Freedom? Week 19, November 22nd to 28th 2021 inclusive


Monday, November 22nd

From the BBC website:

  • In Belgium, rules on face masks have been tightened, including in places such as restaurants, where Covid passes are already required, and most people will have to work from home four days a week until mid-December.
  • The Netherlands has imposed a three-week partial lockdown after recording a record spike in Covid cases. Bars and restaurants must close at 20:00, and crowds are banned at sports events.
  • Germany is introducing restrictions on people who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 – they will be excluded from certain venues, amid a rise in cases.
  • In Greece, unvaccinated people are barred from indoor spaces including restaurants, cinemas, museums and gyms from today, even if they test negative.
  • Also from today, Slovakia is limiting restaurants, non-essential shops, shopping malls and events to those who have been vaccinated. In the areas with the highest rates, restaurants are restricted to take-away services and gyms are shut.
  • The Czech Republic is limiting access to restaurants, sports events and cultural events to those who have been vaccinated.
  • Only people who are vaccinated or have recovered from coronavirus can access most non-essential services, except food shops and pharmacies, in Romania. Shops close at 21:00 and there’s a curfew for those who’ve not been vaccinated.
  • Austria has returned to a full national lockdown because of a recent rise in infections.

There’s been another night of violent clashes in the Netherlands.  People have had enough.

I’m going to see White Christmas tonight – I booked it ages ago, at which point I was supposed to be going to Scotland in September, not November!   So the ironing will be being left for another night.  But at least it should distract me from all the stress about seeing the doctor on Wednesday.

Lots of rumours about new managers.


Tuesday, November 23rd

We beat Villareal 2-0, and are through to the group stages 🙂 .

Advice about WFH in Northern Ireland has been “strengthened” – but without an actual order/directive.  In my experience, most private sector employers couldn’t give two hoots about employees’ well-being, so I don’t think “advice” is going to achieve very much.

Here in England, the latest advice is to take a lateral flow test before you go anywhere busy, but, again, people aren’t going to do that because of work issues – people can’t afford to have 10 days off work, unless they work in the public sector and get unlimited paid sick leave.

Infection rates both locally and nationally are going back up, but this seems to be the pattern – up a bit, down a bit.


Wednesday, November 24th

This was meant to be a Covid diary, not a personal health diary, but I’ve now been referred to a specialist and am awaiting an appointment date.  I’m not coping very well.

In Covid news, Slovakia’s going into a two week lockdown, and Poland may be next.  There’ve been protests in Ukraine against restrictions.  And Israel’s said that around 40% of cases there are in kids below the age of 12: they’re to start vaccinating younger kids.


Thursday, November 25th

I was told yesterday, after a 40 minute wait to speak to someone, that I would get a message today with an appointment.  No message.  I tried to ring to ask what was going on, spent 59 minutes in a phone queue (thankfully, my colleague is WFH today, so I had the office to myself), and was then told that they hadn’t done anything about it.  I cried down the phone.  The man said he’d ring me back.  Someone did then ring me back, and offered me a phone appointment.  I said that that was no use.  He then got me a proper appointment.  So that’s progress.  But what a palaver.   But it’s progress.

Ralf Rangnick looks likely to be named United interim manager.

And there is a new variant, and apparently this is the worst one yet, with over 30 mutations.  It appears to have emerged in Botswana, and spread to South Africa.  Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini are being put on to the red list.


Friday, November 26th

Good job I’m not trying to get to Edinburgh this weekend.  Storm Arwen is threatening eastern Scotland and NE England, and a lot of things have been cancelled.  Let’s just hope that it doesn’t cause any injuries or major damage.

Several more countries have imposed bans on travel from southern Africa, but this nasty new variant is already in Europe –  a case has been found in Belgium.

It’s one thing after another …


Saturday, November 27th

Well, it’s all going on.  Not for me – I’ve spent most of the day clearing out the spare room – but in general.  Inevitably, two cases of the new variant, Omicron, have been found in the UK.  Four more southern African countries have been added to the red list.  And anyone arriving in the UK, from anywhere, will have to take a PCR test on arrival, and self-isolate until they get the result.  Contacts of anyone with the new variant will have to self-isolate for ten days.

It’s all happened so quickly.  People, including rugby teams, and indeed the mum of someone I know, are stranded in South Africa, trying desperately to find a way home.

Wearing masks on public transport and in shops, but not hospitality settings, is to be made compulsory again.  But, TBH, that’s a waste of time.  People who’ve stopped doing so will not start again, and you can’t expect bus drivers, waitresses, shop checkout staff etc to challenge people who could potentially turn nasty.

Hopefully, things aren’t as bad as feared, but we saw what happened with the Alpha and Delta variants.

Great :-(.

On top of all this, Storm Arwen’s brought high winds and snow.  It’s been quite windy here, but not as bad as in some areas, and we’ve had no snow, but there’s been some within about 20 miles.   Three people have tragically been killed, one of them in Ambleside, and there’s been quite a bit of damage, and disruption to transport.

Oh dear.  What a day.


Sunday, November 28th

On top of everything else, we now have snow.  Yes, it looks very pretty, but it’s on the roads and the pavements and will probably freeze up overnight.

Seeing as snow was not forecast, I went to Dunham Massey.  Then came home, in the snow.  Later, went out to the Flower Park, in the snow.  Then watched our 1-1 draw at Chelsea.


Cases of the Omicron variant are now popping up everywhere.  It was inevitable, but it’s not good.  Morocco’s banned all international flights for a fortnight, Israel’s not admitting anyone other than Israeli citizens/residents returning from abroad.  It’s like, here we go again.



The Road to Freedom? Week 16, July 12th to 18th 2021 inclusive

Monday, July 12th

Oh dear.  What a difference a day makes.  As well as our crushed hopes, a minority of idiots have posted racist abuse on the social media accounts of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka.  You’re always going to get some idiots who turn on people – remember the hanging/burning of effigies of David Beckham in 1998? – but it’s a lot worse in the age of social media, and the racist element is particularly nasty.   I do appreciate that it’s difficult for social media to stop online abuse, but surely more can be done.  And someone’s even vandalised the Marcus Rashford mural in Withington, although I’m pleased to say that the graffiti has been covered up by messages of support.

As if it’s not bad enough that people are aiming this vile abuse at our players, the Woke Brigade – who are no doubt delighted that England lost – are trying to exploit it and twist to suit their own agenda.  They’re trying to claim ownership of the team, rather like Scottish nationalists tried to claim ownership of Andy Murray (and then whinged and moaned when he accepted a knighthood, because it didn’t suit them), and, even more bizarrely, trying to blame it all on the Government – and, in doing so, trying to undo the very sense of unity which Gareth Southgate and the lads brought about.  It really is very unpleasant, and I’ve seen some utter rubbish posted on social media by people whom I know full well know about as much about football as I do about sheep farming in Outer Mongolia.

Oh dear.   Let’s try to ignore both sets of idiots, celebrate our team’s achievements, and look forward to the World Cup qualifying campaign.

Also, it’s poured down all day.  Please, please do not let it do this whilst I’m in the Lakes!

Meanwhile, it’s been confirmed that the easing of restrictions will go ahead on July 19th, by which time 2/3 of adults will be fully vaccinated …  although I’m not 100% clear on whether or not you’ll still be expected to give your details at cafes etc..  I haven’t really processed the idea of going back to being trapped in the office and how that’s going to trigger my anxiety, and am clinging to the fact that it’ll only be for 3 days a week.  Andy Burnham’s said that people should continue to wear masks on public transport in Greater Manchester.  There’s an increasing amount of talk about continuing to wear masks, about possibly using vaccine passports in pubs etc, and generally a lot of talk about risks.  The word “irreversible” isn’t being used any more, and there are rumours of things being reviewed in September.  So it’s all a bit muted.

On a happier note, infection rates are falling slightly in the city centre and the borough of Bury, and are only rising very slightly in Salford.


