Hostage: The Covid Caper Chapter 6 Hilton

Hilton Hotel corridor

Lyndey Milan and John arrive at the Hilton, and it soon becomes disappointingly clear that the government is flying by the seat of its pants, and they’re in tatters: 

Day 1 Isolation

The city streets were all but deserted. It was a strange feeling – back to On the Beach.

I thanked my lucky stars we were going to the Hilton, Sydney.

On arrival at the hotel, we got off the bus and yet again stood around with police and army who had no masks on. There was discussion amongst some about what would happen next. One told me – you need to tell them which bus you were on. He cited the actual number of the bus, and I said, “I thought we were on bus number 2!” He shrugged. Then a sweet young army guy led us in… up the steps. I demurred and suggested we should actually go up the ramp and drag our suitcases?

Check in was with three young policewomen at a special desk near the lifts. We lined up, began giving our details to one, and then things changed and we were told we all had to go to the same one, so we moved aside. Another queue. Details given, we were escorted individually or in couples up to the rooms. The couple in front of us asked if there were larger rooms available for couples, which made sense as the many solo travellers got a room to themselves. So on arrival on our floor, I asked the policewoman in charge for a larger room or two rooms with an interconnecting door, explaining the difficulty in sharing with a heavy snorer!

She, like all the other police we have come in contact with, was absolutely delightful and said she would find one.

It’s a strange feeling not to be in charge of your own life and unable to make choices.

We waited a couple of minutes, then were taken to the next floor, shown two rooms and then the police closed the door and left.

We were inside with no information, and not quite sure what to do. They did come back to check we were fine, as we were about to be locked in for two weeks. I asked a couple of questions and he said, “You’ll have to ask the hotel”. So we unpacked and counted ourselves lucky. I was able to reach someone on reception to find out about wifi, and also ask if it were possible to have a ‘care package’ delivered from my sister. The receptionist checked with the police and rang me back to say that was fine, but everything had to be dropped off to the police.

We unpacked and settled in.

Around 12.30pm there was a knock on the door. We answered to see someone’s departing back and a brown paper bag for each of us sitting on the floor at the door, the corridor empty. Inside was what looked to us like breakfast.

Breakfast at the Hilton Lyndey Milan


“Oh well,” we thought, set it aside, and ate two small cans of tuna and some gluten free crackers leftover from what I had taken on the plane, with the juice and apples. The phone rang and a young lady asked me about my dietary requirements. I thanked her and explained I was not coeliac but gluten intolerant so a little bit didn’t hurt, and that John couldn’t eat fresh tomato. I was gratified.


Lunch Lyndey Milan

Lunch? An hour later? And not gluten free, that’s for sure


An hour later, at 1.30pm this arrived! I didn’t really mind that mine was not gluten free as it was clearly too early for the dietary information to have got through and we didn’t need them. No problem.

I normally believe in staying up and only going to bed at night in the country you arrive in after long distance travel. However, part of my managing that is going for a long walk. No longer possible, and I know I need to commit to some exercise in the hotel room and make it a habit. Off to bed I went for a much needed nap. Once fully awake again, I hit on the idea of filming an Isolation Diary on my phone. Which I did and posted. A bit of fun, I thought, but also some honest reportage. How will I cope? How will John cope? How will we cope together? What will the food be like? Will we really be able to receive care packages? Will I put on weight?

Kindness makes such a difference

My sister had already suggested she could drop a care package off – ‘antibacterial wipes for our throats!’ (aka gin and tonic), Scrabble, some other food and anything we wanted from home. I was thrilled.

She got my keys and called me from my house and I guided her to where things were. I was so excited, when only 30 minutes later two gorgeous policemen delivered my care package to the door. I thanked them profusely for their kindness and they said, “That’s fine. Of course you can receive things, we just can’t have you sending things out.” I could have hugged and kissed them – though of course that’s not allowed.

Then, as I sipped on my gin and tonic, I reflected on how lucky we are to be isolated in our own city. There were many on our flight whose homes are elsewhere in Australia. How can they get care packages???

Dinner – and not the highlight of the day.

