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Hello, and welcome to The Year Without Wimbledon

 

Hello, and welcome to The Year Without Wimbledon, my coronavirus pandemic diary. I’m writing a few notes every day, grouped into blog posts for each week, on how my life in lockdown here in Manchester, Northern England is going; and I’ve also written a few posts on the build-up to lockdown, starting in January 2020. If anyone’s reading this, thank you very much, and please let me know if you’ve got any thoughts to share!

Index of posts:

Second Wave:

Second Wave Week 1 – August 31st to September 6th inclusive

Trying to smile behind the mask

Second Wave Week 2 – September 7th to 13th inclusive

Madrid, which saved my life … well, OK, sort of

Second Wave Week 3 – September 14th to 20th inclusive

Second Wave Week 4 – September 21st to 27th inclusive

It is better to light a candle …

Second Wave Week 5 – September 28th to October 4th inclusive

Second Wave Week 6 – October 5th to 11th inclusive

What is going on?

 

Moving on:

Goodbye lockdown locks, hello cafes, stay safe

Masks on the Steamer

A Visit to the Dentist

Rowing back – a nightmare couple of days

Café culture reaches the North Manchester suburbs … due to the virus

The Summer of Staycations – holidaying in the age of Covid-19

Moving On Week 1 – July 6th to 12th inclusive

Moving On Week 2- July 13th to 19th inclusive

Moving On Week 3 – July 20th to 26th inclusive

Moving On Week 4 – July 27th to August 2nd inclusive

Moving On, or maybe not, Week 5 – August 3rd to 9th inclusive

Confused of Manchester … are we all with this?

A trip into town, mayhem at the US Open, and EastEnders returns

Moving on Weeks 6 and 7 – August 10th to 23rd inclusive

Moving on Week 8 – August 24th to 30th inclusive

 

 

 

 

During lockdown:

Lockdown Week 1 – March 23rd to 29th inclusive

Lockdown Week 2 – March 30th to April 5th inclusive

Lockdown Week 3 – April 6th to 12th inclusive

Lockdown Week 4 – April 13th to 19th inclusive

Lockdown Week 5 – April 20th to 26th inclusive

Lockdown Week 6 – April 27th to May 3rd inclusive

Lockdown Week 7 – May 4th to May 10th inclusive

Lockdown Week 8, May 11th to 17th inclusive

Lockdown Week 9, May 18th to 24th inclusive

Lockdown Week 10, May 25th to 31st inclusive

Lockdown Week 11, June 1st to 7th inclusive

Lockdown Week 12, June 8th to 14th inclusive

Lockdown Week 13, June 15th to 21st inclusive

Lockdown Week 14, June 22nd to 28th inclusive

Lockdown Week 15, June 29th to July 5th inclusive

 

Before lockdown:

January – the first news

February 2020 – the virus spreads

Early March 2020 – panic-buying, and more and more cases of the virus

On through March 2020 – the world seems to be falling apart

March 16th to 18th inclusive – heading towards lockdown

 

 

 

General musings:

Mental Health Awareness Week

Football without fans

Return to the National Trust

Blackpool

Football’s coming back

Seeking peace in nature: Back to Life with the National Trust and English Heritage

Support bubbles, scones and snapdragons

Of football, hairdressers, anxiety, techno-trauma and Blytonesque picnics

Tennis is back … going well in London, disaster in the Balkans

Socially-distanced strawberry-picking – a lockdown experience!

Quarantunes

The Never Ending Story

The coronavirus era arrives in Coronation Street and Emmerdale

 

 

 

What is going on?

I have tried to keep faith with this government, but enough is enough.  If this lot had been in charge during the war, the Nazis would have been marching down the Mall by the middle of 1940.  I have never known such incompetence.   The announcement on tighter rules in Scotland, unpopular as it’s been in many quarters, was made last Wednesday, so people there at least know what’s going on.  We in Northern England have been left to deal with day after day of speculation in the media, leaving people distraught and anxious about their livelihoods, holidays, prospects of seeing relatives and friends, and many other matters.  Every newspaper and TV channel says something different, and all seem convinced that they are right.

Which areas will be affected?   Definitely Liverpool.  But does that just mean Liverpool, or does it mean Merseyside, meaning that places such as Southport and St Helens would be affected too?  What about us, in Manchester?  My newspaper says we will be affected.  The BBC says we will not.  Sky News says that it hasn’t been decided yet.  And, again, does “Manchester” mean the city centre or does it also mean Bury, Bolton, Oldham, Stockport, etc?  What about Newcastle?  And Leeds?  And Nottingham?  Nottingham’s infection rate, albeit largely student-driven, is now over 800 per 100,000, yet no additional restrictions at all are in place there – even though they were imposed on Rossendale when its infection rate was 4 per 100,000 and Wigan when its infection rate was 7 per 100,000.

What about smaller towns and cities where the infection rate is equal to or higher those in larger cities?  Bradford?  Preston?  Burnley?

What will it mean?  Travel restrictions?  I need to know: I’ve got a hotel booked for this weekend and next week.  Are we to banned from leaving our areas?  What does “area” mean – borough or administrative country?  Does “non-essential travel” include going to the city centre shops or to a park not within walking distance?

And which businesses will have to shut?  The initial rumour was pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants.  Now they’re saying restaurants will be able to remain open, but that gyms, casinos and bookmakers will have to shut.  One newspaper even mentioned hairdressers.  These are people’s jobs and businesses.  They need to know what’s going on.

And what about the financial support?  We’ve been told 2/3 of people’s wages, but many people working in hospitality are only on the minimum wage as it is.  What about other costs, such as rent?  What about businesses which won’t be ordered to shut, but will be severely affected, such as hotels, taxi drivers, and those in the supply chain?

There are also rumours that shielding is going to be reintroduced.

And how long for?  Four weeks initially, but some rumours say six months.  There’s due to be a complete ban on household mixing.  Are people seriously supposed to go for six months without seeing their families and friends?   There’ll be the worst mental health pandemic that’s ever been known.   And the economy will be ruined.

From what’s being said, no-one really knows, because it still hasn’t been decided, even though we’re supposed to be getting an announcement in five hours’ time.

This is beyond appalling. MPs and local council leaders, from all parties, are fuming.  There’s talk of court cases.  Everyone is anxious and distressed.

And nobody knows WTF is going on.  Meanwhile, MPs have just bagged a pay rise of over £3,000 each.  And there are no additional restrictions in any of the constituencies represented by the senior ministers.   And the fates of millions of people across the North of England hang in the balance, as we try to deal with one rumour after another and have no idea what our lives will look like by the end of this week.

Get a grip, Boris.  This is a shit situation.  But the way it’s being dealt with is inexcusable.  I’ve got two newspapers, and each one says something different, and neither of them agree with either the BBC or Sky, neither of which agree with each other.  Friends have shared rumours they’ve read elsewhere, all of which are different again.  The only thing anyone can agree on is that the government is making a mess of things.

Second Wave Week 6 – October 5th to 11th 2020 inclusive

 

 

Monday, October 5th

What a bloody fiasco.  Over 16,000 cases were missed due to this “computer glitch” – which was apparently because someone couldn’t manage to use Excel properly.  The setting they’d used didn’t pick up all the rows.  I mean, seriously?  I use Excel myself every day, and I’m hardly an IT whizz.  It’s not exactly difficult to use.  We’re now on over 12,500 cases a day.  Rates have soared over the weekend, even without the missing cases.  And most of the missing cases were in the north, so infection rates in all the local boroughs are way higher than we thought.  Manchester city centre now has the highest rate in the country – although it’s nearly all students.  Newcastle’s got a similar issue with students, but it’s not clear what’s causing the problem in Liverpool.  I could cry.  Just when I thought I could start looking forward to my holiday.

The good news is that deaths aren’t rising.  Most of the cases are in low risk groups.

Paris has closed all bars.  I wish they’d do that here.  The Czech Republic’s closed schools.  Moscow’s told elderly people to stay indoors.

Everyone’s just had enough.  We’ve been in local lockdown for over 2 months.  Most of us are keeping the rules.  But rates keep rising.  A load of jobs are going to go when the furlough system ends.  Oh, and Arsenal have made Gunnersaurus redundant.  People’s mental health is suffering, and there’s no end in sight.  Iran reckons it’s having a third wave.  And that ties in with what’s happened with previous pandemics.

Bleurgh.

 

Tuesday, October 6th

Things are not good.  Infections are up.  Hospital admissions are up.  Deaths are up.   New restrictions are to be imposed in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  For all the balls-up with the Excel spreadsheet, I’m not really blaming the authorities.  Most countries are in the same boat – Poland’s struggling particularly badly this week – and no-one knows what to do anywhere.

Local leaders have complained that local lockdowns are doing no good and causing harm, but it looks as if Nottingham could be the next place to have restrictions imposed on it.  Maybe Oxford too.  Universities going back has been a disaster.

Donald Trump’s back at the White House.

Mesul Ozil has said he’ll pay Gunnersaurus’s wages.

 

Wednesday, October 7th

I do appreciate that the virus is not timing things to cause issues with my holiday, but it doesn’t half feel like that. Nicola Sturgeon has imposed travel restrictions on Glasgow, Edinburgh and various other areas, and closed all the pubs and licensed restaurants there for at least two weeks.  I don’t honestly think that Boris would do that here, but things certainly aren’t very good.  Universities going back has been a huge mistake.

