Friday, 30 October 2020

Welly weather and sneaky shooting

Now that winter weather looms, I'm putting that Leica optical viewfinder away. It's chief benefit was to provide a clear view when composing a shot in very bright sunshine, when the screen on the back of the camera goes rather dark and undistinct. But bright sunshine of the kind that justified the viewfinder will be in short supply for the next few months. So it can go back in its box until spring comes. 

The camera will lose the eye-catching profile it had acquired, and an extra 'Leica' logo to impress anyone close enough to see. I don't care. I can make do with the red-dot logo on the camera itself, although half the red paint has worn off from so much use over the years. Again, I don't care. 

There are advantages in having a comparatively anonymous device in one's hand, without sticky-out parts to catch in clothing, that can be quickly shoved into a pocket if need be. 

As for a bag, it will be possible to use the proper LowePro camera bag again, a small thing that fits the camera-sans-viewfinder like a glove, and can itself be popped into any other bag I may be carrying, again with the intention of keeping my photo equipment out of sight. 

Ease of concealment is actually a valuable attribute if you like doing Street Photography. A camera bag that acts like a holster - so that you can whip the camera out, grab the shot, and put it back into its little den with nobody the wiser. Especially where menacing people or officialdom lurk. Not that I go out of my way to secure provocative shots of controversial or emotional subjects. But I see pictures worth taking everywhere, and sometimes the act of taking a picture can excite unwanted curiosity. And sometimes it doesn't go down very well. Better to be discreet and inconspicuous, sneaky even, and avoid any argee-bargee. So a small, unnoticeable camera in my hand, with a small, unnoticeable place to stow it, is a Jolly Good Thing.

A case in point. I was in Dorchester this morning. An early-morning Dorchester, at a time when shops were opening for the day, market stalls were being set up, and workmen were doing interesting stuff in the streets. And it was raining, the same persistent misty rain I've enjoyed since arriving in Dorset four days ago. In most people's minds Rainy Weather means No Photography. It's pointless and daft when the results will obviously be rubbish. So just taking a couple of shots outside in the rain can seem, to many, a strange or even suspect thing to do. And they may be inclined to stare, and Wonder Why. Only if I'd been dressed in hi-vis clothing, with a hard hat, and using a big camera with an impressive lens on a tripod - clearly on a paid professional job - would the 'reason' for taking any picture be explained. 

The only other hope is to play the silly tourist - a distinctly amateur lady who knows so little about photography that she doesn't understand that her pictures are doomed to be dull and disappointing, given the poor weather and lack of good light. Even then, the camera needs to match the image. Shooting with the latest expensive shiny model won't do at all. Nor will a camera with a fancy accessory attached (like that viewfinder). That's where the paint-worn little Leica scores. It looks old and plain and out-of-date (just like myself) and reassuringly unimportant. So no need to give it more than a passing glance, and the same for its owner, poor dear. But that's fine. I get my shots and walk on. 

What they don't know is that I have software skills. Those pictures will look a lot better once I've tweaked them, back at the caravan. I won't add a sunny blue sky that was never there, but the exposure will be corrected, and unwanted things around the edges cropped away. 

It's still raining. I was hoping for sunny mornings on the Purbeck heathlands, and a look at the Jurassic cliff scenery, so dramatic, so iconic. The best I can do now is get some very moody pictures of ruined Tyneham, the Purbeck village taken over by the Army in the Second World War, and never returned. Rather like Imber on Salisbury Plain. Tyneham is not far off, and normally accessible on weekends - it's out of bounds at other times, because of firing on the ranges - so I intend to go there on Sunday and get some shots. And if it's possible to walk down to Worbarrow Bay, also normally out of bounds, I will do that too. Maybe I'll have it all to myself if the weather is especially foul. But I don't mind if a few other mad photographers in wellies join me in capturing all the sombreness and decrepitude on offer, and the very soul of the place if the light is right.

And there's the Agglestone and Puckstone, out near Studland. A short while back I did a post on The Cheesewring, a weathered stack of granite slabs on Bodmin Moor. These two Purbeck rocks are of sandstone. They look impressive in illustrations. I've never visited them. It will only take a squelchy mile or two of heath walking. I shouldn't get too wet, and with luck I can come away with definitive shots of these huge rocks - definitive for bad weather, that is. 

