we were missing Della, a little walk would be a nice finish to the day.



I was so tired, don’t get me wrong, steering is stand up on your own 2 feet for hours each day and it is not a laugh a minute but holding the wheel helps me keep my balance and it gives me a bit of wriggle room. I could ask Chris to share it but he has steered lots over the years and I want to put in a good final effort. With practice, steering improves and Bow thrusters are handy but only use them when they are needed, remember they suck the charge out of their designated battery. The ‘bzzst’ of the thrusters will always get a response from other boaties  either “You’re lucky I wish I had a Bow thruster” or “Cheat!”. I think when the wind blows it is a blessing to have the Bow thrusters to get into a Lock. The other advantage for Bow thrusters is ‘winding’ (changing direction on the Cut at a ‘winding hole’)- remember DB is 68ft long. Of course, it aids with reversing DB, that's not a common occurrence. Use the Bow thrusters for intervals of 5 seconds, count the seconds, this avoids flattening their battery. The Bow thrusters are located either side of the Bow as if it isn't obvious. We don’t have Stern thrusters fitted!

Back to Day5 on the Cut. I started off writing I was so tired. I slept well but at 3am the annoying sound of a fly woke me. It didn’t sound like a mosquito. I pulled the sheet over my head, there was no point turning the light on for fly-tennis, I hadn’t brought a fly swat with me. I used to play fly-tennis when we lived in Portugal. I went back to sleep.

Morning, fly gone and I left Chris sleeping while I cast off DB. I passed a group of people walking their dogs, about 8 dogs, one dog for each person. I have a heavy heart and I wish Della was still with us, she had a good life and so did we with her being our 'Babe' for nearly 14 years.....

Guess what the weather seemed brighter. We have the 11 Atherstone Locks ahead and time for a cooked breakfast. We stopped just before Bridge 50 to have a cooked Brekky, thx Chris. A full belly and I went out to untie DB. I noticed a boat on the move towards us, of course I was tempted to cast off but I’m polite, they’ll get to the Locks first.

They, being the boat in front, moored up for lunch after the 7th Lock of the Atherstone Flight so we slipped ahead.

Rain was falling before we got to the Top Lock but a Volunteer was sort of helping as we exited. I thought the rain would stop and declined using an umbrella. A cup of tea and a cake was offered but by then the rain was bucketing down and it would be a fool’s errand to stop. I had my 'better' waterproof jacket on and even wore its hood. I cruised on until I started going under a bridge and thought I’ll stop when the Wheelhouse is under bridge cover. Looking behind me I wasn’t being followed and fingers crossed there were no boats in the opposite direction. OK, cuppa and cake. A few minutes later I ducked indoors. When I stepped out, the rain had stopped and a boat appeared in view behind me so I moved DB on and kept in front for 9 miles giving us a clear sharp turn onto the Hawkesbury Junction and up the ‘Stop’ Lock onto the Oxford Canal. It was a good feeling.

At least 13 miles covered today and I weathered the rain. We are progressing the final cruise. Canal life is supposed to be relaxing but this is nowhere near that. We are on the mission to get to Whilton Marina.

DAYS 6 & 7


It’s a straight run to Rugby and the day was overcast and a bit wet to start with. I'm getting used to it. Chris held an umbrella up for me until the rain stopped. Didn't we used to have  Rainbow Umbella hats? That would be useful. I agreed to share the steering with Chris. The plan was to get to Rugby and maybe the Hillmorton Locks but we got to the top lock at Braunston meaning 24miles covered in a day including 8 Locks.

At Braunston we moved onto the Grand Union Canal and wide Locks. There were no boats to share the Locks with but only one gate had to be opened at each Braunston Lock for Nb DB. I’ve finally got my steering badge!

This was the last big day on the Cut and it would be a short trip to Whilton Marina, on DAY 7.
We planned to be underway, early, on the last cruising day and Chris agreed to take DB through the Braunston Tunnel. I did not fancy steering in a dark hole for 40 minutes. Success, we had the Tunnel to ourselves and we didn’t take any piece of tunnel with us!

