A match-less year

  A year ago on Monday, on March 8th 2020, United beat City 2-0 at Old Trafford.  Maybe we’ll get a similar result at the Etihad on Sunday: you never know!  It was the most amazing afternoon, with an electric atmosphere.  Five days later, rather appropriately on Friday 13th, it was announced that the season was being suspended.  Thankfully, we’ve now got football on TV – and an awful lot of it 🙂 – but fans haven’t been back inside Old Trafford since that wonderful Sunday afternoon a year ago.  Something’s a huge part of your life for almost 40 years, and then it’s taken away – by a virus.  The last time I went to the gym was the following week: I’m not exactly breaking my heart over that, but I should be.  People keep telling me that they’re always seeing me out walking, but The Scales aren’t getting it 😦  .  And we should have had a book club meeting two days before the gym visit, but it was cancelled.   It’s been an unimaginably long time since I’ve seen some of my friends and relatives:  Greater Manchester was shoved back under restrictions very soon after they were lifted.

The last time I went to the theatre was on February 25th 2020.  It was so exciting that the Back to the Future musical was premiering in Manchester.  The last time I went to the pictures was on February 15th 2020 – I went into town on the tram, went to see a film, then went to The Vienna Coffee House for a drink and a bite to eat.  The last time I went abroad was in December 2019.  Every year, I spend hour after hour reading up on the history of the culture reading up on wherever I’m going that year, trying to learn a bit of the language if it’s one with which I’m not familiar, trawling Amazon and Google for historical novels set there, and making lists of “must see” places and highlighting them on maps.  I was able to take two “staycations” last year, and I was very grateful for that, but I really want to get back to being and seeing somewhere different.

Everyone’s got things that they’re missing.  Maybe it’s something like going to professional football matches, which hundreds of thousands of people do every week.  Maybe it’s a very niche special interest thing.  Maybe it’s something which always seemed very ordinary and unremarkable, like meeting a few friends for a cup of tea and a piece of cake, or browsing round the shops.  It doesn’t matter what it is: if it’s important to you, then it’s important.  No-one’s interests matter any more or less than anyone else’s.

Maybe it’s being in a workplace rather than WFH: now there’s something which I am really *not* missing, but there’ve been some suggestions  (although I think they’re mainly coming from the landlords of office blocks) that other people are.

And it’s OK to say that you’re missing things, and especially that you’re missing people.

There will be a few sanctimonious people who will guilt-trip you about it, but they’re best ignored.  OK, not being able to go to the pictures hardly compares to being bereaved, being ill, or losing your job or your business, but our lives have been turned upside down.  We don’t know how long it’s going to take for things to get back to normal, and we don’t know what will have changed permanently.   Are cinemas going to be as popular as they used to be, or have people got too used to watching stuff on Netflix?   Will High Street shops (those that are left) ever be as busy as they used to be, or have people got too used to ordering online?   I was saying to one of the people at Cuckoo that I hope they keep the takeaway hatch going even after they can reopen the inside of the café, because it’s a “thing” now – everyone goes there!   Are we going to go back to having packed out public transport at rush hour?  No-one knows, and that’s scary – you never know what’s round the corner, but you normally have a lot more idea than we’ve got at the moment.

This has been my first match-less year since I was a very little kid.  I’m hoping that we’ll be back inside grounds next season, but I don’t know.  We get crowds of around 75,000 at Old Trafford – will that many people be allowed in?  And what about everything else?   National Trust and English Heritage properties reopened last summer, but with a limited numbers, pre-booking system – how long will that go on for?

How long will any of this go on for?!

We don’t know.  But fingers crossed that the wonderful vaccination programme will bring us out of it. In the meantime, stay safe and well, and thanks for reading xxx.

 

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

Monday, February 22nd

Boris’s roadmap out of lockdown has been announced … subject to levels of hospitalisations (rather than infections, which makes sense now that most infections should be amongst lower risk groups) not rising, the vaccination programme continuing to go well, and no nasty new variants appearing.  The Evil Tier System has been scrapped, hooray!!!  Unless any nasty new variants appear in particular areas.  Please, please, do not let this happen.  We can’t take much more.

March 8th – schools to reopen to all pupils, 2 people to be able to meet outdoors to chat/have a drink/have a picnic rather than exercise (which, TBH, people are doing anyway).

March 29th – STAY AT HOME ORDER LIFTED!!  Still a recommendation to “minimise” travel, but enough’s enough – those of us in much of the North and Midlands have been confined to our local areas since October.  Six people/two households to be able to meet outdoors.  Outdoor sports activities to resume.  Still seems to be the idea to WFH is possible – good.

April 12th – hairdressers to reopen.  Bloody hell, another 7 weeks of no hairdressers.  Non-essential shops, gyms, zoos, theme parks and outdoor hospitality to reopen.  Presumably this includes Lake District boats?  Watch the weather be vile all through April!  Weddings to be allowed, with a maximum of 15 guests.  Campsites and self-catering accommodation to reopen.

May 17th – hotels to reopen.  I was hoping for May Day weekend 😦 .  Indoor hospitality to reopen.  Foreign travel may possibly resume.  Up to 10,000 people to be allowed into sports stadia.  Cinemas and theatres to reopen.  Two households to be able to meet indoors.

June 21st – everything else to reopen.  Restrictions on social contact lifted – although mask-wearing and social distancing may well remain for a while yet.

We’ve been here before, and … well, not got there.  But fingers crossed.  I really can’t take much more.

 

Tuesday, February 23rd

Just as if things aren’t stressful enough, I had the police round earlier, to tell me that one of the neighbours had had a break-in.  All the doors and windows were locked, but the burglars managed to break one of the locks.  Thankfully, no-one was hurt, but they found the car keys and stole the car.

That’s really frightening.

The official US virus death toll passed 500,000 yesterday.  500,000.

Here, most people are feeling more hopeful after yesterday’s announcement.  However, I think the scientists want us locked down permanently, and, at the other end of the spectrum, the owners and staff of businesses which won’t be able to reopen until May or June at the earliest are very disappointed.

 

Wednesday, February 24th

Whilst people are generally feeling more hopeful, the local situation is worrying.  Lockdowns just don’t seem to work here.  Also, there’s now a spike in cases in some areas, pretty close by.  Last July, when the first local restrictions (other than those in Leicester) were announced, which eventually led to the Evil Tier System, it was the day before Eid, and everyone knew jolly well that it was because rates were exceptionally high in areas with large Islamic communities.  This time, it’s in areas with large ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.  It’s very awkward, because no-one wants to seem to be having a go at any one group of people, but the infection rates are what they are – three times the average for the area.

The Leeds and Reading Festivals are apparently going ahead.  Someone’s optimistic!

A lot of talk’s going on about helping kids to catch up at school.  Teaching unions, needless to say, are moaning!

 

Thursday, February 25th

Happy birthday to me 🙂 .  After a wet day on Tuesday and a windy day on Wednesday, we got blue sky and sunshine today!  It was hard not to think what a lovely day it would have been to spend at Windermere, but had we not been in lockdown, I’d have spent the day trapped in a depressing office, having spent time and money getting cakes and other stuff for everyone else in the office (sorry for sounding grumpy about that!) and being barked at if I opened Facebook to answer birthday wishes sent by kind friends and relatives.  As it was, I was able to do myself a nice afternoon tea in the garden.   I ordered a Slattery’s “treat box”, which I collected yesterday.  But, unbeknownst to me, Mum and Dad and my sister and brother-in-law had arranged to have food delivered to me!   So I ended up with the most enormous amount of stuff!   I’ve eaten some of it: I’ll have to sort the rest out later.  And I was able to have a nice long walk in the park during a somewhat extended dinner hour.  Lots of crocuses out, and some daffodils out now too.  And I could answer the Facebook messages, WhatsApp messages and texts as and when they arrived – very kind of people.

