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)

1 comment:

  1. Lovely read Sarah and welcome home. Let's hope things are better with COVID-19 by the time you make the long trip back! Surely an Airbus A380 rather than a Boeing?


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.