#1122. Mini confinement photo diary

By pascaljappy | News

Jul 07

Visitors to the UK from “Amber” countries need to self quarantine for 5 days at a location of their choice. It doesn’t seem like a long time, until you go through it πŸ˜‰

Entering the UK from France in the Summer of 21.

Long time no post, sorry about that. My son recently got married πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ To attend, we booked a trip to the UK. To visit the UK, we had to book more tests and fill in enough paperwork to send a French bureaucrat into a week-long orgasm. To fill in said paperwork and finish my pro work in time for departure, I had to cut down on DS publications.

But it was all worth it, and it was a nice rest πŸ™‚ Thank you to all of you who so kindly wrote to check in on me. It is much appreciated!

Let me restart the machine with a quick post, we’ll get into more serious stuff next week (pile of work waiting on my return … πŸ˜‰ )

Mirror on the wall …

My wife and I are lucky to own a house with a large garden. All the confinements we’ve been through in France were both porous (daily walks allowed, tenuous enforcement) and spent peacefully in nice weather in a privileged setting.

So the 5 days we had to spend in a (lovely) Airbnb flat in the UK didn’t strike us as anything noteworthy. Grab a good book, watch a few movies, stay in bed, eat plenty of cake, and it would be over in no time at all.

That turned out to be wishful thinking πŸ˜‰


It turns out that not leaving the indoors at all is a lot more difficult than we had imagined. And since UK fines for Covid offenders reach Β£10,000 per person, and given that Home Office personnel checked our whereabouts every single day at random times of the day, we didn’t feel like taking chances …

I run and walk as much as time lets me, practise other sports, and generally work from my terrace, even in cold weather, for as long as rain drops don’t fall on my laptop and cold doesn’t numb my fingers. Outside suits me better than in.

The first day indoors felt like a rest. Particularly after the stressful administrative runnup to the trip and the waiting/flying/driving that is nowhere near as fluid as it used to be. So far so good.

A bus, my kingdom for a bus …

The second exhausted my desire for chilling. All the interior pedalling doesn’t stop as fast as the body stalls. The desire to get out and enjoy the sun and grass picked up the minute that “well, this is restful” feeling subsided. It’s only at the end of that second day that my brain started to fully understand the meaning of being locked in.

People do bad thing and get sentenced to jail. Months, years or decades of it. At the end of two days, in a luxury flat overlooking the lovely park of a lovely little city, the reality of being locked in for such long periods began to sink in. How do they not go insane?

Yes, inmates do leave their cells every day, have social interaction and can learn and do work during their forced stay. But still … the idea of delimiting a perimeter and knowing you’ll never breach if for a long period is very scary to me. The disconnect with simple stuff such as grass and trees feels very uncomfortable and I realise how much easier it would be for me to live in a shack in the forest than in a palace high up in a skyscraper. My feet have roots that even 5 days in a first-floor apartment lead to wilt. How do you handle 3 years in a grey cell???

No escape

Day 3. The morning sun wakes me up at 4 something, like everyday, through this East-facing window. I feel a bit grubby, as one does after sleeping in too long, but rested, peaceful. The unwinding flow of 3 full days without work is fully flushing away the unnerving tension created by this relative captivity.

At some point during the day, like some SchrΓΆdinger Home Office cat, a visit or a call will make sure none of us are breaching the agreed boundaries of our physical welcome zone. Phone calls are just as efficient as in-person visits, because the location of your phone is checked based on what cell towers it pings on.

It’s a contract. They let us in for the wedding, in spite of the perceived threat paused by a bunch of French citizen on hallowed UK soil, in exchange for which we agree to limit or miasmic potential to the confines of a pre-booked abode. It feels like a football match: UK 70% vaccination, France 40%: UK sets the rules and holds the cup.

All a blur

3 weeks-later, as those words are being typed, the score has become much less obvious to decipher. Is a Delta-variant goal worth 2 Alpha-variant goals? Do you factor in fatalities or does any of that enter the equation? Is there even an equation or are two cockerels simply thumping their chests for public acclaim?