I’m not really a birthday person.  Once you’re past 21, birthdays are a bit miserable – another year older, still fat, still not successful etc!   But, hey, it’s an excuse to eat cake!!  And it’s been a really nice day …

… except that Rafa’s pulled out of Rotterdam, with the back problem.  Please tell me that this isn’t going to be another long-running injury saga.

It’s been confirmed that exam grades will be awarded purely on the basis of teacher assessment.  A lot of moaning is going on about this – why does everything involving schools involve so much moaning?!  I’m very, very sorry for the kids concerned.  Exam conditions worked for me and I’d have been devastated if my exams had been cancelled, and there will always be a feeling that 2020 and 2021’s results might not quite compare to other years’, but there’s just no alternative, in these rotten circumstances.  On a more positive note, the country’s been moved from level 5 alert to level 4 alert.

2nd leg of the Europa League match tonight – we only managed a 0-0 draw, but we’re through on aggregate.

 

Friday, February 26th

Hooray – the next phase of the vaccination will be by age, so I’m in Group 10, 40-49 year olds, and will be next in line once the current phase has been completing.  Teaching unions, needless to say, are moaning, but the NHS hasn’t got records of people’s jobs, so it’d be an admin nightmare to do it by occupation.

The Queen’s spoken out about people needing to consider others rather than just themselves, when deciding whether or not to be vaccinated.

One in five health areas are now seeing an increase in infection rates.  I have to admit that, when I first read this, on the MEN website, my immediate reaction was “At least it’s not just us”.  But it’s very worrying – and, in both the maps shown by the MEN and the maps in tonight’s Downing Street press conference, it’s clear that, infections in many areas having sky-rocketed in December and then fallen again, it’s now as you were – rates are far higher in densely-populated, urban parts of the North and Midlands than elsewhere.  All sorts of reasons have been suggested for this, from the sensible (a lower proportion of people being able to work from home) to the plain silly (people in the North spending more time indoors because of the weather).  But no-one seems to be sure, no-one seems to be trying very hard to get to the bottom of it, and Jonathan Van-Tam seemed to be suggesting that it was due to people breaking the rules.  I object to that.

Another nice sunny day.

We play AC Milan in the next round of the Europa League.  Erk!

 

Saturday, February 27th

What a gorgeous day.  Very warm for February, and clear blue sky.  Very frustrating that I couldn’t spend it at Windermere, but I’d booked Styal, where (despite part of the gardens being closed off due to flood damage, and there being no scones!) it really was lovely – lots of snowdrops, and some early daffodils.  I’m a bit (actually, rather a lot) obsessive about daffodils 🙂 .   Oh, please let things go ahead as planned, and please let the weather behave over Easter weekend, and please let me be able to go to the Lakes.

Captain Sir Tom Moore’s funeral took place today.

And we’re nearing the 20 million mark for first jabs.

And Rafa has now pulled out of Acapulco as well.  Bleurgh..

 

Sunday, February 28th

“Vaccinometer”- another new word introduced by the pandemic.  Over 20 million people in the UK have now had their first jabs!

Another lovely sunny day today.  Very frustrated about not being able to go to the Lakes (especially as I gather that loads of people went outside their local areas to go to the seaside, and probably to the Lakes too, and the police did nothing about it), but at least I was able to go to the park.  Glorious weather.

Loads of people were in groups which were obviously more than one household/bubble.  A lot were kids with grandparents as well as parents, and others were mostly teenagers and people in their 20s.  Everyone’s just had enough.

Then I cleared all the weeds and dead leaves out of the garden, ready to put some new plants in once it stops being frosty overnight.

Drew 0-0 at Chelsea.  City are stupidly far ahead.

There are daffodil shoots everywhere.  Waiting for them to flower is like a metaphor for waiting to be able to go out and about and see our relatives and friends again.

Lockdown Birthday/Group 10

  Dear Weather.  Thank you so much for behaving on my birthday (February 25th)!  It’d blown a gale the day before, and poured down the day before that.  I don’t want to push my luck, but, if you don’t mind, will you, please, please, also be nice during Easter week (especially over the four-day weekend, for those of us who’ll be chained to office computers until then), when, all being well, we’ll finally be allowed out of the local area for the first time since mid-October?  We’ll only be allowed to meet up outdoors and, whilst we’ll hold our long-awaited reunions with loved ones wearing cagoules and clutching umbrellas if need be, it would be rather nice if we could at least stay dry.  Thank you.

Also, as a slightly late birthday, it’s been announced today that people in my age group are Group 10 – i.e. we’ll be next in line to be vaccinated, once the second phase of the programme’s been completed.   Bring it on.

I’m not really a birthday person.  Once you get past 21, they’re just rather a reminder that you’re another year older and are still not thin/successful/whatever.  Unless you are, obviously.  However, they’re an excuse for a meal out, eh?  And, hey, let’s celebrate the fact that we’re still here, especially after a year on which no-one will be looking back with undiluted pleasure, as the Queen might say.  Having a late February birthday, I’m one of the last people to turn another year older in the Covid era.   Some people, depending on when their birthdays fall and which part of the country they live in, will have been lucky enough to have had a small celebration with family and friends.  Everyone else, hard luck.  It’s a shame for little kids, who usually make a big deal of birthdays, and for people marking “landmark” birthdays.  I was rather amused to see a small plane flying over the local area, trailing a banner proclaiming “Happy 90th Birthday, Doris” a few weeks ago.  I hope Doris had a lovely day 🙂 – but it won’t have been the day she’d have had otherwise, and it’s not as if you can rebook a special birthday in the same way that you can rebook a concert or a stage play.

It did turn out quite well, though.  Whilst pleased to see the blue sky and sunshine when I got up, I could have howled with frustration at the thought of how wonderful it would have been to spend this nice, sunny day in the Lake District, or looking at the snowdrops and early daffodils at Chirk Castle, or walking along the prom at Blackpool. However, as I reminded myself, had it been normal times, I’d have been spending the day trapped in a depressing office, eating a piece of cake at my desk, being expected to provide cakes and fruit for everyone else, and being moaned at if I picked up my phone to answer a message from a kind relative or friend.

As it was, I got to have a lovely walk in the park during my dinner hour.  Lots of crocuses, and, hooray, some early daffodils!   There are daffodil shoots everywhere: it’s going to look amazing in a few weeks’ time.  And, thanks to the weather, and thanks to vast quantities of food – some of it bought by myself, some of it delivered to me thanks to my lovely family – I was able to have a very large Lockdown Afternoon Tea (I didn’t eat everything all in one day, honestly!)  in the garden.  So it was really very nice.

But let’s hope that Lockdown Birthdays will soon be a thing of the past, eh?  Three cheers for the vaccination programme, and fingers and toes crossed for Easter weekend xxx.

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

Monday, February 15th

Hooray, Rafa beat Fabio, and in straight sets 🙂 .  A very tough looking QF against Stef Tsitsipas now awaits.

Depending on what you read, eating places will be reopening in March/May/not until August, hotels will be reopening in time for Easter weekend/in time for Whit Bank Holiday weekend/not until August, and all schoolkids/some schoolkids will be going back to school on March 8th.  Very little is being said about these bloody travel restrictions.

The quarantine hotel system began today.  People using it have to fly into either London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London City, Farnborough or Birmingham.  Yes, you did see “London” three times in the list of five.  No, you did not see any mention of Manchester, the biggest international travel hub in the country after Heathrow, nor, indeed, of anywhere else in the entire North of England.  And how many international flights go into Farnborough?!   FFS.