What happened to the warm weather and fine sunsets of September? Sigh.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Excitements to come when I'm home again

I'm a bit more than halfway through my autumn holiday. I've had eight nights at Great Malvern in Worcestershire, and now I'm in east Dorset, in the forest near Wareham, for seven nights more. Then home for the winter. It's turned wet and windy, as if November has already arrived. It's almost time to hunker down. But for the next week, a touch of the seaside at Swanage and other places.  

Last night, and now this morning too, a spate of emails and texts. 

The Passport Office began by saying that my application for a new passport had been approved. Mixed feelings about that, as the picture they liked did me no favours. Oh well, it's good to know that it was suitable for their purposes, and that there were no other matters that might delay the new passport. 

And they had been quick! I sent the old passport off to them - which they needed before proceeding with my online application - only on 13th October. So they've processed my application in two weeks, not the four weeks they had warned of. That's great. And now, this morning, an email and a text to say that it's actually been created, and is on its way to me by TNT courier! Wow. That's much better than expected.

I don't think I have to be at home to sign for it. If absolutely necessary, I could hop in Fiona and be home for delivery. A six-hour round trip, and a day of my holiday wasted. But the pandemic has put a stop to doorstep signatures in most cases, and there is nothing in the Passport Office's email or text to say that any signature will be necessary. I'm not sure what it ever proved, anyway. The courier never asked to see any ID to show that I was in fact Lucy Melford of Melford Hall. Perhaps it was sufficient that I was obviously the householder, as more often than not they would catch me still in nightie and dressing gown (though not in curlers!). 

So that part of my affairs has gone to plan!

I'm not quite so certain about BT's ongoing response to my cancelling its Broadband service, and the imminent disconnection of my landline, both effective on 30th October, thirty days after my notice was given. 

They've just sent me an email saying my latest bill is ready, but it makes no reference to that double-disconnection. Just that they will take the usual amount by direct debit in early November. This bill does admittedly cover usage up to only 26th October, so possibly it would look like a normal bill, and it's the next bill that will contain all the closure adjustments. We'll see. But it's worrying that they say my Broadband contract ends on 9th December, not 30th October. I wouldn't put it past them to charge me an extra month. I'll be miffed if they can point to some obscure clause in their Terms and Conditions that entitles them to. 

However, I'll have to assume for now that their billing system isn't geared up for the unusual situation where somebody wants to get rid of their Broadband (not just switch to another provider, or tamely upgrade) and, moreover, wants no landline in the future. It's just not a mainstream request. Maybe they'll do a special bill for me after 30th October, and then all mention of 9th December as the end date will be dropped. Maybe. 

These are not the only two homecoming excitements. While I've been away, new kitchen sink taps will have been installed! 

And two days after my return I've got a dental appointment to look at a tooth that is getting sensitive - no doubt a filling there; and maybe I will be adding to my fine collection of crowns. But at least I will have that tooth dealt with before any new lockdown comes into force. 

And then in the following week the caravan goes to the dealer to have a new window fitted. All caravan windows are a plastic double-glazed affair, and like household windows they may eventually lose their seal and develop condensation inside. After fourteen years, this has happened to the big pane at the front end, which gets regularly thumped by windborne twigs and other road debris. I was amazed that it was still possible to buy an exact replacement, but one can be supplied, though it's costing hundreds. The fitting, however, is very quick - literally while I wait. So one more brief outing for the caravan once home. 

Don't ever think my life is humdrum and uneventful. It's all fast-lane stuff!  

Sunday, 25 October 2020

I've lost faith in lockdowns

I have to confess that I've lost faith in the strategy of endless lockdowns. 

I'd agree that a full lockdown, strictly and ruthlessly applied, can arrest the spread of infection. But it can only be a temporary measure. After the first (mostly) willing compliance, people get restless and in some cases desperate; social mixing takes place; and the effectiveness of the lockdown is compromised. A regime prepared to use lethal force against its citizens (such as China) can enforce a very strict lockdown, but it can never be perfect because there are always those prepared to defy authority, or evade its surveillance, and continue their activities with the risk of eventual infection. How less perfect, then, are the UK lockdowns we have endured so far, whether full or only partial. Truly, half-measures produce only half a result. 

