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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:

The Road to Freedom?

Dancing with the Daffodils

The road to freedom? Week 1 , March 29th to April 4th 2021 inclusive

Death of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

The road to freedom?  Week 2, April 5th to 11th 2021 inclusive

 

Lockdown III:

Lockdown III Week 1, January 4th to 10th 2021 inclusive

The coming of the vaccines

Lockdown III Week 2, January 11th to 17th 2021 inclusive

Manchester monsoons, Melbourne mice, park perambulations and lockdown locks

Lockdown III Week 3, January 18th to 24th 2021 inclusive

Anniversaries, Adelaide tennis and appalling ingratitude

Lockdown III Week 4, January 25th to 31st 2021 inclusive

Free tea, anxious toes, Handforth headlines, BYOB and repaying Sybil

Lockdown III Week 5, February 1st to 7th 2021 inclusive

Upside Down

Lockdown III Week 6, February 8th to 14th 2021 inclusive

Lockdown III Week 7, February 15th to 21st 2021 inclusive

Lockdown Birthday/Group 10

Lockdown III Week 8, February 22nd to 28th 2021 inclusive

A match-less year

Lockdown III Week 9, March 1st to 7th 2021 inclusive

Lockdown III Week 10, March 8th to 14th 2021 inclusive

A hitch in the proceedings

Lockdown III Week 11, March 15th to 21st 2021 inclusive

Lockdown Anniversary

Lockdown III Week 12, March 22nd to 28th 2021 inclusive

 

 

Tier Four

Snakes and Ladders/Tiers and Fears

Tier Four, Week 1 – December 31st to January 3rd inclusive

 

Tier Three Plus

Eating From A Box

Some statistics – now, how does this work?

Tier Three Plus, Week 1 – December 7th to 13th inclusive

Christmas is cancelled

Lightopia

Tier Three Plus, Week 2 – December 14th to 20th inclusive

Tier Three Plus, Week 3 – December 21st to 27th inclusive

Snow pictures

Tier Three Plus, Week 4 … well, half a week – December 28th to 30th inclusive

 

Lockdown II:

Welcome to Lockdown II – the lights go out, the facilities stay open

Lockdown II Week 1 – November 2nd to 8th inclusive

Lockdown II Week 2 – November 9th to 15th inclusive

The Great Christmas Debate

Lockdown II Week 3 – November 16th to 22nd inclusive

Lockdown II Week 4, November 23rd to 29th inclusive

Lockdown II Week 5, November 30th to December 6th inclusive

Eating From A Box

 

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?

Second Wave Week 7 – October 12th to 18th inclusive

The Harrying of the North, or The Two Nations

Second Wave Week 8 – October 19th to 25th inclusive

Town before lockdown

Second Wave Week 9 – October 26th to November 1st inclusive

 

 

 

 

 

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

Goodbye Debenhams

 

 

The road to freedom? Week 2, April 5th to 11th 2021 inclusive

Easter Monday, April 5th

At last!!   After 7 months, I’ve seen my sister and brother-in-law and nephews.  Please, please, no more travel restrictions.  It is so hard being separated from families and friends.  At least the two boys (aged 12 and 9) are old enough to know what’s going on: I’ve heard some upsetting stories of babies getting distressed with grandparents and aunts and uncles whom they don’t recognise after the long separation.  It was a long, long day, driving down to London and back in the day, but, hooray, we’ve been reunited at last!

Water still dripping.  Fingers crossed that I can get a plumber tomorrow.

Boris has confirmed that we’ll be moving on to Stage 2 on April 12th – non-essential shops, hairdressers, outdoor attractions, self-contained overnight accommodation, gyms, outdoor hospitality, etc to reopen.  No Covid passports at this stage.  But he isn’t saying anything yet about overseas travel, or the possibility of using Covid passports in the future.  There will also be two free Covid tests for everyone in England from Friday onwards, but I doubt people’ll take them if they’re asymptomatic: people can’t afford the time off work, and horrible employers won’t pay people.

Oh, please never let us have to be separated from our families and friends again.

 

Tuesday, April 6th

Today has been an utter nightmare.  I haven’t even managed to get out for a walk – which I would have done, even in the snow which bizarrely decided to fall in April.  The first three plumbers I tried said they were too busy/working too far away to come.  The fourth one came 3 1/2 hours after I rang.  Then he said that the problem was not a leak from the bath but a corroded pipe, caused by someone not doing something properly when the house was built, and that he’d have to cut a hole in the ceiling to get at it.  So there is now a hole in the kitchen ceiling.

He sorted the leak out, but the shower got an airlock whilst the water had been off, and he couldn’t sort it out.  The shower is now working again, but he was here for over 4 hours, I am exhausted and stressed, and there is a hole in the kitchen ceiling to go with the stain, the smashed light fitting and my bruised knee.

I have had better days.

Collected two boxes of Covid lateral flow tests from the testing centre, because someone told me you could just go and get them.

All adults in the US are to be eligible for vaccination from a week on Monday.  Sadly, the same is not true here.  The number of jabs being given has plummeted worryingly.

 

Wednesday, April 7th

Northern Ireland is now offering jabs to anyone aged 45-49.  Sadly, England is not – although maybe things will improve once the Moderna rollout starts, which should be within the next few days.

The AstraZeneca vaccine isn’t going to be given to under 30s (not that anything’s being offered to under 30s ATM) because of these concerns about blood clots.

I spent ages on the phone to the insurance this morning.  They spent very hard trying to get out of paying anything at all, then told me that they’d have to send a surveyor round!  FFS.  If I was claiming tens of thousands of pounds, OK, but the surveyor’s fees’ll probably be more than the cost of the repairs.  I now have to wait for the surveyor to ring me, which he will no doubt do at a time when I can’t get to the phone.  Honestly, why is everything such hard work?!

 

Thursday, April 8th

Gah!!

  1.  The man from the insurance came, asked a load of questions, took a lot of pictures, and climbed up a ladder to look at the replacement bit of pipe (despite the fact that it was perfectly obvious which bit it was, because it’s a different colour).  However, apparently it is their policy to check all artexed ceilings for asbestos.  So I have now got an asbestos assessor coming next Monday.  FFS.
  2.  Northern Ireland is now vaccinating anyone over 40.  England, Scotland and Wales are still on anyone over 50.
  3.  The French Open has been postponed by a week, in the hope that Paris will be out of lockdown by then and fans will be allowed in.  This mucks up everyone’s preparations both for the French Open and Wimbledon, and the organisers of the grass court events which now overlap with the second week of the French Open must be hysterically upset!
  4.  I have piled weight on over Easter weekend.  A few days of eating a bit extra, and weight piles on.  Weeks of trying really hard … and weight does not come off.

I understand that the risks of fatal blood clots from the Astra Zeneca vaccine are very low, but it’s so sad to hear about the small number of people who’ve been unlucky.  One of them was from Newton-le-Willows.  As his sister said, you just think why did it have to be my loved one, out of all the tens of millions of people who’ve had that vaccination.  Very sad.

On a more positive note, there were 712 deaths involving Covid-19 in the week to 19th March (why are these figures 3 weeks behind?) in England and Wales.  Whilst that’s obviously still not good, the number was 8,945 at the peak of the second wave, so that’s a 92% drop.

And we won the first leg of our Europa League QF 2-0 – the away leg, at Granada.

 

Friday, April 9th

I’ve written a separate post here about the death of Prince Philip.  I still can’t quite take it in.

What else has happened today?  I hate to sound like a grumpy old bag, but I’ll be so glad when schools go back and I can get a drink at the park without having to wait in a stupidly long queue!  And it’s been confirmed that we will have this “traffic light” system for overseas travel, and that the  Government’s no longer advising against booking foreign travel – but, with PCR tests at £140 a time required for each person on both departure and arrival, and the red/amber/green list liable to change at any time, I’m not sure how many people’ll be going as yet.

Oh, what a strange day.  We’ve got protocols and precedents for pretty much everything, but not the death of a prince consort during a pandemic. RIP, Prince Philip.  You will be sadly missed.

 

Saturday, April 10th

The funeral – a ceremonial funeral – will be a week today, at 3pm, at Windsor.  People are trying to work out who the 30 people attending will be, which is a bit odd.  Prince Charles has spoken briefly, to pay tribute to his father and to thank people for their support.  I hope the Queen’s coping as well as can be expected.

The Grand National and other sporting events went ahead.  Real horses this year!  Sadly, I didn’t win a penny – bad choices! – but it was great to see a female jockey win for the first time in history – Rachael Blackmore, riding Minella Times.