The issue of people from certain ethnic minorities not taking up the offer of the vaccine is getting really problematic.  Leicester Hospital Trust’s said that only 36.9% of black staff members, and only 43.2% of staff members with Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage, have taken up the offer of the vaccine.  The numbers of white staff members and staff members with Indian heritage who’ve been vaccinated are way, way higher.  And this is amongst healthcare workers, who are presumably very well educated about the virus and the vaccine.  I don’t think anyone foresaw this problem, but it could throw quite a spanner in the works.  Big efforts are being made to convince people from ethnic minority groups to be vaccinated, but they don’t seem to be working.

And the weather has perked up.  And this is the first week in months that it’ll be light enough for me to sit in the flower park with my weekly frozen yoghurt.  I normally go on Tuesdays, but tomorrow’s Pancake Day and I’m fat enough without having frozen yoghurt (even if it is fat free) and pancakes on the same day.

 

Tuesday, February 16th

My sister had her first jab today, which is good news! She’s only 43, but classes as clinically vulnerable because she’s borderline diabetic.  Goodness only knows when I’ll get done.  Obviously I don’t expect to be given priority over clinically vulnerable people or frontline workers, but the waiting’s very frustrating.

The latest polls show that 89% of people intend to be vaccinated, but there is this concern over the low take-up amongst some ethnic minority groups.  It’s been announced that a character in Emmerdale is going to be vaccinated, and I would assume other soap operas will do the same: it’s only a soap storyline, but a cast member who is from an ethnic minority group’s criticised the scriptwriters for “pushing” the vaccine and said that no-one should be forced to have something that’s “experimental”.  I don’t think anyone foresaw this issue arising, and it’s worrying.

Also, there’s another mutant version of the virus on the loose.  And the mutant of the Kent mutant has now appeared in Moston and Harpurhey, which is very close to home.

The Pancake Day football match in Atherstone, Warwickshire, which dates back 821 years, 15 years before the signing of the Magna Carta, has had to be cancelled, for the first time ever.  It carried on through plague, failed harvests, the Civil War, Cromwell’s repression and both World Wars, but was cancelled by bloody Covid-19.  That really upset me, for some reason.

However, it’s been a lovely, sunny, springlike day, and there was quite a holiday atmosphere in the park, with kids off school for half term.  The youngest age groups in Scotland are to go back to school next week.

Awful day at the tennis, though!  Sascha had so many chances … he should have won every set, but Nole won 3 of 4 … and now plays Karatsev, who beat Grisha, who was injured.  I’d love to think that Karatsev could beat Nole, but it so isn’t happening.   Meanwhile, Rafa’s got to play Stef, and, if he beats him, probably Medvedev.

Finally, another 1.7 million people are to be told to shield.  I quite appreciate that, when the pandemic started, no-one knew that certain conditions/factors made people more vulnerable, but it seems a bit late now.  Anyone in this group will be prioritised for vaccination … although a lot of them are in the groups vaccinated already, so they’re going from the hope of getting their lives back to some sort of normal to being told not to go out.

I have these moments of joy, because spring’s coming, and it’s so precious … my favourite season, daffodils and lambs and trips to the Lakes, to Chirk, to Bolton Abbey, to Biddulph Grange, etc.  Then it hits me, all over again, that, because of the bloody travel restrictions, it won’t be happening.  For a second year in a row.

 

Wednesday, February 17th

Why does the Australian Open always break my heart?  Well, practically always.  I wasn’t expecting miracles, after Rafa had so little match practice beforehand, but he was 2 sets to love up on Stef, came so close to winning it in 3 … and lost it in 5.  I am very sad 😦 .

Nice weather again.  The park’s been very busy all week, because of school half term.  This is the problem – in densely-populated urban areas, there are very few places to go during lockdown, so everyone ends up in the same place.  Some crocuses are coming through, but no daffodils yet.

There are all sorts of rumours about which restrictions will and won’t be lifted when.  I’m trying to ignore them.  We just don’t know, and getting upset over speculation doesn’t help.

On and on and on … when will this nightmare ever end?

 

Thursday, February 18th

United won 4-0 away to Real Sociedad … in Turin. 4-0!   Good start to the Europa League 🙂 .

The National League North and South seasons’ve been declared null and void 😦 .

Serena just can’t get this 24th Grand Slam title … she lost to Naomi, who now plays Jennifer Brady in the final.  Karatsev put up a decent fight, but was never going to beat Nole.  Fans back in today.

Northern Ireland’s lockdown’s been extended until April 1st.  But schools are to reopen for some academic years on March 8th.  There hasn’t even been an announcement about schools reopening in England yet, but whingeing teaching unions are already objecting to everything.  All this talk about reopening, but when will these evil travel restrictions be lifted?  People in Northern Ireland are to be allowed to meet up outdoors in groups of 10 from March 8th, but that’s not a lot of use unless all your relatives and friends live nearby.    There are now clear signs of infections falling in the older age groups, and over 30% of the population’s now had their first jab, so progress is being made, but we cannot carry on with these restrictions indefinitely.

 

Friday, February 19th

Bleurgh, I am totally fed up.  WHY are infection rates not dropping here as quickly as they are everywhere else?  After the Kent variant took off, we had rates well below average, but now they’re dropping rapidly in most places, especially the south, but not here.  WHY?  We have been under extra restrictions since bloody July.  There are various theories:

  1. Population density.  This makes some sense.  Obviously it should apply to London too, but it seems likely that a lot of people in London contracted the virus in early 2020, before either lockdown or mass testing, and therefore had antibodies, and also that London was further along on the “curve” when things reopened in July.
  2. More people at work … not necessarily essential workers, but people who can’t work from home.  There are a lot more blue collar workers in the North and Midlands than in the South.  Also, a lot of offices are open when they shouldn’t be.
  3.  Multi-generational housing/overcrowding … this may well be an issue, but the areas currently worst affected aren’t those where the occurrence of this is highest.  Having said which, it’s noticeable that the area least affected is Trafford, which includes the wealthiest parts of the conurbation.
  4.  Linked to point 1 ), a “reservoir of infection” … sounds vague, but kind of makes sense.
  5.  Issues related to particular ethnic/religious groups, who have been particularly badly hit.

If the f***ing tier system’s brought back, we’re knackered.  And it doesn’t work, anyway.  Nothing seems to work.  The Mayor of Preston’s suggested that the worst-hit areas should be prioritised for vaccination.  It’s a very sensible suggestion.

Nothing seems to bring my weight down, either.

There’s some talk of everyone in their 40s being vaccinated as soon as people in their 50s have been done.  The JCVI want to keep going down by age brackets.  But selfish teaching unions may pressurise the authorities into taking a different route.

The lockdown in Wales has been extended for another 3 weeks.

I hope Prince Philip’s OK.  He’s to remain in hospital until next week.

The second Aussie Open SF was, sadly, a bit of a damp squib … so frustrating that Stef, having beaten Rafa, lost rather tamely to Daniil.

Weather cold and windy.

I really am fed up.   We’ve had 11 months of this.  I want to see my sister and bro-in-law and the kids.  I want to go to the Lake District.  I want to go on holiday.  I want to go to Old Trafford.   I’d quite like just to go into town.  Some days, I can Keep Calm and Carry On.  Some days, I just want to kick and scream!

 

Saturday, February 20th

Thoroughly fed up.  The borough of Bury now has the 20th highest rate in the country.  Bolton’s got the 10th highest rate in the country, but at least rates there are coming down.  Tameside’s seen the biggest week-on-week increase in the country.  WHY is our area being hit so hard by this?  Nearly all the areas down south which had rates way above ours in late December have now got rates well below ours.  Why won’t ours come down?

