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

Monday, October 25th

It is really confusing having everyone and their dog putting their two penn’orth in all over the media.  Infection numbers may rise to 100,000 a day, but this shouldn’t be a problem.  No, no, this is a huge problem, and we will be back in lockdown by Christmas.  Nonsense – infection numbers will be down to 5,000 per day by Christmas.  The booster programme is going well.  The booster programme is going too slowly.   Vaccinations should be made compulsory for NHS staff.  Vaccinations should not be made compulsory for NHS staff.

Latvia is back in lockdown, Russia’s going into a week’s “firebreak”, and now Romania’s imposing a night time curfew.  Only about a third of adults have been vaccinated in Russia, and the same in Romania.

 

Tuesday, October 26th

Case numbers have dropped quite a lot over the last week.  What does this mean?

Meanwhile, more tests today.  I arrived at 8:15 for my 8:30 appointment, to find myself in an empty room because “the receptionist doesn’t start till 8:45”.  The place opens at 8.  How can they have no receptionist until 8:45?  Anyway, they did everything, then said I should chase my GP surgery as they “were very busy” and might not get round to contacting me about the results.  My anxiety levels were already through the roof – that did not help!

The WTA’s said that unvaccinated players will be able to play at the Aussie Open.

And I hope the Queen’s OK.  We just keep being told that she’s been “advised to rest”.

 

Wednesday, October 27th

More confusion over the Australian Open.  Aussie Prime Minister Scott Morrison said unvaccinated players would be able to enter Australia to play, as long as the state of Victoria  applied for exemptions from national rules.   But Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has said Victoria won’t be applying.   TBH, if the rules say no entry without vaccination, then I don’t see why you should get an exemption just because you’re a professional athlete, so I think Andrews has got a point.  Presumably this will also affect England cricketers.  Meanwhile, Dominic Thiem’s been banned from the Vienna Open, i.e. his home event, because he hasn’t been vaccinated yet.  He says he’s waiting for the Novavax.  Er, whatever!

There was a lot of speculation about whether or not MPs would wear masks whilst the Commons was packed out for the Budget statement.  Some did.  Some didn’t.   Masks have been mandatory in the Commons for everyone except MPs!   Keir Starmer wasn’t there at all, having tested positive for Covid.

 

Thursday, October 28th

Rishi Sunak has been to Bury Market, presumably to show how committed he is to helping Northern England.  Unfortunately, he called it “Burnley Market”.  To be fair, I think it was just a slip of the tongue, because it was straight after a reporter had been talking about coming from Burnley, but it made him look a bit of a prat.  On a more serious note, there’s been horrendously heavy rain in the Lake District and parts of Scotland.  The piers at Windermere are flooded, as are various roads, including the road between Ambleside and Grasmere 😦 .

And all remaining countries on “the red list” are to be taken off it.

 

Friday, October 29th

Apparently I have got a large fibroid.  Apologies for TMI, but, as I’ve kept going on about medical tests, that’s what’s turned up.  I had a complete nightmare this afternoon: I rang for the results at 3, as I was meant to, spent ages in a phone queue, and was then told that the receptionist had forwarded the results to a doctor who wasn’t in today, so no-one had looked at them.   Try again at 4.  I rang again at 4.  No-one’s looked at them: they’re all too busy.  It’ll have to wait till Monday.  At this point, I got really upset.  Thankfully, it was the nice receptionist, not the stroppy one, and she persuaded the doctor to ring me back at 6.  And at least I was WFH today.  Imagine dealing with that at work.  Or during your journey home.  So I’m quite upset, although at least it’s nothing worse.  My auntie and my cousin both had a lot of trouble with fibroids: I think they are partially genetic.  Now I’ve got to have more blood tests.  And then, hopefully, I will actually get to see a doctor, because it’s come this far and I haven’t actually *seen* a doctor yet.

I am trying to get my head round it all.

1 in 50 people in England had Covid last week.  Apparently.  How on earth do they work that out, when positive tests were about 40,000 per day and the population of England’s about 57 million?  I’m sure they’ve got a way, but it makes no sense to me.  Meanwhile, restrictions around masks and isolation are being tightened in Wales, things are not very good in Russia, and restrictions are being tightened in Beijing ahead of the Winter Olympics.

 

Saturday, October 30th

We won 3-0 at Spurs today.  That’s more like it.

 

Sunday, October 31st

Today, I had booked a Blackpool Illuminations tram.  When I arrived, the sun was out.  Then it went in, and there were two absolute deluges.  However, the tram was very nice, and it was good to see the Illuminations after not being able to go last year.

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

Monday, June 7th

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, June 8th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, June 9th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, June 10th

Still no reply.  FFS.

Very, very nervous about the semi-final.

Joe Salisbury and Desirae Krawczyk won the mixed doubles 🙂 .