And I’ve been to Blackpool!  I’ve seen the sea, for the first time in six months.  It being so soon after, I saw an awful lot of the sea – the tide didn’t start to go out until after midday.  I’m afraid that I sinned and had both ice cream and fish and chips, like I’m not fat enough, but … well, first time at the seaside in six months!

 

Sunday, April 11th

In the middle of April, and a day before outdoor seating at pubs, cafes and restaurants reopens, we woke up to over an inch of snow!  Snow in March isn’t unusual, but it’s the second weekend in April!  Thankfully, the roads were clear, but it took me a while to clear my car, and I don’t suppose being snowed on has done my plants an awful lot of good.

Having removed the snow, I went to Speke Hall.  No snow in Liverpool!  It disappeared somewhere between Salford and Warrington.  The Hall itself is closed, and some parts of the estate are closed off, but most of it’s open.  It’s the first time I’ve been to Liverpool in ages!

The daffodils at Speke always come early, and some are dying off now.  But the bluebells are out.  And so the year goes on.

Later, I found some bluebells in the Flower Park.

I’ll have a look in the woods at Heaton Park next week.  Between the plumbing traumas and the long queues at the cafes due to school holidays (sorry for being a grumpy old biddy, but I’ll be glad when schools go back tomorrow!!), I haven’t had chance this week.

Prince Andrew’s said that the Queen’s spoken of “a huge void in her life”.   It’s always sad when someone goes, but Prince Philip had lived a long and full life, and, thankfully, didn’t have to suffer a painful illness or the loss of his faculties.   It’s more the people who are left behind … my heart goes out to the Queen.

Back with pandemic news, over half a million jabs a day are being given, but around 80% of them are second doses, and nothing at all’s been said about when England might move on to over 40s.  So frustrating.  But the infection rate across Greater Manchester is down to around 50 per 100,000, and the average across England is around 30 per 100,000.  When you think that, three months ago, some areas were recording rates of over 1,500 per 100,000, we’ve come a long way.

And, after going behind at Spurs, we won 3-1!

 

Death of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

I can’t stop crying.  I know he was 99 – so close to being 100 – but, however long a life someone’s lived, it’s always sad when they go.  He’d always been there.  He and the Queen were both supposed to live for ever: this day was never supposed to come.  I felt like that when the Queen Mother died.  It’s like losing a member of your own family: he’d always been there.

The Queen’ll be lost without him.  Theirs was the greatest royal love story of all time, and history will recognise that in time.  Oh, bloody Covid: he never got to meet the two new babies, August and Lucas, and he won’t have seen most of the rest of the family for months.  As for Harry … well.   And we’re only allowed 30 people at funerals at the moment – how will that work.  Ironically, I don’t suppose he’d have wanted a big ceremonial funeral anyway.

As the Queen once said, the country, the whole Commonwealth, owes him a debt greater than we will ever know – his support of her, all his work for charities and causes.  And it’s the passing of a generation too, that wonderful generation who saved the world: so few people from my grandparents’ generation are left now.  He was a real link with history – he was a Second World War veteran, he was the Tsarina’s great-nephew, he was linked to so many royal families, some still in place, some long since deposed.

Oh, the poor Queen.  She would have known that this day would come, with his health deteriorating, and to have been married for 73 years is incredible, but … someone’s there, and then they’re not, and, whoever you are, that is a devastating thing to have to deal with.  Covid restrictions or no, I hope that someone’s able to go to her, if that’s what she wants – one of her children, or maybe her chaplain if that’s whom she needs.

I can’t quite take it in.  We thought he’d been doing better.  He’d always been there.  Someone who’s always been part of our lives has gone.   You think these days will never come, but they do, as they must.

I saw them, in 2002.  He and the Queen came to Manchester, at the start of the Commonwealth Games, and I waited in town to see them.  I was so excited afterwards, that I’d seen the Queen and Prince Philip in person, close up.  The greatest royal couple in history.

Rest In Peace, Your Royal Highness.  You will be sadly missed.

The road to freedom? Week 1 , March 29th to April 4th 2021 inclusive

Lockdown

Monday, March 29th

Well, this is day on on The Roadmap To Freedom, but I feel a bit out of things.  Mum and Dad have been to London to be reunited with my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, and other people have been meeting family and friends or playing outdoor sport, and I’ve just been chained to the office laptop or going for a walk in the park!   Roll on Good Friday!   The powers that be have said it’s OK to travel around the country to see family and friends, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t have a day out, as long as I stay outdoors.

The Novavax vaccine will hopefully be available by June.

Well, let’s just hope there are no more lockdowns.  Enough is enough.

 

Tuesday, March 30th

Another warm, sunny day. Loads of people in the park. And the lowest weekly death toll since October.

The situation in Europe is worrying, though.

Oh, roll on Good Friday, when I’ll be able to get a taste of this freedom, all being well!! It can’t come soon enough!!

 

Wednesday, March 31st

Second jabs outnumbered first jabs for the first time today.  I feel a bit like a third class citizen now – full vaccinated people, first jab people, and the rest of us!!

Another warm, sunny day, with loads of people in the park.  Please, please stay dry for the Easter weekend.

It looks as if France could be heading back into lockdown, and things in the Netherlands aren’t too clever either.   Thankfully, we’re doing OK – touch wood.  Well, over 50 deaths a day, which is hardly “OK”, but compared to over 1,000 a day, at the peak of the second wave, things have improved very significantly.

 

April Fools’ Day/Maundy Thursday, April 1st

Typical, just as we get towards the Bank Holiday weekend, it goes cold again!  But it’s dry, touch wood.

Shielding ends today.

France is indeed back in lockdown.  But we’re remaining steady, at around 4,500 to 5,000 new infections and 40 to 50 deaths per day.  And we should be allowed back into Wales soon, hooray!  And we beat Poland 2-1 last night, so fingers crossed for World Cup qualification.

Hooray, at last I feel like I can join the roadmap to freedom, four days after everyone who wasn’t trapped with work crap!!

But … we’re now being told that, when cafes etc reopen on April 12th, everyone’s got to sign in, and have their details kept for 21 days.  What, even for sitting outside?   That’s just put me right off!!    Oh well, let’s not worry about that just now …

 

Good Friday, April 2nd

Hooray!   I have finally made it back to Windermere!   It’s been so long.   I drove up to Bowness this morning, and had a bit of time there.  And the weather was glorious!

Then I got the steamer across to Waterhead/Ambleside.  I thought the steamers’d be busy, but they weren’t.  They only restarted yesterday, in the end, and they said that yesterday was just dead.  I think a lot of people are confused about these “minimise travel” rules, and, also, people possibly didn’t realise that anything at Windermere would be open.  But it got busier later.  Fingers crossed for a good spring and summer.  As bad as things here have been, it’s been far, far worse for tourist areas.  The cafes here have been busy doing takeaways, but most of those at Windermere only reopened today.  In fact, I got the Waterhead Coffee Shop’s first blueberry scone since they had to close due to lockdown!

The daffodils at Borrans Park were out!  And then I came back on the Swift, the new steamer which was only launched last year – my first trip on her.

Then I had more time in Bowness … oh, my lovely, beloved Bowness, how I have missed you!

And then I went to Sizergh Castle on the way home.  I love daffodil season at Sizergh!

And there were lambs!  Well, there were also loads of lambs in the fields off the M6 and the A591, but I couldn’t very well take photos whilst I was driving!  Sizergh lambs:

Oh, how I needed that.   It’s frustrating not being able to go abroad, but not being able to travel within the country’s been far, far worse.  Let’s hope we don’t ever go back there.

In other news, I’m sorry to hear that Sachin Tendulkar’s in hospital with Covid, and there’s a row going on here over vaccine passports.  If they try to introduce vaccine passports for football grounds, theatres etc now, when most under 50s are unable to get vaccinated, it will be incredibly unfair and cause a lot of trouble.  Once everyone’s been offered a vaccination … I don’t know.  The idea of having to show papers, and denying certain people access … it does smack a bit of Nazi Germany, and that’s what people are uncomfortable about.  We’ll see.

Anyway.  Gold star for the weather, and, oh, how I have missed Windermere!! 

 

Saturday, April 3rd

This morning was cloudy, and then we had glorious sunshine by late afternoon.  The other way round would have been better, but never mind!  I went for a walk round town this morning.  It’s April, and it was the first time I’d been into town this year – how crazy is that?!  Very quiet.  I don’t know what else I expected, given that non-essential shops, theatres, cinemas, museums etc are all closed, but it was weird.

