The Last Days Before Lockdown – March 19th to 22nd 2020 inclusive

Thursday, March 19th

Boris says we’re not going into full lockdown, but I’m not sure how long we can avoid it.  His daily 5pm speeches are becoming a bit of a thing, although I miss most of them because I’m on my way home from work.

Hooray for my lovely hairdresser!!  I rang up this morning, and she said she’d squeeze me in for a cut and dye tonight.  A lot of the older ladies who go during the day are cancelling, because they’re nervous about the virus, but working people are desperate to get their hair sorted whilst they still can.  So at least that’s one thing sorted for now.  Another is that my younger nephew’s had the cast on his wrist (which he broke in a footballing accident a few weeks back): my sister was panicking that his appointment’d be cancelled.  It’s hard for the kids.  Being off school sounds fun, but they won’t be seeing their friends, and their football matches and all the other stuff they enjoy’ve all been cancelled.   Professional football’s off until at least the end of April, but we’re being told that the season will be finished.  And the Oberammergau Passion Play’s been postponed until 2021.  It’s quite ironic, given its history.

An office laptop has been set up with a remote link to my office computer.  I suppose I should bring it home and check that it works, but I’m scared that it’ll upset my home internet connection.  Working from home is looking inevitable, though.  People with young kids are going to have no choice after Friday – although I don’t know how people who can’t work from home are suppose to manage.  My brother-in-law’s office is closing, so he’s going to be working from home.  And GCSE, AS Level, A Level and Scottish Higher exams have been cancelled.  So sorry for the kids involved.

Not sure what to do about Grasmere.  I desperately want to go, but who knows where we might be at by the first weekend in April?  Some people are getting very sanctimonious and saying that no-one should be going anywhere – all very well, if you don’t have to go to work, and can get online shopping! – but there’s no reason not to go out as long as you observe social distancing.

The Queen’s issued an official statement, saying we all need to stay strong.  She’s now at Windsor – and I hope she’s got no plans to return to Buckingham Palace, because things in London are getting quite bad.

Prince Albert of Monaco’s got the virus now.  And Italy’s now had more deaths than China.


Friday, March 20th

Bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes have been ordered to close.  So have clubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres.  I’m going to ring the hotel in Grasmere tomorrow, to see what’s happening.  The boats at both Windermere and Coniston are off.  How are tourist places going to survive this?   Not even any notice – the food places’ll all have stock in, especially with it being Mothering Sunday this week.  I’m not criticising the decision, but the financial fallout’s going to be huge.  A “furlough” scheme – the word “furlough” makes me think of Dick Bettany in the Chalet School books coming home on “furlough” from India! – is being introduced, whereby the Government will pay 80% of wages for anyone who’s had to be laid off because of the closures, but how long can that go on for?

The start of the cricket season’s been delayed.

No printer ink in Tesco.  Everyone’s now panicking and ordering home office supplies online.  I usually get mine from Amazon, but they hadn’t got any.  I’ve managed to order some directly from HP.  I had to try four places before I could get skimmed milk, and there’s no toilet roll anywhere.   Managed to get one box of tissues in Iceland, and some paracetamol from Superdrug.  No Tesco apple and blackcurrant cordial, although I got some Robinsons stuff.  I usually only go to Tesco and M&S, and could have done without having to go round umpteen shops after being stuck at work all day, but there wasn’t much option.  Honestly, it’s like the stories from the war.  Mum went during the OAPs’ hour this morning, and managed to get a packet of toilet rolls, so she says she and Dad can spare me some if I run out!!

Beautiful spring day.  Due to be very windy tomorrow, though, so I think I’ll leave Chirk till Sunday.  I’ll go to Hollingworth Lake tomorrow: the daffodils are early this year, so it should be nice there.  I’ll stay 6 ft apart from anyone else.  And take selfies, seeing as I won’t be able to ask anyone to take photos for me!


Saturday, March 21st

Oh no!   Chirk Castle’s closing.  I checked this morning and this afternoon, and both times the website said it’d be open tomorrow.   Then they changed it late this evening.  I only checked again because I’d heard some places were closing tomorrow due to concerns about a lot of people going for Mothering Sunday.  They’re bothered about too many people going, which is fair enough … but no notice.  I bet a load of people turn up.   And my weekend in Grasmere’s off.  The hotel’s closing.  I did think about going for the day, next weekend, but now Cumbrian police have asked people to stay away from the Lakes.  At least I got to see some daffodils at Sizergh and Windermere, but I’m very sad that I won’t be seeing them at Grasmere, Coniston, Chirk or Biddulph this year.  And, the way things are going, I won’t be seeing the bluebells at Windermere, Capesthorne, Erddig or Brodsworth, nor the laburnum arch at Bodnant Garden.  Nor Tatton Park lambing week – that’s definitely off.  Well, the lambs’ll still come, but we won’t see them.  I’m trying to stay positive, but it feels as if all the good things are being taken out of life.  A lot of shops are closing, too.

Bolton Abbey’s still open, though, so I’m going there tomorrow.  It’s a huge estate, so it should be easy to stay 6 ft away from people.  I’ll have to take my own scone!  I always have a scone at weekends.  And I had a nice walk round Hollingworth Lake, and saw lots of daffodils.  People were being careful not to get to close to each other.  Sad to see the lovely tearoom which I usually go to there all shut up, though, and with the tables already decorated for Mothering Sunday.  This horrible virus is devastating businesses.  United and City’ve teamed up to donate £100,000 to local foodbanks.