Also, every time I lose a few pounds, they go straight back on.  What am I meant to do, starve?  I look like a Great Fat Hair Monster.

And I’d intended to go to Hollingworth Lake after the Aussie Open ladies’ singles final – which saw Naomi Osaka beat Jennifer Brady – but, due to miserable weather, just went to the park, again.

Bleurgh.

Bleurgh indeed.

Why is our area being so badly affected?

Also very concerned about Prince Philip.  Prince Charles went to visit him today, and visitors aren’t generally being allowed.

 

Sunday, February 21st

Boris says that all adults in the UK should have been offered a vaccination by the end of July.  Let’s hope so!  Vaccinations are the only way out of this – we thought last summer that maybe we could live with it, but then it came roaring back with a vengeance.

Israel’s reopened hotels, gyms, zoos, museums, etc … but only to people who’ve been vaccinated.  To be fair, I think most adults there have now been offered a vaccination, but it’s incredibly hard on those who want to be vaccinated but haven’t been called yet.

The Aussie Open final was a damp squib.  Bah.  Daniil put up a fight in the first set, but Nole took it 7-5, and then broke back after Daniil had led in the 2nd set, and it was one way traffic after that.  Better news with United beating Newcastle, 3-1, but City are running away with it.

Today has been a better day.  The weather was better, and I went to Hollingworth Lake and it really helped just to get a little way away from home.  I love the park and the local takeaway cafes, but I really am feeling trapped.  And I had a terrible day yesterday.  Everyone’s having bad days, and all you can say to people is to try to move on and hope that the next day will be better, but that doesn’t work for me because of The Scales.  The main reason I was so upset was because, after my weight had stayed the same for a few days, I’d somehow put on 3lbs between Friday and my official weigh day on Saturday.  That on top of everything else triggered the worst compulsive eating binge I’d had in ages, and, because The Scales love to kick you when you’re down, of course I’d put on another lb today.  So I can’t move on.  It’s hard enough to lose 1lb, never mind 4.  I’m struggling with OCD issues as well … it’s hard to control anything when you’re trapped like this, and all the things you normally do to cope are banned.   And it’s hard to feel positive when rates are rising here even though they’re falling practically everywhere else.  You feel bad for moaning, but a lot of people are struggling.

Boris is making his big announcement tomorrow.  I feel sorry for him: whatever he says, people will moan.  But we can’t go on like this.

No daffodils at Hollingworth Lake yet, but there were crocuses.

We know that the risk of transmission outdoors is low.  Lift these horrible travel restrictions.  Please.

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

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.

 

Upside Down

  Thanks to the accursed virus, fans had to be thrown out of today’s night session at the Australian Open in the middle of the 4th set of Djokovic v Fritz, before the clock struck midnight.  It was like a very strange version of Cinderella.  Also, the River Thames has frozen over for the first time in 60 years, the Austrian Tyrol is now the worst coronavirus hotspot in Central Europe, United’s match at Real Sociedad of San Sebastian has been moved to Turin, and we’ve been promised a new Downton Abbey film as long as everyone gets vaccinated.  I’d love to think that all anti-vaxxers are keen Downton Abbey fans and that this will make them see the error of their ways, but sadly I fear not: however, hey, it’s worth a try.   These are very strange times.  I’m just waiting for someone to tell me that they’ve seen a weird light in the sky and that their neighbour’s cow’s given birth to a three-headed calf.

Meanwhile, my life has become so predictable that I’m starting to feel like one of the Ena Sharples gang in the early days of Coronation Street, always sitting in the snug of the Rovers and never drinking anything other than milk stout.  Except that the pubs are closed.  Further to last week’s scone trauma, when the cafe had run out of scones by 11am, I decided that I would go and get a scone today, to be eaten tomorrow, to get round the problem of the Australian Open committee having inconsiderately given Rafa and Cam the second night match with absolutely no thought as to when I was going to go and get my scone without the worry of the cafe having run out of them again.

So I went in, and, because the guy knows that, since the start of Lockdown III, I always go in on a Saturday morning, he asked if I’d be coming in tomorrow, and said that, if so, he could always put a scone on one side for me.  So I explained that I wouldn’t be coming in tomorrow because I didn’t know what time the tennis would finish.  I’m not sure what’s more weird, the fact that the scone trauma had such an impact on the guy that he offered to put a scone aside (bless) or the fact that I saw fit to explain in a café that I couldn’t leave the house during Rafa’s match.

On top of that, because everyone seems to go for their walk in the park at the same time every day, and I was a bit later than usual due to the tennis, I passed someone I barely know and they said “Ooh, you’re late today”.

My life has never been very exciting, but I have my moments.  The house is full of pictures of me at Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal, the Kremlin, the Pyramids, Tiananmen Square, the Venice Carnival, etc.  Now, people notice if I’m walking to the local park a few minutes later than usual.   I’ve even started going to the same checkout every time I go to Tesco, because it’s usually staffed by a very smiley lady who always chats away and cheers me up!

In case anyone’s reading this, just to clarify the points above 🙂 :

  1.  For five wonderful days, fans have been allowed into the Australian Open.  It’s been wonderful hearing the noise of a real crowd again.  But, sadly, there have been some cases of the virus in Melbourne, and so the state of Victoria has been put into lockdown for a week.  Everyone was supposed to be home at midnight, so the crowd had to be thrown out in the middle of the match.  It was very strange.  This wretched bloody virus.  But thank you to the authorities for allowing the tournament to continue.
  2.  Due to travel restrictions, English football clubs cannot travel to Spain, Germany or Portugal for the next round of Champions League/Europa League matches, and Portuguese clubs cannot travel to England.  So United’s match in Spain (the Spanish Basque country) has been moved to Italy, Arsenal’s match in Portugal has been moved to Italy, Arsenal’s home match against a Portuguese club has been moved to Greece, Liverpool and city’s matches in Germany have been moved to Hungary, and Chelsea’s match in Spain has been moved to Romania.  Everyone with that?  Good.
  3.  Hugh Bonneville has said that there’ll be a second Downton Abbey film once everyone who’s been offered a vaccination has had a vaccination.
  4.  Tyrol (excluding East Tyrol, which is geographically separate), which has played an important role in my life as the setting for the early Chalet School books, has sadly been hit by an outbreak of the South African variant of the virus.  No-one’s allowed out of the province unless they’ve had a negative virus test within the last 48 hours, and no-one’s allowed to cross from Tyrol into Germany at all.

The world is upside down.  That’s also a bad pun to do with the Australian Open.

If anyone’s actually read all that, thank you.  Writing is helping me to cling on to what bit of sanity I’ve got left 🙂 .  Stay safe x .

 

 

 

 

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

Monday, February 1st

Boris has hinted that the Evil Tier System could be dropped.  But hasn’t made a definite commitment.   He was in Batley this morning, and a reporter had a go at him for picking on the North … well, not in so many words, but he (the reporter) did point out that the North had been under restrictions for far longer than the South.

However, there are more problems with these wretched mutant variants.  There is now another mutant variant, this time in California. And, worryingly, two cases of the South African variant have been picked up in people with no known connection to South Africa, in Woking. It’s not far from Heathrow, so is it possible that a member of airport staff’s caught the virus and inadvertently passed it on in the community?  Or that someone’s got it elsewhere?  And we’ve now been told that there are 105 cases in all, in various areas – including Southport, which is rather too close to comfort.

This is why we need tougher travel restrictions, for now.  There could be more mutants anywhere, which haven’t been identified yet.

On a more positive note, every care home resident in England has now been offered a vaccination, which is an important milestone. And the rollout to the overseas territories has begun – some doses of the Oxford vaccine have embarked on a 17 hour journey to the Falkland Islands!  Also, Israel’s reported very promising results from its vaccination programme. Nothing’s going to be 100% effective, but only a very small number of people have become ill after being fully vaccinated. Wonderful news.

