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

Monday, February 15th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, February 16th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, February 17th

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, February 18th

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, February 19th

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

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

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

Nothing seems to bring my weight down, either.

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

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

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

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

Weather cold and windy.

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

 

Saturday, February 20th

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

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

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

Bleurgh.

Bleurgh indeed.

Why is our area being so badly affected?

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

 

Sunday, February 21st

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 8th

Hooray, the Australian Open has started.  My sleep patterns are being disrupted and I am totally stressed out about Rafa’s injury problems.  This is normal.  Hooray – something is normal!  Cracking match between Denis Shapovalov and Jannik Sinner.  Just such a shame that they had to meet in the first round.

It’s wonderful to see crowds in … but, although it’d been agreed that 30% of tickets could be sold, the place didn’t look anything like 30% full.  That suggests that people are nervous.

Due to the Australian Open, I went to Tesco this evening (in a snow shower!), rather than going tomorrow morning.  The store has been “revamped”.  Everything has been moved round, in a completely illogical way.  Neither customers nor staff know where anything is.  Some marketing consultants in London have no doubt been paid a fortune for deciding that cordial/squash should be put at the opposite end of the shop to all the other soft drinks, and that the shelves where it used to be should now contain toilet roll instead.  Why?  Why??

The studies regarding the “South African variant” are only small-scale, but it does look as if the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, and probably the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccines too, are less effective against it than against other strains.  They’ll still protect against serious illness, which is the main thing, but not against mild illness.  And, even if the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine’s OK against this, the horrible virus seems to be so clever that it’ll probably mutate in a way that’ll outsmart that too.  Viruses do mutate, and vaccines can be tweaked, but doom merchants are saying that the “South African variant” will take over the UK and probably the world, and that we’ll be in lockdown until the summer/2022/the end of time.  The Government’s telling everyone to stay calm, but it’s certainly worrying news.  Every time we seem to be getting towards the finishing line in this pandemic, something else happens.

City and Liverpool have both got to play their away legs against German teams in Budapest, as the German authorities won’t let any British teams in.  My holiday company have cancelled everything up to and including the end of April now.  Matt Hancock had been talking about a “Great British Summer”, but now both he and Jonathan Van-Tam are saying that it’s too soon to talk even about staycations.

Later – oh, FFS.  Not only are 7 of the 10 local boroughs now above the national average infection rate, but now there’s a Moss Side Mutant.  It’s a mutant of the Kent mutant.  Only 4 cases, but “surge testing” is starting in Moss Side and neighbouring areas.  First Liverpool and Bristol, now Manchester 😦 .  I assume that mutations are happening in other countries too, and it’s just that we’re doing extra genomic sequencing (or whatever the correct term is) here, and being honest about it?   But, just a few days ago, optimism was rising, because the vaccination rollout was going so well, and now … snakes and ladders, and we seem to have gone down another snake.

 

Tuesday, February 9th

I should be getting ready to board a crowded tram and head off to Old Trafford, to watch United v West Ham in the Cup along with 78,000 other people.  Instead, I’ll be watching it on the telly.  Oh well.

After all the stress over Rafa’s bad back, he beat Djere in straight sets 🙂 .  It’s a very tough draw, with both Tsitsipas and Medvedev looking very strong today, but one match at a time.

More snow fell overnight, but it’s gone now.

And, in virus news, people returning from “red list” countries will now have to pay £1,750 to stay in a quarantine hotel, and face fines of up to £10,000 and even a jail sentence if they break the rules.  Having said which, a woman’s told the papers how, on returning to London after visiting her mother in South Africa, she was able to walk out of Heathrow airport without being asked for either her passenger locator form or her proof of a negative virus test.  Not very good, is it?

Travelling is so, so important to me, and I’ve been fortunate enough to go to so many wonderful places.  I’ve got photos all over the house of me at the Taj Mahal, Macchu Pichu, Gettysburg, Red Square, Tiananmen Square, Table Mountain, the Pyramids, the Mount of Olives, the Venice Carnival (sadly cancelled this year, again), a glacier on the Jungfrau, etc etc.  When I got back from the Viennese Christmas markets in December 2019, I started to get excited about my planned trips to Iceland for July 2020 and Japan for October 2020, buying guidebooks and history books and historical novels, and learning some basic Icelandic words and phrases.  This is my life … and now it isn’t.  For the last four months, I haven’t even been able to go on a day trip to Blackpool.  I hate not being able to go to the Lakes.  I haven’t seen my sister and brother-in-law and nephews since August.  I haven’t been to a football match since last March.  I haven’t been to the theatre or the cinema since last February.  I haven’t even sat in a café since October.  Yet I’m chained to the office computers for the best part of five days a week, and I’ve still got all the housework to do.  I know I’m moaning, but I think we’re all entitled to moan.