However, all being well, non-essential shops will be reopening a week on Monday, as will hairdressers and outdoor seating at cafes/pubs/restaurants.  Boris is due to give a press conference on Monday night, confirming whether or not it’ll go ahead, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t.  We “only” recorded 10 Covid deaths yesterday, although obviously it was a Bank Holiday.  We may also get some news on the vexed question of vaccine passports.  Boris is the last person you’d expect to back something like that, but apparently he does.  And there’s also talk of a “traffic light” system for foreign travel – meaning the same palaver as last year, with things being moved on and off lists at the last minute.  But it seems very unlikely that the April 12th easing won’t go ahead.  Roll on haircuts!   

 

Easter Sunday, April 4th

It looks as if both the “traffic light” system for foreign travel and the vaccine passport system will be going ahead, with the passport system to be trialled at the Carabao Cup final and various other events.  Ugh.  But, by the time the new football season starts, everyone should have had at least their first jab.

Meanwhile … just as life seemed to be looking up at last, I came downstairs this morning to find water coming through the kitchen ceiling for the THIRD time in a year.  I slipped on it, and whacked my knee and arm on the wooden floor.  Then I took the cover off the light fitting, to try to see what was going on, and, in my agitated state, dropped it, whereupon it smashed to smithereens.  So I have now got no cover for the light, water coming through the ceiling, a ceiling that needs repainting again, and a bruised knee.  I think it’s the bath this time, not the shower.  I was going to ring the emergency plumber – of course, it just had to happen on Easter Day, when hardly anyone’s working – but they charge a fortune, and last time the guy made a mess of the job and I had to get him to come back.  So I’m hoping to get the ordinary plumbers next week. and am hoping fervently that the dripping gets no worse.

After all this, I had complete hysterics and rang my poor mum and dad in floods of tears.

Bleurgh.

Once I’d mopped the floor, mopped up the tears and put a bucket down, I turned to chocolate. Some people have said their supermarkets are short of Easter eggs this year, but I’m pleased to say that ours isn’t.  Here is my Easter egg, with its accompanying Malt-Easter bunnies:

I then went to Biddulph Grange, as planned.  I was very sad not to see the woodland walk in daffodil season last year, but here it is in all its glory, this year:

Also, they had Easter special hot cross scones:

I then stopped at Alderley Edge on the way home:

So that was all very nice.  But I now need to get:

  1. A plumber.
  2. The decorator (again).
  3. The electrician (for the light fitting).
    And it was all fine this time yesterday.  Why does life throw you curveballs like this?  And I keep panicking about what’ll happen when I have to go back to being Trapped in the office and something like this happens.

And, on top of all this, there are fears that the French Open might be postponed.  If that idiot Macron spent a bit more time trying to deal with the virus situation in France and a bit less time making Anglophobic remarks, things might not be in this mess.  But they are. 

But we beat Brighton, 2-1.  Sadly, nothing is going to stop City from winning the league, but fingers crossed for a top four finish this year.

 

Dancing with the Daffodils

We were put into Tier 3 in mid-October, so we had 5 1/2 months of not being able to leave the local area.  Being separated from family and friends in other parts of the country has been very hard, and I really feel for people whose loved ones are abroad and who can’t visit them even now.  And, much as I love my home city and our local park, I need to get out into the countryside, especially to the Lake District, to clear my anxiety-filled head and lift my soul; and not being able to do that’s been difficult and frustrating.  But hopefully, thanks especially to the wonderful efforts of the Vaccine Taskforce , we’re now on the “Roadmap to Freedom”; and I finally got to go back to Windermere on Good Friday.  And, for once, the Bank Holiday weather played ball – not a cloud in the deep blue sky.

Lockdown’s affected different parts of the country in different ways.  We’ve been under additional restrictions since the end of July, which has been very tough.  Walking round the streets and local park every day, trying to avoid people with horrible barking dogs and wishing that the queues at the cafes were shorter, I’ve sometimes envied people living in rural areas.  But, because we’re a densely-populated area, the takeaway cafes have been very busy all along.  I often see people I know in the queues at the park cafes, or the cafes on the main road, which is rather nice; and it’s also nice for our local businesses to have that custom.  But, at Windermere, a lot of places closed at the start of Lockdown III, or even earlier, and have only just reopened.  Tourist attractions remain closed for now, although (hooray!!) the steamers between Bowness and Ambleside can operate, classed as public transport.  But it’s been a tough old time for tourist areas.  Blackpool’s tourism boss said last week that recovery’d probably take five years.  Windermere Lake Cruises have spent millions on a lovely new steamer- which I was lucky enough to be able to go on yesterday – only to find that they couldn’t run any steamers at all for much of last year and the first three months of this year.

So it was absolutely wonderful, and very special, for me to be there.  By a weird coincidence, the music in the car, which was on shuffle, decided to have Elvis singing “Glory glory Hallelujah” as I caught my first glimpse of the lake from the A591, and that seemed very fitting!   And it’s also wonderful for tourist areas to be able to start welcoming visitors back.

I thought it’d be busy.  It wasn’t.  The “stay local” and “minimise travel” rules are … er, well, let’s say that everyone’s interpreting them in their own way.  But some people aren’t leaving their local area, some people are still nervous about going out at all, some people aren’t sure what will and won’t be open, and, with overnight stays still banned, there’s only so far that anyone can go anyway.  And goodness knows when overseas tourists will be back: the Lake District usually welcomes a lot of visitors from the Far East in the spring, from Europe in the summer and from the US in the autumn, and I can’t see that that’s going to happen this year.  But maybe we’ll see another Staycation Summer: last year’s was a big boost.

But, for me, it was glorious!   This is my favourite time of year, when the daffodils are out.  I didn’t think I’d get to see the daffodils at the Lakes this year, and to be able to see them at Windermere, and, later in the day, at Sizergh Castle, especially under that beautiful blue sky, really did mean so much.  And being able to get back out on to the lake on the glorious steamers.  I miss being able to go abroad, but not as much as I’ve missed the Lake District!   There is nothing like the wonderful views there, and the feeling of peace and nature and timelessness.

It’s quite strange being able to plan again.  OK, we can’t plan holidays yet, but I can start thinking about when I might go and see the lambs at Tatton Park, and the bluebell walks at Capesthorne Hall, and have a day out in Blackpool, and so on.  I don’t expect miracles, and I don’t think we’ll be getting back to normal any time this year.  But we’re making a start.  And I’m so very grateful to have had that day yesterday.  I waited a long time for it!

If anyone’s reading this, thanks for reading, enjoy the rest of your Easter weekend, and stay safe xxx.

–  daffodils at Bowness Pier

– the Swift, new steamer

– blueberry scone from the Waterhead Coffee Shop

– lambs and daffodils at Sizergh Castle

 

Lockdown III Week 12, March 22nd to 28th 2021 inclusive

Monday, March 22nd

We recorded our lowest daily virus death toll since September today – 17.  OK, figures are always lower on Mondays, but, considering that we were recording over 1,000 a day at one point, that’s major progress.  However, the accursed EU is again threatening to block vaccine exports.  It’s like when some horrible kid in the school playground grabs the football or the skipping rope and says that no-one’s allowed to play with it because they’re upset … except that people’s lives are at stake here.

I have no idea what we are and aren’t supposed to do next week.  Some newspapers are saying that you’re still not supposed to leave your local area, but the official advice just says not to make too many journeys, and to avoid using public transport at rush hour unless necessary – like anyone would use public transport at rush hour unless they absolutely had to.  Places like Capesthorne Hall are reopening, and presumably they don’t expect that visitors will only come from round the corner.  I don’t see that I’ll be causing anyone a problem if I go to, say, Biddulph Grange.  But it’s as clear as mud.

And, after a grumpy woman from Public Health England said yesterday that mask-wearing and social distancing might be in force for years, a grumpy health minister’s said today that all European countries (presumably excluding the Republic of Ireland) might have to be “red-listed”.  I don’t want to be lied to and given false hope, but do these people have to be so miserable?!   Is it necessary to speculate like this?  Bah!

 

Tuesday, March 23rd –  A YEAR OF LOCKDOWN

A year ago today, we went into lockdown.  We thought it’d be for 12 weeks.  We were told that 40,000 deaths would be a “good outcome” – it seemed like an impossibly high, dystopian number.

Today’s supposed to be a “National Day of Reflection”.  There was a minute’s silence at midday, and we’re supposed to go out on our doorsteps with candles at 8pm.

Boris is insisting that everyone’ll have been offered a first dose by the end of July, but no news on exactly when for over 40s.

