Helen Grange

Are you getting travel gene rickets in lockdown?

The creative gees (spirit) is a feckless wanderer, here today and gone tomorrow, but it’s only until the advent of Coronavirus that I realised what a flake it is.

Forget the dubious trope about poets needing the Black Dog to summon up sublime prose. In my experience, the “gees” is only around when the surf’s up and the mind is a cheery host with nary a worry in the world. So let me make use of its gaddish visit today, and put down some thoughts about travel and the big C.

I read somewhere that some among us – probably a sizeable quota of people of English, Irish and Jewish extraction – have a wunderlust gene called DRD4-7R, an inherited impulse to get the hell out of here. If you’re on this site, you’re likely to have it like me and it can be described as incurably restless and curious. A bit of a risk-taker, in other words.

Enter Coronavirus and its attendant travel restrictions and what do you have? Lame metaphors come to mind, like a stabled wild horse or caged bird. No matter how gilded the cage is, the severance of freedom to just get in the car, or catch a flight, feels like jail to us. Add to that an indefinite sentence with no bust-out date, and the DRD4-7R gene starts to look like rickets of the mind, which might be why I’m imagining a ghost is visiting me.

A week before lockdown, I was preparing for my big trip to India to see the tigers of the Sundarbans. Three weeks later found me morbidly watching Tiger King, trying to rationalise that feasting my eyes on his pudgy cats was the universe offering me a kind if jokey compensation (see what I mean about mind rickets).

Three months later, I’ve printed out an ‘essential services’ travel permit, and am wondering how I can forge a stamp to substantiate a story about being a deliverer of Joburg masks to Cape Town. In other words, I’ve stolen a knife from the jailhouse kitchen to fashion into a tunnel-digging tool.

I suspect a lot of my fellow inmates are ahead of me. As we enter level 3, I wager that if you tested all the so-called business travellers in planes and cars, a suspiciously large number would show up positive for the DRD4-7R gene, having got their papers in mint camouflage condition.

In mitigation of our fleet-footed antics, remember that it’s not our fault – it’s in our genes. Nor is it our fault that the Coronavirus mercilessly used us for its nefarious travel agenda. So take it easy with the judgments, please, when you find that by Level 1 we’ve already been on a trip somewhere.

And bear in mind that we were delivering an essential service. What would the world be without diasporas and rolling stones with seductive accents?  A duller place, I can assure you, with too many of us suffering rickets of the travel gene kind.