But on the spot, I don’t care, it’s out of my hands, and it’s actually nice to feel guided, locked in step, as on a railway line. 1 more full day to go and the test-to-release PCR test (90 quid in all good bookstores) should free us, with just a few hours to spare before the wedding.

More reading. More looking out of the windows. More listening of passers-by on their school runs, breaks and pub crawls. From this low first floor, I can almost scratch their heads reaching out through the windows, but the pigeon in the tree doesn’t like me poking limbs out of my perimeter. I wonder if he’s trained by the Home Office.

No, it’s not that bad

Day 4. I’m grabbing my camera. Tomorrow, we’ll be free. At least for a brief drive to Luton airport for a third Covid test this week. Hopefully, there will be a queue on the road. Hey, maybe even a second at the test center, one can dream. It’s a funny state of mind, when you look forward to some unknown dude or dudette poking a 6 inch swab down your nostril just for the sake of amusement and change of pace.

Still, today, I wanna making a creative note of this confinement and associated feelings. In the WWII camp of Les Milles, close to home, prisoners waiting for deportation and death found it in them to paint astonishing work on the brick walls. Others started theaters in their cells while succumbing to deprivation and illness. Surely a healthy guy sitting out a sunny 5-day wait with family, shortbread and tea, hummus and Cloudy Bay Sauvignon blanc, nice views, good reads, good music, YouTube and Netflix can find the energy and desire to create something of interest as well, right?

Self-pity is easy when we’re placed in unusual situations, even not really unpleasant ones. At least for me, to my great shame. I work to a rhythm, value freedom above most everything else and hate anything getting in my way. And when I think of those prisoners who made a stupid mistake, or those thrown in to hell because they were born on the “wrong” side of some ideological fence, it makes me feel even worse. Selfishly, I imagine this could happen to me and focus on that rather than on the innumerable positives of my situation. Unlike Max Ernst, Otto Fritz Meyerhof and their unfortunate companions, I doubt that I could face permanent lockup with as much grace.

Casting shadows

The photos on this page are my exorcism of those self-inflicted demons. There is no war, I’m here for a wedding, tomorrow I’m getting out. Let’s see what creative decisions can be made to celebrate this benign micro-incarceration.

I have windows to work with, props and strong light. More than enough, right? I let my eye roam freely, in a sort of meditation, not looking for any grand composition or momentous event. Associations of ideas form, rhyming details get noticed, oppositions in feelings happen.

After 30 minutes, new photographs begin to feel forced and unnecessary. I delete them and stop, to rediscover this short list roughly 20 days later. So much has happened in between that they had drifted out of memory. Ordering them on this page feels wonderful, almost like putting up a post sent in by another contributor. I write those words from memory, feeling really happy that day 4 saw me pick up my camera. 5 days of nothingness can in fact lead to something interesting πŸ™‚

Plastic fantastic

End of Day 5. Tests negative. We almost feel bad walking out in the open πŸ˜‰ More about this trip soon!

How have you been? What new horizons are opening up for you?


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  • Sean says:

    Hi Pascal,
    Welcome back.
    I like this bit that you wrote “The disconnect with simple stuff such as grass and trees feels very uncomfortable …” In a way, your words allude to a disconnect where one experiences concurrent cabin fever and separation anxiety, inflicted in the cause of securing individual and collective health and welfare. Uncanny how a little deprivation and disconnect sharpens one’s senses, capacities, and abilities, in particular areas of creativity. Looking forward to DS revving up again, to salve a disconnect currently experienced here on the east side of OZ. I’ve taken up sitting out on the balcony spotting for UFOs but it’s proving a fruitless exercise; back to the sanity of DS intelligence and discourse, please.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you very much, Sean πŸ™‚ A post on UFOs is sorely missing from DS, please send it on as soon as your search proves successful πŸ˜‰ I hope your wait isn’t too long. Are case numbers declining, yet? We admire how diligent your government has proved, but understand how unpleasant those precautions must be on a daily basis.


