Being Alone in Company

I know that there are millions upon millions of blogs about the situation in the world at the moment – here is mine.

I began a new path in life in April 2019 when we looked into the possibility of me doing live in care work in the UK. Following telephonic interviews from my patio in Vietnam and the relevant cross checks by the agency, I was accepted and started this journey in August 2019.  After a gruelling and intensive 2-week training course I was unleashed on the unsuspecting public. I was truly fortunate in that my very first client turned out to be a perfect fit from their perspective and mine.

My first stint in the UK was from August until January, when I returned to attend our nephew’s wedding and, of course, spend quality time with my better half. I returned at the beginning of February with the intention of meeting up with Ivan in South East Asia – destination still being determined – and celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary exploring and getting to see the girls and their husbands who are still happily in Vietnam. Little did we know what was about to happen. I always wear a face mask on flights – this habit was actually formed in Vietnam where face masks are a norm due to pollution levels, so wearing one for my return flight was not unusual for me and was actually a great idea as the virus had already taken hold in China at that stage and I was transiting in Europe so erring on the side of caution was a good thing.

In mid-March there was an advisory from the UK government regarding vulnerable people going into self-isolation – advise that we as a household heeded as my client falls into this category. Initially, this was not a dramatic adjustment as we spent most of our time in the home anyway, but slowly the cancellation of gym appointments, visits from service providers and not being able to pop to the shops in my break started to make this all very real. Of course, the numbers of infections and deaths from the virus started rising at an alarming rate and more and more countries went into lockdown.

Slowly I started to realise that my trip in June was drifting out of reach and with that the realisation that I did not know when I would get to see Ivan.

South Africa went into full lock down at the end of March and, with that, closed its borders to international passenger flights. The initial lockdown was for 3 weeks and with 3 days’ notice the citizens were told that no alcohol and cigarettes would be sold for those 3 weeks which lead to mass exodus to bottle stores and of course panic buying of all long lasting staples. ON the upside it appears that worldwide everyone is baking their own bread (and in South Africa we have become a nation of pineapple beer brewers). Unfortunately for those who catered their alcohol and cigarette supply based on the 3 weeks lockdown ……. this was initially extended for 2 weeks and now they have issued a detailed 5 level plan for undoing lockdown with the sale of cigarettes seeming to be a moving target that is moving further away and sale of alcohol only allowed at level 1. I have a few very unhappy mates back home.

 International travel is also only being allowed at level 1 which is the very last phase – there is rumour that they are only expecting the peak in September which to me feels like perhaps that level 1 will be nearer December.

Fortunately, my girls are at least both in Hanoi with their husbands, as I know this time would have been really difficult for either of them to be removed from any family for this length of time.

They have been teaching online since the end of January – Vietnam closed schools for Tet (Lunar New Year) which was the time that the virus took hold in China and remained closed. They only went back to school today after Vietnam registered zero infections for a few days consecutively – interesting fact is that Vietnam has only had 271 cases of which 219 are recovered and ZERO deaths (data correct as at 3 May 2020) – there are various reasons that Vietnam was able to control the spread but this is not a forum for any socio-political discussion – if you are interested, google provides some interesting resources.

March/April is normally the time when Ivan and I used to take our holidays and travel to South East Asia (prior to relocating temporarily) and so I have been reliving those trips with my Facebook memories popping up. We are so grateful that we got 2 years in the continent when we did as it would have a much different experience now – not only with travel but also economically.

It is a wonderful time technologically when people of all ages are now au fait with not only Skype and WhatsApp but also now happily using Zoom – although I have not ventured into the Tik Tok realm yet. Virtual pubs with virtual pub quizzes, virtual museum tours, free online concerts with artists performing from their living rooms, being able to join in wildlife game drives online – all these things are changing how we operate and will certainly influence life in future. I feel for entertainment venues – from restaurants and pubs to theatres but I firmly believe that they will return as strong as ever – if in an amended form.

I am working a 5 week on 1 week off rotation system at the moment as I have to maintain self-isolation whilst on my break so I need to book into self-catering accommodation but I am only 10 miles from Brighton so have been able to get to be near the beach as well.

We have slightly lifted our self-isolation within our household and myself and my client’s wife are going for 30 min exercise walks in the neighbourhood – fortunately we are very close to a national park and the walks around here are truly beautiful so this is exercise for the body and soul.

On a personal note – whilst I am incredibly lucky to be in a happy family environment with my client and his wife – I am certainly missing family. I knew it would only be June that I would see Ivan so theoretically I would not have seen him yet – but the uncertainty of when I may be able to see him, and the girls, is dreadful. This stark realisation that it may very well be another 6 months is daunting and causing me untold stress – most often without me realising it – and manifesting in sleepless nights and a general feeling of unease which I have only just attributed to the uncertainty.

There is a series of adverts here in the UK by Nationwide Bank where people have recorded messages to their future selves remembering what this time is like and things they are doing – very interesting exercise and I may actually do one of these myself – if you do one please share with me.

It has been insightful to look at this as a time for reflection on what and who is really important in your life and to make the most of every opportunity life puts your way because you never know when and how things will change – only that they will.

Appreciate those near and dear to you and remember to tell them often how much they mean to you and take time to be kind to yourself.


  1. So beautifully written Gail. Especially during this unique time. So mindful and true.
    People who live with their hearts and eyes open are the lucky ones and appreciate all that life has to offer.
    You and Ivan are 2 of these people.
    I feel honored that our paths crossed and the lessons learnt from you guys.
    I look forward to the day when out paths cross again.
    Good luck untill then.


  2. Hi Gail. Having trained with you in caring last year, I relate to much that you have said. So glad to have read more about your life and will now read some of your previous posts. I didn’t realise you have managed to do so much travelling!!! Ciao, Maura

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog. So sorry that we haven’t managed to
    Meet up yet. Hopefully I. The near future. Xx. Carole.


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