The first, total, national lockdown launched in March was (mostly) supported and followed in a 'Dunkirk Spirit'. It was indeed almost popular in some quarters. We clapped the NHS, didn't we, and cheered on Essential Workers. We were, so it seemed, all in it together. If there wasn't absolutely complete compliance, there was at least a recognition across the board that following the rules was important, and that it was wrong to disregard them. The rules were few and very easy to remember - essentially Practice Social Distancing, Wash Your Hands Properly, and Stay At Home. And it did seem to work. The graphs in those daily briefings on TV did show a slow-down in the rate of infection, and the deaths lessened, and then we saw a definite decline in numbers. Hurrah, the national lockdown had done the trick! So in July, with a big sigh of relief, the most onerous restrictions were relaxed. 

To be frank, I think that by July we'd all had enough, and the July relaxations came just in time before civil disobedience could have set in. The disobedience would have been widespread. It had become apparent that various Important People had considered themselves exempt from the rules, and had disregarded them for personal reasons. That was bad enough; that some paid no penalty for their transgression was shocking and vastly discouraging to the general population. It was clear that we were not in fact 'all in it together'. And so, rightly or wrongly, a lot of ordinary people felt that they might as well disregard the rules too. After all, what's sauce for the goose... 

And I'm sure they are still not obeying them. They will have assessed the risks, and concluded that (a) they are not likely to suffer a bad illness; (b) sanctions are unlikely to be imposed on them; and (c) they can ignore the risk they present to any vulnerable person they encounter.  Their behaviour doesn't matter. Their convenience, their fun, does. And it won't be their fault if a tiresome old pensioner falls ill and dies. 

Apart from the exasperated mood of the public by July there was also the frightening cost of the national lockdown: it was ruinously expensive to support wages and salaries, even partially. The tax take had fallen. Borrowing was easy but it would have to be repaid - the IMF and the international debt agencies would insist on a realistic repayment plan. The national debt had become staggering.

And of course, now, in October, that debt - the bits announced, and the bits kept hidden - must be beyond belief. And yet those clamouring for even more income support seem oblivious to the financial burden being placed on future generations. The economy has been started up again, but must be kept going, so that the future financial pain can be managed. The brutal truth is, we can't afford to have another national lockdown with the same level of income support. Even limited regional lockdowns are becoming hard to bankroll. The same with targeted support, whether meritorious or not, such as free school meals, and bailing out casinos. 

All that said, the government may still cave in to pressure and try another national lockdown. It's now being termed a 'firewall' or 'circuit break', because that sounds dramatic and effective. How euphemisms proliferate, when disruptive measures are hard to sell and need rebranding! But it would depend on everyone cooperating wholeheartedly, and I don't think that Dunkirk Spirit will be revived. Goodwill has been squandered, and too many people are more inclined now to take their chances with the risk of infection.

So I hope they give up on lockdowns. Emergency local measures will have their place, but I'd prefer to see everything opened up, and freedoms restored, and in general just leave it to individuals to manage their own welfare, using their own common-sense. 

Certainly, the government must advise everyone most forcefully - and keep telling them - that the virus is still out there, and potentially dangerous, and that they should observe social distancing, good hygiene, and (if they are medically vulnerable) an appropriate degree of social isolation. All until the vaccine arrives, or the virus peters out. Under this kind of regime, I (and like-minded people in my position) would still be exercising great caution, opting out of any meetups that carried a worrying risk, and yes, wearing a mask where strangers gather and are bound to get too close. And avoiding possible infection carriers, such as young children, or those whose personal habits and attitudes are plainly unhealthy. It's not hard to do the best thing for one's own self-preservation.

What about the likelihood of increased deaths? Well, surely a vulnerable adult individual, if mentally able, should be allowed to decide what suits them best. If they are willing to accept a greater risk of infection and a serious illness, then let them choose that and enjoy the good things that they get from it. If on the other hand they want to be shielded - effectively voluntary solitary confinement - then they should be given every possible assistance with that kind of approach. That's where the money should go.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Greetings from the Ice Station!

The coronavirus pandemic has brought mental health to the fore. Everyone has had to endure some kind of social-distancing or lockdown effect, and a great many - all kinds of people, young and old - have had to cope with being solitary. 

If you are not used to being on your own, this must be awful to bear. I'm thinking not so much of the old and widowed. University students only lately living with Mum and Dad and brothers and sisters must find being cooped up alone in a little room in an unfamiliar city especially grim. Some must pine for the bosom of their family, or the comfort of friends. And yet the key to stopping infection spreading, and to protect yourself if vulnerable, is to be isolated. That means minimum social contact, no social life, and coping with the kind of mental challenges one might face if wintering at an Antarctic ice station. 

