Do you have a plan? My thoughts on my journey back to Germany
In these uncertain times, it can be difficult to think straight. The media are telling us that there are many people across the world who are panicking. And we’ve all seen the videos of people fighting over toilet paper. However as I took three trains from London to South Germany with my family yesterday, I experienced a different story.
We arrived at 0630am to catch our usual train to Brussels. We live between London and South Germany and commute by train every two weeks. St Pancras Station was empty and we got through passport control and security within seconds. The fact that there were so few people around meant that we didn’t worry about getting infected. Pret A Manger normally has two queues out the door but yesterday the queue consisted of two or three people. The only abnormal thing I saw was a Eurostar member of staff ordering 24 breakfasts.
After a leisurely breakfast we got onto the train and found a table of four to sit at. Obviously we disinfected the table and our hands and of course the toilet when we used it, but otherwise the journey was very smooth. The other passengers in the carriage didn’t speak much but rather kept their heads firmly stuck into electronic devices. In truth it was really pleasant to sit in a quiet carriage. We were told very clearly when we got onto the train that the cafe was going to remain closed throughout the whole journey.
We arrived early into Brussels because the train went straight from London to Brussels without stopping. And to make matters even easier, the platform for our connecting train was changed. All we needed to do was cross over the platform.
Our second train journey started strangely. An older man came to join us at our table of four. After disinfecting our hands and his, I suggested he choose a other seat in an otherwise empty carriage. I pointed out that he was slightly older and that I didn’t want to put him at risk. He didn’t seem to understand what was going on and so we moved to another table. The rest of the train journey was very similar to the first. The restaurant carriage wasn’t open and everyone in the carriage sat very quietly, glued to their phones.
It was on the third train that things changed. Perhaps because this train was not crossing any country borders. The train was crowded and noisy. Luckily we again had a whole table to ourselves. I sat quietly knitting and started to eaves drop on other peoples conversations. And it hit me, the conversations were all very similar. The carriage was made up mainly of young people all heading home to their parents. The reasons given were all the same: ‘there’s more space at my parents and mum will feed me. Where I live is tiny with no outdoor space’. I realised that Germans were travelling within their country to be with the people that mattered most to them, to homes that had more space.
I have several questions for you during this time of panic where people around you are loosing their heads. Who do you want to spend an indefinite amount of time with for the foreseeable future? Where do you want to be spending this time? And what do you want to be doing during this time? If you know the answers to these questions, then you have a plan. And I suggest you go make it happen.
I’ve spent the last week asking myself these very questions which is how I found myself travelling to South Germany. My partner owns a store, so initially we thought that we needed to be in London so that he could be at the front line. However a week ago he was given some very strong advice from a medical professional. My partner has been suffering from adrenal fatigue for a while and if he didn’t immediately rest he would become very unwell. So suddenly being in Germany was back on the cards especially as our place in London is very small. Staying there for several weeks would invariably lead to many arguments between my den building, creative daughter and my partner. I spent the weekend packing up the flat and preparing to leave for Germany not knowing when we’d return to London. As I packed and prepared, I listened to both the German and British news programmes. It became clear that borders across Germany were closing. Would we even be able to leave the UK and get to Germany? I was glad that I’d insisted that we all travel together. What would it be like if one of us was left in London while the rest of us were in Germany? I packed knowing that we might end up needing to catch a last minute flight if we weren’t able to take the train. We just made it to Germany before it was announced the the borders were closing.
And now we are in Germany. I’m sitting in the living room looking out at the countryside. Everything seems normal there is no panic here. When we arrived late last night, I dropped off my family and went food shopping. The supermarket was empty of people and full of food. I decided to slowly, rationally go round the shop thinking about what I needed to stay sane and happy for the foreseeable future. As well as the essentials, I chose to buy flowers for the home. For me, flowers symbolise hope. And today, before the shops close in Germany, I will pick up a picture I was getting framed. Because I want to spend the next while looking at beauty. And what did I pack in the bags we brought from the UK apart from the necessary bags of tea? Plenty of books, board games, wool and other things that will keep us occupied and creative in the coming weeks or months. I’m looking forward to slowing down, spending time with those people I love and doing things that I normally don’t have time to do. I’m reaching out to people that matter to me and creating online groups so I can stay in contact with the world. I will be regularly speaking to friends so that I can share and listen to the frustrations that will invariably arise.
I see that in this time, people who are self employed will either be adapting their business to being more online or perhaps signing up to help all the essential services that will be remaining open like: food stores, petrol stations, pharmacies and factories producing foods.
So I ask you again: Who do you want to spend an indefinite amount of time with for the foreseeable future? Where do you want to be spending this time? And what do you want to be doing during this time? If you know the answers to these questions, then you have a plan. And I suggest you go make it happen.