Freedom? Week 9, September 13th to 19th 2021 inclusive

Monday, September 13th

The UK’s Chief Medical Officers have recommended that all kids aged between 12 and 15 be offered one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.  Bring it on!   Several of my elder nephew (12, nearly 13)’s friends have tested positive, and they only went back to school last week.  Kids cannot keep having to miss school.  And, in the cases of those kids too young to be left home alone all day, parents cannot keep having to miss work.  And there’s all the general worry in case a kid tests positive just before a holiday, a family celebration or anything else important.

The deal between the UK and the Valneva vaccine company has apparently been scrapped, but no-one seems very bothered about it.

In other news, CADW, the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage, release tickets every Monday.  So the tickets for next week should have been released today.  But they weren’t,  Because they’re “implementing a new system”, I was told, and it’d gone wrong.  Try again tomorrow.  OK.  Later, I looked on their Facebook page, and it said – presumably news to their own staff – that the reason you couldn’t book online tickets was that they were upgrading systems at their sites and would be closing certain sites on certain dates.  I don’t believe this.  If it said which sites were closed when, I could perhaps try to rejig my plans, but it doesn’t.  It just says that the list will follow.  Well, when?  It’s now only 4 working days until next week.  How on earth could they have left it till now to say something?   I’m really, really annoyed.   You can’t just do this with no notice.

And OMG, what happened last night?   Well done Daniil Medvedev.  Did the pressure get to Nole, like it keeps gettiing to Serena?  Whatever, congratulations to Daniil.


Tuesday, September 14th

Lots of announcements today:

`1.  Booster jabs for everyone in the top 9 groups – i.e. frontline health and care workers, clinically vulnerable people and anyone else over 50 – and also for anyone else who lives with a clinically vulnerable person.   One Pfizer dose or half a Moderna dose.  Some talk of flu jabs being given at the same time, to reduce pressure on NHS resources, but I can’t see that happening.

2.  Lots of graphs showing how unvaccinated people are far more likely to end up in hospital, or worse, than vaccinated people.  Sadly, I doubt that anti-vaxxers will have been watching the press conference.

3. There’s been some talk about a “bonfire of Covid regulations” and also changes to travel regulations, but nothing’s been said about any of that yet.  What we were told was that, if things get worse, we’ll move to “Plan B”, which will initially involve a return to compulsory mask-wearing, the introduction of vaccine passports, and the reintroduction of the home working directive.

4.  Some moaning about the lack of clarity about exactly what would be considered bad enough to trigger a move to Plan B … but how long’s a piece of string?

5.  We’re being told that the number of people in the workforce is now back to pre-pandemic levels.  There are now over 1 million job vacancies, and we need to try to sort things so that unemployed people are matched to vacancies.

6. The Premier League’s said that people will need vaccine passports for matches, even though the vaccine passport plan’s been scrapped.  This is silly now.   Too many sets of rules.  And what about Cup matches involving PL clubs?!

In other news:

  1.  CADW’s website still doesn’t say which places will be closed next week.  I rang up, and was told that the people in the office didn’t know either.  This is just ridiculous.  However, I then tried Facebook Messenger, which seems to go through to a different department, and was assured that only Conwy would be closed.  So I should hopefully be OK – but loads of people on holiday in Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Rhos-on-Sea etc will be affected.
  2. To add to my million and one other stresses – and nothing stresses me out like techno-stress – I’ve had an e-mail from BT, informing me that they will be disconnecting everyone’s landlines and that, to get your phone access back, you will have to connect your phone to your broadband hub.  I can see the hole, so hopefully it will be OK, but it might not be.  And thankfully my equipment’s up to date, due to the Great Lightning Disaster last year, but other people will have to get theirs replaced.  Medical pendants, panic alarms, security systems connected to phones, etc, will all be affected, and you’ll have to sort them out yourself.  And, once the digital thing’s set up, if there’s a power cut or a broadband outage then you won’t even be able to dial 999 on your landline.  Just like that.  When analogue TV was disconnected, we were warned months in advance, given helpline numbers, and given an exact date.  This was just an e-mail out of the blue, and all it says is “soon”.  Hopefully *not* whilst I’m away … but surely not as soon as next week, because they must realise that people may need time to get new stuff etc.  I am not happy at all.
  3. With all due respect to Young Boys, they were meant to be the weakest team in the group … but we (not helped by Wan-Bissaka getting himself off) managed to lose 2-1 in Bern, conceding a second goal in injury time, so the Champions League is already looking like a struggle.  That’ll teach me to say that we’d got a decent draw 😦 .


Wednesday, September 15th

I have had it up to here with CADW.  Having assured me that only Conwy would be closed, and then, when I asked if they could confirm that Chepstow and Caerphilly definitely wouldn’t be closed, assured me that Chepstow and Caerphilly definitely wouldn’t be closed, they have now said that Caerphilly will be closed.   FFS, I only asked yesterday!   It should be open again by Thursday, but they can’t guarantee it because their computer upgrades might go wrong.  So, rather than stress all week, I’ve decided to go to Caerphilly on Sunday, before the closures start.  But I had booked Dolaucothi for Sunday, so will now need to contact the National Trust and apologise profusely for cancelling at short notice, and explain that I’ve rebooked it for Thursday.   And I’ve now got a long drive on Sunday, after a long drive on Saturday and with a late start because hotel breakfast is late on Sunday.  I am not impressed.  Nor are several other people who’ve posted comments on CADW’s Facebook page.  4 1/2 days is not exactly a great deal of notice.

There’s been a Cabinet reshuffle.

And there’s a lot of talk going on about WFH.  Bring it on!!


Thursday, September 16th

Wa-hey!!!  The council have said that the Christmas markets can go ahead.  Details to follow.  Yay!!

The first booster jabs were given today.  That was quick!   Frontline health and care workers first.  Also, care home workers will be required to be fully vaccinated from 8 weeks from today, so today’s the last day for them to get their first jab.   This rule’s already in force in France and some other countries, and some anti-vaxxer staff have been suspended from their jobs.

Cases are actually falling a bit, with deaths and hospitalisations pretty much stable.

And Italy’s making it compulsory for all workers (well, all legal workers) to carry Covid passes.   I have to say that I think that’s a bit OTT.


Friday, September 17th

Hooray!!!   For fully-vaccinated people, pre-departure tests on returning from abroad will be abolished at some point in October.   Tests will still be needed on day 2 after returning, although it’ll be a lateral flow test, not a PCR test, but you’re home by then.  It’s all too late for me to arrange anything for this year, but fingers crossed for next year.  Of course, foreign countries have their own requirements, but we can’t do much about those.  And the “traffic light” system’s being scrapped – it’ll be red list and everywhere else.  Rules for non-vaccinated people are stricter, but you make your choice.

Covid passes are being brought in in Wales.  For big events, but I think the exact rules are different from those in Scotland.  So we’ve now got 3 sets of rules.  I do understand about the devolved administrations, but I also understand that, for many people living in Wales, their nearest big city or town is in England, and that all these different rules are very confusing.

Some financial news from Old Trafford – in the 12 months to 30 June, United made £254.8m from broadcasters, 81.7% up on the previous year’s £140.2m, whereas matchday revenues fell from £89.8m to £7.1m.

Well, fingers crossed, off to Wales tomorrow.


Saturday, September 18th

Day 1 of my “staycation” in Wales!   I drove to Powis Castle, then to Llandovery, then to Aberglasney Gardens, and then to my base at St Clears, near Carmarthen.

Powis Castle:

As much as I get the whole thing with the devolved administrations, it really is confusing having different sets of rules in different parts of the UK.   But anyway.  And your room doesn’t get made up during your stay, “because of Covid”.  I hate to be cynical, but *is* that because of Covid or is it to reduce the hotel’s workload?!   But anyway.  It’s a really nice place.  And, apart from one trip to a garage in Aberystwyth when I was a kid (long story to do with my dad’s car!), and a visit to the Millennium Stadium for the League Cup final whilst Wembley was being redeveloped, I’ve never been to South Wales before!

Some issues with gas supplies now.  It’s partly just bad luck – there’s been a fire at a pipeline, and also Russia’s being awkward.  But it’s also because of maintenance on North Sea platforms, which was delayed due to lockdown.  Obviously it’s easy to be wise after the event, but maintenance on gas platforms and tests for HGV drivers should really have been classed as essential, and carried on.


Sunday, September 19th

United 2-1 West Ham!    But very sad to hear of the deaths of Jimmy Greaves and of John “Boycie” Challis.

I went to Caerphilly Castle today.  Lovely looking castle!   It’s a ruin, but it’s the second biggest castle in the UK: only Windsor’s bigger.