It's not at all surprising that some can't deal with it. Nor is it surprising that most of us can accept a voluntary renunciation of normal life for only so long. 

Where there is no effective official compulsion, and a personal choice exists as to whether to comply with the rules or not, then many will at some point decide that, for the sake of their sanity, they need to get back to a semblance of their normal life. Even if they can't have quite all of it. Some might even decide that it's time to party and be damned. 

I think that all across the country, but particularly in urban areas where a lot of socialising used to go on, people have lately become willing to bend the rules - or ignore them - simply to feel better. I don't know how they square that (ordinarily) reasonable wish with the duty to keep other people safe. But whether the motivation is self-preservation, or selfishness, or just a gut revolt against government rules they can't agree with, they feel compelled go ahead and get their fix of normality. And only personal experience of a resulting bad illness - or a coronavirus death in the family - will stop them.

Not everyone has thrown their hand in. Not by any means. And people like me can't afford to. I think it's odds-on that if I picked up an infection I would be in for a bad time. I don't think it would necessarily be a fatal one, but the risk of hospitalisation can't be waived away. And whether I suffer much or not, there's still the chance of contracting that ongoing malady called Long Covid. It's not worth the risk. Nor would I want to get infected and pass the virus on to somebody else. 

So, speaking for myself, I'm prepared to see this through and limit my social contact indefinitely. That means an ongoing life largely spent entirely on my own, whether I'm in my house, or the caravan, or driving around in my car. Yes, I can see local friends in my social bubble, for as long as the rules say I can. They are mostly of a similar age, with a similar need to be careful. And there will still be fleeting chats and quips with supermarket staff, and passing strangers, and serving staff if I lunch out. So far, such contact has been sufficient. 

Given that I have a reduced social life nowadays - no evening pub and village hall quizzes, for example - I was interested to work out just what proportion of my time is spent in the company of other human beings. 

Nearly all the occasions for contact are recorded in the electronic diary on my phone. I reached for my fountain pen and a notepad, and jotted down the duration in minutes for each occasion, ever since since returning from my last holiday on 30th September, today included. That's eighteen days. There are 27,000 minutes in those eighteen days. The total number of minutes for face-to-face contact came out at 1,480. So 1,480 mins/27,000 mins x 100 = 5.9% of my life was spent in the company of other people. 

But of course it would be fairer to exclude the time spent asleep, so that the computation deals with only my waking life under the current conditions. My Fitbit tells me that since 30th September I have averaged 6 hours and fifteen minutes (that's 375 mins) of sleep per day. So I need to exclude 375 mins x 18 days = 6,750 minutes. Which brings my waking minutes down to 20,250. And those 1,480 minutes of face-to-face contact represent just over 7% of that.

In other words, almost 93% of my waking, conscious existence is spent completely on my own. That seems an awful lot of my time!  

My limited social life has been added to, in a way, by passing exchanges with my neighbours. But a wave isn't the same as a properly shared moment closer-up. There were also two hour-long voice calls on my phone (both by prior arrangement, both with friends far away), and two more much briefer local calls. But again these do not count as face-to-face contact any more than a satellite call from that Antarctic ice station would be. I also sent and received a few dozen texts, and there were a number of emails, again with the same rider that while this is valuable contact, it's not face-to-face. 

Can I continue with just 7% of my waking life in the close vicinity of fellow human beings? And as much as 93% all alone, with only my teddy bear and china cat for significant company? I think I can. I know it's almost the same as solitary confinement, but at least I can get around in the car and see places, and walk free in beautiful spots. 

The thing that disturbs me is how I'm getting used to this reduced level of social contact. In particular, how I am not seeing what's left of my family. I dare not. For both their sake and mine. It's too risky. And yet, as the months pass without even an exchange of emails, I feel that the bonds are slipping away and we will grow apart. 

