Lockdown III Week 4, January 25th to 31st 2021 inclusive

 

Monday, January 25th

Boris says that all adults in the UK will have been offered a first dose of the vaccine “by the autumn”.  What does that mean?  The beginning of September?  Or later?

Pressure’s growing for answers on when schools might reopen, but the Government just can’t answer that.  Data out today shows that teachers haven’t been affected any more than the population in general, but I doubt that that’ll stop the teaching unions from moaning.  Male factory workers are, sadly, most likely to have died from the virus.

Israel’s banning all international flights for a fortnight.  There’s talk of doing that here, or of using quarantine hotels like Australia’s doing.  I don’t understand why so many people are travelling.  There’ve been pictures of long queues at Heathrow.  The people in them weren’t in uniform, so they clearly weren’t airline crew staffing cargo flights.  And don’t tell me that they were all travelling for “essential work” purposes.  Some of them were kids!   Some people are being fined for driving 20 miles from Preston to Bolton and yet others are jetting off on holiday.  It’s not on.  How do they get away with it.

All Debenhams shops are to close permanently, although the “brand” has been taken over and will continue online.

On a happier note, more mass vaccination centres have opened, including one at the Blackpool Winter Gardens and one on Lancaster Cathedral.

More snow overnight.   Luckily, most of it’s melted now.  It looked very pretty under the blue sky, but I need to get to Tesco and M&S tomorrow!

And we really are terribly well-behaved in this country 🙂 .  There’ve been riots in the Netherlands, after the Dutch government announced new restrictions!

 

Tuesday, January 26th

The UK death toll from the pandemic passed 100,000 today.  We’ll never know the real death toll.  There’ll be people in the “official” figures who died of other things but had tested positive for the virus within 28 days.  There’ll be people who died of the virus but hadn’t had a test within 28 days, or (in the early days) at all.  There’ll be deaths caused indirectly by the virus – treatment for other conditions delayed, or, especially amongst elderly people in care homes, not allowed visitors, mental deterioration leading to physical deterioration.  But, comparing the expected/average death figures since the pandemic started with the actual death figures, 100,000’s probably about right.  A hundred thousand people.  All leaving behind devastated relatives and friends.

To put it into additional perspective, around 40,000 people were killed in the Blitz.

I actually cried when Sky News said 100,000.  We knew it’d be today, but the number just hit me.  A hundred thousand people.

I’m never sure how reliable the various figures are (I don’t believe any of the statistics that’ve come out of Russia, China or Iran), and I know that every country’s recording virus deaths differently, but some figures for deaths per million people, on what seems to be a reliable website, are – Belgium 1812, Slovenia 1618, UK 1474, Czech Republic 1448, Italy 1424, Bosnia-Herzegovina 1391, USA 1277, Peru 1218, Spain 1194, France 1082, Sweden 1070, Brazil 1031, the Netherlands 777, Germany 639, Rep of Ireland 602, India 112, Australia 25, New Zealand 5.

The political points-scorers are busily blaming Boris.  And, yes, mistakes have been made.  We should have closed our borders last February.  We should have locked down earlier.  But we weren’t that far after a lot of other countries.  Maybe we reopened too early.  But then so did a lot of other countries.  The second wave hit Spain long before it hit us.  And Sweden never really locked down at all.  Lockdown issues have certainly played a part.  But there has to be other stuff going on too.  The obvious answer is that it’s to do with population density, and concentration of population in urban centres.  Other demographic issues may also be involved – age, ethnicity.  Could occupations be a factor?  And travel? –  a lot of people pass through London, in particular, and a lot of people use crowded public transport to get to work.  Other health issues? – to do with demographics, climate, diet? I don’t know.  But someone needs to find out.

We need to know why the UK has been so badly hit.  And we, in the North, and especially in the North West, need to know why our region has been so badly hit.

Further to the Snapfish saga, they have, at the third attempt, managed to print the order correctly.  However, they sent it in two different envelopes (they often do this, I know not why) and only one has arrived.  They do occasionally get separated in the post and arrive on different days, so I’m just hoping that the rest turn up tomorrow.

The car was iced up so badly when I went out (to go to Tesco and M&S) this morning that I couldn’t even open the doors until I’d cleared the ice.  Later, it warmed up a bit, but poured down.  No-one is feeling great at the moment.  Cold rain does not help.

And, on a happier note, my brother-in-law’s mum and dad (in the 70-74 age group) both had their first doses of the vaccine today.

 

Wednesday, January 27th

Oh FFS.  City won last night, to take top spot ahead of us.  Tonight, we were playing Sheffield United who, with all due respect to them, had only won one match all season … until tonight, when they beat us 2-1.  Bloody hellfire 😦 .

No update on any sort of plan even to begin easing restrictions until the end of February.  And schools won’t reopen until March 8th at the earliest.  And then it’ll be, hey, a few rural areas, off you go, and to hell with other areas.  What is to be done to help kids in the worst-affected areas?   There’s been some talk of cancelling the summer holidays, but there’s no way teachers’ll agree to that.  And WHEN will we be able to travel even within the UK?

A few examples of infection rates (which I know aren’t the only factors involved, but we don’t get breakdowns by area of the other stats:

Knowsley 882, Sandwell 808, Slough 753, Brent 677, Birmingham 597

Hyndburn 568, Carlisle 544, Norwich 465, Southampton 404

Manchester central 356, Bristol 331, Bury 316, Leeds 294, Sheffield 240, Newcastle 238

… and then right down to NE Lincs on 100, and Torridge (Devon) 51

 

There are all sorts of rows going on over vaccine supplies.  Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca are both struggling to meet existing orders.  I’m sure they’re doing their best, but Germany’s threatening to stop Pfizer exports and Italy’s threatening to sue.  The EU is trying to control all member states by imposing some sort of joint vaccine supply programme, although Hungary (good for Hungary!) has gone its own way and ordered supplies from Russia.  The EU also seems to think that its orders should be prioritised over everyone else’s.  Their deal with Astra Zeneca wasn’t made until three months after the UK’s, but, a bit like Verruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they are stamping their feet and screaming “I want it now” (well, not quite, but not far off).  Talk about selfish and petulant.  And vaccine supplies to North West England, and other parts of the North, are to be reduced by a third, and supplies diverted to London, which is running behind.

Quarantine hotels are to be brought in, but only for people entering from certain countries.  Oh FFS.  It takes weeks and weeks before mutant strains are identified.  For all we know, mutant strains could currently be on the loose in France or Germany or Outer Mongolia or anywhere.  And why are so many people travelling anyway?

On the positive side, the rest of my Snapfish order has arrived.  And one of the park cafes has said that they’re introducing a 20% discount for regulars, which I class as!  And it’s been dry, and a lot warmer than usual.

Theoretically, things should feel better once we get more daylight and warmer weather.  And yet then it’ll hurt even more, because then I’ll be missing things.  I should be going to Rode Hall for the snowdrop walks next week.  Then to see the snowdrops at Chirk Castle, my pre-birthday treat.  And maybe to Rufford Old Hall and Arley Hall.  Then to Bettys in Ilkley, to see the Easter eggs and cakes.  Then into daffodil season – first Chirk, then Biddulph Grange, and then, most importantly of all, the Lakes.  Then the lambs, at Tatton Park and Bolton Abbey.  Then into bluebell season, Capesthorne Hall and Erddig and the Windermere west shore.  Will I get to do any of that?  The virtue signallers make you feel guilty for saying things like that, but more and more people are saying that they’re struggling.

 

Thursday, January 28th

Infection rates in our borough dropped below 300 yesterday.  5 of the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs are now below 300.  But we’re being told that the peak of hospital admissions is likely to come this weekend, and last for a while.

According to reports in the papers, non-essential shops (including hair salons?) aren’t likely to reopen until April.  And is that early April or late April?  And cafes and restaurants not until May.  Travel hasn’t been mentioned.  Nor have cinemas, theatres etc.  And heaven only knows when we’ll be able to go back to football matches, concerts etc.

The picture’s grim across most of Europe too.  France could be heading back into lockdown.  Madrid and Barcelona are running short of vaccine supplies.  Germany has said it’ll have vaccine supply issues until Easter.  Hospitals in Lisbon are running short of beds.  Over in the US, there are reports that a new variant may have emerged in California.   And Canada’s got concerns over vaccine supplies.  We don’t hear much from the rest of the world, but I gather that things are particularly bad in Mexico, and that parts of Peru are going back into lockdown.   And Lebanon’s in full lockdown: you’re not even allowed to go food shopping, but have to rely on deliveries.

Also, will someone please tell Nicola Sturgeon to STFU?  Seriously, is this the time to be mithering about an independence referendum?  She is so annoying.

Meanwhile, there are concerns about low take-up of the vaccine amongst some ethnic minority groups.  But, on a happier note, it looks as if the Novavax vaccine, being manufactured in Teesside, is pretty effective.

I am not finding it easy being chained to the office computer during the day, with virtually no contact from work (I’m not sure what I expect them to do, to be fair, but they could try to offer a bit of support) and doing housework, without having anything nice to look forward to at weekends … or for months ahead.

 

Friday, January 29th

I can’t believe what’s going on over the vaccines.  The European Commission has long been a deeply unpleasant organisation, but this just takes the biscuit.  If it weren’t for the companies who’ve developed the vaccines, we’d all be facing a future of either permanent lockdown or else millions more deaths, and many more people left with long term health problems, until herd immunity was reached.  Instead of thanking and praising these heroes, the European Commission has done nothing but issue them with threats and demands.  And insist that it should get first dibs on any vaccine produced, and to hell with the rest of the world, and never mind the fact that the UK order with Astra Zeneca was placed three months before its order was.   We’re all frustrated about the delays and production problems, but they’re pharmaceutical companies, not miracle workers.  There were bound to hiccups with operations on this scale.  And, now, export controls are being put on any supplies being exported from the EU – which is going to endanger anyone in non-EU countries who’s had the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and is waiting for the second, not to mention going against every trade deal going, as it would block the fulfilment of longstanding contracts.  Talk about I’m all right, Jack.

Meanwhile, Janssen, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson (I got confused by this and thought that two separate companies had both produced vaccines, but no!) have got a vaccine which is 66% effective, so not as good as the others, but only needs one dose.

In other news, Eurosport kindly televised the exhibition matches from Adelaide, so I got to see Rafa beat Dominic 🙂 .  And in front of a crowd!  So, so wonderful to see crowds back at matches.  When will it happen here?

And I had actually lost a few pounds from Saturday to Wednesday,  But half of them have suddenly gone back on on Wednesday and Thursday,  I just do not understand this.  One day could have been a blip, but two?  I haven’t done anything different.  I am very demoralised 😦 .

