I contracted COVID sometime around 27 July 2022. From where I have no way of knowing. Over the previous week, I had travelled to Vienna and Saltzburg, eaten in restaurants and did the usual touristy things there as well as my usual inquiries into things wood culture and so on. For four days after my return to the UK, I felt quite fine so may have had nothing to do with crowded places, airports and air travel. I returned to the UK on Friday evening, 21st July. The plane and the airport at Vienna were both full and mostly too heavily crowded in highly confined areas where social distancing would have been impossible – the corridors of travellers queuing for their flights and zero distancing with a too high tolerance of people not wearing masks things will inevitably go wrong. I counted on my vaccination keeping me safe enough without eliminating the effects altogether. Although in Austria 95% of train and bus travellers were compliant, it’s something of a fictitious barrier to the disease when you see that the modes of travel have no chance for proper sterilisation between the comings and goings of travellers.
On Saturday, I rested after my travels and caught up on a few things life maintenance, checked on the building work at the house, and the garden and then too the garden workshop and so on. The major building work is almost done. The window makers made a mistake on one window size for the new third-floor loft bedroom by a third of a metre too short so that one window still remains unmade for the moment. Thankfully, being the weight and size it is, it can go in from the inside now that the scaffolding is gone though sealing, etc would have been easier off the scaffolding, which had to go two weeks ago.
On Sunday afternoon I had an overwhelming desire to see the Stradivarius Messiah violin and other instruments housed over in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Though tourism started this week and tourists were evident everywhere, it was never packed anywhere I went. I spent two hours in the museum, an amazing experience, as ever. It’s been a couple of years. Hard to believe it is six years since I did my book signing at the launch of my book Essential Woodworking Hand Tools there. Six years passed very quickly. I travelled into the city by bus, so more exposure to people there too. Funny how you try to recount your steps when you contract a disease like COVID.
With no visible or physical signs of any illness until Tuesday I happily prepared for returning to making the newest Sellers’ Home project and videoing, writing, etc. It was on Tuesday morning around 4 am that I woke with something of a start to a milder cold; at 8 am I did a COVID test which still showed negative, but that was just to be on the safe side. I had checked myself on Sunday evening too, mainly because of my travels and being so exposed to close-contact crowding through my travels. The main reason for my visit to Austria was a family reunion The cold seemed about the same today.
Will and I filmed B-roll for the new project, both in the garage workshop mocking up a prototype from sheets of corrugated cardbpard taken from cardboard boxes and then in the house. We filmed in the garage to show how to do it and its simplicity and worth. I find this is really helpful and well worth doing to establish location, sizes and for moving around from place to place around where the pieces will be used and to see what really fit, but how well other options might crop up that I didn’t think of too. The next day, Wednesday, in the kitchen of the house where the two tables are to go, Will and I filmed again. One table, the larger of the two, was 2” too low so I made adjustments to that version. The other worked just fine. My mild cold remained at the same level. It was at around noon or so that my cold seemed to change a little with sniffles and an accompanying chestiness and a mild coughing. By late afternoon I also noticed that my legs and shoulders, upper arms ached, as they did quite severely after my first inoculation for COVID, and so I did yet another COVID test and this time two lines crossed over the channel of the test, declaring that I indeed had COVID. From this point on everything seemed to worsen. I immediately isolated myself. The cold became a severe cough (glad I don’t smoke), my eyes were running and my nose was draining away constantly. My body aches continued and my muscles felt weak. I felt very tired too, which is not altogether like me. I let everyone know about the result of the test later that evening and hoped for the best. In the studio, we have high ceilings and constant air intake filters from outside that replaces the air with an exchange of fresh air every few minutes.
We’d had a good day’s filming before things worsened and we stop for the day as we had already achieved a lot. It was in the evening that things rapidly changed with my coughing worsening along with my cold. Even my fingers began to ache, along with the rest of my body. I started to do my usual squats from standing but managed only seven instead of 40 plus before I said to myself, “Don’t be silly!” I had ridden my bike twice in the daytime for 40 minutes a piece and felt my legs aching even riding my bike which they rarely do on shorter rides. Most of the rest of the day was planing and truing up my oak for two tables and that was around four hours of hard work.
Overnight, Wednesday to Thursday, my sleep was disturbed by coughing and aches in my shoulders. Nothing I could do. At 8 am Thursday I felt hungry and cooked my usual vegetable breakfast which comprises onion, mushroom, tomato, courgette, spinach cooked on a low heat in olive oil until soft. I used a low-carb sweet potato wrap like a burrito and two pieces of low-carb toasted bread (7 carbs total in toast). I’m a third-generation diabetic so diet and exercise are staples for my daily wellbeing and control of my blood sugars. Even so, any infection always raises the blood sugars so I took extra care over the coming days.