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

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

Is there no end to this?

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

 

Friday, June 11th

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, June 12th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, June 13th

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

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

It is very hot.

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

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

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

Easter Monday, April 5th

At last!!   After 7 months, I’ve seen my sister and brother-in-law and nephews.  Please, please, no more travel restrictions.  It is so hard being separated from families and friends.  At least the two boys (aged 12 and 9) are old enough to know what’s going on: I’ve heard some upsetting stories of babies getting distressed with grandparents and aunts and uncles whom they don’t recognise after the long separation.  It was a long, long day, driving down to London and back in the day, but, hooray, we’ve been reunited at last!

Water still dripping.  Fingers crossed that I can get a plumber tomorrow.

Boris has confirmed that we’ll be moving on to Stage 2 on April 12th – non-essential shops, hairdressers, outdoor attractions, self-contained overnight accommodation, gyms, outdoor hospitality, etc to reopen.  No Covid passports at this stage.  But he isn’t saying anything yet about overseas travel, or the possibility of using Covid passports in the future.  There will also be two free Covid tests for everyone in England from Friday onwards, but I doubt people’ll take them if they’re asymptomatic: people can’t afford the time off work, and horrible employers won’t pay people.

Oh, please never let us have to be separated from our families and friends again.

 

Tuesday, April 6th

Today has been an utter nightmare.  I haven’t even managed to get out for a walk – which I would have done, even in the snow which bizarrely decided to fall in April.  The first three plumbers I tried said they were too busy/working too far away to come.  The fourth one came 3 1/2 hours after I rang.  Then he said that the problem was not a leak from the bath but a corroded pipe, caused by someone not doing something properly when the house was built, and that he’d have to cut a hole in the ceiling to get at it.  So there is now a hole in the kitchen ceiling.

He sorted the leak out, but the shower got an airlock whilst the water had been off, and he couldn’t sort it out.  The shower is now working again, but he was here for over 4 hours, I am exhausted and stressed, and there is a hole in the kitchen ceiling to go with the stain, the smashed light fitting and my bruised knee.

I have had better days.

Collected two boxes of Covid lateral flow tests from the testing centre, because someone told me you could just go and get them.

All adults in the US are to be eligible for vaccination from a week on Monday.  Sadly, the same is not true here.  The number of jabs being given has plummeted worryingly.

 

Wednesday, April 7th

Northern Ireland is now offering jabs to anyone aged 45-49.  Sadly, England is not – although maybe things will improve once the Moderna rollout starts, which should be within the next few days.

The AstraZeneca vaccine isn’t going to be given to under 30s (not that anything’s being offered to under 30s ATM) because of these concerns about blood clots.

I spent ages on the phone to the insurance this morning.  They spent very hard trying to get out of paying anything at all, then told me that they’d have to send a surveyor round!  FFS.  If I was claiming tens of thousands of pounds, OK, but the surveyor’s fees’ll probably be more than the cost of the repairs.  I now have to wait for the surveyor to ring me, which he will no doubt do at a time when I can’t get to the phone.  Honestly, why is everything such hard work?!

 

Thursday, April 8th

Gah!!

  1.  The man from the insurance came, asked a load of questions, took a lot of pictures, and climbed up a ladder to look at the replacement bit of pipe (despite the fact that it was perfectly obvious which bit it was, because it’s a different colour).  However, apparently it is their policy to check all artexed ceilings for asbestos.  So I have now got an asbestos assessor coming next Monday.  FFS.
  2.  Northern Ireland is now vaccinating anyone over 40.  England, Scotland and Wales are still on anyone over 50.
  3.  The French Open has been postponed by a week, in the hope that Paris will be out of lockdown by then and fans will be allowed in.  This mucks up everyone’s preparations both for the French Open and Wimbledon, and the organisers of the grass court events which now overlap with the second week of the French Open must be hysterically upset!
  4.  I have piled weight on over Easter weekend.  A few days of eating a bit extra, and weight piles on.  Weeks of trying really hard … and weight does not come off.

I understand that the risks of fatal blood clots from the Astra Zeneca vaccine are very low, but it’s so sad to hear about the small number of people who’ve been unlucky.  One of them was from Newton-le-Willows.  As his sister said, you just think why did it have to be my loved one, out of all the tens of millions of people who’ve had that vaccination.  Very sad.

On a more positive note, there were 712 deaths involving Covid-19 in the week to 19th March (why are these figures 3 weeks behind?) in England and Wales.  Whilst that’s obviously still not good, the number was 8,945 at the peak of the second wave, so that’s a 92% drop.

And we won the first leg of our Europa League QF 2-0 – the away leg, at Granada.

 

Friday, April 9th

I’ve written a separate post here about the death of Prince Philip.  I still can’t quite take it in.