The Manchester Evening News has published my letter asking it to try rallying the troops – “A City United”, “We’re all in this together” type thing – rather than its current negativity.  I doubt it’ll take any notice, but I tried.

Rafa is through to the US Open SFs, and will play Schwartzman, rather than Thiem.

 

Thursday, October 8th

Bleurgh.  It does now look as if there will be restrictions on travel, or certainly on overnight stays.  Coming in on Wednesday, and I was due to go on Saturday.  I’m SO upset.  I was going now because this was the time I’d booked off for my Japan holiday.  Then that was cancelled but they were supposed to be doing trips to France or Italy, so they were cancelled too.  Work won’t let us carry the time forward, so my holidays, of which I get so few and which I try so hard to make the most of, are … well, I don’t even know what I’ll be able to do at home.  I’ve spent hours working out where to go and how to get there.  I’ve booked tickets for things and, as they’ll still be open, I won’t be able to get the money back.  So, so near … and yet so far.   And, as it’ll run into half term loads of families with young kids will be in the same boat.

I am sick of the virus.

I am sick of our area being one of the worst hit by it.  I don’t understand why.

I am sick of the Government.  They have completely lost the North now.  Details have been leaked to the papers before they were discussed with local council leaders, and the exact details are still unclear.  People don’t know whether to cancel holidays.  Businesses don’t know whether or not they’ll have to close, and what compensation there’ll be if they do.  People don’t know whether or not they’re about to lose their jobs.  N

Cases, hospital admissions and deaths are going up and up, so I accept that something has to be done, but I don’t see why I would be a danger to anyone in a hotel room on my own – especially as it’s apparently OK for me to be in an office with other people.

I know this sounds really self-pitying, but I am feeling very sorry for myself 😦 .

 

Friday, October 9th

This is absolutely f***ing ridiculous.  Scotland had its announcement on Wednesday.  We are just being left in suspense, with people panicking about jobs, holidays and other things.

  1.  Which areas will be affected?   Most of the papers are saying Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.  But will that include the suburbs and satellite towns?  Sadly, the answer is probably yes, which is bloody ridiculous because it means it’ll affect us and other places like Stockport, yet Bradford, Burnley, Preston and various other places where the rates are no lower than, and in many cases higher than, here will not be affected.
  2.  Is this a “circuit breaker” like in Glasgow and Edinburgh, or will it go on indefinitely?   Given that Rishi Sunak’s just announced a SIX MONTH plan to support businesses affected … well, it doesn’t sound good, does it?
  3.  What will it mean?  Will it include a ban on holidays?  It seems all but certain that eating and drinking places will have to close, but where else?  Golf clubs?  Gyms?  Cinemas?  Maybe even shops?
  4.  Are we seriously supposed to go for 6 months with no contact with other households?
  5.  The rumours in the press, which are upsetting everyone, also include a return to shielding.  Is this being planned?

WTF is going on?  This is just ridiculous.  And the support for business is something, but won’t go anywhere near saving many businesses from collapse, if they have to close for months.

Meanwhile, Nottingham, which now has the highest infection rate in the country, at well over 600 – thanks yet again to an outbreak at a university, the latest place to be affected by which is Bristol – isn’t in local lockdown at all!  Nor are places like York and Barrow, where infections are soaring.

I’ve sent an angry e-mail to my MP about all the uncertainty, but he was only elected in December.  It’s like asking a first year to stop the prefects from bullying people.

I have had enough.

The only good thing is that Rafa’s into the French Open final 🙂 .  Although I’m not sure I can cope with yet another defeat by Nole.  The second semi has just started. Come on, Stef!

 

Saturday, October 10th

In news not related to the pandemic, Rafa will have to play Nole in the French Open men’s final, Iga Swiatek won the ladies’ final, and Marcus Rashford has been awarded the MBE.  And I have had my hair cut.  The hairdresser said that they were managing, but things were nowhere near back to pre-lockdown levels, partly because some elderly people are nervous about going out and partly because some people are trying to reduce their spending due to worried about redundancy.

I still have no idea whether or not I will be getting my week’s holiday or spending my few days’ annual leave hanging around.  Every newspaper and every TV channel has its own version of the restrictions coming in next week.

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has threatened to sue the Government.  OK, it’s easy to criticise when you’re not the one at the sharp end, but he’s quite right about the inadequate financial package.  Most people who work in pubs, bars and restaurants do not earn much anyway.  How are they meant to cope on 2/3 of that, indefinitely?  And, if the whole industry’s closed down, their chances of finding other work is going to be minimal.   And many places may never reopen.  Liverpool’s said that half its council tax comes from hospitality places, and I’d assume the figure is similar for Manchester.  The Government says that local leaders are being consulted, but they say they’re not.  Even within Boris Johnson’s own party, people have had enough of the appalling contempt being shown towards Northern England.  MPs for northern constituencies have formed a pressure group.

I am very disappointed in Boris.  And I could wallop bloody Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary.  If he says one more word about “hard work”, I shall scream.  What does he think people in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Preston, Burnley, Bradford etc are doing?  Going out raving every night?   Hospitality workers in Scotland have dumped a load of ice outside the parliament building in Edinburgh.  I wish someone’d dump a load over Matt Hancock’s stupid head.

Back in April, when the Queen made that wonderful speech, there was a genuine “Spirit of the Blitz” feeling of togetherness.  Now, people in urban areas of the North are angry and bitter.  What a mess.

 

Sunday, October 11th

Bizarrely, just as the world’s about to fall apart again, this has been one of the best days of the year.  I always go to Blackpool on the morning of the French Open, so, being superstitious – and because the weather was glorious – I went today, even if it was October rather than June.  It was a lovely morning.  And then Rafa beat Nole, 6-0 6-2 7-5!   I can’t believe it.  I wasn’t optimistic, and I thought that, even if he could do it, it’d be a long and tough battle, especially with the roof being closed.  But he was just incredible.  Absolutely wonderful.  It also means he and Roger have got the same number of Grand Slam titles, but I’m not so fussed about that – Rafa, Roger and Nole are all great, and I can live without all this “Who’s the GOAT?” stuff.  But I was definitely fussed about today, and … oh wow.  Wonderful.  Just wonderful.

Now we’ve got to see what tomorrow brings.  Five Manchester MPs have said that they won’t support Tier 3 restrictions, but Matt Hancock and Boris don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks.  If the travel ban’s advisory rather than mandatory, do I still go?  I won’t be going near anyone else, and I haven’t been in close contact with anyone except Mum and Dad, but … I’m kind of bothered people will think badly of me, which I know is an awful way of looking at things.  But I heard loads of Scottish accents in Blackpool today, even though people in Scotland are “advised” not to visit parts of England in local lockdown.

This whole situation is ridiculous.

But today’s about Rafa ❤ 🙂 .

Second Wave Week 5 – September 28th to October 4th 2020

Monday, September 28th

People are busy blaming the government, the rules, the scientists, etc etc, but the fact of the matter is that the problems are due to people who do whatever the hell they want.  Police across the country have broken up hundreds of large parties, many of them at venues rather than private homes, over the weekend, and it’s being reported that fewer than 80% of people who should be self-isolating are actually doing so.  However, the 10pm curfew, which worked in Belgium, isn’t working so well here, with everyone pouring out on to the streets, and into supermarkets to buy more booze, at the same time.  Fines of up to £10,000 can now be imposed, but how many of the rule breakers, most of them people in their 20s, have got £10,000?

Cases are way down today, but that’s probably the weekend effect.  However, apart from the disaster at the hall of residence, cases locally do seem to be calming down a bit.  However, there are major problems in Liverpool/Knowsley, and also in the Burnley/Accrington/Colne area.

The way the political points-scorers carry on, you’d think it was just here.  It isn’t.

On a more cheerful note, Rafa won his first round match at the French Open pretty comfortably.  And, having been off work today, I went to Tatton Park this morning.  I found 25 conkers by the big conker tree there!

Tuesday, September 29th

71 deaths reported today, which is scary … although Tuesdays have always been bad, because of the catch-up from the weekend.

The rules in the NE have been changed again.   It’s now illegal to meet anyone outside your household/bubble indoors.  I thought it already was, but apparently the previous rules were just “advisory”.   What’s the point of “advisory” rules?  And it’s now “advisory” for people there not to meet up in beer gardens etc.  But it’s OK to do so here.  Everyone is completely confused.  Including Boris, who, much to the delight of the points-scorers, got the NE rules wrong when asked about them.  This is getting very silly.

Andy Burnham, having spent July calling for tighter restrictions, is now complaining that the restrictions are killing the hospitality sector.  This was in a joint statement with Liverpool and Leeds.  Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds join forces- now there’s a first!

What the hell is the answer?  Other than for people to keep the rules.  Tesco staff are now wearing masks, but most of them have only got masks over their mouths, not their noses.  And I keep seeing people on buses with masks round their chins.  They must put them on so that the driver doesn’t say anything when they board, then take them off as soon as they’re out of his/her sight.  And things are not being helped by idiots spreading false rumours on social media.  No, the app is not bloody spyware.

The Czech Republic’s declaring a state of emergency.  And Brussels has banned prostitution. I’m not sure what it says about Brussels that prostitution is considered such a big factor, but whatever.