Infection rates in our borough are going up quite rapidly, again 😦 .  It goes in waves – we’ve had a few good weeks, but Rochdale had a few bad weeks, and Tameside before Rochdale … it comes and goes.  But hospitalisations and deaths are down here and everywhere else, and deaths from all causes are actually below the 5 year average for the time of year.

A £5,000 fine for going abroad without good reason’s to be introduced, and there’s talk of that continuing until July rather than May.

Germany’s imposing tight restrictions again, with even food shops only allowed to open for 1 day in 5 over the Easter weekend.

Windermere Lake Cruises are reopening next week!  Hooray!  We’re supposed to “stay local as much as possible” even after the stay at home order’s lifted, but enough’s enough – I stay very local 5 days a week, and it’s not like I’ll be going to mass gatherings.  I think their prices were pretty much as before, but I’ve noticed that some places hoping to reopen later in the year have hiked their prices right up.  I understand that they need to try to make up for their losses, but it’s going to put people off going.

And it sounds as if a permanent memorial to people who’ve died of Covid will be built, at some point.

 

Wednesday, March 24th

The EU’s threatening a vaccine blockade, India’s got a “double mutant” virus, and concerns are rising over the high number of cases in France.  There’ve been calls for France to be “red-listed”, but, given that most cross-Channel haulage comes via France, that’s going to be a bit of a problem, to say the least.  We can hardly move the Channel Tunnel so the other end of it’s in Belgium or the Netherlands!   Oh, what a nightmare all this is.

Spain and Greece and various other countries are now letting flights from the UK in again, so at least there’s no problem with the next round of Champions League and Europa League matches, but we aren’t allowed out!

Windermere Lake Cruises have had to postpone their reopening by two days, because of the weather forecast.  FFS!  And Germany’s Easter lockdown’s been cancelled, one day after it was announced.

Zara Phillips has had a baby boy.   So there’s some good news!

 

Thursday, March 25th

I had a really bad morning with work today, and then I went to the park, had a cup of tea and a hot cross bun by a host of golden daffodils, and felt so much better.  I really would be happy to carry on WFH indefinitely.

However … some sort of deal’s been agreed with the EU over vaccines, but India’s now said that it won’t be exporting any vaccines until the end of April, because it needs/wants them for itself.  We’ve pretty much been told that, from 29th March, it’s second doses only, so I don’t know where that leaves me, and, with all this talk of vaccine passports, it’s pretty frustrating.

Also, both Poland and Belgium have tightened their restrictions, as the “third wave” gathers pace.

The emergency powers Coronavirus Act’s been extended for another six months.  I hate the fact that these powers exist – not even the likes of William the Conqueror or Oliver Cromwell tried to stop people from leaving their local areas, visiting their friends and relatives or having their hair cut – but there really is no alternative.  If the horrible virus mutates again,  we just can’t wait whilst Parliament messes about arguing about things.  But who, 15 months ago, would have thought that we’d come to this?

 

Friday, March 26th

I don’t think anyone’s taking too much notice of the “stay local as much as possible” guidance.  We’ve been banned from leaving the area for over 5 months, and the official ban ends on Monday.  Enough.  The National Trust site has been mad today, because the bookings site couldn’t cope with the number of people trying to get on.  I had a feeling this would happen, so I stayed up till midnight and got my tickets for Easter weekend as soon as they became available.  Oh, for a return to the days of just turning up!

That idiot Macron is still trying to blame us for the fact that the EU’s messed up its vaccination rollout.  Whilst he’s trying to divert the blame, the infection rate in Paris is sky-rocketing – it’s over 600.  Germany has now declared France a high-risk country.

Shops here are to be allowed to stay open until 10pm 6 days a week, when non-essential retail reopens.  I’m not sure who wants to go shopping at 10pm, but whatever.

 

Saturday, March 27th

Hopefully, this will be the last weekend of lockdown.  I need to get out into the countryside.

Mum and Dad had their second jabs today, so they’re all done … although there’s now talk of over 70s having a booster jab in the autumn.  Another fortysomething friend had hers today, but she must also have been lucky and got an appointment before this thing of over 50s only from March 29th came in.

I was meant to be in Grasmere this weekend.  Instead, I went to Hollingworth Lake – which was actually very nice, with lots of daffodils out.

Several local cafes and restaurants have applied for permission to set up outdoor chairs and tables.  Let’s just hope we get some decent weather!   Boris has said that, as things are, we should be able to stick to the “roadmap”.  Locally, infection rates are dropping again, a bit, although I doubt they’ll drop much until younger people have been vaccinated, and may well rise as things open up.  But deaths and hospitalisations are dropping.  The big worry, other than the slowdown in vaccine supply, is the situation in France.  Spain’s joined Germany in tightening restrictions on people entering from France, and it’s a worry with all the cross-Channel haulage traffic.

On a different note, United Women played at Old Trafford for the first time today.  And won, beating West Ham 2-0.

 

Sunday, March 28th

Let’s hope that this is the last ever day of lockdown.  And a bloody rotten one it’s been too – heavy rain and strong winds for part of the day.  It did, to be fair, ease up for a while, so I was able to go for a walk in the park – where the vintage trams were having a run out.

And we won our World Cup qualifier against Albania, following up our win against San Marino.

And it’s hoped that a shipment of the Moderna vaccine will arrive by mid-April.

So, OK, it hasn’t all been bad.  But everyone is so fed up.  We in Greater Manchester have pretty much been in some form of lockdown since the middle of October.  Whilst I was angry about the whole tier thing, I understand that the nationwide Lockdown III was unavoidable, but … this while thing, not even being allowed to see your own family and friends, is something that not even the most extreme of dystopian novelists would have written about 15 months ago.

New rule to try to help keep the “third wave” out – lorry drivers, cabin crew, prison escorts and seasonal workers entering England from outside the UK will need to take a Covid-19 test within 48 hours of arrival, and those remaining in the UK for longer than two days will be required to take a further test every three days.

Well, on we go – setting off on the “roadmap to freedom”.  Fingers crossed …

Lockdown Anniversary

  It’s a year today since we first went into lockdown.  Hopefully, we’re now on the way out of it, but, with case numbers rising in a lot of other countries, and the virus being capable of playing nasty tricks such as mutating just in time to muck up Christmas, this nightmare’s a long way from being over.  But at least now we’ve got toilet paper, televised football, and takeaways in the park; and everyone involved with the vaccination programme is doing an incredible job and deserves all our heartfelt thanks.

We knew about the Spanish flu.  But it’d happened over 100 years ago, and medical knowledge and treatments then were nothing like they are now.  And, over the last few years, quite a few strange viruses – SARS, MERS, bird flu, the Zika virus – had appeared in different parts of the world, made headlines for a few weeks, and then never been mentioned again.   When one called “coronavirus”, later referred to more specifically as “Covid-19” appeared in a Chinese city called Wuhan, it just seemed like another one of those.  Until it didn’t.  It’s claimed over 2.7 million lives – we’ll never have an accurate figure, especially as every country seems to record figures differently, but that’s the official figure – and it’s turned all our lives upside down.  The chances are that it’s always going to be a big dividing line in our lives, just like the Second World War was for people who lived through it.

Maybe there’ll be permanent changes directly linked to it, like needing an annual vaccination, which in time will just be part of normal life.  In all likelihood, there’ll be permanent changes as an indirect result of it.  At the moment, we just don’t know – which is extremely frustrating, especially for anxious, over-planning people like me.   There is no certainty.  Scientists keep coming out with long-term doom and gloom predictions.  I’m sure there are some cheerful scientists out there, but none of them ever seem to make it on to TV!   Other people are more optimistic.  But we just don’t know.

Hopefully the vaccination programme is the way out of this.  I fully understand that, with such a big operation, there were bound to be hitches along the way – and Boris was quite right to praise the vaccine-producing organisations, rather than, as certain other people have done, criticise the very people offering hope.  But, oh, it’s so annoying that it’s happened just as I was practically at the front of the queue!   Some areas were already on to Group 10, and our area looked set to get there any day, and then the goalposts were moved.  Can’t be helped, and, as I’ve said, everyone involved with the vaccination programme’s doing an incredible job, but it’s rather frustrating for all those of us still waiting our turn!  More uncertainty.  Every time we think we’re getting near the finish line with this, something else happens.

And it all came from nowhere.  Yes, we’ve seen the pictures of people having fun in the sun over the August Bank Holiday weekend of 1914, little knowing that four years of war lay ahead, but people who followed international politics closely knew that trouble was brewing and, when you look back even as far as the 1890s, you can see that war was almost certainly coming.  But you can’t see a pandemic coming.  You can see that, say, having unclean water supplies in Victorian cities was asking for trouble, but this?   Maybe it was something to do with wet markets, but, until early last year, had you ever even heard of a wet market?  I hadn’t, and I’ve been to China.