Tuesday, July 13th

The WFH directive in Scotland’s staying in force until August.  Lucky Scotland!!   Boris said that firms shouldn’t rush to make people go back to the office, but we’ve already had a very terse e-mail on the subject.

50 “deaths with Covid” were recorded today.  It’s the catch-up from the weekend – yesterday’s figure was 6, so that’s an average of 28 – but it still sounds worrying.

Windermere Lake Cruises are going back to letting you buy tickets on the day.  No update yet from the National Trust.

Weather has cheered up.


Wednesday, July 14th

I am trying to ignore the fact that, instead of celebrating our team’s achievements in reaching the final and being sad that we lost, a minority of people are trying to turn it into a culture war and political points-scoring exercise.  I had to turn Sky News off today: it’s getting worse than the BBC.

Two people were prevented from boarding a flight from Manchester to Malta because they’d been vaccinated with Indian-made doses of the AZ vaccine.  This wasn’t supposed to be an issue.  It seems to have been a cock-up by the Maltese authorities, but obviously that’s not much consolation to those involved.  And, having said that it’d only admit people who were fully vaccinated, Malta’s now changed its mind.  The Balearic Islands are off the green list and back on the amber list.  Croatia and Bulgaria have been moved to the green list, but Croatia’s on the “green watchlist” so it could be moved back at any minute.  Confused?  So is everyone else.

A lot of arguing’s going on about mask-wearing.

Infection rates are soaring in the North East and parts of Yorkshire.

And a kid in number two nephew’s class has been sent home with a temperature and has now got to take a Covid test.  Hopefully it’s something and nothing, but, if not, the whole class’ll have to self-isolate for 10 days.


Thursday, July 15th

Blue sky and sunshine on St Swithin’s Day!

The kid in number two nephew’s class hasn’t got Covid.  Phew.  Some parents are keeping kids off school, illegal or not, because they can’t risk them having to self-isolate when they’ve got holidays booked for as soon as term ends.  One friend’s child’s class were sent home in the middle of Sports Day, and another’s were hauled off a coach as they were about to set off on a school trip, not to mention the chaos in workplaces.  This self-isolation system needs to stop now, not on August 16th.

The man who cuts my grass (I’m scared of lawnmowers) has got Covid.  So have both Dan Evans and Jo Konta, who’ve had to pull out of the Olympic team as a result.

The National Trust are stopping the pre-booking system (except for very small places), hooray.  No word from English Heritage yet.

Tesco and various other supermarkets are asking customers to keep wearing masks for now.

63 deaths today.  That really is not good.  Things are very bad in Indonesia and Tunisia.  And, on top of everything else, there are floods in parts of Germany and Belgium, and riots in South Africa.


Friday, July 16th

These floods in Europe really are awful.  Over 120 people dead.

Number one nephew’s class has been sent home to self-isolate 😦 .

And case numbers are sky-rocketing.  There’s already talk of reimposing restrictions.  Heigh-ho!   Bulgaria has now red-listed arrivals from the UK (and also from Spain and Cyprus).  And France has apparently got issues with the Beta (South African) variant, so the old amber list rules stay for France even after they change for everywhere else.


Saturday, July 17th

Well, I didn’t expect to be spending a second summer holiday in the Lakes, but I have struck lucky, with beautiful weather!   Businesses here are very nervy about being caught by the “pingdemic” – after everything that’s happened, the last thing they can afford is to lose 10 days’ takings – but it’s great to see places booked up and everyone enjoying themselves.  Social distancing is in force on the boats until Monday, then it’s all change.

Today, I drove to Bowness, and did the steamer/steam train trip, then went on to Grasmere, my base for my time here.  So lovely to be back!

In Covid news, Sajid Javid has tested positive.  Thankfully he’s OK, but it’s not great when the Health Secretary gets the lurgy after having both jabs.  Sadly, the vaccinations are not turning out to be the magic bullet we’d hoped they’d be.


Sunday, July 18th

Last day of restrictions?   We’ll see.  The bloody “pingdemic”, as it’s now being called – people being “pinged” by the app and told to self-isolate – is making it feel as if everyone’s got the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.  And a huge row’s broken out after Boris and Rishi Sunak tried to get out of self-isolating after being in contact with Sajid Javid, by saying they’d have daily tests instead.  They’ve now agreed to self-isolate, but it’s really annoyed everyone.  This self-isolation business is just beyond a joke.

Collin Morikawa won the British Open.

And another lovely day in the lakes!  Coniston, Brantwood and Hawkshead today!  I’ve never seen the watersports at Coniston so busy.

Euro 2020

I was going to say that losing on penalties is the ultimate nightmare, but then I remembered my 11-year-old self watching in horror as England were knocked out of the 1986 World Cup by Diego Maradona’s blatant handball.   And, 12 years later, the country bitterly dividing as hostile Londoners burnt effigies of David Beckham.  This time, we (with a minority of disgraceful exceptions) are together, we’re united, and, as horrible as penalties are, at least we haven’t lost to cheating.  So we’ve been through worse.   Congratulations to “Bobby Manc” and the Italian players, and I’m sure that their victory means a lot to the country which was the first in Europe to be hit by Covid.   And, to Gareth Southgate, to our young squad, to the backroom staff, to everyone involved, thank you for giving us such joy and such hope at such a difficult time.

“It was nearly complete, it was nearly so sweet.”  We led for over an hour.  Luke Shaw scored in just the second minute.  A nation cheered.  Two future kings hugged.   Even in the penalty shoot out, with four penalties taken, we were 2-1 up.  But it wasn’t to be.  Yes, we can come back from this.  United came back from the despair of 1991/92 to win the league in 1992/93: it’s possible to learn, it’s possible to bounce back quickly.  This is a young squad.  We’ve seen “golden generations” come and go before, but I think this squad are further ahead than any of those were.  On to what’s going to be a rather strange World Cup next year, taking place in November and December.

And, again, thank you so much to Gareth and the lads for bringing us together.  There was some kind of spirit of the Blitz last spring, but, inevitably, things have fractured.  Everyone’s circumstances are different, and people seem to forget that what seems best for them in terms of restrictions isn’t what’s best for other people.  The last said about the Evil Tier System, the better.   Nothing brings people together like sporting events.  Even then, it can go wrong: I’ve already mentioned what happened in 1998.  This team is a “band of brothers”, to use a cliche, and they’ve got everyone behind them.

These are strange times, and we don’t know what may yet lie ahead.  Euro 2020’s been wonderful for everyone.  Thanks again, Gareth and the lads.  And on to the World Cup qualifiers.


The Road to Freedom? Week 15, July 5th to 11th 2021 inclusive

Monday, July 5th

Boris has said that we’ve got to open up some time, and that now, with schools about to break up for the summer and before the winter increase in other illnesses, is probably the best time to do it.  Fair point.  From July 19th, social distancing goes, WFH goes (boo, hiss), nightclubs etc can reopen and all limits on how many people can meet up or how many people can attend sports events, music events or anything else go.   S0, hooray, football is back on, and my cousin’s wedding should be able to go ahead as planned.

But the three things which most concern the majority of people stay.  No change, yet, regarding overseas travel – they may remove the need for fully vaccinated people to quarantine after returning from amber list countries, but nothing’s definite yet, and the bloody tests stay.  This godforsaken test, trace and isolate system – currently causing the Duchess of Cambridge to self-isolate – stays.  And the school bubble system stays, although surely, surely, they’ll have to do away with that before the new academic year.

Compulsory mask-wearing goes, to be replaced by “guidance”.  There are quite a lot of concerns about this.  Shop staff are worried, and a lot of people, especially those in vulnerable groups, are anxious about using public transport if people aren’t wearing masks.  It’s all very well saying that you should try to avoid travelling at busy times, but, if you need to get to work or to a place of education, you haven’t got much choice.


Scotland and North East England have overtaken North West England at the top of the infection rate charts.  Not that I wish high infection rates on anyone, and I wish to goodness that the rates would come down everywhere, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was thinking “At least it’s not us for a change”.  Some random hotspots too – Oxford, Tamworth and N E Lincolnshire.

