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:

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







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







I went to Blackpool yesterday!!   I’d have expected to go this coming Sunday instead: I’ve got a ritual of going to Blackpool for a long walk before coming home to watch the French Open men’s singles final.  But, whilst there’s no French Open this month 😦 , there’ll always be Blackpool.  So off I went.

I know that many people are nervous about going out, and also that there are mixed feelings in tourist areas about the urgent need to restart the economy versus concerns about the risks of visitors coming in.  There are no easy answers to any of this.  I will say that walking along the wide pedestrianised areas of the Prom, and of course the beach, was a lot easier and safer than walking along narrow pavements in housing estates, having to step into the road whenever someone comes the other way, or dodging cyclists and gangs of bored teenagers in busy city parks.  And it felt great … to see the sea, to feel the famous Blackpool breeze making my already messy hair even messier, to see our beloved Tower, and to hope that The Scales would forgive me for eating ice cream and fish and chips!

The vast majority of people, whether walking along or sitting on the beach, were trying very hard to observe social distancing.  I did see a few large groups, and I also saw the police completely ignoring them.  I see this every day in my local park.  I don’t know what the answer to that is.  I do understand that two or three police officers, on foot, probably feel uneasy about tackling a group of 20 or 25 people.  But the majority of people were sticking to the rules.

And, to get back to the diet-breaking, yes, there were loads of food places open!  Places like McDonald’s weren’t, so the local, independently-owned food places were taking all the money, which was great.  The chippy which I went to had plastic screens up to protect staff, who were wearing gloves, and customers were being asked to go in one door and out another, and to wait 6 ft apart.  That was great.  Other places weren’t trying so hard:  at those, staff were not wearing gloves, and people were being told that only cash payments would be accepted for transactions under £5.  But most were really making an effort, and it was wonderful to see them open.

It was sad to see all three piers closed off, and the Tower, Madame Tussaud’s, the Pleasure Beach and all the amusement arcades closed, as well as all the hotels.  One of the big amusement places had posters in its window, innocently put up earlier in the year, advertising family fun days for Easter weekend, VE Day and Euro 2020.  I could have cried.   Our tourist places have been hit so terribly hard by this.  Hotels remain shut, and it’s proving hard to get answers about when they’re likely to reopen, even if they’re allowed to reopen in July as currently planned.  And, even if attractions are able to reopen within the next couple of months, visitor numbers will have to be limited.  Also, it’s June already, we’re not far off the Longest Day and then (to state the obvious!) days will start getting shorter, and this good weather can’t last for ever.  People won’t be rushing off for a week or even a day on the beach in November.   So I was very pleased to see people in Blackpool yesterday.  It’s a difficult balancing act, but we need to get the economy going again.

But, hooray, the toilets were open!  By the afternoon, the queues were very long – someone should write a new version of that George Formby song about Blackpool Prom, and change the bit about queues for drinks and trams to queues for toilets! – because the usual options of using the toilets in cafes, pubs, restaurants and amusement arcades weren’t there, but at least they were open.  Some local councils haven’t shown the sense or decency to reopen toilets.  Get them all open, please.  A tannoy reminded people – not that people should need reminding, but still – to put all rubbish in bins, and, to be fair, people were doing that.

Food places were open.  Toilets were open.  Blackpool was open.  The sea was there.  The beach was there.  It had a bit of a nostalgic 1950s feel: with amusement arcades closed and no option to sit in cafes, everyone was eating ice cream and fish and chips on the beach, and kids were playing football or cricket or making sandcastles with buckets and spades.  And, as I’ve said, most people were trying very hard not to get too close to others.

And it was fun.  It was lovely.  I enjoyed myself. These are very difficult times.  We deserve to enjoy ourselves.  And we need to get the economy going: we’re already facing a severe recession and large numbers of job losses.   But we need to be careful.  And most people were being careful.  As I’ve said, it’s a balancing act.  Everyone will have their own views, and what’s right for one person may not be right for another, but I never once felt unsafe.  I just felt happy and relaxed – and I really needed to feel like that.  And Blackpool can do that, even in these weird times.

If you feel safe going out, it’s OK to do so.  If you don’t, you don’t.  Everyone’s circumstances are different.  But this worked for me.




Lockdown Week 5, April 20th to 26th 2020 inclusive


Monday, April 20th

Rafa and Roger had a live-streamed video conversation with each other today.  Followed by one between Rafa and Andy.   It was all really lovely 🙂 .  Even if they did have a few technical hitches!  Also, Prince Philip’s come out of retirement to issue a public statement praising key workers, including people like binmen/women and postmen/women who haven’t been given much attention so far.  That was really lovely too!

Not so lovely was an article in this morning’s paper saying that tea plantations could be affected by the pandemic!  I hope not!  OK, obviously no-one should be working if it puts them in danger, but I thought most countries were classing agricultural work as essential.  I can put up with a lot of things, but not having no tea!   And I saw some rats in the park.  Ugh!!  They, the squirrels, the ducks and the pigeons were all hanging around together in the park.  I suspect that they were all looking for food – with the cafes closed, the ice-cream vans not there and no-one having picnics, the crumb supply’ll have been pretty much wiped out 😦 – but they did all look quite sweet together, like a children’s picture book with all the different animals and birds being friends.

The new toilet seat is now coming on Wednesday.  Let’s hope I can manage to fit it OK!


Tuesday, April 21st

Oh dear.  The number of deaths with coronavirus in the UK was well down both yesterday and on Monday, but it was right back up again today.  How much longer until we’re past the peak of this awful virus outbreak?  Bars and restaurants in Austria are reopening in May, but we’re way off that yet.

Also, the remote link to the office computer went down again this morning, although it’s working now.  And, whilst I’m having a moan, I am sick of the small minority of people who don’t respect social distancing!  It’s usually either cyclists whizzing along the pavements without giving walkers the chance to get out of the way, or little kids (who admittedly probably don’t understand the rules, but should be better supervised) on bikes or scooters.

On a happier note, there were no queues at either Tesco or Marks & Spencer’s this morning.  Tesco have started selling garden gnomes!  I think they’ve bought some stock from garden centres, which aren’t allowed to open at the moment.  I’m glad that all those lovely plants won’t be going to waste, but I’m not sure how well the gnomes are going to sell!   And it’s National Tea Day.  And it’s the Queen’s birthday – no gun salutes this year, but I hope she and Prince Philip have had a nice day.