What else has happened today?  I hate to sound like a grumpy old bag, but I’ll be so glad when schools go back and I can get a drink at the park without having to wait in a stupidly long queue!  And it’s been confirmed that we will have this “traffic light” system for overseas travel, and that the  Government’s no longer advising against booking foreign travel – but, with PCR tests at £140 a time required for each person on both departure and arrival, and the red/amber/green list liable to change at any time, I’m not sure how many people’ll be going as yet.

Oh, what a strange day.  We’ve got protocols and precedents for pretty much everything, but not the death of a prince consort during a pandemic. RIP, Prince Philip.  You will be sadly missed.

 

Saturday, April 10th

The funeral – a ceremonial funeral – will be a week today, at 3pm, at Windsor.  People are trying to work out who the 30 people attending will be, which is a bit odd.  Prince Charles has spoken briefly, to pay tribute to his father and to thank people for their support.  I hope the Queen’s coping as well as can be expected.

The Grand National and other sporting events went ahead.  Real horses this year!  Sadly, I didn’t win a penny – bad choices! – but it was great to see a female jockey win for the first time in history – Rachael Blackmore, riding Minella Times.

And I’ve been to Blackpool!  I’ve seen the sea, for the first time in six months.  It being so soon after, I saw an awful lot of the sea – the tide didn’t start to go out until after midday.  I’m afraid that I sinned and had both ice cream and fish and chips, like I’m not fat enough, but … well, first time at the seaside in six months!

 

Sunday, April 11th

In the middle of April, and a day before outdoor seating at pubs, cafes and restaurants reopens, we woke up to over an inch of snow!  Snow in March isn’t unusual, but it’s the second weekend in April!  Thankfully, the roads were clear, but it took me a while to clear my car, and I don’t suppose being snowed on has done my plants an awful lot of good.

Having removed the snow, I went to Speke Hall.  No snow in Liverpool!  It disappeared somewhere between Salford and Warrington.  The Hall itself is closed, and some parts of the estate are closed off, but most of it’s open.  It’s the first time I’ve been to Liverpool in ages!

The daffodils at Speke always come early, and some are dying off now.  But the bluebells are out.  And so the year goes on.

Later, I found some bluebells in the Flower Park.

I’ll have a look in the woods at Heaton Park next week.  Between the plumbing traumas and the long queues at the cafes due to school holidays (sorry for being a grumpy old biddy, but I’ll be glad when schools go back tomorrow!!), I haven’t had chance this week.

Prince Andrew’s said that the Queen’s spoken of “a huge void in her life”.   It’s always sad when someone goes, but Prince Philip had lived a long and full life, and, thankfully, didn’t have to suffer a painful illness or the loss of his faculties.   It’s more the people who are left behind … my heart goes out to the Queen.

Back with pandemic news, over half a million jabs a day are being given, but around 80% of them are second doses, and nothing at all’s been said about when England might move on to over 40s.  So frustrating.  But the infection rate across Greater Manchester is down to around 50 per 100,000, and the average across England is around 30 per 100,000.  When you think that, three months ago, some areas were recording rates of over 1,500 per 100,000, we’ve come a long way.

And, after going behind at Spurs, we won 3-1!

 

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

  Lockdown II started on November 5th.  At least the date’s easy to remember, remember.  Blackpool Illuminations have been switched off mid-season for the first time since 1939.  The Army have occupied Pontins in Southport.  Parts of Fallowfield have been turned into a prison camp.  Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is probably wishing he’d been furloughed.  Andy Burnham has given a speech about Hilda Ogden’s muriel.  Memes are going round about the House of Commons Nativity Play being cancelled because no-one can find three wise men.  Denmark has been taken off the travel corridor list because the virus is mutating in mink.  And the US presidential election is about to be decided by Clayton County.  “Take a good look, my dear.  It’s a historic moment.”

It really isn’t funny, even though it sometimes sounds it.

Infection rates are still going up.  The North West continues to be the worst-affected part of the country.  Some hospitals are starting to struggle.  More and more jobs and businesses are going, despite the furlough scheme and the other support being made available.  And there’s no end in sight.  It was bad enough in the spring, when the days were longer, summer was coming, and people weren’t mentally exhausted from months and months of restrictions.  “Super Saturday” was on July 4th.  Greater Manchester was put under additional restrictions on July 31st.  Didn’t get much of a respite from it all, did we?  And the doom merchants are claiming that the lockdown will be extended until March.  Like Narnia under the White Witch – always winter, never Christmas.