And the NHS, on its 73rd anniversary, has been awarded the George Cross by the Queen.

In other news, it has rained a lot today.  And Emma Raducanu had to retire from her match with breathing problems, which was a huge shame – not got tour level fitness levels yet, but that’s something that she can work on.


Tuesday, July 6th

More rain.

But, finally, some common sense.   From 16th August, self-isolation for fully-vaccinated adults will end, except for people who have actually tested positive themselves.   And, for the new academic year, this ridiculous “bubble” system at schools, which has seen 640,000 kids sent home in the last week, will end: under 18s will not have to self-isolate unless they themselves have tested positive.

There’s been a mixed reaction to yesterday’s announcements.  I’m trying not to get involved in arguments, because I think there’s a lot of “I’m all right, Jack”-ism going on.  It’s all very well to say that restrictions should continue indefinitely if you are in a secure public sector job, working from home on full pay, or retired, but what about a self-employed person whose business cannot operate properly until social distancing ends?   And it’s all very well to say that masks shouldn’t be worn on public transport if you’re young and in perfect health, but less so for someone who’s clinically vulnerable.

The changes only apply to England.  I hope Sturgeon isn’t going to get stroppy over travel again.  Speaking of travel, Merkel has agreed to change the rules on arrival into Germany from the UK and Portugal: fully vaccinated people will no longer need to quarantine.

Sajid Javid’s said that we could be seeing 100,000 cases a day by some point in August.  Marks for honesty, but I didn’t really want to hear that!

Whilst we’re being told that vaccine passports won’t be needed domestically, things are certainly moving in a direction in which people are split between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.  I’m very sorry for the small number of people who can’t be vaccinated for genuine medical reasons, and hope that some arrangements can be made for them.

And Medvedev lost.  Is everyone trying to get out of Nole’s way?!


Wednesday, July 7th

It’s stopped raining.  I’m hoping that this is a good omen.  Trying to find a good time to have a bath before the match, but there’s too much going on!  Denis has won.  Nole has won.  Matteo is a set up on Felix.  Roger is a set down.

Italy beat Spain on penalties last night – such a shame for what was a really good match to end that way.  Please, please not penalties tonight.  Come on England!!

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of moaning going on.  Most of it’s political points-scoring – the same people who are moaning that restrictions shouldn’t be eased at all are moaning that the self-isolation system should be changed now rather than in August.  If we do see 100,000 cases a day (and we’re now recording over 30,000 a day, the highest number since January), that could mean an awful lot of people self-isolating.   Travel changes look set to be announced tomorrow, but I’m quite looking forward to this trip to Scotland now – if it happens.  Sturgeon has lifted the ban on people from Blackburn now, incidentally!

Come on England!!

Later – WE WON!!  WE’RE IN THE FINAL!!!    We went behind, but equalised.  It went to extra time, and I was thinking, please, please, not penalties.  Then we got a penalty … but Kasper Schmeichel (such a chip off the old block!) saved it, but Harry Kane scored from the rebound.  I have never known time pass as slowly as it did from then until the final whistle, but the whistle went, and we’re in the final!!   OMG!!

Matteo beat Felix.  And Hurkacz beat Roger in straight sets, bagelling him in the final set, which was a bit awful to watch.


Thursday, July 8th

I might actually get to bed at a reasonable time tonight, with no football and no late night finishes at Wimbledon!

It’s been confirmed that, from July 19th, fully vaccinated people (although only those vaccinated by the NHS, so this won’t apply to anyone living abroad and wanting to visit the UK, even British citizens) and under 18s won’t need to quarantine on returning from an amber list country.  I felt like I needed to rush off and book myself a trip abroad … but a) the PCR tests will still be needed, b) there may be chaos at airports and c) as I’ve already found out, an awful lot of flights aren’t operating, unless you want to go to a seaside resort.  So, for now, I’m sticking to my trip to Scotland, if it goes.

Japan’s said that no spectators will be allowed at the Olympics.

And the Queen’s been in Manchester today!   She’s been to the Coronation Street set 🙂 , and to meet representatives of community groups at the cathedral.  Wonderful to see her looking so well.

And the ladies’ final’ll be Ash Barty v Karolina Pliskova.


Friday, July 9th

The final’ll be Djokovic v Berrettini.  Come on Matteo!   Denis ran Nole so close, but he just couldn’t get over the line in either of the first two sets, and he wasn’t coming back from two sets to love down.

Sad to see the Olympic flame arriving in Tokyo with nowhere there to see it.  I remember going to see the torch relay going past Heaton Park in 2012.  Loads of people were there, and everyone was cheering, and it was such a lovely atmosphere.  That was repeated all over the country, and it’s so sad that it’s not happening this time.

A trade union representing airport staff’s moaning that there’ll be long queues if more people are travelling and everyone’s vaccination certificates and test results have to be checked.  Before the new rules were announced, they were moaning that a load of jobs would be lost unless more people could travel.  If the authorities said that results and certificates didn’t have to be checked, they’d be moaning that the country was being put at risk.

Malta’s banned all visitors unless fully vaccinated.  Tunisia says that its healthcare system’s on the verge of collapse.  Indonesia’s having problems.  Is there no end to this?   Cases are on the up and up across the UK, 99% of them now the Delta variant.

Two days till The Final of the Euros!


Saturday, July 10th

Tomorrow night’s the night!   Is it coming home, or will it end in tears?   Please, please, don’t let it end on penalties!  Whatever happens, it’s been a wonderful tournament and a real morale booster.  Thank you so much to Gareth Southgate and the lads; and I’m sure that Italians feel the same about “Bobby Manc” and their lads.

Ash Barty is the Wimbledon ladies’ singles champion!   It looked as if she was going to run away with it, but Karolina Pliskova came back, and it ended up being a really good three set match.

I really miss Rafa.

It wasn’t supposed to rain until 11am, so I went to Hollingworth Lake at half 9.  And it rained.  It’s dry now.

And, in Covid news, it looks like we might need vaccination passports to go to entertainment venues, come the autumn.  I really don’t like this idea of having to show papers: it smacks of totalitarian regimes.  But I think we’ll have to accept that these are exceptional times, and that it’s like people having to carry ID cards during the Second World War.


Sunday, July 11th, before the final

This is weird.  This could be a day which we remember for the rest of our lives, and which people talk about for decades to come.  Or it could all end in tears.  2 hours to kick off.

Please, please, not penalties.

Matteo won the first set of the Wimbledon final, but Nole came back to take it in four.  The BBC cameras bizarrely switched away from him during his speech to show a randon shot of the 1988/90 champion, which made me feel better!   Grand Slam?  Golden Slam?  Oh, I do miss Rafa!

I went to Dunham Massey this morning.  The giant lilies, which only flower for 10 days a year, which is usually during Wimbledon, were out.  And the house was flying the flag.

OK, just because I’m not fat enough – I weighed the same yesterday as I did on the first Saturday in January 😦 – I now need to go and make more strawberry and cream meringues.   Well, they were lucky for the semis.

Come on England!!


Sunday, July 11th, after the final

Oh no.  And so it all ends in tears, again.  The ultimate nightmare was losing on penalties.  And, TBH, the ultimate, ultimate nightmare was for a United player to miss.   “It was nearly complete, it was nearly so sweet.”  In just the second minute, Luke Shaw put us ahead.  We led for over an hour.  But Bonetti equalised – deservedly so, it has to be said.   It went to extra time.  It went to penalties.  We led 2-1 after the first four penalties: Pickford saved their 2nd.  But then Marcus Rashford missed.  And Jadon Sancho’s was saved.  Match point Italy.  But Pickford saved their 5th.  Would it go to sudden death?  No.  Bukayo Saka – poor young kid, why was he sent into the lions’ den rather than someone more experienced? – had his penalty saved.  And it was all over.  Congratulations to “Bobby Manc” and his players, congratulations to our Italian friends who’ve been fighting this horrible virus for longer than anyone else in Europe and need a pick-me-up as much as we do, but … oh, it hurts.  To lose on bloody penalties, again.   We’re so proud of our players and of Gareth Southgate, but I feel absolutely crushed.   55 years of hurt.   This really hurts.