The toilet seat came early.  I’d tried to pick one that was easy to fit, like the old one, but it’s not easy to see on a website.  It nearly had me in tears!  It clearly isn’t on quite right, because the hinge bits aren’t flat, but it’s staying in place, so it’ll do!   Let’s hope that that’s the last of the Lockdown Toilet Traumas!

And Dad’s dyed his own hair.  Mum sent a photo.  He’s braver than me!!


Wednesday, April 22nd

It’s interesting hearing from some of the people in my Facebook groups in other countries, about the different lockdown rules in other places.  I’m trying to keep up with what’s going on everywhere, but it’s not easy when practically the entire world’s affected.   

There was a gorgeous butterfly sat on the ground in front of my house when I got back from the park.  Annoyingly, it flew off before I got chance to take a photo of it!  I also saw a couple of bees on one of the lavender bushes.  I wonder if I’ll get a whole swarm of them like I did last year.  The gardener’s been to mow the grass, so the garden looks neat and tidy … unlike my hair!  It’s not that bad yet, to be fair – thank goodness I was able to get it cut the week before lockdown started – but it’s getting worse!

The National League season’s ending.  No decision yet on promotion and relegation.  I hope Barrow are still able to be promoted.  Our players are apparently having to report in on their weight and body fat percentage every week!!  Not sure if all clubs are doing this or if it’s just a United thing!

I filled in a survey which the Lowry Theatre e-mailed round, about how comfortable people’d feel about going to shows once theatres are allowed to reopen.  I would love to go to the theatre – not as much as I’d love to go to a football match or to the Lake District, but still – and I’m so sorry for independent theatres, and indeed all theatres, but I can’t see them being allowed to reopen any time soon.  Hundreds of people crowding together in the foyers.  I wish so much that we could get back to a time when that wasn’t an issue.  Matt Hancock says that we’re now at the peak of the virus.  Things certainly don’t seem to be getting any worse, thankfully, but I’ve got a horrible feeling that we’re a long way off being able to go to the theatre.  Or being able to go on coach trips to Iceland or Japan 😦 😦 😦 . 

Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, has said that we shouldn’t expect cases to fall quickly, and that there’s unlikely to be either a vaccine or an effective treatment within the next calendar year.  OK, I think we all knew that already, but hearing it said is rather depressing.

Helicopters have gone over several times in the last couple of days.  I don’t think it’s the RAF on manoeuvres of bringing supplies this time.    I’m pretty sure that the one I saw early in the afternoon was the local air ambulance, because it was yellow, but then a green one went over later on.  It was the wrong shade of green for an RAF Chinook … Google thinks it could have been the Children’s Air Ambulance.

And Parliament’s resumed – mainly by videolink.  It’s not that long since everyone was watching live coverage of Parliament on TV as if it were a football match.  I can’t say that I feel very inclined to do so now.  

Heigh-ho.  At least both Coronation Street and Emmerdale are on tonight!


Thursday, April 23rd

St George’s Day!  And World Book Night, tonight.  And Clap for our Carers night.  And the 2nd birthday of Prince Louis: some very cute photos of him making rainbow pictures have been released 🙂 .  And also the start of Ramadan.

The ancient office laptop packed up this morning.  I switched it on, and all I got were fuzzy lines – the computer bit was on, but the monitor wasn’t working properly.  I had it on, off, on, off … no joy.  Eventually, I had to take it to the office to leave for someone more au fait with IT than I am to look at.  I took it out of the bag (still switched on), fuzzy lines and all, put it down on the desk whilst I looked at some post that’d arrived … and suddenly the fuzzy lines went away and the normal display came on.  Explain that?!   I just hope it’s working tomorrow.  It made no sense at all.

Went to the frozen yoghurt shop on the way home from the park.  I usually go once a week, but it had to close for a while whilst they sorted out how to arrange things to meet the rules.  It’s now open for take-aways (as long as only one person goes in at once) and deliveries.  There was no-one else there, so I was able to go in.  It’s OK, it’s fat free!

Better go and clean the kitchen now.  I suppose I could leave the housework for the weekend, but I’d rather try to stick to my normal routine as far as possible.

I really hope that the laptop works tomorrow ….


Friday, April 24th

Oh FFS.  The newsagent’s closing down.  I wouldn’t have thought it was to do with the pandemic, because newsagents are pretty busy, between more people wanting papers delivering and people using them for top-up shopping rather than queue at supermarkets.  But, from next Saturday, no paper deliveries.  I tried two other local newsagents, but one said they didn’t deliver to my estate, and the other one said that they did but were already flat out … and that they’d think about it and get back to me, which, needless to say, they didn’t.  I can hopefully pick up newspapers from the garage on my way back from the park, but it’s a complete pain – and people who aren’t going out, likely to be elderly people who probably rely more on newspapers than younger people do, won’t even have that option.

Younger nephew heard my sister and I discussing this on the phone, but he just heard the “shut down” bit and thought my office had shut down, and was worried how I was going to manage for money, and had to be reassured that it hadn’t shut down!  Bless him!!  It just goes to show, though, that even an 8-year-old is aware of the risk to people’s jobs that this nightmare situation we’re in’s presenting. 

Also, I stupidly forgot to change the default delivery address, which is the office, on something I ordered.  So now I’m going to have to collect it from the sorting office, which is only open from 7am to 9am!  The sensible thing would be to wait until Tuesday and collect it when I go to Tesco … but I might go tomorrow. 

Donald Trump thinks that the solution to coronavirus is to inject yourself with disinfectant.  I sincerely hope no-one has tried this!

Oh well, at least the laptop worked today.  And it’s still warm and sunny.  And it’s Friday!!  No home working tomorrow.  And no home schooling either – my nephews are doing the most interesting-looking weekly tasks at the start of the week, so only the stuff they’re not really into’s left by Fridays!