Real Madrid’s president’s died, after being hospitalised with the virus.  Very sad.

I got some toilet roll, at least.  Called in at Tesco in case by any miracle they’d got some.  No joy.  But I then struck lucky – Quality Save’d just had a delivery, minutes before I got there.  You could only take one packet each, but they were really big packets.  I was so excited that I took a photo of them and put it on our family WhatsApp group!  This is what life has come to.  Getting excited over toilet roll!!


Sunday, March 22nd

Had a really lovely day at Bolton Abbey.  I did get a bit upset because the heavy-handed Puritan brigade on Facebook were posting abusive remarks about anyone who’d gone out for the day, and I felt like it was all directed at me (even though loads of people had gone out for the day), but, to be fair, I think they meant more the huge crowds pictured at seaside resorts.   We’ve been told that it’s important for physical and mental health to get out, and there are only so many places to go to, so I suppose it’s inevitable that people will end up at the same ones, but we all need to try to stay 6ft apart.  It can be done.  Nearly everyone at Bolton Abbey was doing it.

I wish the heavy-handed Puritan brigade’d shut up.  They’re not helping.  Two of my friends got quite upset because people’d had a go at them for posting jokes.  Is it going to help if we all lose our sense of humour?

And, on top of everything else, filming on Coronation Street and Emmerdale‘s stopping, so they’ll be going on ration too.

The Bolton Abbey estate was so beautiful.  The countryside’s so beautiful.  Maybe I’m feeling it even more than ever at the moment.  The world’s falling apart.  Everywhere, things are closing down.  281 deaths in the UK now.  I feel a bit like Scarlett O’Hara and Ashley Wilkes talking about their civilisation collapsing.  OK, OK, rationed episodes of soaps and a lack of professional sport is hardly to be compared to that, but … it does kind of feel as if the world;s falling apart.

Let’s try to stay positive …



March 16th to 18th inclusive – heading towards lockdown

Monday, March 16th

We’re supposed to be staying 6 feet away from anyone else.  “Social distancing.”  These are the words that will go down in history from 2020 – “social distancing” (staying 6 feet away from everyone else) and “self-isolating” (which you’ve got to do for a week if you think you’ve got the virus.   And, just as my grandmas and great-aunts kept loads of food in stock until the end of their days, because they never quite got over rationing, I think we’ll all be keeping loads of toilet roll in stock until the end of our days.  If we can find any, that is!

An e-mail went round the office saying that you had to wipe down the kettle every time you used it.   And Boris has now said that people should avoid pubs, clubs and restaurants.  ATG theatres are closing.   I was supposed to be seeing Phantom of the Opera on April 1st, but that won’t be happening now.  The panic-buying’s getting worse.  It really is ridiculous.  Painkillers are being stockpiled now, which is a huge problem because people who actually need them are struggling to get them.  Some supermarkets are now saying that only people over 70 can go in at certain times, and restricting how much of each product you can buy.   And more and more people are trying to book online deliveries, but there’s so much demand that there are no free slots for weeks.

France has been put into lockdown.  Germany’s closed shops and entertainment venues.    And even the sex shops in Amsterdam have been closed!  A lot of countries are closing borders.

Rugby league’s now off, and the Boat Race, and the Grand National.  Easyjet are grounding a load of planes … not very hopeful about Iceland now.  I booked it last September, to make sure I got a week in between Wimbledon finishing and the Olympics starting.  Hah!

People are getting paranoid.   Every time someone coughs or sneezes, people think it’s coronavirus.  COVID-19, I mean.


Tuesday, March 17th

Ordered some Easter eggs from Amazon, to be delivered to my nephews. My sister and brother-in-law and nephews were supposed to be coming up from London over Easter week, but they’re not now.  Everything’s going to be closed.  I don’t know when we’ll next see them.  I can’t believe this is happening.

National Trust tea rooms are closing!!  Armageddon is here!!  I have a jam and cream scone every weekend, as a treat, and more often than not it’s at a National Trust tea room.   Bleurgh 😦 .  Houses are closing too.  However, parks and gardens will be staying open.   Must try to get to Chirk Castle and Biddulph Grange this weekend, to see the daffodils.  All manned English Heritage sites are closing.

Some friends have already lost their jobs, here and in the Republic of Ireland.

United have cancelled training.  Euro 2020 is now Euro 2021.  And the French Open’s been rescheduled … until just after the US Open!  What??  I know it’s going to be hard to fit in in, but the French Tennis Federation seem to have made the announcement without consulting anyone else or stopping to think how players are going to switch from hard courts to clay courts just like that. People in France now need to carry a form if they’re going out, to say that they’re on permitted business such as going to work or going to the supermarket. It sounds like something from the war.

Places of worship are also closing – not my thing, but it’ll upset a lot of people, although there’ll be some services on line.  You can now only have five people at a wedding – the couple, the minister/registrar, and two witnesses.  A lot of couples have already postponed their weddings.  Poor Princess Beatrice: she doesn’t have much luck!

The gym is also closing.  I usually go on Mondays and Tuesdays.  It was really weird walking out tonight, saying goodbye to people and having absolutely no idea when I’ll see them again.   I can’t see golf clubs staying open much longer.  Poor Dad’ll be lost with no golf!