Wednesday, September 30th

Cases and deaths today are as bad as yesterday.  Boris has issued a plea for people to follow the rules.  Angela Merkel did the same in the German parliament this morning.  And yet we continue to hear about large gatherings having to be broken up.

There are rows going on in Parliament over the lack of discussion about restrictions.

Two friends (i.e. two separate people, not a couple) have had their holidays in Wales messed up by the restrictions there.

A teacher at my elder nephew’s school has got the virus, and some of the kids have been sent home, but thankfully his “bubble” isn’t affected.

Still no definite decision on the Christmas markets, but the Christmas lights switch-on and the New Year fireworks have been cancelled.

At least Rafa had a comfortable win today.

Thursday, October 1st

I’m not sleeping very well, because of the stress of all the uncertainty.   People in Liverpool, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough have been asked to avoid non-essential travel.  No change for us, and some positive news in that pubs and restaurants in Bolton are to reopen, but I’m more stressed than ever now.  It’s all so illogical.  Rates in Burnley are double those in Hartlepool and Warrington.  And why Liverpool and Warrington but not Knowsley?  The mayor of Middlesbrough’s hit the roof, and said he tried to contact the Westminster government but couldn’t even get a reply.  Council leaders in Newcastle etc have said that they weren’t even told before the announcement on Monday that rules there were changing.  No financial support has been offered for businesses affected by local lockdowns.  The South would never be treated like this.  I’ve tried not to join the ranks of those criticising the government, but the way they’re treating the North and Midlands is not on.

Having said all this, rates in our borough are falling, and they’re falling or stable in most other Greater Manchester boroughs too.  Rates in the city centre are rising, but that’s because of the cases in student accommodation.  And it’s been reported that the national R rate is falling.

On a different note, our Champions League group is vile.

Friday, October 2nd

Rates in the city centre are sky-rocketing.  I just hope that a) the government realise that it’s due to student accommodation and don’t punish everyone and b) other boroughs are not punished.  It’s a never-ending nightmare.

Donald and Melania Trump have both got the virus now.  Both asymptomatic at present.

Weather forecast for pumpkin picking tomorrow is vile, but that’s the least of my worries!

Saturday, October 3rd

Thanks to Storm Alex, it’s rained all day.  Bad weather forcing people indoors is the last thing we need, but there’s not much to be done about it.  Despite the rain, I went to pick my pumpkin 🙂 .  I think the fruit farm’s had a decent year, despite everything.  I’m so pleased.

The outbreak at Manchester Met is distorting local figures, and the same thing’s happening in Newcastle.  Very few of the hundreds of students who’ve tested positive have got any symptoms, but there are concerns about the virus spreading to vulnerable people in the community.

Donald Trump was taken to hospital last night.  We’re being told that he’s fine and it’s just precautionary, but that was what we were told about Boris just before he ended up in intensive care.  People are not airlifted to hospital if they’ve just got a bit of a cough.  It sounds quite worrying.

Sunday, October 4th

FFS.  Just as it looked as if things were calming down, a huge increase in infections was announced yesterday – apparently including cases going back over a week due to a “glitch” in the system.  So the figures for the past few days were wrong.  What “glitch”?  Can’t they get things working properly?  Gah!

Donald Trump seems to be doing better, but it’s hard to know how much of what we’re being told is accurate.

The release of the new James Bond film, to which I was looking forward, has been put back to April 2021.  As a result, Cineworld’ve mothballed all their UK cinemas, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vue and Odeon follow suit.  Does it not occur to the distributors that audiences won’t return whilst there’s nothing decent on, virus or no virus?  It’s a very sad state of affairs.  Cinemas were so important during the war.  In the ’80s, we kept being told that video shops would kill off cinemas.  They didn’t.  Then we were told that subscription film channels would kill off cinemas.  They didn’t.  But now this.  I love going to the pictures and hope that this is a temporary thing, but April 2021’s a long way off, and there’s not much else coming.

As for today’s disastrous match between United and Spurs, the least said, the better.   What a total humiliation.  At least Rafa had a comfortable win, although things get very tough from now on.

Went to Styal (Quarry Bank Mill) this morning.  The garden café is now up and running.  And a lot of apples had fallen in a pond, looking like some bizarre giant apple bobbing game.  It was a distraction from all the stress and uncertainty.

 

It is better to light a candle …

Every year, I say that we really ought to “do” autumn better in the UK.  I usually say it on the day of the Tatton Park harvest festival, because that’s always lovely and I wish that there were more events like it.  But it was cancelled this year.  And the Heaton Park bonfire’s been cancelled as well.  I’m quite keen on Bonfire Night, because we’ve lost so many traditions and that’s one that’s still going.  Also, it gives me an excuse to lecture people on Stuart era history 🙂 .  But the idea of autumn bonfires goes right back to Celtic Samhain celebrations, we think.  And autumn *should* be celebrated, rather than the supermarkets putting the mince pies and Christmas puddings out in the first week of September!  I love seeing the autumnal displays you get in the US at this time of year.  OK, putting a load of pumpkins outside probably works better in Texas or South Carolina, where it’s still hot in October – I once went to a “harvest home” celebration in South Carolina in mid-October, and I was wearing a T-shirt and thin cotton trousers –  than it does here, where the rain’s liable to turn them to mush, but we can use pinecones and conkers and so on!

I love conkers.  So bright and shiny!  I love pumpkins too, because they’re nice and bright and orange.  OK, I know that, if we’re talking about making lanterns from hollowed out fruit or vegetables, it’s traditional to use turnips, and I’m usually a great advocate of tradition, but pumpkins are so pretty!   Today, I went to the pumpkin festival at Kenyon Hall Farm: it’s been going for a few years now, and is becoming a bit of a tradition in itself.  Yes, I know you can buy pumpkins at Tesco, but it’s far more fun to pick your own.  I love seeing things growing.  The virus can’t stop that.

So, a big thank you to everyone involved in bringing in the harvest.  Here’s to pumpkins.  Here’s to bonfires.  Here’s to parkin buns and apple bobbing and Bonfire toffee, and hot drinks with whipped cream on the top.  Here’s to poems by Keats, and harvest hymns … and I would say songs by Justin Hayward, but that song’s actually pretty miserable!   There’s a Van Morrison song about autumn, which is more cheerful, so here’s to that one instead.   And to rustling through piles of leaves, which you probably shouldn’t do because it makes a mess, but the rustling noise they make is very satisfying, somehow.

We’re hearing a lot at the moment about Christmas.  It’s heartbreaking to think that we won’t be able to have big get-togethers with our families and friends this year.  No definite decision on the Christmas markets yet, but I can’t see how they can go ahead: most places have already cancelled theirs.  The Christmas lights switch-on’s been cancelled, and so have all the local pantomimes.  Jokes are doing the rounds about whether or not Father Christmas and his elves will be allowed into the country without quarantining: if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.

There’ve been worse years.  In the week leading up to Christmas 1940, a wave of Luftwaffe bombing killed 684 people in Manchester and Salford and 395 people in Liverpool.  Thousands more people were injured, and many more made homeless.  The cathedral, the Free Trade Hall, the Royal Exchange and many other of our most important buildings were damaged.  My school was blown to bits and had to be rebuilt.  There always used to be a story that German POWs were made to build the home economics room.  I’ve no idea if it’s true or not.  Why the home economics room?!   But there have been worse years.  This is going to be a pretty weird one, though.

But, as the saying goes, it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.   I’ve got my pumpkin, and I’ve got my conkers.  And I’m going to rustle through piles of leaves even if it does make a bit of a mess.  Well, the wind’ll mess them up anyway!  I might even get a toffee apple.  The virus can’t take everything.  It hasn’t taken autumn.

 

Second Wave Week 4 – September 21st to 27th 2020 inclusive

Monday, September 21st

We are being moved back to “level 4”.  A briefing was held today explaining that, if cases keep increasing at this rate, we could be seeing 200 deaths a day by mid-November.  Spain, sadly, is already seeing around 250 deaths a day.

A COBRA meeting’s to be held tomorrow, and Boris will then announce what’s going to happen next.  I hope they do bring in this 10pm curfew – I’m sorry for people who own pubs and bars, but something’s got to give.  But what else?  We’ve also been told that this could go on for at least another 6 months.   OK, I think we all knew that anyway, but it’s not very nice actually hearing it 😦 .

Some Labour politicians continue to say that the whole thing’s the Government’s fault.  Other political points-scorers say that it’s all Dominic Cummings’ fault.  This is crap.  And unhelpful.

Several friends have had kids sent home from school.  In some cases, this was because another kid in their bubble has got the virus.  In others, it was just because a kid coughed or was running a slight temperature – in which case, schools are insisting that they’re tested, but there aren’t enough testing slots available.  There were loads of school-age kids in the park.  They shouldn’t really be out if they’re meant to be self-isolating … but it’s a big park and you can keep well away from anyone else.  Except that some of them were in the playground.

Four more areas of Wales have been locked down, and people in Northern Ireland may no longer mix indoors with anyone outside their household/bubble.

Everyone is getting a bit stressed and ratty.  And Nole’s just won the Italian Open.