All those lives gone – every one of them someone’s beloved relative, friend, neighbour, colleague.   And probably many more lives lost as a result of delays to medical treatment due to the pressure on health services, or mental deterioration in vulnerable people, especially those in care homes, cut off from their loved ones.  Many more people – we don’t know how many – left with long-term physical health issues.  And we can’t yet know the extent of the mental health problems caused by the unavoidable restrictions that we’ve been under for so long, and, in particular, the effect on front line workers who’ve had so much to deal with.

Other things have been lost too.  People forced to mourn without a “proper” funeral, or the usual mourning rituals of their religion/culture.  And time that you can’t get back.  People who’ve died without being able to spend their precious last days with loved ones.  Time that grandparents and aunts and uncles would have spent with babies and toddlers during their precious early months.   The experience of university.   Time that children should have spent in school.  OK, you hear stories about kids who came to the UK as refugees, not speaking a word of English, and got straight As in their A-levels a few years later, and think that one year of disrupted education might not be a big deal, but it will be to some children.   Everyone’s different, and it’s going to be very difficult to sort out the problems that this has caused.

And it’s hit some communities much harder than others.  Here in Greater Manchester, we were put under additional restrictions at the end of July, five months before some areas were.  Infection rates and death rates in some areas have been much higher than others, for a variety of reasons.  Urban areas of North West England, Yorkshire, North East England and South Wales have been particularly badly affected.  And the economic effects are going to be much worse in some areas, especially tourist areas, than others, too, and recovery isn’t going to happen overnight.

We don’t know what recovery’s going to be like.  We aren’t even at the recovery stage yet.  And no-one knows how it’s going to be.  Non-essential shops will hopefully be reopening on April 12th, but are we all going to rush to the high streets and the shopping centres?  Well, if it’s like last July, when you had to queue outside because only limited numbers were allowed in, you couldn’t use the toilets, and you couldn’t try clothes on, then, quite frankly, no.  I did so much walking during Lockdown I that I was desperate for new trainers by the time shops reopened.  I went to Sports Direct at Manchester Fort, and found myself having to spend half an hour stood out in the rain before I could even go in.  It obviously wasn’t the fault of the shop’s owners or staff, but it wasn’t exactly great.   And have we all got used to ordering things online?   So many big High Street names have gone since all this started.  What does the future hold?

And what about the future for city/town centres in general?  Will we carry on WFH?  I would love to carry on WFH.  It’s saved my sanity (such sanity as I actually possess!) during all this.  Being able to go for a walk during the day (not that I’m losing any weight from doing so, bleurgh), instead of being trapped in a depressing office.  Not having to listen to other people’s incessant coughing, sneezing, snivelling and shouting.  Bliss!   Some people think that WFH is the way ahead.  I’m not so sure.  Some jobs, obviously, just can’t be done from home.  With others – well, will bullying, controlling employers be happy to go on like this indefinitely?   Decent employers will, but how many of them are there around?  There’ve been reports of many employers refusing to give people an hour out of the working day to go and have their vaccinations.

We shall see.

Zoom meetings are surely here to stay, though.  Big savings in terms of time and travel costs.  There’ll be some people, especially in particular sectors, who want to get back to face-to-face shmoozing, wining and dining, but there’ll be a lot who won’t.

That’s mainly in sectors which haven’t taken a big hit.  But some sectors are on their knees.  Tourist businesses and shops, as already mentioned.  The overseas travel industry.  Personal care businesses, and health and fitness businesses.  A lot of businesses just won’t make it, or have gone already.   The leisure industry in general – how much permanent change is there going to be?  Professional sport will bounce back: you can’t recreate the atmosphere of actually being at a live sports event.  And, as nice as take-aways are, I think there’ll be a rush back to restaurants, cafes and pubs when they reopen.  But, when cinemas and theatres reopen, how will they stand up against Netflix and other watch-at-home services?    Have people’s habits changed permanently?

And then there’s foreign travel.  Oh, travel, how I miss thee.  I had it all planned out for 2020.  Iceland booked for July, Japan booked for October, and a Mitteleuropean Christmas market to be booked for December as soon as I got the 20/21 football fixtures.  Iceland’s rebooked for this July and Japan’s rebooked for this October, but I’ve pretty much accepted that neither of them are happening.  Even if we’re legally allowed to travel, are things going to be open, and do I want these experiences of a lifetime spoilt by stressing about masks and social distancing?  But how long is this going to go on?  And how long can airlines and travel companies keep going?

Oh, I want to go on a coach tour abroad.  I want to go somewhere here: we’ve been banned from even leaving the local area for over five months.  I haven’t seen my sister, brother-in-law and nephews since August, and I haven’t seen many other relatives and friends since well before that.  I haven’t been to Old Trafford for over a year.  I haven’t been to the theatre or the cinema for over a year.  National Trust properties are open, but you have to decide a week in advance that you’re going, and book, so it’s not quite the same.  I want to be in a crowd.  I hate being in crowds, unless it’s at a sports or music event: I get stressed and feel trapped if there are too many people about.  But I want to be in one anyway.  Without dogs.  I am so, so sick of dogs.  I walk and walk, because there’s nothing else to do, but, everywhere you walk, there are dogs.   So, no, dogs, but I want to be in a crowd.  Just briefly.  And I want a haircut!   I don’t read dystopian novels, but I can’t imagine that there are any which mention not being able to have your hair cut.  I get the reason that salons are closed, but I’m sick of it!

Most of all, I want a day out in the Lake District.  Hopefully, that’s not far off.  But any sort of normality, whatever normality is any more, is a fair way off.  Thankfully, we don’t seem to be getting the “third wave” affecting parts of the Continent, and hopefully we won’t.  But this is nowhere near over.  And, a year ago, whilst we’d had to accept that this was bad, and that life was going to change, we thought it was going to peak over Easter weekend and that the worst would be over by the summer.  Yes, I know that the second wave of the Spanish flu was worse than the first.  I knew that a year ago, too.  But that was over 100 years ago, and medical knowledge and treatments then were nothing like they are now …

There are nice things.  WFH is wonderful, as I’ve said: I wish that could last indefinitely.  I love being able to go out for a walk every day.  I love that I see a lot of the same people, and that we stop to say hello to each other.  The park’s like the social centre of the universe at the moment!   I like the takeaway cafes .. OK, I don’t like the queues, but I rather like going up to the hatch, and then going off to sit on a park bench.  And how could we have got through this without social media?  OK, there are the people who post spiteful, political points-scoring stuff, but I’ve learnt to try to ignore that, and to focus on the positive stuff people post, and the kindness that so many people have shown.

But I want my “real” life back.  And we don’t know when it’s coming back, and how much of it’s coming back.  But at least we’ve still got our lives.  2.7 million people haven’t.  That’s a bewildering number.   And, whatever could or should have been done differently, this is the fault of a virus, a very nasty, clever, shapeshifting virus, and nature’s stronger than we are.   It’s not exactly Ragnarok, but … well, Whig history, onwards and upwards, human and industrial progress, moving forwards … and then something like this happens, and everything changes.

Lockdown III Week 11, March 15th to 21st 2021 inclusive

Monday, March 15th

A terrible thing has happened 😦 .  Thorntons are closing all their shops.  Their chocolate will still be available online and from some supermarkets, but all their shops are going.  I can’t believe it.  There’ll be no High Street shops left at this rate.

Sunday’s Census Day, but you can fill yours in early if nothing’s going to change.  I decided to fill mine in today, then read it over later in the week, then send it in.  I appreciate that the decision to go ahead with it was taken before Lockdown III, but it’s going to be rather a mess.  You’ve got to fill in it as things are now, so loads of people will be putting that they’re not working, even though they have actually got jobs, and loads of people will be putting that they’re working from home and therefore not using any form of transport to get to work – so how are the authorities meant to make decisions about the transport network?

Nice sunny day today.  More and more daffodils coming out.  And we’re stuck in this limbo.  And hairdressers in Wales have reopened … but we’ve got to wait another four weeks.

Some countries have suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, this time because some people’ve got blood clots after having it, but there’s no evidence that the blood clots are linked to the vaccine or that the incidence of blood clots is any higher than it would be anyway.  You can now e-mail the doctors’ surgery, so I’ve e-mailed to ask if there’s any news on vaccinations for Group 10.  No harm in asking.

And Portugal’s off the “red list”.