The road to freedom? Week 14, June 28th to July 4th 2021 inclusive

Monday, June 28th

The good news is that Wimbledon’s started.  The bad news is that Stef lost in the first round (OK, he had a tough draw, against Frances Tiafoe, but FFS!), it rained for much of the day (in London, not here) and Jo Konta had to pull out after a member of her team tested positive.

Sajid Javid’s said that restrictions’ll be ending on July 19th and we can get back to normal, but how can we when we’re all being held hostage by this bloody test, trace and isolate thing?   Freddie Nielsen’s also had to pull out after a member of his team tested positive.  My elder nephew was pulled out of class today and told that he’d have to go home from school and self-isolate for 10 days because he was a “close contact” of someone in his French group who’d tested positive.  He doesn’t even do French!  He does Spanish instead.  It turned out that they’d mixed him up with another kid with the same first name.  So he’s OK, but the other kid has joined the thousands of others across the country who are missing school even though they themselves have tested negative.

Meanwhile, case numbers are soaring.  It looked as if Salford had turned a corner, but, sadly, the rate there is on the up again.  And it’s horrendous in the city centre, because there are so many students there.   We’re ahead of most places in terms of the Delta variant.   It’s rife in the Moscow area, and also in South Africa (just as the Lions tour starts), but is only just gathering pace across most of Western and Central Europe.  And, as they’re also behind us in terms of vaccinations, they’re imposing restrictions.   Malta’s now said that it’s only open to British tourists who’ve been fully vaccinated – and the restriction applies to anyone 12 and over, but kids under 18 can’t get vaccinated ATM.  Portugal’s said that British visitors who aren’t fully vaccinated will have to quarantine for a fortnight.

And, after all Merkel’s pontificating about the EU having common rules, Germany’s said that anyone entering Germany from Portugal will have to quarantine.  What a hypocrite.  Cue an exodus of Germans from the Algarve.

The whole thing is chaos.

But … deaths and hospitalisations are NOT really going up.


Tuesday, June 29th

Wa-hey!   We beat Germany!   At last, we beat Germany!  2-0.  Into the QFs, against either Sweden or Ukraine.  And what a night last night, with Switzerland beating France on penalties and Andy Murray’s match and … ooh, it was all happening.   England have beaten Germany.

And Sturgeon has had to back down!  The travel ban on Manchester, Salford and Bolton (although unfortunately not Blackburn with Darwen) has been lifted.  I rang my travel insurance, and they said that, if I book something tomorrow (the ban is lifted at midnight) then they will cover the cost if Sturgeon reimposes a ban.   Hopefully she won’t, but who knows with that one.


Wednesday, June 30th

The holiday company has said it will give me a refund if Sturgeon imposes a ban.  So I’ve booked.  Fingers crossed!!

Meanwhile, there’s a hoo-ha going on over the QF, which will be against Ukraine in Rome, because Italy’s currently imposing a 5 day quarantine on arrivals from the UK.

A study’s shown that Greater Manchester suffered 25% higher mortality from Covid than England as a whole.  This is just Greater Manchester: I don’t know if similar studies are being done for other areas – and we’re talking about urban, northern areas here.  When this nightmare started, I never expected our region to end up being the centre of it.   It’s pretty shocking and upsetting.

On a happier note, it’s all eyes on Wimbledon!


Thursday, July 1st

It is hot.  I just hope it doesn’t all end in a deluge just when I’m in the Lakes!

Every night seems to end in either extra time at the football or a late match at Wimbledon at the moment.   Not complaining: it’s wonderful!   But I am so far behind with my soap operas 🙂 !   Five set thriller involving Andy Murray (who won in the end) last night.  Amazing stuff.

The Germans, not content with trying to bully Portugal into banning British tourists, are now trying to bully UEFA into moving matches away from Wembley.  WTF?  It hasn’t even got anything to do with them: they aren’t in the tournament any more!   I can’t work out whether it’s sour grapes over Brexit, an attempt to divert attention away from how slow their vaccination rollout’s been, or both.

Case numbers are soaring, though, it has to be admitted.  But hospitalisations and deaths, thankfully, aren’t.  The highest numbers are in Scotland.  Please tell me that Sturgeon isn’t going to reintroduce restrictions just as I’ve booked my coach tour!   People from Blackburn are still banned from Scotland.  People from Hyndburn (Accrington etc), where rates are higher than they are in Blackburn, are not.  Newcastle now has higher rates than central Manchester or Salford, and Liverpool has higher rates than 7 out of 10 Greater Manchester boroughs.  Bury has thankfully stabilised, for now, but Wigan’s rates are way up.  And there’s no sign of an end to it.   It still looks as if restrictions will be lifted on July 19th, though.

And our first home match of the season has been moved to 12:30 … meaning that, short of causing a huge family row, Dad and I cannot go because it clashes with my cousin’s pre-wedding party.  We are so annoyed.  We could have sloped off early and got there for 3, and 5:15 or any time on Sunday would have been fine, but … bleurgh.  2 away matches and an international break after that, so it’ll be mid-September before we get to go.  So, so fed up!!


Friday, July 2nd

It’s hard work trying to keep up with the football and all the tennis at the same time!

We really need to lose this nightmare self-isolation system.  It’s not even like it bloody works – case numbers are sky-rocketing everywhere.  Don’t ask me what happened to the “extra support” we were offered.  We never got it, and nor did Liverpool.   Anyway, a load of trains were cancelled today, because a few people at Northern Rail tested positive so all their colleagues are self-isolating.  And some kids at my elder nephew’s school were sent home after one kid had a positive lateral flow test result, only to be told to come back in when the kid had a negative PCR test result!   Parents don’t know whether they’re coming or going, and teachers are trying to teach some kids in person and some kids online at the same time.

And the press unhelpfully decided to panic people by saying that anyone who’d had an AZ vaccine from a batch made in India would be banned from going to an EU country because the Indian vaccine wasn’t recognised by the EU!   Technically, it isn’t at the moment, but it’s exactly the same as the AZ vaccine made here and it’s just a case of sorting out some paperwork.

OK, I am going to try to forget about all the Covid stress for the rest of this evening, and enjoy the tennis and the football!


Saturday, July 3rd

Tonight’s the night!   8pm, Rome, England v Ukraine.   The tension is mounting!!

My plan for today was to go out early, before play started at Wimbledon.  But it was absolutely pouring down, and didn’t clear up until later, so I ended up just going out for two short walks in between matches.   Can Daniil, Sascha or Matteo beat Nole?  Or could Roger, who beat Cam Norrie today, really win it again?  Andy lost to Denis Shapovalov last night: I really like Denis, but it was a shame to see Andy go out.  Dan Evans also lost, to Seb Korda, son of Petr, which made me feel old.  But well done to Emma Raducanu, into the last 16 on a wild card – amazing.

Angela Merkel has been whining at Boris about the number of fans allowed into Wembley.  Can that woman not mind her own business?!


Later – it’s coming home!   Well we’re certainly coming home from Rome to Wembley!  England 4-0 Ukraine, wa-hey!   And all the other QFs went the way I wanted too, so it’s England v Denmark and Spain v Italy.   Wednesday night, semi-final …


Sunday, July 4th

I was actually lucky with the weather today!   I think North Yorkshire had heavy rain yesterday, but it was glorious at Fountains Abbey this morning … whilst it was wet in Manchester.  It started throwing it down whilst I was halfway home, and I don’t like driving in heavy rain, but it was better than walking in heavy rain!