 

Saturday, January 30th

I am so, so disgusted with the European Commission.   They have totally screwed things up for 27 countries in terms of the vaccine roll-out, and are trying to divert attention from their incompetence by acting like arrogant, petulant bullies … which just makes them look even more incompetent.  Last night, an almighty row broke out when they decided to try to use Northern Ireland as a political football, saying that, in violation of the Brexit deal, they would impose border controls between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, to stop the UK from getting any vaccine supplies (yes, those vaccine supplies which will save people’s lives, and which the UK has quite legitimately ordered) from within the EU.   Without even bothering to consult the Republic of Ireland.  Or any other member states.  Everyone hit the roof – in London, in Belfast, in Dublin and elsewhere – and they had to back down.  I’m tempted to say “Hah”, but this really, really isn’t funny.  It’s left a very bad taste in everyone’s mouths.  And they’re still saying that they’ll block vaccine exports, although Michael Gove’s said that the UK’s vaccination programme won’t be affected.

It’s hard not to see this as the European Commission throwing its toys out of the pram because it can’t bear the fact that the UK vaccination programme’s going so much better than its own (Le Figaro‘s headline yesterday was “Vaccination: Brexit 1, Brussels 0”), but it won’t just affect the UK: it’ll affect Canada, Australia, Japan and many other countries too.

The WHO has condemned the European Commission’s vile attitude and behaviour.

Politicians and newspapers in various EU countries are extremely peed off with the European Commission.

Meanwhile, many highly vulnerable people in 27 countries, who could have been vaccinated by now had their governments made their own arrangements, are still waiting.

OK, enough about the vaccine row.   Two more points dropped today, in a 0-0 draw at Arsenal, whilst City won again.  Bah.  And I’m going to have to start using the spray on hair dye again: my grey roots are really showing.  Bah again.

On a happier note, I had such a nice time at Dunham Massey!  I’m disappointed about missing the snowdrops and early daffodils at Rode Hall and Chirk, but the Dunham Winter Garden, which I don’t normally go to at this time of year – I’m usually busy with the Australian Open during the second half of January, and then I prioritise Rode and Chirk in February – has got some beautiful, beautiful carpets of snowdrops, and quite a few early daffodils too.  I was so pleased that I went round the gardens, then round the deer park, and then back to the gardens for a second look!   Gorgeous 🙂 .

 

Sunday, January 31st

I found some snowdrops in the park today!  It was a bit of the park which I don’t normally go to, but I was trying to find a quiet area without any dogs … having been jumped up at my a horrible dog with filthy muddy paws.  Most of the mud brushed off, but the owner didn’t even apologise – just said “It’s a dog, what d’you expect?”.  I am so, so sick of dogs.  They are everywhere.  And the noise they make carries such a long way, especially with yappy little dogs with high-pitched barks.

Dogs apart, it was very nice in the park.

 

Scone courtesy of The Coffee Sack 🙂 .

Infection rates in Greater Manchester are still falling, but not as quickly as the national average, and the rate for the city centre is now above the average.  I really cannot face a return to the Evil Tier System and being told that other people can travel around the country, reopen their businesses and send their kids back to school, but we can’t, after everything we’ve been through already.  The situation nationwide seems to be stabilising, but we’re being told that it’ll be at least a fortnight before the impact of the vaccination programme starts to have any effect.  609,010 doses were given yesterday!  That’s the highest number yet.   Almost 9 million people have now received their first dose.

A WHO team’s in Wuhan, trying to get to the bottom of how this nightmare started, but I don’t think China will ever let us know.

Worrying news from Portugal, where patients are having to be sent abroad as there are hardly any intensive care beds left.  And also some worrying news here – Captain Sir Tom Moore’s in hospital with pneumonia and coronavirus.  Oh, what horrendous irony that one of the biggest heroes of this nightmare should contract the virus.  He’s not in intensive care, and hopefully he’ll be OK, but I was very upset to hear that he was ill.

And, despite a drop in temperature, it’s definitely feeling a bit springlike, but snow’s forecast for Tuesday.  Please, please do not cause any problems on Friday, when I need to take my car in for its MOT!

Anniversaries, Adelaide tennis and appalling ingratitude

  It’s a year today since the first cases of Covid-19 were identified in the UK, at a hotel in York, in a family who’d recently returned from Wuhan.  At the time, it was worrying, but we certainly couldn’t have seen what lay ahead.  It’s a grim anniversary.

Meanwhile, the wonderful pharmaceutical companies which have done such amazing work in creating effective vaccines so quickly, and hopefully offering us all a way out of this nightmare, and which deserve the highest honours which every country and organisation in the world has to offer, are being rewarded for their superlative efforts with threats of legal action from the European Commission (against AstraZeneca) and the Italian government (against PfizerBioNTech).  Seriously?!   I’m sure they’re doing their best, but there are bound to be teething problems with producing such vast quantities of new products.  And one of the issues is that production’s been interrupted whilst they try to increase capacity, which they have to do because it may well be that the entire population of the world has to receive a dose of the vaccine every year.  Nothing like this has ever been done before.  They should be getting Nobel Prizes, not threatened with lawsuits.   It’s extremely unedifying behaviour from the politicians concerned.

On a happier note, how glorious to see live tennis in front of crowds, at the exhibition event in Adelaide. Particularly glorious in that Rafa won his match in straight sets 🙂 , but, hey, just glorious generally.  Well done and thank you so much to Tennis Australia and the wonderful Australian people  for everything they’ve done.

There’s been widespread publicity about some of the “issues” involving the quarantine procedures for the players and those accompanying them.  OK, being stuck in a hotel room for 14 days, and, if you were unlucky enough to be on one of the flights where someone tested positive, not being allowed out to practise as originally planned, must have been pretty grim.  Especially if you had mice in your room.  But, hey, if being shut in a room for 14 days, even with an entire family of mice, means being able to see your family and friends, go to sporting events, go out to restaurants, etc etc, at the end of it, then give me the address of the hotel and I’ll be there as quickly as I can.  Unfortunately, it’s not going to be like that for most of us – as Rafa said, Spain’s been badly hit, and so have the UK, the US, Brazil, Mexico, France, Italy and so many other countries.  Portugal seems to be suffering particularly badly at the moment.

But, oh, how brilliant to see tennis in front of crowds!  Thank you, Australia <3.  And thank you Eurosport – exhibition matches aren’t usually televised, but this one was special!

 

 

 

 

Lockdown III Week 3, January 18th to 24th 2021 inclusive

Monday, January 18th

Ten new mass vaccination centres opened today, including another two in the North West.  Some areas, and I’m pleased to say that ours is one of them, are moving on to people in the 70-74 age group and younger people who are classed as clinically vulnerable.  However, some areas aren’t going as quickly as others, which seems to be a supply issue.   But over 4 million people have had their first doses now, and (not that it’s a competition) we’ve got the fourth highest per capita rate in the world.

I had a letter from the building society today, saying that they want to put my mortgage protection insurance up because they expect loads of people to be made redundant this year.  Very cheerful!   I’m not sure how much of it is a genuine result of forecasts and how much is just an excuse to try to get more money out of people.

Someone got fined for driving from Preston to Bolton to collect a takeaway.  FFS.  OK, I’m sure there are plenty of takeaways in Preston, but it’s hardly a long journey, and they were in their own car.  Shouldn’t the police be concentrating on breaking up mass gatherings, or closing shops which are open illegally?  And the press are tutting over pictures of lots of people walking in parks etc.  This happened during the first lockdown.  If you live in a built-up, densely-populated area, and are not supposed to leave it, how are you supposed to exercise without there being other people around?

And could someone please tell Novak Djokovic to shut up?  It is obviously far from ideal that 72 players, and their coaches etc, are all shut in their hotel rooms, not even allowed to open the doors.  Especially when they need to keep fit ahead of a strenuous two week tournament in the heat.  Also, the food looks very poor, and we’ve all seen the pictures of the mouse in Yulia Putintseva’s room.  But it is not helpful for Nole to demand that they be moved to private homes with their own tennis courts!   He’s just annoying everyone and sounding like a spoilt brat.  The situation is a nightmare, though.

 

Tuesday, January 19th

1,610 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test have been recorded today, the highest figure since the pandemic began.  The figures have been much lower over the past couple of days and they probably do average out, but it’s still very, very distressing and worrying.

Infection rates are falling in 9 out of 10 Greater Manchester boroughs now.  But not as quickly as the national average is falling, although I suppose rates are bound to be falling more quickly in areas which went into Tier 4 first. Things are improving, though.  Infections and hospitalisations across the country are falling, but things are still grim.  The lockdown in Scotland’s been extended, and there’s no sign of restrictions being lifted anywhere else either.

Figures show that there are five times as many kids in school in England as there were during the first lockdown.  Whew!   I think we’re all aware that far more kids are in school, but five times as many?!  It’s been suggested that schools will reopen on a regional basis.  I quite see that there’s no point keeping kids out of school in Devon because infection rates are still high in Carlisle, for example, but it’s going to mean kids in the hardest-hit areas being at an even bigger disadvantage.

Today, I have been to:

  1. Tesco, where some of the staffed checkouts have been replaced by self-scanner checkouts.  Not self-service, which are bad enough, but self-scanner.  No doubt, in 10 years’ time staffed checkouts will seem as outdated as going into a corner shop and asking a grocer for six apples and two pounds of flour, but I prefer the staffed ones!
  2. Marks & Spencer’s, where, amongst other things, I collected the free pineapple which I had been awarded for using my Sparks card.  Life is so boring ATM that a free pineapple seems quite exciting.
  3.  The frozen yoghurt shop.
  4. The office, to leave some files and collect others.  There were loads of cars in the car park.  Some of the people at other firms in the building don’t seem even to be bothering to try working from home.
  5.  The park, in torrential rain.  Thanks to Storm Christophe, the weather is utterly vile.   I’m sure I should get double calorie burn-off for walking in that sort of weather.

And it’s Donald Trump’s last day in office.  Thank heavens for that.

 

Wednesday, January 20th

Every time you think things can’t get any worse, they do.  1,820 deaths recorded today.  Infections are falling, but the numbers of deaths are just horrendous.  On top of that, research from Israel suggests that one dose of vaccine may not be as effective as originally thought in preventing infection, so we may have to give everyone two doses before things start improving significantly.  Will this nightmare never end?

On top of that, the weather is horrendous, and there are fears that there may be flooding in parts of South Manchester and Cheshire, and maybe even in town.  I got drenched in the park, despite my brolly.  Then, during United v Fulham (luckily, we were away, and City played earlier), it started snowing.  A lot.