Saturday, April 25th

We passed the 20,000 deaths mark today.  At the start of it all, we were told that 20,000 deaths’d be a good result.  At the time, it seemed an impossibly high number.  Only 4 other countries have had over 20,000 deaths, and one of them’s the US which has got a far higher population.  Well, that’s if we’re getting the full story from China and Iran.  Did the virus mutate when it reached Italy, and did a more vicious strain then spread to Spain, France and here?  Who knows?  But that’s over 20,000 lives lost, and 20,000 devastated families and groups of friends left behind.

A lot of people are saying that they’re bored out of their minds, but, between work, walking and housework, I never seem to have that much time left!   I retrieved my parcel this morning, then I had some house stuff to do.  Then I had my scone (lost 1lb this week, which wasn’t great, but better than nothing), this time by the Welsh poppies.  Then I went to the park.  I haven’t exactly rushed back any day, but, on working days, I’m always a bit conscious that someone might send an e-mail to the office e-mail address and then query why I took so long to reply!  So I took longer today, and headed into some of the wooded areas to look for more bluebells.  There were loads!   I was really chuffed.

Later, Mum and Dad paid a socially distanced visit – I stood at the door and they stood at the bottom of the drive.  It was great to see them.  I took a photo and put it on the Whatsapp group for my sister and bro-in-law and the kids. 

I’ve also spent ages writing!   Mostly book/film/TV reviews which hardly anyone reads, but anyway.  Enough for one day, now 🙂 .


Sunday, April 26th

I went into town today!!  For my blood donation appointment.  I thought about driving in, but a) I wasn’t sure if all the car parks were open and b) I was a bit nervous about walking too far if there was no-one else around, so I went on the tram.  Trams are only running every 20 minutes now, but fears that the whole system might have to be mothballed have been allayed.  There were only a few people on, so everyone was able to have a whole compartment to themselves.  I was way too early because I’d been stressing that there might be a problem with the trams, and you couldn’t go to the Blood Donation Centre early because of social distancing, and there were some people around – people who live in town, walking or jogging or cycling (cycling down Market Street!!), and people collecting rubbish – so I felt OK about walking round. 

TBH, I was delighted to have the chance to walk round town.  It did feel strange seeing everywhere so empty, though.  OK, at that time on a Sunday morning, the shops aren’t normally open anyway, but some of the cafes are, and there are usually more people about.  I saw a couple of police cars, and I was half-expecting to be stopped, but I wasn’t!

One of the places I walked through was St Ann’s Square … past the cotton bud fountain where I brought flowers three years ago, after the Arena bombing.  There were so many flowers, and teddies, and balloons.  and I lit a candle in the cathedral.  And signed the book of condolence in the Town Hall.  The Town Hall’s the one place that looks a mess, because of the scaffolding.  Albert Square’s closed off: they must be continuing with the building work.  The Christmas markets which usually go there are supposed to be going in Piccadilly Gardens this year.  Will they even happen?  Anyway, to get back to the bombing, people came together.  We haven’t been able to have any sort of public mourning for the thousands of people lost to this horrible virus.  Relatives and friends can’t even attend funerals, or observe any mourning rites relating to the person’s religion or culture.  It was just something that struck me, seeing the fountain.

I wore a mask for blood donation, but, although all the staff did too, none of the other donors did.  They’d put the chairs 6 feet apart, and you had to wash your hands when you got there.   It’s done, anyway. 

The death toll’s much lower today.  Hoping it’s a real change and not just to do with recording being slow at weekends.  This is just the people who’ve died in hospital, of course.  I dread to think how many people have died in care homes.  I was very upset to learn that 14 people have died in the care home where my grandma and two of my great-aunts lived in the 1990s. 

Cloudier today, but dry, and warm … not much breeze in the park.  It’s due to rain next week.  I suppose the gardens do need some rain, but I hope it’s not enough to make walking unpleasant!

And so we’ve now had 5 weeks in lockdown!   I think there’s more rule-bending going on now.  It’s not that people are having wild parties, and you can’t go to cinemas, theatres, pubs etc because they’re shut, but people are certainly meeting up with relatives and friends, even if it’s just to go for a walk together.   There are tough decisions to be made … and Boris could soon be the one making them again, as he’s apparently now ready to return to work. 




The Last Days Before Lockdown – March 19th to 22nd 2020 inclusive

Thursday, March 19th

Boris says we’re not going into full lockdown, but I’m not sure how long we can avoid it.  His daily 5pm speeches are becoming a bit of a thing, although I miss most of them because I’m on my way home from work.

Hooray for my lovely hairdresser!!  I rang up this morning, and she said she’d squeeze me in for a cut and dye tonight.  A lot of the older ladies who go during the day are cancelling, because they’re nervous about the virus, but working people are desperate to get their hair sorted whilst they still can.  So at least that’s one thing sorted for now.  Another is that my younger nephew’s had the cast on his wrist (which he broke in a footballing accident a few weeks back): my sister was panicking that his appointment’d be cancelled.  It’s hard for the kids.  Being off school sounds fun, but they won’t be seeing their friends, and their football matches and all the other stuff they enjoy’ve all been cancelled.   Professional football’s off until at least the end of April, but we’re being told that the season will be finished.  And the Oberammergau Passion Play’s been postponed until 2021.  It’s quite ironic, given its history.

An office laptop has been set up with a remote link to my office computer.  I suppose I should bring it home and check that it works, but I’m scared that it’ll upset my home internet connection.  Working from home is looking inevitable, though.  People with young kids are going to have no choice after Friday – although I don’t know how people who can’t work from home are suppose to manage.  My brother-in-law’s office is closing, so he’s going to be working from home.  And GCSE, AS Level, A Level and Scottish Higher exams have been cancelled.  So sorry for the kids involved.

Not sure what to do about Grasmere.  I desperately want to go, but who knows where we might be at by the first weekend in April?  Some people are getting very sanctimonious and saying that no-one should be going anywhere – all very well, if you don’t have to go to work, and can get online shopping! – but there’s no reason not to go out as long as you observe social distancing.

The Queen’s issued an official statement, saying we all need to stay strong.  She’s now at Windsor – and I hope she’s got no plans to return to Buckingham Palace, because things in London are getting quite bad.

Prince Albert of Monaco’s got the virus now.  And Italy’s now had more deaths than China.