 

Tuesday, September 22nd

New rules:

  1. Pubs and restaurants to close at 10pm, and offer table service only.
  2. Staff in shops to wear masks.  About time too.  I was in Tesco this morning, and there were loads of people stacking shelves without wearing masks, which just defeated the point of customers wearing them.
  3. Plans for fans to return to sports stadia put on hold.  This is a nightmare.   How will smaller clubs survive?
  4.  Rule of 6 extended to indoor sports.
  5.  Maximum of 15 people at weddings.
  6.  People to work from home where possible.

Scotland’s also banned all visiting between households, and the First Minister of Wales has urged people not to travel … which is not great, as I was planning to have a few days in Wales in November.  How I wish I’d used my holiday days in July, but how was I to know that this was going to happen?

I sincerely hope that this works, especially as I want my trip to Bath in mid-October.  However, as one MP for a northern constituency pointed out, the measures introduced so far haven’t worked.  Bolton is back over 200.  We’re now over 150, with the city centre and several other boroughs not far behind, and Rossendale and Hyndburn even worse.  Wigan is now over 100.  Liverpool is over 150.  South Tyneside 130.  And most people really are trying to keep the rules.  I don’t know what’s going wrong.

These restrictions are likely to be in place for six months.  Six bloody months.  It’s just a nightmare.

 

Wednesday, September 23rd

I’ve got over not being able to go to Iceland and not being able to go to Japan, so I’m sure I’ll get over not being able to go to Bath, if it comes to it, but we get so little annual leave that I hate the thought of not being able to use it properly … and, if I’d known how things were going to go, I’d have booked it for September.  But I didn’t, did I?  The uncertainty’s a nightmare.  The Budget’s been scrapped, because the Chancellor can’t make plans any more than the rest of us can.

Scientists say that the measures don’t go far enough.  Sports clubs, pubs, etc, are in despair.  It’s just a no win situation.  Cases have risen by 25% since yesterday, but … oh, who the hell knows?

One of my colleagues thinks she might have the virus.  Hopefully it’s just a bad cold or something, but we’ll have to see.

It has rained nearly all day.

And Donald Trump is blaming China.  Which doesn’t help anyone.

 

Thursday, September 24th

Rishi Sunak has announced that there won’t be a proper Budget, but that a series of new schemes are being announced for when the current furlough scheme ends on October 31st.   More grants for self-employed people, although the amounts aren’t large.  For employed people, if someone’s working at least 1/3 of their usual hours, but not full time, the Government will pay their wages for 1/3 of the missed time, and employers have to pay the other 1/3.  He’s had extensive discussions with the CBI and the TUC, and I think we all have to accept that the state cannot pay 80% of people’s wages indefinitely.  However, people who are still off because their employers think that claiming the furlough money’s more profitable than bringing staff back (and I don’t mean that in a bad way, because I quite understand that places like sandwich shops in city centres just are not getting people through the doors, through no fault of their own), and people in sectors which can’t get going, such as event planning and live music, are out.  And, with the best will in the world, many small private sector businesses are not going to be able to pay people 55% of their wages for 33% of the work.

The much-discussed app is apparently now ready.

Infection rates continue to rise, here and in most parts of Europe.  Denmark, Iceland, and Slovakia are off the travel corridor list.  So is Curacao.  There are reports from Israel of hospitals having to turn away patients.

And the French Open draw is horrible.

 

Friday, September 25th

I had my first “autumn latte” of the year today.  I usually only drink tea, but I do quite like the spiced/gingerbread lattes which we get in autumn and in the run-up to Christmas.  This would normally be at Costa Coffee, whilst in town to go to the theatre or the pictures, but, this year, it was at the café at the park.  Just another little sign of the times!

Leeds, Wigan, Stockport and Blackpool have been put into “local lockdown”.   A load of areas in Wales have been put into strict lockdown, and support bubbles there have been banned, which I think it very harsh.  And there’ve been several outbreaks at university halls of residence.

People everywhere are getting fed up.  There’ve been big demos in Marseille against the closure of restaurants there.  An “I’m out” hashtag is being widely shared on social media in the Netherlands.  It’s very hard to try to find a balance, and I’m very sorry for the authorities.

On a happier note, Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank are expecting a baby.

 

Saturday, September 26th

I’ve had a really nice day out at Hardwick Hall.  The house has finally reopened at weekends, hooray!  It’s my favourite National Trust house, and I was rather upset when it initially reopened on weekdays only.  However, as at Bodnant Garden, the signposting was awful.  I understand that some areas are closed off, but the alternative routes just aren’t signposted properly.  Oh well.

Cases continue to rise.  Household to household transmission.  It’s so hard to monitor, short of having the police or the Army marching round suburban streets, which is hardly an option.

Universities going back has turned into a nightmare.  There are outbreaks at 32 universities, one of the worst being at Manchester Met, where over 120 students have tested positive and over 1,500 more are now confined to barracks.  And here we go again with the political points-scorers, who claim that this has all happened because David Cameron and Nick Clegg privatised student accommodation.  This is crap.  Halls had to open because students need access to labs, libraries, etc, which they can’t get over Zoom.  But, from my experience of my first year in halls, shared bathrooms, shared kitchen, communal dining room, shared TV room (although I doubt they have those any more), narrow corridors, etc, social distancing in a hall of residence is well nigh impossible.  And there’ve been numerous reports of parties.  This is now a complete mess.  You can’t even say that all students should go home, because they may then carry the virus to their families and local communities.

Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan, never one to miss an opportunity to stir up trouble, is claiming that London is missing out because the authorities have actually dared to pay some attention to testing north of Watford.

And Oxford United sprayed their coach (as in vehicle, not as in manager) with alcohol-based sanitiser, in an effort to up precautions.  Unfortunately, a detector on the coach picked up the alcohol and thought the driver was drunk.  So the coach wouldn’t start.  So the players had to drive all the way to Accrington in their own cars … where, rather embarrassingly for Accrington Stanley, they won 4-1.  We just about managed to win at Brighton, 3-2.

Things are not looking good for the French Open.  Crap weather and slower-than-usual balls.  Bleurgh.

No-one can see an end to the virus nightmare.  My cousin is due to get married next August, and is now worried that wedding parties still won’t be allowed then.

 

Sunday, September 27th

The weather is gorgeous here.  I went to Dunham Massey this morning.  It was lovely.

Sadly, it is not gorgeous in Paris.  It is cold, grey and damp, which won’t suit Rafa at all.  And the new balls are horrible.  Dan Evans, after losing to Kei, said that he wouldn’t give them to a dog.  And Andy was thrashed by Stan.  It’s not going well 😦 .

I am so sorry for the students caught up in this virus nightmare.  These are 18-year-olds, away from home for the first time, and they’re practically being held under lock and key at the halls at Manchester Met.  There are police and security staff outside.  Meanwhile, there’ve been complaints that the 10pm curfew means that everyone is piling out of pubs and bars at the same time.  There are reports of splits in the government. Wales is going to close down completely if any more areas are put in local lockdown.  And does anyone know what “exponentially” actually means?

 

 

 

Second Wave Week 3 – September 14th to 20th 2020 inclusive

Monday, September 14th

Rates here were unfortunately back up a bit yesterday, but the rate of increase has certainly slowed.  Both Liverpool and Birmingham have now got higher infection rates than Manchester.  I’m trying to make some sort of sense of the trends, but they don’t really make any sense at all.

I am annoyed with the Manchester Evening News, something which very rarely happens.  It should be appealing to everyone to pull together and stick to the rules, and, if it helps, publishing interviews with people who’ve been personally affected by the virus and want to make others understand how serious it can be.  Instead, all it seems interested in is slagging off the Westminster government.  Could we just stop all the political points-scoring, please?  This is a major crisis.  We need unity, not division.  Everyone’s very quick to moan and criticise.  No-one seems to be trying to do anything to help.

Lovely sunny day today.  The “Rule of Six” is now in force.  I did not see one group of more than six people in the park, which was hopeful … although it’s pubs and houses, not parks, where the virus spread.

And congratulations on Dominic Thiem, and commiserations to Sascha Zverev, after a crazy US Open final!  I got to bed at about half 1 this morning, but never mind.  And now it’s Rome.  In September!  Rafa plays on Wednesday.  At last …

 

Tuesday, September 15th

I’m getting very downhearted about the way that people, and especially sections of the media, are using the pandemic to try to score political points and promote division and conflict.  These are dangerous times.  There’s been a noticeable increase in hospital admissions in Bolton.  There’s also been a rise in infections and in hospital admissions nationwide – and also in deaths, although the numbers are very small.  In Bordeaux and Marseille, hospitals are beginning to struggle to cope.  The Netherlands is recording more daily infections now than it was in April, although that’s partly due to more testing.  We all need to pull together.  It is not helpful for left-wing newspapers and political points-scorers on social media to claim that different rules are being set for the upper-classes because grouse shooting is exempt from the “rule of six”.  It’s also nonsense.  It’s exempt because it’s a sport.  Whilst I don’t approve of people shooting wildlife for sport, football, netball, hockey, rugby, cricket and numerous other sports are also exempt.

Very warm today – over 80 degrees early afternoon.  Due to cool down tomorrow.

And unemployment is, inevitably, up – something that the I’m all right Jacks/Jills working from home on full pay and calling for a second lockdown might want to bear in mind.  The furlough scheme is due to finish at the end of October.  I take the point that some businesses, sadly, will never recover from this, and that it’d be better to help people to find new jobs than to carry on like this, but it’s a lot easier said than done.

