Monday, December 21st
Ring Out Ye Solstice Bells … well, let’s hope that the light returns soon, because things are pretty grim at the moment. I just cannot take in what is happening. Over 40 countries have now imposed travel bans on us – some for 48 hours, some for a month, some indefinitely. So much for thinking that I might get a long weekend in Italy over Easter! But the big problem we’ve got is that this also applies to freight. The Port of Dover is currently closed. Yes, closed. In peacetime. There are lorries backed up all over Kent. Sainsbury’s unhelpfully tweeted that they were going to run out of lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli if this went on much longer. Whilst I’m sure we can all manage without lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli for a few days, this has sparked a bit of panic-buying. I haven’t bought any more than I would have done anyway, but I did decide to go to Tesco and M&S today rather than tomorrow, and it was certainly far busier than it normally is at 8 o’clock in the morning. OK, it’s Christmas week, but even so.
I can’t believe I’ve been sad enough to type all this out, but I thought that a sample of regional infection rates per 100,000, from last week to this week, would be interesting. Incidentally, anyone visiting Greater Manchester or the West Midlands Conurbation from Tier 4 (which they shouldn’t be doing anyway) or Wales has been told to self-isolate for 10 days. So, let’s have a look:
Thurrock, Essex – up from 387 to 1,056.
Havering, London – up from 514 to 1,022.
Rochford, Essex – up from 267 to 864.
Hastings, Sussex – up from 371 to 799.
Canterbury, Kent- up from 475 to 615.
Barnet, London – up from 197 to 417.
Lincoln – down from 491 to 417.
Stoke, Staffs – up from 298 to 339.
Hyndburn (the Accrington area), Lancs – up from 170 to 283. Burnley, worryingly, is up to 412.
Rotherham, South Yorks- up from 207 to 249 – but Sheffield is only 157.
Birmingham – up from 202 to 247.
Eden, Cumbria – up from 77 to 229. That’s not good. And South Lakeland’s up to 175.
Hull, E Yorks – up from 190 to 217.
Bury – down from 213 to 190.
Manchester centre – down from 178 to 171.
Blackpool – up from 154 to 158.
Leeds – up from 137 to 142.
Liverpool – up from 92 to 125.
Stockport- up from 112 to 113.
Bath/N E Somerset – up from 96 to 103.
Dorset – up from 45 to 67.
Sadly, I think that this new version of the virus is probably already spreading across the country and probably across Europe too, but we can certainly see a big regional divide at the moment. I’m concerned about East Lancs, though, especially Burnley.
Just look how much the rates have gone up by a week in parts of the South East. Hospitals are coping at the moment, but … well, it’s a very worrying situation. What’s going to happen with schools, with businesses, with everything? Earlier this year, one of the newspapers was talking about snakes and ladders – well, we have gone right down a very big snake. These bloody restrictions could be in place for months – and we could all be in Tier 4 before long. I just can’t quite take it all in.
Why did the bloody virus have to mutate in Kent (and it does seem to’ve happened in Kent)?
“Britain stands alone.”
I really am struggling to take this in.
Tuesday, December 22nd
Oh no! A kid in my younger nephew’s class has tested positive for the virus. Let’s hope that none of the other kids have got it – he’s not one of my younger nephew’s particular friends, so they haven’t had much contact. But the whole class has now got to self-isolate. The Christmas visit to Manchester’s already off, and now the poor kid isn’t even supposed to leave the house. Talk about “The Worst Noel”, “I’m dreaming of a shite Christmas” and all the other bad puns going round.
Rates in our borough are actually falling, now that these outbreaks in care homes thankfully seem to be under control, but rates across Greater Manchester as a whole were up by 5% in the week to yesterday. That’s not much compared to an increase of 62% across England as a whole, and far more than that in parts of the SE, but it’s obviously not good. And, with rates having almost trebled in a week in the Northern Lake District, there are fears that the mutant strain’s on the loose there.
