The government have spoken! A four-stage unlocking of the lockdown!
It was always going to be a cautious, careful relaxation of the rules, and I can't blame the government one bit for taking that approach this time around. Previous lockdowns have indeed been abandoned in too much of a rush, for short-term gains, only to be regretted later. So it was no surprise that this time we would 'do it right' and not embrace normal living in a hurry.
For me the big step forward comes on 29th March, when I can be one of six people barbecuing in a back garden. That could of course be a wet or chilly experience - but never mind, it will be lovely to have some face-to-face social life again! Emails, texts and video get-togethers are fine, but there's nothing like being with real-life human beings.
Also on 29th March, it appears that - at least in England - travel will become possible again, and with it the possibility of caravanning.
Then, from 12th April, all shops can be open (just in time - I need new outfits and shoes so badly), and 'outdoor hospitality' (pub gardens, beach cafes, ice creams from kiosks) can be enjoyed.
And finally, from 17th May, while I'm already on my way to Scotland (although still inside England) most restrictions will come to an end. That will allow celebratory indoor meals with the friends I see on my trips north.
Of course, social distancing will still be in force, and will no doubt continue in some form for months to come. And all those dates are subject to revision, depending on how the pandemic is going. That could work either way: the relaxations will slow if virulent new strains take hold; or could be accelerated if the vaccines genuinely prove to be the 'silver bullet'.
My main concern at this moment are my caravan holiday bookings. No deposits are payable, so rescheduling or cancellation won't mean wasted money, but I can see that my first bookings of the year will, at the very least, have to be shifted back one week. Meaning that they will now begin on 31st March.
I'm watching the Caravan Club website for some definitive guidance. Their argument will be that a highly-regulated site - with well-spaced outdoor pitches, with most caravanners using their own on-board facilities, and all observing social distancing - is a low risk holiday facility. You can indeed be completely self-contained in your own caravan, coming and going with no close contact whatever with the other people there. And that's probably even more true of farm sites. Well, we'll see.
It would be very pleasant to get away on 31st March!
I did manage to enjoy 58 nights' caravanning from July to November last year, which most people would regard as a lot of holidaying. This year I have 108 nights booked, and as things now stand I may be lucky and savour all of them. The overall site cost will be £1,858, roughly the value of two nice mobile phones, or one decent laptop, and not quite enough for a week at somewhere distinctly upmarket, like the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, a place I'd love to stay at - see my post The Gleneagles Hotel on 26th August 2019. (Though the much-closer George Hotel at Stamford would do nicely too - another place I know)
Taken as a whole, caravanning is not a poor person's game. The caravans, and the tow cars needed to haul them, cost an arm and a leg. But once you have those assets, you can travel around at comparatively little expense. This year's site fees of £1,858, when averaged over 108 nights, work out at just over £17 per night. Less than the typical pub lunch anywhere. Probably less than a gin and tonic at the Gleneagles!
Mind you, I might just treat myself to a posh hotel experience for my 70th birthday next year. It seems like a good idea.