 

Wednesday, September 16th

Waiting for the evening session in Rome to start.  It’s been nearly seven months since Rafa last played.  I just hope it isn’t a disaster.  But, oh, I will be so glad to see him back!

I would be glad to see him back anyway, but I need cheering up today.  I am so sick of all the grousing.  Pun intended!  This is the biggest national and international crisis since the Second World War, and the Opposition and the media are trying to score political points by mithering about grouse shooting.  All we are hearing is negativity.  Yes, there are major problems with the testing system not being able to cope.  There’s been a huge increase in the number of people wanting tests.  It’s not good.  But moaning and criticising will not help.  Has no-one got anything constructive to say?  And now the Archbishop of Canterbury’s stuck his nose in, saying that the rule of six (now also in force in the Republic of Ireland) damages family life.  Yes, we know that.  No-one likes it.  But has he got a better idea?

And I feel as if we’re being forgotten.  We’ve had these local restrictions in place for weeks, and they don’t seem to be doing any good.  Will we be put under even tighter restrictions, like Oldham, or even like Bolton?  As things stand, my sister and brother-in-law and the kids cannot visit unless they pay to stay in a hotel and meet us in the park.  And, even if they did that, they wouldn’t be allowed to see me and Mum and Dad together.  But, if we weren’t under these local restrictions, at least they’d be able to visit us separately, and I’d be able to visit my uncle and cousins.  And, if it gets worse, like it is in Oldham, Birmingham, etc then technically I’ll be breaking the rules if I pass someone I know in the street and stop to exchange pleasantries with them!   If it was London under local restrictions, it’d be the headlines of the news every day.

The council have finally moved themselves, but only to send out a text alert telling people to book a test if they feel ill.  Everyone knows that.  So many people want tests that the system can’t cope.  What they should be doing is warning/encouraging people to keep the rules.

On a lighter note, someone got on a bus at Salford precinct, about 4 miles from here, and used a snake as a face covering!  Seriously.

 

Thursday, September 17th

Rafa’s comeback yesterday evening went really well 🙂 .  He beat Pablo 6-1 6-1.  I was worried that he’d be rusty after 6 1/2 months away.  It’s about the only thing that is going well, though.  Oh, except that the decorator’s been, and painted the outside of the house.

The French government’s said that only 5,000 fans will be allowed on Chatrier, and none on the other courts.  At least the French Open’s going ahead, though.  That’s a positive.  “Pilot” events with 1,000 fans are to go ahead here, but the prospect of 78,000 of us being allowed into old Trafford looks a very long way away.

Infection rates in our borough have shot up today, after holding steady for a few days.  It’s like the Eurovision Song Contest – one set of results can send you shooting up the scoreboard 😦 .  Tameside, which’s been struggling, is now doing better.  But Bury and Salford are doing worse.

Kearsley – an area on the Manchester/Salford side of Bolton, about 5 miles from me – is now the coronavirus capital of the country.  Why Kearsley?  Why Bolton?

Two million people in the North East are being put under local restrictions.  No mixing with other households/bubbles.  Pubs etc to close from 10pm to 5am.  Food places only to offer table service.  The authorities there say that a lot of the problems are to do with late night drinking – people get pissed and forget to observe social distancing.  This has been said about other areas too.  So why hasn’t a 10pm closing time been brought in everywhere?   FFS, why should we all have to suffer because of people getting drunk?

This is a nightmare.

 

Friday, September 18th

Restrictions have now been extended to Merseyside – i.e. St Helens, Southport etc, as well as Liverpool and the Wirral -, Warrington, Halton (Widnes) and all parts of (the post-1974 administrative area known as Lancashire even though it’s only part of the proper historic county of) Lancashire not already under restrictions, other than Blackpool.  Why is Blackpool doing better than everywhere else?  Interesting.  Plus additional parts of Leicestershire, and Wolverhampton, and the bits of West Yorkshire which were in lockdown but were then taken out of it.  Not Wigan, Stockport or Leeds.  It’s all getting very confusing – people in these areas can only meet those outside their households/bubbles in outdoor areas which aren’t private gardens, like us, but are getting the curfew/table service rules, like the North East.

It does now seem all but certain that nationwide restrictions will be coming in shortly.  Apologies for being self-centred. but I’m panicking in case this puts the kibosh on my trip to Bath in the 3rd week of October.  As we are not being allowed to carry holidays forward, I’d then end up spending my week off hanging around the local park … which is pretty crap, given how often I’ve had to say no to meeting family and friends in other parts of the country due to not having enough holiday days, or been unable to do the coach tour I wanted for the same reason.  Maybe they’ll just close pubs.  Apart from selfish reasons, I hope they don’t close hotels because this is Blackpool Illuminations season, and they can’t afford to lose that as well as all the months lost already.

I wish now that I’d taken time off in July, but, when I was booking, it seemed more sensible to wait.   At least I got my week in the Lakes in August.

I am increasingly annoyed with the political points-scoring.  The Labour health spokesman was wittering on about how it’s all the Government’s fault that you can’t visit your grandma.  He sounded like a five year old telling the teacher than another kid started it.  Not one word of any sort of helpful suggestion.   Nicola Sturgeon, rather more sensibly, has requested a COBRA meeting.  No-one knows WTF to do, though.  France, Spain, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic …

I am so sick of this!!

 

Saturday, September 19th

Apologies for being self-centred, but work have said we can’t carry holidays forward, so I have limited rebooking options, and I am now panicking over rumours of a two week lockdown to include the week of school half term.  I’m due to go the week before half term, so I don’t know if it’d affect me or not, so I don’t know what to do.  And it may be OK … it could just be closing pubs and restaurants, so, assuming that the hotel stayed open (which it might or might not … presumably they could offer room service/packed meals?), I’d be OK.  But … I mean, what does closing pubs have to do with school half term?  No-one knows what the hell’s going to happen.  But, meanwhile, I’m panicking.

When our borough went into local lockdown, the infection rate was around 16 per 100,000.  It’s now almost 120 per 100,000.  Well, that’s really working, isn’t it?  Where are people getting the virus?  I appreciate that some people may genuinely have no idea, but some must.  And a Bolton councillor’s confirmed the reports that someone got the virus on holiday, didn’t quarantine when they got back, went on a pub crawl, and spread it all round.  They want locking up.  But then it shouldn’t have spread so easily – what is going on in pubs?

And we lost our first match of the season, 3-1 to Palace.  And then Rafa lost to Schwartzman in the Italian Open QFs.  In both cases, great performances from opponents, but that didn’t excuse the very disappointing performances …. bleurgh!

Until this evening, I’d had the most lovely day!  I went to Bakewell and Matlock Bath.  Both were quite busy – bearing out what’s been said about small town centres recovering more quickly than larger ones.  Buxton also looked busy, as I drove through it on the way back, but Stockport didn’t, and the infamous Trafford Centre traffic just wasn’t there at all … although I suppose people don’t tend to go to shopping centres on nice, warn, sunny Indian Summer days.  I had such a nice time! The weather was gorgeous, and the scenery was glorious … such a lovely, lovely day.  But now all this stress 😦 .

 

Sunday, September 20th

Another lovely sunny day, after a bit of rain this morning.  I went to Skipton and Grassington.  I hadn’t been to Grassington for ages, but everyone’s talking about it because the new All Creatures Great and Small‘s been filmed there!  Same story in the Dales as in the Peaks – everywhere’s quite busy.  However, the cafes/tea rooms were all, as they were in the Peaks, trying so hard – tables moved well apart, everything being cleaned after each party left.  But then there’ve been reports of mayhem in Blackpool.

Fines are to be brought in for people who don’t self-isolate when required to do so.  Why is this only happening now?  And it won’t work anyway.  People who can afford to pay won’t care, and people who can’t afford to pay won’t pay.

Cheddar Gorge and Caves are closing down, saying that they can’t see things getting better any time soon.  Some caves are letting people in on a limited numbers basis, but others either don’t feel it’s worth it or can’t set up a “Covid-safe” system due to the layout of the caves.  It’s the first well-known tourist attraction to go.

There’ve been major protests in Madrid over travel restrictions and other measures there.  People have had enough.  And, yes, I know that my grandparents’ generation lived through six years of war.  There was more sense of unity then.  Why can’t people keep the bloody rules?  I don’t mean people having a few relatives or friends round: I mean people having house parties, or some of the stories about crowding in bars.

Oh, when will this ever end?

 

Madrid, which saved my life … well, OK, sort of

I’m very saddened by the state of affairs in Spain; and Madrid is having the worst of it.  The focus here is largely on the domestic situation, and that’s quite understandable, but let’s not lose sight of what’s happening elsewhere – partly as a warning to the idiots who don’t seem to realise how bad this could get, again, and partly just out of general humanity.   Spain lost 239 precious lives to this horrible virus last Thursday, and people in parts of Madrid are now forbidden to leave their own districts.  The US, India, Brazil, Argentina … it’s horrendous there too.  But I’m thinking about Spain just now.