 

Tuesday, March 16th

Bleurgh.  First, Indian Wells was cancelled.  Now, Rafa’s pulled out of Miami.  He says that it’s so he can focus on getting ready for the clay court season, and that sort of makes sense, but I’m bothered about just how bad this back injury is.

Also, infection rates are up in 7 out of the 10 local boroughs.  Not ours, but it’s probably only a matter of time.  It’s because secondary school kids are now being tested regularly.  There doesn’t seem to be any panic, because kids are rarely badly affected, but a) it shows how many asymptomatic cases there are around, b) a small number of kids *are* badly affected, c) it could be passed on to a vulnerable classmate of family member, d) it means that some kids have been sent home from school again, already, and e) with no plans to vaccinate under 18s, and no vaccines even licensed for under 18s, the issue of infections in children is a problem.

On a happier note, Prince Philip has been released from hospital.  And the first tulip’s out in my garden.

Boris’s hair is horrendous.  Mine is pretty bad, but his is ten times worse.

And the surgery e-mailed me back to say that they’re still on over-50s.

 

Wednesday, March 17th

I don’t believe this.  Just as my turn for the vaccine was getting close, the NHS is warning of a “major contraction” in supplies and saying that it might have to suspend appointments for first doses.  This may or may not be connected with Ursula von der Leyen again threatening an export ban, in her continued attempts to blame everyone but herself and her team for the complete balls-up they’ve made of the rollout in EU countries.

We’re also being told that people in their 40s will have to wait whilst the NHS chases up people in Groups 1 to 9 who haven’t yet come forward.

I am not very happy about this 😦 .

It’s been a nice sunny day – blue sky, and more and more daffodils in the park.

But this latest news about the vaccines really isn’t very good.

 

Thursday, March 18th

Oh, how annoying is this?  I do appreciate that it’s not aimed at me personally, and I also appreciate that we were always going to hit a supply hitch at some point and have done very well to get this far without one, but I was so close.  The word was that some people aged 47-49 in our area had been contacted, and that people aged 45-46, i.e. including me, could probably hope to hear next week.  And now it’s probably going to be another month.  Another month of not being protected.  And, whilst I do get that it’s not about holidays, if I’d had my first vaccination in late March or early April, I’d have had my second in time for the summer holiday season.  So near, and yet so far.

It seems that one shipment of 1.7 million doses is being held back for extra testing, and that a shipment of 5 million doses from India’s been delayed by 4 weeks because of production problems.  I thought it was great that Boris praised the “herculean” efforts of the production facility in India, rather than slagging off the people whose hard work’s offering us a way out of this nightmare, like that nasty piece of work Ursula von der Leyen’s doing, but it is, nevertheless, annoying.  The original target was to complete groups 1 to 9 by 15th April, and we’re 4 weeks before that and I’m group 10, but … ooh, it’s so, so frustrating.   So nearly there … and now I’m not.

On a happier note, we won 1-0 at AC Milan, 2-1 on aggregate, and are into the Europa League QFs.  And it’s been another nice sunny day.  More daffodils out in the park.  Please, please be nice in April!

 

Friday, March 19th

After a third fortysomething friend posted on Facebook that she’d had the vaccine, I rang our surgery to ask what was going on.  The answer was that a small number of people in their late 40s had been contacted, because the walk-in centre had had some doses which were nearing their use-by dates, but that, following the announcements on Wednesday, no-one outside the top 9 groups would be being called for the time being.  Existing appointments are being honoured, so my friend must just have been lucky in that her area was slightly ahead of ours and she’d been contacted before Wednesday.  Which is great for her, and I’m very pleased for her, but it’s very frustrating for me!

The number of cases is edging up now.  However, we still only recorded 4,802 cases across the UK today, compared to (yesterday’s numbers) nearly 35,000 in France, nearly 30,000 in Germany and nearly 25,000 in Italy.  There’s increasing talk of a “third wave”.  Will this nightmare ever end?!

I just heard a squeaky noise, panicked that the boiler had thrown a strop, and then realised that it was some birds tweeting in a tree!

For all this talk about third waves and vaccine shortages, there’s been no suggestion that the “roadmap” will be altered for the time being.  Everyone really is fed up, so let’s hope that things can go ahead as planned.

And we’ve been drawn against Granada in the next round of the Europa League.

 

Saturday, March 20th

Over 700,000 vaccinations were given in just one day yesterday, which is amazing stuff, but so, so, frustrating for my age group, left waiting outside with the door shut in our faces!   On a more positive note, over 50% of the adult population’s now had their first dose.   Cases are creeping up again, but hospitalisations and deaths are falling, which is more important.  However, the news from the Continent is grim, with the term “third wave” being used more and more.  With fears that rising numbers of cases there could lead to new variants arising, hopes of foreign travel (bearing in mind that most foreign travel from the UK is to the Continent) being allowed to resume any time soon are fading.  Poland and many parts of France have gone back into lockdown.  Oh, will this nightmare ever end?!

I went to Clifton Country Park this morning.  Took my own scone, from The Coffee Sack, with me!   It was nice to have a change of scene, but the place was absolutely plagued with people with dogs, and the paths there are very narrow.  I went for a walk in Heaton Park later.  Much as I like going for walks, I am getting very fed up!  And my hair is an epic disaster.

Japan’s said that no overseas fans will be allowed in for the Olympics.  My trip to Japan, booked around 18 months ago and postponed from last October to this October, looks very unlikely to happen.  Ditto my trip to Iceland, rescheduled from last July to this July.  I’m used to going abroad at least twice a year, usually more – I know that sounds “privileged”, but I wear the same grotty old clothes for decades, and use gadgets until they stop working – and suddenly not being able to do so is very odd.  I haven’t even been allowed to leave the local area for 5 months.

On a different note, I saw our local Big Issue seller today, sitting on the pavement in the precinct.  I got him something to eat, and he’d got some hot drinks, so hopefully people are keeping an eye out for him.  He’s a well-known face in the local community: he’s been selling the Big Issue outside M&S for years.  But Big Issue sellers aren’t allowed to work during lockdown.  How stupid is that?  Newsagents are allowed to open, and, OK, magazines aren’t “essential” in the same way that newspapers are, but surely the Big Issue should be a special case.   During Lockdown I, a big effort was made to find homeless people somewhere to stay, but it doesn’t seem to be happening this time.

 

Sunday, March 21st

Census Day.

A record 844,285 vaccinations were given yesterday.  That is amazing.  However, it makes it all the more frustrating that – whilst I quite appreciate that it’s no-one’s fault – most under 50s now face a long wait.  All this talk about vaccination passports is frustrating as well: it makes you feel like a second class citizen.  And it’s pretty silly, given that much of it involves activities that are mainly the preserve of younger people.  Vaccination passports for summer music festivals?  WTF?  The vast majority of people who go to music festivals are under 30, and will therefore be last in the vaccination queue, so how’s that supposed to work?!

Everything feels frustrating.  When you’re trapped doing boring work for 5 days a week, and get very little time off, weekends are precious.  A dry Sunday in daffodil season is like manna from heaven.  The Lakes?  Chirk Castle?  Biddulph Grange?  Bolton Abbey?  No … another walk round the park, and another walk into Prestwich village for another cake that I don’t need.  Everyone has had enough.  People are sitting at tables outside cafes, which they’re not meant to.  Kids are playing football in big groups, which they’re not meant to.  Plenty of people have had their hair cut by mobile hairdressers, which they’re certainly not meant to.  The odd sanctimonious person tuts at all this, and says that they’re prepared to endure restrictions for as long as it takes, for the Greater Good.  I’m sure people only say that because they think it makes them sound virtuous.  It actually just makes them sound annoying.

Yes, I’m sure we’re all aware that we’re in a pandemic, and that the restrictions are not just there to annoy us, but people are getting down.  And do scientists think they’re helping by saying that we’ll probably have to wear masks and observe social distancing for years to come, that there’ll probably be a big flu epidemic in the winter because immunity’s dropped due to lack of contact, that overseas travel will be off the menu for months yet, that even vaccinations won’t stop the pandemic, and all the rest of it?  They’re the modern equivalent of those people in the 17th century who went around proclaiming that the end of the world was nigh!   People can’t deal with hearing all that at the moment.

It’s not been a bad day.  Lots of daffodils in the park 🙂 .  Just frustrating.

OK, off to watch the Cup QF.  At least we’ve got football, which is more than we had this time last year!   I know I’m moaning a lot today, but I’m fed up.

… and we lost the Cup QF at Leicester, 2-1.  Bleurgh!