It’s very hard not to turn to food for comfort.

Players in quarantine at the mice-infested hotel in Melbourne have been advised to “minimise interaction” with the mice, i.e. not to feed them.  This is getting farcical.  I know it’s a very difficult situation and Tennis Australia have gone to a lot of effort, etc, but surely it’s not unreasonable to expect hotel rooms which aren’t full of mice!

On a happier note, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been sworn in.  I thought Biden spoke quite well, about the need to come together and work together.  I wish them both luck.  They’re going to need it!

And we’re back on top of the league, after a 2-1 win at Fulham.  Leicester went top last night, then City after their win in tonight’s early KO, and now us again.  It’s certainly exciting … just so sad that there’s no prospect of fans being allowed in this season.

 

Thursday, January 21st

It’s stopped raining, and, after two hours of heavy snow last night, there’s been no more snow.  Thankfully, the flood defences in the Didsbury/Northenden area held, but homes and businesses have been flooded in Lymm, Northwich and other parts of the North West.  Just as if things aren’t bad enough.  Boris has been to visit.  Not that there was much he could do, but at least he showed willing.

Northern Ireland’s lockdown’s been extended until March.

Concerns are rising over a low level of take-up of the vaccines in certain ethnic minority communities.  It seems to be a particular problem in the West Midlands.  Unfortunately, irresponsible people are spreading anti-vaxxer messages and frightening people.

There’ve also been reports that another new variant’s been found, this time in Liverpool.  Hopefully it’s something and nothing.  That really would be a nightmare.

Fines for attending house parties are to be increased.  It sounds good, but all people have to do is say that they can’t pay.

Glastonbury’s been cancelled, for a second successive year.  It’s not a surprise, but it’s a psychological blow, because it’s such a big event on the calendar, and it’s also yet another huge blow to the live music industry, and the events industry in general.   And one scientist’s said that pubs, restaurants, cafes etc shouldn’t be allowed to reopen until May.  The hospitality industry’s on its knees.  The travel industry’s on its knees.  A lot of sports clubs are on their knees.  Obviously, things cannot reopen under the present circumstances, but … bloody hellfire, how much longer can businesses survive?

 

Friday, January 22nd

A load of people formed an orderly queue outside a centre in Timperley after it was reported that it was going to be turned into a vaccination hub.  They hadn’t got appointments, and there weren’t even any doses of the vaccine there!  But it shows how desperate people are to get vaccinated.  There’ve been some reports of low uptake in certain areas, but I haven’t heard of any such issues in the North West.

The R number is now below 1, which is great news, but there were another 1,401 deaths today, and Boris has said that it’s feared that the mutant virus is more deadly than the original.  People from other parts of the country are being moved to hospitals in Greater Manchester.  There’ve been some calls to stop international travel completely, but I don’t know how practical that is when cargo still needs to be moved around.

There are reports that the Olympics could be cancelled.  I don’t think that the mayhem over the Australian Open’s helping.  Andy Murray won’t be playing in Melbourne because it just can’t be sorted in time.  There are a lot of arguments going on on social media over the whole quarantine situation.  It’s a nightmare.

Snapfish have reprinted my photos, but they’ve done the same thing again -jumbled them all up.  You can no longer ring up, and my “livechat” with someone who barely spoke a word of English was a waste of time.  Someone is supposed to be contacting me by e-mail.  I’m still waiting.

And I am so tired of all the hatred.  Why do people hate others so much, just because they vote for a different political party?  And why do they feel the need to post that all over social media?

At least the weather’s cleared up …

 

Saturday, January 23rd

It snowed quite heavily this morning.  When I got to the park – having stopped en route to pick up a scone 🙂 – there were lots of kids sledging and building snowmen.  The snow’d gone by early afternoon, so it didn’t cause any problems, and it was a bit of fun.  There are “Covid marshals” in the park at weekends, but a) they seemed more interested in messing with their phones than in watching people and b) no-one was doing anything wrong anyway.  It was too cold to hang around in big groups like people were doing in the spring.

The animal centre’s been closed since March.  Paying zoos opened up for a while, but the park centre didn’t.  The animals look rather bored and lonely 😦 .

Everyone is fed up.  I know we should be counting our blessings, but this is crap.  And there’s no end in sight.  Two months into the spring lockdown, you could go to Blackpool.  We’ve now been under travel restrictions for three months, and there’s no sign of things changing.  There was originally some talk of restrictions being eased by mid-February, but then it was early March, then the end of March, then Easter, and now there’s even been talk of it going on until the summer.  I feel so trapped by work, and we get so little time off, that it’s really important to me to do something special at weekends and to plan holidays, and I can’t do any of that.   People who live on their own are feeling lonely.  People who live with others are getting sick of being with them round the clock.  People are worried about money.  Kids are getting behind in their education.  And, of course, people are worried about the virus risk.  It was bad enough in the spring, but, back then, we hadn’t been under restrictions for nearly a year already, and it was still light at the end of the working day, and the weather was nice.  This is crap.

Scientists are disputing the reports that the mutant version of the virus is more deadly.  It would explain a lot if it is.  Things are bad in a lot of places, but the death rates here are just horrendous.  Political points-scorers are saying that it’s all because Boris didn’t put us into lockdown soon enough in March, but that’s rubbish.  Whatever mistakes were made in March, infection rates and death rates were way, way down by July.  Something new is going on now.

The good news is that more and more people are getting their first shots of the vaccine.  But scientists are now saying that leaving a 12 week gap between the first and second shots is no good.

Sometimes, I still can’t believe that all this is really happening.

And I am having nightmares with Snapfish.  The “livechat” is a joke: the staff barely speak a word of English, ask the set questions on their script, and can’t cope if you go off the script.  They’ve had the nerve to offer me 100 free photos as a “goodwill gesture” after ruining my order of 638 photos!  And I can’t get any further reply from them.

 

Sunday, January 24th

United 3-2 Liverpool!  Great Cup tie, and into the 5th round we go.  But when will fans ever get back to matches?

6.3 million people have now had their first dose of the vaccination.  That’s a higher percentage of the adult population than anywhere other than Israel and the UAE.  But Matt Hancock’s said that we’re a “long, long way” from easing restrictions.

The virus situation in Greater Manchester doesn’t actually seem any worse than it was in October and early November.  I may well be talking rubbish, because we don’t get detailed regional data on hospitalisations and fatalities, but that’s how it seems to me.  But it seems unlikely that restrictions will be lifted until mid-March at the earliest … and, even then, it’ll be back to the Evil Tier System.  I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t see schools reopening fully until mid-April, after the Easter holidays.

I wish different groups of people would stop demanding to be given priority for vaccination.  There is only so much vaccine available.  Clinically vulnerable people need to be vaccinated first.  Why do teaching unions seem to think that teachers should take priority over those most likely to die>

I’ve been to Clifton Country Park today.  Quieter than usual, but there was far more rule-breaking going on than there was at Heaton Park.  No huge groups, but loads of groups which clearly consisted of two or three couples plus kids.  I know there’s a risk, but I do think that way too much attention is being paid to people out for walks – the police have been lurking round some beauty spots and fining people who’ve come more than a few miles – rather than on Covid safety in workplaces.  There are some offices round here where you see around 15 cars parked outside every day.  What’s more risky, 15 people in an office together or 4 people out for a walk together?

I’ve also read two newspapers and part of a book, watched the match, watched a historical documentary, watched part of a film, written a post on my book/TV/film review blog, written some fanfic and done some house stuff.  But it still feels like a waste of a day.

WordPress thumbnails have suddenly stopped displaying on the Facebook app.  You just get a grey box with a bit of writing in it.  The pics come up as normal on the browser and mobile browser version, so it’s clearly an app issue.  Links to, say, the BBC website or the MEN website are fine.  But the issue seems to be affecting Blogspot as well as WordPress.  I appreciate that this is not the end of the world: it is hardly as if more than half a dozen people at the most ever click on to my posts through Facebook anyway, and those who do can always click on the grey box.  But it’s annoying me like mad.  ETA – ah, problem solved!  The picture needs to be enlarged.  Which is very odd, because it never used to display unless the picture was small!

However, I finally got some sense out of Snapfish.  I’ve uploaded the photos again, so we can start from scratch, and they’re going to print them for the third time, free of charge,  Fingers crosses1

The release of the new James Bond film’s been delayed again.

But sea shanties have become a thing, after a postman made a video of himself singing one, and it went viral!  Maybe we can all bond over sea shanties 🙂 .

 

 

Manchester monsoons, Melbourne mice, park perambulations and lockdown locks

  2020 was The Year Without Wimbledon. This is The January Without The Australian Open.  And, on top of the plague, we’ve now got floods.  Sounds a bit Biblical, doesn’t it?  I think it’s fair to say that this year has not got off to the best of starts.  The Northwich/Warrington/Lymm area seems to have borne the brunt of the floods, although other areas have been affected too, and it’s very sad to see the pictures of the chaos caused.  Twelve cars were submerged just a few miles down the road from here, and people in parts of Didsbury and Northenden were evacuated.

It’s never the best time of year anyway, and what normally gets me through it is the Australian Open … but that’s been delayed by three weeks, and the build-up has turned into utter chaos.  There are now reports that the Olympics could be cancelled, and it can’t be a coincidence that these are emerging just after all the chaos over the Aussie Open kicked off.  Tennis Australia put a huge amount of effort into making the arrangements, but I don’t think anyone anticipated that people who’d tested negative 72 hours before flying would then test positive after arriving.  Everyone who was on a flight with those affected, and three different flights were involved, is now confined to their hotel rooms, rather than, as originally planned, being able to go out to practise for five hours a day.  And some of the rooms have got mice in them.  And there are all sorts of rows going on over social media, with everyone and their dog shoving their oar in.   What a nightmare.

Also, I just panicked when I saw that Coronation Street had had to pause filming for a fortnight as scripts need to be adjusted due to the latest lockdown, but, phew, it’s not going to affect the number of episodes shown.

Meanwhile, we’re pretty much confined to barracks, but we are allowed out to exercise, and I’m very grateful for having Heaton Park within walking distance – and for the fact that I’ve discovered that a café which I pass on my way there does excellent scones.  I know – no wonder I’m so fat 😦 .  The park’s like the social hub of the community – it’s a bit like the days when the upper classes would go riding out in Hyde Park to see and be seen!  Walk round the park for long enough, and you’ll see all sorts of people you know.

