No sacred cows

The true cost of my week in Wales

31 July 2021

9:00 AM

31 July 2021

9:00 AM

Rather miraculously, my daughter managed to leave the country last week to go on holiday with a group of friends. To celebrate finishing their A-levels, they had bought tickets to a music festival in Croatia, but it was cancelled at the last minute due to a surge in Covid cases. Having been denied every other rite of passage in the past year, they decided to press ahead with the trip anyway, which left me having to sort out the PCR testing logistics.

In order to be allowed into Croatia, she had to produce evidence of a negative test, then, once there, she had to test negative again in order to be allowed back into the UK, as well as produce evidence that she’d booked a third PCR test for two days after her return. Six days after that she had to take yet another test and only if that was negative would she be released from quarantine.

To complicate matters, Croatia was moved from the ‘amber’ to the ‘green’ list 48 hours before her departure, which I wrongly thought meant she could dispense with all the testing, save for the one she needed to get into Croatia. I cancelled the ones I’d booked, secured a refund, then discovered that, in fact, you still need the pre-flight and post-flight tests. The only difference being on the ‘green’ list makes is you don’t have to take a second test once you’re back home and don’t have to self-isolate. The cost of the tests was more than £300.

I have long suspected that the reason the government has made it so difficult — and expensive — to travel abroad this summer is because it wants Britons who’ve saved money over the past 16 months to spend it in the UK and not in the South of France or the Costa del Sol. Well, I duly obliged and shelled out more than £3,000 to rent a Welsh long house for six days, which is where I spent last week with the rest of my family. In non-Covid times, you’d get something pretty luxurious for that kind of money, but not this summer. If it was a hotel, it would have been three star. My one luxury was a case of Chassagne-Montrachet which I took with me in the back of the car.

We had intended to do a lot of walking, such as climbing Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in south Wales, but it was too hot to go hiking, something I never thought I’d say of Wales. In truth, I think the humans could have coped, but Mali, our little dog, doesn’t like walking any distance in the heat, so we spent our days splashing about in the River Wye instead. I believe this is now called ‘wild swimming’, but the Wye isn’t much wilder than Mali and it wasn’t really deep enough to swim in. On one of the days, we rented some canoes and paddled about five miles to a waterside pub but we kept getting stuck and having to get out and drag the canoes behind us. I gather the Wye has filled up again after last Sunday’s thunderstorms.

My favourite part of the holiday was climbing Hay Bluff, which we did on the last day, when it was a bit cooler. According to family lore, Freddie, who is now 14, climbed it unassisted on his third birthday, so I was curious to see if he’d find it more of a struggle now. He didn’t, but I did. I’m so unfit after sitting in the shed at the bottom of my garden for a year and a half, gorging on Pot Noodles, that I had to stop every five minutes to catch my breath. I’ve also gained 14lb. So I’ve resolved to join a gym and go on a diet known as the ‘three Bs’ — no bread, biscuits or booze. I don’t suppose I’ll be able to stay on the wagon for long, but if I give up the Pot Noodles that should compensate. I’ve also resolved not to eat anything between the hours of 9 p.m. and 1 p.m. I’ve tried that version of intermittent fasting before, but it didn’t work, possibly because I made an exception for chocolate and nuts. Not this time.

We left on Saturday morning and raced back to London to see QPR play Manchester United in a pre-season friendly. It was glorious being back in the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium and you didn’t have to take any test to be allowed in or wear a mask. Sitting there with about 15,000 fans, roaring on my beloved team, with my three sons beside me, felt like a return to normal, save for the fact QPR beat Man United 4-2.

The only downside was that in my rush to get away I left six bottles of the Montrachet behind in Wales. I was about to call the nice couple that we’d rented the house from to see if I could arrange for a courier to pick the bottles up, when my wife received a text from them thanking us for the ‘lovely present’. Ah well. I daresay they’ll enjoy it.

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