The Isle of Man’s completely out of lockdown – no social distancing, no closures.

February got off to a stressful start when Samsung released a phone update.  I am terrified of phone updates.  I wish there was a way of stopping them.  They’re usually fairly minor, but this one changed a few things, and a) it took me a while to find something afterwards and b) it stopped one of my apps from working.  I updated the individual app and, touch wood, it’s OK now, but the whole thing panicked me, knowing that I couldn’t go to a shop and ask for help if I needed it.  Anyway, let’s try to move on from that …

But it is so nice having some tennis to watch.  And I’m back with the spray on hair dye, which is a pain but is better than having grey roots.

And this is Children’s Mental Health Week.  It’s a tough time to be a kid.  One “expert” suggested that everyone should repeat an academic year, but a) some kids are doing OK and b) it’s not practical anyway, because then there’d be no room for the little ones due to start school in September.   Another suggestion’s been cancelling the school summer holidays, on the assumption that schools are open again by then, but a) teachers would never agree to it and b) parents will then be unable to go on holiday … if anyone can go anywhere by then.

 

Tuesday, February 2nd

Very sad news this afternoon, with the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore, aged 100.  He died “with coronavirus” (with tragic irony, he may well have contracted it in hospital), but it’s emerged that he’d had pneumonia for several weeks.  To live to 100, and still to be completely mentally alert and relatively physically fit, is a wonderful thing, and to inspire an entire country, and indeed much of the world, in a time of crisis is just incredible.  There are so few of that wonderful generation left.  Sad, sad news.  I cried over that.  Such a loss.  But a wonderful, long life.

And we’ve been told that the so-called “Kent mutation” has mutated again – this time in the same sort of nasty way as the Brazilian and South African variants.  Whether it did this off its own bat or whether it “got together” with one of the others (as a scientist on Sky News put it, which makes it sound as if they all got together for a few bevvies and to have a good laugh at us), who knows?  I do get that viruses mutate, but we keep being told that there’s a race between the virus and the vaccine, and it feels as if the virus isn’t playing fair.  Unfortunately, it isn’t really possible to disqualify it.

We’re being told that there are “mutations of concern” in Liverpool and Bristol now.   There was some talk about a mutation in Liverpool a few weeks ago.  And it’s only 35 miles away.   It could be a coincidence, but … Kent, Liverpool, Bristol – is there something going on with ports?  Maybe like “freshers’ flu” at universities, where germs from lots of different areas mingle and get swapped around?   People in those areas are being told to avoid going out, which is scary.

I’m concerned about the fact that infection rates in Greater Manchester are not falling as quickly as they are elsewhere … places which saw a surge in December are seeing much bigger drops than places where rates were already relatively high.  Is the virus now “endemic” in some areas, as was suggested in August or September?  Will this nightmare EVER end?

A few examples, rates @ 28/01/21 compared to (rates @ 21/01/21) – Knowsley 611 (898), Sandwell 547 (841), Blackburn 464 (570), Liverpool 388 (608), Carlisle 359 (607), Barnet 330 (545), central Manchester 299 (369), Bristol 269 (349), Bury 264 (333), Kirklees 234 (262), Cheshire East 197 (275), Newcastle 182 (253), South Lakes 167 (252), E Devon 109 (127), NE Lincs 92 (104).

Meanwhile, I was actually quite enthusiastic about getting up this morning, despite snow and heavy rain, because Rafa was meant to be playing in the ATP World Team Cup at 8 o’clock our time.  But he didn’t, because of a “stiff lower back”.  With less than a week to go before the Australian Open, this is pretty worrying.  Let’s just hope it’s nothing serious.

But tonight, hooray, we beat Southampton 9-0!   9-0.  So frustrating that we couldn’t be there to see it at the ground rather than on telly, but still … 9-0.  Sorry, Southampton, nothing personal, but, wa-hey!!

 

Wednesday, February 3rd

Good news:

– 10 million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a vaccine.
–  Research shows that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine protects against transmission, and that the 12 week gap
between doses is OK.
–  Numbers of Covid patients in hospital are falling.

But the numbers of deaths are still horrendous, and many people remain in hospital.  And there’s now the additional worry that your area could be the next one affected by an Unexplained Mutant Incident.  And 5 out of the 10 local boroughs have now got rates above the national average – falling, but not as quickly as the national average is falling.

And the Australian Open traumas continue.  First, Rafa said that he wasn’t going to play tomorrow because his back was still sore.  This really, really is worrying.  Then it was announced that a staff member at one of the hotels had tested positive, everyone at the hotel was going to have to self-isolate until they’d tested negative, and all tomorrow’s matches in all six warm-up events were cancelled!

Also, some insensitive person decided to include a huge photo article in the latest magazine on forthcoming highlights.  Including snowdrops at Chirk Castle and daffodils at Sizergh Castle.  Both of which I want so much to see, but won’t be doing.  It was like Jim Bowen saying “And here’s what you could have won”.  Bah.

I’ve bought more spray on hair dye.  I’d forgotten what a mess it makes of the shower curtain (when it washes out)!

I got my Christmas presents from my sister today 🙂 .  She decided to post rather them rather than keep waiting for these infernal travel restrictions to be lifted.

And it’s been confirmed that the Eurovision Song Contest will go ahead.  I’m not sure whether this is good news or bad news 😉 .

 

Thursday, February 4th

One in five adults in the UK has now had a dose of the vaccine, and research suggests that it might be OK to mix and match, i.e. it won’t matter whether or not your first and second doses are of the same vaccine.  And the Bank of England apparently thinks that the economy will bounce back strongly in the spring.  Not if we’re locked down till May, which seems to be what the scientists want, it won’t.  A lot of questions are being asked about restrictions being eased.

One question is whether or not people who’ve had both doses of the vaccine will be able to meet up.  This issue seems to be being raised in Germany as well.  If you’ve been fully vaccinated, and so has your sister/brother/cousin/close friend whom you haven’t seen since October, it’s going to be very frustrating to be told that you still can’t see them.  But, if we start creating a two-tier society, with those of us not in the priority groups becoming some sort of underclass, there’s going to be a lot of upset and resentment.  Difficult situation.

The Pet Shop Boys concert which I was due to go to in May 2020, and which was rescheduled for May 2021, has now been rescheduled again, this time for May 2022.  Third time lucky?  Just please tell me that we’ll be able to go on staycations in July.  I actually cried when I saw shots of Windermere on Joanna Lumley’s new travel programme.  So Lakes-sick 😦 .

The Australian Open draw’s been postponed, because 160 players are awaiting the results of tests.  Only one person at the hotel seems to have the virus, and it’ll be very bad luck if anyone else has caught it, so fingers crossed that it’ll be OK.  But I’m extremely concerned about the injury.  Spain’s tie against Greece has been rescheduled for tomorrow, but Rafa says that he’s still not ready to play a full match.  If he’s not ready to play on Friday, and this would only be best of 3, and the Aussie Open starts on Monday … it’s not sounding good 😦 .

A London Church of England clergyman’s tweeted that: “The cult of Captain Tom is a cult of White British Nationalism”.  This why society’s so divided, because of comments like that – and at a time when Captain Tom’s family and friends are mourning his loss.  The Diocese of London has, quite correctly, said that his “comments regarding Captain Sir Tom Moore were unacceptable, insensitive, and ill-judged”.

And the German government is refusing to let Liverpool into Germany for their Champions League match against Leipzig.  This could all get pretty messy.  Benfica won’t be allowed into the UK for the Europa League match against Arsenal … unless an exemption for elite sports players is agreed, as has been done in Italy for the forthcoming tennis event there.