Dinner with curry and meatballs Lyndey Milan

At the back is John’s dinner of pasta with meatballs, mixed vegies, some sort of ‘bruschetta’ (really?) and a brownie; in the front is my green curry of chicken, vegies and a gluten-free bar

Dinner came at about 6.20pm. Responding to the knock on the door and seeing what was on offer, I was able to ask for gluten free and was relieved to be able to get a curry. We needed to eat it straight away as it was all only warm which is understandable with delivery to so many at the same time.

The flavour wasn’t so bad but there was lots of gluggy rice underneath. Mind you, it paled into insignificance as we sipped on a bottle of Barbera which my sister had dropped off.

We’re suffering from COVID19 information overload. Everywhere you look or listen there are stories, information bulletins, press releases and jokes, good and bad, cluttering up our inboxes and minds. I feel I am in danger of drowning under it. I really don’t want to succumb to reading it all or watching endless reports on TV. I would rather have time to read my books.

I want now, to live my experience, to feel it and see what that is like.

John and I discussed last night the challenges of running a business with people working from home. While we’re both very motivated, it’s too easy to be distracted. We decided that for our business, and for ourselves, each person should list three main tasks they want to achieve each day. For an employee, that should be communicated to their immediate boss each day. We would report back to each other.

My tasks were to write this, sort out our exercise and get going with the thesis I need to write. I have already failed. Most of today I’ve spent responding to the massive feedback I received on social media to my video diary and writing this. We did have a Skype board meeting and I have video conferences for three hours for each of the next three days – so I’d better get on with that exercise.

Sweet dreams one and all. We spent the evening watching Roger Moore as James Bond in A View to a Kill with Grace Jones. Outside, I doubt that I would have watched it – but it was an enjoyable blast from the past and I laughed at the double entendres. Then, au lit, as the French say.

Day 2: A day of…

A day of ups and downs which is why I’m so late writing this. I posted my second Isolation Diary on Instagram and Facebook yesterday, and published my first written Isolation Diary.

This is the second.

I’ve mostly had massive positive feed back, one thought-out negative which I equally appreciate, but some awful ill-informed trolling on social media which has got me to think deeply about whether I continue.

The thing is, we totally accept the decision for this confinement. Sure, it’s because of the Ruby Princess passengers going all over with no testing or tracking and the fact that others supposed to be in self-isolation aren’t doing the right thing. The government needs to make a stand, which we accept. But if they (the government) are being charged $90 a day for what we get food wise, then they’re being robbed.

So I can’t be defeated by people who hide behind social media, and who don’t inform themselves of the facts. With the encouragement of others, I continue to write and here’s my post from today on Instagram and Facebook a couple of hours ago.

A Day of Ups and Downs

Breakfast wasn’t great, but I had a lot to do, so got on with a day of work online, including writing yesterday’s Isolation Diary.

We were interrupted by an announcement over the intercom admonishing any smokers and warning of fines. Now I’m a committed non-smoker, but I felt for them not being able to smoke and was somewhat taken aback. I think what gets me is that this was the first group communication we had. It’s the lack of information which is distressing, especially to some of the older people. We’re able to have a brief chat across the hallway when collecting our meals, without stepping out. There’s an elderly couple from Tasmania nearby and they’ve run out of teabags, so I suggested they rang down for them. “I didn’t know we could,” she said.

This is partly what galvanised me into action – could I speak up on their, and others’, behalf? I was able to explain to another man from Melbourne that it’s not the Hilton doing the awful food, but Gate Gourmet which supply the airlines.

We also received a letter under the door from Hilton Management explaining some things and they were going to reinstate limited room service. Good news. We got on with it.

In the early evening a Skype with friends then a Board meeting. Our business is also massively cut back, and suffering in this climate. Our focus is on restructuring and trimming the sails to keep going, and keep everyone employed. It’s my partner’s entire focus, and working at this remotely in multiple time zones, is another challenge.

By 8pm we’re wondering about dinner… It had arrived at 6.20pm the night before. At 8.30pm I got through to reception to be told it was still coming, “But you can always order Uber Eats!” I felt it was too late. Finally, at 9.30pm, with people hanging out of the doors of their rooms, it came. Mine was two small boxes of gluggy fried rice with cold, hard, deep-fried tofu on top. This was the lowest point of the day, so some of us posted on social media to highlight the problem.

