I diligently went for my return-to-Belgium COVID test on Monday, and was offered three for the (already modest) price of one as they were doing tests for a new procedure. In for a cent, in for a euro, and they gave me €35 of shopping vouchers as a reward (which meant I almost came out ahead on the deal). I was actually a bit worried. I had had a very sore throat and a bit of a cough all weekend in Northern Ireland, and it was so bad on Sunday and Monday nights that I slept very poorly. However the test cleared me within five hours, so it was just a "normal" cold.
Also on Monday, work asked me to go to London again for a meeting on Thursday, so I booked the Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning Eurostars. It turned out that my Monday back-to-Belgium test was also valid for another entry to the UK, so it was even better value than I had realised. I still needed to pay for a Day 2 test in the UK which I was never going to use, as I left my hotel before the post arrived on Friday morning, but the rules only say you have to pay for a test before you arrive in the UK, they don't say you have to actually take it. Returning to Belgium on Friday, I did not need to test again as I had been out of the country for less than 48 hours, and as we all know the virus waits until the 49th hour to strike, or at least that's the approach the regulations seem to take.
I commented to a couple of people that actually in the olden days, international travel was much more hassle than it is now, with the need to get travellers' cheques and printed tickets etc, and also passports even for internal European trips. One of the people I pointed this out to responded that none of those inconveniences required anything to be put up your nose, which I must admit is a fair point.
Checking in for the outward Eurostar on Wednesday, the UK border chap reminded me that I'll need my passport to travel to the UK after 1 October; my ID card will no longer do. Global Britain, open for business, eh?
I worked from home on Monday, waiting for my test result, and again on Tuesday because I had slept badly and couldn't face the train. But I went to the office Wednesday morning - still pretty empty - and again on Friday afternoon - even emptier. (And of course worked from the London office in Bloomsbury on Thursday, including the meeting I had come over for and numerous others.) Like most places, I suspect, the rule is that you wear a mask unless sitting at your desk, and that in an open-plan office nobody sits directly opposite anyone else. But restaurants and pubs are open again as usual; I had two fine dinners in London, one in a gentlemen's club courtesy of a knight of the realm, the other with a cousin at the Elgin gastropub in Maida Vale.
One welcome sign of normality: the Thai food truck which used to appear regularly on Fridays in the Square de Meeûs, around the corner from the office, has returned, so I can feed my Pad Thai addiction.
There has been a bit of a rise in the COVID numbers in Belgium over the last few weeks, though signs are that it is now tailing off. Presumably it will get another boost again when schools restart next week. The number of people in hospital and in intensive care, while higher than in June, is still lower than at any time between then and last October. So basically the modest rise in the number of cases has been only weakly mirrored in terms of impact on the health system; the vaccination campaign has worked.
But I think I will keep up this series of posts for now. It is a good mental discipline, and we are still quite a long way from being back to normal.