Bleurgh indeed …

 

A hitch in the proceedings

 You know when you’ve been waiting in a long queue, and, just as you’re practically at the front, someone closes the doors, draws a rope across, or says “Sorry, we’ve sold out”?  Well, that is me with the Covid vaccine.  The original target was to give over-50s, plus any younger people who worked in healthcare (and) or were extremely clinicially vulnerable, their first jab by April 15th.  But we were steaming ahead, and my group, the over-40s were next in line.  Two of my friends, both in their 40s but living in different parts of the country, had their first jabs last week.  Yesterday morning, the word in my area was that some people aged 47, 48 and 49 had been called, and that people aged 45 or 46, i.e. including yours truly, could hope to hear within the next few days.  I was so close to having that protection, to feeling that relief.

But then, yesterday afternoon, news outlets started reporting that the NHS had sent out a letter saying that there was about to be a big reduction in the number of doses of the vaccine available, and that vaccination centres should stop taking appointments.  Next thing, Matt Hancock and the website for the local vaccination centre were saying that no-one under 50, other than those in other priority groups, was eligible to be vaccinated until further notice.

It’s transpired that a shipment of 5 million doses from the Serum Centre in India’s been delayed for four weeks due to production problems, and that a batch of 1.7 million doses, which we’ve already got, is being held back because of some sort of additional testing.  The doses available are needed for second jabs and for people in the top 9 groups who haven’t been vaccinated yet.   So, having been a few days away from getting my first jab, I’m now probably a month away.  And it’s a significant month, as well: had I had my first jab in late March and early April, I’d have had my second in late June, giving me a lot more options for the summer holiday season.

Yes, obviously I do get that this is not about me.  It affects everyone in my age group, including people who’ve got health problems, or who work in jobs which mean they’ve got a lot of unavoidable contact with other people.  And, yes, I do get that the point of the vaccination programme is to save lives and avoid serious illness, not to enable people to go on foreign holidays.  And, yes, obviously it’s better that it’s happened now than before we’d vaccinated the more vulnerable groups.  And, yes, originally I didn’t expect to be called before late April anyway.  But it’s still, so, so frustrating, to have been so near and now be so far!

There was bound to be a hitch at some point, and we’ve done very well to get this far without one.  We’ve gone from having no approved vaccines available to trying to produce enough for everyone on the planet within a very short space of time: there were always going to be hiccups.  And it was lovely to hear Boris praising the “herculean efforts” of the Serum Institute, rather than, as that deeply unpleasant woman Ursula von der Leyen keeps going, criticising the very people whose amazing efforts have offered us hope of a way out of this nightmare.

We’re still on target to give everyone in the top 9 groups their first jab by the middle of April, and to give all adults their first jab by the middle of July.  The “roadmap” isn’t affected.  Compared to, say, France, which recorded over 35,000 cases today, when we, with a higher population, recorded 6,303, we’re doing OK, touch wood.  But, ooh, the frustration of being so, so close, and now knowing that it’s going to be at least another month!  Sorry for moaning, but … gah!!

 

 

Lockdown III Week 10, March 8th to 14th 2021 inclusive

Monday, March 8th

Kids went back to school today.  And you’re now allowed to meet one other person outdoors, without going for a walk.  Let’s just hope that there are no more issues with schools.  Secondary school kids now have to be tested 9I mean for the virus, not school stuff!) twice a week.

Worrying news from Poland, where infection rates are up by around 30% in a week, and there’s talk of a “third wave”.

Some rain earlier, but sunny now.

And I’d intended to watch the Harry and Meghan interview, just out of curiosity, but we’ve heard most of what they said and I’m not sure that I want to dignify their lies by spending time watching it.  For example, they’ve claimed that Archie was denied a title.  WTF??  He was supposed to be the Earl of Dumbarton, but they said that they wanted him to be plain “Master”.  There are numerous similar examples.  It’s all deeply unpleasant, and I’m very sorry that the Queen’s having to deal with their vindictiveness at her age.

It’s also Commonwealth Day.  And International Women’s Day.

And another day of marking time.  I’m usually deep into holiday planning at this time of year.

 

Tuesday, March 9th

That miserable pair Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance have said that there’ll probably be a third wave of the virus in the UK at some point.  I think they want us locked down until kingdom come.

Horrible weather’s forecast for the rest of the week.  Bleurgh 😦 .  Just hope it’s decent over Easter weekend.

Rates locally and nationally continue to fall, as, more importantly, do deaths and hospitalisations, but the picture in parts of Europe, including Italy, is very worrying, with cases rising again.

Japan’s said that no overseas fans will be allowed at the Olympics.  I think I can forget my October coach tour of Japan, which I was originally supposed to go on last year.  I booked it in the autumn of 2019, and I was so excited and so much looking forward to it, and the same with my summer trip to Iceland.  I’ve got a load of books on both countries in the spare room wardrobe.

 

Wednesday, March 10th

Wet and windy today.  At least it meant that there was no queue for drinks at the park café!  I hope it doesn’t do this over Easter weekend, though, just when people will be reuniting with relatives and friends.

Just watching Dan Evans v Roger Federer.

Cases are rising rapidly in Hungary and the Czech Republic, as well as Poland.

 

Thursday, March 11th

Strong winds and heavy rain overnight.  Brightened up later, although it stayed windy, but it’s raining again later.  I got drenched in the park yesterday (despite my brolly) and windswept today.  Several people have remarked on the fact that I go out walking even when the weather’s awful and hardly anyone else does.  So why am I still so fat?!!  It’s not fair 😦 .

United v AC Milan is one of those glamour ties you dream about, even if it is in the Europa League and not the Champions League.  I’m grateful that I can watch it on telly, but it’s not the same as being there.  Later … finished 1-1, conceded an away goal in injury time, bah!!

And the eternally miserable Mark Drakeford – does that man ever smile? – wants to keep a “stay local” order in force in Wales, even when the “stay at home” order’s lifted.  And I don’t think he wants to let people from England into Wales ever again.  Will I ever see Chirk Castle, Bodnant Garden, Llangollen and Erddig again?!  Will the tourist businesses in places like Llandudno, which depend on visitors from North West England, ever make any money again?!

On a happier note, some daffodils are out in Heaton Park.

 

Friday, March 12th

Hmm.  Mark Drakeford may be miserable, but he’s said that hairdressers in Wales can reopen on Monday, four weeks before they’re reopening in England.  I’m sorely tempted to nip over to Wrexham – the state of my hair must surely class an emergency!!  He’s also said that self-catering holiday accommodation in Wales can reopen at the end of March … but not to people from other parts of the UK.  I’m not very comfortable about this.  Not that I want to go to a holiday cottage in Wales in March, but just the whole thing.

Very windy again today.

Italy’s going back into lockdown.

I feel like I’m just waiting.  Waiting to be allowed out.  Waiting until it’s my turn to be vaccinated.  Just waiting.  But rates in our borough are right down to 77 now (touch wood).  Above the national average, which is around 52, but the lowest they’ve been since … it must be September, if not August.

 

Saturday, March 13th

Hooray!!  There are usually plenty of daffodils out at Dunham Massey by mid-March, so I’d booked to go today, but was rather upset when the forecast was for rain and wind.  However, although there’ve been a few bad spells, it was fine whilst I was there, and there were indeed lots of lovely daffodils.  I was so excited!  I’m a bit obsessive about daffodils 🙂 .  *And* they had scones.

We’re supposed to be “staying local as much as possible” after the “stay home” rule’s lifted on March 29th, but I really have had enough – and people who are trapped in offices need to make the most of Easter weekend.  Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.  Please, weather, just behave …

Salford’ve won the 2020 EFL Trophy.  The 2021 final’s tomorrow!

Most of the daffodils in Prestwich Flower Park are out too.  They weren’t on Monday, so that’s quick!

Two friends who are both in my age group have had their vaccinations today.  It varies across the country, depending on demographics, and plenty of friends in their early 50s, i.e. the group before mine, are still waiting,  but I’m getting a bit impatient now.

Cases in the Netherlands are now on the up, as well as Italy and East/Central Europe.  This isn’t good.  But, this morning, my heart with pleasure fills (“filled” doesn’t rhyme) and danced with the daffodils.

 

Sunday, March 14th

Went to the park this morning.  Some of the daffodils in the woods are out.

Unfortunately, it then absolutely poured down from about 1 o’clock to half 4.  Yes, there are books, newspapers, magazines, TV programmes and films, but I feel so trapped by work stuff during the week (although not nearly as much as I do when I’m trapped in an office) and am really not good at sitting in the house at weekends.  Just hope it doesn’t do this over Easter weekend.  On a happier note, United 1-0 West Ham!