The daffodil shoots in the park are coming through now, though … although they aren’t growing as fast as my hair (which is also greying … meaning that I’m going to have to start using that awful spray-on hair dye as well).  I’m looking forward to seeing the spring flowers.  We’ve still got flowers.  And United are top of the league!  And we’ve still got each other.  It’s sad that some people seem to use social media primarily to post hatred – why hate people so much, just because they vote for a different political party to you – but most people use it to connect with relatives and friends, and hopefully that’ll get us through it.   And, all being well, we will get the Australian Open in February!  It always ends in tears.  Well, nearly always.  It first broke my heart in 1990, and, with a few exceptions, notably in 2009, it’s done the same most years ever since.  But at least it’ll be something to focus on.  And then the snowdrops and the daffodils will come …

 

Lockdown III Week 2, January 11th to 17th 2021 inclusive

Monday, January 11th

It has rained on and off all day.  This at least meant that there was no queue at the park café.  However, Boris has been muttering about shutting park cafes down.  FFS.  Another option mentioned has been stopping people from exercising with someone from another household.  But some people, especially women, are nervous about walking on their own.  This may be the first time ever that I’ve agreed with Sadiq Khan, but he’s said that places of worship should be closed, and he’s right.  Hancock was asked about driving to exercise, but either misunderstood or sidestepped the question.  So he didn’t say that I couldn’t go to Dunham Massey or Hollingworth Lake.  TBH, I think he sidestepped it because there’s been (quelle surprise) some political points-scoring going on over Boris being see riding a bike 7 miles from home.  FFS, have people got nothing better to worry about?  He was on a bike, on his own, not having a party!  Meanwhile, Derbyshire police have apologised to the 2 women involved in the infamous reservoir walk incident, and rescinded the fines.

Hancock did say that support bubbles definitely won’t be banned.

On a happier note, 2.3 million people have now received at least one dose of the vaccine.  7 mass vaccination centres opened across the country today.   And the rate at which infections are increasing is slowing.

Rugby union cup matches have been suspended, because of virus issues.

United v Liverpool in the 4th round of the Cup.  Oh FFS!!

Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have said that people won’t be allowed in without masks, unless they’re medically exempt.  I’ve heard that before.  It’s very awkward: supermarket staff are afraid of being accused of discriminating against people with hidden health conditions etc.  To be fair, I rarely see anyone in Tesco or M&S without a mask, these days.

I’m so desperate to be able to plan something that I’ve spent a stupid amount of time thinking about which cakes to get as treats for my birthday.  It is 6 1/2 weeks until my birthday.  And I’m supposed to be on a diet.

 

Tuesday, January 12th

Another press conference tonight, this one with Priti Patel, a senior police officer and a senior doctor.  The police guy talked a lot of sense about the problems caused by people who are holding parties or going on coach trips, rather than mithering people walking round parks.  Someone from Sky News suggested that there should be more focus on the risk within workplaces, which is, as he said, likely to be far higher than that posed by people walking in parks. Another reporter just had to bring up the Derbyshire incident yet again.  Oh, FFS.  Enough.   I think the police guy was pretty narked that people were still harping on about it.   The media are being really childish, and it’s not helping.

But then nor are the police.  On top of the Derbyshire incident, police in Wales fined a woman and her husband for driving 7 miles to visit her 94-year-old mother!   How is visiting someone in their mid-90s not classed as a compassionate visit, which is allowed?  I appreciate that these are isolated incidents, but they’re making the police look stupid.  People are now teasing each other in the park about making sure you don’t get arrested for having a bottle of water and a packet of crisps with you.

The Republic of Ireland’s now got the highest infection rate in the world, and Portugal’s having a bad time of it as well.  And two gorillas at San Diego zoo have got the virus.  And Angela Merkel’s been going on about “the British variant”.  Whilst people have – quite rightly – got annoyed with Donald Trump for talking about “the Chinese virus”, it’s apparently OK for European leaders to talk about “the British variant”.  Quelle surprise.  Oh, and there’s now another variant – which apparently emerged in Brazil.

Nearly 697,000 deaths were registered in the UK in 2020, compared with an average of nearly 606,000 each year between 2015 and 2019.  That’s a difference of 91,000.  So that’s higher than the official death toll, but, unlike in Russia, not way, way higher.  It’s very hard to judge any of these statistics.  But they’re clearly not good.

I noticed that there was a guard by the entrance to Tesco this morning, but I didn’t see anyone going in without a mask anyway.  But I go early in the morning, when it’s quiet.  Tesco, Asda and Waitrose have now joined Morrisons and Sainsbury’s in banning people without masks, other than those who are medically exempt.  But wearing masks in shops has been compulsory since July.

Later, I had to go into the office for an hour, to put some files away, collect some other files, collect some post, and print some large documents which I can’t print at home.  There were a lot of cars in the car park: people in some of the other offices in the block are clearly making no effort at all to work from home.   And so many kids are in school.  Hmm.

On a happier note, we are top of the league after a 1-0 win at Burnley!!

 

Wednesday, January 13th

It has rained nearly all day, and more snow is forecast.  This isn’t making anyone feel any better.  Also, I am so, so sick of political points-scoring.  Can’t we all try to come together at this horrendous time?  1,564 virus deaths reported today, the highest daily figure yet, and all Keir Starmer can do is bleat that what Boris said before we knew about the new variant was wrong, and that “more restrictions” are needed but without suggesting what.  There’ve also been some very distressing pictures of wholly inadequate food parcels provided to underprivileged families whilst schools were closed.  Whilst government politicians bleated that they were inadequate, and Labour politicians bleated that this showed how evil the Tories were (even though the parcels came from an independent supplier), who was the only person who actually did something useful, i.e. contacted the suppliers and told them to up their game, and then contacted the Prime Minister?  Marcus Rashford.  Marcus is a wonderful young man, but why was it left to a footballer to take action about this?

I’m hearing a lot of confused reports about vaccination.  Some local surgeries have got supplies of the vaccine, but others haven’t, and there are reports about people over 80 trying to book appointments but being told to go to centres miles away.

On a more positive note, the rate of increase of infections does seem to be falling.  It’s still worrying high in our area, but the rates of increase is certainly down.  The situation in Merseyside and Widnes is very concerning, though.

 

Thursday, January 14th

What is going on with the vaccine?  My uncle, who is 75, has had his first dose.  Obviously this is brilliant news, but my mum and dad, who are also 75, and in the same health authority but with a different GP surgery, haven’t been contacted.  Nor has a family friend, who’s 80.   Why are some surgeries moving on to the 75-79 age group when others haven’t contacted people in the 80 and over group?

It’s rained again for most of the day, apart from when it sleeted, but at least we haven’t had heavy snow like they have in Yorkshire.  Some vaccination centres have had to close because of the weather.  The Pennines seem to be protecting us: a friend who’s only about 20 miles away, but on the Yorkshire side, sent me a photo of heavy snow at her house.

Andy Murray’s got the virus!   He’s not unwell, and hopefully he’ll be OK for the Australian Open, but still.

And arrivals from the whole of South America, plus Panama, plus Portugal and the Cape Verde islands, have been banned, because of the new variant found in Brazil.  Apart from British and Irish nationals, anyone else with UK residency, and hauliers.  Why are so many people travelling, anyway?  OK, obviously hauliers have to travel, and someone’s got to man cargo flights, but there still seem to be an awful lot of people moving around.

And my diet is a disaster.  It’s not working, and I’m getting demoralised and comfort-eating.  Today has not been a good day.  People say that the virus has changed everything, but it hasn’t.  It hasn’t changed the fact that I’m chained to an office computer, it hasn’t changed the need to do housework, and it hasn’t changed the fact that I put on weight for no reason and can’t lose it.  But it’s changed the fact that I can try to cope with that by doing nice things at weekends and going on holiday.

 

Friday, January 15th

Hooray!   Mum and Dad have been called for their vaccination first doses.  And they can go very soon – tomorrow, in fact, to the local walk-in centre.  Such a relief – I was quite emotional when Mum sent the message.  Goodness knows when I’ll get done, but progress is certainly being made on vaccinating the more vulnerable groups.

And the decorator’s been, to paint the kitchen ceiling where there was the leak.  Having to see that huge brown splodge every time I went into the kitchen was doing my head in.  So glad that it’s done.

And I’m glad that it’s Friday.  Being chained to the office computer, with no prospect of being able to go out and do nice stuff at the weekend or plan a holiday, gets you down.  All travel corridors are to end from 4am on Monday … not that anyone’s going far at the moment.  Mind you, I say that, but it’s amazing how much international travel does seem to be going on.  OK, obviously someone has to transport cargo, but there seem to be a lot of other people on the move too.

The economy shrank by 2.6% in November- much less than expected, probably because of people doing Christmas shopping online, but still grim.  The overall decrease since February is 8.5%.  On a happier note, insurers who’ve tried to get out of paying out on business interruption policies have been told by the courts that lockdown definitely classes as business interruption, and the rate of infection is now falling in parts of London.  Sadly, it’s still increasing in Greater Manchester, but the rate of increase has slowed down very significantly.   The situation in other parts of the North West’s very worrying, though.

 

Saturday, January 16th

Hooray, Mum and Dad have had their first doses of the vaccine.  I walked past the vaccination centre, the local walk-in centre, on my way to M&S: there was a queue outside, and there were signs up asking locals not to use the car park nearby as so many people are expecting.  Things are certainly moving in our area: most people aged 75 and over have either had their first dose or have got an appointment to have it soon, and some people in the 70-75 age group are now being called.

The rate of infection in our borough was only up by 6% week-on-week in yesterday’s figures, and falling in some neighbouring boroughs.  And it’s falling nationwide.  But there were another 1,295 deaths today, and over 37,500 people are in hospital with the virus.  It seems unlikely that those figures will fall significantly until the beginning of February at the earliest.  Things in the Republic of Ireland are very bad.  And Portugal’s in a bad way too – is this anything to do with the mutant strains from Brazil?  Brazil itself is also in a bad way.

The strain which the authorities in France and Germany delight in referring to as “the British mutant” is officially called “Variant of Concern 202012/01”.  Doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, does it?  Or B117, which at least is a bit easier to say.

It rained first thing, but then dried up, so I got a takeaway cream tea from The Coffee Sack and took it to the park, and then had a long walk round.  There are lots of daffodil shoots around now.  So that was OK.

