Letter from Europe

Being amber

Issue no. 2021/14

Picture above: image © Emprize / dreamstime.com


Being amber brings special privileges. The ‘reds’ are escorted by security personnel to a quarantine hotel. We ambers have it easy. We can make our own way to an agreed isolation address. And it's the theme of isolation that is very much present in the new issue of hidden europe magazine, which is published this week and is already available for sale.

Dear fellow travellers

The docks at Kingston-upon-Hull are probably not somewhere you’d really want to be early in the morning. Especially before breakfast, and waiting in line for UK Border Force to give me the once-over.

The man from Border Force was extremely polite. “You look as though you’re amber,” he said.

Better than yellow, I thought, as that’s surely a symptom of hepatitis. Being amber, it turned out, was unproblematic - and after sharing a bundle of documents, I was politely waved through and was on my way to mandatory isolation.

Being amber brings special privileges. The ‘reds’ are escorted by security personnel to a quarantine hotel. We ambers have it easy. We can make our own way to the agreed isolation address. So I had glimpses of villages in the Lincolnshire Wolds en route: Walesby and Legsby, Linwood and Lissington. These were stolen moments, a private interlude between arriving in Hull and settling in for a spell of quarantine.

New issue of hidden europe

More on isolation anon, but it’s worth mentioning that the new issue of hidden europe magazine, which is published this week, is very much a product of isolation. It’s the fourth issue which we have produced under the very real constraints on travel which have prevailed during the pandemic. Yet the articles in hidden europe 64 reveal the merits that staying close to home can bring. One of our guest contributors in this new issue, Rudolf Abraham, puts it nicely in his feature on the Walthamstow Wetlands where he writes: “To observe a landscape through the seasons is a rare and wonderful thing.”

One thing we have all discovered these past months is that small things matter. There is a beauty in detail and in dwelling on the moment. In hidden europe 64, we write about an area of exceptional beauty just south of our Berlin base. It is a sparsely populated region of lakes, forests and meadows - a landscape for walking, dreaming and relaxing.

You can buy a single copy if issue 64 in our online shop. Or, better still, splash out on a subscription. Either way, hidden europe 64 will be winging its way to you within a day or two. You’ll find articles on Ukraine and Sicily, and you can join us as we report on Nicola Tesla’s birthplace, museums devoted to Freemasonry and cafés that have a special appeal for cyclists.

Calling amber

This morning a nice lady called my mobile telephone. She had a rich Ulster accent. “You’re amber,” she said. I agreed. She told me that she worked for a government-run tracking and tracing service. Reading from a very detailed script, she advised me that I shouldn’t even think of fleeing isolation. “If you’re amber and not at your designated address, you could be fined up to ten thousand pounds,” she told me.

Of course one listens courteously to all such intelligence, especially where ignoring the advice given may have such grave financial consequences. “We may come round to visit,” said the voice from Ulster. “We do that sometimes with ambers,” she said.

As cold calls go, it was actually very amiable. I now rather hope she calls again. Detainees, I hear, often try and strike up a bond with those who are holding them captive. I now understand that being phoned is a special privilege reserved for ambers. I, for one, am keen to be a very compliant amber. So I am looking forward to more calls and perhaps even a visit. Tea and cake will be offered of course.

Nicky Gardner
(co-editor, hidden europe magazine)

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