      • Sean says:

        Ha ha, I’ve failed miserably in detecting and proving anything tangible about UFOs. What I think I initially saw was a mirage, a mirage of ‘Min Min’ lights. The mind does go on a non-acquired bender when unpleasantly placed in an enforced state of ‘lockdown’. Our C-19 case numbers are starting to climb, and those hospitalised are from the younger and less-aged areas in our communities. Lets hope it doesn’t get out of hand, like a bushfire can do.

        • pascaljappy says:

          Well, all political considerations aside, your government does seem to have a better handle on the epidemic than most, so you can probably count on this new wave staying under control. But we hear vaccination hasn’t made much progress in Oz. Is that the case? In the UK, new cases are exploding. It’s likely this will be the worst wave by far (though no one is admitting to it) and yet, everything is reopening because very few of those cases are turning into serious illnesses or casualties, thanks to vaccination. It’s safe to say science save our collective bacon, in this instance !!

          Now, now, I can tell you are trying to back out of that UFO post! We want the photographs, long green legs and all πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

          • Sean says:

            Yes, hopefully we do get to keep under control the spread of whatever variant of C-19 causes trouble – it is a tough thing to get an handle on, so as to manage effectively. As of 5:00pm today, our NSW State Gov., has further restricted the movement of people; and increased Police patrols in areas where known non-compliance of current requirements, and growing rates in infection, are reasonably concerning.
            The UFO thing is just some mischievous fun, to beat boredom – as you are well aware. If you want a pic of a green legged being I’ll borrow my wife’s green leggings and stick a soup pot on my head for a picture πŸ™‚

  • Pascal O. says:

    So good to have you back, Pascal!
    I was getting worried!!

    Concerned like one Pascal can be for another ;-).

    I belong to that generation when draft still existed, and thus underwent the “trois jours” in army barracks to be tested and see, in short, whether you would crawl in the mud for 12 months or be in an office somewhere for 18 months.

    This three day prelim only lasted two days for me, but on night one (in fact THE night), we were not allowed to go out of the camp (in Blois), since some of our predecessors had so thoroughly painted the town red that the privilege had long disappeared.

    Well for me to be confined among hoodlums who described how they broke into suburbian houses, fought with pillows and shaving foam for most of the night but more importantly that I was not allowed to go where I wanted when I please generated a big sense of unease and was a genuine ordeal.
    My wholehearted sympathy.

    I have under separate cover made some (decent) proposals as to what my humble contribution could be should you be interested.

    Take care.

    Warm regards.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Than you, Pascal πŸ™‚ Much appreciated. We have our Pascal backs πŸ˜‰

      You bring back memories of my own “3 jours” when the doctor disjointed my ankle and deemed me unfit. No officeering for me. My companions seemed more docile than yours, but some couldn’t read (in France, in 1980 something!!!) and that made me feel terrible. When we were set free, one of the guys (chubby and not that coordinated, judging from our little time together) ran onto the train platform in extasy because they had accepted him. At that point (I played 15 hours of tennis a week) I didn’t know what to think or feel, but sure was pleased to leave a place where everyone had been kind but needed ID, and permission, to get into or out of. I was not cut out for that sort of life. That being said, several members of my family are in the army in France and in England, and love it. It’s great when people find their right place.

      Proposals duly noted and begged for πŸ™‚

      All the best.

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    Hi Pascal,
    Being, as you know, “prisoner” of the pandemic and stuck 20.000 km from my wife since 1 year now, I have a real sympathy for your feelings; here too I live in a beautiful place, with “my” Laurentian forest for contemplation… but as the say goes, a “golden prison” is still… a prison.
    In that loneliness, the regular DS posts are always a nice moment… glad to see you back πŸ™‚
    And eager to read the next adventures πŸ™‚

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Pascal, although I can relate to your plight, mine was far faaaar less important. I suppose humans adapt to anything, which is what makes us strong and invasive creatures. The first days are probably the most difficult to adapt to and thus the more “interesting” from a creative standpoint. But that’s easy to say when you only have to sit 5 days. I’m very sorry that you have been separated from your wife for so long. That – among so many other things – speakes to the absolute inhumanity of our leaders.