Did Madrid save my life?  Well, sort of!   In 2013, I had a very severe bout of anxiety and depression, and I was so tensed up that I was in severe pain and I could hardly move my arms.  I’d had tests, scans, painkillers and physiotherapy, and tried moving all the office furniture around to help the “ergonomics”,  but none of it worked because it was mostly anxiety tension.  I only really got that during a Champions League match between United and Real Madrid.  It’s quite a well-known match – Nani was controversially sent off, and we conceded two goals after that, and lost.  And my right arm, which I’d hardly been able to move all day – I could hardly write or type, it was that bad – eased up, because I was so caught up in the football that, despite being a stressful match, things somehow relaxed.  Trapped nerves and all the other things which had been suggested don’t magically resolve themselves because of bad refereeing decisions.  After that, I rang in sick, and then I went to see the doctor.

Then, four months later, I went to Madrid.  Nothing to do with the match – I’d booked it months earlier.  But, for a long time, I’d thought I wouldn’t be able to go, and being able to go after all was such a wonderful boost.  I was so excited to be there that I made the rep who met me at the airport look at all the photos of Rafa on my phone.  He must have thought I was mad.  However, I’m not sure I’d have got through it if it the worst of it hadn’t coincided with the clay court season, and I hadn’t had Rafa to focus on. Maybe I should have put “How Madrid and a Mallorcan saved my life”.  I’m afraid that things aren’t going very well in Mallorca either, and that saddens and worries me too.  But Madrid seems to be having the worst of it.

I haven’t got the same romantic feeling for Madrid that I’ve got for some European cities.  Venice.  St Petersburg.  Prague.  For a kick off, Mancunians tend to identify with Barcelona.  We love the fact that the Catalans are always taking on what can sometimes seem like a rather overbearing capital city!  And I don’t think we tend to get romantic over Spain in general in the way that we do over Italy.  Well, OK, I cried buckets when the Spanish flag went up after the 2008 men’s singles Olympic tennis final, and I’ve got very worked up over Spanish Davis Cup matches, but that’s Rafa, not Spain in general 🙂 .

All that Black Legend stuff.  Then, after the Napoleonic Wars, Spain was pretty much isolated from international affairs for decades.  And, when it became a major tourist destination, it was more a sun and sand thing than a cultural thing – although, obviously, there are many wonderful places to visit to experience the cultures of the different parts of Spain.  I’ve been to some of them.  I want to go to many more.   But I do love Spain.  And I do love the city of Madrid.  And it’s heartbreaking to see any city suffering like this.

Parts of France aren’t far behind.  Bordeaux and Marseille seem to be particularly bad.   It’s all over.  Even places like the Czech Republic, which didn’t do too badly in the spring, are badly affected.  Israel’s back in lockdown.  And, as we know, the situation here is deteriorating rapidly – and we could do with a lot more compassion and a lot more sense of community, and a lot less nastiness and points-scoring.  But spare a few thoughts today for Madrid, and especially for the people who aren’t even going to be able to leave their own districts and say that they feel as if they’re being shut up in ghettos.  And reflect on the fact that we’re all in this together.

 

 

Second Wave Week 2 – September 7th to 13th 2020 inclusive

Monday, September 7th

Oh, WTF is going on??  Infection rates in our borough were below 25 a week ago.  Now they’re at 42.  This is just a nightmare.  Why can our region not get out of this?  Left-wing councillors are claiming that it’s to do with poverty, but, if that were the case, parts of Liverpool, Sheffield and other parts of the north would be affected too, not just us and West Yorkshire.  Anyway, one of the worst-affected areas is Hale Barns, Millionaires’ Row!  There’s certainly a link between the worst-affected areas and the ethnic make-up of the population, but some predominantly white and black areas are being affected too, not just predominantly Asian areas.  And why aren’t the council doing more?  I have not heard a peep out of our council leader.

Infection rates are rising everywhere, though.  The political points-scorers are blaming the Government, but it’s the same pattern right across Europe.  Most of the cases are amongst people in their 20s and early 30s.  There’ve been calls in Scotland for pubs to be closed, but it seems that private house parties are an issue as well.

The travel corridor rules have been changed, so that the mainland and islands of the same country can be treated differently.  It was thought that this meant that the Canary Islands would be coming off the list, but, instead, some of the Greek islands have gone on it!

Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden have totally shown up United, City and England by breaching coronavirus bubble regulations at the England team hotel in Iceland.  They’ve been sent home in disgrace.  Why can’t players behave?!

EastEnders is back tonight.  And, after Novak Djokovic was chucked out of the US Open last night, someone is going to win their first Grand Slam singles title!

And those schools which weren’t already back have gone back today.

I can’t believe how much I’m writing each day.  Nearly six months into this nightmare, there’s still just so much to say.

 

Tuesday, September 8th

I am a historian.  I am used to dealing with situations where I know exactly what the outcome will be.  I do not like not having a clue what is going to happen next.  Tesco have – it being, er, the beginning of September – put the Christmas stuff out.  What will happen at Christmas?  What will happen next week?

And I certainly don’t like the fact that Bolton, a neighbouring borough, a place I know so well, is the centre of attention because its infection rate is now over 120 per 100,000.  Food outlets there are now only allowed to operate as take-aways, and have to close between 10pm and 5am.  I don’t disagree with the closing of pubs, although I’m extremely sorry for the owners/managers, but it’s a shame that cafes and restaurants are affected too.  And, whilst I’ll hit the roof if these restrictions are extended to neighbouring areas, what’s to stop people from Bolton going to pubs in Bury, Salford, Wigan, Chorley, Blackburn or anywhere else?

The rise in infections is very much being blamed on young people socialising.  Political points-scorers are saying that the Government’s lost control, but you cannot defeat nature.  Most of western Europe’s a few weeks ahead of us, and infections there are soaring.  If there was a way of stopping it, short of another full lockdown, wouldn’t the authorities in France, Spain etc have found it by now?  The Netherlands, with a population a quarter the size of ours, had 5,400 new infections today.  We had around 2,000.

My trip to France in November, which I booked after Iceland and Japan were cancelled, has been cancelled.

My nephews have had a narrow escape from having to self-isolate.  A kid at a football training club they go to has got the virus.  Thankfully, they missed the last session because they had something else on, so they aren’t affected.

We now have to have our temperature taken every time we go into the office.  This is stupid.  I go in, go into an empty room, put away anything I’ve finished with, take anything I need, and leave,  I have no contact with anyone else other than saying hello and goodbye (from a distance) to the receptionist.  But at least they haven’t said any more about wanting us to go back in full time.

And Ash Barty has pulled out of the French Open.

 

Wednesday, September 9th

Bleurgh.  It was announced late last night (why late at night?) that, with effect from Monday (why not immediately?), social gatherings in England will be limited to 6 people.  This is an all areas – why are we under specific restrictions, when areas with higher rates are not? – and in all settings.  If you are a mum and dad with three kids, you can only see one grandparent at a time.   We’ve been shown graphics showing that we’re now on a curve similar to France and Spain’s, but that Belgium flattened theirs by these sorts of measures, so hopefully it’ll work for us, but it’s pretty crap.  Is Christmas effectively cancelled?  When will we EVER be allowed back into football grounds?

My little nephew’s birthday party will have to be cancelled.  Hardly the end of the world, I know, but it is when you’re a little kid and it was all arranged and you were looking forward to it.

Boris is talking about everyone testing themselves daily, I suppose like some diabetics do to test their insulin levels, but that relies on people being honest, just as all of this relies on people keeping the rules.  Young people are whingeing about being blamed, but the statistics show that most of the increase is amongst young people.  The police have the power to enforce “the rule of six”, but how can they check everywhere, especially if people are holding house parties?

Everyone is getting rather despondent 😦 .

 

Thursday, September 10th

The infection rate in our borough is now 69.6.  It was in the 20s not a fortnight since.  In the city centre, it’s 71.6, and in Salford, 82.3.  Obviously this is horrendous, with the national rate only in the low 20s.  However, Birmingham is on 77, Sunderland 69, Leeds 61.7, and they are not under additional restrictions.  We are being picked on.  It’s not on.  I wouldn’t mind if the restrictions were doing any bloody good, but they’re not.  Bolton’s rate is 160.7.  I don’t know what’s going on – are people testing positive being asked for information to try to ascertain where they caught it – but I do know that stopping people from visiting their families and friends is causing a lot of distress and not doing any good.

Scotland has just also introduced the “rule of six”. Northern Ireland has imposed additional restrictions on some areas.

Nationwide, I do wish people would realise that this is not about party politics or culture wars, and that it certainly isn’t about Brexit.  It’s a pandemic.  The way some people (mostly bitter Remoaners) go on, you’d think the entire thing was the Government’s fault.  They’re moaning that the rules keep being changed.  Yes, they keep being changed.  Because the situation keeps changing.  Rules are changing everywhere.  Portugal has just reduced the number of people allowed to meet.  Israel is facing another full lockdown.  Just because you’re bitter than you lost a referendum four years ago, don’t make this political.  It isn’t political.  It’s a pandemic.

The Portuguese mainland is now back on the quarantine list.  Also on it is Hungary.  And Reunion and French Polynesia, not that I suppose anyone was intending to go there anyway!  However, Sweden is off it.  The Swedish situation is fascinating.  Sweden didn’t introduce full lockdown – and now has lower infection rates than most countries which did, but without the economic damage.

