It has been a tumultuous week.
I was due to fly to the Photography Show in Birmingham, UK mid-March. It is a big event. So many great names will be there. My mister and I are just starting out on our photography business journey. It’s exciting! And we had been accepted onto the guest list as professionals. Imagine us, mingling with the worlds best, wearing our official passes? How funny is that? Not to mention all those sparkly things — because photographers just can’t resist kit.
And then this week, our carrier went into administration. Our Flybe flights were cancelled. Our plans were up in the air. No pun intended — because they were very much parked on the tarmac.
This was the start of the realisation that things may not be going to plan. And there were implications which could impact us far beyond a little trip to a show.
We pulled on the brakes and spent the next couple of days trying to make sense of things.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit to having already grown slightly nervous about the photo show trip. I am a bit of a worrier.
Not about Flybe. We have been here before. The day after we booked I realised they were looking for help to prevent collapse. How had I missed that? But we were committed. The tickets were in my inbox. I took out insurance (which would turn out to be fruitless anyway). Thankfully a bailout plan came. We breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Yet my nervousness didn’t stem from any of that, strangely enough. No, it was all about the large gathering. Tens of thousands of snap-happy folk, from near and far, under one roof. Was I placing myself in a position of unnecessary risk?
A coronavirus related risk.
Before we all get too excited and start shouting ‘don’t be ridiculous, Marie’, please, give me a little more space to expand.
I am a pretty healthy 54 year old — admittedly carrying a little more unhealthy fat than I should be. But to all intents and purposes, I think I have little to fear in terms of catching a coronavirus.
Getting sick wasn’t (or rather isn’t) my worry.
No. My big concern now is taking myself somewhere where someone else subsequently tests positive. And right at this moment, that could give rise to a far greater issue.
Because I am also due to travel to India this spring. To photograph tigers! This is my trip of a lifetime. Not just mine — I mean it’s ours! There were choices when we considered where to go in 2020. I could have been freezing my bits off looking for grizzlies. Perhaps with hindsight that would have been a bit safer. After all, do viruses thrive at minus temperatures? Let’s not dwell. That ship on the British Columbian waters has now sailed.
Instead, we flipped a coin and the tigers won. But something now seems determined to spoil the party.
I confess I didn’t give COVID-19 another thought when it first hit our headlines. Had it not been for Mark Kelly highlighting this line in one of my stories (about a 1970s TV series about a pandemic) …
The story line followed a group of people who have survived a plague pandemic, accidentally released by a Chinese scientist and quickly spread across the world via air travel.
…I might have missed the potential implications entirely. The lurgy wasn’t on my radar.
Now things have changed dramatically, haven’t they?
I am not just talking about panic buying either. Although that is a little crazy, don’t you agree? What’s with the stockpiling toilet roll business?
As I sit and write this, the numbers across the world are rising.
The situation changes daily. We, that’s my mister and I, are now monitoring the situation in four different locations. The national UK stance; followed closely by that more locally here in Scotland. Doha is our transit airport and finally India.
The Indian authorities have already taken steps to halt the entry from four countries who are managing significant numbers through their own quarantine measures. I can only imagine those restricted crossing points to increase as more countries get more cases and introduce measures to delay the spread.
So we, that’s the royal we, have now entered our own extra precautionary phase, in the hope that Doha and India remain open to travellers from the UK. And I see no reason why they won’t if we continue to control things here.
But insurance measures we are indeed taking.
As I said, I was due to fly with Flybe next week. To the Photography Show. The airline’s collapse on Thursday gave us a chance to stop and take a long look at this excursion — and with more objective eyes.
We live in rural Scotland. There are no suitable flight alternatives. In many ways, we have been incredibly lucky to be connected to most of the UK’s cities for this long. And that is all down to the smaller airlines. Another carrier has stepped in and laid claim to the routes. But not those Flybe customers who lost flights. And not in time to rebook.
Our only alternative involves a long day of multiple trains or a car. While we could go that way, extending our break by a day at each end is not an option. So given the constraints on the diary, we decided to let this one pass and take the losses on the chin (not everything is recoverable).
Perhaps it was a sign.
The key thing for us is not the risk of catching the virus — as rubbish as that would be. Instead, it is reducing the chances of placing ourselves in a popular location where someone else tests positive — and then those who might be deemed to have become ‘a risk’ being quarantined. If that should happen then this path to the tigers will have taken another twist. And it will be entirely out of our control.
Let’s not also forget the sad news of the hospital collapse in China. Patients who may have hoped to beat this thing won’t make it home anyway. It’s a sobering thought. And frankly, one which puts the whole toilet paper and soap hysteria into a ridiculously new perspective.
We are taking it day by day now. Still watching — and praying nothing else happens before we set out for our flight to see those tigers.
I should be excited. I would be excited!
I love the build-up to a trip as much as the trip itself. Normally I would have started to cyber consume everything about the place by now. Every single step. The places I will pass through. I imagine the smells, the sounds, the noise, the food, the people, the colours. I would have started to feel those butterflies having a happy dance in my tummy.
Except I feel as if I am holding back. I feel I just can’t let myself begin to gather those scenes in my head just yet.
Because I know I would be gutted if I then had to let them go.
©Marie T Smith writes for way too many Medium publications. She has already been credited as a top writer in Humor, Food, Travel, Cooking, This Happened To Me and Satire along the way — although the fairies always steal them back. She is also a published writer in Travel Magazines and a keen photographer of wildlife. She Wordsmiths.. is where it all began. She now owns a mini She Wordsmiths.. publication right here on Medium.