Joyeux Noël à tout le monde! Merry Christmas everyone. I hope that whatever your situation was over Christmas, you were able to enjoy yourself and make the best out of another year of less than ideal circumstances. I have had a tumultuous few weeks to say the least and the run up to Christmas was less than festive. As you might have guessed from the title, I got covid a few weeks ago. What a great Christmas present for me! I’m going to take you through my experience and how it led to another non-traditional Christmas for me.
I started to feel sniffly on Tuesday 14th December but was only experiencing some sneezing through the morning while I was at work. I was only teaching in the morning so I was at home in the afternoon as I started to feel a little worse. I started coughing a little and had some minor body aches as well. As I didn’t really have the traditional covid symptoms, I didn’t think it was anything to worry about. That was until I heard from one of my water polo teammates who I had seen on Friday that he had tested positive. I was due to be going home the following Monday so I thought I’d better get a test just to be sure that I didn’t have it too (oh the irony!).
I headed down to a nearby clinic where you are able to get PCR tests for free with results in 24-48 hours. When I got home, I took myself off into my room and stayed there for the rest of the evening, wearing a mask and gelling my hands copiously when I needed to leave my room to go to the bathroom for example. Overnight I started to feel much worse. My body aches were unbearable, mostly in my lower back, hips and the tops of my legs and I’m pretty sure I had a fever as I ran between hot and cold all night. I stayed in my room until my test results came through in the early afternoon – at this point it wasn’t surprising that it was positive.
Even though the result wasn’t surprising, I was absolutely gutted. I had been really looking forward to going home and spending some time with my family and friends and this was a big old spanner in the works. In France, the current regulations call for a 10 day isolation from the start of your symptoms which would take me until Christmas Eve. I immediately jumped into crisis aversion mode, with help from my dad, and changed my flight to the 24th. I also updated my flatmates of the result so that they were able to go and get tested. Thankfully they all tested negative so they didn’t have to isolate, I just needed to keep my distance from them.
And thus began ten days of not very much at all. The days went so slowly but looking back the monotony makes it a blur so that I can’t believe it was really that long. Thankfully after that first night where I had a fever and was in a lot of pain, I didn’t have too tough a time. The aches continued for a few days on a lesser scale, I was blocked up for the majority of my isolation and the fatigue was real but nothing worse. I can only say thank god I was vaccinated because it could have been so much worse. I was hoping to get my booster soon but that will have to be held off for a few months now so if you haven’t already, please go and get boosted for me while I can’t!
Thankfully the physical effects of getting covid weren’t that bad for me but there were also the mental and emotional effects. These hit me a little harder for sure. First of all, there was the crushing disappointment. Homesickness is something that only really ever affects me when I’m ill and this was so much worse than usual because I was supposed to be going home and that was now delayed. I also felt really guilty for exposing my flatmates and some of my colleagues and students, even though I had done everything I was supposed to. I know that’s not rational and I was told that many times by other people but it took a while for it to stick. What was also a really disorientating feeling was that I was a walking danger. Anytime I needed to leave my room, I would text my flatmates to let them know and wear a mask but I still didn’t like the feeling that just by breathing I was putting them at risk. Thankfully everyone else made it through my isolation without picking anything up.
As I mentioned above, one of the first things I did when I got my positive result was to change my flight from the 20th to the 24th which would be my first day out of isolation. However, things changed again. After speaking to the French version of track and trace I found out that any test I take for the next two or three months will not necessarily be accurate. That made things much more complicated considering that I already needed to take a test before leaving France and upon my arrival in the UK. The following day I woke up to news from the French government that a test would now be required before leaving the UK for France and after arriving. With four tests now needed, it was more than likely that at least one of them would come back as a false positive and either stop me from getting home or more worryingly, stop me from getting back to France. Travellers from the UK to France also needed an essential reason to be travelling. While I should have been fine seeing as I live and work in France and have the necessary proof to show that, as well as an EU passport, I was worried about any more changes coming into force. With the way Omicron has cases surging, both in France and in the UK it seemed likely that more restrictions would come.
With all that being taken into consideration, plus the fact that at least for the moment all teaching next semester will still be in person, it felt like too much of a risk, if it was even possible at all, for me to try and fly home. It was a difficult decision to have to make but in the end it was also pretty easy. There were too many things up in the air and it was the most sensible and safest course of action.
So there I was, having Noël instead of Christmas this year. After I got over the initial disappointment, I wasn’t too fazed by the thought of being away from home for Christmas. I’ve done it a couple of times now while living abroad, both where Christmas was celebrated and where it wasn’t. As my sister pointed out, I will now have been away for three out of the last six Christmases. I think I would have found this year much harder than previous years away, not just because I was really looking forward to going home but because I was actually expecting to. It helped that I wasn’t going to be completely alone. As I mentioned in a previous blog, my flatmate from Montreal, Andy, was supposed to be coming to Scotland for Christmas but me catching covid ruined his plans as well. After ten days confined to my room, I was also ready to appreciate the little things again, like getting outside or watching Netflix in the living room rather than my bedroom.
So what did I actually get up to? I started with a big Christmas Eve walk with Andy on my first day of freedom followed by an equally big Christmas shop. The day of, I started with the Morrison’s traditional chocolate breakfast, just with fresh croissants from the bakery on the corner of my street. We had a festive viewing of Shrek (I think we can all agree it’s at the very least a Christmas-adjacent film) and then I had some video calls with my family. Amy and Kirsty (mostly Kirsty) even convinced me to film a TikTok with them over Facetime! We spent the afternoon cooking a mushroom wellington that we ate with sides of potatoes, brussel sprouts and green beans, stuffing and gravy. Not a bad spread in my opinion! Since then I’ve been relaxing, done a bit of shopping, watched a lot of TV, gone for some nice walks and generally lost track of what day it is. Exactly how the week between Christmas and New Year should be spent!