All non-essential NHS operations are being postponed.  We’ve been told we could see 20,000 deaths.  TWENTY THOUSAND.

There’s been some muttering at the office about working from home.  I don’t want to be in the office, especially given the rising tide of hysteria in some quarters, but I’m scared of trying to use a remote link from home.  I’m frightened that it might upset my home internet connection.

I’m trying to channel the spirit of the Blitz and all the rest of it, but no tennis, no football and probably no summer holiday … 😦  .


Wednesday, March 18th

I just can’t take in everything that’s happening.

Schools are closing on Friday.   Quite possibly until the next academic year.  Kids’ll have to try to work at home, using stuff that teachers’ve tried to set up on line.  My elder nephew’s in his last year at primary school.  The kids in his class’ll be being scattered between different secondary schools in September, and now they won’t get this last term together.  My younger nephew’s in the 1st year juniors, Year 3 as it’s called now.  It’s bad enough for primary school kids, but what about people doing exams?  My friend’s son’s supposed to be doing his GCSEs.  And people doing A-levels and Scottish Highers need their grades for university places.  Presumably, it’ll have to go off teachers’ assessments instead, but that’s not necessarily going to produce the same results that exams would have done.  Oh, this is just a nightmare!  This bloody virus!

And filming’s been suspended on EastEnders, Holby City and Casualty.  Numbers of weekly episodes of EastEnders are being reduced.  Presumably Coronation Street and Emmerdale will be next.  So we could be locked up without even our normal TV to watch!  And there’ll now be no tennis until at least June.

And Biddulph Grange is closing!  Oh no.  I love the daffodil woodland walk there.  Chirk Castle’s estate and garden are staying open, though.  There are more and more rumours that we could be put on full lockdown, though.  Parts of the US are now in lockdown.  And maybe this sounds silly, but I’m panicking about my hair.  I’m due for a cut and dye next Thursday.  I booked an appointment for their late weekday night so as to leave the weekend free for going out to see daffodils at National Trust places – hah!   It’s only 8 days away, but … I’m getting stressed.

Getting some bizarre e-mails from shops.  M&S sent an e-mail round saying that they’re suspending their bra-fitting service, like anyone’s immediate priority is to buy a new bra!!   Their food shops are staying open, though, which is the main thing!  Tesco are no longer opening 24 hours: they’re restricting opening hours to allow time for restocking.  And reserving certain times for elderly/vulnerable people.  Mum’s going during the “elderly” slot on Friday!

I normally only go to Tesco on a Friday, but, feeling a bit panicky myself, I went tonight.  They were out of a few things, but I went to Morrisons and they had most of them.  But no toilet roll.

Glastonbury’s off.  The US PGA is off.  Even the Eurovision Song Contest is off.

Will someone please wake me up from this horrendous nightmare?  And, all the time, the death toll rises, each loss a tragedy.






On through March 2020 – the world seems to be falling apart

Monday, March 9th

Oh no!!  Indian Wells has been called off, because of a case (one case!) of coronavirus in southern California.  No news on Miami yet, but a lot of the European players are already heading home.  I don’t know what’s going to happen with the tennis season now.  I can’t see Rome going ahead: the whole of Italy’s going into lockdown.   Nor Monte Carlo with it being so close to Italy, and, with the situation in France worsening, the French Open must be in doubt too.   It’s everywhere.  Israel’s now said that people will have to go into quarantine for a fortnight on arriving there, and the Republic of Ireland’s cancelled its St Patrick’s Day parades … although the one here’s going ahead.


Tuesday, March 10th

This morning, I wrote a blog post called “Love Letter to Italy”.  I am so sad to see what’s happening in a country that means so much to me.

Our Europa League match against LASK in Linz is going to be played behind closed doors.  LASK are going mad, but the Austrian government’s insisted.  Matches in France, Spain and Germany will also have to be played behind closed doors.  I’ve read that the virus doesn’t actually live long outdoors, but who knows?   I don’t know how the European matches are going to be played at all, because some countries are banning flights now.   Valencia’s match against Atalanta was played, but maybe Atalanta were already there.  Lazio fans are panicking that the season might be cancelled and they’ll miss out on the title they’ve waited so long for.  Could the same thing happen here, with Liverpool?

Nadine Dorries has tested positive for it now.  I hope it’s not spread all round Parliament!

Donald Trump says it’ll go away.  I wish it would …


Wednesday, March 11th

Everything’s just so weird.  It’s mid-March.  It should be all lambs and daffodils and Indian Wells and the business end of the football season, but it’s like we’re in some kind of parallel universe.  A lot of countries are closing schools.  The Fed Cup finals are off.  Cricket tours are off.  Arsenal are in quarantine because they played Olympiakos, and someone there’s got it, so Arsenal’s match against City’s off.  A lot of people who’ve tested positive in Italy have hardly got any symptoms.   Angela Merkel says 70% of people in Germany could get it.  I just don’t know what to think.

The WHO’s declared it a pandemic.  I’m not sure that the actual use of the word “pandemic” makes any difference – it’s just a word – but anyway.


Thursday, March 12th

Everything’s just falling apart.  Over 1,000 people have now died in Italy – where everything’s now been closed other than food shops and pharmacies.  The US has banned all flights from Schengen countries.  The tennis season’s off till May!   Miami and all the April events are off.  Challengers in play at the moment have stopped mid-tournament.  No Monte Carlo, no Rome, no Barcelona 😦 .  Euro 2020’s in doubt.  The French and Spanish Cup finals are off.  It’s getting really bad in Spain.  Very worried.   And the NBA season’s been suspended.