 

Friday, February 5th

My car went for its MOT today.  MOTs were suspended during Lockdown I, but are now operating as normal.  The garage sent me an e-mail asking me to drive there with all the windows down, but I’m afraid I didn’t – although it’s only 3 miles away, there are umpteen sets of traffic lights en route, and I wouldn’t have felt safe sitting in a stationary ca with all the windows down.   And I had to take everything out other than the wheel nuts and the service book.  Fortunately, all that was needed was a new windscreen wiper blade.  I’ve been nervous about MOTs ever since I took a previous car in, blithely thinking everything was OK, and it needed hundreds of pounds worth of repairs.

Nice weather today, but more snow forecast for next week.  FFS!

I am really stressy at the moment.  A lot of it’s to do with my weight.  I’m going for a long walk every day, and walking up and down steps as well, but I cannot shift the weight.  I don’t generally put weight on at home in a normal week, maybe a couple of pounds on some weeks and off in others, but weight piles on on holiday and over Christmas and just won’t come off.  I have spent my entire life battling my weight.  So demoralising.

Local elections are going ahead in May.  BYOB – bring your own biro!  Our council are fairly hopeless regardless of who’s elected, but the fact that the elections are going ahead does suggest that restrictions will have been eased by early May.  They’d better have been!   Scientists keep saying that the authorities shouldn’t give dates, and I take the point that the virus doesn’t work by the calendar, but that’s easy to say when you’re not the one with no idea when your business can reopen or when your kids can go back to school  And everyone’s mental health is starting to suffer.   Miserable people are saying that no-one should go on holiday this summer because it’s irresponsible, but the people saying that are invariably people who don’t work, just as the people who are saying that dates shouldn’t be given are people whose income isn’t being affected by the lockdown.   The good news is that the R rate is below 1, and cases are falling in most areas.

And I’m sad because Christopher Plummer’s died 😦 .  I do know that he wasn’t just Captain Von Trapp, but I love him so much in that role.

 

Saturday, February 6th

It’s rained so much that Salford City v Bolton was called off due to a waterlogged pitch.  United v Everton was not called off … but we conceded an equaliser in the last bloody second of injury time, dropping two points.   So, so disappointing.

When it stopped raining, I went out, only for there to be serious trauma when The Coffee Sack hadn’t got any scones.  I must have looked very upset, because the man gave me a free cup of tea!  I did get a scone from M&S later, but I was hungry, so I ended up getting crumpets in the park.  No wonder I’m so fat!

And then, even though the forecast’d given more heavy rain for later, I stupidly stayed out longer than I should have done, and got rather wet despite my brolly.

Oh dear!!

On a happier note, Dan Evans is into the final of the Murray River event.  Good to see him playing so well.  Shame he’s in the same section of the draw as Rafa and his bad back, though.

 

Sunday, February 7th

Heavy snow’s hit parts of S E England, as well as the Netherlands and N W Germany.  We only got a few flakes here, thankfully, but I could see loads of snow on the hills when I went to Hollingworth Lake this morning.

It was lovely, despite the cold wind, but I’m sad because I should have been doing the snowdrop walks at Rode Hall today … the first rite of spring.  I’m also a bit sad at the thought of having to use Amazon Prime as the Easter Bunny for a second successive year, rather than being able to give my nephews their Easter eggs in person.

It looks as if everyone may need a “top-up” jab in the autumn.  It’s not clear whether this is a general top-up thing or whether it’s to do with concerns that the original vaccine formula may not be entirely effective against this dangerous new variant from South Africa.  Concerns are also growing about low take-up of the vaccine in some ethnic groups.  For example, amongst over 80s in Bradford, 97% of white people took the vaccine, but only 77% of people of Pakistani heritage.   But the rollout is proceeding apace, and we’re on target for everyone in the highest risk groups to’ve had their first jab by February 15th.

I am so sick of all this.  Please, please let us get back to some sort of normality by June.

Some good news – Dan Evans won the Murray River Open.  But I am very stressed about Rafa’s back injury …

 

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

We now live in a world in which TV travel programmes feature the delights of … Weatherfield.  Seriously.  I’m not holding my breath for sojourns to exotic climes this year, but I’m hoping that, by the summer, I’ll at least be able to go a bit further than Media City.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Media City, I hasten to add.  Joanna Lumley, who was presenting the programme, was very lucky to be able to sit in the Rovers Return with Ken Barlow, because future scripts are being rewritten, so it looks as if the Rovers’ll be back to doing takeaways only.  Rather like The Coffee Sack near chez moi.  I have only recently discovered that the said Coffee Sack does the most lovely scones.  However, this morning, when I went in, disaster struck.  There were no scones.  The man said that, not expecting many customers in this awful weather, he’d only made half a dozen, and someone had come in and bought the lot.  How dare they?!

I must have looked so devastated, even behind the mask, that he said I could have a cup of tea for free.  I did offer to pay for it – it’s not as if he’s contractually obliged to provide me with a weekly scone, after all – but no, he insisted.  Free tea, to make up for the disappointment!   How nice is that?  It’s little things like that which make this very difficult time bearable.  As for the person who bought six scones, I shall assume that they were either a) very hungry or b) part of a large household, rather than that they were planning anything nefarious.  Welcome to Lockdown-land, in which buying six scones could be construed as being suspicious.  Anyway.  Three cheers for free cups of tea!

(Apologies for anyone who’s got this in WP reader and can see it three times, but the good news is that I’ve now worked out that the Facebook app wants big pictures and small titles.  It used to prefer small pictures.  So I now need to post with a big picture and small title, share it on Facebook, then change the picture to a larger one and, if necessary, add in the rest of the title.  It never used to be so difficult!!)

As for anxious toes, one of the many weird things about living with anxiety is that random bits of you start to hurt even though there isn’t very much physically wrong with them.  On Thursday night, whilst moving the furniture in the front room around so that I could hoover, I stubbed my toe on the settee.  Ouch.  Then I woke up at two o’clock in the morning, in so much pain with this toe that I had to take two ibuprofen.  I knew jolly well that it was anxiety pains and not actual pains, because stubbed toes do not still hurt eight hours later, but this is what happens.  It can be knees, backs, stomachs, whatever.  I don’t even know exactly what it was all about, and this is something else that happens.  Was it anxiety about how fat I am?  Scones aside, I am really trying hard to lose weight, but it’s not working 😦 .  Was it because my car was going in for its MOT that day?  Was it to do with phone updates (these stress me out like mad)?  Was it to do with the Australian Open?  Quite possibly: I am extremely stressed about Rafa’s bad back.  But I don’t actually know.  So, if anyone’s reading this, and knows how to read the minds of anxious toes, do please let me know.

Pretty much everyone’s a bit stressed out at the moment.  That’s why it’s so nice to be on the receiving end of an act of kindness such as the free cup of tea.  It was particularly nice because there has been quite a bit of nastiness around in recent days.  The worst of it was from the small minority of people who tried to use the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore to attack the government and score political points, and even, in the case of one vile vicar, to accuse the whole country of being racist.  What is wrong with some people?  Whatever your political views may be, don’t start dragging the death of a lovely, kind-hearted old man who lifted everyone’s spirits into them.  I just hope that the Moore family weren’t too upset by it.

Please be nice to people.  It’s upsetting to be criticised because you’ve bought something from Amazon, even though most other shops are closed and it’s none of anyone else’s business where you buy from anyway, or for trying to cheer yourself up with a nice cake which happened to be served a polystyrene box, and even more upsetting when, after congratulating someone on their work being featured in a national newspaper, someone attacks both of you because the newspaper concerned doesn’t meet with their approval.  Then there are the people slagging off anyone hoping to go on holiday this summer as being irresponsible.  These comments come from people who live in rural areas and don’t work, needless to say, not from people who are chained to office computers for five days a week and are getting rather tired of only being able to walk round housing estates and the same local parks in their little free time.   We need a break, OK.