Then to Laugharne, where Dylan Thomas lived.  This is another ruined castle, not his house!   Then to Pendine beach.

“Staycations” are still very much a thing – there are lots of people about.  I’ve heard accents from various parts of England, and also Scotland, as well as Wales.   And a gold star for the weather!

Freedom? Week 8, September 6th to 12th 2021 inclusive

Monday, September 6th

What a to-do last night!  Brazil has put the UK on its quarantine list – possibly as a tit-for-tat thing because they’re on ours.  UK-based Brazilian players did not travel for the World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina.  UK-based Argentinian players did, and the Brazilian authorities apparently told the Argentinian FA that they couldn’t play as they hadn’t gone into quarantine for 2 weeks (although they were due to fly out of Brazil straight after the match).  Argentina fielded 3 (out of 4) of them anyway, and, about 11 minutes after KO, Brazilian police and health officials invaded the pitch and the match was abandoned!

And Emma Raducanu’s into the QFs of the US Open!   Absolutely amazing.  Dan Evans lost to Daniil Medvedev, but that’s hardly a disgrace.

Those schools which didn’t go back last week have pretty much all gone back today.

And I’ve had an e-mail from Old Trafford to say that there will be spot checks on vaccine passports on Saturday.  As there’s not yet a legal requirement to show them, you will not be refused admission to the stadium without one, but I suppose they want to check that the system works.  Just hope it doesn’t cause long delays like it’s done at the US Open.


Tuesday, September 7th

The Christmas puddings, mince pies, chocolate Father Christmases etc are out on the shelves in Tesco.  This didn’t surprise me, because it happens every year, but … how ridiculous!   In the first week of September!

Anti-vaxxers have thrown gravel at Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and protested at public transport sites in parts of Europe.

Boris has announced plans for a new 1.25% tax to cover health and social care costs.  I think we all accept that there is a huge problem with social care, and also issues with the NHS, and that the money for increased funding has to come from somewhere.  However, that’s a huge chunk out of people’s income, and you can guarantee that horrible bosses will not be giving private sector workers a pay rise to cover it.  I suspect that “the pandemic” will be used as an excuse to freeze private sector pay – i.e. cut it in real terms – for years to come, whilst public sector workers get rises but moan that they want more.   And, of course, self-employed people can’t just put up their own income.  But I do accept that the money has to come from somewhere.

The i newspaper has seen fit to report that there are plans for some sort of lockdown in late October or early November.  The Government’s denied it – although not ruled it out if hospitals are becoming overwhelmed.  Do newspapers have to do this?  Now, anyone who’s due to get married, go on holiday etc around then is going to be stressing, and hotels and entertainment venues are going to be stressing about losing half term bookings.

And it’s suddenly gone really hot.  Like, 80 degrees hot.  And I’m stuck in an office.  Bah!!


Wednesday, September 8th

Oh no!!   The boiler packed up last night.  I suppose at least it didn’t pick the middle of winter.  You used to be able to speak to a human being at British Gas even if you rang at midnight: now, even if you ring at a normal sort of time, you only get an automated voice prompt.  However, I was able to book an engineer for this morning.  To be fair, he turned up at 9 o’clock, for a “between 8 and 1” appointment.  But he seemed rather clueless, kept looking for answers on his tablet (hopefully a technical website and not Google), kept muttering to himself, rang his mate, and then said that it was “pointing towards the circuit board”.  But they don’t carry circuit boards.  So he will have to come back tomorrow.  Again “between 8 and 1”.  Let’s just hope that this sorts it.  And that it stays sorted – on numerous occasions, British Gas have claimed to have sorted a problem and then it’s gone again days or even hours later.

And this is what happens.  I appreciate that they cannot give an exact time.  I appreciate that they do not carry expensive parts with them.  But imagine if this had happened pre-Covid, when I wasn’t set up to WFH?  Mum and Dad are in London for a few days, visiting my sister, so I couldn’t have asked them to wait in.  What on earth would I have done?   Rung in sick and felt guilty about lying?   And then had 2 days knocked off my paid sick leave allowance, so that I wouldn’t have got paid if I genuinely *had* been ill later in the year?   I am so, so glad that WFH is now a “thing”, but so sorry for those people for whom it isn’t.

But, OMG, Emma Raducanu is into the semis of the US Open!   She’s beaten Belinda Bencic, whom I thought had such a chance here, in straight sets.  I’m lost for words.  A million times well done, Emma!


In Covid-related news, hopes are rising that the infernal travel system may soon be overhauled.   And Fred and various other players are going to be suspended because the Brazilian FA have complained that clubs wouldn’t release them.  Releasing them would have meant them having to go to quarantine hotels when they got back.  Talk about a no-win situation!

And official figures have shown that people in northern England were 17% more likely to die with Covid than those in the rest of the country, and that northerners had a 26% higher mortality rate in care homes than elsewhere in England, due to existing levels of deprivation.  I’m very angry and very upset about this.


Thursday, September 9th

Hooray.  The boiler is working again.  Touch wood!   Let’s hope that it stays that way!

Having my hair cut tonight.

All the Parklife crap is up in the park … including signs saying “Please have your Covid NHS pass ready”.  I’ve never actually seen signs like that in person before.

And my elder nephew only went back to school on Monday (the younger one is still at primary school so not affected by testing) but two of his friends have already tested positive for Covid.  The first kid will now miss a close friend’s bar mitzvah, at which he was due to be giving a speech.  The second kid tested positive after he started coughing *at* school … so could already have spread it all round the class and all round the bus.  Will this nightmare ever end?!


Friday, September 10th

OMG, the US Open final will be Emma Raducanu v Leylah Fernandez.  I can’t believe what I’ve just written.  Very, very, well done, ladies – and come on Emma!  What an unbelievable achievement.

I am less impressed with the Indian cricket team.  A few members of the backroom team have tested positive.  Not one of the players has.  But they’ve used this as an excuse to call off the 5th and deciding Test match at Old Trafford.  At 9am, just 2 hours before the first day’s play was due to start.  A lot of fans were already on their way to the ground.  OK, they’ll get the cost of their tickets back, but they won’t get their travel and accommodation costs back, nor the day off work.  And the insurance will cover some of Lancashire’s costs, but not all, and it won’t cover the losses suffered by local businesses.  There’s a very strong feeling that the Indian players are prioritising the megabucks IPL over the Test series, and to hell with the fans and the Manchester businesses affected.   It’s not on.


Saturday, September 11th

Ronaldo is back!!   We beat Newcastle 4-1, we’re top of the league (for now), and he scored the first two goals!   Brilliant, brilliant afternoon!

And Brazilian players will now not be suspended.

And no-one asked me for my vaccine passport.  But presumably some people got spot checked.

Now for the U.S. Open final …

… although, on the 20th anniversary of “9/11”, the mood in New York must be fairly sombre.

In Covid news, Boris will be announcing the “Winter Plan” on Tuesday.  This is likely to include:

  1.  An announcement on exactly who’ll be getting booster jabs this autumn.  Israel’s giving them to everyone.  That’s unlikely to happen here.  But we don’t know whether it’ll be everyone in the initial nine priority groups, or just the immunocompromised, frontline workers and the elderly.
  2. Presumably, a decision about vaccinating 12 to 15-year olds.
  3. Contingency plans to reintroduce some restrictions if the NHS starts to struggle under the combined weight of increasing Covid cases and the usual winter pressures.  Hopefully, this won’t be needed, but I’d rather hear Boris spell out the plans than have the press speculating and panicking everyone.  I really do feel sorry for people planning weddings or other big events: instead of getting excited about the big day, they’re going to be stressing in case they have to change their plans at the last minute.


Later – OMG, Emma Raducanu is the US Open champion!!!  6-4 6-3.  Disappointing for Leylah Fernandez, after beating three top 10 players, but I’m sure her time will come.  But Emma – WOW!   Over many years of watching tennis, I’ve seen plenty of teenagers win Grand Slam titles.  Rafa in 2005, for one!   The Steffi/Monica/Arantxa generation, and then the Venus/Serena/Martina Hingis generation.  And others.  But this!   For someone to win a Grand Slam title in only her second main tour event.  As a qualifier.  Unbelievable.  What an incredible achievement.



Sunday, September 12th

Oh, for heaven’s sake!  After everything I said yesterday, it now appears that we will not be getting used to vaccine passports, because the idea of using them even for big events has been scrapped.    This sort of thing really annoys people.  There are arguments for and against them, but don’t say that they’re being brought in and then change your mind!  It was only last week that Nadhim Zahawi was saying that the end of September was the right time to start using them.  Now Sajid Javid’s saying that the idea’s been scrapped.  Make your minds up!