I am so sick of this.  And, with universities about to go back – and I’m sorry for all the people who’ll be missing out on a lot of the fun of university life – it may well be about to get worse.  There are also concerns, as there were with Eid, about the possible effects of Rosh Hashanah and Succos.

On a happier note, Rafa has arrived in Rome.  The Italian Open starts on Monday.  Bring It ON!!!

 

Friday, September 11th

Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell have been put into local lockdown, on the same level as Oldham.  Liverpool’s been added to the watchlist as an “area of enhanced concern”, as has Sheffield.  Newcastle, Sunderland, Leeds and some other areas are now “areas of enhanced support”.  I think I’ve got all that down right ! The national “R number” is now above 1.  Wales has also introduced the “rule of six”, and finally made wearing face masks in shops etc compulsory. Doom merchants on social media are saying that we’ll all be going back into a full local lockdown.

People are moaning that the rules keep changing, but the situation has changed very rapidly in the last few days.  Some MPs are saying that restrictions should be reviewed more regularly.  And also that rules should have to go through Parliament … which I’d agree with in principle, but, after the nightmare we had when Parliament refused to pass the Brexit bills, just isn’t practical.  The virus will not wait around whilst MPs bicker and try to score points off each other.

Four children in Sydney, whose father is tragically dying of cancer in Brisbane, were told by Queensland state officials that only one of them would be able to visit him.  The authorities eventually said that they could all go, but only if they went to a quarantine hotel, costing around £9,000.  Kind-hearted well-wishers have raised the money, and a lot more, but FFS.

I went to the office to collect some stuff today.  Ah, the great new temperature-taking system.  “Hold it an inch from your face.”  So I did.  It came out at 35.2!  This was clearly crap, especially as my home thermometer had just said 37.  I tried holding it closer, and it said 36.6, which made a bit more sense.  But they’ve been writing everyone’s temperature down as 35.something.

Finally got my refund from the gym.

And Vika has knocked Serena out of the US Open.

 

Saturday, September 12th

Not two weeks since, I was writing that the infection rate in our borough was falling.   It’s now hurtling rapidly towards 100 – worse than Oldham, Rochdale or the city centre.  WTF is going on in this borough?  But rates are rising in most places, or at least in most urban areas in the North and Midlands.  We’re actually ahead, not behind.  And, frighteningly, we are now seeing a small increase in hospital admissions, and, sadly, deaths.

To some extent, this was inevitable once things opened up again.  Most people are doing their best, but there are reports of crowding on rush hour public transport.  But a lot of it is because of idiots ignoring the rules.  The police broke up a wedding reception for 100 guests in Bolton.  And a party attended by 300 people in Bishop’s  Stortford.

As the Chief Constable of the West Midlands police has said, there is, with the best will in the world, not that much that the police can do.  In Birmingham and the surrounding areas, there are over 4 million people subject to the new restrictions.  How can the police keep an eye on over 4 million people?  During the Blitz, there were local ARP wardens, but society’s changed, and no-one now would break up a party because Joe Bloggs from round the corner told them to.

I’m afraid that our borough is heading for tighter restrictions.  It’ll be a devastating blow to cafes etc which are only just getting back on their feet.  And, when so many people are depriving themselves of contact with even close relatives and friends, it’s so frustrating that a minority of idiots are causing everyone else to suffer.

There are problems with the testing system, too.  Home tests are running short, the website is telling people that there are no slots available, and there are long queues at walk-in centres.

At least we haven’t lost our sense of humour.  The internet is full of memes about the Secret Seven, the Seven Dwarves and even Jesus and the disciples at the Last Supper being ticked off by the police for gathering in groups of more than six.

I had my hair cut this morning, and went to Clifton Country Park this afternoon.

And, in between, I went to Old Trafford!   Only to the shop.  I wanted something for my younger nephew’s forthcoming birthday.  His party’s had to be cancelled, and he’s sad about it 😦 .  OK, I could have ordered something online, and had it delivered to my sister to save having to post it, but I hadn’t been to the ground for over 6 months.  You can’t even walk right round: part of it’s cordoned off.  But still.  Our first match is the season is next week – we and City both got an extra week due to being involved in the European events – but the new Premier League season has begun today.

 

Sunday, September 13th

This has been such a lovely day that, at times, I’ve almost forgotten this nightmare that we’re all caught up in.  By my calendar, summer ends when the US Open ends, so that’ll probably be early tomorrow morning our time.  Come on, Dominic!   I hope this foot problem he had in the semi’s nothing serious.  Good final between Naomi and Vika last night. Sad for Vika to lose from a set and a break up, and it would have been such an amazing story if she’d won, but well done to Naomi.

I’d booked Bodnant Garden for today, and I struck lucky, with gorgeous weather.  I had such a nice time … apart from a few issues with the rather poorly-signposted one-way system put in place due to the virus!  The gardens were looking superb, which a lot of gardens don’t in September, and then I went on to Llanwrst, and then stopped at Colwyn Bay for a walk along the beach and an ice cream.  Such a glorious day!

Infection rates in Bury, Manchester, Salford and Rochdale all fell yesterday.  It’s only one day, but … could it mean something hopeful?

The demographics are hard to make sense of.  Left wing councillors and newspapers are claiming that it’s all to do with poverty, but Stockport’s seen an increase in cases due to a small spike in the affluent areas of Cheadle and Gatley.  In Trafford, there’ve been issues in the very wealthy area of Hale Barns.  In Birmingham, there’ve been a lot of cases in the very wealthy area of Edgbaston.   A few weeks ago, the majority of cases were in people with South Asian heritage.  Now, they’re in white people.  The only consistent factor is that most cases are now in young people.

I think we need more hard-hitting … adverts is the wrong word, but publicity, whatever.  All this “Remember, hands, face, mask,” stuff sounds like someone telling a 3-year-old to remember to wash their hands after they’ve been to the toilet.  It’s not strong enough.  France is now recording over 10,000 cases a day, and seeing a worrying upturn in deaths.  We do not want to go the same way.

Israel’s going into full lockdown for three weeks, over Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Succos.  It’s the first western country to go back into full lockdown.

Oh, what a week!  I’m looking out at the most beautiful sunset, and getting excited about what should be a cracking US Open and will see someone win their first Grand Slam title … and the region, the country and the world are in chaos.

 

 

 

Trying to smile behind the mask

  We are now, so the papers are telling us, in a race to save Christmas.  It’s like some weird mutant version of The Grinch.  And the coronavirus capital of the country is Kearsley.  For anyone who may be reading this and doesn’t know Kearsley, it’s a perfectly inoffensive area on the Manchester/Salford side of Bolton, around five miles from chez moi.  There is nothing unusual about it.  I have no idea why it should have more cases than anywhere else.  Maybe the rumours about a “super spreader” going round Bolton pubs are true.  The Super Spreader and the Grinch.

And I’ve booked a ticket to pick a pumpkin before the start of play on the middle Saturday of the French Open.  The French Open is not supposed to be in the autumn.  It’s supposed to mark the start of summer.  Does anyone actually know which month we’re in?  The Italian Open’s being played, so it must be April.  But the French Open starts next Sunday, so maybe it’s May.  However, the football season’s just started, so doesn’t that mean it’s August?  Or maybe it’s July – it was boiling hot on Monday and Tuesday.  But then Tesco have put the mince pies and Christmas puddings out, so is it December?  Then again, after going to Tesco, I went to Marks & Spencer’s, and they’d got a sign up saying “Happy Rosh Hashanah”, so maybe it’s September.

Marks & Spencer’s are right.  It’s September.  I knew that really, because the US Open’s just finished, and the schools have gone back.  But so many of the things that mark the stages of the year have been lost that it’s enough to confuse anyone.  There hasn’t been a decision on the Manchester Christmas Markets yet, but it’s going to take a miracle for them to go ahead.  I see that London’s New Year fireworks have just been cancelled.  I’ve bought my calendars for 2021, but I think I’ll be writing most things in them in pencil.

However, the sun is out, the sky is blue, the Italian Open tennis is on on the TV – and Rafa won his first match with a double breadstick 🙂 – and United are playing tomorrow.  And I’ve almost got my Word Press record of the pandemic up to date – just two more weeks to tidy up.  Maybe one day I’ll be a famous diarist like Samuel Pepys.  Or maybe not, but at least I won’t have to read my record of events in my illegible handwriting!

I’m seeing and hearing quite a lot of nasty, bitter stuff, and I’m trying to remember that everyone’s fed up and frustrated, and not to be upset by it.  But I’m also seeing some “keep smiling through” stuff, about not giving up on this year, about seeing the smiles behind the masks, about looking after each other, about trying to make the best of what we’ve got, and about pulling together.  And that’s what we need.  Well, that and a miracle (on 34th Street or otherwise).

If anyone’s read this, thank you.  And, if you’re one of the people posting cheerful stuff on Word Press, Facebook, WhatsApp or anywhere else, a very, very big thank you.  Keep smiling through …

 

Second Wave Week 1 – August 31st to September 6th 2020 inclusive

Bank Holiday Monday, August 31st

Back home.

We were able today to see some other relations who live in London, and whom none of us (i.e. Mum, Dad and I) had seen since before lockdown, so that was lovely.

After the under 12s cricket, we went out to eat … last day of Eat Out To Help Out!