It doesn't help that I lack much family feeling. I'm the Eldest Family Member in my section of the family tree. Great Aunt Lucy. But I don't behave like a family leader. Frankly, I don't want to; it's not my thing. I want to spend the rest of my life getting as much out of it as I feel inclined, and I don't want to be saddled with family responsibilities and concerns. Is that bad of me? A serious failing? I'm sure that many family-minded people would accuse me of evading my responsibilities. But, really, there aren't any that I can see. I am neither a parent nor a grandparent. Just someone older in the family, living on her own. Putting it another way, I have no claim on anyone else, and will not expect any family support in later life. Nor do I see how it could be provided. Conversely, I don't see how anyone is close enough to have a claim on me. I am self-sufficient; and I need to remain so. All this said, families should stick together, and I am setting a terrible example. But it would be against my nature to behave differently. Still, how disappointed Mum and Dad would have been. They'd be relieved that I had thrived, but perturbed that I hadn't stepped into their shoes.   

I like my life. It looks lonely and exposed, and it may be, but it doesn't feel like that. I don't mind confessing that living with the pandemic has come naturally to me. Apart from travel restrictions, it's been no great bother. I'm organised. I can hunker down. I can get around on my own. I don't need crowds. I rather like quiet streets. I can feel exultant on a completely empty beach. I can enjoy listening to the crows in the biting wind, alone at the bleak corner of a high South Downs wood. All I need is freedom and a camera in my hands, and a cosy home to return to.

I suppose I'd be an Ideal Candidate for that polar ice station!

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Sad thoughts from Elgar Country

With just two days to go before departing from home on my next holiday, I've rebooked so that I won't be pitching my caravan in Wales. I've substituted the Caravan Club's Malvern Hills site for the one at Pandy. I'll be in Elgar Country. And no doubt the introspective strains of his Cello Concerto, or his Enigma Variations, will be running constantly in the background of my mind.

It was very easy to make the change online. There was no mention of any financial penalty for rejigging the booking so close to departure. In fact, I'll end up paying a little more for my eight-night stay, the charges at the Malvern Hills site being higher than at Pandy. (Each Club site has its own special local attractions or conveniences, and not all have precisely the same facilities, so they are all priced individually) The cost difference is small, so I really don't mind. At least there is now no risk of turning up at Pandy to find that an all-Wales lockdown will come into force at midnight, trapping me there for an indefinite time with only essential local travel possible. Some holiday that would be! 

Now I will have the run of rural Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, and can follow the Welsh/English border as far north as I like. It's a pity that the autumnal beauties of the Welsh mountains will probably be denied to me. I'll just have to put them on hold for another time.

This rebooking turns my holiday into an all-English affair, and not without serious regrets. The Welsh part of me (not my strongest part, but even so) is rather upset that I can't enter the land of my birth without risking a kind of imprisonment. 

I definitely feel lumped - unfairly and insultingly - with all the stupid, selfish and careless people in the rest of the UK who don't give a damn about spreading the virus. I realise that the Welsh Assembly has a duty to manage its affairs sensibly, and to take effective measures against the spread of the coronavirus within Wales. But I sense something more at work. It looks as if the Welsh Assembly is dominated by those who see an opportunity to assert Welsh Independence in all but name, and catch up with how things are trending in Scotland. So I believe there is a nationalistic spirit driving the current passing of hysterical new laws to keep out the English. 

Ah, the English, the bane of Wales and its destroyer, its blood-sucker! England, never forgiven for militarily defeating the Welsh princes centuries ago, and for suppressing the Welsh language and culture. The same England that in more modern times has exploited Wales as a cheap place for second homes, and pop-up industry in enterprise zones.  

Maybe the pandemic has made it Payback Time in some people's eyes. A chance to at least reserve Wales for the Welsh. In essence a Welsh Brexit - a desire to cut adrift from England, whatever the consequences. 

For somebody like myself, with personal ties to Wales, even though I've lived in England most of my life, it's all sad and alienating. I don't claim a lot of affinity with Wales, and my ultimate ancestry is Nordic rather than Celtic, but I regard the connections that I do have with more than just nostalgia. I was born there. I grew up in South Wales as a child. And even if some memories are less than affectionate, many are close to my heart and cherished. But just now I am seeing a Wales that doesn't want me. The official reason for being excluded is Covid-19. But underneath there is, surely, the suggestion that I don't belong there, that my Welshness is insignificant, and that I am as obnoxious and unwanted as the worst bad-attitude person beyond the Welsh Border. 

Well, much more of this and I'll stay away, my wish to return destroyed. Like a love affair gone wrong after too much carping, complaining, suspicion and repulsion from one partner. 