I do know that stressing about what the weather will do in a fortnight’s time is not helpful …

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of talk going on about lifting restrictions.  I really don’t know what to think.  We cannot live under restrictions indefinitely.  And, thankfully, hospitalisations and deaths are not going up.  But, when infection rates in Bolton dropped sharply, it looked as if the problems caused by the Delta variant would last for a few weeks, peak, and decline.  But that’s not happening.  They’re going up again everywhere.  And showing absolutely no sign of peaking, never mind declining.  If we decide that we’ll just have to live with this, we can’t keep the self-isolation system.  Every flaming train on the Cumbrian Coast Line was cancelled yesterday, because of people self-isolating.  And the situation in schools is chaos.   At this rate, it’s going to be like some Solomon Grundy thing – everyone back in the office on Monday, two people at home due to kids self-isolating on Tuesday, Joe in HR got pinged by the Test and Trace app on Wednesday, tested positive on Thursday, everyone off work for 10 days from Friday!

Heigh-ho …

Wimbledon is back

Well, it was all gloriously chaotic in my house this evening, as I tried to keep up with Spain v Croatia going to extra time at the same time as I was watching Andy v Basilashvili, and my Sky Planner got completely confused when the BBC decided that Andy’s match should be moved to BBC 1 and EastEnders and Holby City should be moved to BBC 2.   And then it somehow went to a 4th set and so it clashed with the whole of France v Switzerland, and everything got even more complicated, and now that’s going to extra time as well, after Switzerland equalised in the last minute, just as Andy was serving for the match for the fourth time … as if the first couple of days of a Grand Slam event aren’t complicated enough as it is, with so many matches going on at once.   Pass the Pimm’s.  And the vodka!

Isn’t it absolutely brilliant to be doing this again?   Yes, we’ve had the other 3 Grand Slam events, even if the 2020 French Open was bizarrely played in October and the Aussie Open was moved to February, and we’ve had plenty of other tournaments too, but having a year without Wimbledon was tough.

I really wanted today to be a perfect day, but … well, Rafa had already pulled out injured, it rained, Jo Konta had to pull out because of the infernal virus rules, and Stef lost in the first round.  Oh well, maybe perfection was asking a bit too much.   But it’s back!

In 1989, I read a magazine article which described Wimbledon as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.  32 years later, that still sticks in my mind.

If you ignore the Shakespearean connection, it sounds so gloriously romantic.  And Wimbledon is.  The grass courts.  The white clothes.  The Royal Box.   There’s no other tournament like it.  I’ve even got a Wimbledon song.  Eternal Flame, by The Bangles.  No, there’s no connection between that song and Wimbledon for anyone else.  It’s just me.  But it’s my Wimbledon song.

There’ve been a lot of “Wimbledon moments” in my life.  There’ve been a lot of tennis moments generally.  The US Open moments have often come in the wee small hours of the morning, and I never get much sleep during the Australian Open either.  And I’ve got this weird tradition of going to Blackpool on the morning of the French Open men’s singles title.  I once rushed back from London on a Sunday morning to watch the Monte Carlo final.  I once sat in a hotel room in America watching Indian Wells.  In fact, I once spent an entire afternoon sat in a hotel room in Blackpool watching Wimbledon, apart from the bit when I walked out in tears before it was going wrong.  I went back in a few minutes later.  The match turned round.  It all ended happily.  I did tell Mum and Dad that it was a stupid choice of date for a weekend away.  And I even nearly missed a flight home from Tel Aviv because I was watching Rafa v Roger in my hotel room (Rafa won).

I do things like this all the time.   But Wimbledon is special.  And the fact that the evil virus forced Wimbledon to be cancelled for the first time since the Second World War really seemed to say a lot about last year.   It’s … well, I think it’s the most important part of the British summer.  And we’re going to be missing a lot of things about summer for a second year in a row, thanks to the evil virus.  Holidays abroad are pretty much off the cards.   Music festivals won’t be happening.  A lot of people’s wedding plans have been mucked up.  But Wimbledon’s back.   And if, please, we could have a wonderful, wonderful tournament, to cheer us all up … ?  Sascha, Daniil, one of you … come on, could this be your year?   Oh, and if England could win Euro 2020 …

2020 was The Year Without Wimbledon.  Let’s hope that there’s never another.  One year without Wimbledon was quite enough.

The road to freedom? Week 13, June 21st to 27th 2021 inclusive

Monday, June 21st

There is a major war of words going on between Sturgeon and Andy Burnham.  It should be noted that the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour have both agreed with Andy.  The Scottish government don’t even seem to be clear where exactly their own travel ban, announced with no discussion and no notice, covers.  Is it central Manchester and Salford, or is it the whole of Greater Manchester, i.e. including Wigan, Stockport, Bury etc?   They said “Manchester and Salford”, but then they said “Greater Manchester and Salford”, which doesn’t even make sense as Salford is in Greater Manchester.  Rates in Burnley, Hyndburn and Rossendale are higher than they are in central Manchester and Salford, but apparently they aren’t covered by this ban.  And infection rates in Dundee are higher than they are in Bolton, but it’s OK for people from Dundee to travel around Scotland but there’s a specific ban on people from Bolton doing the same.  When challenged, all Sturgeon could do was accuse Andy Burnham of trying to get attention ahead of a possible Labour leadership challenge.

I am really fed up.  I was seriously considering booking a tour of the Scottish Highlands.


Tuesday, June 22nd

Andy Burnham is to “hold talks” with Nicola Sturgeon – but I suspect that the stroppy cow will refuse to back down because she won’t want to lose face.  I’m not sure whom I’d most like to smack, her or the people who brought the Delta variant into the area by travelling to the Indian sub-continent at a time when no-one was meant to be going anywhere.

I really am feeling despondent.  We’ve had months of lockdown.  We were told that everything’d be OK if we got vaccinated.  And now Manchester, Salford and Bury are in the top 10 boroughs in the country for infection rates – and Blackburn’s is coming down, but our rates aren’t.   And most of the others are also local – Burnley,  Hyndburn, etc.  I just can’t see a way out.  Most of the cases are in schools, and there are no plans to vaccinate kids, so what do we do?  Whatever this “extra support” is, I haven’t seen any evidence of it.  Why have we been hit worse by this than anywhere else in the country?   Having said which, rates in Newcastle and North Tyneside are sly-rocketing now, and the picture’s not good in Liverpool or Leeds either.

Italy’s called for the Euro 2020 final to be moved away from Wembley, “because of the Delta variant”.  They’re only saying that in the hope that it’ll be moved to Rome, but, because of the bloody Delta variant, it feels like we’re a pariah state again, like we were with the Kent variant.  As Mario Balotelli would say, why is it always us?

The good news is that, because of yesterday’s results, England are guaranteed to reach the knockout stages of Euro 2020, as a “least worst 3rd place finish” if nothing else … but we really could do with a win tonight.

Later – won 1-0!  Top the group!   The snag is that we now play either France, Germany or Portugal!   Scotland are out – I’m sorry for my Scottish friends, and for Scotland’s players, most of whom we “know” well, but it feels a bit like the universe’s karma against that odious woman.


Wednesday, June 23rd

Depending on what you read, either:

  1. The pandemic is all over bar the shouting.  Come July 19th, all domestic restrictions will be lifted, bye-bye to masks and social distancing, and anyone double vaccinated will be able to travel to amber list countries as if they were green list countries; or
  2. We are in a dangerous third wave, rates are about to sky rocket across most of the country, there is now a “Delta Plus” variant which is even worse than the original Delta variant, we will have to wear masks and observe social distancing unto all eternity, and we will probably go back into lockdown in the winter.

I’ve had a look at some options in case travel restrictions *are* eased … only to find that a load of options are no longer options because airlines have pulled flights.  For example, there used to be several flights a day between Manchester and Zurich, and, both times I’ve flown there, I’ve arrived at 11am.  Now, the only option is to arrive at 10pm, which doesn’t really work.

And, for all the talk of lifting restrictions, you can’t go anywhere, even school or work, without risking being told to self isolate for 10 days.  In fact, it’s not so much “even school” as “especially school” – loads of kids are being sent home, again.