Friday, March 20th

Bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes have been ordered to close.  So have clubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres.  I’m going to ring the hotel in Grasmere tomorrow, to see what’s happening.  The boats at both Windermere and Coniston are off.  How are tourist places going to survive this?   Not even any notice – the food places’ll all have stock in, especially with it being Mothering Sunday this week.  I’m not criticising the decision, but the financial fallout’s going to be huge.  A “furlough” scheme – the word “furlough” makes me think of Dick Bettany in the Chalet School books coming home on “furlough” from India! – is being introduced, whereby the Government will pay 80% of wages for anyone who’s had to be laid off because of the closures, but how long can that go on for?

The start of the cricket season’s been delayed.

No printer ink in Tesco.  Everyone’s now panicking and ordering home office supplies online.  I usually get mine from Amazon, but they hadn’t got any.  I’ve managed to order some directly from HP.  I had to try four places before I could get skimmed milk, and there’s no toilet roll anywhere.   Managed to get one box of tissues in Iceland, and some paracetamol from Superdrug.  No Tesco apple and blackcurrant cordial, although I got some Robinsons stuff.  I usually only go to Tesco and M&S, and could have done without having to go round umpteen shops after being stuck at work all day, but there wasn’t much option.  Honestly, it’s like the stories from the war.  Mum went during the OAPs’ hour this morning, and managed to get a packet of toilet rolls, so she says she and Dad can spare me some if I run out!!

Beautiful spring day.  Due to be very windy tomorrow, though, so I think I’ll leave Chirk till Sunday.  I’ll go to Hollingworth Lake tomorrow: the daffodils are early this year, so it should be nice there.  I’ll stay 6 ft apart from anyone else.  And take selfies, seeing as I won’t be able to ask anyone to take photos for me!


Saturday, March 21st

Oh no!   Chirk Castle’s closing.  I checked this morning and this afternoon, and both times the website said it’d be open tomorrow.   Then they changed it late this evening.  I only checked again because I’d heard some places were closing tomorrow due to concerns about a lot of people going for Mothering Sunday.  They’re bothered about too many people going, which is fair enough … but no notice.  I bet a load of people turn up.   And my weekend in Grasmere’s off.  The hotel’s closing.  I did think about going for the day, next weekend, but now Cumbrian police have asked people to stay away from the Lakes.  At least I got to see some daffodils at Sizergh and Windermere, but I’m very sad that I won’t be seeing them at Grasmere, Coniston, Chirk or Biddulph this year.  And, the way things are going, I won’t be seeing the bluebells at Windermere, Capesthorne, Erddig or Brodsworth, nor the laburnum arch at Bodnant Garden.  Nor Tatton Park lambing week – that’s definitely off.  Well, the lambs’ll still come, but we won’t see them.  I’m trying to stay positive, but it feels as if all the good things are being taken out of life.  A lot of shops are closing, too.

Bolton Abbey’s still open, though, so I’m going there tomorrow.  It’s a huge estate, so it should be easy to stay 6 ft away from people.  I’ll have to take my own scone!  I always have a scone at weekends.  And I had a nice walk round Hollingworth Lake, and saw lots of daffodils.  People were being careful not to get to close to each other.  Sad to see the lovely tearoom which I usually go to there all shut up, though, and with the tables already decorated for Mothering Sunday.  This horrible virus is devastating businesses.  United and City’ve teamed up to donate £100,000 to local foodbanks.

Real Madrid’s president’s died, after being hospitalised with the virus.  Very sad.

I got some toilet roll, at least.  Called in at Tesco in case by any miracle they’d got some.  No joy.  But I then struck lucky – Quality Save’d just had a delivery, minutes before I got there.  You could only take one packet each, but they were really big packets.  I was so excited that I took a photo of them and put it on our family WhatsApp group!  This is what life has come to.  Getting excited over toilet roll!!


Sunday, March 22nd

Had a really lovely day at Bolton Abbey.  I did get a bit upset because the heavy-handed Puritan brigade on Facebook were posting abusive remarks about anyone who’d gone out for the day, and I felt like it was all directed at me (even though loads of people had gone out for the day), but, to be fair, I think they meant more the huge crowds pictured at seaside resorts.   We’ve been told that it’s important for physical and mental health to get out, and there are only so many places to go to, so I suppose it’s inevitable that people will end up at the same ones, but we all need to try to stay 6ft apart.  It can be done.  Nearly everyone at Bolton Abbey was doing it.

I wish the heavy-handed Puritan brigade’d shut up.  They’re not helping.  Two of my friends got quite upset because people’d had a go at them for posting jokes.  Is it going to help if we all lose our sense of humour?

And, on top of everything else, filming on Coronation Street and Emmerdale‘s stopping, so they’ll be going on ration too.

The Bolton Abbey estate was so beautiful.  The countryside’s so beautiful.  Maybe I’m feeling it even more than ever at the moment.  The world’s falling apart.  Everywhere, things are closing down.  281 deaths in the UK now.  I feel a bit like Scarlett O’Hara and Ashley Wilkes talking about their civilisation collapsing.  OK, OK, rationed episodes of soaps and a lack of professional sport is hardly to be compared to that, but … it does kind of feel as if the world;s falling apart.

Let’s try to stay positive …


March 16th to 18th inclusive – heading towards lockdown

Monday, March 16th

We’re supposed to be staying 6 feet away from anyone else.  “Social distancing.”  These are the words that will go down in history from 2020 – “social distancing” (staying 6 feet away from everyone else) and “self-isolating” (which you’ve got to do for a week if you think you’ve got the virus.   And, just as my grandmas and great-aunts kept loads of food in stock until the end of their days, because they never quite got over rationing, I think we’ll all be keeping loads of toilet roll in stock until the end of our days.  If we can find any, that is!

An e-mail went round the office saying that you had to wipe down the kettle every time you used it.   And Boris has now said that people should avoid pubs, clubs and restaurants.  ATG theatres are closing.   I was supposed to be seeing Phantom of the Opera on April 1st, but that won’t be happening now.  The panic-buying’s getting worse.  It really is ridiculous.  Painkillers are being stockpiled now, which is a huge problem because people who actually need them are struggling to get them.  Some supermarkets are now saying that only people over 70 can go in at certain times, and restricting how much of each product you can buy.   And more and more people are trying to book online deliveries, but there’s so much demand that there are no free slots for weeks.