      There’s a Turing test for machines. I wish there was a humanity test for politicians and wonder what percentage would pass …

      Anyway, thank you for the kind comment, I do hope your separation comes to a quick end and that DS posts will continue to provide some measure of entertainement and friendship πŸ™‚

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    I’m so relieved, Pascal! My mind was busy sorting out all the possibilities behind your absence – thankfully none of them were true! We even discussed your absence during John Wilson’s Friday Photo Zoom meeting!
    Anyway, you made it through the confinement, which was short compared to 14 days upon entering Japan – yikes! And you did it with a certain amount of grace, although a bottle of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc (my absolute favorite) has been known to solve almost any situation at hand.
    You’re back, safe and sound and ready to start DS up once again. I’m looking forward to viewing all contributions in the pipeline and might even offer up one of my own.
    Welcome back!

    • pascaljappy says:

      That’s very kind Nancee, thanks.

      The confinement period is 10 days, but you are allowed to take an extra test on day 5, provided you continue the other tests of the 10 day period, irrespective of the day 5 results. It’s an expensive game to play, but well worth the extra 5 days of freedom.

      Ah Cloudy Bay … wonderful, isn’t it? Particularly in some situations.

      Looking forward to your contributions! They are always an absolute treat. Cheers.

  • Paul Lasky says:

    Thanks for your photo essay and mini travel journal. It broke my Dear Susan withdrawal.

  • PaulB says:

    Hi Pascal

    I understand your feelings on confinement. At the end of April I had knee surgery to replace my ACL, so in addition to being confined to the house I was confined to a chair (recliner) for most of the first week. Of course, for the first few days I had the advantage of some really powerful prescription drugs, but after stopping the happy pills, the walls do start to close in fast.

    I’m glad to see that you did not delete all of your captive images. They do reinforce the concept that constraint enhances creativity.

    My proposal will follow shortly.


    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks Paul, I’m glad you like the photos! Sorry to hear about your surgery. Is your knee better now ? Yes, our minds play tricks. I’m almost ashamed of feeling bad in what was objectively a lovely vacation, but some things – like being locked in – affect us more than others.

      I have received your proposal, sorry for not replying earlier. I’m slowly wading through my email πŸ™‚


      • PaulB says:


        The knee is slowly getting better. The full length brace and crutches are gone, and using it to ascend stairs is now more functional than a possibility; down is another story though. Not to mention driving is now part of my activity plan.

        I have been able to get out and play with a new addition, using some legacy lenses. Which I will document as a first impression for your consideration in the not too distant future.


        • pascaljappy says:

          Well, it’s great that you are making a good recovery, I know how long these phases feel, and welcome your first impressions of the mystery addition πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  • Dallas says:

    Welcome back, I was wonder, but asked Philippe and he told me. Confinement is interesting we had 2 weeks at home on return from NZ back to Sydney April 2020. That was bad enough, a day later and it would have been 2 weeks in a 15-20 sq mt hotel room YUK. I owe you are article or 2

  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    Was also getting worried DS may have become another casualty of covid. This quarantine thing sure takes a big chunk out of what is meant to be a holiday. I hope it was worth it in the end for you.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Well, in a way, kinda πŸ˜‰ Covid forced this quarantine, and extended my UK stay significantly because all my previous flights were cancelled and we had to book very different dates than originally planned. But, thankfully, nothing dire!

      It was well worth it, it was my first child getting married πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  • Lani Edwards says:

    How fortuitous!
    As I was typing an email to you, wondering whether I should send the marines to check on you, ding-dong, new DS mail.
    Glad you’re back, Pascal.

  • Edwin says:

    Two things:
    I’ve been clicking the refresh button on my browser for the last umpteenth days, thinking that it must be my browser problem!
    It’s 21 days confinement in a hotel room with unopen-able windows for getting into Hong Kong, and yet the problem these days has been to find a booking for a hotel vacancy!! Your 5 days seems to be simply a over-due vacation!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Oh my word … 21 days in a hotel room. I suppose if you don’t have a choice, you power through it, but it can’t be easy. I feel for you. And hope the new articles help provide a few moments of interest. Stay positive! Cheers

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