But the Australian Open is turning into a nightmare before it’s even started.  A total of three people on two flights to Australia, one from Los Angeles and one from Abu Dhabi, tested positive.  I thought you only had to self-isolate if someone sat very close to you on a flight tested positive, and apparently the players and their entourages did too, but they’re saying that everyone’s got to self-isolate.  So 47 players, plus their coaches, physios and anyone else travelling with them, are shut in their hotel rooms for 14 days.  They can’t practise, so will be going into a strenuous two week event in the heat with very little preparation.  And Yulia Putintseva found a mouse in her room.  On top of this, Australians wanting to return home for abroad but unable to get permission to do so are upset that tennis players have been given priority.  Oh dear.  This is not good!

 

Sunday, January 17th

We drew 0-0 at Liverpool.  Not a bad result!  So we stay top of the league … but City play tonight, and’ve got a game in hand.

Snapfish have totally mucked up my order.  I appreciate that this is not the world’s biggest crisis, but I’ll now have to wait a week and a half for the reprint, and hope that this one’s OK.  I have no idea what’s happened: they’re usually fine, but all these photos are jumbled up in completely random order, and I couldn’t get very much sense out of the “live chat” person.

Went to Hollingworth Lake this morning, then did some reading and wrote some book reviews.

The Daily Telegraph over-excitedly proclaimed that all adults would have been vaccinated by the end of June, but, as Dominic Raab said, the beginning of September’s more like that, and even that’s only for the first dose.  It’ll be early March before any restrictions are lifted, and, given how obsessed they are with reopening schools, that’ll probably be first, sending infection rates up again.  Hairdressers should so be given priority over schools 😉 .  And, even then, it’ll be back into the evil tier system, with the evil travel restrictions.

There’s now been a positive test from a third flight to Melbourne.  72 players, and all the other people on the flights, are now banned from leaving their hotel rooms.

All this business with the tennis players … travel is very, very important to me, and the thought of a second successive year without my lovely coach trips abroad is very upsetting, but I just can’t see them happening.  Even if travel corridors, i.e. no self-isolation needed at either end, are reopened, tests will probably be required.  However careful you are, until you’re vaccinated, none of us can guarantee that we haven’t got the virus, and how could you take that chance, spending a lot of money and booking some of your (in my case) very meagre annual leave allowance without being sure that you’d be able to go?  Or, even worse, doing all that, getting there, and then, like the tennis players, being told you had to stay in a hotel room for 14 days because someone else on your flight, who’d tested negative beforehand, had tested positive later?  How would that even work, if you were only there for a week?  What on earth would you do?

There’s been some talk about takeaways being unsafe, but I think people are just going for easy targets.  There have been pictures on the news of people packed into London Tube trains like sardines: services have been reduced, but a lot of people still need to travel to work on public transport.  A Sky News poll showed that 48% of people were still going into work.  OK, obviously that includes key workers, but concerns have been raised about unsafe workplaces.   Between 6th and 14th January, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) received 2,945 complaints about virus-related safety issues.  That’s a lot more likely to be causing problems than people stopping briefly to buy a cup of tea and a piece of cake.

And so endeth the first full week of Lockdown III.  Feels like it’s been months already …

 

 

The coming of the vaccines

Lockdown 2 088

My mum and dad, both aged 75, have just been called to go for the first dose of their vaccinations at the local walk-in centre tomorrow.  Such a relief!  My uncle, who’s the same age but with a different GP surgery, had his first dose earlier in the week, and some friends who are either frontline healthcare workers or in the over 80s or 75-79 age groups, have also either been vaccinated or have got appointments to be vaccinated soon.

There’s a long, long road ahead.  So many lives have been lost.  Other people have been left with long-term health conditions.  The UK economy’s shrunk by 8.5% since February: a lot of businesses are, sadly, not coming back from this.

But I do feel a bit more hopeful today.  I’ve got some daffodils on the table – they’re from Marks & Spencer’s, and I think they’re probably from the Channel Islands, because they usually are at this time of year.  They make the front room smell of spring.  Will I be able to see my sister and brother-in-law and nephews over Easter? Will I be able to go to all, or any, of the lovely places I like to visit in daffodil/lambing season and bluebell season?  Hey, will I even be able to have my hair cut and dyed before it looks a complete and utter mess?!  Will we be able to go to any football matches this season?  Will the clay court season go ahead?  Er, that sounds really me-me-me, doesn’t it?  Sorry, it wasn’t really meant to!  But there does seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel today.

I’ve spent so much of my life reading about people who invented flying shuttles, spinning jennies, water frames, mules and cotton gins.  Today, I just want to read all about the people who’ve created the Covid vaccines.  They are the biggest heroes of our lifetime.

Lockdown III Week 1, January 4th to 10th 2021 inclusive

Monday, January 4th

We’re actually in Tier 4 for another few hours, but I’m not doing a separate post for one day.  At midnight, after 5 days in Tier 4, we’ll be moving into Lockdown III.   So will Scotland.  On the positive side, the rollout of the Oxford vaccine started today.  And elite sport can continue, so at least we’ll still have football to watch.  And takeaways stay open – although, with schools closed, the queues in the park cafe will be about an hour long.

Otherwise:

  • Everyone to work from home unless they genuinely can’t.  I’ll be interested to see if my employers actually take any notice of this (although I personally am WFH anyway).
  • Schools, colleges and universities to close until at least mid-February (except for vulnerable kids, kids of keyworkers, and university students needing to do practicals).  The TUC have helpfully said that employers should “do the right thing” and furlough parents whose kids are off school.  They have, needless to say, not explained how small firms are supposed to manage if, say, two people out of a workforce of five are unable to work.  Nurseries stay open.  Exams will almost certainly be cancelled again.
  • You are allowed out to exercise once a day.  WTF?  They’ve said unlimited outdoor exercise in Scotland.  Hmm, we’ll see about this one.
  • You can travel “a short distance” within your “local area” to exercise.  This is not defined.  What is “a short distance”?  What is “your local area”?
  • Places of worship stay open.  Excuse me?  This is not the Middle Ages.  How come places of worship can stay open?  Are people less likely to infect each other in places of worship than in schools, shops, salons or gyms?
  • Garages doing MOTs and services can stay open.
  • Shielding is back.
  • People working at other people’s houses can still work.

This will probably all be until mid-February.  A bit more notice would have been nice – I quite appreciate that this is a very difficult and fast-moving situation, but Boris announced all this at 8pm, after saying yesterday that primary schools would be staying open!

This is totally shit.  But infection rates are going up and up – and, yes, most people don’t get ill, but the number of daily deaths remains over 400, and hospitals are running out of room.

We keep hearing about “the race between the virus and the vaccine”.  Is there no way we can speed the vaccination programme up?  Commandeer labs and factories to produce more of it?  Presumably it’s not that easy, or it’d be being done.

Ugh.  9 1/2 months, and we’re nearly back to square 1 – except with football, takeaways and public toilets.

I hate this bloody virus.

 

Tuesday, January 5th

Everybody’s at sixes and sevens today.  Businesses and the live music industry are saying that they need a definite date for reopening, but it’s just not possible for anyone to know when that’s likely to be.   And what’s going to happen with school exams?  Mocks are usually done in January, so schools won’t even have mock results to go off.

Boris has been on TV again, talking about vaccines – which he pronounces (vac-SEENS).  Israel has vaccinated 10% of its population already.  In actual numbers, that’s around 1.3 million, which is around the same as us, with far fewer personnel and facilities.  Why can’t we do things that quickly?  OK, we’re doing a lot better than most countries – France, as of 30th December, had vaccinated a grand total of 138 people – but why can’t all countries move as quickly as Israel has very admirably done?  It’s partly due to vaccine shortages, but not entirely.

Rishi Sunak, who’s probably tearing his hair out, has announced more grants for businesses, but more’s going to be needed … but where’s the money going to come from?

Like a lot of people round here, I was very annoyed when we were put back into Tier 3 at the beginning of December, but at that point we didn’t know about the new variant and, as things have turned out, it did us a favour.  Infection rates in the “City of Liverpool region”, which was still in Tier 2 until a few days ago, are now way higher than they are in Greater Manchester … although rates here are rising very quickly now.  Over 60,000 new cases were recorded nationwide today, and 830 deaths.  OK, Tuesday’s figures do tend to be bad because of the lag over the weekend, plus yesterday was a Bank Holiday in Scotland, but it’s still pretty grim.

That miserable git Chris Whitty’s just said that restrictions might be reintroduced next winter.

Dunham lights are cancelled 😦 .  I only missed out by a few days with my original booking, and now I’ve missed out by a few days again.  OK, it;s hardly the world’s biggest crisis, but bleurgh.  But the estate is staying open.

The cafes in Heaton Park are open as before, although you now have to order at the hatch, rather than inside, at the lakeside cafe.  The queue thankfully wasn’t that long, but I noticed that the playground was packed out.

I took the decorations down whilst watching Boris’s press conference.  A few people’ve said that they’re going to leave them up until Candlemas, like the Queen does, this year, because they make things look cheerful, but I’m not sure than I need to be looking at Christmas decorations any later than Twelfth Night.

 

Wednesday, January 6th

“Clap for Carers” is coming back, renamed “Clap for Heroes”.  Let’s hope that it brings some feeling of unity, and isn’t, as sadly I fear it may be, hijacked by political point-scorers.

Over 1,000 deaths today.  1,041.  And 62,322 infections.

Boris has said that lockdown will be eased “gradually” … in late February and March,  But then it’s back to the godforsaken tier system.  I was hoping we’d seen the back of that, with its evil travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, things in Los Angeles County are now, sadly, so bad that paramedics have been told that anyone who seems unlikely to recover shouldn’t even be taken to hospital.  In the middle of this, a load of Donald Trump fanatics are holding a huge demo in Washington.  Have people got no sense?!

Carabao Cup semi against City tonight.  Hoping for a brilliant match and a win.  I said “hoping”!  Meanwhile, Chorley’s excitement about playing Wayne Rooney’s Derby in the Cup has rather gone down the toilet: Rooney and all his senior players are self-isolating due to a virus outbreak.

GCSEs and A-levels in Northern Ireland have been cancelled.  Teachers are to assess grades in England, and presumably in Northern Ireland too.   Meanwhile, amid concerns about kids having problems accessing stuff online, the BBC are to show a lot of curriculum-based programmes.  Like old times!

 

Later – oh FFS.  FOUR semi-final defeats in 12 months.  And losing to City is always horrible.  United 0 – 2 City.  Bah.

Absolutely appalling scenes from Washington DC.  I cannot believe that this happening in the United States of America.  It’s like a bad Sergei Eisenstein film, but with a pandemic thrown in.  The pro-Trump mob have actually stormed Congress.  Legislators had to be evacuated through secret tunnels.  Boris and other international leaders have condemned what’s going on, but all Trump could manage was to tell people to “go home” – and then keep insisting that he had really won the election.  I’m very saddened by what we’re seeing.