France has been put into lockdown.  Germany’s closed shops and entertainment venues.    And even the sex shops in Amsterdam have been closed!  A lot of countries are closing borders.

Rugby league’s now off, and the Boat Race, and the Grand National.  Easyjet are grounding a load of planes … not very hopeful about Iceland now.  I booked it last September, to make sure I got a week in between Wimbledon finishing and the Olympics starting.  Hah!

People are getting paranoid.   Every time someone coughs or sneezes, people think it’s coronavirus.  COVID-19, I mean.


Tuesday, March 17th

Ordered some Easter eggs from Amazon, to be delivered to my nephews. My sister and brother-in-law and nephews were supposed to be coming up from London over Easter week, but they’re not now.  Everything’s going to be closed.  I don’t know when we’ll next see them.  I can’t believe this is happening.

National Trust tea rooms are closing!!  Armageddon is here!!  I have a jam and cream scone every weekend, as a treat, and more often than not it’s at a National Trust tea room.   Bleurgh 😦 .  Houses are closing too.  However, parks and gardens will be staying open.   Must try to get to Chirk Castle and Biddulph Grange this weekend, to see the daffodils.  All manned English Heritage sites are closing.

Some friends have already lost their jobs, here and in the Republic of Ireland.

United have cancelled training.  Euro 2020 is now Euro 2021.  And the French Open’s been rescheduled … until just after the US Open!  What??  I know it’s going to be hard to fit in in, but the French Tennis Federation seem to have made the announcement without consulting anyone else or stopping to think how players are going to switch from hard courts to clay courts just like that. People in France now need to carry a form if they’re going out, to say that they’re on permitted business such as going to work or going to the supermarket. It sounds like something from the war.

Places of worship are also closing – not my thing, but it’ll upset a lot of people, although there’ll be some services on line.  You can now only have five people at a wedding – the couple, the minister/registrar, and two witnesses.  A lot of couples have already postponed their weddings.  Poor Princess Beatrice: she doesn’t have much luck!

The gym is also closing.  I usually go on Mondays and Tuesdays.  It was really weird walking out tonight, saying goodbye to people and having absolutely no idea when I’ll see them again.   I can’t see golf clubs staying open much longer.  Poor Dad’ll be lost with no golf!

All non-essential NHS operations are being postponed.  We’ve been told we could see 20,000 deaths.  TWENTY THOUSAND.

There’s been some muttering at the office about working from home.  I don’t want to be in the office, especially given the rising tide of hysteria in some quarters, but I’m scared of trying to use a remote link from home.  I’m frightened that it might upset my home internet connection.

I’m trying to channel the spirit of the Blitz and all the rest of it, but no tennis, no football and probably no summer holiday … 😦  .


Wednesday, March 18th

I just can’t take in everything that’s happening.

Schools are closing on Friday.   Quite possibly until the next academic year.  Kids’ll have to try to work at home, using stuff that teachers’ve tried to set up on line.  My elder nephew’s in his last year at primary school.  The kids in his class’ll be being scattered between different secondary schools in September, and now they won’t get this last term together.  My younger nephew’s in the 1st year juniors, Year 3 as it’s called now.  It’s bad enough for primary school kids, but what about people doing exams?  My friend’s son’s supposed to be doing his GCSEs.  And people doing A-levels and Scottish Highers need their grades for university places.  Presumably, it’ll have to go off teachers’ assessments instead, but that’s not necessarily going to produce the same results that exams would have done.  Oh, this is just a nightmare!  This bloody virus!

And filming’s been suspended on EastEnders, Holby City and Casualty.  Numbers of weekly episodes of EastEnders are being reduced.  Presumably Coronation Street and Emmerdale will be next.  So we could be locked up without even our normal TV to watch!  And there’ll now be no tennis until at least June.

And Biddulph Grange is closing!  Oh no.  I love the daffodil woodland walk there.  Chirk Castle’s estate and garden are staying open, though.  There are more and more rumours that we could be put on full lockdown, though.  Parts of the US are now in lockdown.  And maybe this sounds silly, but I’m panicking about my hair.  I’m due for a cut and dye next Thursday.  I booked an appointment for their late weekday night so as to leave the weekend free for going out to see daffodils at National Trust places – hah!   It’s only 8 days away, but … I’m getting stressed.

Getting some bizarre e-mails from shops.  M&S sent an e-mail round saying that they’re suspending their bra-fitting service, like anyone’s immediate priority is to buy a new bra!!   Their food shops are staying open, though, which is the main thing!  Tesco are no longer opening 24 hours: they’re restricting opening hours to allow time for restocking.  And reserving certain times for elderly/vulnerable people.  Mum’s going during the “elderly” slot on Friday!

I normally only go to Tesco on a Friday, but, feeling a bit panicky myself, I went tonight.  They were out of a few things, but I went to Morrisons and they had most of them.  But no toilet roll.

Glastonbury’s off.  The US PGA is off.  Even the Eurovision Song Contest is off.

Will someone please wake me up from this horrendous nightmare?  And, all the time, the death toll rises, each loss a tragedy.






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

Monday, March 9th

Oh no!!  Indian Wells has been called off, because of a case (one case!) of coronavirus in southern California.  No news on Miami yet, but a lot of the European players are already heading home.  I don’t know what’s going to happen with the tennis season now.  I can’t see Rome going ahead: the whole of Italy’s going into lockdown.   Nor Monte Carlo with it being so close to Italy, and, with the situation in France worsening, the French Open must be in doubt too.   It’s everywhere.  Israel’s now said that people will have to go into quarantine for a fortnight on arriving there, and the Republic of Ireland’s cancelled its St Patrick’s Day parades … although the one here’s going ahead.


Tuesday, March 10th

This morning, I wrote a blog post called “Love Letter to Italy”.  I am so sad to see what’s happening in a country that means so much to me.

Our Europa League match against LASK in Linz is going to be played behind closed doors.  LASK are going mad, but the Austrian government’s insisted.  Matches in France, Spain and Germany will also have to be played behind closed doors.  I’ve read that the virus doesn’t actually live long outdoors, but who knows?   I don’t know how the European matches are going to be played at all, because some countries are banning flights now.   Valencia’s match against Atalanta was played, but maybe Atalanta were already there.  Lazio fans are panicking that the season might be cancelled and they’ll miss out on the title they’ve waited so long for.  Could the same thing happen here, with Liverpool?