We won 5-0 at LASK.  So, so weird seeing a match played with no fans in the stadium.  Liverpool’s match against Atletico Madrid went ahead as normal last night, but City’s match against Real Madrid’s off because Real’s players and staff are in quarantine after one of their basketball team tested positive.

My sister was due to go to Dublin with two friends this weekend, but they’ve cancelled it – not that things are bad in Dublin, but they’re nervous about flights being cancelled.  Schools and cultural facilities are being closed in the Republic.  And my book club meeting on Saturday’s been called off, because some of our members are over 70 and they’re nervous.  Mum and Dad and their friends are cancelling their card games, for the same reason.

In the middle of it all, I’ve received an e-mail from my holiday company about my July holiday to Iceland, all upbeat and cheerful.  Will I be able to go?  At the moment, I’m not even sure I’ll get my weekend in Grasmere in April.

Will someone please wake me up from this nightmare?


Friday, March 13th

Friday 13th all bloody right.  The football season (the League, anyway, not non-league football)’s been suspended until the end of March!  No tennis.  No football – Mikel Arteta’s tested positive for the virus, although thankfully he seems to be OK.  Very sorry for Liverpool, only two points away from the title – and that’s a Manchester United fan speaking!   The Cheltenham Festival’s gone ahead, but the London Marathon’s off, rugby union’s off (but not rugby league, yet), more cricket tours are off, the US Masters is off, local and mayoral elections have been postponed, and some universities have closed.   The Queen, Prince Charles and Camilla have postponed their engagements.  A lot of countries are closing borders.  It would normally give me great pleasure to see the “European Union” shown to be nothing of the sort – every country is, quite rightly, doing what’s best for itself – but not under these circumstances.

And the panic-buying!  It’s a virus, not submarine warfare.  We’re not going to be holed up in our homes with no food.  But some of the shelves in Tesco were pretty bare tonight.  I’m trying not to panic – and, besides, I don’t know where people are storing all this stuff, unless they have giant freezers! – but I must confess to buying a fair bit extra.  When you see empty shelves, it’s hard not to start panic-buying: you don’t want to be the person left with nothing.   And there was not a toilet roll to be had.  Luckily, I don’t need any more at the moment, but some people will!  For heaven’s sake.  We got through two world wars without people panicking about toilet roll … er, although most people probably used newspaper then.  This is not a nice topic to be thinking about, but suddenly everyone‘s obsessed with toilet roll.


Saturday, March 14th

I had a bit of a meltdown this morning.  It was because I’d put on weight for no reason, but it was just everything.  I feel like the world’s falling apart.  I’m so glad Mum and Dad got back safely from their break in Spain earlier this week, because Spain’s now banned incoming flights.   It was all so sudden.  There were flights in mid-air: they had to turn back.  And there are holidaymakers out there who’ll have to be rescued.  Spain’s now in complete lockdown.  You can’t even go out to exercise.  Belgium’s closed cafes and restaurants.  The Manchester Marathon’s off.  I just can’t keep up with it all.

People are trying to cheer each other up – there are jokey things on Facebook about typing in the @ symbol and the third name to come up’ll be your quarantine partner.  We’re hearing a lot about “quarantining”, and “self-isolating”.

Went to Dunham Massey this morning.  Lovely, lovely daffodils.  Lovely, lovely spring – nature’s carrying on.  The daffodils have even come early.  I saw my cousin there, and she gave me a hug, without thinking.  You’re not really supposed to hug people now!  It’s elbow bumps or the namaste!   Dunham was pretty busy.  I think it’s more confined spaces that people are nervous about.  I’ve had e-mails from Vue cinemas, Costa Coffee and several hotels, assuring me that they’re safe to visit.  They must be losing a lot of business.

I then tried to get some toilet roll, seeing as Tesco had none yesterday.  None at M&S.  None at Quality Save.  But, hooray, I got some at Budget Savers!   Some shops are rationing how much you can buy now, but you’re lucky to find any at all.  Is this seriously happening?


Sunday, March 15th

I went to Windermere today, and stopped at Sizergh Castle on the way back – the daffodils are out there, already.  So early this year.  The weather wasn’t brilliant, but I couldn’t keep waiting.  Who knows what’s going to happen?   And just being there made me feel better.  It always does.  It was fairly busy.  Not heaving, but then it would never be heaving on a damp-ish day in March.  Oh, I am so glad I’ve been.  This has been such a strange week, and I’m afraid there’s much worse to come.  The Republic of Ireland’s now closed all pubs and bars.  All over Europe, schools, shops and indeed borders are being closed.  I just cannot believe this is happening.  As a history-obsessed kid, I often thought there might be another world war, but, instead, the world’s falling apart because of a virus.

I look forward so much to this time of year.  My daffodil days out to Chirk Castle and Biddulph Grange.  My weekend in Grasmere, and seeing the daffodils at Coniston, Windermere and Sizergh whilst I’m there.  Rafa winning clay court tournaments 🙂 .  The climax of the football season.  Thoughts turning to my summer holiday.  And now … I just feel like we’re in a nightmare.  But it’s horribly real.