 

Thursday, January 7th …. Christmas Day in Russia etc

As I’d feared, Clap for Heroes not only fell a bit flat – perhaps inevitable, given that there’s snow and ice on the ground and it’s pitch black long before 8 o’clock – but was hijacked by spiteful political points-scorers.  Well, some medical staff said that they’d rather people focused on trying to reduce their chances of contracting the virus, which was obviously fair enough, but there was no reason not to do that and clap as well … but the spiteful brigade said that everything under the sun was the government’s fault, that Clapping for Heroes would be encouraging spending cuts (no, me neither), and directed abuse and even threats at the kind woman who came up with the idea.  Says it all, doesn’t it?  Someone tries to show appreciation for other people’s work and to bring communities together, and they end up being threatened by political points-scorers.  How awful.  You’d think that events in America would have shown people the dangers of divisive talk and behaviour, but apparently not.

Despite the very worrying rises in virus cases, hospitalisations and deaths, in the UK and in many other cases, the pandemic has been briefly pushed out of the headlines by the absolutely appalling scenes in Washington yesterday.  Four people died.   Offices were ransacked.  People grabbed everything from letters to personal photographs.  The pictures from inside the Capitol building look as if an invading army’s run through the place.  It’s very, very disturbing.

You might think that this would show people in other countries just how dangerous nastiness and divisive rhetoric can be.  Sadly not.  The sniping, the whingeing, the criticism, the political points-scoring and, in some cases, the sheer hatred on social media, and in some parts of the media – notably the Guardian – just goes on and on.  Could we please, please, stop this, and pull together?

Villa have now got the virus!  So their Cup match against Liverpool tomorrow is in doubt.  This is all getting a bit chaotic.

More snow.  Not a lot, but it’s stuck.

Booked my car in for its MOT and service … and received an e-mail saying that I should drive to the garage with the heating off and the windows open, for “ventilation”.  Not if it’s snowing, I won’t be …

National Express have cancelled all their services.

Schools in Wales are to stay shut until February half-term.

And I had a dental appointment this morning.  Even though there’s a large waiting room, and a foyer, they made people wait outside in the ice and the freezing fog “due to covid safety protocols”!

 

Friday, January 8th

Monday – lost a pound.
Tuesday – stayed the same.
Wednesday – put a pound on.
Thursday – put a pound on.
4 days of sticking to my diet programme and walking several miles every day, and I’ve put a pound ON.  I feel like shit.

OK, I am totally selfish and self-obsessed, and should be focusing on the very sad news that 1,325 deaths with coronavirus were reported today.  But I just wanted a moan.

Derbyshire police have fined two women £200 each for driving five miles to go for a walk round a reservoir.  Seriously.  And told them that they shouldn’t have taken a “picnic” – takeaway hot drinks – with them.  I have never heard anything so stupid.  This sort of thing just does not help.  It annoys people, and makes the police look like a joke.

You now cannot enter the UK unless you’ve had a negative virus test within 48 hours.  Which is very sensible and, if we and every other country had had that rule in February/March, maybe this nightmare would never have happened.  But, as it’s not always easy to get a test, it puts the kibosh on foreign travel … not that we’re allowed to go anywhere at the moment anyway, or even allowed in to a lot of places.

Lots of arguments going on about schools.  People moaned that schools were open.  Schools are now closed.   But they’re open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.  Teachers are moaning that there are too many kids in school.  Parents are moaning that they’ve been told that their child cannot go into school as there are too many kids there already, but that they think their kid should be entitled to a place.  I’m not really having a go at anyone: it’s an impossible situation.  But I wish people would try to think of solutions, rather than just moaning.   And some people push their luck.  If one parent is a key worker but the other parent isn’t, it’s unfair to take up places which could go to the children of single parents who are key workers or a couple who are both key workers.

And the list of key workers doesn’t include, for example, plumbers or boiler engineers, but they’re essential as far as I’m concerned.

It’s very difficult.  And a lot of offices round here are open – unless they all need about half a dozen people to nip in to collect the post, and they all just happened to be there just as I walked past.  Again, it’s very difficult.  Some people find it very hard to work at home, due to lack of space, and noise from kids/pets.

But the figures for deaths, hospitalisations and infections are horrendous.  We are not, at present, as badly off as some other parts of the country, but it’s bad everywhere.

Events further and further ahead are being cancelled.  There’s talk of the local elections due to be held (a year late) in May being postponed.  Royal garden parties due to be held in the summer have been cancelled, and there’s talk of cancelling the summer music festivals.

Some good news – the Moderna vaccine’s been approved for use here, and two drugs with unpronounceable names have been found to help treat people who are seriously ill.

 

Saturday, January 9th

Hooray, we beat Watford 1-0 to move into the 4th round of the Cup.  Chorley at home, please!

No rain or snow today, thankfully.  Went for a long walk in the park – with a takeaway scone and jam and cream from The Coffee Sack.  I’ve given up on the park cafes.  They don’t do scones anyway, but, even apart from that, they’re just too slow.  Even when they’re quiet, the waits for drinks are ridiculous.  The park was quite busy, but it was only in the main area by the lake and the playground that there were a lot of people (and, even worse, a lot of horrible barking dogs).  Other areas were quieter, which was nice.  Pretty bleak at this time of year, though.

Later, I walked to Iceland (you can’t get Slimming World stuff at Tesco).  Plenty of people around.  No-one was breaking any rules: most people were waiting for takeaways.

The Queen and Prince Philip have received their first vaccination doses, which is good news – and will hopefully reassure anyone feeling nervous.  The vast majority of people can’t wait to be vaccinated but, with a few idiots spreading silly rumours, there are bound to be a few nerves.

The police, who should be breaking up large gatherings, are annoying people by behaving like idiots.  The story of the two women were surrounded, read their rights and fined for driving a few miles to walk round a reservoir has gone viral.  Police in Shropshire have issued a warning that leaving your house to, er, throw snowballs outside your house is “not a valid reason for leaving home”.  And 6 people were fined for holding a memorial to the Birmingham pub bombing victims.  The police have asked for “greater clarity” about the rules.  Try using a bit of common sense, eh.

I’m never sure how much the statistics from all this mean.  For example, the excess number of deaths in Russia since the pandemic began is way, way more than the official number of deaths from the virus.  Here, some of the people in the official death toll will have died for reasons that had nothing to do with Covid, but within 28 days of a positive test, whereas others will have died for reasons related to Covid but won’t be “counted” as they hadn’t had a positive test within 28 days.  But the “official” death toll is now over 80,000.  Of the 10 areas in England with the highest death rates, 4 are in the North West, which is very, very upsetting.  2 are in Yorkshire, 1 is E Staffs, and 1 (the highest) is Folkestone and Hythe.

Some current infection rates per 100,000 (again, these figures may mean anything or nothing).  Of 315 areas in England, 314 saw a rise this week.  I think this is for the week to yesterday:

Greater Manchester – Wigan 478, Bury 426, central Manchester 422, Bolton 344
Rest of NW – Halton 1,173, Carlisle 1,134, Burnley 967, central Liverpool 859, Cheshire W/Chester 621, Barrow 578, S Lakes 336, Blackpool 320

Yorks and NE – Hartlepool 838, York 626, Harrogate 464, Hull 341, Sheffield 290, Bradford 283, Newcastle 281
Midlands – Walsall 828, Birmingham 739, Derby 633, Nottingham 451, Shropshire 417, N Lincs 235

London and SE – Barking & Dagenham 1,687, Havering 1,399, Slough 1,173, Barnet 1,035, Windsor and Maidenhead 727
E Anglia – Norwich 530, Peterborough 520
South/South West – Southampton 709, Swindon 642, Bristol 467, Cornwall and Scilly Isles 367. West Devon 147

 

So, although we’ve come a depressingly long way from the days when anything over 20 was considered worrying, we’re looking at very different figures in different areas.

 

Sunday, January 10th

Could we move on from the incident with the Derbyshire police, please?  Derbyshire police have said that they’ve reviewed their procedures.  We all screw up sometimes.   Let it go now.  But no – the media can’t do that.  They’ve really latched on to this story.   Priti Patel and Matt Hancock have both been asked for their views on it.  Whilst they probably both think that the police showed a complete lack of common sense, they can’t be seen to criticise the police for clamping down over lockdown, so they’ve both said that they support the police.  So now there is a huge fuss going on about what you can and can’t do, and why most of the people who’ve staged anti-lockdown protests in London and Bournemouth were just told to go home when two women innocently going for a walk a few miles from home were each fined £200.

Meanwhile, whilst people in England are moaning that there are too many kids in school under the exemption for children of key workers, the Welsh authorities have used a different definition of “key workers” … so now people are moaning that this is ridiculous because they can’t work unless their kids are in school.

And some whingeing Remoaner journalist on Sky News last night insisted that people are going out “because of Dominic Cummings”.  Oh FFS.  What, everyone who goes for a stroll in the park, walks to their local cafe for a takeaway cake or goes into the office because their kids keep screaming during Zoom meetings is doing so because Dominic Cummings drove to Barnard Castle eight months ago?  I’ve never heard such rubbish.

This is ridiculous.  Could everyone please stop acting like five-year-olds, and use a bit of common sense?  And focus on speeding up the vaccination programme.  Frustrated GPs, pharmacists and even dentists are saying that they could vaccinate hundreds of people per week but can’t get the doses or, in some cases, the authorisation.  It’s not clear whether the problem is supply, distribution, red tape or all three.  We’re now being told that every adult will have been offered the vaccination “by the autumn”.  Depending on whether you take “by” to mean “before” (which it probably should) or “during” (which it probably does), this could mean late November.  Surely there must be a way of doing it more quickly?

Due to all the carry-on over the women in Derbyshire, I got a bit stressed about going to Dunham Massey this morning, even though I don’t see that I’m breaking any rules by driving within Greater Manchester, in my own car, to exercise alone in a place where numbers will be restricted.  When this week’s tickets were released, I was expecting to go to the lights show tonight, so I hadn’t booked tickets for during the day.  By the time things changed, the only ticket I could get was for 9 o’clock.  So I thought I’d be the only person on the M60 at half 8, and had half-convinced myself I’d be pulled over to ask where I was going.  No.  There were plenty of cars around, even at half 8 on a Sunday morning.   But I haven’t seen anyone doing anything they shouldn’t … other than a few groups of 3 or 4 people clearly not from the same household.

