Monday, February 8th
Hooray, the Australian Open has started. My sleep patterns are being disrupted and I am totally stressed out about Rafa’s injury problems. This is normal. Hooray – something is normal! Cracking match between Denis Shapovalov and Jannik Sinner. Just such a shame that they had to meet in the first round.
It’s wonderful to see crowds in … but, although it’d been agreed that 30% of tickets could be sold, the place didn’t look anything like 30% full. That suggests that people are nervous.
Due to the Australian Open, I went to Tesco this evening (in a snow shower!), rather than going tomorrow morning. The store has been “revamped”. Everything has been moved round, in a completely illogical way. Neither customers nor staff know where anything is. Some marketing consultants in London have no doubt been paid a fortune for deciding that cordial/squash should be put at the opposite end of the shop to all the other soft drinks, and that the shelves where it used to be should now contain toilet roll instead. Why? Why??
The studies regarding the “South African variant” are only small-scale, but it does look as if the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, and probably the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccines too, are less effective against it than against other strains. They’ll still protect against serious illness, which is the main thing, but not against mild illness. And, even if the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine’s OK against this, the horrible virus seems to be so clever that it’ll probably mutate in a way that’ll outsmart that too. Viruses do mutate, and vaccines can be tweaked, but doom merchants are saying that the “South African variant” will take over the UK and probably the world, and that we’ll be in lockdown until the summer/2022/the end of time. The Government’s telling everyone to stay calm, but it’s certainly worrying news. Every time we seem to be getting towards the finishing line in this pandemic, something else happens.
City and Liverpool have both got to play their away legs against German teams in Budapest, as the German authorities won’t let any British teams in. My holiday company have cancelled everything up to and including the end of April now. Matt Hancock had been talking about a “Great British Summer”, but now both he and Jonathan Van-Tam are saying that it’s too soon to talk even about staycations.
Later – oh, FFS. Not only are 7 of the 10 local boroughs now above the national average infection rate, but now there’s a Moss Side Mutant. It’s a mutant of the Kent mutant. Only 4 cases, but “surge testing” is starting in Moss Side and neighbouring areas. First Liverpool and Bristol, now Manchester 😦 . I assume that mutations are happening in other countries too, and it’s just that we’re doing extra genomic sequencing (or whatever the correct term is) here, and being honest about it? But, just a few days ago, optimism was rising, because the vaccination rollout was going so well, and now … snakes and ladders, and we seem to have gone down another snake.
Tuesday, February 9th
I should be getting ready to board a crowded tram and head off to Old Trafford, to watch United v West Ham in the Cup along with 78,000 other people. Instead, I’ll be watching it on the telly. Oh well.
After all the stress over Rafa’s bad back, he beat Djere in straight sets 🙂 . It’s a very tough draw, with both Tsitsipas and Medvedev looking very strong today, but one match at a time.
More snow fell overnight, but it’s gone now.
And, in virus news, people returning from “red list” countries will now have to pay £1,750 to stay in a quarantine hotel, and face fines of up to £10,000 and even a jail sentence if they break the rules. Having said which, a woman’s told the papers how, on returning to London after visiting her mother in South Africa, she was able to walk out of Heathrow airport without being asked for either her passenger locator form or her proof of a negative virus test. Not very good, is it?
Travelling is so, so important to me, and I’ve been fortunate enough to go to so many wonderful places. I’ve got photos all over the house of me at the Taj Mahal, Macchu Pichu, Gettysburg, Red Square, Tiananmen Square, Table Mountain, the Pyramids, the Mount of Olives, the Venice Carnival (sadly cancelled this year, again), a glacier on the Jungfrau, etc etc. When I got back from the Viennese Christmas markets in December 2019, I started to get excited about my planned trips to Iceland for July 2020 and Japan for October 2020, buying guidebooks and history books and historical novels, and learning some basic Icelandic words and phrases. This is my life … and now it isn’t. For the last four months, I haven’t even been able to go on a day trip to Blackpool. I hate not being able to go to the Lakes. I haven’t seen my sister and brother-in-law and nephews since August. I haven’t been to a football match since last March. I haven’t been to the theatre or the cinema since last February. I haven’t even sat in a café since October. Yet I’m chained to the office computers for the best part of five days a week, and I’ve still got all the housework to do. I know I’m moaning, but I think we’re all entitled to moan.