I went to Tatton Park today, for the harvest festival – I always like to go if I’m here, and was sad when it was cancelled last year.  It rained in the afternoon, but it was all right earlier.


And come on Daniil … yes, I know that it’s really mean of me to be hoping Nole doesn’t win the calendar year Grand Slam …

I always say that the end of the US Open marks the end of summer.  Without wishing to sound like a doom merchant, I think we have to accept that things may well get worse over the autumn and winter months.  At best, they’ll stay stable.  We can’t really hope for any improvement until … well, you have to say late March/early April, so almost 7 months away.   It’s not the most cheerful of thoughts!    But fingers crossed …




Vaccine passports and WFH

This afternoon, as well as being the Second Coming of Cristiano Ronaldo, was the first occasion on which I had to have a Covid passport.  I’ve had both the paper and digital versions since a fortnight or so after receiving my second jab in June, but today was the first time that I actually *had* to have one.  I received an e-mail last week informing me that, prior to their being made compulsory at large sporting events in October, United were taking part in a trial scheme for today’s match against Newcastle, and spot checks would be carried out on over 18s.  I wasn’t spot checked, and I didn’t actually see anyone else being spot checked either, but presumably some people were.  And I’m too old to go to music festivals, but, with Parklife taking place this weekend, signs saying “Please have your Covid NHS passes ready” have appeared all over Heaton Park.   As cases increase now that schools are back, and the NHS comes under seasonal pressure as we head into the winter months, the likelihood is that we’re going to need Covid passports for more and more things, so we may as well get used to them.

I’m saying “Covid passport” rather than “vaccine passport” because, in this case, proof of a negative test within the last 48 hours was acceptable, for those without vaccine passports.   However, I understand that, in Scotland, it’s going to be vaccine passports only when the scheme comes into force on October 1st, although with exemptions for those unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, and that proof of a negative test won’t do.  I would think it’ll be the same in England: we’ll presumably get the lowdown when Boris says his piece on Tuesday.   Having heard about the long queues at the US Open tennis, where vaccine passports are required for all over 12s, I’m quite glad that United have taken part in the trial, so that, hopefully, any major problems can be ironed out before it all becomes law.  BTW, speaking of the US Open, I shall be sticking with Amazon Prime but I assume everyone’s aware that tonight’s Raducanu-Fernandez match will now also be shown on Channel 4.

When I first started going to football matches, in the early 1980s, you just showed your ticket and went into the ground.  Now, you can only take a very small bag in, all sorts of items are prohibited, and you have to be searched before you go through the turnstiles.  It’s not very nice.  Nor is someone rooting through your handbag before you go into the theatre.  Nor are all the security checks at airports – I’m always stressed at airports anyway (not that I’ve been to one since December 2019) and security makes it a million times worse, especially in certain countries where you feel as if you’ve been hauled up before the Inquisition.  But, given the horrific events of 20 years ago, and of May 22nd 2017 at our own Manchester Arena, and of so many other tragic occasions, then it’s the way it has to be.

Same sort of idea with vaccine passports.  Incidentally, someone posted on a United Facebook page that they were fully vaccinated but didn’t see why they should have to prove it to some jobsworth.  Could we not do this, please?  If you don’t like the idea of vaccine passports, write to your MP.  Don’t have a go at the person on the door or the turnstile.  They’re just doing their job.   I’m not overly keen on the idea myself, in theory.  “Carrying papers” has vague connotations of Nazi Germany or slave passes.  But this is one very nasty virus.  It’s not going away, and it keeps mutating.   We’ll never know the real death toll, but the official figures suggest that it’s around 157,000 in the UK alone and over 4.6 million people worldwide.  Many more have been left with long-term health problems.  And we know from figures released early this week that Northern England’s suffered more than any other part of England.  Then there’s the mental health and economic devastation caused.   If having an extra app on your phone or carrying a bit of paper can do anything to help prevent things from getting any worse, and can potentially protect you and other people from serious illness or worse, then, as with security checks, it’s the way it has to be.

I can see that this could end up placing a huge burden on businesses.  Premier League football clubs can afford extra staff and technology, if they’re needed.  It’s unlikely that vast numbers of lifelong fans will stop attending matches because of Covid passport requirements.  If, as some other countries have done, we end up requiring Covid passports to go into cafes, pubs, restaurants, cinemas etc, it’s going to be different matter, and that’s something that will have to be addressed.  It seems to be the main reason that Labour and the Liberal Democrats opposed the vaccine passport legislation in Scotland.  We’re going to have to see how it goes.  But cases are going up again, we are heading towards winter, and something’s got to give somewhere.  If it’s vaccine passports or lockdown, then bring on vaccine passports.

What about people who’ve chosen not to be vaccinated?   Well, 80.1% of over 16s in the UK have had both jabs, and 89% have had at least one jab, and will presumably be having their second within the next few weeks  – and many of those who’ve had one jab but not two will be those aged 16 and 17, to whom the passport schemes don’t apply.  The vast majority of people are not in this position.   For the remaining 11%, yes, you are entitled to choose not to be vaccinated.  But no, you are not entitled to increase the risk to other people.  The person next to you could have a severely compromised immune system, for all you know.  Even if they haven’t, they could be one of the unlucky people badly affected by the virus, even if they’ve been double jabbed themselves.

I have actually had to carry a vaccine passport before – a yellow fever vaccine passport certificate, when I went to Bolivia.  No-one even asked to see it!   But I had it.  And, thanks to Malory Towers, I was – at the age of about 7 – briefly convinced that everyone had to show a “health certificate” at the start of every term at secondary school … but, er, you don’t!   But today was the first time that I had to carry a Covid passport.  I suspect that it will be the first of many.  And I very much hope that, next year, I’ll be showing it at the airport, because I really want to get back to travelling abroad.

On a different note, I arrived home on Tuesday to find that the boiler had broken down.  I tried turning it off and on again.  No joy.  It’s under a maintenance contract, so I contacted British Gas.  You used to be able to speak to a human being even if you rang at midnight: now, you can only get a voice prompt.  I’d just have gone on the website if I’d known that.  But, anyway, the good news was that they could send someone on Wednesday morning.  “Between 8 and 1.”

Now, I’ve had this sort of thing more times than I care to remember, over the years.  Things break.   Or things need delivering.  And you get told “between 8 and 1” or “between 12 and 6”.  Or even “between 8 and 6”.  Yes, they’ll ring you 1/4 hour beforehand, or they’ll text you in the morning with a one hour delivery slot, but none of that’s an awful lot of use if you’re trapped at work.   “Can’t someone wait in the house for you?”   Well, strangely enough, I haven’t got a butler or a housekeeper.  I have on numerous occasions had to ask my kind mum or dad to wait in, but then it’s a bind for them, 5 or 6 hours stuck in someone else’s house.  And, this time, it wasn’t an option anyway, because they were visiting my sister in London.

I’ve really struggled with this in the past.  I once burst into tears down the phone to British Gas, because they refused to send someone out on a Sunday and said that it would have to be Monday, and I kept saying that I had to go to work on Monday, and they kept saying that there was nothing they could do.  It wasn’t their fault.  But it wasn’t mine either.  It really is one of the main reasons I suffer so badly with anxiety.  I’ve felt trapped every time I’ve been in the office.  I’ve even quoted the Patrick Swayze “I’m balancing on shit, Baby,” line from Dirty Dancing, because that’s how it’s felt.

But, on Wednesday morning, I rang the office and explained the situation, and said that I would work from home until the boiler man came.  Because I can do that now.  Because we’re set up for it.  OK, it could have been a day on which I was due to be in a meeting, or at a client’s office, or urgently needed some files which were on my desk; but, thankfully, it wasn’t.  And, if it had been, then it would only have meant a delay of a day.  And guess what?   The boiler needed a new part.  The guy didn’t have one with him.  So he had to come back on Thursday.  Same thing again.

This pandemic has been horrific .  But it’s had a few good effects, and one of them has been that WFH has become widely accepted.  I do fully appreciate that not everyone is lucky enough to be able to WFH, and I sympathise deeply with those who can’t, or those whose bosses are so vile that they won’t let them – anyone else see the reports in the press this week about a tribunal involving a woman who was sacked because she had to leave the office to collect her child, who had a medical condition and had been taken ill at school?   But, at the moment, I’m still WFH two days a week and very much hope that that will become a permanent thing, and no-one particularly objected when I had to add Wednesday morning to that at the last moment.

If anyone’s read this, thank you, and stay safe xxx.