I am so fed up of all this.


Thursday, June 24th

Hairdresser’s this evening!

So sick of all the politicking.  Andy Burnham has tried to get some sense out of Sturgeon, but all she cares about is trying to make herself look big – or else why would she have imposed a travel ban on “big names” like Manchester and Salford, but not on Burnley, Hyndburn and Rossendale, where infection rates are much higher?   And Angela Merkel, evidently still bitter about Brexit five years after the referendum, wants all EU countries to impose quarantine on British tourists, and has had a go at Portugal for not doing so.  Since when was it up to the German Chancellor to tell the Portuguese government what to do?

Meanwhile, it looks as if rates may be plateauing in Salford.  But they’re sky-rocketing elsewhere, notably in Newcastle.


Friday, June 25th

The Pitcairn Islands (as in Fletcher Christian) and the British Antarctic Territory have been added to the green list, prompting an exasperated newspaper cartoonist to show a green list including Craggy Island and Tracy Island.  The Balearic Islands, Madeira and Malta have also been added, a bit more helpfully, as have some Caribbean islands.

The whole thing is totally arse about face now, because, despite having the highest vaccination rates in Europe, we’ve now got the highest infection rates in Europe.  Belgium has banned British tourists.  Angela Merkel is busily trying to blame British tourists for the increase in the Delta variant in other countries, even though a) most of Portugal’s cases are in Lisbon, not Porto or the Algarve and b) how exactly can British tourists be to blame for the surge in cases in Russia?

I hate the f***ing Delta variant.  I appreciate that it isn’t trying to cause problems for me personally, but it doesn’t half feel like it.  I really fancied doing a tour of the Scottish Highlands: I’ve always wanted to go but, with limited holiday time, always opted for somewhere with better weather instead, but this would have been the perfect year for it.  (Tours weren’t operating last year.)  But, because Sturgeon has used the Delta variant as an excuse to declare war on the Manchester area, it’s no go.  And it’s so bloody frustrating, because she hasn’t mentioned other places with high infection rates – Newcastle’s is now over 300.  I hate Nicola Sturgeon even more than I hate the Delta variant.  And I hate Angela Merkel as well.  And, yes, I know that I sound like I’m about 12, and moaning about school bullies or nasty teachers, but it’s so frustrating!

And it feels like we’ve been sold a bit of a pig in a poke with the vaccines – they’ve reduced hospitalisations and deaths, which is obviously the main thing, but loads of people are testing positive despite being fully vaccinated, and, thanks to the bloody test, trace and isolate system, that means that you cannot get your life back.  Once people are trapped in offices, it’s going to be very difficult to protect yourself, especially if you need to travel by public transport.  And 1/4 million kids have been sent home from school.


Saturday, June 26th

Wales are out of Euro 2020, beaten 4-0 by Denmark.  And Matt Hancock is out of the job of Health Secretary, after the Sun published pictures of him snogging a colleague, and pontificated about breaching social distancing rules.  He’s an idiot and I’m not sorry to see the back of him, but I do feel very sorry for his wife.  I also feel a bit sorry for Boris.  It’s one thing after another, and, thanks to the bloody Delta variant, over 18,000 new cases were reported today.   We’ve got to get past this obsession with infection rates, but it’s stopping us from being welcomed abroad.  Sajid Javid’s the new Health Secretary.  I rather like him.  He was born in Rochdale, after all!

On a more positive note, I don’t want to speak too soon, but there are signs that things may be plateauing in the Bury council area, as well as Salford.

I went to Hardwick Hall today.  Lovely place!  The gardens aren’t the world’s greatest, but I think the house is my favourite NT house.

What a palaver, though.  Give your name and show your card at the entrance to the car park.  Give your name again and show our card again at the visitor centre.   Scan your card in the tearoom.  Scan your card at the kiosk, but only if you’re sitting at a table on one side of the path.  Scan your card at the entrance to the house – which I wouldn’t have minded had they not refused to let anyone scan their card until they’d tried to persuade them to buy a guidebook or make an extra donation, holding up the queue and annoying everyone.  And some bossy woman said that you had to “clear the desk”, as if it were an airport!  Also, you still can’t get to the ponds through the gate by the gardens or the gate by the courtyard: you have to go all the way back round, walk the other way, and then walk across the fields.  Why??  Does the virus care which gate you use?   Sorry, moan over!


Sunday, June 27th

Twas the night before Wimbledon – at last!  This is distracting me from being a huge fat blob with too-short hair.

Went to Clifton Country Park this morning, then, house stuff done, into town this afternoon.  I think it was the busiest I’d seen town since this whole nightmare began.  The shops didn’t look that busy, but there were loads of people sat out in Piccadilly Gardens and Exchange Square, and people eating out everywhere.  Funny, there was some talk 30 years ago about getting into a “cafe culture” like in Barcelona, and people scoffed at it because of the weather, but Covid seems to have created it.  Well, on a warm, dry day, anyway!

There’ve been some reports in the MEN recently about swarms of bees hanging around in town, and I actually saw one!  In the middle of Market Street, of all places.  Wouldn’t you think bees would hang around in gardens, rather than outside the Arndale Centre?!

Sajid Javid is apparently keen to end restrictions … which, unfortunately, is not much use as long as a) the test, trace and isolate system remains (how long after July 19th before a load of people are being locked up for 10 days because a colleague has tested positive?) and b) we can’t go on holiday abroad.   Meanwhile, it looks as if the accursed Delta variant will delay “unlocking” in the Republic of Ireland.

Here’s to Wimbledon …

On and on and on

I need to rant.  I am fed up.  We have nearly all dutifully turned up for our vaccinations.  Over 81% of adults have now had their first jabs: many others have got appointments booked to get theirs soon.  I think around 60% of adults have now been double jabbed.  We’ve got far higher vaccination rates than France, Italy, Germany, etc.  And yet, for all this, infection rates are on the up and up, thanks to the bloody Indian variant (sorry, the Delta variant); and, even though most infections are amongst schoolchildren and the risk to or from double-vaccinated adults is low, this means that more travel restrictions are being imposed on us from abroad, and now even from the ever-irritating Nicola Sturgeon.

There is a major war of words going on between Sturgeon and Andy Burnham.  It should be noted that the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour have both agreed with Andy.  The Scottish government don’t even seem to be clear where exactly their own travel ban, announced with no discussion and no notice, covers.  Is it central Manchester and Salford, or is it the whole of Greater Manchester, i.e. including Wigan, Stockport, Bury etc?   They said “Manchester and Salford”, but then they said “Greater Manchester and Salford”, which doesn’t even make sense as Salford is in Greater Manchester.  Rates in Hyndburn and Rossendale are higher than they are in central Manchester and Salford, but apparently they aren’t covered by this ban.  And infection rates in Dundee are higher than they are in Bolton, but it’s OK for people from Dundee to travel around Scotland but there’s a specific ban on people from Bolton doing the same.  When challenged, all Sturgeon could do was accuse Andy Burnham of trying to get attention ahead of a possible Labour leadership challenge.


Meanwhile, there’s a lot of talk going on about July 19th being “Freedom Day”, but it actually won’t be.  We still can’t go abroad without a load of huge hassles.  We still can’t go into a cafe without worrying that we might get a call to say that the person who was at the next table has tested positive and so we’re supposed to self isolate for ten days.   And we can’t book anything at all without worrying that either it’ll be cancelled or that we won’t be able to go.

I know several families who’ve taken kids out of school to avoid the risk of them missing important family events.  That’s breaking the truancy laws, and it’s not doing kids’ education any good, but I really don’t blame people.  Everyone’s plans have been mucked up enough without finding at the last minute that little Susie can’t be her auntie’s bridesmaid because the kid who sits in front of her in maths has tested positive for the lurgy.