It won’t go on until March.  The economy wouldn’t take it.  But the bloody Tier 3 restrictions might well go on till March – the Welsh authorities are abandoning local lockdowns, but the English authorities seem dead set on pursuing them.  Like last time, the weather’s turned nice just as we aren’t supposed to be going anywhere.  I’d booked to go round Blackpool Illuminations on a heritage tram tomorrow.  It would have been lovely, in this weather.  And Blackpool’s desperate for tourism business.  But Greater Manchester and 1974-admin-borders Lancashire class as separate areas for Tier 3 travel restrictions purposes, so that was messed up a few weeks ago.  And now, with Lockdown II, the Illuminations have been switched off.  For the first time since 1939, when they had to be switched off so that they wouldn’t shine through the blackout.

The Tower remains lit, so that it can be a symbol of hope.

United’s terrible start to the season is not the fault of the virus, to be fair.   And it was really rather sweet of Andy Burnham to take a few minutes out to congratulate Coronation Street on its forthcoming 60th anniversary.   But what on earth were the idiots in charge of the University of Manchester thinking of when they decided to put metal fences round halls of residence in Fallowfield, as a “Covid security measure”?  I’m sure we’re all well aware that there’ve been issues with the virus spreading at universities, but you can’t just put fences around people’s accommodation, like a prison camp.  Most of the people living in halls are 18 or 19-year-old kids who’d never lived away from home until the middle of September.  Use a bit of sense, please.  Following an outcry by students and the general public, the fences are being removed a day after they were put up.

That particular cunning plan was so ridiculous that even Baldrick wouldn’t have come up with it.  However, two other cunning plans are supposed to offer more hope.  And, like everything else seems to do at the moment, they centre on the North West.  One is a “lateral flow” virus test which gives results in half an hour, and is being trialled in Blackburn.  The other is mass testing in Liverpool.   Mass testing was supposed to be being trialled in Salford earlier in the year, but it didn’t seem to get very far.  Maybe this’ll work better.  It’s being carried out by soldiers.  Who are being accommodated at Pontins in Southport.

It’s no better anywhere else.  And at least we aren’t about to massacre 17 million mink, which Denmark is having to do.

This won’t go on for ever.  Pandemics never do.  But it would be nice to be able to see some light at the end of the tunnel.  In the meantime, at least there are still lights on Blackpool Tower.  And, hey, at least public toilets are staying open during Lockdown II, so we haven’t got to cope with all that again.  And, if anyone’s actually read all that, thank you for reading, and please look after your physical and mental health x.

Lockdown II.  Here we go again …

Second Wave Week 6 – October 5th to 11th 2020 inclusive

 

 

Monday, October 5th

What a bloody fiasco.  Over 16,000 cases were missed due to this “computer glitch” – which was apparently because someone couldn’t manage to use Excel properly.  The setting they’d used didn’t pick up all the rows.  I mean, seriously?  I use Excel myself every day, and I’m hardly an IT whizz.  It’s not exactly difficult to use.  We’re now on over 12,500 cases a day.  Rates have soared over the weekend, even without the missing cases.  And most of the missing cases were in the north, so infection rates in all the local boroughs are way higher than we thought.  Manchester city centre now has the highest rate in the country – although it’s nearly all students.  Newcastle’s got a similar issue with students, but it’s not clear what’s causing the problem in Liverpool.  I could cry.  Just when I thought I could start looking forward to my holiday.

The good news is that deaths aren’t rising.  Most of the cases are in low risk groups.

Paris has closed all bars.  I wish they’d do that here.  The Czech Republic’s closed schools.  Moscow’s told elderly people to stay indoors.

Everyone’s just had enough.  We’ve been in local lockdown for over 2 months.  Most of us are keeping the rules.  But rates keep rising.  A load of jobs are going to go when the furlough system ends.  Oh, and Arsenal have made Gunnersaurus redundant.  People’s mental health is suffering, and there’s no end in sight.  Iran reckons it’s having a third wave.  And that ties in with what’s happened with previous pandemics.

Bleurgh.

 

Tuesday, October 6th

Things are not good.  Infections are up.  Hospital admissions are up.  Deaths are up.   New restrictions are to be imposed in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  For all the balls-up with the Excel spreadsheet, I’m not really blaming the authorities.  Most countries are in the same boat – Poland’s struggling particularly badly this week – and no-one knows what to do anywhere.

Local leaders have complained that local lockdowns are doing no good and causing harm, but it looks as if Nottingham could be the next place to have restrictions imposed on it.  Maybe Oxford too.  Universities going back has been a disaster.

Donald Trump’s back at the White House.

Mesul Ozil has said he’ll pay Gunnersaurus’s wages.

 

Wednesday, October 7th

I do appreciate that the virus is not timing things to cause issues with my holiday, but it doesn’t half feel like that. Nicola Sturgeon has imposed travel restrictions on Glasgow, Edinburgh and various other areas, and closed all the pubs and licensed restaurants there for at least two weeks.  I don’t honestly think that Boris would do that here, but things certainly aren’t very good.  Universities going back has been a huge mistake.