Freedom? Week 7, August 30th to September 5th 2021 inclusive

Bank Holiday Monday, August 30th

This is the last Bank Holiday until Christmas.  That is frightening!   And, although sadly without Rafa, it’s the first day of the US Open.  Full house allowed, but spectators (apart from young children) have to show a vaccination certificate.  However, players don’t.  Rafa, Roger, Andy, Simona and various others have spoken out in support of vaccination, but many others, led by Nole and Stef, aren’t keen.  I don’t know why they aren’t keen, but they aren’t.

I went to Chester today, for the first time in years.  Cooler and cloudier today, but dry.  Like here, the city centre was busy, but most people seemed to be eating rather than shopping!   There are so few department stores left.  But it was certainly busy.  And I went on a boat trip!

One trend which I do not like, and which the pandemic seems to have exacerbated, is people taking their dogs everywhere, even into city centres.  It’s bad enough listening to barking, snarling and yapping in parks and gardens, without having to put up with it in cafes and shopping streets as well 😦 .

Right, I am off to watch the tennis!


Tuesday, August 31st

I feel full of woe today.  Mainly because, having been off diet for 3 days, I have someone put on 5lbs.  5lbs.  In 3 days.  I mean, it’s not like I ate 10 boxes of chocolates or anything.  I just ate a bit more than normal.  It could take months to lose 5lbs.  And I was already upset because I look so horrendously fat on the photos from the wedding.  This has been the story of my life.  This is why I struggle with both depression and eating disorders.  The one time I tried to get professional help, a well-meaning doctor gave me anti-depressants.  Which caused weight gain.  So I ended up feeling worse than I’d done to start with.  Also, the weather forecast for September is vile – and SW Wales, where I’m going, is usually right in the firing line for Atlantic storms.  And there’s talk of restrictions being reimposed in Scotland.

And I’m overtired because I was up late at the wedding on Sunday, then up stupidly late last night because the Andy v Stef match went to 5 sets.  And then Stef lost.  And then I had to get up early this morning to go to Tesco before work.  And work is crap because I’ve been landed with sorting out a mess made by someone who takes no responsibility for their actions.

Some days are just crap.  Today is one of them!

In other news:

  1. Fully vaccinated visitors from the UK no longer need to quarantine on arrival on Italy.  But we still have to have the stupid tests.  And there are still far fewer flights than usual.
  2. A number of people in America have been hospitalised after taking horse de-worming tablets to cure/prevent against Covid.  I am not making this up.
  3.  Someone’s set up a small memorial to local Covid victims, outside Tesco.  Very poignant.

Wednesday, September 1st

2 of the 5lbs have come off.  I feel a bit better now.  And it was 20 years ago today that I moved into my house.  20 years!  That is frightening.


  1. One of my colleagues, who refused to be vaccinated, has tested positive.  This was on Friday, but I was WFH on Friday and Tuesday, and no-one bothered to tell me.  The firm initially refused to pay to have the office deep cleaned, but, after an outcry, changed their minds.  However, by the time they’d done this, and because of the Bank Holiday weekend, it’s not being done until tomorrow night, so it’s basically pointless.
  2. My elder nephew’s friend, whom he was with yesterday, has had a PCR test as he came back from Spain on Monday … and it’s positive.  And another friend, whom both my nephews have seen, has been tested prior to returning to school and he’s positive as well.

Covid passports are being introduced in Scotland, for big events.  The infection rate in Scotland’s currently double the rate in England.

Eeh, I am sick of all this!


Thursday, September 2nd

Most schools are now back.  Let’s see what happens.

Meanwhile, in the middle of everything else, Hurricane/Storm Ida has caused mayhem at the US Open.  And mayhem generally – very distressing scenes, with 14 people killed across New York and New Jersey.

And there is a huge row going on over Toiletgate.  Much as I like Stef Tsitsipas, no-one needs to spend that long in the toilet unless they’ve got a medical problem!

Sarah Storey is now Britain’s most decorated Paralympic athlete.

And we beat Hungary 4-0 in our first World Cup qualifier … but there was some unpleasantness, with the Hungarian “fans” shouting racist abuse and throwing things at our players.  UEFA need to do something about this.


Friday, September 3rd

The JCVI are saying that kids aged between 12 and 15 should only be vaccinated if they’re clinically vulnerable.  So now the politicians and medics have either got to go against JCVI advice or else let the virus spread through schools  – as it’s doing in Scotland – and possibly spread into the wider community, not to mention cause issues if we eventually get back to any sort of travel normality and other countries want proof of vaccination from over 12s.  To be fair to the JCVI, their brief is to look at things from a purely medical viewpoint, but would it not have been better to have had them working alongside people looking at things from other viewpoints?   Tomorrow’s papers are full of headlines about how the politicians are going to override what they’ve said, which isn’t a very fair angle to take because surely the wider benefits of vaccinating kids are pretty obvious.

Infection rates across England and Wales are fairly stable – and the average across Greater Manchester is below the average for England.  Rates in Northern Ireland, whilst higher, are now falling.  But rates in Scotland are way up.  Is this because of schools, or is something else going on?


Saturday, September 4th

Like I’m not stressed enough about going to South Wales in my own, the infection rate in Carmarthenshire is 425, whereas it’s hovering in the 280s/290s here!

A decision on vaccinating healthy 12 to 15-year-olds will probably be made next week.

Carlos Alcaraz beat Stef Tsitsipas.  Not sure whether or not Stef was put off by the crowd getting on his back over Toiletgate, but what a great performance from young Alcaraz.  I feel so old!

And I met a friend at The Vienna Coffee House this morning.  Such a normal thing to do – meet a friend at a cafe in town.  But, for much of the last 18 months, it hasn’t been possible!   Some weird-looking statues have appeared outside Central Library: this is the “Gratitude” exhibition, to thank the NHS.   Photo below (just of one statue, because there were quite a few people there so I couldn’t get a photo of the whole lot without people in it, and I don’t know how to edit them out!).


Sunday, September 5th

Some thoughts on herd immunity.

Infection rates across “Greater Manchester” as a whole, whilst not low, are around the average for England – some boroughs a bit higher, some a bit lower.  You would expect rates in such a densely-populated area to be well above the average.  That’s certainly how it was last autumn and in the spring.  Not any more.  The highest rates nationwide are now mainly in the East and the South West, which had low rates throughout last year and the early part of this year.  That’s partly due to rates being high in some tourist areas, but it was happening even before then.  London, another very densely-populated area, was the first part of the country hit by Covid, and a lot of people there probably had it unknowingly before the first lockdown.  Apart from when the Alpha variant first hit, it’s generally, since the early days, had rates well below average.

Coming back to “Greater Manchester”, Bolton was the area first hit and worst hit, not just locally but nationally, by the Delta variant.  It had much the highest rate in the country for weeks.  But, for months now, it’s had the lowest infection rate of the 10 boroughs.  If we look at smaller areas, one of the worst-hit areas last year and early this year was Broughton Park, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish area of Manchester/Salford.  People there typically have very large families, and, without wishing to cast aspersions, everyone knows that in-person religious services and big wedding parties were going on there when they were banned.  Now, it’s got the lowest infection rate in the whole of any area within the 10 boroughs – and that’s despite having relatively low vaccination rates.

The health authorities insist that none of this is due to herd immunity, and that any reduction in infection rates is due to the vaccination programme.  The vaccination programme is hugely important and no-one is denying that.  But it’s hard to ignore what these figures are telling us, and they’re all pointing in the same direction.

Anyway!   Vaccine passports are coming in from next month … not a surprise.  England 4-0 Andorra.  Paralympics GB have finished second in the medals table in Tokyo.  Emma Raducanu has reached the last 16 at the US Open … and, rather than playing Ash Barty as expected, is playing Shelby Rogers.  And we’ve had really nice weather today.  I did think about going to Windermere, but I’ve had a lot of late nights with the US Open and wasn’t sure that a big day out was a very sensible idea, so I went to Speke Hall instead.


And such sad news about the death of Sarah Harding, aged just 39.  Bloody, bloody cancer.

Freedom? Week 6, August 23rd to 29th 2021 inclusive

Monday, August 23rd

Thankfully, Mum is feeling better.  And my bro-in-law’s mum is OK, and will be very unlucky if she gets it now.   And it’s now 9 1/2 days since I saw Mum and Dad, so hopefully I’ll be OK.

However, the two friends with whom Mum and Dad spent the evening on Saturday 14th have both got it.  This happened last week, but for some reason no-one told me until today!   Again, thankfully, only mild symptoms, and they weren’t about to go on holiday or do anything else which was totally mucked up by it, but it’s pretty frightening that they all got it despite being fully vaccinated.