Nadine Dorries has tested positive for it now.  I hope it’s not spread all round Parliament!

Donald Trump says it’ll go away.  I wish it would …


Wednesday, March 11th

Everything’s just so weird.  It’s mid-March.  It should be all lambs and daffodils and Indian Wells and the business end of the football season, but it’s like we’re in some kind of parallel universe.  A lot of countries are closing schools.  The Fed Cup finals are off.  Cricket tours are off.  Arsenal are in quarantine because they played Olympiakos, and someone there’s got it, so Arsenal’s match against City’s off.  A lot of people who’ve tested positive in Italy have hardly got any symptoms.   Angela Merkel says 70% of people in Germany could get it.  I just don’t know what to think.

The WHO’s declared it a pandemic.  I’m not sure that the actual use of the word “pandemic” makes any difference – it’s just a word – but anyway.


Thursday, March 12th

Everything’s just falling apart.  Over 1,000 people have now died in Italy – where everything’s now been closed other than food shops and pharmacies.  The US has banned all flights from Schengen countries.  The tennis season’s off till May!   Miami and all the April events are off.  Challengers in play at the moment have stopped mid-tournament.  No Monte Carlo, no Rome, no Barcelona 😦 .  Euro 2020’s in doubt.  The French and Spanish Cup finals are off.  It’s getting really bad in Spain.  Very worried.   And the NBA season’s been suspended.

We won 5-0 at LASK.  So, so weird seeing a match played with no fans in the stadium.  Liverpool’s match against Atletico Madrid went ahead as normal last night, but City’s match against Real Madrid’s off because Real’s players and staff are in quarantine after one of their basketball team tested positive.

My sister was due to go to Dublin with two friends this weekend, but they’ve cancelled it – not that things are bad in Dublin, but they’re nervous about flights being cancelled.  Schools and cultural facilities are being closed in the Republic.  And my book club meeting on Saturday’s been called off, because some of our members are over 70 and they’re nervous.  Mum and Dad and their friends are cancelling their card games, for the same reason.

In the middle of it all, I’ve received an e-mail from my holiday company about my July holiday to Iceland, all upbeat and cheerful.  Will I be able to go?  At the moment, I’m not even sure I’ll get my weekend in Grasmere in April.

Will someone please wake me up from this nightmare?


Friday, March 13th

Friday 13th all bloody right.  The football season (the League, anyway, not non-league football)’s been suspended until the end of March!  No tennis.  No football – Mikel Arteta’s tested positive for the virus, although thankfully he seems to be OK.  Very sorry for Liverpool, only two points away from the title – and that’s a Manchester United fan speaking!   The Cheltenham Festival’s gone ahead, but the London Marathon’s off, rugby union’s off (but not rugby league, yet), more cricket tours are off, the US Masters is off, local and mayoral elections have been postponed, and some universities have closed.   The Queen, Prince Charles and Camilla have postponed their engagements.  A lot of countries are closing borders.  It would normally give me great pleasure to see the “European Union” shown to be nothing of the sort – every country is, quite rightly, doing what’s best for itself – but not under these circumstances.

And the panic-buying!  It’s a virus, not submarine warfare.  We’re not going to be holed up in our homes with no food.  But some of the shelves in Tesco were pretty bare tonight.  I’m trying not to panic – and, besides, I don’t know where people are storing all this stuff, unless they have giant freezers! – but I must confess to buying a fair bit extra.  When you see empty shelves, it’s hard not to start panic-buying: you don’t want to be the person left with nothing.   And there was not a toilet roll to be had.  Luckily, I don’t need any more at the moment, but some people will!  For heaven’s sake.  We got through two world wars without people panicking about toilet roll … er, although most people probably used newspaper then.  This is not a nice topic to be thinking about, but suddenly everyone‘s obsessed with toilet roll.


Saturday, March 14th

I had a bit of a meltdown this morning.  It was because I’d put on weight for no reason, but it was just everything.  I feel like the world’s falling apart.  I’m so glad Mum and Dad got back safely from their break in Spain earlier this week, because Spain’s now banned incoming flights.   It was all so sudden.  There were flights in mid-air: they had to turn back.  And there are holidaymakers out there who’ll have to be rescued.  Spain’s now in complete lockdown.  You can’t even go out to exercise.  Belgium’s closed cafes and restaurants.  The Manchester Marathon’s off.  I just can’t keep up with it all.

People are trying to cheer each other up – there are jokey things on Facebook about typing in the @ symbol and the third name to come up’ll be your quarantine partner.  We’re hearing a lot about “quarantining”, and “self-isolating”.

Went to Dunham Massey this morning.  Lovely, lovely daffodils.  Lovely, lovely spring – nature’s carrying on.  The daffodils have even come early.  I saw my cousin there, and she gave me a hug, without thinking.  You’re not really supposed to hug people now!  It’s elbow bumps or the namaste!   Dunham was pretty busy.  I think it’s more confined spaces that people are nervous about.  I’ve had e-mails from Vue cinemas, Costa Coffee and several hotels, assuring me that they’re safe to visit.  They must be losing a lot of business.

I then tried to get some toilet roll, seeing as Tesco had none yesterday.  None at M&S.  None at Quality Save.  But, hooray, I got some at Budget Savers!   Some shops are rationing how much you can buy now, but you’re lucky to find any at all.  Is this seriously happening?


Sunday, March 15th

I went to Windermere today, and stopped at Sizergh Castle on the way back – the daffodils are out there, already.  So early this year.  The weather wasn’t brilliant, but I couldn’t keep waiting.  Who knows what’s going to happen?   And just being there made me feel better.  It always does.  It was fairly busy.  Not heaving, but then it would never be heaving on a damp-ish day in March.  Oh, I am so glad I’ve been.  This has been such a strange week, and I’m afraid there’s much worse to come.  The Republic of Ireland’s now closed all pubs and bars.  All over Europe, schools, shops and indeed borders are being closed.  I just cannot believe this is happening.  As a history-obsessed kid, I often thought there might be another world war, but, instead, the world’s falling apart because of a virus.