And the US Open has started … minus a) Rafa and b) fans.  But it’s started 🙂 .

And there’s talk of Portugal being put back on the quarantine list, when it’s only been off it for five minutes.  This is ridiculous.  I understand the concerns about avoiding importing cases from abroad, but all this on-off-no-notice stuff is making it impossible.  Oh, when will I be able to go abroad again?  When will my lovely coach tours resume?

 

Tuesday, September 1st

The infection rate in Italy has apparently doubled in a week.  I just don’t get this.  I don’t get how the infection rate in Bolton can have gone up so much in a week either, but, OK, in one town, one cluster can have a big effect.  But across an entire country, with over 50 million people?!  The rate’s also up in Glasgow, where restrictions have been imposed.

We’re being told that footfall is being much slower to recover in big cities like Manchester and Liverpool than in smaller towns, but that doesn’t surprise me.  A lot of the footfall in big cities is from people going into shops before/after going to events (the weekend just gone should have been Manchester Pride), football matches, the theatre, the cinema, etc, and that just isn’t happening at the moment.

I had a problem with my car this morning, and had to go to Kwik Fit.  Luckily, they weren’t busy, and I was only there for about half an hour, and hopefully it’s now sorted – touch wood!  But, had I had to go and be trapped in the office, I wouldn’t have been able to get it sorted … and this is really stressing me out, because they’ll probably want us back in soon, and probably the number one reason I’ve struggled so badly with anxiety over the years is this issue of struggling to get things sorted because of being trapped in an office.

I’m also worried about my weight.  After months of struggling, I’d done much better since lockdown started, but then it all went back on on holiday.  I always pile weight on on holiday, because my metabolism’s so bad that any break from my diet leads to disaster, but the gym is still closed (and I’ve still not had my refund) and I will lose my long daily walk if (when) I have to go back to the office.

I know.  I’m catastrophising.  But not without good cause!

 

Wednesday, September 2nd

FFS!  Bolton and Trafford came out of local lockdown at midnight, and were back in it by midday.  My hopes of our borough being released this week or even next week are fading fast, after this.  So, so fed up.  And it rained all afternoon.  And Scotland and Wales have put Greece back on the quarantine list.  We’re supposed to be feeling cheerful because kids – sorry, “young people” (when did “children” become “young people”) are back at school, but I feel like this local lockdown’s never going to end.  Thank goodness for the US Open!

 

Thursday, September 3rd

The infection rate in our borough is 25 per 100,000, and we are in local lockdown with no suggestion that it will be lifted.  The infection rate in Middlesbrough is 35 per 100,000.  In Stoke, it’s 31.  In Birmingham, it’s 30.  None of those places are in local lockdown.  Why is the North West being picked on?  Also, why have I still not had my refund from the gym, and why are Sky refusing to answer the phone (on a number which they e-mailed me) unless you say you are in a vulnerable group?  Gah!   This has been going on for nearly 6 months now: using it as an excuse for crap service is no longer acceptable.

On a happier note, the sun is out today.  And my elder nephew started secondary school today.  Thankfully, he’s so excited about being at a big, grown up school and going on the bus that he doesn’t seem fazed by all the stuff with masks and bubbles and zones.  In some ways it’s easier for kids in the first year of secondary school, because it’s a new start so it’s not as if they’ve missed a whole term out of an ongoing syllabus.  Younger nephew goes back on Monday.

 

Friday, September 4th

Leeds has been added to the “watchlist”.  Rates here continue to fall, and are well below those in Leeds – and less than half those in Corby which, presumably because it’s not in the north, is being left alone – but there’s no talk of lifting restrictions here.  Rates are also falling in the city centre, but unfortunately are rising in most of the other local boroughs.  I’m so fed up of this.  When will it ever end?

Portugal’s been put back on the quarantine list by Wales and Scotland, but not by England and Northern Ireland.  The Greek islands have also been put on the list in Wales, and the whole of Greece in Scotland.  This is silly.  If you live in Chester but work in Wrexham, or live in Hereford but work in Hay-on-Wye, and you’ve just come back from Portugal, are you allowed to go to work or not?  Does anyone know?!

Andy Murray’s out of the US Open, beaten by Felix Double A.

I went to the office this morning, to collect some stuff.  Thankfully, they seem to have realised that being nice to people works better than the other way!  There was a form on my desk saying that, if I was planning to stay there all day (which I was not), I had to sign something to say that I hadn’t got any virus symptoms.  No-one does want to stay all day, though.  This can’t go on indefinitely, and I accept that, but I really don’t want to go back, and that seems to be the general feeling across the country.  For one thing, there’s the genuine fear of getting the virus at your workplace or on public transport, and also of then passing it on to a vulnerable relative or friend.  There’s also the fear of the sheer bloody inconvenience of having to self-isolate if a colleague or client with whom you’ve been in close contact gets the virus.

And there’s the fact that working from home is much better.  From my viewpoint, the main thing is that it takes away the terrible anxiety of how to cope if someone needs to be at home because a repair person or delivery person is coming.  And it takes away the horrible feeling of being trapped.  Also, if you need to make a personal phone call which can only be done during working hours, you can do so without everyone else hearing all your private medical or financial issues.  You’re not wasting time and money commuting.   And you’re not having to put up with other people coughing, sneezing, clearing their throats, bellowing down the phone on hands free, hogging the kettle, or opening all the windows in the middle of winter!

Who knows how all this will pan out?

Later – more changes!  Corby, Kettering, Middlesbrough and South Tyneside are now also on the watchlist.

Later again – why can’t they announce everything at once?!  Soft play centres, beauty salons, casinos etc will all be able to reopen here from Tuesday.  Except in Bolton.  And pools and gyms can reopen in Blackburn.

 

Saturday, September 5th

I went to Shugborough today.  The sun came out and it was lovely.  I posted on Facebook to say that I was having morning tea at the Queen’s cousin’s house 🙂 .  It’s the first time since all this started that I’ve been to an NT property where you’ve been able to sit inside the tea room, although I prefer to sit, and did sit, outside anyway.

People in Bolton have been asked to avoid mixing with anyone outside their bubbles, and not to use public transport unless absolutely necessary.  WTF is going on in Bolton?  In some areas, increased rates are due to clusters associated with one workplace, childcare centre, pub or indeed illegal party, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Bolton.  One minute the rates there were right down, and now they’re the highest in the country.  It has been claimed that it’s due to someone who got the virus in Spain, didn’t quarantine, and went on a pub crawl.

Last night’s US Open match between Sascha Zverev and Adrian Mannarino was delayed for 4 hours whilst the State of New York decided whether or not it was OK for Adrian to play, because he’d been in contact with Benoit Paire, who’d tested positive for the virus.  Adrian had played two matches already, and no-one seemed to have an issue with that.  Today, Kiki Mladenovic, another of the “Paire 11”, was issued with a “quarantine order” by the state of New York, and forbidden to leave her hotel – meaning that she and Timea Babos, the top seeds, had to pull out of the ladies’ doubles.   Also, it was announced that the UEFA Nations League match between the Czech Republic and Scotland was off because some of the Czech squad had tested positive, but then it was announced that the match was going ahead, with “new players and new staff”.  No, me neither!

Boris says that civil servants should go back to their offices, so that everyone else will.  The words “non” and “sequitur” spring to mind.

And there have been anti-restriction protests in Edinburgh.

 

Sunday, September 6th

Local infection rates are up again.  I could cry.  Will we never get out of this?  Nationwide, there were 1,813 new cases yesterday, but 2,988 today, the highest number in one day since May.  It doesn’t make any sense.  How can there be such a big change in one day?   Portugal is struggling again, and Italy’s seeing an increase in cases.   But it’s infections, not deaths.

Jerusalem, of all places, appears to have the highest infection rate in the world.

I am sick of having to pre-book everything.  If you’re travelling to somewhere a couple of hours away, how are you supposed to know what the traffic’ll be like, or how long it’ll take to park, or, if you’re going somewhere first, how long you’ll be at the first place, and whether you’ll be delayed by waits in cafes or queues in toilets or anything else?  And you can’t book some places until a few days beforehand, which is stressful if you want to book accommodation.  Gah!

Went into town today.  I had a walk round, and went to my favourite café for a sandwich.  I was pleased to find that there were plenty of people in there … although, with tables moved apart due to social distancing, it perhaps looked busier than it was.  Most cafes were busy, but shops weren’t, which was interesting.  That seems to rule out fear of the virus or watching the pennies as a reason for shops being quiet.  Are people not going into town because cinemas, galleries etc aren’t open as usual?  Is it because there are no out of town visitors because there are no concerts or theatre events, and fans aren’t allowed into football matches?  Can people not be mithered with masks, queues (although only a few shops had queues outside them), and not being able to try on clothes?  The vast majority of people were wearing masks indoors, but a few idiots weren’t.  And there were loads of people selling masks from trolleys on Market Street – and no-one hassling you to do surveys or sign petitions.

The council have put up banners on King Street, saying things like “New normal, same Manchester” and “New chapter, same history”.  And “You are not alone”.  I don’t often praise the council, but I thought that that struck exactly the right note.  We are not getting this from Westminster at the moment.   Sort it, please, Boris.  And the media aren’t helping, promoting division rather than unity.  So much for all that “Spirit of the Blitz” talk back in March and April, eh?