And, whatever happens, there’s always someone trying to turn into into a culture war. There was some complete and utter idiot on Sky News this morning, claiming that the Government doesn’t care that music festivals are being cancelled because most of the people who attend them are likely to be posh liberal elite brats, so not exempting music festivals from restrictions is part of a war on wokedom.  Excuse me??  That’s one of the most ridiculous non sequiturs I’ve ever heard!

I am really fed up of all of this.  On and on and on it goes.



The road to freedom? Week 12, June 14th to 20th 2021 inclusive

Monday, June 14th

Boris has confirmed what’d pretty much been said already, i.e. that “Freedom Day” is being postponed from June 21st to July 19th.

The limit on the number of guests for weddings will, however, be lifted as long as “social distancing is observed”.  What on earth is that supposed to mean?!

I don’t think there was any choice about this, but I’m extremely sorry for people whose jobs/businesses are affected.

At least nothing was said about local lockdowns.  However, “the Liverpool City Region”, Cheshire. Warrington and Birmingham have been added to the naughty list.  Where is this “extra support” we’re all meant to be getting, anyway?  I wasn’t exactly expecting to see a regiment of soldiers marching down the street, but I was expecting something.

On a different note, it’s so nice to be watching grass court tennis again, at last … although Rafa’s being a bit vague about Wimbledon.


Tuesday, June 15th

Hooray!   Completely unexpectedly – I’d been waiting almost a week for an answer – I received an e-mail to say that people can work from home 2 days a week for at least the next 6 months, and hopefully indefinitely.  I still haven’t had an answer as to whether we remain WFH full time until July 19th, but I’m (optimistically) assuming so.

I didn’t expect that at all.  If this can go on long term, it really will make things a lot better.


Wednesday, June 16th

My October holiday to Japan’s been cancelled.  The holiday company’s pulled its entire Far Eastern programme for the rest of the year, because a lot of those booked on it are from Australia and New Zealand and therefore unlikely to be allowed out until 2022.  I wasn’t really expecting it to go, and I suppose at least now the uncertainty’s been removed, but I’m very sad at losing a second year of travel, am not sure what to do instead, and didn’t really expect to have to process this just now.

France has started vaccinating children, but we’re being told that that’s unlikely to happen here.  I take the point that the risk to kids is very low, but kids are being sent home from school because another kid in their class has tested positive, and other family members have to isolate if their kid/sibling tests positive, so it’s all a bit of a mess.

The 2021/22 football fixtures came out today.

Meanwhile, cases keep on rising.  Deaths, thankfully, don’t.


Thursday, June 17th

My brain really cannot deal with much more this week.  The latest is that Rafa isn’t playing either Wimbledon or the Olympics.  He’d kind of hinted at Wimbledon, but I’m surprised about the Olympics – although I do understand that it’s a lot of surfaces, travelling and time zones.  But I’m sad 😦 .

There’s renewed talk about vaccine passports to make foreign travel easier.  I’m still hoping to go abroad in the autumn – I don’t think it’s the year for long haul bucket list trips like Japan, but I would very much like to get to Italy.  Meanwhile, from having had far lower rates than Italy, Spain, France etc, we’ve now got higher rates, thanks to the people who travelled between Bolton/Blackburn and the Indian sub-continent at a time when millions of people didn’t even leave their local areas for over five months, then spread the variant around.  Some people were even boasting to the local press about how, after Pakistan was put on the red list, they were dodging quarantine by flying home via Turkey.  Israel and parts of the US have been able to scrap almost all restrictions now that so many people have been vaccinated, whereas we, with everyone over 18 now able to book vaccines and vaccination rates higher than anywhere in Europe (except Gibraltar, I think), recorded over 11,000 cases today.

And Stroppy Sturgeon has banned travel between Scotland and Manchester/Salford.  No consultation, no notice, no warning.


Friday, June 18th

England v Scotland tonight!   So nice to have everyone focused on something other than the pandemic.

Torrential rain down south, meaning that there was no tennis 😦 , but it was dry here, and I managed to book to go evening strawberry picking at the very lovely Kenyon Hall Farm.

Almost all Covid cases in the UK are now the bloody Delta variant.  Case numbers aren’t rising by nearly as much, but they’re still rising.  Stroppy Sturgeon has told Scots not to go to Manchester, although how she plans to enforce that is anyone’s guess.  And Italy has imposed a 5 day quarantine on visitors from the UK.  Bleurgh.

The water board have asked me to read my own meter and submit the reading online, “because of Covid”.  I have no problem doing this: I’ve been doing it for years with the gas and electricity.  But I am sick of organisations using “because of Covid” as an excuse to cut services.  “The bank/post office/library will only be opening limited hours, because of Covid.”  “It will take longer than usual to answer your call, because of Covid.”  “It may take longer than usual for your parcel to arrive, because of Covid.”  Gah!!

Come on England …

Later – FFS!  England 0-0 Scotland.  That is not the result we wanted!


Saturday, June 19th

Gold star for the weather for staying nice today … and please, please be nice for my Lakes week in July too.

I went to Bodnant Garden today – so pleased to be able to see the famous Laburnum Arch (photo on the left), which I missed last year because we weren’t allowed into Wales at the right time.   They’ve scrapped that ridiculous one way system which no-one could follow last year, so you just walked round as you pleased, which was much better!

Then I went into Llanrwst, and then stopped at Colwyn Bay on the way home.

It was nice to see some coaches around: domestic coach tours have resumed.  But it’s so frustrating that, after everything we’ve been through, and the success of the vaccination programme, we’re now stuck with the Indian variant.   So many of the cases are in schools that it’s hard to see how the vaccination programme can stop it from spreading: there are no plans to vaccinate schoolchildren.

Heigh-ho …


Sunday, June 20th

Andy Burnham has had a right go at Stroppy Sturgeon over the travel restrictions, and demanded compensation for anyone affected.

I’ve managed to set up the NHS app on my phone – which, believe me, was a lot easier said than done.  It’s such a nightmare that I know some people who’ve ended up giving up.  So, hooray, app set up, downloaded my vaccination certification … only to find that the certificates expire after 30 days.  WTF?   They have “barcodes”, which “refresh” every 30 days, “to protect your data”.  Excuse me?  Do passports expire after 30 days?  Do driving licences expire after 30 days?  Do you become unvaccinated after 30 days?  What if they expire whilst you’re somewhere with no internet connection?  I really am annoyed about this.  There’s already concern about the whole idea of “proving your status”, which does sound a bit like something out of Nazi Germany, and then they make it extremely difficult to set up the app in the first place and then have this 30 day business.  So stupid.

Went to Hollingworth Lake this morning.  Rained overnight, dry during the day.

I really do not like Nicola Sturgeon.

The road to freedom? Week 11, June 7th to 13th 2021 inclusive

Monday, June 7th

Rafa beat Sinner, 7-5 6-3 6-0 🙂 .  I was expecting a much tougher match, so that was a relief!  Nole went 2 sets to 0 down, but won anyway.  So frustrating!

I feel like I’m in limbo.  I can’t send this e-mail until OK Boss gets back on Wednesday, and I still haven’t heard from the holiday company – with whom I am now beyond furious.   The people who answer the phones and e-mails are all terribly nice, but they can’t do anything until the wretched head office says so.  Having said which, I’m only going to get a load of abuse in response to the e-mail, and the Iceland trip can’t happen because of the quarantine rule, but I just want things sorted so that I know where I’m up to.

It’s still hot.  Everything seems strange and unreal when it’s hot.  Please, please do this when I’m in the Lakes!

People aged 25-29 will be able to book their first jabs from tomorrow.


Tuesday, June 8th

I could bloody well swing for whomever spread the Indian variant round Bolton.  Hancock has now said that everyone in Greater Manchester and affected parts of the rest of Lancashire should minimise travel into and out of the area (he can sod off with that) and avoid meeting indoors.   The good news is that the extra support from the military etc, which was provided to Bolton, will now be provided to everywhere else.  But why the hell wait until now?   The councils asked for extra help weeks ago.  Things would never have got this bad if it’d been done earlier.  The infection rate in Blackburn is now 546.