No-one else who was on the golf trip’s got it, so Dad’s now wondering if he got it before he went.  But where?  Who knows?

I’m feeling a lot more anxious about it all than I’ve done for a while.


Tuesday, August 24th

Oh great.  The Cornish authorities are asking tourists to stay away unless they’ve already booked.  There’s been a big increase in cases in Newquay, in particular, but it seems to be linked to the “Boardwalk” festival for 16-21 year olds, so it seems a bit unfair to blame general tourism.   The Cumbrian authorities are suggesting that people take tests pre-staycation, due to an increase in cases in the Eden (Penrith/Ullswater) area, and so are the authorities in some of the Lincs seaside towns.  And, just as I was convinced that I definitely *would* get my week in Scotland in November (after my original trip in September was cancelled), Sturgeon is threatening to reimpose restrictions.

I went to the dentist’s today.  They still make you wait outside in the street and put your coat and bag in a box!

The Paralympics have started.

And neither Joe Biden nor the Taliban will agree to extending the evacuation deadline past the 31st.  What a mess.

On a happier note, the weather is nice.


Wednesday, August 25th

Mum is feeling a lot better in terms of the virus, but has done her back in and hasn’t been able to have physio due to being in isolation.  She’s going on Friday.  Dad and bro-in-law’s dad are both fine.

Reports from here, from the US and from Israel all show that the protection from the vaccines starts wearing off after a few months.  So the most vulnerable people now could be those in the high risk groups, who were vaccinated first.  A friend’s mum and dad have also both tested positive, despite being fully vaccinated, and the MEN is reporting that there’s been a noticeable increase in cases amongst the over 60s.

Booster jabs start next month.

Schools in Scotland are already back, and a number of schools have already seen outbreaks.

And both Serena and Venus have joined the list of withdrawals from the US Open.  So many players injured :-(.

But, hooray, Sarah Storey has won her 15th Paralympic gold medal!


Thursday, August 26th

I had a rather odd conversation today, with someone who said she was only getting vaccinated (now, months after her age group became eligible) so that she’d be able to go abroad, and that she was confident that her body would be able to fight off Covid so wouldn’t have bothered getting vaccinated otherwise.  I wasn’t going to get into an argument, but it’s quite worrying that some people still feel like that, despite all the publicity about young, healthy people who’ve died from it.

The NHS is reportedly being put on standby to vaccinate 12 to 15 year olds.

Switzerland, for some reason, is seeing a big upsurge in cases.  However, it’s just been put on the green list, along with Canada and 5 other countries.  I would give a great deal to be in the Canadian Rockies or the Swiss Alps, but, with this awful fear of having a positive PCR test and being stuck in a quarantine hotel abroad, I’m just too nervy at the moment.  When will these bloody PCR tests stop?   Other countries don’t have them.  Well, a lot don’t.

The US Open draw is horrible.  The Champions League’s draw’s not bad at all … until we muck it up!


Friday, August 27th

Whew!  After all the speculation linking Ronaldo with City, he’s coming back to us instead!

“My” entrance to the park is now closed for 4 weeks, because of the stupid Parklife festival, which lasts for 2 days.  So I’ve got to take quite a long diversion.  I am not very pleased.

Went into town for blood donation this morning.  They seem to have scrapped the local sessions, but I don’t know whether that’s Covid-related or not because there were problems with the venue even before Covid, and they kept cancelling appointments at short notice.  This is actually easier, because the venue in town’s open most days, so you can choose a date that suits you.

Most of the news is about Afghanistan, but, in Covid news, cases in Scotland are right up, which is presumably linked to schools there going back and suggests that cases in England and Wales are also set to rise.  Cases in Northern Ireland are already quite high: I don’t know what’s going on there.  But hospitalisations and deaths aren’t really going up, which is the main thing.  But they’re not going down either.


Saturday, August 28th

There’s a lot of doom and gloom talk going on about cases sky rocketing once schools go back.

Meanwhile, I went to Styal today, in the sunshine, and it was lovely 🙂 .

Then, despite having had a scone at Styal, I had a pastel de nata from Cuckoo to celebrate the Second Coming of Ronaldo.

Then we all went out for tea because my sister and bro-in-law and nephews are here for my cousin’s wedding.

I know – it’s no wonder I’m so fat!


Sunday, August 29th

Today was my cousin’s wedding day.  This is all a bit weird because I used to push him around in a pram, feed him with a bottle and (when he was a bit older) let him sit up and watch TV with me, put him to bed just before his parents got home and tell them he’d been there all night.  Now he is nearly a foot taller than me, and a married man.   But anyway!    There have been a million and one different sets of rules about weddings since all this started, and it’s only since July 19th that you’ve been allowed unlimited numbers of guests for both the ceremony and the reception, and dancing, and it’s the first actual “party”, and certainly the first event with dancing, that I’ve been to since pre-Covid.   Thankfully, it all seemed to go very well, and hopefully the happy couple had a wonderful day and will live happily ever after 🙂 .   Apart from the bottles of hand sanitiser everywhere, there wasn’t really anything that looked that different to “normal”.  Whatever normal is any more!

And United managed a late goal, to win 1-0 at Wolves!



Freedom? Week 5, August 16th to 22nd 2021 inclusive

Monday, August 16th

Dad’s coughing less and, thankfully, is OK otherwise.  And, thankfully, no-one else has got any symptoms.   The rules change today – any earlier and I, Mum, my uncle, my brother-in-law’s dad and several friends would all have had to self-isolate for ten days.  I’ve been in the office today, but I was in a room on my own – my colleague is on long-term sick leave – and haven’t been near anyone else.

“My” entrance to Heaton Park is going to be closed for FIVE WEEKS because of bloody Parklife!  I mean, WTF?   It’s a two day festival.  How can that possibly justify closing a main area of a busy public park for FIVE WEEKS?  I can get in a different way, but it’s a bit far for a dinner hour walk, plus it’d mean walking a long way along the side of a busy main road rather than actually in the park.  Bleurgh.

Roger’s having another knee op and will be out at least until next year.  No news yet on Rafa and the US Open.

In the middle of everything else, the Taliban have retaken control of Afghanistan and over 1,200 people have been killed in an earthquake in Haiti.

So much for being fully vaccinated giving you “protection”.  Dad is only one of several people I know/know of who’ve tested positive despite having had both jabs.  Hopefully the vaccines will at least stop you from becoming seriously ill, unless you’re extremely unlucky, but I think we were all rather over-optimistic about how effective the vaccines’d be.


Tuesday, August 17th

Oh, this is just the gift that keeps giving!   Mum started coughing last night.  She did a lateral flow test and it was negative, but apparently the line was very faint, and she thinks she must have it too.  So now they are both self-isolating.

I’m going to WFH for the rest of the week.

On the downsides, so much for the vaccines stopping you from getting infected,  On the upside, apart from the coughs, thankfully they are both OK.   18 months ago, if someone had coughed for a few days, you wouldn’t have thought anything of it.  In most cases, the vaccines are stopping serious illness.

So do we carry on with the testing and the isolation and the daily statistics announcements indefinitely, or do we get to a point where we treat Covid like flu?

Dad’s PCR test came back positive.  They asked him to fill in some test and trace stuff online, but he couldn’t work out how to do it!  Then he got a phone call from someone who sounded like he was in a call centre abroad, and didn’t speak English very well.  Excellent.

And my colleague who has been on sick leave for month has passed away.  It wasn’t a big surprise, but it’s still very sad.

Finally, they are apparently closing the Sheepfoot Lane entrance to the park, as well as the Grand Lodge entrance.  It is as clear as mud.  I rang the office to check, but no-one there was sure either.  Nor were they sure how it could possibly be necessary to close off parts of a public park for 5 weeks because of a 3 day festival.  They’re putting up a few temporary sets, not building a palace!


Wednesday, August 18th

It gets worse.  My brother-in-law’s dad started coughing and sniffling last night, and now he’s tested positive too.

Again, thankfully it’s nothing worse than a cough and a bit of the sniffles.  But the Delta variant is clearly incredibly easy to catch, even for people who’ve been fully vaccinated, and that’s really frightening.  All the uncertainty which the vaccines were supposed to eliminate is still there.  If you want to travel abroad, you’re taking a huge chance – however careful you try to be, you could still test positive before travel and lose the holiday, or test positive before return and be stranded abroad.  Or you could suddenly be faced with ten days’ isolation just as you’re supposed to be getting married or doing something else really important.   Or, if you can’t WFH, find yourself having to take ten days off work – and a lot of employers will not pay any more than the legal minimum statutory sick pay, and self-employed people get even less than that.  I’m really feeling quite downbeat about things.