Early March 2020 – panic-buying, and more and more cases of the virus

Sunday, March 1st

There’s been a case of the virus in Bury now.  That’s only six miles away.  It’s the first one in the local area.  That’s a bit scary.  Meanwhile, everything else here goes on as normal.  I still haven’t managed to get to the Lake District this year, because of the rotten weather, but I went to Lyme Park this morning.  Rafa won Acapulco 🙂 .  And City won the Carabao Cup – suppose I should congratulate them, even though it rankles!


Monday, March 2nd

Mum and Dad have cancelled their summer holiday to Italy.  They were due to fly to Rome and then pick up a cruise, and were nervous because of all these poor people getting stuck on cruise ships where someone’s tested positive for the virus.  My holiday company’s cancelled all tours to Northern Italy for the time being.  The Swiss Football League’s been suspended for two weeks, the pre-season club football tournament in Asia’s been cancelled, and the Irish cricket tour of Thailand’s been called off.  Other than the Democratic primaries in America, there’s little other than coronavirus-related stuff on the news these days.


Tuesday, March 3rd

There are now 51 cases in the UK.  The news channels and websites flash up every new case at the bottom of the screen, like a goal in a football match, which is very odd.  A graduation ceremony at one of the London universities has been cancelled.  There are panicky reports that 20% of the British workforce could be off sick at any one time.


Wednesday, March 4th

There’ve now been 107 deaths in Italy, because of the virus, and there’ve been 73 new cases diagnosed in France today alone.  A lot of flights are being cancelled.    Sport in Italy’s now got to be played behind closed doors, and schools, colleges and universities are being closed, like they were in China.  The Olympic relay’s going ahead, but the London Book Fair’s been called off, and the release of the new James Bond film’s been delayed.  And, bizarrely, people are stocking up on toilet paper!!  The virus doesn’t cause stomach upsets, but there seem to have been reports in Australia that most toilet paper there was imported from China and supplies were going to run short, so people started panic-buying, and then the pictures went viral and now it’s happening here and in other countries too!!


Thursday, March 5th

The first virus-related death in the UK.  An woman in her 70s, with underlying health conditions, has died in Berkshire.  Very, very sad.

My sister has succumbed to the Great Toilet Roll Panic and bought a load of toilet rolls.   And other stuff.  I do my big Tesco and M&S shop on a Friday, but I had to go into the Sainsbury’s Local near work for a couple of bits today, and found myself getting caught up in it all and buying some toilet rolls and Dettol.  You don’t want to panic, but nor do you want to be the person who’s left without.  People have even nicked toilet rolls from public toilets in Australia, because shops are selling out of it!!  Hand sanitiser’s running short too, because we keep being told it’s important to wash our hands more often – although Sainsbury’s Local did have some.  Mine are getting quite sore from all this extra washing.  It’s not like I don’t wash my hands normally, but not this much!

The Premier League’s banned handshakes between players.  And the Six Nations matches in Italy have been called off.  I can’t see how the Six Nations can be finished now – unless it’s left for months.  And what about the Champions League and the Europa League?  There are quite a few Italian clubs involved.

And now Flybe’s collapsed – the cancellation of flights due to coronavirus has been the final straw.  Oh, what a nightmare this all is!


Friday, March 6th

There’s been a second virus-related death in the UK, this time in Milton Keynes.  Things in Italy are getting worse and worse, and Iran’s suffering too.  This is just all awful.  The Scotland v France women’s Six Nations match is off, because a Scotland player tested positive for the virus.

There was toilet roll in Tesco tonight, but only white toilet roll, and I wanted cream!  Why have panic-buyers bought up all the cream toilet roll but left the white?!  Not a single bottle of hand sanitiser to be had, though.  Someone at my office bought two bottles on Amazon for £109 each.  Can you believe that?!  I wouldn’t mind, but Sainsbury’s Local near the office had some, and their bottles were only £3 each!  This panic-buying is really getting very silly.

The weather forecast for the Lakes for the weekend is awful.  Again.  Gah!!


Saturday, March 7th

The family of the man yesterday have been saying how they weren’t even allowed to be with him, for fear of infection.  This virus is just horrendous.  There’s now talk of “social detachment” for the over-70s.  How’s that going to work.  Am I not supposed to see Mum and Dad?  Or my uncle, who lives on his own?  Or my brother-in-law’s parents?   So many rumours.   And now 3,500 people are stuck on a cruise ship off the coast of California, because of the virus.

It’s like there are now two groups of people.  Those of us trying to “Keep Calm and Carry On”, and those who are panic-buying.  I’m not criticising anyone: it’s scary.  Some people have cancelled restaurant bookings.

Went to Speke Hall today.  The daffodils there are always early, but they’re particularly early this year.  Then to Newbank Garden Centre.  Getting my garden ready for spring!


Sunday, March 8th

What a strange day.  It should have been a wonderful day, because we beat City, 2-0!  Old Trafford was packed – no viruses were keeping people away from the derby!   It was a really manic last few minutes.  Amazing atmosphere.  I came out absolutely buzzing!   Even Liverpool must be pleased that we won, because they’re very, very close to the title now.

But … later on, it was announced that a man had died from the virus (although I think we’re meant to say “with” the virus – it’s all a bit confusing, especially as it mainly seems to affect people with underlying health conditions) at Crumpsall Hospital, North Manchester General.  That’s my local hospital.  Whew.  That really hit me.  This is here – it’s here, amongst us.  That poor man, and his poor family and friends.  64 new cases in the UK today.