Our Europa League match at Real Sociedad has been moved to Turin, and Arsenal’s at Benfica has been moved to Rome. Italy will exempt professional sports players from quarantine. As flights from Portugal to the UK are currently suspended, Arsenal’s “home” leg will be played in Athens. This is getting a bit barmy.
To finish on a happy note, Princess Eugenie’s given birth to a baby boy 🙂 . Mother and son both doing well 🙂 .
Later – hooray, we’re into the Cup QFs, after beating West Ham 1-0. Dire match, and it went to extra time, but never mind!
Wednesday, February 10th
More snow today, but, thankfully, it hasn’t stuck. Chelsea’s match at Atletico Madrid has been moved to Bucharest. Moving football matches is one thing, but Jurgen Klopp’s been told that he can’t go to Germany to attend his mum’s funeral. I understand that the virus doesn’t care what your reasons for travelling are, but it seems so cruel.
Having been told that by Matt Hancock and Boris that we could look forward to a “Great British Summer”, we’ve now been told by Grant Shapps and Jonathan Van-Tam that no-one should be booking anything. One MP’s accused Shapps of killing people’s hope. That’s exactly how it feels. Morale is pretty low. And there’s more and more talk about “vaccine passports” – Israel is going to let people who’ve been vaccinated back into hotels and gyms, and some countries are saying that they’ll admit tourists who’ve been vaccinated – which is very demoralising if you’re not in one of the priority groups.
Prince Charles and Camilla have had their first vaccinations. The WHO’s backed the use of the Oxford AstraZeneca jab. Serbia’s bought vaccines from Russia and China, and is now steaming ahead of the EU countries.
And I am fat.
Thursday, February 11th
Hooray, comfortable win for Rafa over Michael Mmoh. He now plays Cam Norrie. It does stress me out when he plays British players: I feel like I’m about to be carted off to the Tower of London for treason for wanting the Brit to lose, LOL.
Very cold today, but very sunny too. The lake in the park looked amazing, frozen over and with yesterday’s snow still on it, and you could see Saddleworth Moor (photo on the right) and Kinder Scout (left), both covered in snow.
But, lovely as it was, it was so frustrating, because we can’t go anywhere. Windermere must have looked glorious today. This is dragging on and on, and tempers are fraying. We were told that we’d get some news on the “roadmap” out of lockdown on February 22nd. Now we’re being told “the week of February 22nd” – which could mean February 28th! I feel very sorry for Boris. If he doesn’t do as the scientists say, and death rates go up again, everyone will be yelling and screaming that he’s got blood on his hands and it’s all his fault for not doing as the scientists say. But the scientists want us locked down indefinitely. Their view seems to be that lockdown should continue until infection rates come right down.
And it’s not happening. Rates here are plateauing. They’re actually going up in Bolton, due to a spike in Horwich. We’ve been told that the vaccination programme, as well as it’s going, is having no effect on infection rates as yet. Yes, I know that it’s supposed to take three weeks before the first vaccine dose offers any protection, but a lot of infections are amongst younger people, the ones most likely to be out and about, and it’s going to be late summer before younger people get their first jab.
The scientists also say that viruses don’t go by the calendar, so giving dates for reopening is inappropriate. And, fair point, viruses don’t go by the calendar. But how long are we going to keep businesses shut, the state paying people’s wages, tourist resorts’ economies going down the pan, and kids out of school? Not to mention the mental health impact. There’s going to come a time where people start asking what the hell the point of all this is, if we’re not being given any idea of how and when we move forward.
I really do feel sorry for Boris. It’s just an impossible situation.
Friday, February 12th
Chinese New Year. Hmm.
Oh no!! 13 cases of the wretched virus have been identified in Melbourne, all linked to a quarantine hotel. So the state of Victoria is back in lockdown. The tennis can continue, but behind closed doors. What a rotten shame, after 5 lovely days (crowds were allowed in today) of having fans back in. Well, nearly 5 days – people were booted out in the middle of the Djokovic v Thiem match, because it was getting towards midnight. Like some bizarre version of Cinderella.