I used to say that I might take up the offer of a Welsh passport if ever it were available. I'm not sure I would now. I would feel I had got it under false pretences, merely on account of my birthplace and family background, as a passport of convenience. And not from any personal conviction that Wales was my true home, and that I would give Wales my undiluted allegiance. 

This is all so different from my view of Scotland, a country with whom I have no personal connections apart from friendships dating back no more than ten years or so. I have only been a visitor, keen to come, and travelling around pretty extensively, but nevertheless remaining an outsider. And yet Scotland seems so welcoming. And I don't mind the direction it's taking. I'd be surprised if Scotland hasn't completed the transition to independence inside the next ten years. It's a mature place and will thrive. I can't see Scotland being at odds with England once there is an equilibrium again between the two states. 

But Wales...

Oh well. Let's see what happens in the next week or so. It looks as if the daily news is going to be very interesting - the Brexit Trade Deal, the Welsh Covid-19 Exclusion Laws, and much else no doubt.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Will Wales reject me?

I'm off to Pandy in South Wales next week, and the increasingly strong-minded attitude of the Welsh Assembly is a matter of great concern to me. 

It's just been announced that travellers from England will not be allowed into Wales if they come from the High or Very High Risk Tiers in England - this is referring to the brand-new English system for imposing anti-virus measures in individual Local Authority areas. Thankfully, my part of Sussex is classed as a Medium Risk area, and I should have no trouble while at Pandy. But I can envisage the former toll barriers at both Severn Bridges being brought back into use as Check Points, with travellers being stopped and questioned about their home address and where they are bound. Just asking will take at least a minute or two; and if evidence of residence and destination is required, then the delay could turn into several minutes - with massive traffic queues building up. 

I'm well-organised: I can show my driving licence as evidence of my home address, and also the Caravan Club Site booking on my phone - both of them in a twinkling. But many won't have such things to hand. The result could be horrendous delays on the westward M4 and the westward M48. 

So I'm thinking I may journey to Pandy using 'the back way' - which is towing the caravan to Gloucester, taking the A40 to Ross-on-Wye, then cutting across to the A465 Hereford-Abergavenny road and following that to Pandy. Pandy is only just inside Wales. This is not normally the fastest way, but just now it might avoid a frustratingly long wait to get through any Severn Bridge bottlenecks.

Once safely inside Wales, I should be OK for all of my eight-night stay there. Even so, I will definitely (for the sake of my own continued good health) avoid the urban areas of South Wales, and keep to the mountains and the border areas. So no visiting The Gower via Swansea, nor my childhood home town Barry, nor Cardiff, nor any further explorations of The Valleys (I wanted to go to Aberfan). If really necessary, I can have a good holiday simply by keeping to Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, and southern Shropshire, all of them in England. 

It crosses my mind that this coronavirus pandemic has turned Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales into virtually independent nation states, much more than ever before. Each has had a slightly different approach to tackling the virus in their province or country, quite distinct from what has been done in England. It's a chance for their inhabitants to gauge what it might be like if each of these states were truly independent, and how the NI, Scottish or Welsh governments might cope if some other kind of crisis were to arise. I am not suggesting that any of them have so far done badly. But I don't like, for instance, the rather defensive/assertive noises coming from the Welsh Assembly. It looks a lot like muscle-flexing. The tone seems wrong. 

How, for instance, are travellers to be 'stopped' entering Wales? What if they can't satisfy staff at those Check Points? Will the Heddlu (Welsh Police) be called in to deal with people who refuse to turn back? What would the police do, given an Assembly mandate to eject English people from areas riddled through and through with virus? 

It all sounds rather dystopian. But Wales is not showing a friendly face just now. 

I'll be seriously miffed if some ill-natured petty official at Pandy (at a stern roadblock on the A465) says I can't travel further into Wales, even though Pandy is in a low-risk rural spot, and I come from a similarly low-risk rural spot in Sussex, and can prove it. A jobsworth at the tail end of a long tiring journey is all I need. 

And I'm not English but Welsh!

My old passport, just expired, which showed Cardiff (the Welsh capital) as my place of birth, has been sent away to the Passport Office. But my driving licence does at least confirm that I was born in Wales, which may help. 

But my accent won't. I suspect that no matter what, anybody who looks and sounds English, and lives there, will be sneered at and treated like a leper. Or threatened. I haven't forgotten that awful note left on my car at New Quay in West Wales back in 2014. 

Fingers crossed then, but I'm prepared for a less than happy travel experience.