But there are a lot of lovely people out there.  And free tea is much appreciated!

Rest in peace, Captain Sir Tom.  You were a wonderful man.  And I was also sad to hear of the death of Christopher Plummer.  I would so have married Captain von Trapp, although I’m not sure about taking on seven children.  And, yes, I do know that he got frustrated about for ever being associated with The Sound of Music, but what a wonderful film with which to be associated!  I just typed “to be associated with”, looked at it in horror, and correct it!

To go back to the MOT, hooray, my car passed without needing anything more than a new windscreen wiper blade.  Strange times at the garage, though.  No chairs for customers.  Everything to be taken out of the car.  And I was sent several e-mails asking me to drive to the garage with all the windows open, to let the air circulate, but I’m afraid that I ignored those.  The garage is only three miles away, but there are a lot of traffic lights between here and there, and sitting in a stationary car with all the windows open is really not a good idea, especially when you’re a lone female.  Sorry, garage.  But I did stick to all your other rules.

Other things happening this week have included a video of a meeting of Handforth Parish Council going viral.  You know, Handforth, where the big John Lewis is?  Remember that, from the olden days, when we used to do things like going to shops.  I met my cousin for a drink in the cafe there once.  Remember those days?  Not only could you go into shops, but you could sit down in cafes, and you could even meet your friends and relations!   I feel like I should have the Hovis advert music playing.

Local elections are to go ahead, but it’ll be BYOB.  No, not bring your own bottle.  Bring your own biro.

And there’s also been talk of extending the term over which the government support loans for businesses hit by restrictions are to be repaid.  There are two different types of loans available to affected small businesses, depending on which one best suits their circumstances – the bounceback loans, and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans.  Due to HMRC’s obsession with acronyms, the latter are known as CBILs, pronounced “Sybils”.  We are in a severe economic crisis, thanks to this horrible virus, and it’s feared that up to 15% of small businesses may not survive.  There’s certainly nothing funny about it.  But, every time I hear someone going on about “Sybils”, I half-expect Prunella Scales to turn up and start shouting at John Cleese to repay his loan.  A small hotel would definitely need a loan.  But let’s hope that we’ll be back in small hotels, or any other accommodation of your choice, this summer.

In the meantime, here’s to tea and scones.  Oh, and I got a scone from M&S in the end.  But the ones from The Coffee Sack are nicer!  I shall be back there next week, at whatever time best fits in with the night session at the Australian Open, hoping for better luck 🙂 .

 

 

(This is here twice because I was trying to get the picture to display on Facebook!)

 

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

We now live in a world in which TV travel programmes feature the delights of … Weatherfield.  Seriously.  I’m not holding my breath for sojourns to exotic climes this year, but I’m hoping that, by the summer, I’ll at least be able to go a bit further than Media City.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Media City, I hasten to add.  Joanna Lumley, who was presenting the programme, was very lucky to be able to sit in the Rovers Return with Ken Barlow, because future scripts are being rewritten, so it looks as if the Rovers’ll be back to doing takeaways only.  Rather like The Coffee Sack near chez moi.  I have only recently discovered that the said Coffee Sack does the most lovely scones.  However, this morning, when I went in, disaster struck.  There were no scones.  The man said that, not expecting many customers in this awful weather, he’d only made half a dozen, and someone had come in and bought the lot.  How dare they?!

I must have looked so devastated, even behind the mask, that he said I could have a cup of tea for free.  I did offer to pay for it – it’s not as if he’s contractually obliged to provide me with a weekly scone, after all – but no, he insisted.  Free tea, to make up for the disappointment!   How nice is that?  It’s little things like that which make this very difficult time bearable.  As for the person who bought six scones, I shall assume that they were either a) very hungry or b) part of a large household, rather than that they were planning anything nefarious.  Welcome to Lockdown-land, in which buying six scones could be construed as being suspicious.  Anyway.  Three cheers for free cups of tea!

As for anxious toes, one of the many weird things about living with anxiety is that random bits of you start to hurt even though there isn’t very much physically wrong with them.  On Thursday night, whilst moving the furniture in the front room around so that I could hoover, I stubbed my toe on the settee.  Ouch.  Then I woke up at two o’clock in the morning, in so much pain with this toe that I had to take two ibuprofen.  I knew jolly well that it was anxiety pains and not actual pains, because stubbed toes do not still hurt eight hours later, but this is what happens.  It can be knees, backs, stomachs, whatever.  I don’t even know exactly what it was all about, and this is something else that happens.  Was it anxiety about how fat I am?  Scones aside, I am really trying hard to lose weight, but it’s not working 😦 .  Was it because my car was going in for its MOT that day?  Was it to do with phone updates (these stress me out like mad)?  Was it to do with the Australian Open?  Quite possibly: I am extremely stressed about Rafa’s bad back.  But I don’t actually know.  So, if anyone’s reading this, and knows how to read the minds of anxious toes, do please let me know.

Pretty much everyone’s a bit stressed out at the moment.  That’s why it’s so nice to be on the receiving end of an act of kindness such as the free cup of tea.  It was particularly nice because there has been quite a bit of nastiness around in recent days.  The worst of it was from the small minority of people who tried to use the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore to attack the government and score political points, and even, in the case of one vile vicar, to accuse the whole country of being racist.  What is wrong with some people?  Whatever your political views may be, don’t start dragging the death of a lovely, kind-hearted old man who lifted everyone’s spirits into them.  I just hope that the Moore family weren’t too upset by it.

Please be nice to people.  It’s upsetting to be criticised because you’ve bought something from Amazon, even though most other shops are closed and it’s none of anyone else’s business where you buy from anyway, or for trying to cheer yourself up with a nice cake which happened to be served a polystyrene box, and even more upsetting when, after congratulating someone on their work being featured in a national newspaper, someone attacks both of you because the newspaper concerned doesn’t meet with their approval.  Then there are the people slagging off anyone hoping to go on holiday this summer as being irresponsible.  These comments come from people who live in rural areas and don’t work, needless to say, not from people who are chained to office computers for five days a week and are getting rather tired of only being able to walk round housing estates and the same local parks in their little free time.   We need a break, OK.

But there are a lot of lovely people out there.  And free tea is much appreciated!

Rest in peace, Captain Sir Tom.  You were a wonderful man.  And I was also sad to hear of the death of Christopher Plummer.  I would so have married Captain von Trapp, although I’m not sure about taking on seven children.  And, yes, I do know that he got frustrated about for ever being associated with The Sound of Music, but what a wonderful film with which to be associated!  I just typed “to be associated with”, looked at it in horror, and correct it!

To go back to the MOT, hooray, my car passed without needing anything more than a new windscreen wiper blade.  Strange times at the garage, though.  No chairs for customers.  Everything to be taken out of the car.  And I was sent several e-mails asking me to drive to the garage with all the windows open, to let the air circulate, but I’m afraid that I ignored those.  The garage is only three miles away, but there are a lot of traffic lights between here and there, and sitting in a stationary car with all the windows open is really not a good idea, especially when you’re a lone female.  Sorry, garage.  But I did stick to all your other rules.

Other things happening this week have included a video of a meeting of Handforth Parish Council going viral.  You know, Handforth, where the big John Lewis is?  Remember that, from the olden days, when we used to do things like going to shops.  I met my cousin for a drink in the cafe there once.  Remember those days?  Not only could you go into shops, but you could sit down in cafes, and you could even meet your friends and relations!   I feel like I should have the Hovis advert music playing.