I look forward so much to this time of year.  My daffodil days out to Chirk Castle and Biddulph Grange.  My weekend in Grasmere, and seeing the daffodils at Coniston, Windermere and Sizergh whilst I’m there.  Rafa winning clay court tournaments 🙂 .  The climax of the football season.  Thoughts turning to my summer holiday.  And now … I just feel like we’re in a nightmare.  But it’s horribly real.




Return to the National Trust

Oh, National Trust properties, how I am missing thee!  This is the first year in a long time that I haven’t been able to see the daffodils at Chirk Castle and Biddulph Grange, lambing week at Tatton Park, the bluebells along the western shore of Windermere and at Erddig, and the laburnum arch at Bodnant Garden.  Will I be able to see the rose garden at Dunham Massey this year?  I’ve known it since before it was born: I remember it being planted.  And I’m not half missing the scones!  But yesterday, for the first time in over two months, I was able to go to a National Trust property!   Nostell Priory.  It’s the only actual NT property (as opposed to stand alone car park) in the entire North of England which has reopened so far, and you can only visit the parkland, not the gardens; but it’s a start.  And it was wonderful!   It’s difficult to express the feelings of joy and freedom at being able to walk through fields for the first time in over two months, of being able to see nothing *other* than fields, of walking and walking without having to dodge cyclists, zig-zagging skateboarders and dogs which aren’t on leads, of being under wide open skies.

Coronavirus has taken a lot of things, and, for the last couple of months, that’s included something very valuable, which people in the 1930s – the leader of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass came from just a couple of miles down the road from chez moi, as I often remind people! – fought hard for us, the ordinary people of this country’s towns and cities, to have, access to open space.  Now, we can take baby steps towards having that again.  As long as we’re careful, and sensible.  My visit yesterday had to be pre-booked, with only a limited number of spaces available.

This situation is an absolute nightmare for the NT.  It is for so many organisations: Sky News ran a report on Friday about the number of museums fearing that they might have to close.  As far as the NT goes, all those awful storms we had in February and March meant that visitor numbers for the calendar year were down before lockdown even started, and then they had to close all their properties and car parks, and cancel all the bookings for their holiday lets.  There’s been talk of a £200 million loss for this year.   Caring for historic properties and the valuable items inside them is not cheap: it’s not just a case of turning off the lights and locking the doors.  Then there are the gardens, and the work that goes into them.  Some environmental projects will have to be scrapped, and NT Scotland’s even talking about having to sell off land.  A lot of people, concerned about their own finances with many businesses unable to open until lockdown restrictions are eased, have felt unable to renew their memberships.

So, hopefully, this last couple of weeks, with the easing of some restrictions, and the reopening of some car parks and some parkland, will mark the start of the way back.  It certainly needs to, for all our sakes.  It really was so good to be back!

These are very difficult times.  The term “social distancing” didn’t exist until the middle of March.  Until then, the concept of having to stay 6 ft away from other people would have sounded like something from one of those weird dystopian novels of which I can never see the attraction.  No-one’s ever had to deal with anything like this before.  And it’s all being made far more difficult by the fact that so many people are more interested in scoring political points than in the public good and trying to find workable ways to move forward.

One of the biggest issues at the moment is that of access to open space for people from urban and suburban areas.  I could cheerfully slap the people going on about how everyone should “Stay local and enjoy the countryside around them”.  Are these people actually familiar with the term “conurbation”?  What countryside around us?!  Most of them are probably the same people tut-tutting over pictures of large numbers of people in city parks.  Yes, there are a lot of people in city parks.   Where else are we all supposed to go?  A lot of people in cities and towns don’t have gardens.  Kids have been off school for over two months and are bored stiff.

Almost all National Trust properties are still closed.  English Heritage have said that they won’t be reopening any of theirs until July.  Independently-owned estates where there’s usually access to parks and gardens are closed.  I gather that there’s uncertainty regarding whether or not it’s OK to reopen pay-for-entry attractions: I don’t understand why this applies to parks and gardens (although I know there’s concern about crowding in small gardens) but not parkland, when non-members have to pay to park to go in the parkland, and members don’t pay to go into gardens, but there clearly is an issue.  I know that the managers of Blenheim Palace have said that they’d love to reopen their park and gardens, but understand that they won’t be allowed to until July.  And I suspect that a lot of places are staying shut because taking the furlough payments is bringing in more money than reopening would, certainly whilst tearooms and shops have to stay shut.

So there aren’t a lot of places to go to.  There’ve been pictures of crowds in some places, and traffic jams building up.  Obviously that’s no good.  It’s risky for anyone to be in a crowd at the moment, and it’s risky for local communities.  Some rural areas, notably South Lakeland, have had very high rates of infection, and certainly don’t need that making any worse.  But just saying “Don’t visit,” and trying to deny people from urban and suburban areas any access to any open space is no good either.  There are issues of physical and mental health.  And national parks are actually supposed to be for everyone’s benefit.  As for this bizarre thing of trying to control people by refusing to unlock public toilets, even George Orwell never thought of that one.  All that’s doing is driving people to make, ahem, alternative arrangements, and I’m sure no-one wants that happening.

This is an extremely difficult time, and I don’t know what the answers are; but we need to try to find some, and that’s not going to happen until everyone starts working together.  A lot of places are facing similar issues: there’ve been concerns about the numbers of people visiting beaches in northern France, in Catalunya, in the Netherlands, in Florida, and elsewhere.  We do need to find ways of dealing with this which are fair to everyone, and that’s not going to be easy.   But we need to try, and, with so many people either taking an “I’m all right, Jack,” attitude or prioritising political points-scoring over the general good, that’s not happening as much as it should be.  But the National Trust, with the reopening of some parkland on a ticketed basis, are trying.

I’ll be interested to hear how they found this first weekend back.  There was certainly room for more people without any issues with social distancing: the Nostell Priory estate is absolutely vast.  So are the estates at Shugborough, Hardwick Hall and Fountains Abbey, to name but three.  I very much hope that more properties will be reopening their parkland soon, and that tea rooms will soon be able to open, even if it’s only for either takeaways or outdoor seating, as well.  The term “cultural bonfire” was used on Sky News on Friday: it wasn’t actually a very good one, but the point was made.  We don’t want to lose these places.  And we need access to open space.  Thank you so much to the National Trust for letting me have today’s much-need and much-appreciated visit, and I hope that there’ll be more to come soon.