Not only were there no scones, there were no cakes and no hot food.  I’ve noticed that other cafes seem to’ve got a lot of food left over – Costa Coffee had reduced stuff to half-price to try to shift it.  It’s all a muddled circle – they’re not offering nice cakes, because cakes don’t keep and they can’t be sure how many they’ll sell , but people aren’t as keen to buy things like pre-packed biscuits.

The daffodils are coming.  No sign of them in Heaton Park yet, but Dunham have already got a few out, and there are loads of shoots.  Some snowdrops are out too.

 

I’ve got a load of photos to sort out, a load of books to read, a load of films in my Sky Planner and a load more films in my Amazon Prime watchlist.  Have I got through any of them?  Er, not really …

I think Chris Whitty would like to put us all under house arrest until the end of March.  I do understand that this is a huge crisis.  Everyone does.  But I also understand that there’s going to be a huge mental health crisis if restrictions are tightened much more.

This is just a nightmare.  Sometimes, if I’ve got engrossed in a book or a film, I actually forget about it.  Then it hits me, and, for a few moments, I can’t actually believe that it’s real.

But it is.

Tier 4, Week 1 – December 31st 2020 to January 3rd 2021, inclusive

New Year’s Eve, Thursday, December 31st

Starting on a new post on New Year’s Eve is very weird, but here we are, day 1 in Tier 4.  Why are electronics/IT/communications shops classed as “non-essential”?  Surely they’re absolutely essential, especially at the moment!

It snowed this morning.  However, most of the snow had melted by 10 o’clock.  I went for a walk in the park, and there were some rather disappointed-looking kids with sledges.  We get so little time off work that I usually try so hard to do something exciting on every day off, but there just isn’t anything exciting to do at the moment!  Oh well, at least, for once, I won’t be feeling like a saddo for spending New Year’s Eve sat in on my own, watching Jools Holland, whilst everyone else is out partying … because everyone else will be stuck in with Jools Holland as well!

Tommy Docherty’s died.  He was 92 and’d been ill for a while, but it’s a sad end to the year.

Andy Burnham says that 25% of virus cases in Greater Manchester are now due to the mutant strain.  That’s not good.

But, on a happier note, Dunham lights is going ahead … which surprises me, but is good news!

Well, goodbye 2020, and here’s to 2021.  Let’s just hope it’s a better year than this one’s been!

 

New Year’s Day, Friday, January 1st

Happy New Year!   A bit of snow fell overnight, but not much.  However, the south side of town is still pretty snowy from the snow that fell earlier in the week, and Dunham Massey was like a winter wonderland this morning – it really was pretty.

Later, I went for another walk, just locally.  Everyone is so bored.  You go for a walk.  You waste money on a takeaway drink and a fattening cake.  You come home.   At least United and Villa are on TV tonight.

I would give a great deal to go for a walk somewhere devoid of horrible barking dogs.  Does it not occur to people that letting their odious mutts disturb everyone for miles around – the volume at which some dogs bark really is astounding – isn’t very fair?  I don’t know what I’m more sick of, barking dogs, or people who, after 4 1/2 years, still refuse to accept the result of the Brexit referendum.  But at least you can scroll down or change channels to get away from the “Ooh, I’ve changed my Facebook profile photo to one of the EU flag” brigade.  There is no escape from the dogs!!  OK, moan over.

It’s been decided to focus on giving as many people as possible one dose of vaccine, rather than vulnerable groups two doses.

Opinion is split as to whether or not schools should be closed.   Some people are questioning why London, again, is being treated differently to other areas, but the situation in London and parts of the Home Counties really is far worse than it is here.  A frightening number of people in my sister’s community have got the virus, and that’s not even one of the worst-affected areas of London.  And I get the sense that people there are panicking: two friends have said that they’re thinking of cancelling mammogram appointments because they’re nervous of going near hospitals.  It’s not like that here.  People are concerned, but not panicking.

There’s also serious concern about businesses.  The whole thing’s such a nightmare.  “Experts” are saying that we need to vaccinate two million people a week, but the vaccine just can’t be produced that quickly.   If only it could!

Later – hooray!!  We beat Villa 2-1, and are now level on points with Liverpool at the top of the table!!

And Last Christmas is number 1!   After 36 years.  I gave up following the charts about 25 years ago, but that’s made me smile.

All primary schools in London will now stay closed, not just those in certain boroughs.  Make your mind up.  Why not say that in the first place?

 

Saturday, January 2nd

It was minus 3 C this morning, but bright and sunny.  I decided to walk round some different parts of Heaton Park for a change, and that was really nice.  However, it snowed heavily for about an hour in the afternoon, and the wretched stuff is all over the road and not likely to melt tonight.  It’s OK once you get to the main road, but, especially if you’re a nervous driver and have inconsiderate neighbours who park on the road, that’s easier said than done!

City’ve had no more positive virus tests, and their match against Chelsea tomorrow is going ahead, but Fulham had to call off their match at Burnley, and several lower league matches are also off.

Ryanair are running a “Jab and Go” advertising campaign.  “Covid vaccines are coming.”  Lots of pictures of grinning people on the beach or diving into swimming pools.  “So you can just Jab and Go!”  I cannot wait to go on holiday, but those adverts are in such poor taste that you just have to laugh!

I’ve put in a claim for tax relief for working from home.  It’s £1.20 per week, which just about covers the cost of milk and teabags, and doesn’t touch the cost of heating, lighting, phone calls, water etc, but, hey, owt’s better than nowt.  I’d love to know how many employers have offered to reimburse people and how many are just pocketing the amount they’ve saved.

I do wish people would work together and stop trying to score political points.   Teaching unions were a nightmare earlier in the year, and are at it again.  The National Association of Head Teachers is taking legal action against the Department of Education, and the main teachers’ union is threatening to advise its members to refuse to go to work.  As for that idiot Sadiq Khan, all he cares about is having a go at the Government.  There’s certainly a growing feeling that schools need to close – admittedly very easy for me to say when I’m neither a teenager at a crucial stage in their education nor a working parent with young children – but this hostile attitude isn’t helping anyone.

Excellent episode of Casualty tonight – a “coronavirus special”, set during the first lockdown.  Some of it, admittedly, was the BBC trying to score political points, but most of it was very powerful, and I actually ended up in tears when a longstanding character died of the virus at the end.  Yes, I know that it’s only a TV programme, and that the actor is alive and well although probably rather fed up about losing his job, but he represents real people.

 

Moan coming up:

As bad as the first lockdown was, after 10 weeks of it I was able to go to Blackpool and eat fish and chips and ice cream on the beach.  It’s now around the same length of time since we were put under travel restrictions in October, and things are only getting worse.  And are expected to get worse yet.  A few sanctimonious people are saying that they’re prepared to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, but most people, whilst genuinely concerned about the very serious situation, are fed up and whingeing and moaning.  It’s the feeling of being trapped.  It’s the horrendous boredom.  Weirdly, it’s the guilt – I’ve got a very Victorian mentality that says that I should be doing something all the time, but there’s nothing to do.   Yeah, I know, I could try to learn Japanese, but I haven’t got the heart for it when I’ve got no idea whether my rearranged holiday will go ahead or not.  I’d volunteer to do something to help in the community, but I can’t because I’ll be chained to the office laptop again from Monday.

And we want to see our relatives and friends.  People with long-term partners with whom they don’t live aren’t supposed to see them unless it’s for a walk in the park.  Parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, siblings, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews, cousins and close friends aren’t supposed to see each other at all if they don’t live in the same area.

Those sanctimonious people may be very virtuous, but they’re also rather annoying!   This is crap.  In 20 years’ time, maybe we’ll all say what jolly good fun it was, like people did about spending the night in air raid shelters but, right now, sanctimonious people are annoying!

 

Sunday, January 3rd

The political points-scoring going on over the schools issue is sickening.  This is a time of severe national and international crisis – how is all this spite and venom and divisiveness helping anyone, least of all children?  How exactly are social media posts saying things like “Tory incompetence is killing teachers” supposed to help?   Good job these vile groups weren’t around during the war, isn’t it?  Do any of them actually care about what’s best for children, parents, teachers and local communities?  No, they do not.  Unfortunately, these groups dominate teaching unions, which isn’t very good for anyone.  Interesting article in today’s MEN about a woman from Bolton who lost her job due to school closures.  I fear that a lot more people will be in the same position if schools close indefinitely but workplaces don’t.  But I don’t see how we’re to get infection rates down if schools stay open.

The infection rate across Greater Manchester as a whole is now 278, up 36% on last week.  The rate, and the rate of increase, varies quite a bit between boroughs, but the general picture is very worrying.  Cases are increasing more rapidly than the national average for the first time since October – although still well below the national average rate of 509.  Some parts of the SE are well over 1,000.   And parts of Merseyside are higher than any part of Greater Manchester, but remain in Tier 3.  And Burnley is 562.  Is there some sort of overspill from Burnley and Rossendale into Bury?  Probably not, actually, because then it’d be affecting Rochdale too, and Rochdale isn’t as bad.  Carlisle’s over 500, as well.

The acting mayor of Liverpool (the mayor being off due to corruption investigations) has called for a lockdown.  So, now, has Keir Starmer.  Could people please define “lockdown”?  Because if they mean saying that you can’t go out for a walk but you can go and spend all day in a non-essential office or factory with a load of other people, then it’ll do more harm than good.  If they mean closing workplaces but ensuring that anyone who cannot work from home gets furloughed rather than laid off, it may well be an idea.

I broke bounds by about a mile today, and went to Styal.  There isn’t even a sign to say that you’ve crossed from Manchester into Wilmslow: if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t.  I am not saying that this was a good thing to do, but everyone is breaking bits of rules – lots of groups which were clearly two households or more – and I’d pre-booked it before we all got moved into Tier 4, and I was in the open air, away from other people, and the boundaries don’t make much sense anyway.  It was really lovely there.  Strangely, though, the tea rooms both there and at Dunham were very quiet, even though there were plenty of people around.  Nice for me, because they can be horrendously slow and I don’t like waiting in long queues, but very strange.  Takeaway places in Heaton Park and Hollingworth Lake are always busy.  Is this some kind of north-south divide thing?!  There were scones there, hooray!

 

 

Back to being chained to the office computer tomorrow … which I wouldn’t mind if they’d so much as bothered to send round an e-mail wishing people all the best for Christmas and the New Year.  Bah.  The next Bank Holiday is Good Friday, which is April 2nd.  Where will things be at by then?

Tier 3 Plus, Week 4 … well, half a week – December 28th to 30th 2020 inclusive

Monday, December 28th (Bank Holiday, as Boxing Day fell on a Saturday)

City’s match tonight’s been called off, after a number of their players tested positive.  That’s a worrying development.

