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United Kingdom

Living in York in the United Kingdom during COVID-19

I don’t get really really sad all that often, but last night and today I’ve been pretty bummed out. Last night, Sunday May 10th, Boris gave an update about measures and next steps being taken in the UK to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The tl;dr; for me is that the country is not opening up (much) again anytime in the near future. My family, who was planning to come for almost an entire month in June, will almost certainly not be coming (this already seemed fairly unlikely, but I was holding out up). Lindsay and I will more than likely not visit another restaurant, museum, coffee shop, library, or pub while living in this wonderful country. We won’t visit Ireland or Northern Ireland. People we are just really starting to get to know and form friendships with we likely won’t see again before we leave.

The pubs and restaurants aside, we just have not experienced COVID-19 anywhere other than York, with our friends and neighbors here. So when the parks and the pubs return to normal and our wonderful little community here is celebrating the end of the COVID-19 lockdown measures, we will almost certainly not be here to witness or be part of that phase of this experience.

To be clear life has been pretty easy for me during this period (and here and in this blog post in general I’m going to speak for myself, Lindsay may feel different about some things). I’ve had work to keep me plenty busy, we have all the food we want and our health is good. We have each other for company, we have amazing neighbors we “bump into” occasionally (through their kitchen / dining room window and the door to our back garden). There green space all around us and we can go for walks through fields with geese and ducks and more birds singing that I think I’ve ever heard.

The weather has also been particularly nice, though I can’t honestly tell if that’s helped or hurt. There have been a few bright, sunny days that feel like they have so much potential for gatherings and events and we might walk through the middle of town and only see a handful of people when generally the streets would be packed. On the flip side, being able to go for some nice long (and within government guidelines!) walks with the bright sun has been really amazing.

Our flights that we had scheduled to return back to the States keep getting cancelled. We had intended to move back from the UK in July, but because of the uncertainty around flights (will they be cancelled?) we’ve had to move our timetable up quite a bit to mid June to make sure IF our flights are cancelled we have enough wiggle room to book another flight.

Note: I stopped writing this blog post here, and it’s now been a year and a half since we’ve left, but I never really finished this post, or wrote a post on leaving, etc. Below are some short notes on leaving, the travel home, etc.

One question I’ve asked myself many times since leaving York is “why did we leave at all?” It was an amazing, calming, beautiful, and friendly life that I have since decided most likely could have been a forever home. The easy access to London and Western Europe in general rounds things out.

The reason we left, I think, is that :

  1. Lindsay got a job teaching back in San Francisco
  2. The uncertainty around travel and the pandemic made us feel additionally constrained in terms of being able to know when we’d be able to get home which led to the feeling of needing to make some decisions

RE: Lindsay’s job she got one WAY easier and earlier than she had expected. Typically teaching jobs are posted a bit later in the year, but the school Lindsay ended up getting a job at posted their jobs much earlier, likely in part to try to get ahead of all of the other job postings to grab up qualified teachers early. Regardless, Lindsay interviewed and got a job. I’m not even absolutely sure we were certain we wanted her to get a job, but at the time we ran out of obvious plans (we still have a VISA for another 5 or 6 months or even longer maybe, but her school work had finished and Lindsay didn’t want to just “sit around”), and she knew she wanted to get back into a classroom.

Getting a job in the UK was likely possible, but certainly not easy or certain. I don’t recall the details, but I believe additional training, classes, etc, would have been required (possibly a LOT). We did at least casually discuss the possibility of her getting a job at a school in York, I believe Lindsay may have even looked to figure out of this was feasible or not.

The pandemic and uncertainly around travel and such added a layer of confusion to the mix. I think if we had said aloud at some point, “we are not going back to the US yet, we’re going to figure out how to make it work in York for another year, no matter what”, we would have been less stressed about the pandemic, but as it stood we hadn’t really figured out anything so the path of least resistance and most certainly took over.

I wont say much more besides the last few days in York were incredibly sad. I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever lived anywhere that I felt so comfortable and warm in. I could probably cry now thinking about it. Our last day was amazing, the weather was perfect, and we walked down to the Minster and ended up getting a perfect seat right in front while a guy played piano 30 feet away:

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Then we sat out in the grass behind the Minster and drank a beer / canned wine of some sort, enjoyed watching all of the kids and such run around.

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Here is a photo of us after we locked #36 for the last time. I feel like these photos of our keychain without keys is becoming a real theme in my life!

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And here is a photo of all of the people on the international flight home… There were maybe 2 other passengers we could see from our seats on the plane. The airport itself was an absolute ghost town, nothing was opened. I still have £140 that I never had a chance to exchange (which is fine – we’ll be back).

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We miss York.

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