Things had worsened overnight and this morning my brain felt foggy, my blood sugars were elevated from my usual morning fasting blood sugar of 7 to 10 plus. I knew something was wrong. I also felt very lethargic, totally depleted of energy levels and hopelessly uninspired to do much more than close my eyes and sit or lay down. I obeyed my body.
The coughing exhausted me the most. I felt aching inside my chest as a result, but the coughing was really incessant. Reading was difficult because of the lack of concentration so I drew instead and found that this helped my thought processes. I did listen to a podcast or two too, more to pass the time. Something I never have time to do so quite unusual compared to most. This day did drag. I went into the garage workshop for shorter bursts of work to work on an idea I had for a woodworking tool I had started in on two days earlier. A half-hour stint exhausted me but three short sessions gave me the tool and the making processes I wanted to get down. I was so very pleased and contented with the outcome and that alone lifted my spirits markedly. I could not wait to share this with everyone when the time is right and I end up with the final-cut version. Thousands of woodworkers may never need to buy another of these particular tools again and could likely make four of them in a fairly short and pleasant afternoon.
Friday 29th July 2022 was my second complete day of self-isolating where I did not see another human soul but I heard that one other had also contracted the COVID and of course this is saddening. My cough continued but a little less severely. I lost my sense of taste in food and drinks gradually throughout the day. Mostly, I felt that my cough was trying to clear out the now loose mucus from my chest and the cough became more productive. In the late evening, I went to make one of the tools to a slight variation that simplified what I had complicated and this sped up the process to about an hour total, including some metalwork. By this alone, I could tell I was improving and the brain fog clearing helped me greatly too. I forgot to mention a very mild headache and variable temperature where I could feel hot or cold in and out. I didn’t really have a fever as such. On this day I slept in the afternoon for an hour as I had done the previous day too. This is not something I ever do really, although I do enjoy the idea of it.
Part of my day-to-day work is to review the video post edits, to look for the less evident mistakes an editor without a woodworking background might miss. Three 40-minute episodes keep me on my toes but I love to see the composition skills of our editors who both video and edit one another’s work. I had a couple that I thought were just beautifully filmed this week where I suggested they might make very nice YouTube content. We usually don’t do this as the content is intended for woodworkingmasterclasses.com, but they are so creatively put together I always want to share them with woodworkers elsewhere. I enjoy watching these reviews because I too learn from them but mostly about how I can best show specific elements I might not see from my side of the lens and the bench.
I slept early on in the evening and woke at midnight. I like writing in the nighttime for several reasons but the main one is the total silence that envelops me so. No music, no background noises just total isolation. Poetry comes and goes and I keep notes of a phrase I might like and want to use at some point. Here’s one, “A feather rolled in continuous motion, barrelling across the car park and the light reflected intermittently in the white and black of the feather like a flashing neon light.” Will I ever use it? Who knows. Doesn’t matter. It’s the picture in my mind that flashes back in instancy that matters most. It’s now 2 am and I am ready to sleep again. I am feeling a little better now. Good night.
On Saturday my day started with a grogginess that’s not really like me. Feeling sluggish and with the dominant brain fog I had to fight not to give in to it. I also had a lack of appetite but insisted on cooking my breakfast straight away. Cooking my usual stir-fried onion, mushroom, tomato, courgette and spinach with feta omelette and a cafetiere of coffee did the trick and actually woke my taste buds too. By 7 am I felt much better. I did yet another COVID test which was positive. This was my fourth.
I felt quite well enough to do some manual work at the bench and that was a relief. I took it easy, didn’t push it by choosing smaller work to work on.
The days seemed pretty much the same but on Sunday the aching lessened and so too the brain fog. With the cough gone too, I was able to get better rest. I still isolated and enjoyed a quiet day writing and drawing, listening to music and such. At 4 pm I did a COVID test and tested negative. Great news!
I was alone all day on Monday but started work as usual. I reflected on the COVID fears of two years ago when people were dying by the thousands every day as a direct result of COVID. No variants at that point and little knowledge about control. We never used terms we are conversant with today like social distancing, personal protection equipment, self-isolation and two dozen more. The then underwhelmed NHS suddenly became overwhelmed and seems not to have recovered.
John came in on Tuesday and by now I had had three negative COVID tests. My road to recovery was quick and I was back in the saddle fully even though I did feel more tired by the end of the day. On Thursday, Will and I were filming B-roll again for the prototyping the next project. I also perfected the new marking gauge prototypes and came up with the final version ready for filming.
So, here I am feeling fit and well with no more signs of weakness. I was out for about five days, which made me reflect on the big question two years ago – to vaccinate or not! I am glad that I did. I never queried my recovery this week whereas two years ago people were dying from COVID by the thousands per day, I am sure that I would have too. I am also convinced that my getting the COVID at this time might well give me improved immunity, but who really knows?