Our Europa League match at Real Sociedad has been moved to Turin, and Arsenal’s at Benfica has been moved to Rome.  Italy will exempt professional sports players from quarantine.  As flights from Portugal to the UK are currently suspended, Arsenal’s “home” leg will be played in Athens.  This is getting a bit barmy.

To finish on a happy note, Princess Eugenie’s given birth to a baby boy 🙂 .  Mother and son both doing well 🙂 .

Later – hooray, we’re into the Cup QFs, after beating West Ham 1-0.  Dire match, and it went to extra time, but never mind!

 

Wednesday, February 10th

More snow today, but, thankfully, it hasn’t stuck.  Chelsea’s match at Atletico Madrid has been moved to Bucharest.  Moving football matches is one thing, but Jurgen Klopp’s been told that he can’t go to Germany to attend his mum’s funeral.  I understand that the virus doesn’t care what your reasons for travelling are, but it seems so cruel.

Having been told that by Matt Hancock and Boris that we could look forward to a “Great British Summer”, we’ve now been told by Grant Shapps and Jonathan Van-Tam that no-one should be booking anything.  One MP’s accused Shapps of killing people’s hope.  That’s exactly how it feels.  Morale is pretty low.   And there’s more and more talk about “vaccine passports” – Israel is going to let people who’ve been vaccinated back into hotels and gyms, and some countries are saying that they’ll admit tourists who’ve been vaccinated – which is very demoralising if you’re not in one of the priority groups.

Prince Charles and Camilla have had their first vaccinations.  The WHO’s backed the use of the Oxford AstraZeneca jab.  Serbia’s bought vaccines from Russia and China, and is now steaming ahead of the EU countries.

And I am fat.

 

Thursday, February 11th

Hooray, comfortable win for Rafa over Michael Mmoh.  He now plays Cam Norrie.  It does stress me out when he plays British players: I feel like I’m about to be carted off to the Tower of London for treason for wanting the Brit to lose, LOL.

Very cold today, but very sunny too.  The lake in the park looked amazing, frozen over and with yesterday’s snow still on it, and you could see Saddleworth Moor (photo on the right) and Kinder Scout (left), both covered in snow.

But, lovely as it was, it was so frustrating, because we can’t go anywhere.  Windermere must have looked glorious today.  This is dragging on and on, and tempers are fraying.  We were told that we’d get some news on the “roadmap” out of lockdown on February 22nd.  Now we’re being told “the week of February 22nd” – which could mean February 28th!  I feel very sorry for Boris.  If he doesn’t do as the scientists say, and death rates go up again, everyone will be yelling and screaming that he’s got blood on his hands and it’s all his fault for not doing as the scientists say.  But the scientists want us locked down indefinitely.  Their view seems to be that lockdown should continue until infection rates come right down.

And it’s not happening.  Rates here are plateauing.  They’re actually going up in Bolton, due to a spike in Horwich.  We’ve been told that the vaccination programme, as well as it’s going, is having no effect on infection rates as yet.  Yes, I know that it’s supposed to take three weeks before the first vaccine dose offers any protection, but a lot of infections are amongst younger people, the ones most likely to be out and about, and it’s going to be late summer before younger people get their first jab.

The scientists also say that viruses don’t go by the calendar, so giving dates for reopening is inappropriate.  And, fair point, viruses don’t go by the calendar.  But how long are we going to keep businesses shut, the state paying people’s wages, tourist resorts’ economies going down the pan, and kids out of school?  Not to mention the mental health impact.  There’s going to come a time where people start asking what the hell the point of all this is, if we’re not being given any idea of how and when we move forward.

I really do feel sorry for Boris.  It’s just an impossible situation.

 

Friday, February 12th

Chinese New Year.  Hmm.

Oh no!!   13 cases of the wretched virus have been identified in Melbourne, all linked to a quarantine hotel.  So the state of Victoria is back in lockdown.  The tennis can continue, but behind closed doors.  What a rotten shame, after 5 lovely days (crowds were allowed in today) of having fans back in.  Well, nearly 5 days – people were booted out in the middle of the Djokovic v Thiem match, because it was getting towards midnight.  Like some bizarre version of Cinderella.