Fans have been banned from the Bahrain Grand Prix now.

This morning, I went to Ilkley, as I always do at this time of year – there’s a nice riverside walk there, and I like to see the Easter eggs and simnel cakes in Betty’s.  It was the first time I’d ever got a table in Betty’s without having to queue.  It may just have been because I was so early, because of needing to get home in time to go to the match, but it does seem that people are getting a bit nervous about going out, because of this virus.

Where on earth will all this end?




February 2020 – the virus spreads

Sunday, February 2nd

The China Open snooker and the World Athletics Indoor Championships (due to be held in Nanjing) have had to be postponed because of coronavirus.  300 people have died now.  And there’s now been a death from it outside China: a Chinese man’s died in the Philippines.

Tuesday, February 4th

The Foreign Office has advised all British citizens in China to leave.  Hong Kong’s closed 10 of its 13 border crossings with mainland China, and some countries are stopping Chinese people from entering, and banning flights from China.  I hope it doesn’t get too bad in Japan: I’m due to go there in October.  There’ve been a few cases there already.

Thursday, February 6th

Someone else in the UK’s got the virus now, in Brighton.  They apparently caught it in Singapore.   565 people have died now, 71 yesterday alone.  There are reports of Chinese tourists being banned from entering cafes and restaurants in some European countries.  I understand that people are worried, but I hope this isn’t going to lead to some sort of upsurge in racism/hate crime.

Friday, February 7th

Now the virus has broken out on a cruise ship!  So no-one on it’s allowed to get off: they’re all in quarantine.  And it’s off the coast of Japan.   And it seems that this guy in Brighton’s inadvertently passed it on to several other people.

Sunday, February 9th

And yet another person’s now tested positive for the virus – a contact of the man who caught it at a conference in Singapore.  I wish the media would stop referring to the man as a “super-spreader”.  He hasn’t done it on purpose!

Wednesday, February 12th

The Chinese Grand Prix’s been postponed.  It wasn’t until April, but evidently they don’t think this virus situation’ll be sorted by then.  It’s getting worse and worse in China.  There’ve been very few cases elsewhere, though.

Saturday, February 15th

A Chinese tourist’s died of the virus in France.  First coronavirus death outside Asia.

Tuesday, February 18th

Apparently, what’s making people ill is “COVID-19” (all capitals … although it should probably be “CoViD”, but never mind), which is a condition caused by coronavirus, not coronavirus itself. Whatever it’s called, it’s not very good, but China’s said that 80% of those affected by it have only had mild symptoms.  It seems to be mainly older people who are badly affected.

Wednesday, February 19th 

People are finally being allowed off this Diamond Princess cruise ship!  Sounds as if conditions on there got pretty horrible.

Saturday, February 22nd

433 people have been diagnosed with the virus in South Korea, and both Iran and Italy have also reported several cases.

Sunday, February 23rd

The Venice Carnival’s been ended early, because of coronavirus.  It’s getting quite bad in Northern Italy – there are 152 cases there now, and two people have died.  I’m very sad about it.  I love Northern Italy.  I went to the Venice Carnival for my 40th birthday.  Venice is my favourite Continental city, and I love the lakes too.  I loved China when I went there, but I’ve only been once: I haven’t got the feeling for it that I’ve got for Italy.  And a train from Venice to Munich was stopped at the Austrian border, after reports that someone on board had the virus.  Trains being stopped at borders … it sounds like something from the war.  I don’t know what to think about all this.  It’s very worrying.

Monday, February 24th

Inter Milan’s Europa League match against Ludogorets is going to be played behind closed doors, because of fears about coronavirus.   Atalanta v Valencia last week went ahead as normal, as did the weekend’s Italian league matches, but the situation in Northern Italy is getting worse and worse.

Tuesday, February 25th

Seven people have now died of the virus in Italy, and fifteen in Iran.  And some visitors from Italy have tested positive at hotels in Tenerife and Innsbruck, so everyone else there’s had to be put into quarantine too.  Two schools in the UK have closed, because kids went on ski trips to Northern Italy over half term.  And how many other people have been on ski trips to Italy, or city breaks, or business trips?  This is not good.

Japan’s cancelled football matches for three weeks, because of the virus.  I’m supposed to be going there in October.  And to Iceland in July, although surely Iceland should be safe.

Wednesday, February 26th

The Six Nations matches between Ireland and Italy, in Dublin, have been called off because of concerns about coronavirus … although I’d think people’ll travel anyway, if they’ve got flights and accommodation booked.  It’s hard to know what to think about it all.  Several schools and businesses have now temporarily closed because people who’ve been to Italy’ve had flu-type symptoms.  Everyone’s getting rather jittery.

Thursday, February 27th

Getting very stressed about Japan.  Schools there have been closed now.  And there are 16 cases in the UK.  All the new cases are in people who’ve recently been to Italy.  The health authorities are telling people not to panic, but councils are getting very nervy, and closing schools where there are any concerns.

Friday, February 28th

A British man’s died of the virus.  One of the people who was on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.  The first British death.  Let’s hope there are no more … and indeed that this horrible virus doesn’t cause many more deaths of anyone anywhere.  But sadly that looks unlikely.

Increasingly stressed about Japan.  Some tourist attractions there have been closed.

Everyone’s getting really worried now.  Stock markets are dropping.

