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XX Notes: What I Won’t Be Doing…

Published on: 12 Oct, 2020
Updated on: 15 Oct, 2020

Maria Rayner

Maria Rayner‘s observational, fortnightly column from a woman’s perspective…

What I Won’t Be Doing This Month

This month, I won’t be going to Vienna to see the Modigliani-Picasso exhibition. Just as I didn’t go to Vienna in April, or skiing in February or somewhere exotic and sunny after the stress of my son’s GCSEs. Travel was pretty much Covid-cancelled and our horizons closed in.

I know we are among the lucky: still working, living in an area that tops the polls of the best places in the UK to live, virus-free (so far, fingers crossed). Our disappointment at not being able to go on holiday is nothing to the anxiety of friends with once-secure jobs in the travel industry, which are now under threat.

I enjoy my cultural trips away. I’ve been on several tours now, led by an art historian who is British but lives in Italy. Her business model is built on low-cost airline travel and she runs regular day-courses in London, as well as the three-day tours in European cities.

They are as much about the buildings, food and conversation as the first-rate art history.

Fourth plinth Trafalgar Square

Nowadays, a trip to London feels exotic. Last week I went up for the first time since February. I was meeting friends in Trafalgar Square so I walked across from Waterloo. That was (what I have officially declared to be) the last proper day of summer: blue skies, warm breeze, a glass (or two) of something sparkling at a rooftop bar.

A perfect tourist day. I stood waiting for my friends outside the National Gallery, listening to the fountains and being amused by the Fourth Plinth. I can report back that London was alive but not bustling, calmly busy. The neo-classical pillars are still there with not too many other sightseers to spoil the view.

Just don’t ask me about Modigliani, Art Déco and Primitivism, well, not until 2021 anyway.

The National Gallery in an alive, but not bustling, London.


But the annual leave is booked and everyone needs to take their breaks to literally stay sane in this crazy new world. The pals with whom I planned to travel to Austria have either not booked the time off from their jobs, thinking that even the October postponement was unlikely to happen, or decided to visit relatives overseas, leaving me at a loose end.

I could get my art fix at one of the many quiet London galleries or catch the Ruskin exhibition, a bit closer to home, at Watts but the company of friends and specialist knowledge of Marie Anne is a big appeal of the tours. See, I didn’t even mention the food and drink.

It’s hard to resist a trip to Cornwall to see my family. Here is Mount Bay with St Michael’s Mount.

My present idea is to beat the seemingly inevitable coronavirus circuit-break and pop down to Cornwall to see my own folks. We had been planning an October half-term surfing trip but Boris is clearing his throat to put an end to holidays, as he has pretty much done to Christmas, so if I want to see my family again in 2020 I may need to get in quick.

And there lies the moral dilemma. Like my daughter’s student friends at northern universities, do you go out for one last pub-crawl before the new regulations come in or stay at home to help stop the spread of the virus?

Maybe that one is too obvious: we have the example of my husband’s colleague to advise. He went out for one last session in London the night before the March 23 lockdown and spent the next two weeks in bed with Covid-19. He survived.

But a trip from one place with fewer than two infections to another place with fewer than three (last week’s figures) to stay in a self-contained flat with plenty of access to the open air and see family you haven’t seen since June, well, that’s a choice that wouldn’t challenge Hobson.

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Responses to XX Notes: What I Won’t Be Doing…

  1. M Smith Reply

    October 13, 2020 at 7:54 am

    Quite interesting, but how exactly is this “from a woman’s perspective”? A man could have written exactly the same article.

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