The Manchester Evening News has published my letter asking it to try rallying the troops – “A City United”, “We’re all in this together” type thing – rather than its current negativity.  I doubt it’ll take any notice, but I tried.

Rafa is through to the US Open SFs, and will play Schwartzman, rather than Thiem.

 

Thursday, October 8th

Bleurgh.  It does now look as if there will be restrictions on travel, or certainly on overnight stays.  Coming in on Wednesday, and I was due to go on Saturday.  I’m SO upset.  I was going now because this was the time I’d booked off for my Japan holiday.  Then that was cancelled but they were supposed to be doing trips to France or Italy, so they were cancelled too.  Work won’t let us carry the time forward, so my holidays, of which I get so few and which I try so hard to make the most of, are … well, I don’t even know what I’ll be able to do at home.  I’ve spent hours working out where to go and how to get there.  I’ve booked tickets for things and, as they’ll still be open, I won’t be able to get the money back.  So, so near … and yet so far.   And, as it’ll run into half term loads of families with young kids will be in the same boat.

I am sick of the virus.

I am sick of our area being one of the worst hit by it.  I don’t understand why.

I am sick of the Government.  They have completely lost the North now.  Details have been leaked to the papers before they were discussed with local council leaders, and the exact details are still unclear.  People don’t know whether to cancel holidays.  Businesses don’t know whether or not they’ll have to close, and what compensation there’ll be if they do.  People don’t know whether or not they’re about to lose their jobs.  N

Cases, hospital admissions and deaths are going up and up, so I accept that something has to be done, but I don’t see why I would be a danger to anyone in a hotel room on my own – especially as it’s apparently OK for me to be in an office with other people.

I know this sounds really self-pitying, but I am feeling very sorry for myself 😦 .

 

Friday, October 9th

This is absolutely f***ing ridiculous.  Scotland had its announcement on Wednesday.  We are just being left in suspense, with people panicking about jobs, holidays and other things.

  1.  Which areas will be affected?   Most of the papers are saying Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.  But will that include the suburbs and satellite towns?  Sadly, the answer is probably yes, which is bloody ridiculous because it means it’ll affect us and other places like Stockport, yet Bradford, Burnley, Preston and various other places where the rates are no lower than, and in many cases higher than, here will not be affected.
  2.  Is this a “circuit breaker” like in Glasgow and Edinburgh, or will it go on indefinitely?   Given that Rishi Sunak’s just announced a SIX MONTH plan to support businesses affected … well, it doesn’t sound good, does it?
  3.  What will it mean?  Will it include a ban on holidays?  It seems all but certain that eating and drinking places will have to close, but where else?  Golf clubs?  Gyms?  Cinemas?  Maybe even shops?
  4.  Are we seriously supposed to go for 6 months with no contact with other households?
  5.  The rumours in the press, which are upsetting everyone, also include a return to shielding.  Is this being planned?

WTF is going on?  This is just ridiculous.  And the support for business is something, but won’t go anywhere near saving many businesses from collapse, if they have to close for months.

Meanwhile, Nottingham, which now has the highest infection rate in the country, at well over 600 – thanks yet again to an outbreak at a university, the latest place to be affected by which is Bristol – isn’t in local lockdown at all!  Nor are places like York and Barrow, where infections are soaring.

I’ve sent an angry e-mail to my MP about all the uncertainty, but he was only elected in December.  It’s like asking a first year to stop the prefects from bullying people.

I have had enough.

The only good thing is that Rafa’s into the French Open final 🙂 .  Although I’m not sure I can cope with yet another defeat by Nole.  The second semi has just started. Come on, Stef!

 

Saturday, October 10th

In news not related to the pandemic, Rafa will have to play Nole in the French Open men’s final, Iga Swiatek won the ladies’ final, and Marcus Rashford has been awarded the MBE.  And I have had my hair cut.  The hairdresser said that they were managing, but things were nowhere near back to pre-lockdown levels, partly because some elderly people are nervous about going out and partly because some people are trying to reduce their spending due to worried about redundancy.

I still have no idea whether or not I will be getting my week’s holiday or spending my few days’ annual leave hanging around.  Every newspaper and every TV channel has its own version of the restrictions coming in next week.

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has threatened to sue the Government.  OK, it’s easy to criticise when you’re not the one at the sharp end, but he’s quite right about the inadequate financial package.  Most people who work in pubs, bars and restaurants do not earn much anyway.  How are they meant to cope on 2/3 of that, indefinitely?  And, if the whole industry’s closed down, their chances of finding other work is going to be minimal.   And many places may never reopen.  Liverpool’s said that half its council tax comes from hospitality places, and I’d assume the figure is similar for Manchester.  The Government says that local leaders are being consulted, but they say they’re not.  Even within Boris Johnson’s own party, people have had enough of the appalling contempt being shown towards Northern England.  MPs for northern constituencies have formed a pressure group.