Saturday, February 29th

Someone’s tested positive for coronavirus in Iceland now.  Three more cases in the UK.  The number of new cases is dropping in China, which is hopeful, but cases elsewhere are increasing.  France has banned all indoor events attended by over 5,000 people.

There are all sorts of scaremongering stories going round, about the football season being cancelled, Euro 2020 and the Olympics being cancelled, schools being closed for months and the economy collapsing.  And 10% of the population ending up in hospital.  I don’t think this sort of speculation’s helping anyone, but there’s no denying the fact that this is a very worrying situation.  It’s like something out of a horror film or book.  But it’s real.

January 2020 – the first news

Monday, January 20th

Some weird new virus has appeared in China.  Honestly, what a start to the year!  The fires in Australia, the trouble in the Middle East, Iran shooting down that Ukrainian plane, Harry and Meghan jumping ship, and now this.  Funny how these things just appear.  There was SARS, and bird flu, and swine flu.  Four years ago there was that Zika virus, which I kept close track of because I was going to Brazil later that year.  It all petered out, though, apart from for those poor little kids born with shrunken heads because of it, and it wasn’t even being mentioned by the time I went to Brazil in the October.  Presumably this one will too, as these things do.

Wednesday, January 22nd

Seventeen people have now died from this virus in China.

Friday, January 24th

Two people in France have got this coronavirus now, and six people in the UK have been tested for it.  Public transport’s been closed in Wuhan, which is the centre of the outbreak.

Saturday, January 25th

It’s the Chinese New Year today.  All the decorations are up in town here, but celebrations in China itself have been muted because of this virus.  Some Chinese students who are at university here were interviewed on the local news: they’ve had to cancel their plans to go home for New Year because their families are nervous about them catching it.  Such a shame for them, but the virus does seem to be spreading.

Sunday, January 26th 

This virus is getting really worrying.  56 people have died now.  Hubei province, where Wuhan is, is pretty much being closed down.  An airlift’s being organised to get British citizens there home.

Wednesday, January 29th

Saw a really weird post on Facebook today – something about a group of Donald Trump supporters saying that people who’ve got coronavirus (why is it “coronavirus” rather than “the coronavirus”?) should drink bleach! Don’t ask me what that was about!!

Thursday, January 30th

The evacuation flight from Hubei province should finally arrive tomorrow.  There’s been a lot of hassle over evacuating people: I don’t think the authorities there are exactly making things easy.  The people on it are going to have to go into quarantine.  They’re being taken to the Wirral, for some reason, to Arrowe Park Hospital.

Friday, January 31st

Bloody hell!  Two Chinese tourists in York have tested positive for this coronavirus.  I hope no-one else there’s caught it.

We’ve signed Odion Ighalo from Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, on loan.  Presumably he’ll have to go into quarantine before he can actually come to Old Trafford, though, with all this virus stuff going on.  And people with holidays to China booked in the near future are going to have to cancel them.

This is all getting rather worrying now.



Hello, and welcome to The Year Without Wimbledon


Hello, and welcome to The Year Without Wimbledon, my coronavirus pandemic diary. I’m writing a few notes every day, grouped into blog posts for each week, on how my life in lockdown here in Manchester, Northern England is going; and I’ve also written a few posts on the build-up to lockdown, starting in January 2020. If anyone’s reading this, thank you very much, and please let me know if you’ve got any thoughts to share!

Index of posts:

A Different Life, Week 1, December 27th 2021 to January 2nd 2022 inclusive

I’m leaving it here.  Thanks for reading.


Here we go again?

Here we go again?  Week 1, December 6th to 12th 2021 inclusive

Here we go again?  Week 2, December 13th to 19th 2021 inclusive

Merry Christmas/festive season

Here we go again?  Week 3, December 20th to 26th 2021 inclusive




Freedom?  Week 1, July 19th to 25th 2021 inclusive

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

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

New little hopes: return to Old Trafford

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

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

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

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

Vaccine passports and WFH

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

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

Freedom?  Week 10, September 20th to 26th 2021 inclusive

Freedom?  Week 11, September 27th to October 3rd 2021 inclusive

Freedom?  Week 12, October 4th to 10th 2021 inclusive

Freedom?  Week 13, October 11th to 17th 2021 inclusive

Freedom?  Week 14, October 18th to 24th 2021 inclusive

Freedom?  Week 15, October 25th to 31st 2021 inclusive

Freedom?  Week 16, November 1st to 7th 2021 inclusive

Freedom?  Week 17, November 8th to 14th 2021 inclusive

Freedom?  Week 18, November 15th to 21st 2021 inclusive

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

Freedom?  Week 20, November 29th to December 5th 2021 inclusive


The Road to Freedom? 

Dancing with the Daffodils

The road to freedom? Week 1 , March 29th to April 4th 2021 inclusive

Death of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

The road to freedom?  Week 2, April 5th to 11th 2021 inclusive

Vaccination Day

The road to freedom?  Week 3, April 12th to 18th 2021 inclusive

The road to freedom?  Week 4, April 19th to 25th 2021 inclusive

The road to freedom?  Week 5, April 26th to May 2nd 2021 inclusive

The road to freedom?  Week 6, May 3rd to 9th 2021 inclusive

Hugging is back

The road to freedom?  Week 7, May 10th to 16th 2021 inclusive

The road to freedom?  Week 8, May 17th to 23rd 2021 inclusive

The road to freedom?  Week 9, May 24th to 30th 2021 inclusive

Coping with uncertainty

D.V. Day – fully vaccinated!