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

Sunday, March 1st

There’s been a case of the virus in Bury now.  That’s only six miles away.  It’s the first one in the local area.  That’s a bit scary.  Meanwhile, everything else here goes on as normal.  I still haven’t managed to get to the Lake District this year, because of the rotten weather, but I went to Lyme Park this morning.  Rafa won Acapulco 🙂 .  And City won the Carabao Cup – suppose I should congratulate them, even though it rankles!


Monday, March 2nd

Mum and Dad have cancelled their summer holiday to Italy.  They were due to fly to Rome and then pick up a cruise, and were nervous because of all these poor people getting stuck on cruise ships where someone’s tested positive for the virus.  My holiday company’s cancelled all tours to Northern Italy for the time being.  The Swiss Football League’s been suspended for two weeks, the pre-season club football tournament in Asia’s been cancelled, and the Irish cricket tour of Thailand’s been called off.  Other than the Democratic primaries in America, there’s little other than coronavirus-related stuff on the news these days.


Tuesday, March 3rd

There are now 51 cases in the UK.  The news channels and websites flash up every new case at the bottom of the screen, like a goal in a football match, which is very odd.  A graduation ceremony at one of the London universities has been cancelled.  There are panicky reports that 20% of the British workforce could be off sick at any one time.


Wednesday, March 4th

There’ve now been 107 deaths in Italy, because of the virus, and there’ve been 73 new cases diagnosed in France today alone.  A lot of flights are being cancelled.    Sport in Italy’s now got to be played behind closed doors, and schools, colleges and universities are being closed, like they were in China.  The Olympic relay’s going ahead, but the London Book Fair’s been called off, and the release of the new James Bond film’s been delayed.  And, bizarrely, people are stocking up on toilet paper!!  The virus doesn’t cause stomach upsets, but there seem to have been reports in Australia that most toilet paper there was imported from China and supplies were going to run short, so people started panic-buying, and then the pictures went viral and now it’s happening here and in other countries too!!


Thursday, March 5th

The first virus-related death in the UK.  An woman in her 70s, with underlying health conditions, has died in Berkshire.  Very, very sad.

My sister has succumbed to the Great Toilet Roll Panic and bought a load of toilet rolls.   And other stuff.  I do my big Tesco and M&S shop on a Friday, but I had to go into the Sainsbury’s Local near work for a couple of bits today, and found myself getting caught up in it all and buying some toilet rolls and Dettol.  You don’t want to panic, but nor do you want to be the person who’s left without.  People have even nicked toilet rolls from public toilets in Australia, because shops are selling out of it!!  Hand sanitiser’s running short too, because we keep being told it’s important to wash our hands more often – although Sainsbury’s Local did have some.  Mine are getting quite sore from all this extra washing.  It’s not like I don’t wash my hands normally, but not this much!

The Premier League’s banned handshakes between players.  And the Six Nations matches in Italy have been called off.  I can’t see how the Six Nations can be finished now – unless it’s left for months.  And what about the Champions League and the Europa League?  There are quite a few Italian clubs involved.

And now Flybe’s collapsed – the cancellation of flights due to coronavirus has been the final straw.  Oh, what a nightmare this all is!


Friday, March 6th

There’s been a second virus-related death in the UK, this time in Milton Keynes.  Things in Italy are getting worse and worse, and Iran’s suffering too.  This is just all awful.  The Scotland v France women’s Six Nations match is off, because a Scotland player tested positive for the virus.

There was toilet roll in Tesco tonight, but only white toilet roll, and I wanted cream!  Why have panic-buyers bought up all the cream toilet roll but left the white?!  Not a single bottle of hand sanitiser to be had, though.  Someone at my office bought two bottles on Amazon for £109 each.  Can you believe that?!  I wouldn’t mind, but Sainsbury’s Local near the office had some, and their bottles were only £3 each!  This panic-buying is really getting very silly.

The weather forecast for the Lakes for the weekend is awful.  Again.  Gah!!


Saturday, March 7th

The family of the man yesterday have been saying how they weren’t even allowed to be with him, for fear of infection.  This virus is just horrendous.  There’s now talk of “social detachment” for the over-70s.  How’s that going to work.  Am I not supposed to see Mum and Dad?  Or my uncle, who lives on his own?  Or my brother-in-law’s parents?   So many rumours.   And now 3,500 people are stuck on a cruise ship off the coast of California, because of the virus.

It’s like there are now two groups of people.  Those of us trying to “Keep Calm and Carry On”, and those who are panic-buying.  I’m not criticising anyone: it’s scary.  Some people have cancelled restaurant bookings.

Went to Speke Hall today.  The daffodils there are always early, but they’re particularly early this year.  Then to Newbank Garden Centre.  Getting my garden ready for spring!


Sunday, March 8th

What a strange day.  It should have been a wonderful day, because we beat City, 2-0!  Old Trafford was packed – no viruses were keeping people away from the derby!   It was a really manic last few minutes.  Amazing atmosphere.  I came out absolutely buzzing!   Even Liverpool must be pleased that we won, because they’re very, very close to the title now.

But … later on, it was announced that a man had died from the virus (although I think we’re meant to say “with” the virus – it’s all a bit confusing, especially as it mainly seems to affect people with underlying health conditions) at Crumpsall Hospital, North Manchester General.  That’s my local hospital.  Whew.  That really hit me.  This is here – it’s here, amongst us.  That poor man, and his poor family and friends.  64 new cases in the UK today.

Fans have been banned from the Bahrain Grand Prix now.

This morning, I went to Ilkley, as I always do at this time of year – there’s a nice riverside walk there, and I like to see the Easter eggs and simnel cakes in Betty’s.  It was the first time I’d ever got a table in Betty’s without having to queue.  It may just have been because I was so early, because of needing to get home in time to go to the match, but it does seem that people are getting a bit nervous about going out, because of this virus.

Where on earth will all this end?