I am very disappointed in Boris.  And I could wallop bloody Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary.  If he says one more word about “hard work”, I shall scream.  What does he think people in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Preston, Burnley, Bradford etc are doing?  Going out raving every night?   Hospitality workers in Scotland have dumped a load of ice outside the parliament building in Edinburgh.  I wish someone’d dump a load over Matt Hancock’s stupid head.

Back in April, when the Queen made that wonderful speech, there was a genuine “Spirit of the Blitz” feeling of togetherness.  Now, people in urban areas of the North are angry and bitter.  What a mess.

 

Sunday, October 11th

Bizarrely, just as the world’s about to fall apart again, this has been one of the best days of the year.  I always go to Blackpool on the morning of the French Open, so, being superstitious – and because the weather was glorious – I went today, even if it was October rather than June.  It was a lovely morning.  And then Rafa beat Nole, 6-0 6-2 7-5!   I can’t believe it.  I wasn’t optimistic, and I thought that, even if he could do it, it’d be a long and tough battle, especially with the roof being closed.  But he was just incredible.  Absolutely wonderful.  It also means he and Roger have got the same number of Grand Slam titles, but I’m not so fussed about that – Rafa, Roger and Nole are all great, and I can live without all this “Who’s the GOAT?” stuff.  But I was definitely fussed about today, and … oh wow.  Wonderful.  Just wonderful.

Now we’ve got to see what tomorrow brings.  Five Manchester MPs have said that they won’t support Tier 3 restrictions, but Matt Hancock and Boris don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks.  If the travel ban’s advisory rather than mandatory, do I still go?  I won’t be going near anyone else, and I haven’t been in close contact with anyone except Mum and Dad, but … I’m kind of bothered people will think badly of me, which I know is an awful way of looking at things.  But I heard loads of Scottish accents in Blackpool today, even though people in Scotland are “advised” not to visit parts of England in local lockdown.

This whole situation is ridiculous.

But today’s about Rafa ❤ 🙂 .

Lockdown Week 10 – May 25th to 31st 2020 inclusive

Bank Holiday Monday, May 25th

Lovely sunny day today.  I was at the National Trust car park at Alderley Edge just after half 8.  This was a good move: by the time I left, two hours later, it was nearly full.  I had a lovely walk, and went through some bits of the woods which I’ve never seen before.  The tearoom was sadly closed, but it’s reopening for takeaways next week, and I managed to get a drink from a Costa Express stand in a shop in the village.

The toilets were closed, though.  I have had it up to here with this Toilet Tyranny.  Some people are frightened to go out in case they can’t find a toilet.  Others are using bushes and trees – and these are people who’d never dream of doing anything so disgusting normally.  People who live in tourist areas have said that … well, that the results of the toilets being closed are too disgusting to talk about.  The Victorians who did so much to improve public sanitation must be turning in their graves.  This is appalling.  Get those toilets open.

Due to Toilet Tyranny, I then came home, but, later, I drove into town (i.e. central Manchester).  It’s much easier walking round town than it is walking round the suburbs, because the pavements are wider, and Deansgate’s been temporarily closed to traffic from Kendals northwards.  I had a walk round, and (despite being fat enough already) had an ice cream (my first 99 for more than two months!!) in Piccadilly Gardens.

And, hooray, the Arndale toilets were open!  I do not normally write about toilets, but it can’t be helped at the moment!

There was a gang of 13 teenage lads hanging around near Exchange Square.  Later, when I went for my daily walk in the park, I saw 10 lads cycling together, a load of games of football and cricket going on, and people letting their kids climb over the fence into the playground despite all the “Closed due to coronavirus” signs.  I’m not judging anyone, but the point is that this situation’s ridiculous.  Lockdown cannot be enforced any more: people have had enough.  Let parks and gardens at National Trust etc places reopen.  As long as social distancing measures are out in place, let cafes reopen.  Then at least we’re not all having to gather in the same places, and at least some organisations’ll be earning some money.   It’d be a lot safer than carrying on like this.  Sermon over!!

And, hooray, three soaps on TV tonight!

 

Tuesday, May 26th

I’ve written to my MP to ask why National Trust and English Heritage gardens and parks are not allowed to reopen when public parks are packed out, and why people are being left to use the great outdoors as a toilet because councils refuse to reopen public facilities.  I doubt it’ll do any good, but I’ve tried!

Tesco and M&S this morning, then to the office to leave some stuff and collect more.  I’m not saying much about work as I’m very upset about the way we are being treated, but probably shouldn’t say too much about it on a public blog.

Shops are all allowed to reopen from mid-June, hooray!  Well, as long as it’s safe.  And, as Sky News said, if shops are open, surely the stupid councils will have to reopen the toilets.  I’m not sure how this is going to work, though.  Are they going to monitor the number of people going into the Arndale Centre and the Trafford Centre, or just into each individual shop?  But, sadly, this does not include hairdressing salons.

