Well, the Rubicon is a red river
Goin’ gently as she flows
Redder than your ruby lips
And the blood that flows from the rose
Three miles north of purgatory
One step from the great beyond
I prayed to the cross, I kissed the girls
And I crossed the Rubicon – Bob Dylan, Crossing the Rubicon
I am getting ready to fly the unofficial flag of 2020 (image above courtesy of Behn & Co’s Torben Vedel Andersen – ‘Mr Danzka’) and to cross the rubicon.
Put more simply, I am getting ready to fly. Wearing the 2020 flag the whole way, of course. It will be my first flight for almost five months. I suspect Heathrow will be a very different experience from my last sojourn through the London gateway on 5 March but I know how hard the various teams there have worked to ensure that it is at least a safe one.
From Heathrow it’s on to Doha and Hamad International Airport via Qatar Airways, the airline that has performed so magnificently throughout this seemingly interminable crisis in its mission to get people home. There I will enjoy a welcome return to my ways and days of old as I conduct a series of interviews before flying on to Hong Kong, where a 14-day quarantine awaits.
Am I wary of flying? A little. But actually no more (and probably less so) then venturing into my local village where, until yesterday, it was not compulsory to wear a face mask in the shops. Even since the new edict was introduced, many people across this nation are ignoring it. On 24 July, with over 15 million COVID-19 cases and 600,000 deaths worldwide, the British government finally introduces such a measure.
Better late than never? I suppose so. But what abject folly to have resisted (in fact rejected) such a simple measure for so long. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told BBC News this week that the government had “underestimated” the extent of asymptomatic transmission and didn’t fully understand the coronavirus in the “first few weeks and months” of the pandemic. Perhaps they did not watch the news from Wuhan and northern Italy. But now, 45,762 deaths later, they do understand. So that’s alright then.
Health Minister Lord Bethell said this week that gloves are “an area we’re looking at” as the Government considers how best to protect the public. Looking at? This is astounding. How many more deaths do they need before actually making a decision? Despite a worrying spike there (241 cases in the past two days), I’ll take my chances in Hong Kong and leave Boris to leading his charge of the conscience-light brigade into the valley of death.
It’s been a long, painful year hasn’t it? One senior retailer contact talked of ‘our old industry’ to me in an exchange this week, summing up the feelings of many that the travel retail channel has changed forever. Certainly for many companies it has been radically transformed as even the most casual glance at LinkedIn, now awash with the hashtag #OpentoWork, will tell you. In many cases, furlough schemes and their various alternatives around the world have simply deferred the pain. Now it’s coming and it’s horrible.
Each day we continue to report on the positive news, the green shoots that are thankfully managing to pierce the COVID-19 tundra. It’s key that we do that and try to overcome the heaviness of heart that inevitably accompanies so many job losses and so much damage to fine businesses (including, of course, my own). In a dysfunctional world inhabited alas by some dysfunctional leaders, we all crave normality. For me, some element of that will return when I arrive at Heathrow on Monday. And so, I’ll happily fly the flag of 2020.