(Sorry, we're into that period now, a year on from that fortnight when we tumbled inexorably from 'this is fine' to 'stay in your homes'. At the start it was life pretty much as normal, then the news worsened and the pasta ran out and the streets emptied and hey presto, life's been entirely atypical ever since. Expect a lot of wistful nostalgia across all forms of media everywhere as the anniversary plays out, sorry)
...I took a day trip to Plymouth.
(Sorry, you're not really interested in me. The cathartic thing is telling everyone what you last did a year ago, not listening to other people's experiences. The rest of us aren't especially interested in what you did either, so it works both ways, although there's probably some wider merit to being reminded how swiftly normality falls apart. I'm going ahead anyway, sorry)
Thursday 12thMarch 2020 was the day we moved from 'contain' to 'delay', the day the PM said many more families would lose loved ones and the day self-isolation was introduced. The UK's death toll was still in single figures. There was no reason not to hop on a train and travel 200 miles across country, not quite yet. The very freedom of it.
My diary confirms I had no major concerns, in part helped by catching a ridiculously early train. I was even early enough to spot the Circle line service that runs through Bow Road before six in the morning and took a blurry photo of it, thinking that to be the ridiculous rarity.
The 06.35 to Penzance was not a busy train. It had loads of empty seats, enough for me to abandon my reserved seat and pick another with as few people behind as possible. Obviously I sat on the left hand side of the carriage because I wanted the thrill of Dawlish, and Dawlish duly delivered. Only one bloke in the carriage coughed more than once and they got off at Taunton. I arrived in Plymouth at half past nine with a full day ahead.
Social distancing wasn't yet a thing, but it didn't need to be on a March weekday because the city wasn't in any way packed. I ticked off the city centre and waterfront, then caught a tiny ferry to Cornwall intending to sit outside but a heavy shower forced me into the cabin with everyone else. This didn't unduly worry me. Later I took the Torpoint Ferry and yes I avoided everyone else by going onto the upper deck, but that was only because I wanted the view and everyone else had seen it umpteen times before.
About the only thing I didn't blog about afterwards was my trip to Devonport, a lesser used station serving the naval dockyard. I would have gone to Dockyard station instead, a rare request stop, except it was fractionally further away and I was worried I'd miss my train across the Tamar Bridge. I thought I might blog about Devonport today but alas I didn't take any photos because the station was swarming with homeward-bound schoolchildren, and it's only a couple of platforms in a cutting so you're not missing much. The school run made this the busiest train of the day, but at the time still nothing perturbing.
I did cringe on the train back to London when someone plonked down in the seat next to me, despite plenty of free double seats, but thankfully they shifted before Exeter. The tube from Paddington was nigh empty because it was almost ten o'clock by now, so that was fine. And OK, there wouldn't be any toilet roll in the supermarket the following day and by Monday the Prime Minister would be telling us to not to travel, but that Thursday Britain still felt fairly safe and borderline normal.
(Sorry, we're into that period now, a year on from that fortnight when we tumbled inexorably from 'this is fine' to 'stay in your homes'. Expect a lot of wistful nostalgia across all forms of media everywhere as the anniversary plays out, sorry)