And don’t tell me that the mutant strain’s only in the UK. Infection rates in the Netherlands have risen by 42% in a week. If that isn’t due to the mutant strain, then … well, I’m a Dutchman. Meanwhile, over 50 countries have now imposed travel bans on us. But America hasn’t.
The situation in Dover is appalling. Surely some sort of solution can be found? These poor lorry drivers have spent two nights sleeping in their vehicles. Toilet facilities and washing facilities are limited. No-one even seems to be doing much to make sure that they’ve got enough to eat and drink. And these drivers are from all over Europe, wanting to get home for Christmas. It’s like a very bad Hollywood film. Not to mention the fact that good food’s going to go off, at a time when a lot of people are relying on food banks anyway.
The whole of mainland Scotland’s going into Tier 4 level restrictions from Boxing Day, and restaurants and hairdressing salons in the Republic of Ireland are to close from Christmas Eve.
And Tesco have introduced limits on toilet roll purchases. FFS! Toilet roll does not come from France. A lot of French toilets don’t even provide paper (don’t get me started on that subject). 30% of the UK’s toilet rolls come from Trafford Park!
Bloody hellfire. I just don’t know what to say.
Wednesday, December 23rd
Bloody hell. Little more than a fortnight ago, we thought that the worst was over. Infection rates in Greater Manchester were plummeting, and we were pretty sure that we’d be in Tier 2 by Christmas. Now, it looks as if the whole country could be heading into lockdown. Infection rates across the 10 boroughs were up by 8% in the week to yesterday. That’s not alarming, but they were still falling three days ago, so it’s a big change. Just north of here, rates are up by 89% in Hyndburn (89%!), 46% in Burnley and 42% in Pendle. These places are only 20 to 30 miles away. Short of blocking up the M66, you have to fear the worst.
The whole of Cheshire’s going into Tier 3 on Boxing Day, as is Warrington. But not Merseyside, where Hancock’s family live. Bristol’s going back into Tier 3 after a week! In fact, the whole of Gloucestershire and Somerset, other than Bath/NE Somerset,’ll be in Tier 3, as will Northants, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, and the New Forest. The rest of Hants goes into Tier 4, along with the rest of Sussex, Essex and Cambs, plus Norfolk and Suffolk. Cumbria remains in Tier 2, and Lincs remains in Tier 3.
Herefordshire goes back into Tier 2, after a week. Cornwall also goes into Tier 2.
Swiss ski resorts are hunting down British tourists. Or are supposed to be.
As if all this wasn’t bad enough, there’s another strain on the loose, and this one’s even worse. This one comes from South Africa, but two cases have been found in the UK from people who’ve recently returned from South Africa.
France, Belgium and the Netherlands have agreed to let travel to and from the UK resume, but anyone entering those countries from the UK has to provide a negative Covid test first. There are around 3,800 lorry drivers stuck in Dover, maybe more, – sleeping in their lorries, without adequate food, drink, washing facilities or toilets, and desperate to get home for Christmas. Local charities and community groups are doing what they can, but the situation’s horrendous.
You know how it was all going to be over by July? Then by Christmas? Then by Easter? Hancock’s just said that we hope to have things back to normal by 2022! OK, obviously it’s not his fault that the virus has mutated, but …. bleurgh. Nine months after we went into lockdown, it genuinely looks as if the worst may yet lie ahead.
I just can’t quite process what’s happened in the last few days.
Later – hooray, something good! We beat Everton 2-0 in the Carabao Cup QF. Unfortunately, we’ve been drawn against City in the semis, but at least we’re in the semis!
Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24th
Cold, but bright and sunny. And, hooray, we have a Brexit deal! We haven’t got all the details yet. I don’t suppose it’s perfect, but deals never are, and I don’t suppose that Boris would have agreed to anything too bad. At last!
Someone’s letting fireworks off. It’s a bit annoying. It’s not Bonfire Night!
