As things seem to be hotting up again with the COVID-19 virus, it seems time to finally bring the topic up in this blog.
When the 2020 began, I had four international trips planned for the first half of the year. Well, more than planned, flights were already booked and other arrangements made.
Flying out to Brazil on 5th march, the virus wasn't really on my mind at all. There were few cases in Holland and only a handful (supposedly) in Brazil. Nothing to worry about, surely? So I happily trailed around a packed Schiphol and Sao Paulo airports without a care in the world, other than making sure I got a few drinks in.
South Americans are a very tactile bunch. Meaning I had lots of close contact with my fellow judges. Without any thought of contagion. Why should I? The virus seemed very far away and life continued as normal in Brasil. Everything was open, no-one wore a mask.
All was well until my last morning in Blumenau, when I woke with a worryingly annoying cough. No fever, mind, and I could still taste perfectly well. Just a cold I reassured myself. I headed off to Rio as planned for a night before returning to Amsterdam
Feeling reasonably OK, I swanned around Rio for half a day with Martyn Cornell, before returning to Amsterdam.
The USA meanwhile having banned Europeans from entering while I was in Brazil, I already knew my next two trips - both to the USA - weren't going to happen. Never mind, I could still go to Thailand with my mate Mikey.
Back in Holland, everything had changed. A partial lockdown was imposed in the few days between my return from Brazil and my departure for Thailand. As more and more countries closed their borders. Could I still fly to Bangkok? I was checking if the flight had been cancelled right until I left for the airport.
Schiphol was totally different from a couple of weeks earlier. The bars and restaurants were all closed. Almost half the flights were showing as cancelled. Far fewer people around and far more with masks. Things were starting to get a but scary. At least the duty free was open. I grabbed a bottle of hotel whisky and a few miniatures for pre-flight loading.
The first few days in Thailand everything was much as normal. Just far few tourists around. Which suited me, to be fair. Then 5 or 6 days in, the bars were suddenly ordered to close. Not such a disaster, as restaurants were still operating. And they all sell beer, so where's the problem?
My annoying cough was still following me around like a mangy dog. But surely it was just a cold that it was particularly hard to kick. Also like a mangy dog.
The day before we were due to fly back, the restaurants were also ordered to close. But the shops were still open. Where I stocked up on beer and a whisky-like substance they make in Thailand. Maybe that would soothe my throat? It did make me feel better. But not in a less throat achey sort of way. More in the a few quick shots of spirits way.
As airports closed and flights were cancelled around the world, I fretted over whether I'd be able to get back to Holland. Luckily, our flight was still on. Though it was totally packed due to nervous tourists rebooking to make sure they got home. Good news for me, as I was upgraded to business class. Bad news was that the flight was dry for pretty vague reasons.
The flight attendants were so impressed with my coughing that they gave me a FFP2 mask to wear. The young lady sat next to me was equally in awe. She repeatedly sanitised her hands and tray table all through the flight.
Safely back home in Amsterdam, the rest of the family soon shared my annoying cough. Then Dolores lost her sense of smell. Bugger.
Not having the symptoms most associated with COVID-19 - a fever, exhaustion, loss of taste - I assumed that my illness must have been something else. Being in a couple of high-risk groups, I also expected I would have been totally laid out by the virus. It wasn't even anything like as bad as flu. Just a slightly nasty cold.
Now I don't know what to think. Chances are that I did have it. And I feel dead guilty about how much I travelled and how many people I was in contact with while infected. Had I known, I'd have stayed at home.
That I'll probably never know for certain whether I had it or not is dead frustrating. Though nothing at all compared to those that have become really sick or died had to endure.