The road to freedom?  Week 10, May 31st to June 6th 2021 inclusive

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

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

On and on and on

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

Wimbledon is back

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

The road to freedom?  Week 15, July 5th to 11th 2021 inclusive

Euro 2020

The road to freedom?  Week 16, July 12th to 18th 2021 inclusive


Lockdown III:

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

The coming of the vaccines

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

Manchester monsoons, Melbourne mice, park perambulations and lockdown locks

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

Anniversaries, Adelaide tennis and appalling ingratitude

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

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

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

Upside Down

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

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

Lockdown Birthday/Group 10

Lockdown III Week 8, February 22nd to 28th 2021 inclusive

A match-less year

Lockdown III Week 9, March 1st to 7th 2021 inclusive

Lockdown III Week 10, March 8th to 14th 2021 inclusive

A hitch in the proceedings

Lockdown III Week 11, March 15th to 21st 2021 inclusive

Lockdown Anniversary

Lockdown III Week 12, March 22nd to 28th 2021 inclusive



Tier Four

Snakes and Ladders/Tiers and Fears

Tier Four, Week 1 – December 31st to January 3rd inclusive


Tier Three Plus

Eating From A Box

Some statistics – now, how does this work?

Tier Three Plus, Week 1 – December 7th to 13th inclusive

Christmas is cancelled


Tier Three Plus, Week 2 – December 14th to 20th inclusive

Tier Three Plus, Week 3 – December 21st to 27th inclusive

Snow pictures

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


Lockdown II:

Welcome to Lockdown II – the lights go out, the facilities stay open

Lockdown II Week 1 – November 2nd to 8th inclusive

Lockdown II Week 2 – November 9th to 15th inclusive

The Great Christmas Debate

Lockdown II Week 3 – November 16th to 22nd inclusive

Lockdown II Week 4, November 23rd to 29th inclusive

Lockdown II Week 5, November 30th to December 6th inclusive

Eating From A Box


Second Wave:

Second Wave Week 1 – August 31st to September 6th inclusive

Trying to smile behind the mask

Second Wave Week 2 – September 7th to 13th inclusive

Madrid, which saved my life … well, OK, sort of

Second Wave Week 3 – September 14th to 20th inclusive

Second Wave Week 4 – September 21st to 27th inclusive

It is better to light a candle …

Second Wave Week 5 – September 28th to October 4th inclusive

Second Wave Week 6 – October 5th to 11th inclusive

What is going on?

Second Wave Week 7 – October 12th to 18th inclusive

The Harrying of the North, or The Two Nations

Second Wave Week 8 – October 19th to 25th inclusive

Town before lockdown

Second Wave Week 9 – October 26th to November 1st inclusive






Moving on:

Goodbye lockdown locks, hello cafes, stay safe

Masks on the Steamer

A Visit to the Dentist

Rowing back – a nightmare couple of days

Café culture reaches the North Manchester suburbs … due to the virus

The Summer of Staycations – holidaying in the age of Covid-19

Moving On Week 1 – July 6th to 12th inclusive

Moving On Week 2- July 13th to 19th inclusive

Moving On Week 3 – July 20th to 26th inclusive

Moving On Week 4 – July 27th to August 2nd inclusive

Moving On, or maybe not, Week 5 – August 3rd to 9th inclusive

Confused of Manchester … are we all with this?

A trip into town, mayhem at the US Open, and EastEnders returns

Moving on Weeks 6 and 7 – August 10th to 23rd inclusive

Moving on Week 8 – August 24th to 30th inclusive





During lockdown:

Lockdown Week 1 – March 23rd to 29th inclusive

Lockdown Week 2 – March 30th to April 5th inclusive

Lockdown Week 3 – April 6th to 12th inclusive

Lockdown Week 4 – April 13th to 19th inclusive

Lockdown Week 5 – April 20th to 26th inclusive

Lockdown Week 6 – April 27th to May 3rd inclusive

Lockdown Week 7 – May 4th to May 10th inclusive

Lockdown Week 8, May 11th to 17th inclusive

Lockdown Week 9, May 18th to 24th inclusive

Lockdown Week 10, May 25th to 31st inclusive

Lockdown Week 11, June 1st to 7th inclusive

Lockdown Week 12, June 8th to 14th inclusive

Lockdown Week 13, June 15th to 21st inclusive

Lockdown Week 14, June 22nd to 28th inclusive

Lockdown Week 15, June 29th to July 5th inclusive


Before lockdown:

January – the first news

February 2020 – the virus spreads

Early March 2020 – panic-buying, and more and more cases of the virus

On through March 2020 – the world seems to be falling apart

March 16th to 18th inclusive – heading towards lockdown




General musings:

Mental Health Awareness Week

Football without fans

Return to the National Trust


Football’s coming back

Seeking peace in nature: Back to Life with the National Trust and English Heritage

Support bubbles, scones and snapdragons

Of football, hairdressers, anxiety, techno-trauma and Blytonesque picnics

Tennis is back … going well in London, disaster in the Balkans

Socially-distanced strawberry-picking – a lockdown experience!


The Never Ending Story

The coronavirus era arrives in Coronation Street and Emmerdale

Goodbye Debenhams