I have now finished work until the New Year. I wasn’t exactly expecting work to send me a Fortnum and Mason hamper or a pair of diamond earrings, but a card would have been nice. Or even an e-mail, thanking everyone for all their efforts during a very difficult year, and for keeping the firm going, using their own phones, broadband and electricity. Nada. Absolutely nothing.
But, after work, I went to get a takeaway cardboard cup of mulled wine from Cuckoo, and quite a few people were stood (in small groups, not crowds!) in the street outside Cuckoo and The Grape & Grain, in the freezing cold, drinking mulled wine or hot chocolate out of cardboard cups. It didn’t make up for the fact that my sister, brother-in-law and nephews are 200 miles away, and that I won’t be seeing my uncle and cousins on Christmas Day ever, but it was rather nice in a weird 2020 Tier 3 kind of way.
And drift away like snow
Tomorrow will be Christmas Day
The Queen made a very nice speech about being impressed by people’s indomitable spirit, and how no-one should feel alone. I’m sure she’s as fed up as everyone else is!
LadBaby got a 3rd successive Christmas number 1, with Don’t Stop Me Eatin’, which is nice because it’s in aid of the food banks. The Christmas number 1 spot stopped being a thing when Pop Idol and the X Factor killed the competition, but it used to be such a big deal back in the day. The excitement in 1988, waiting to see if it’d be Cliff Richard or if it’d be Kylie and Jason!
Infection rates are falling slightly in Bolton and Wigan, and very slightly in Rochdale, but sky-rocketing in Trafford, Stockport and Tameside, which had been doing so well, rising quite a bit in Salford, and rising to a lesser extent in Manchester city centre, Bury and Oldham. It’s not looking good, TBH. I bet I don’t even get to Dunham lights (rearranged from the end of November to the 2nd week in January). However, the rates here, averaging about 175 per 100,000 now, whilst horrendous – remember back in the summer, when anything over 20 was a worry? – are nothing compared to Thurrock in Essex or Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, where they’re nearly 1,300, or London, where the average is nearing 700. The number of deaths remains over 500 per day. It’s just a nightmare.
But, today, it’s Christmas. Eat, drink, and be as merry as you can be!
Boxing Day, Saturday, December 26th
A deeply traumatic thing happened today. The tearoom at Dunham Massey hadn’t got any scones. Shocked and appalled, I asked if maybe they’d run out, or were having problems with their oven. No. They hadn’t made any, because they said they weren’t selling well as people find it messy coping with jam and cream when they can’t sit at tables. This is not to be borne. Whoever heard of a National Trust tearoom with no scones?
On a happier note, that weird strain of daffodils (or are they narcissi?) at Dunham, which always come out crazily early, are coming through already. There were some early snowdrops too.
And so it starts anew. Well, it should. Snowdrop walks at Rode Hall at the beginning of February. Snowdrops at Chirk Castle in mid to late February. Ilkley in early March, to see the Easter stuff at Bettys. Back to Chirk for the glorious daffodils and early blossom in mid March. Then, in late March or early April, a weekend in the Lakes to see the daffodils at Grasmere, Coniston and Sizergh. Then the daffodils at Biddulph Grange, and lambing week at Tatton Park. Then, at the end of April, the bluebell walks at Capesthorne Hall. In mid-May, the Windermere walk, with the woods full of bluebells. Towards the end of May, the laburnum arch at Bodnant Garden flowers. No, none of this is life and death, but it’s lovely, and it made me very sad that I missed most of it last year … and now it’s looking as if I may miss at least some of it this year too. The same with football matches, pubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres … not being able to go to them obviously doesn’t compare with being ill, or losing your job, but it takes a big chunk out of ordinary people’s lives, the things that make them happy, the things they do when they’re not trapped doing boring work for unappreciative employers. It’s OK to be upset about it.
We (United) drew 2-2 at Leicester – rather frustrating, having led twice.
Northern Ireland is now back in lockdown. Scotland, Wales, and SE England are in Tier 4 lockdown. Makes a change for it not be us under the highest level of restrictions – but, sadly, I think we’re all heading that way.