And Dominic Thiem will be out for the rest of the year with a wrist injury 😦 .  Who exactly will be playing at Flushing Meadows?!


Thursday, August 19th

Thankfully, no-one else has shown any symptoms.  I am going round to Plague Towers tomorrow, to drop some groceries off outside the door, like people leaving butter on the Prestwich butterstile during the time of the bubonic plague.  Mum and bro-in-law’s dad have both had positive PCR tests.

The average infection rate across Greater Manchester is just below 300 per 100,000, which in turn is just below the national average for England.  The East Midlands, East Yorkshire, parts of the West Country and seaside towns (including Blackpool)  have got the highest rates.

Sajid Javid’s confirmed that a booster vaccination programme will be starting some time in September.

It looks as if my brother-in-law will be able to continue WFH full time until October.  Lucky him!   It’s very difficult in London – most people commute by Tube, the Tube trains are usually horrendously crowded, and it’s not even as if you can open the windows like you can on a bus or a tram.

And some friends had decided to take a chance, and booked a last minute holiday abroad.  Had the pre departure PCR tests.  And one of their kids tested positive.   Thankfully, the kid is fine, just a bit sniffly, but the holiday is obviously now off.   So sorry for them.  And this is exactly the sort of thing I meant yesterday.


Friday, August 20th

Just like this week wasn’t crap enough already, Rafa’s announced that he will not only miss the US Open but will miss the rest of the season as well.  He never plays well indoors anyway, so it makes sense, but … please tell me that this isn’t the end   He’s been written off before and come back, but he was younger then.  Both Rafa and Roger out for the rest of the season.  Dominic too, but he’ll be back … will they?   I hope so, but I feel very sad and very worried.

Went round to Mum and Dad’s to leave the shopping on the plague stone (i.e. outside the front door).  They are OK, just bored.  Dad is so bored that he’s walking laps of the garden (weather has been better today).

My bro-in-law’s dad has taken part in some weird test to find out whether or not Covid can be detected through sound.  He had to say “I’d love an afternoon tea, please”, then breathe heavily three times, then cough three times.  I am not making this up, honestly!

The lockdown in Sydney’s been extended yet again, until at least the end of September.  Like that’s going to make Covid magically go away.  And the whole of New Zealand is also in lockdown.  And some people I vaguely know have had the holiday nightmare I’m dreading – went abroad, had the PCR tests before coming home, one of them tested positive despite being fully vaccinated.  They’re in a relative’s holiday home, so at least they’re not having to pay for a quarantine hotel, but they’re now stuck there, missing at least 10 days’ work, and panicking in case one of the others gets it and they’re stuck there even longer.  This situation is just a nightmare.


Saturday, August 21st

Dad and bro-in-law’s dad are OK, but Mum is feeling very tired.  Just hoping that this passes in a few days’ time.

It has poured down nearly all day today.  So miserable, especially in August and when so many people are on staycation.  I went – in my cagoule and wellies – to do the new sunflower walk at the fruit farm.  The sunflowers looked lovely, even if I didn’t!

Then I went to the garden centre, but I haven’t done much else … although I’ve got some boring admin jobs done.  Watching the tennis from Cincy now, but feeling rather morose about it.

Thousands of people have protested in Sydney and Melbourne about the ongoing lockdowns, and clashed with police.  There was also a peaceful protest in Brisbane.

The news headlines here are mostly about the awful mess in Afghanistan … and the way in which people are more interesting in trying to score political points at home than in actually trying to do anything useful.


Sunday, August 22nd

Well, our great start to the season didn’t last very long, did it?   Drew 1-1 at Southampton this afternoon.

The weather was better today, at least.  I went to Bakewell, where I went to the Tiroler Stuberl, where scones come with lots of Continental whipped cream instead of clotted cream … wouldn’t do as an ongoing thing, but it does for a change!  Then to Matlock Bath.

I love the Derbyshire Dales, but it’s such a nightmare journey!  It takes me longer to get to Bakewell, which is 45 miles away, than it does to get to Windermere, which is 80 miles away.

Not much to say about Covid.  Locally, cases are slightly below the national average, some boroughs a bit lower, some higher, figures fluctuating a bit day by day and week by week but no major changes.  Nationally, I’d hoped deaths would be falling by now, but they aren’t – but they’re not rising either.   If this is as good as it gets, how can we go on like this?  How can anyone plan holidays, weddings or anything else when they could be forced into ten days’ isolation at any second?  How long do we keep being given daily stats for deaths?  We don’t get them for any other disease.   I just don’t know where we go from here.


Freedom? Week 4, August 9th to 15th 2021 inclusive

Monday, August 9th

Heard some upsetting news today about a former colleague who was involved in an accident in the torrential rain on Friday and had to wait hours for an ambulance to arrive – although, thankfully, she’s going to be OK.  The NHS is under a lot of pressure, with all the usual stuff, plus Covid, plus trying to catch up on everything that’s been postponed due to Covid.

There’s another variant around, the lambda, which seems to have originated in South America, but we’re not hearing much about it.

The Republic of Ireland’s going to start vaccinating 12-15 year olds this week.  Why aren’t we doing this?


Tuesday, August 10th

Over 75% of adults in the UK are now fully vaccinated.

A-level results came out today – with 44.8% of entries awarded A or A* grades!  That’s compared to 35.8%  last year, which in itself was bonkers compared to around 25% in 2019 … and around 18% in 2000.  Obviously none of this is the fault of the kids, who’ve had to work under horrendously difficult conditions, but it’s all a bit crazy.  And it means that nearly all university offers have been met, so universities are trying to persuade people to defer entry for a year, which a) is silly (what are they supposed to do instead, under the present circumstances?) and b) is stressing out kids due to do A-levels next year.  What a muddle.  But, when grades were downgraded last year, it caused an outcry.  It’s all such a shame – I would have been devastated if my A-level exams had been cancelled, and equally devastated to think that there was any sort of question mark over my grades.   But well done do all the kids.

According to Sky Sports, someone (who?) is going to do “random checks” at Premier League matches, to see if people have got either vaccination certificates or proof of negative test results.  Hang on.  Absolutely nothing has been said about either of these things being mandatory for people attending matches.  There’s also been some crap about keeping your distance from people who aren’t in your household/bubble.  How exactly are you meant to “keep your distance” from people in neighbouring seats?  And how do they think people are going to stand apart in the long queues for drinks and the toilets at half time?   I understand that there are concerns after a number of people tested positive after attending Euro 2020 matches at Wembley, but talk sense.

Today was a WFH day, so I went to Tesco a bit later, meaning that I didn’t get to the checkout before 8am and therefore didn’t have to do battle with the self service checkouts.


Wednesday, August 11th

Bleurgh.  Rafa’s pulled out of both Toronto and Cincy with the ongoing foot injury.  It’s not looking good for the US Open 😦 .

Not much going on Covid-wise, apart from some arguing over the stupid PCR test requirements for travel.  France and Germany are both stopping free testing, to try to push people into being vaccinated.


Thursday, August 12th

Now Canberra’s in lockdown.  Is anywhere in Australia not in lockdown?!   People wanting to visit family and friends in Australia and New Zealand, and people in Australia and New Zealand wanting to visit family and friends here, are getting quite despondent – I know people who’ve got baby/toddler grandchildren whom they’ve never met, or elderly relatives who are in poor health and whom they’re frightened they’ll never get to see again.

GCSE results came out today – two weeks earlier than usual.  Same story with grade inflation.  Last year, the grades were downgraded, people yelled and shrieked, and the grades were un-downgraded.  This year, they haven’t been downgraded, and people are yelling and shrieking about grade inflation.  Results in the North and Midlands seem to be some way below those in the South, which is worrying.

Infection rates are creeping up again, both locally and nationally.  And it has to be said that there’s an issue with seaside places – Blackpool’s now got the highest rate in the North West (although the highest rates overall are all in the east of the country), and Brighton, Bournemouth and Torbay have also got amongst the highest rates in the country.


Friday, August 13th

Friday 13th.  Infection rates are creeping up, deaths are not falling, and around 30% of young people haven’t been vaccinated.  None of this is very good.  TBH, though, Covid isn’t really being discussed that much.  There’s been a horrific shooting incident in Plymouth, and all hell’s breaking loose in Afghanistan.  And, on a different note, the Premier League season starts tonight.


Saturday, August 14th

Today was the day!!  The return to Old Trafford.

I’ve written about it here 

This is a BIG day.