Local elections are to go ahead, but it’ll be BYOB.  No, not bring your own bottle.  Bring your own biro.

And there’s also been talk of extending the term over which the government support loans for businesses hit by restrictions are to be repaid.  There are two different types of loans available to affected small businesses, depending on which one best suits their circumstances – the bounceback loans, and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans.  Due to HMRC’s obsession with acronyms, the latter are known as CBILs, pronounced “Sybils”.  We are in a severe economic crisis, thanks to this horrible virus, and it’s feared that up to 15% of small businesses may not survive.  There’s certainly nothing funny about it.  But, every time I hear someone going on about “Sybils”, I half-expect Prunella Scales to turn up and start shouting at John Cleese to repay his loan.  A small hotel would definitely need a loan.  But let’s hope that we’ll be back in small hotels, or any other accommodation of your choice, this summer.

In the meantime, here’s to tea and scones.  Oh, and I got a scone from M&S in the end.  But the ones from The Coffee Sack are nicer!  I shall be back there next week, at whatever time best fits in with the night session at the Australian Open, hoping for better luck 🙂 .

 

 

(This is here more than once because I was trying to get the picture to display on Facebook.  The picture display went funny after a recent app update.  But I sorted out.  But now it transpires that the work-round only works on posts with small titles.  So I’ll now have to share long-titled posts on Facebook with abbreviated titles, then put the long titles back.  Oh well!)

 

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

We now live in a world in which TV travel programmes feature the delights of … Weatherfield.  Seriously.  I’m not holding my breath for sojourns to exotic climes this year, but I’m hoping that, by the summer, I’ll at least be able to go a bit further than Media City.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Media City, I hasten to add.  Joanna Lumley, who was presenting the programme, was very lucky to be able to sit in the Rovers Return with Ken Barlow, because future scripts are being rewritten, so it looks as if the Rovers’ll be back to doing takeaways only.  Rather like The Coffee Sack near chez moi.  I have only recently discovered that the said Coffee Sack does the most lovely scones.  However, this morning, when I went in, disaster struck.  There were no scones.  The man said that, not expecting many customers in this awful weather, he’d only made half a dozen, and someone had come in and bought the lot.  How dare they?!

I must have looked so devastated, even behind the mask, that he said I could have a cup of tea for free.  I did offer to pay for it – it’s not as if he’s contractually obliged to provide me with a weekly scone, after all – but no, he insisted.  Free tea, to make up for the disappointment!   How nice is that?  It’s little things like that which make this very difficult time bearable.  As for the person who bought six scones, I shall assume that they were either a) very hungry or b) part of a large household, rather than that they were planning anything nefarious.  Welcome to Lockdown-land, in which buying six scones could be construed as being suspicious.  Anyway.  Three cheers for free cups of tea!

As for anxious toes, one of the many weird things about living with anxiety is that random bits of you start to hurt even though there isn’t very much physically wrong with them.  On Thursday night, whilst moving the furniture in the front room around so that I could hoover, I stubbed my toe on the settee.  Ouch.  Then I woke up at two o’clock in the morning, in so much pain with this toe that I had to take two ibuprofen.  I knew jolly well that it was anxiety pains and not actual pains, because stubbed toes do not still hurt eight hours later, but this is what happens.  It can be knees, backs, stomachs, whatever.  I don’t even know exactly what it was all about, and this is something else that happens.  Was it anxiety about how fat I am?  Scones aside, I am really trying hard to lose weight, but it’s not working 😦 .  Was it because my car was going in for its MOT that day?  Was it to do with phone updates (these stress me out like mad)?  Was it to do with the Australian Open?  Quite possibly: I am extremely stressed about Rafa’s bad back.  But I don’t actually know.  So, if anyone’s reading this, and knows how to read the minds of anxious toes, do please let me know.

Pretty much everyone’s a bit stressed out at the moment.  That’s why it’s so nice to be on the receiving end of an act of kindness such as the free cup of tea.  It was particularly nice because there has been quite a bit of nastiness around in recent days.  The worst of it was from the small minority of people who tried to use the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore to attack the government and score political points, and even, in the case of one vile vicar, to accuse the whole country of being racist.  What is wrong with some people?  Whatever your political views may be, don’t start dragging the death of a lovely, kind-hearted old man who lifted everyone’s spirits into them.  I just hope that the Moore family weren’t too upset by it.

Please be nice to people.  It’s upsetting to be criticised because you’ve bought something from Amazon, even though most other shops are closed and it’s none of anyone else’s business where you buy from anyway, or for trying to cheer yourself up with a nice cake which happened to be served a polystyrene box, and even more upsetting when, after congratulating someone on their work being featured in a national newspaper, someone attacks both of you because the newspaper concerned doesn’t meet with their approval.  Then there are the people slagging off anyone hoping to go on holiday this summer as being irresponsible.  These comments come from people who live in rural areas and don’t work, needless to say, not from people who are chained to office computers for five days a week and are getting rather tired of only being able to walk round housing estates and the same local parks in their little free time.   We need a break, OK.

But there are a lot of lovely people out there.  And free tea is much appreciated!

Rest in peace, Captain Sir Tom.  You were a wonderful man.  And I was also sad to hear of the death of Christopher Plummer.  I would so have married Captain von Trapp, although I’m not sure about taking on seven children.  And, yes, I do know that he got frustrated about for ever being associated with The Sound of Music, but what a wonderful film with which to be associated!  I just typed “to be associated with”, looked at it in horror, and correct it!

To go back to the MOT, hooray, my car passed without needing anything more than a new windscreen wiper blade.  Strange times at the garage, though.  No chairs for customers.  Everything to be taken out of the car.  And I was sent several e-mails asking me to drive to the garage with all the windows open, to let the air circulate, but I’m afraid that I ignored those.  The garage is only three miles away, but there are a lot of traffic lights between here and there, and sitting in a stationary car with all the windows open is really not a good idea, especially when you’re a lone female.  Sorry, garage.  But I did stick to all your other rules.

Other things happening this week have included a video of a meeting of Handforth Parish Council going viral.  You know, Handforth, where the big John Lewis is?  Remember that, from the olden days, when we used to do things like going to shops.  I met my cousin for a drink in the cafe there once.  Remember those days?  Not only could you go into shops, but you could sit down in cafes, and you could even meet your friends and relations!   I feel like I should have the Hovis advert music playing.

Local elections are to go ahead, but it’ll be BYOB.  No, not bring your own bottle.  Bring your own biro.

And there’s also been talk of extending the term over which the government support loans for businesses hit by restrictions are to be repaid.  There are two different types of loans available to affected small businesses, depending on which one best suits their circumstances – the bounceback loans, and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans.  Due to HMRC’s obsession with acronyms, the latter are known as CBILs, pronounced “Sybils”.  We are in a severe economic crisis, thanks to this horrible virus, and it’s feared that up to 15% of small businesses may not survive.  There’s certainly nothing funny about it.  But, every time I hear someone going on about “Sybils”, I half-expect Prunella Scales to turn up and start shouting at John Cleese to repay his loan.  A small hotel would definitely need a loan.  But let’s hope that we’ll be back in small hotels, or any other accommodation of your choice, this summer.

In the meantime, here’s to tea and scones.  Oh, and I got a scone from M&S in the end.  But the ones from The Coffee Sack are nicer!  I shall be back there next week, at whatever time best fits in with the night session at the Australian Open, hoping for better luck 🙂 .

 

 

(This is here more than once because I was trying to get the picture to display on Facebook.  The picture display went funny after a recent app update.  But I sorted out.  But now it transpires that the work-round only works on posts with small titles.  So I’ll now have to share long-titled posts on Facebook with abbreviated titles, then put the long titles back.  Oh well!)