So now I’m stressed in case this becomes a full local lockdown just as I’m due to go to the Lakes – although hopefully it won’t, because things have improved in Bolton.  And Andy Burnham, who has now resurfaced, says that no-one needs to change existing plans.

But I am just sick of all this.  It seems to be never-ending.

Still no word from the holiday company.  I e-mailed them again, but got an out of office reply from the person with whom I’ve been dealing.  But she’s back in tomorrow.

In the middle of everything else, the EU is trying to start a row over sausages.  I am not making this up.


Wednesday, June 9th

I’ve cancelled my trip to Iceland 😦 .   I finally got to speak to someone in the “customer services” department and they said that, as far as they were concerned, the trip didn’t start until the day after arrival, so you could spend the afternoon you arrived shut up in your hotel room, hope your PCR tests came through before going out the next morning, and hope you tested negative.  I really, really want to do this trip, but how can I take that sort of chance?   Especially given that Iceland trips are expensive.   You’d be very unlucky to test negative on departure and positive on arrival, but it happened to some people going to the Aussie Open and returning from the Champions League final.  And, even if it was only for the first evening, who wants to be shut up in a hotel room on holiday?   So I’ve rebooked for next year.  I know it was the only decision that I could make, but I’m very sad.  I booked this trip in September 2019, and it was a real bucket list thing.  And it’s on the green list.  And I’ve been fully vaccinated.  But I just can’t take those chances with the PCR test.  I wanted the holiday company to decide for me … but they didn’t.

Anyway, the decision’s made.   This was meant to be one of the trips of a lifetime … and it’s turned into 16 months of worry!   Oh, when will this ever end?   Will we ever be able to travel normally again?

I sent the e-mail asking about WFH one day a week.  No reply.  Not even an acknowledgement.  How bloody, bloody rude.

On top of all that, Rafa lost the 2nd set to Diego, before winning 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-0.   Desperately hoping that Matteo can beat Nole this evening, but not holding my breath.  The other semi’s Stef v Sascha.  Some line-up!   Whereas the ladies’ semi-finalists are all unexpected.

Very hot and muggy, but dry – until about half 6 this evening.  But raining in the Lakes.

7,540 new cases today – the highest daily number since the end of February.   People are rushing to be vaccinated: over a million people booked jabs today.   A huge effort’s being made … but most of the new cases are in schoolkids and under 25s.

Sky News filmed the pop-up vaccination centre where my dad’s volunteering, yesterday, and Dad was on the news!  OK, it was for about 30 seconds, he was in the background, and you could hardly tell that it was him behind the mask and the cap, but still!


Thursday, June 10th

Still no reply.  FFS.

Very, very nervous about the semi-final.

Joe Salisbury and Desirae Krawczyk won the mixed doubles 🙂 .

Meanwhile … the snakes and ladders analogy’s been used before, and here we are again.  We were doing so well, and now we’ve slipped down another snake.  Over 7,000 new cases were reported today, for the second day in a row, and we’re being told that over 90% of new cases are of the Indian/Delta variant.  We really have had bad luck with these variants.  Why did the virus have to mutate in Kent, of all places on the planet?  And, as angry as I am that there seems to have been so much travel between Bolton and the Indian sub-continent at a time when no-one was meant to be going anywhere unless absolutely essential, and that rules on return don’t seem to have been followed, if the mutation had occurred pretty much anywhere else in Asia then it wouldn’t have affected us.  And why did it have to be us at the centre of it?  The North West?   Not that I wish it on anyone else, but why us?

But saying that isn’t going to help.  It is what it is, and we are where we are.  Infection rates in our borough are now over 200 per 100,000.  Only a few weeks ago, they were below 20 per 100,000.

Is there no end to this?

The vast majority of cases are in younger people, which does suggest that the vaccines are making a big difference.  Andy Burnham’s asked for hard-hit areas to be prioritised for vaccine supplies, but the powers that be aren’t having that.


Friday, June 11th

The match between Stef and Sascha went to a 5th set, before Stef finally won.  It would have been great, had I not been waiting anxiously for the match between Rafa and Nole to start!  It’s just got going.  And Euro 2020 also gets going tonight.

Over 8,000 cases today, and there’s no denying the fact that hospitalisations are “ticking up”.   And there’s such a backlog with everything.  Trying to get through to our doctors’ surgery is a nightmare.  Half the time, it’s engaged.  Then, when you do get through, you’re told that you’re number 5 or number 6 in a queue, and it can take so long to advance one position that you wonder if someone’s telling the receptionist their life history!   Then you’re told that you can’t see a doctor and will have to wait for a “phone consultation”.  Then they don’t ring when they say they will, so you’re stuck waiting by the phone.  And waiting times at A&E can be up to 8 hours.

It looks very likely that “unlocking” will be delayed by at least 4 weeks.  (I hope that horrible bosses respect this!)

Later – oh no 😦 .  Until today, Rafa had only ever lost twice at Roland Garros.  Now it’s three times.  He won the first set, and had a match point in the third, but, hands up, Nole deserved the win.  3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.  At stupid o’clock on a Friday night, after Stef had beaten Sascha in 5 sets.  I’ll be cheering Stef on on Sunday, but I feel very sad and just crushed.


Saturday, June 12th

Oh dear.  Sat down to watch some of Denmark v Finland, and Christian Eriksen (now of Inter Milan, formerly of Spurs) collapsed on the pitch.  There was no-one near him – I can only think it must have been some sort of heart problem, like with Fabrice Muamba and poor Marc-Vivien Foe.  The physios and medics did CPR, but it really didn’t look good.  The players went off.  Thankfully, we’ve now been told that he’s stable and awake.  And the match has resumed, two hours later – surely they wouldn’t have played on if he were in any danger.  But it was just awful.   Desperately hoping that he’s OK, and thank goodness for the wonderful medical staff.

Until then, it’d been the sort of glorious sunny summer sporting Saturday that we missed last summer, trying to keep up with the tennis – Barbora Krejcikova beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to win the French Open ladies’ singles, the cricket – er, not good – and the football.

This morning, I went to Tatton Park, to find that both cafes were closed, due to “staff shortages”.  FFS!  I got a pot of tea and a nice scone at a nearby garden centre with outdoor seating, but it was a jolly good job that I hadn’t gone for a full day.  They whinge and moan about how hard it’s been, put up the already extortionate entrance fee, and then close both cafes on a very busy summer Saturday when they could have taken thousands of pounds!   However, the gardens were looking lovely!

Weather still glorious.  Please, please don’t tell me that this is summer and we’ll get payback when I’m in the Lakes!  Nice weather for the scaled back Trooping the Colour parade.

It now looks all but certain that “unlocking” will be delayed by 4 weeks.   Things are improving in Bolton, but are bad in Blackburn, which has spilled over into Rossendale and Hyndburn, and is spilling over from there into Ramsbottom – although the rate of increase in the borough of Bury overall is dropping.  Cases are sky-rocketing in Salford, mainly in the university area.  Things also seem to be spilling over into “Cheshire East” and “Cheshire West”, but, strangely, not into St Helens and not much into Warrington.


Sunday, June 13th

The good news is that Christian Eriksen’s OK.  He may not play again, but he’s OK.  And the other good news is that England began with a win 🙂 – 1-0 over Croatia.

And it was so nearly good news in Paris, when Stef Tsitsipas went 2 sets to love up … but Nole came back to win in 5.   No offence to him, but that so wasn’t the result I wanted.

It is very hot.

I went to Blackpool this morning.  I always go to Blackpool on the morning of the French Open final.  It wasn’t really right, without Rafa in the final, but it was a shame to waste a lovely sunny morning.

And we await Boris’s decision tomorrow.  And we await the response of horrible bosses to it.   I know that my mental health, which has been quite fragile over the years, is going to take a huge hit from being trapped in that office again, so I’m trying not to think about it.   Boris claims that they haven’t decided yet, but I think he’s just saying that to avoid diverting attention from the G7 summit – which is quite understandable.