Sunday, August 15th

Oh great 😦 .  My dad has tested positive for Covid.  He went on some golf trip, and has been coughing his head off ever since.  He insisted that he was fine, but Mum made him do a lateral flow test and it was positive.  Mum’s tested negative.  Thankfully, Dad is OK, apart from the awful cough, but he’s now going to have to self isolate for 10 days.  And he was in close contact with my uncle, who is a bit of a hypochondriac, on Saturday.  The main this is that he feels OK, but this is still a bit of a nightmare.  And I suppose you could say that I should self-isolate because I’ve seen him too, but the self-isolation rules will have changed by the time he’s had the PCR test and I haven’t got any symptoms … I’ll just try not to get too close to anyone for the next 10 days.  I had a blood donation appointment but have postponed it.

Flaming golf weekend!  He was with 11 other people – I hope they haven’t all got it.

Before all this happened, I’d had quite a nice day – I went to Haworth and East Riddlesden Hall, a trip which I didn’t do last year because East Riddlesden Hall stayed closed until this spring.


New little hopes: return to Old Trafford

It’d been 17 months and 6 days.  I know it doesn’t quite fit, but imagine that sung to the tune of “Nothing Compares 2 U”.   March 8th 2020.  United 2-0 City.  We came out with huge smiles across our faces; but, at the same time, we knew that the season was probably going to be suspended before long.    It happened within days.  What we didn’t imagine was that it was going to be 17 months, and 6 days, before we went to Old Trafford again.  It’s been a long and difficult time, especially here in the Manchester area where we’ve been so badly hit by the pandemic.   But, today, not just crowds but capacity crowds were allowed back in, for the start of the Premier League season.  And what a start – stuffing Leeds 5-1!

I am *not* in the general habit of quoting Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but there’s a paragraph in there which seems quite apt for today.  “The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”   Obviously I’m not comparing the last 17 months to the horrors of the Great War, but the idea’s relevant.

We’ve got to go on.  With this wretched virus, it’s not going to surrender, and it’s hardly as if you can invite it to a peace conference to negotiate terms.  Maybe it’ll fade away after another few months, like the Spanish flu did.  Not looking likely.  Maybe we’ll keep getting waves of it for years.  Or even for decades, as with the Black Death.  Maybe, and this seems to be the current thinking, it’ll become endemic, and it’ll just always be around, like flu, and our wonderful scientists’ll keep tweaking the vaccines to make us better able to fight it.  It certainly doesn’t look as if we’re going to be blowing a final whistle and holding Victory over Covid street parties.  Didn’t the Czech Republic actually hold “Victory over Covid” parties last year?   Sadly, they were a bit previous.

But we’ve *got* vaccines now.  It sounds as if, from the beginning of October, vaccine passports will be needed for sports events, certainly at the top levels.  There are arguments for and against that, but it does look like it’ll be happening – and, if it helps us to keep a lid on this virus, then so be it.  I suppose we’ll get used to showing our Covid certificates, like we’ve got used to having security checks.  No-one likes the security checks, and they cause queues; but, after what happened at the Arena, everyone accepts that that’s the way it is.

There was nothing really different at the match today.  Well, it was a miracle that everyone actually got there, with all the roadworks and all the tram line closures, but that was nothing to do with Covid!   There’d been talk of wearing masks, but very people did.  There were some hand sanitiser stations.  You had to pay by card, not cash, if you wanted to buy a programme or something to eat or drink.  That was about it.  I’m not sure what else could have been done.  The Premier League had been waffling on about not getting too close to other people, but how do you avoid getting close to people in neighbouring seats?   Just have to hope that, in an outdoor setting, things won’t be too bad.

And did it feel good to be back?  Oh yes!  Quite emotional, really.  I’ve been to the ground since last March, to the souvenir shop, but obviously that wasn’t the same thing!   Even just walking down Warwick Road, seeing everyone heading for the ground, was emotional.  And then the teams came out, the whistle went, and we were off.   A live match again, at last.  I know some people felt that sport shouldn’t have restarted until crowds were allowed back in, but I don’t know where I’d have been without televised football, tennis, cricket, athletics etc since they all restarted.  They really have been a godsend, especially during the lockdown periods: they’ve made a big difference and really have been very important to me.  But getting back to live matches, getting back to Old Trafford – that was something special.

This is a big day.  And beating Leeds 5-1?  Well, that made it even more special!

Freedom? Week 3, August 2nd to 8th 2021 inclusive

Monday, August 2nd

Hooray, gold in the eventing, and two more silvers as well!

Some lovely scenes today, as families were reunited following to changes to quarantine rules for people coming from EU countries and the US.  There’s talk of more countries being moved to the green list, but you still need to have these bloody PCR tests and there’ve been some horror stories of people testing positive whilst abroad and then not being able to get home, being stuck in quarantine hotels abroad, paying a fortune and getting a load of hassle from their employers.  And there’s the risk of testing positive before you’ve even gone, and losing your holiday, your money and your time off work.  How long is this going to go on for?  I’ve lost two years’ travel already, which is a hell of a lot, and I really don’t want to lose any more, but how can you take those chances?

And the app’s to be “tweaked” so that it only pings people who’ve been in contact with an asymptomatic case within two days, not five.


Tuesday, August 3rd

And the medals keep coming!  Golds in the sailing for Stuart Bithell (who comes from Rochdale and learnt to sail on Hollingworth Lake) and Dylan Fletcher, and for Giles Scott.  Silvers in the men’s and women’s cycling this time – making Jason Kenny from Bolton Britain’s most decorated Olympian.  And more besides.  Great stuff!

I’ve not established my new routine yet.  I need a routine.  I am like Ma Ingalls, doing everything on a set day!  I should go back to going to the gym twice a week after work, but I can’t face it at the moment.  And last week I went to Tesco after work on Friday, like I used to pre-pandemic, but a) it was quite busy and b) some of the shelves were empty.  So today I went back to going on Tuesday morning, but I had to go very early so as to give myself time to get home, unpack the shopping and get to the office by 9 o’clock.  There were no proper tills open.  This sometimes happened pre-pandemic, if I was going early due to the French Open or Wimbledon, but they always used to open a till for me.  Today, they said that they couldn’t because there was no-one available.  The new scan tills were inexplicably cordoned off, so I had to put a whole weekly shop through one of the self service tills, dumping everything on top of other stuff so I didn’t “remove an item from the bagging area” and taking ages.  Bah!!  Also, because I’d had my breakfast so early, I was so hungry by dinnertime that I felt ill.


Also, seeing as it now looks highly unlikely that I’ll be going on a Christmas market trip abroad for the last week of November as planned, I’d bought a ticket for the rugby league World Cup final.  But it now looks almost certain that the rugby league World Cup will be postponed until 2022, as Australia and New Zealand have said they aren’t coming.  Great 😦 .  And I bet they now offer you the option of holding on to the ticket for next year, which I can’t really do when I don’t know the dates or what else might be on!


Wednesday August 4th

All 16 and 17 year olds are to be offered vaccines.  No decision yet on 12 to 15 year olds, but I can see that coming

Golds for Ben Maher in the showjumping and Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre in the sailing today!  And medals in the boxing and skateboarding too.  We’re not having much luck in the athletics, though – a superb silver for Keely Hodgkinson from Atherton in the 800m yesterday, but Dina Asher Smith, Adam Gemili and Katarina Johnson Thompson have all had to pull out injured.

And I am not doing well with being trapped in the office, and am very glad that it’s only for 3 days a week at present.  It saps your physical and mental energy in a way that doing the same work at home just doesn’t.


Thursday, August 5th

France is back on the main amber list.  Germany, Austria, Latvia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Norway and Romania have been moved to the green list,  India, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar have been moved from red to amber, and Mexico, Georgia, Reunion and Martinique have been moved from amber to red.   It’s good news about the green list, but you’ve still got to have these bloody tests, and there’s that fear that, however careful you’ve been, you could test positive before you go, when you’ve already paid for and planned the holiday and taken the time off work, or test positive whilst you’re there, and be stuck in an expensive quarantine hotel, getting grief from work.  And how are you even meant to get the PCR tests done when you’re trapped at work?!  I’m desperate to start travelling again, but I’m not really seeing a way forward ATM 😦 .

More medals!  Including gold for Matt Walls from Shaw in the cycling, and bronze for Holly Bradshaw from Chorley in the pole vault.  Well done, everyone!

Rafa won his comeback match, against Jack Sock in Washington, but was clearly and very worryingly still struggling with the foot injury :-(.

The rugby league World Cup’s officially been postponed.  Bah!