On top of everything else, there’s been heavy snow in some areas, although, thankfully, not here.

Rates here continue to rise, with the average across Greater Manchester now (as of yesterday) just under 200.  That’s obviously very worrying, but, having been at or near the top of the infection rate charts for months, the situation here at the moment is (touch wood!) not that bad compared to that in other areas.  The rate in Brentwood is now 1,442, with some other parts of Essex and parts of London not far behind.

We’re being told that the big increase in cases in Trafford and Stockport is due not to the mutant virus but to “increased social mixing”.  Probably in pubs and restaurants in Cheshire East, before it was moved into Tier 3!

The situation in neighbouring areas is worsening.  Both Cheshire districts are now well over 200, Warrington’s 298, and Liverpool’s 200.  To the north, Pendle’s on 427 and Burnley’s on 488.  And the worst rate in the North is now in, of all places, Eden (Penrith and Ullswater).  496.  South Lakeland’s not nearly as bad, but even they’re up to 188.

On a happier note, it’s hoped that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could be ready to go soon.  It doesn’t have to be stored at -80 degrees C, so should be a lot easier to administer quickly.

Despite all the goings-on, I’ve had a nice day: I managed to get a reduced rate spa day at the Norton Grange in Rochdale.  They’d tried really hard to keep things Covid-secure, although, unfortunately, some idiots were completely ignoring the signs about how many people should be in each area at once.  I had great intentions about going in the gym, and I did go in briefly, but I spent most of my time in the pool and the jacuzzi, and then had a facial and a back massage.  Really nice takeaway afternoon tea!  I am so fat …

 

Tuesday, December 29th

I was a bit stressed when I looked out this morning and it was snowing: the road up to our estate is a nightmare in the snow, and I had to get to Tesco and M&S!  However, it wasn’t too bad here, and it wasn’t sticking on the roads.  But at Tatton Park, where I’d planned to go anyway, there was loads and loads of snow!  The roads were OK, although the car park was a bit tricky (considering that they charge people to park there, they really should have cleared it), and it was all really good fun, with people throwing snowballs and building snowmen, and a few kids on sledges.

I suppose it was kind of breaking bounds, seeing as it’s in Cheshire East rather than Greater Manchester, but I’d still class it as local, and we’re all in Tier 3 now anyway.  This whole tier system is so bonkers.  Parts of Wigan are classed as West Lancashire, and parts of Rochdale are classed as Rossendale.  West Lancashire and Rossendale, despite not having particularly high infection rates (by current standards), may be moved into Tier 4 at the end of the week, because of the issues in Burnley, Pendle and Hyndburn.  Or the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs may be moved too.  Or the whole country may be moved.   I can’t see the Lake District staying in Tier 2, the way things are going.  There are issues in parts of Merseyside and North Yorkshire too.  Oh, how I miss the Lakes!  Not that I ever go there in December anyway, but I hate the feeling that I haven’t even got the option.  Although some people are merrily heading off all over the place, even staying overnight.  A tiny minority of people, admittedly, but some.

It’s weird – we’ve been in the eye of the storm for so long, and now we’re not.  At the beginning, I was looking at everything on a national level, but, thanks to government policy, I’ve been looking at it from a local level since the end of July.  But the national picture is horrendous.  Over 53,000 new infections today – compared to around 13,000 per day a month ago, although more people are being tested now.  Some hospitals in Wales and South East England are struggling to cope.  I don’t know what’s going on with the Nightingale Hospitals – are they not being used because there aren’t enough people to staff them?

Indian Wells, one of my favourite tournaments of the year, won’t take place in March, because the situation in California is so bad 😦 .

The first person to get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine got her second dose today.   Any hope that we could live with the virus has gone now.  We’ve just got to get people vaccinated.

We beat Wolves 1-0 – injury time goal from Rashford.  Yay!!  A lot of lower league matches were off, though – some due to the weather, but some due to positive virus tests.  Not sure if our Carabao Cup semi’ll be going ahead, because of the situation with City.

 

Wednesday, December 30th

Oh shit, double shit and treble shit.  Hancock has shoved us into Tier 4.  I did not see that coming – it was expected that parts of East Lancashire, Hartlepool and maybe Birmingham would move, but he’s dumped a whole load of additional areas too.  Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Warrington and Cheshire.  Cumbria, going straight from Tier 2 to Tier 4.  Leics, Lincs, Derbys, Notts, Northants, the entire West Midlands/Warks/ Staffs/Black Country area, the entire North East, Gloucs, Swindon, most of Somerset, parts of Dorset, the Isle of Wight and the New Forest.  Merseyside moves into Tier 3, but not Tier 4 even though its infection rates are similar to ours.  South, West and East Yorks stay in Tier 3, but North Yorks moves from Tier 2 to Tier 3, as do Rutland, Shropshire, the rest of Somerset, the rest of Dorset, the rest of Wiltshire, Herefordshire and Worcs.

Shit shit shit.  Our rates aren’t even that high.  Dunham lights is off.  Hairdressers close.  Yes, I know I sound whiney and self-obsessed, but there’s no way they’d shut down the South like this if rates were high in the North.

The nationwide picture is awful, though.  Over 50,000 new infections again.  And 981 deaths – although that probably includes deaths from over the Christmas period, recorded late.

Despite, all this, schools are to stay open, although secondary schools will return later than planned, and primary schools will close in “a small number of areas”.  “A small number of areas” has turned out to be most of London, and parts of Essex, Kent and Herts.   This includes my younger nephew’s primary school.  His comment was that he was glad he’d be getting a break from school dinners.

Amid all this bad news, some good news – the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine’s been licensed for use in the UK.  As it only has to be stored at normal fridge temperature, this will hopefully speed up the vaccination programme quite a bit.

Been for a walk round Hollingworth Lake.  In the slush and fog.

I’m pleased to say that The Olive and Pickle was so busy that it’d had to send out for extra supplies.  As I can’t be bothered getting into an argument, I’m ignoring a couple of very rude people who said on one of my Facebook posts that people shouldn’t be going for takeaways – which is about the only thing people’ve got left to do, and which is keeping eating places in business and protecting jobs – because it generates waste.  Some people are so bloody sanctimonious and irritating.  And it’s always the people whose finances aren’t affected!!  Gah.

Oh poo.  We really didn’t expect this.  Nor did most of the other areas affected.  What a nightmare.

Fulham v Spurs off due to a virus outbreak at Fulham.

 

Snakes and Ladders/Tiers and Fears

  I started writing this thinking that it would just be for a few months.  But, on New Year’s Eve, here we are.  If anyone’s read any of this during the year, thank you!

Yes, all right, there have been worse times.  We aren’t living through a genocide, a war or a famine, or a pandemic on the scale of the Black Death or even the Spanish flu.  We aren’t in danger from marauding bands of lawless mercenaries or robber barons roaming the countryside.   We aren’t being packed off to prison camps to Siberia.   But it’s been a rotten year all the same.  1.8 million people have died with this horrible virus, and the total death toll’s probably much higher.  Many others have been left with long term health problems.  Other people have lost their jobs or businesses, or are unable to go out and about due to medical vulnerability, or have had their education severely disrupted.  Unless you’re lucky enough to have all your family and friends living nearby, you probably haven’t seen some of them for ages and have got no idea when you’re likely to see them again.  And cancelled holidays, postponed weddings, and being unable to go to sports matches, cinemas, theatres, pubs, restaurants etc, whilst not the end of the world, are disappointing, upsetting and do nothing for anyone’s mental health.  All in all, it’s been a pretty rotten year.   It’s not all been bad, but a lot of it has been.

And we don’t know what lies ahead.  When you’re a major overplanner (it’s a classic symptom of anxiety) like I am, that’s pretty difficult to cope with.  I like the Whig history theory of life.  Everything gets better.   That was what was supposed to happen.  OK, we knew that things would initially get worse, but then the pandemic was supposed to peak over Easter weekend, and, thereafter, things would get better.  Yes, all right, all right, I’m a historian, so I do know that there are always second waves, and usually third waves and fourth waves, with pandemics.   But, although the peak came later than Easter, it did look as if things were improving.  By July, deaths, hospitalisations and infection rates were right down.  There was genuine optimism that things would be almost back to normal by Christmas.  I’m not specifically talking about the UK: I’m talking about most places.

What “is” normal, any more?  Are we going to see a permanent shift to working from home (oh, please!).  To meetings by Zoom rather than in person?  To online shopping?  To takeaways rather than eating out?   To watching films on Netflix rather than going to the pictures?   Just please let me get back to being able to travel abroad and go for days out …

Then it all started to go wrong again.  Down a snake.  The figures started creeping back up.  Come September, when universities went back, they shot up.  It wasn’t just universities, though.  It was just the way these things go.  The Second Wave.  Not just here, but in many other countries too.  In came the evil tier system.  And then, at the beginning of November, we went back into lockdown.  7 1/2 months in, and we were almost back to square one.

But then we began to climb a ladder again.  The rates dropped.  In our area, they dropped like a stone.  And, hooray, the vaccination programme began!  Sorted.  OK, not exactly sorted, with the difficult winter months ahead and only a small number of vaccinations able to be administered at a time, but the final square on the board was in sight.  Maybe by Easter 2021 … ?

Nope.  Down a big snake.  The virus mutated.  In Kent.  Why, of all the places in all the world, did it have to mutate in Kent?  Well, whyever it did, it did.  Infection rates sky-rocketed, especially in the South East.  A lot of foreign countries slapped travel bans on us.  The number of deaths rose alarmingly.  Some hospitals began to struggle to cope.  As the year drew to a close, it felt as if things might even be worse than they’d been to start with, and that there could even be worse to come.

Then it looked as if maybe we would go into 2021 heading up a ladder.  The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was licensed for use in the UK yesterday, and, as it doesn’t have to be stored at -80 degrees C like the Pfizer BioNTech one does, hopefully this’ll speed the vaccination programme up.

But, within hours, Greater Manchester, 1974-borders-Lancashire, 1974-borders-Cheshire and Warrington were all dumped into Tier 4, which is pretty much the same as the November lockdown, along with Cumbria and a large number of other areas.   Back down another snake.  Maybe it’ll stop things from getting as bad here as they are in the South East?  We can only hope so.  After being in the eye of the storm for so long, it’s quite strange that now we aren’t … but things here are bad enough, and the nationwide picture is very worrying indeed.

Let’s just hope that the vaccines will sort it all out.

Strange, sad and uncertain times.  Again, if you’ve read this, and or any of my other posts, thank you so much, stay safe, and all the best for 2021 x .