The R number nationwide is now below 1, but cases are rising in Bolton, and are now starting to rise in the borough of Bury … still down week-on-week, but up on earlier this week.  Officials in Bolton say that it’s mainly amongst people of working age, which makes sense. – and the same thing’s happening in Liverpool.  Some jobs cannot be done from home, and that applies far more in the North West than in, say, London.  And some workplaces are open when they jolly well shouldn’t be.  Sometimes, however hard you try, you can’t reduce the risk entirely.  And some places just aren’t bothering about Covid safety: the authorities can hardly inspect every small workplace, and people are frightened to speak up because there’s so little job security at the moment.  And places that are open when people could be working from home are hardly likely to prioritise safety anyway.  It’s a huge problem.  Vaccination is not going to stop this until younger people have been vaccinated.  If the bloody tier system is brought back, what happens to us then?

Lots of groups are demanding priority for vaccination.  Teachers.  Firefighters.  Shop staff.  Public transport drivers.  They’ve all got a very valid case, but it’s just not possible to prioritise everyone.  London police (it would be the London police) are now threatening legal action, like teaching unions did.  FFS, we need to be working together here, not threatening legal action.

And the economy shrank by nearly 10% last year.

Still cold and sunny.

 

Saturday, February 13th

Rafa beat Cam Norrie (I do hate it when he plays British players – I end up feeling like I’m about to be carted off to the Tower of London for high treason) 🙂 … but now plays Fabio, against whom he does tend to struggle.

I was very glad to have the tennis to watch because, otherwise, I’d have got very upset over the fact that a sunny Saturday in mid-February would have been the perfect day on which to see the snowdrops at Chirk Castle.  Boris is supposed to be coming up with this “road map” on February  22nd, but heaven knows when travel restrictions will be lifted.  If he reintroduces the bloody tier system, I’m going to stage a revolution …. if Andy Burnham doesn’t beat me to it.   I don’t feel too bad, but I know that my anxiety levels are high because I’m getting a lot of anxiety pains and I’m crying over things which wouldn’t normally get to me.  Several friends have said that they’re finding things very hard.  And there’s nothing that anyone can do.  There are all these “lockdown tips” about meditation or yoga or whatever.  I do not need to meditate.  I need to see my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, and my uncle and cousins, and I need to go to the Lake District.

I was hoping that, today, I might actually get some time to read, catch up on the TV backlog, and sort out photos … but I ended up spending ages on the phone to Sky, who’d messed up my bill for the second time in three months, and ages throwing warm water over the boiler condenser pipe. which, despite having insulation stuff on it to stop it freezing, had, er, frozen.  It was quite satisfying when a huge lump of ice shot out of it.  But it was a terrible waste of time.  And water.

Both Matt Hancock and Boris have said that we’re going to have to learn to live with Covid, but the scientists are saying that we need to eliminate it entirely.  I think they want us locked up for ever more.   The economy, people’s mental health and children’s education can’t take much more.  There’s going to be a load more moaning when tax allowances are frozen in the Budget, but the money for the furlough scheme and the small business grants has got to come from somewhere.   I actually saw one ridiculous article saying that we should just print more money!  What, like the Weimar Republic did?  What rubbish.

Tennis and football tomorrow.  The Six Nations is going on too, and the cricket.  So glad that we’ve got sport to focus on!

 

Sunday, February 14th

As hoped, 15 million people in the UK have now received their first jab.  Pretty much everyone in the top four groups has been offered a jab.   Good news!

63 Tory MPs have said that all restrictions should be lifted by May.  That’s going too far – we can’t have hordes of unvaccinated people packed into nightclubs, or 500 guests at weddings – but we really cannot go on like this.  Public opinion hasn’t turned against the lockdown yet, but we do need this “road map” out of it.   I know it’s an impossible situation, but education, employment and mental health are all becoming serious concerns.

One of our local councillors rang me today.  They are apparently concerned about how people are coping in these difficult times, and want to make sure that people are OK and ask if they need any help.  It’s eleven months since we first went into lockdown, and now, just as elections are coming up, councillors are concerned about people … funny, that!   We had quite a nice chat, though.

My weight is a disaster.  2lbs off.  Hooray!  2lbs straight back on.  WHY??!!

The Premier League is also turning into a disaster: we only managed a 1-1 draw at West Brom.  Not a great day in Melbourne either: much as I like to see Grisha (Dimitrov) doing well, I would rather he hadn’t thrashed Dominic (Thiem), because Dominic was the one with the best chance of beating Nole.  Sascha Zverev, over to you.  Rafa and Fabio have got a day match tomorrow, so I’ve set the alarm for stupid o’clock!

The WHO team in Wuhan don’t seem to be getting very far with getting information.  Will we ever find out how this nightmare started?

On a happier note, Prince Harry and Meghan are expecting another baby.

Six weeks of Lockdown III.

 

Upside Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

Monday, February 1st

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, February 2nd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, February 3rd

Good news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, February 4th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, February 5th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, February 6th

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

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

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

Oh dear!!

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

 

Sunday, February 7th

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

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

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

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

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

 

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 …