Off to have my hair cut and dyed now!


Friday, August 6th

The good news:
More medals for Team GB, including golds for Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald in the madison cycling, and for Kate French in the modern pentathlon.

The R number is probably now below 1.  There’s been no noticeable increase in infections since “Freedom Day”.

The bad news:
Rafa lost to Lloyd Harris.

We are being told that levels of the virus in people infected with the Delta variant despite being fully vaccinated are the same as those in people infected but unvaccinated, so they’re probably just as infectious as unvaccinated people.

Concerns are growing over the number of people, especially men, in the younger age groups who haven’t taken up the offer of a vaccine.


Saturday, August 7th

Hooray!   I actually went to a live professional football match today!   The Premier League starts back next week, but the lower leagues started today, and we went to Salford City v Orient.  1-1 draw.  It didn’t half feel good to be back at a live sports event.  (And it was so easy …. no messing about with these awful new digital tickets that both United and City have introduced.)  Please, please, don’t ever ban fans from football grounds again!

Another great day in Tokyo, including golds for Joe Choong in the modern pentathlon and Galal Yafai in the boxing!

But the weather is awful.  So sorry for people who’re on staycation.  I was going to go to Haworth tomorrow, but there’s a thunderstorm warning and I don’t desperately want to be driving across the moors in a thunderstorm … a bit *too* Wuthering Heights!


Sunday, August 8th

Hooray!   A 7th gold medal, a record 9th medal overall, for Jason Kenny from Farnworth.  Sir Jason Kenny and Dame Laura Kenny come New Year, surely?  Gold for Lauren Price in the boxing, too.  We finished with 65 medals, the same total as in 2012, and 4th in the medals table.  Well done to everyone – and thank you to Tokyo for putting on these Olympics under extremely difficult circumstances

The weather has been utterly vile today.  It wrecked the cricket, and meant that I did not go to Haworth.  Instead, I went to see Jungle Cruise at the Vue Printworks.   This was my first visit to the pictures since before the first lockdown.  I thought it might feel a bit weird, but, TBH, it didn’t feel weird at all.  A few people came in wearing masks, but I don’t think anyone kept them on.  It was early on a wet morning, so it wasn’t particularly busy and no-one had to sit next to anyone they weren’t with.  Maybe it would’ve felt different if the place’d been packed out.  I don’t know.  I don’t usually go to the pictures at busy times anyway.   I was a bit narked that they’d put the price up from £4.99 to £5.99, and then tried to make out that you’d still only pay £4.99 if you booked online.  No.  If you book online, you get charged a 79p booking fee.  OK, I understand that they need to try to recoup some of their losses, but at least be honest about it!  Anyway, the film was very good.

Infection rates locally are now below, around or only just above the national average, except in Salford which seems to be having a few issues but still isn’t that bad.  The highest rates now seem to be in Yorkshire.

And, needless to say, it is going to be sunny tomorrow!

Freedom? Week 2, July 26th to August 1st 2021 inclusive

Monday, July 26th

Gold rush!!  Well done to Adam Peaty (swimming), Tom Pickford (mountain biking) and Tom Daley and Matty Lee (diving).  And two silvers as well!   What a brilliant morning.   Go Team GB!

Tomorrow will be my first day back at the office since March 2020.  I’m not at all happy about it, with all this “pingdemic” stuff going on.  I’m also bothered about the effect that being trapped in an office again is going to have on my mental health.  And, oh, the practical nightmares.  I ordered my holiday photos from Snapfish – was I supposed to order them to come here or to go to the office/

Bleurgh.  And it saps your energy.

Some trains between Manchester, London and Birmingham have been cancelled, because of the bloody pingdemic.   And I was disappointed to see so many people walking round Tesco without masks, when it was made quite clear that Tesco were asking you to wear masks.  But the good news is that new cases are down for a sixth day in a row.


Tuesday, July 27th

Today was the dreaded first day back in the office.  Apart from the fact that I forgot to take my afternoon snack (tangerines) so I was starving by the end of the day, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting – although that was mainly because not many people were in, so I was on my own and hardly spoke to anyone else all day, which suited me fine!   Missing my walks isn’t going to do me any good, though.  I haven’t dared face the scales since getting back from the Lakes, but I’m sure everything feels tight.  Public Health England keep mithering about fat we all are!

There do not seem to be any Covid protocols at the office.  There are a few bottles of hand sanitiser around, but that’s about it.

I posted on Facebook that I was nervy about going back, and people were really kind and supportive.  I appreciate that.

Medals galore in Tokyo, including gold for Tom Dean in the 200m freestyle and silver for Manchester’s Georgia Taylor-Brown in the triathlon.   Good good!  So annoying that I can’t seem to watch the tennis anywhere, though.

The holiday company rang in response to my e-mail, sent yesterday, saying how upset I was that they’d cancelled at such short notice, but seemed more concerned about trying to persuade me to book another trip than anything else.  It’s not their fault: it’s their American head office’s fault.  But none of that helps me.

131 deaths today – although Tuesday’s figures do tend to be high.  But cases are down for a 7th day in a row … hopefully we’ll soon see death numbers falling too.

And it is absolutely throwing it down 😦 .


Wednesday, July 28th

Hooray!!   My cousin’s pre-wedding party has been rescheduled.  It no longer clashes with the match!

Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening … but they’ve gone now.

Cases are up today, bah.  But still way down on last week.  And fully-vaccinated arrivals from the US and all EU countries will no longer need to quarantine. although tests will still be needed.  There’d been some rumours about Canada, but Canada hasn’t been mentioned.

More medals at the Olympics!  Including gold for the 200m freestyle relay men’s swimming team – including James Guy, originally from Bury.  (But still no tennis coverage.)


Thursday, July 29th

More medals.

Still no tennis coverage (ETA – hooray!!!  I have now discovered that you can watch it on Eurosport Player!!!)

And cases are up again … although nowhere near where they were a week ago.   But, locally, rates are still dropping – long may it last!   However, there’ve been a “small number of positive tests” in United’s “first team training squad”, causing the cancellation of the friendly against Preston, which is a bit worrying.

Israel’s to start giving booster shots of the vaccine, the first country to do so.

And, hooray, the self-isolation nightmare will definitely end on August 16th!


Friday, July 30th

More medals, including gold for Bethany Shriever in the BMX!

The North West now has the lowest R rate in the country, which is excellent news, and cases nationwide are down a bit today.

Things are bad elsewhere, though – parts of Asia are struggling.  And poor Sydney’s staying in lockdown for another month, even though there are so few cases there.


Saturday, July 31st

I went raspberry picking at Kenyon Hall this morning.

Then, after doing some house stuff, I went into town – The Vienna Coffee House has finally reopened after being refurbished, so I wanted to go there.  Town was really busy – mainly people eating outdoors.  It seems like people are going into town more to eat than to shop these days – which, to be fair, was exactly what I was doing!  And outdoor dining is here to stay … well, until it gets colder and wetter, presumably!

More medals for Team GB, including golds in the two new mixed events – the swimming relay and the triathlon!  And Pablo Carreno Busta beat Nole to win bronze for Spain in the men’s tennis, which is lovely.  Belinda Bencic won gold in the ladies’ tennis.  The men’s final tomorrow seems to be on at a really stupid time – typical – but at least it’s not overnight.

Being trapped in the office three days a week has definitely made my anxiety worse, but not as much as being trapped there five days a week would.

Case numbers are going down again, thankfully.   Deaths aren’t, yet, but aren’t rising either.


Sunday, August 1st

How on earth did it get to be August?!

It is SO nice not having to pre-book things for the National Trust and English Heritage any more – although I’m rather annoyed that the house at Dunham Massey is only open at weekends.  Desperately hoping that CADW abolish their booking system when restrictions in Wales are removed at the end of this week.  I went to Dunham Massey today, but I watched the tennis final – Sascha Zverev thrashed Karen Khachanov – first, and obviously I had no idea how long it was going to last, so I couldn’t have pre-booked.

Case numbers in the borough of Bury are now, like those in Bolton, below the average for England, and the average across Greater Manchester as a whole isn’t that much above the national average, and falling.  However, there are concerns – not particularly here, just everywhere – that a lot of younger people haven’t been vaccinated, and there’s some bizarre talk of trying to bribe them with free pizza and kebabs.  I am not making this up.  This is coming from pizza and kebab firms looking for publicity, not from the authorities!   Around 72.5% of adults in the UK are now fully vaccinated, though.

And more medals for Team GB, including golds for Manchester’s own Charlotte Worthington in the BMX event, and for Max Whitlock in the pommel horse gymnastics.