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 







1 comment:

  1. When we move to the boat the first morning I don't know where I am and when we go home I never know where I am. This year if part of it we've popped back and forward, it happens each time....


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.