There’ve been big anti-lockdown protests in the Netherlands.

Everyone is really, really fed up.  This has gone on and on and on.  The good news is that around 45% of the population’ve now had their first vaccinations, and I’m just desperately hoping that this is our way out of it.  People are really struggling.  And it’s Mother’s Day/Mothering Sunday today, when a lot of families like to hold get-togethers.

Murray Walker died.  I hadn’t realised he was 97.  Seems like only yesterday that he was still doing Formula 1 commentary.

In the middle of it all, a huge row’s broken out after the Met Police rather badly mishandled a vigil-cum-protest on Clapham Common, following the abduction and murder of a woman there last week.  The suspect’s a serving police officer.  People were told not to attend the vigil/protest, because of the lockdown restrictions, but many did anyway, and it somehow all went wrong and there’ve been some very unpleasant pictures of policemen removing women quite aggressively.   They didn’t try to stop Black Lives Matter protests, or try to stop those idiots from Extinction Rebellion from blocking the streets, and it’s also been pointed out that no-one tried to stop crowds of Rangers fans from celebrating their SPL title victory last week.

Ten weeks of lockdown.  And weeks of Tier 3/Tier 4/Lockdown II before that.  And it’s almost a year since we went into the first lockdown.   I see things sometimes, pictures of huge crowds at football matches, or at concerts, or cheering at parades, or even crowds of people on public transport, and wonder when we’ll ever get back to any sort of normality.   Sometimes, even now, it still feels unreal that this is happening.

Lockdown III Week 9, March 1st to 7th 2021 inclusive

Monday, March 1st

Another nice sunny day.  Local rates are coming down again, thankfully.

I am way too fat, and my hair is a horrendous mess.

Six cases of “the Brazilian variant” have been found in the UK.  One or possibly more of these relates to someone who flew into London on a connecting flight from Zurich, having flown to Zurich from Brazil.  The issue of connecting flights is a big problem.  And we don’t actually know who one of the other people infected is, because they didn’t fill in their form properly!  FFS.

On a more positive note, data shows that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are very effective in preventing hospitalisation and death.

Several friends have said that they’ve already booked hair appointments.  I’ve texted my hairdresser, but she hasn’t got back to me.  I’m sure that there’s a very good reason for this, but it’s stressing me out!

Prince Philip’s been transferred to St Bart’s, which is rather worrying.

 

Tuesday, March 2nd

Yet another sunny day, but very cold overnight: I had to de-ice the car before going to Tesco this morning.  Still too cold to put new plants in!

Thanks to that idiot Macron and his Anglophobic ranting against the AstraZeneca vaccine, large amounts of the said vaccine are lying unused in both France and Germany.  Macron’s now eaten his words but, understandably, people are now nervous.  Meanwhile, Slovakia’s following Hungary in getting stocks of the Sputnik vaccine from Russia, and it looks as if Austria and the Czech Republic may follow suit.  Austria and Denmark are also in talks with Israel over vaccines.  Normally, I’d be a little amused to see the European Disunion is such disarray, but not when people’s health and even lives are at stake.  What the hell was Macron playing at?

And kids are getting ready to go back to school.

 

Wednesday, March 3rd

Seriously stressed about the lack of contact from my hairdresser 😦 .

I had a phone call from Old Trafford today, just to say that they’d be in touch about info for next season once more was known about how many people would be allowed back into stadia etc.  I’m not sure why that merited a phone call, TBH, but maybe they’re just trying to be caring.  The last match I went to was on March 8th 2020, almost exactly a year ago.  A year without going to a football match.

Today was Budget Day.  The furlough scheme and the other support schemes will continue until the end of September, but corporation tax for large companies will go up from April 2023, and personal tax allowances will be frozen.  This whole thing’s an economic nightmare.  It’s no-one’s fault, just something we’ve got to deal with, but we’re going to be dealing with the aftermath of this for years.  And no-one really knows how much has changed permanently – we’re just going to have to see how it goes.  Will people go back to going to physical shops rather than ordering online, and seeing films at the pictures rather than on Netflix?  Will people go back to holding meetings in person rather than over Zoom?   Only time will tell.

 

Thursday, March 4th

Hooray – rates in our borough are down 41% week-on-week, touch wood, and rates across the whole area are falling more quickly than they were, so fears of a return to the Evil Tier System are (I hope) receding.  And rejoice, rejoice, I’ve got a hair appointment for April 13th!!

However, rates are rising in several Continental countries, notably Poland.  And Italy has blocked the export to Australia of vaccine doses which have been legitimately ordered by Australia, under this unbelievably selfish European Union “I’m all right, Jack” policy.

My holiday company’s cancelled all tours up to the end of May.  I’m so sorry for them – they’ve lost over a year’s business.  I’m still officially booked for Iceland in July and Japan in October, re-booked from last year, but, sadly, I can’t see that either trip’s going to happen. However, Matt Hancock’s talking about “A Great British Summer” again, so fingers crossed that staycations will be on even if foreign holidays aren’t.

 

Friday, March 5th

Prince Philip’s back at the other hospital, after a heart procedure.

A lot of moaning’s going on over the lack of public sector pay rises.  I’m afraid I haven’t got much sympathy.  Private sector employers will be using the pandemic as an excuse to freeze pay for years.  Public sector workers get unlimited paid sick pay, good pension schemes and loads of holidays: private sector workers get none of those things.  And they have considerable job security, whereas a lot of private sector workers have lost their jobs or fear losing their jobs.

Cyprus has said that it’ll welcome British tourists who’re fully vaccinated.  Here we go … most people who go to Cyprus are in the younger age groups and are therefore unlikely to have been fully vaccinated by the summer, and there’s going to be a lot of resentment about it.

The mystery person with the Brazilian variant’s been traced.

People going abroad from England now have to fill in a form saying that they’re going abroad for legitimate reasons.

And it’s cold!

 

Saturday, March 6th

I hope this nice weather doesn’t end when lockdown ends.  It’s so, so frustrating having dry, sunny(ish) weekend days and not being able to get out into the countryside or the seaside.  Yes, I know that there’s a pandemic, but, when I hear about the police patrolling beauty spots, it makes me feel like we’re back in the days of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass, denying urban working people access to the countryside.  I feel that all the more when I hear over and over again about how much worse urban areas have been affected than rural areas.  Burnley’s virus death rate in January was double the national average.  OK, OK, I don’t suppose that that would have changed if people from Burnley had been allowed to go to Blackpool or the Lakes or the Trough of Bowland, but lockdown definitely weighs a lot harder on some areas than on others.

Having said all that, I did get to Hollingworth Lake earlier.

I went off the main path to where the farms are, in the hope of seeing some lambs, but it’s too early!   And I’ve been to the garden centre, and put the new plants in the garden.  And I’ve been to Tesco, where (how sad is this?) I got quite excited over the new self-service machines, which do not go berserk if you take things out of “the bagging area”!  Once you’ve scanned something, you can put it in a bag in your trolley or basket.  Wa-hey!!

Local infection rates are now falling more quickly than the national average.  No idea why, but long may it last!

Someone flew a helicopter from Barton Aerodrome to Chipping and back (about an 80 mile round trip) to collect a roast beef barm with caramelised onion gravy.  Seriously.

Other than the pandemic and the derby match, the main talking point is Harry and Meghan.  The Royal Family, the country and the entire Commonwealth are well rid of those two, but the nastiness is upsetting, and I’m sad to think of how distressing it must be for the Queen and Prince Philip.

 

Sunday, March 7th

Rejoice, rejoice – City 0 – 2 United!!

On the day of last year’s Etihad league derby, I was in Vienna, and celebrated victory (yes, we beat City twice in the league last season) with a late evening gluhwein at the Rathausplatz Christmas market, in the middle of crowds of people from all over the world having fun.  This evening, I celebrated with a cup of tea in the front room.  But, hey, the main thing is that we’re celebrating!

This time last year, we kept getting storms at the weekends.  It was so frustrating, especially as the Lake District was particularly badly affected by them.  This year, we’re getting all these lovely dry, sunny days, but we’re banned from going anywhere.  Gah!   However, hooray, we have got Heaton Park, and you can sometimes find a quiet area away from people with horrible barking dogs.  I was in the park for ages.

Loads of kids playing football or cricket in big groups.  Loads of people walking or even sitting in groups which weren’t big but were clearly more than one household.    Everyone’s just had enough.  I’m not excusing rule-breaking, but the virus doesn’t spread much outdoors, and it’s all just gone on for so long.

Schools go back tomorrow.

It’s a start.  I hope.