Watching Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich, and hoping to see the Premier League back next month.

 

Wednesday, May 27th

Another nice sunny day today.  I went to the park early afternoon, and to the frozen yoghurt shop and the flower part after the “home office” had closed!

The BBC – making a rare effort to discuss things which actually matter to people! – did a big feature on the Great Toilet Tyranny this morning.  They interviewed someone from the British Toilet Association (yes, there is one!), someone from Crohn’s and Colitis UK about what a nightmare this is for people with particular medical conditions, and a delivery driver who said that he and his colleagues were being forced to use buckets in the backs of their lorries.  It’s absolutely appalling.  Why are the petty tyrants on local councils allowed to treat people like this?

Looks as if High Street shops will not be rushing to reopen 😦 .  Too easy to take the furloughing payments instead!  Yes, they need to put social distancing measures in place, but supermarkets have had to do that from the start, without any sort of precedent to follow.  If the big names don’t reopen, it’ll put people off going to city/town centres and shopping centres, and then that’ll kill it for small independent shops.

On a happier note, it looks as if progress is being made with Project Restart.  Getting football going ahead would be such a boost.  Fingers crossed!

 

Thursday, May 28th

Another sunny day – had a nice walk in the park,  And, hooray, the Premier League is restarting on June 17th!!  The matches in hand have to be played first, fair enough, so City’ll restart before we do, but then everyone should play that weekend.  We’re due to play Spurs.  Hooray!!

And Dunham Massey, Lyme Park and Styal are reopening!  Well, the parkland is.  I suspect that there’ll be an absolute stampede for tickets when booking opens in the morning, but I shall certainly try!

I really did need those pick-me-ups today.  My weight has gone all wrong this week – and I don’t know why, because I haven’t done anything differently to last week.  And I am so sick of work.  Nearly 10 weeks of working from home and not so much as an e-mail asking if we’re OK, just moaning and complaining about everything that doesn’t run 100% smoothly.  As one of my colleagues said, millions of people are getting paid 80% of their wages to sit around sunning themselves in their gardens or in parks – although it’s obviously not their fault that their workplaces are closed – whilst we’re chained to laptops and not even getting a word of thanks!

It’s the last Clap for our Carers tonight.  There’s supposed to be a sing-a-thon at half 7, but I’m not sure people are going to bother with that, but it’s a shame about Clap for our Carers.  As with everything else, people are using it to try to score political points.

And my nephews’ school has said that my elder nephew can’t go back until the end of June, and then only in the mornings, and that my younger nephew can’t go back until September.  So much for all primary schools reopening on June 1st!  My sister is not pleased!

 

Friday, May 29th

I thought that booking for the National Trust sites would open at 9, but I had a look at 7 and it was already open, and the 10am slot for Dunham Massey for next Saturday was already unavailable.  I got half 10, though!  And 10 o’clock for Lyme Park on the Sunday – it said not to book up a load of slots, but I decided that one for each of two different properties should be OK.  It said “parks and gardens”, so I got my hopes up that the gardens’d be open, but it’s just the parkland … but it’s a start!

And dates have now been pencilled in for the Cup, as well as the League.

Also, it was announced last night that groups of up to 6 people from different households can now meet outdoors, including in private gardens.  (There were two groups of well over 20 people in the park, incidentally.)  So Mum and Dad are going to London next week, to see my sister and bro-in-law and the kids.  I’m really pleased for them … but sad that I’m out of it.  Weekends are the only time that bro-in-law isn’t chained to his laptop/phone, so it wouldn’t be a good time for me to go.  I wish I knew that I’d definitely be able to go to the Lakes, or somewhere, in August if not in July.  I’m struggling a bit with being chained to the office laptop all day, especially when a) I see other people enjoying themselves in the park (OK, at least I can go for walks in the park, but still) and b) work haven’t given us one shred of support.  A bit of kindness goes a long way, though.  I had nice e-mails from two clients today, and they cheered me up.

And, hooray, it’s the weekend.

 

Saturday, May 30th

Another hot, sunny day.  It’s been the driest, sunniest spring on record.  Whilst there are now growing concerns about water shortages, please do not let the dry spell end just as hotels reopen … July or August!

I went to Hollingworth Lake this morning.  The Olive and Pickle’s now doing quite a lot of takeaway stuff, and other places are also open for chips, ice cream etc.  Sadly, the toilets are still not open.  Had a lovely walk, then came home.  Week 10 of Scones in the Garden – it started with daffodils, and now we’re on to roses.