“If only we could talk to someone and know what’s going on? We realise it’s challenging for all, but please can’t we know?” I said to the young lady on the phone, “Just make an announcement that dinner is late but happening..”

Everyone’s flown long distances, some not knowing what awaited them, and are suffering jet lag and erratic sleep patterns. I worry about people becoming depressed, especially if alone. Lack of fresh air doesn’t help, nor does confusion about whether air conditioning should be on, (does it spread germs?) or off – which encourages lethargy and headaches? Has anyone here actually got Corona Virus? Might we get tested? What are the ramifications? How do we stay as healthy and positive as possible?

We fell into bed exhausted. I know the lack of exercise isn’t good. I resolve like Pollyanna that tomorrow is another day, and am determined to exercise and ensure I achieve three main tasks per day. I also reflect on the kindness of so many – messages of encouragement and offers of help.

Thank you, one and all.

We had a broken night and woke up early, which is pretty usual with jet lag – but all the better to start the day early and clear the emails etc.

Best of all, we found this letter under the door: The Hilton had heeded our comments and changed the food service provider. Thank you again. However, I wasn’t sure who the letter was from, with no letterhead and no signature. But it contained great news and best of all some information and explanation. Along with that was a letter from Hilton Management from the late the night before, that it would be possible to get deliveries from Woolworths online, and along with limited beverages from room service, was good news. Especially for people from interstate.


Lunch was a joy, and I’m so touched by the thoughtfulness of friends sending messages and things to cheer me.

The afternoon was tough as this was when the trolling started – amazing it’s done during the working day rather than at night? Why aren’t these people working?

I was in torment about whether or not I’d done the right thing speaking out, beating myself up, and thinking do I stop or continue?

Finally, I decided I must not be defeated by people who hide behind their online anonymity, don’t read what I write and who actually don’t know me. I’m trying to learn that lesson, slowly. Then I recorded my Video Diary Day 3.

I thought perhaps it’s more productive to concentrate on something else. Honoured to be a judge in the annual Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition, our judge’s dinner in London had been moved online. And so I finalised my judging, pleased with the standard of category winners.

All this time John’s on conference calls. He doesn’t stop and is remarkable. He’s at his happiest working and is now using his creative, inventive mind to restructure our business. We try to replicate a normal working day as much as possible and each keep to our own ‘work space’, and try to eat together away from the computer rather than at the desk, working. I think it’s important to keep up some social habits – not to mention manners.

Just as I was heading into a 3 hour online meeting at 5.30pm, I received a phone call, which cheered me up immensely. The Sydney Markets, which promotes shopping at your local greengrocer, wanted to send me some fruit and a punnet of strawberries to every room in the hotel! I was blown away. This generous gift made it all worthwhile to think every room would benefit, and validated my speaking out.

The next day, a healthy balanced breakfast was delivered and we began the day on a high note. However, this was quickly followed by another note from the General Manager of the Hilton to say that since his advice about external food, the government had ruled that these were no longer allowed to deliver. Care packages would be still allowed, but must be delivered directly to the hotel by family or close personal friend. Oh no, again I worried, what about those from interstate?

Clearly the hotel is doing all it can, but with different government agencies involved, there is sometimes conflicting information. Also, different hotels seem to be making different rulings from what I can gather. Very confusing.

I spent most of the morning writing an article for Delicious online on forced quarantine. It was great to be working and have a deadline – just like the real world!

By now, we’ve decided not to watch TV, except for perhaps a movie at night if we can get one. The constant barrage of COVID-19 information and often sensationalist beat-up is getting us down.

Similarly, I’m deleting most of the news service emails which bombard my inbox – along with the jokes. We need to clear our brains and do something constructive. Luckily, in the UK, I tore out of the paper some indoor exercise regimes to do without equipment. I donned what could work as gym gear and took up my new role of trainer with John with relish. Amazing how much better you feel after some exercise. We’re committed now to doing some every day.

Thank you Lyndey Milan – what a journey! More soon, and back to the Crown Promenade next post as wheels wobble off completely and the Victorian episode degenerates into a train wreck.