The R number nationwide is now below 1, but cases are rising in Bolton, and are now starting to rise in the borough of Bury … still down week-on-week, but up on earlier this week. Officials in Bolton say that it’s mainly amongst people of working age, which makes sense. – and the same thing’s happening in Liverpool. Some jobs cannot be done from home, and that applies far more in the North West than in, say, London. And some workplaces are open when they jolly well shouldn’t be. Sometimes, however hard you try, you can’t reduce the risk entirely. And some places just aren’t bothering about Covid safety: the authorities can hardly inspect every small workplace, and people are frightened to speak up because there’s so little job security at the moment. And places that are open when people could be working from home are hardly likely to prioritise safety anyway. It’s a huge problem. Vaccination is not going to stop this until younger people have been vaccinated. If the bloody tier system is brought back, what happens to us then?
Lots of groups are demanding priority for vaccination. Teachers. Firefighters. Shop staff. Public transport drivers. They’ve all got a very valid case, but it’s just not possible to prioritise everyone. London police (it would be the London police) are now threatening legal action, like teaching unions did. FFS, we need to be working together here, not threatening legal action.
And the economy shrank by nearly 10% last year.
Still cold and sunny.
Saturday, February 13th
Rafa beat Cam Norrie (I do hate it when he plays British players – I end up feeling like I’m about to be carted off to the Tower of London for high treason) 🙂 … but now plays Fabio, against whom he does tend to struggle.
I was very glad to have the tennis to watch because, otherwise, I’d have got very upset over the fact that a sunny Saturday in mid-February would have been the perfect day on which to see the snowdrops at Chirk Castle. Boris is supposed to be coming up with this “road map” on February 22nd, but heaven knows when travel restrictions will be lifted. If he reintroduces the bloody tier system, I’m going to stage a revolution …. if Andy Burnham doesn’t beat me to it. I don’t feel too bad, but I know that my anxiety levels are high because I’m getting a lot of anxiety pains and I’m crying over things which wouldn’t normally get to me. Several friends have said that they’re finding things very hard. And there’s nothing that anyone can do. There are all these “lockdown tips” about meditation or yoga or whatever. I do not need to meditate. I need to see my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, and my uncle and cousins, and I need to go to the Lake District.
I was hoping that, today, I might actually get some time to read, catch up on the TV backlog, and sort out photos … but I ended up spending ages on the phone to Sky, who’d messed up my bill for the second time in three months, and ages throwing warm water over the boiler condenser pipe. which, despite having insulation stuff on it to stop it freezing, had, er, frozen. It was quite satisfying when a huge lump of ice shot out of it. But it was a terrible waste of time. And water.
Both Matt Hancock and Boris have said that we’re going to have to learn to live with Covid, but the scientists are saying that we need to eliminate it entirely. I think they want us locked up for ever more. The economy, people’s mental health and children’s education can’t take much more. There’s going to be a load more moaning when tax allowances are frozen in the Budget, but the money for the furlough scheme and the small business grants has got to come from somewhere. I actually saw one ridiculous article saying that we should just print more money! What, like the Weimar Republic did? What rubbish.
Tennis and football tomorrow. The Six Nations is going on too, and the cricket. So glad that we’ve got sport to focus on!
Sunday, February 14th
As hoped, 15 million people in the UK have now received their first jab. Pretty much everyone in the top four groups has been offered a jab. Good news!
63 Tory MPs have said that all restrictions should be lifted by May. That’s going too far – we can’t have hordes of unvaccinated people packed into nightclubs, or 500 guests at weddings – but we really cannot go on like this. Public opinion hasn’t turned against the lockdown yet, but we do need this “road map” out of it. I know it’s an impossible situation, but education, employment and mental health are all becoming serious concerns.
One of our local councillors rang me today. They are apparently concerned about how people are coping in these difficult times, and want to make sure that people are OK and ask if they need any help. It’s eleven months since we first went into lockdown, and now, just as elections are coming up, councillors are concerned about people … funny, that! We had quite a nice chat, though.
My weight is a disaster. 2lbs off. Hooray! 2lbs straight back on. WHY??!!
The Premier League is also turning into a disaster: we only managed a 1-1 draw at West Brom. Not a great day in Melbourne either: much as I like to see Grisha (Dimitrov) doing well, I would rather he hadn’t thrashed Dominic (Thiem), because Dominic was the one with the best chance of beating Nole. Sascha Zverev, over to you. Rafa and Fabio have got a day match tomorrow, so I’ve set the alarm for stupid o’clock!
The WHO team in Wuhan don’t seem to be getting very far with getting information. Will we ever find out how this nightmare started?
On a happier note, Prince Harry and Meghan are expecting another baby.
Six weeks of Lockdown III.