DB moored near the top Lock of the Buckby Flight of Locks giving us time to do bits and bobs on DB while we were waiting for a boat to share the Locks to our ‘ground zero’ Whilton Marina.

A fitting end to the cruise sharing the Buckby Locks with a friendly couple on a boat with their dog. The Blokes worked the Locks and we women competently helmed the boats.

The wind was fair blowing us to Whilton Marina. It's not blowing me away!

I was in tears when we drove off.

This final Blog has been more Lock than LoL.

Thanks for reading.

Beautiful Uke customised by Bespoke Paints. 
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Fb Bespoke Paints

Please read my Blogs and check out Nb DolcieBlue photos. She is a great home for life on the water. If you have any questions about her please message me through this Blogger.

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A brief history

This is a blog set up by Chris and Sarah so family and friends can catch up with their travels on the British waterways in the summer of 2011. In 2010, I went to England with the idea of getting a narrow boat built. I had specific requirements so I thought that a new build may be the way to go. I e mailed to numerous boat builders, a great percentage of whom ignored me. The problem of having a family name of Laycock is that hotmail and a few others think that I am a porn star. At an early age you learn not to put C Laycock on your school books. But I guess that my nephew Paul did worse. Anyway I spent a very pleasant few weeks driving around the beautiful English countryside visiting boatyards, marinas, boat builders and just a few pubs. I had narrowed it down to two builders and in the last week I was in Devizes Wiltshire when I came across "Avalon Mist" 54 feet of throbbing neglected narrow boat. The past owner had lost interest, hadn’t maintained her and to add insult to injury had been made redundant. After a very short negotiation I was able to buy her for a pretty fair price. On the day the sale took place I had to beg her to take her trainers and a few rather suspect items of clothing, in other words she left everything. Lock stock and barrel.

Soon after the purchase I flew to California to meet Sarah and have a short holiday. Once back in NZ I started to try and organize works. The first thing that I learnt was that the marina does not allow any contractor on site, only their chosen ones, the excuse given is a concern about insurance, the suspicion is, graft, pay back, baksheesh, call it what you like. It is possible to take the boat off the marina to have the work done, but not really practical.

The first job to be tackled was to “winterize” the boat, i.e. drain off all the water, check the anti freeze in the engine and central heating and fit an automatic bilge pump.

No real problem there except communication, the mechanic just didn’t answer e mails. Difficult to do business like that.

The nice marina lady had a quiet word with him, and things did improve, thanks Debs you have been a star through out . He later confided in me the reason for this was that he was dyslexic, apparently a malady [he] claims affects a lot of mechanics.[It turns out that he is a great mechanic and a nice guy to boot].

That goes pretty high on my list of lame excuses, the top one being a really nice Irish guy Pat, who I had employed as a carpenter years ago when I lived in London. He was always a bit late for work, when I finally collared him about it; he said he could never decide what to wear to work.

Nice one Pat.

I digress, the boat was winterized, which was just as well as it was a cold one and the whole marina froze over.

Next job was to have her taken out of the water, have the hull stripped back to bare metal and have a bit of over plating done. There were a couple of areas where there was pitting, and I though if she’s out of the water, may as well do the job right, so a small amount of over plating and then the hull was blacked, and the engine bay partially de-rusted and then back in the water.

Seems like a good job was done, I had the marine surveyor who had done the original survey, check out all the major works and give me written reports and photos, so all good except once again communications.

I then came across a great guy, the partner of the woman who runs the marina and a carpenter/narrow boat fitter outer .He replaced the stern deck and did a great job, also did a great job on de-greasing, de-rusting and painting the engine compartment. A job I should have done myself, but I just didn’t fancy it, not only that be was great with communications and chasing other people up

So that takes us up to present.

There needs to be a bit of electrical work, not much. The outside is badly in need of paint, Sarah and I can do that and a bit of a tidy up inside, and then she will be a really nice boat.