Later, Mum and Dad came round to sit in the garden for a bit.  Technically, you’re not meant to sit in other people’s gardens until Monday morning, but jumping the gun by a day and a half was pretty mild compared to all the rule-breaking going on in the park, where I went later – groups of 20-odd people sat together, gangs of lads on bikes practically running people over, and three police officers strolling around, doing nothing!  This is stupid.  Groups of 20-odd people sit around together, there are gangs of bored teenagers all over the place, but pubs aren’t allowed to reopen beer gardens and hairdressers aren’t allowed to reopen.  FFS.

Live sport from June 1st’s got the go-ahead, so the Premier League and the FA Cup are definitely on for a restart!!  Hooray!!

 

Sunday, May 31st

Blackpool!!  Hooray!!  I’d normally have been going a week today, because I’ve got a weird ritual thing about going to Blackpool before watching the French Open men’s singles final, but nothing’s normal this year.  But I’ve been!  What a lovely day.  I was there at half 8, and it was already warm and sunny.  And pretty quiet, at that time.  It got busy later, but not too busy, and, apart from a few large family groups – totally ignored by the police – most people were trying to observe social distancing.  Even in the queues for the public toilets which, with cafes, pubs and arcades closed, were pretty long by the afternoon!  And it’s much easier on the prom and the beach than trying to dodge the crowds in parks.

Loads of food places along the front were open.  I’d taken some salad with, but, ahem, succumbed first to an ice cream and then to fish and chips.  The Scales will hang, draw and quarter me for that, but it was so nice!   It was all rather 1950s, everyone eating fish and chips on the beach!

It was sad to see the piers closed, though.  And the Tower, Madame Tussaud’s and the amusement arcades.  I could have cried when I saw a poster in one amusement place, with a list of family fun days planned for 2020.  Easter, VE Day, Euro 2020 … .  Even if all the hotels reopen later in the year, this good weather won’t last for ever.  Our tourist places’ll take a terrible hit this year.

But it was such a lovely, lovely day … to see the sea, to feel the sea breeze (messing up my already messy hair), to be in Blackpool …

Went to the park later.

If I could just get back to the Lakes … but I’m so glad to have been to Blackpool!

 

 

Blackpool

I went to Blackpool yesterday!!   I’d have expected to go this coming Sunday instead: I’ve got a ritual of going to Blackpool for a long walk before coming home to watch the French Open men’s singles final.  But, whilst there’s no French Open this month 😦 , there’ll always be Blackpool.  So off I went.

I know that many people are nervous about going out, and also that there are mixed feelings in tourist areas about the urgent need to restart the economy versus concerns about the risks of visitors coming in.  There are no easy answers to any of this.  I will say that walking along the wide pedestrianised areas of the Prom, and of course the beach, was a lot easier and safer than walking along narrow pavements in housing estates, having to step into the road whenever someone comes the other way, or dodging cyclists and gangs of bored teenagers in busy city parks.  And it felt great … to see the sea, to feel the famous Blackpool breeze making my already messy hair even messier, to see our beloved Tower, and to hope that The Scales would forgive me for eating ice cream and fish and chips!

The vast majority of people, whether walking along or sitting on the beach, were trying very hard to observe social distancing.  I did see a few large groups, and I also saw the police completely ignoring them.  I see this every day in my local park.  I don’t know what the answer to that is.  I do understand that two or three police officers, on foot, probably feel uneasy about tackling a group of 20 or 25 people.  But the majority of people were sticking to the rules.

And, to get back to the diet-breaking, yes, there were loads of food places open!  Places like McDonald’s weren’t, so the local, independently-owned food places were taking all the money, which was great.  The chippy which I went to had plastic screens up to protect staff, who were wearing gloves, and customers were being asked to go in one door and out another, and to wait 6 ft apart.  That was great.  Other places weren’t trying so hard:  at those, staff were not wearing gloves, and people were being told that only cash payments would be accepted for transactions under £5.  But most were really making an effort, and it was wonderful to see them open.

It was sad to see all three piers closed off, and the Tower, Madame Tussaud’s, the Pleasure Beach and all the amusement arcades closed, as well as all the hotels.  One of the big amusement places had posters in its window, innocently put up earlier in the year, advertising family fun days for Easter weekend, VE Day and Euro 2020.  I could have cried.   Our tourist places have been hit so terribly hard by this.  Hotels remain shut, and it’s proving hard to get answers about when they’re likely to reopen, even if they’re allowed to reopen in July as currently planned.  And, even if attractions are able to reopen within the next couple of months, visitor numbers will have to be limited.  Also, it’s June already, we’re not far off the Longest Day and then (to state the obvious!) days will start getting shorter, and this good weather can’t last for ever.  People won’t be rushing off for a week or even a day on the beach in November.   So I was very pleased to see people in Blackpool yesterday.  It’s a difficult balancing act, but we need to get the economy going again.

But, hooray, the toilets were open!  By the afternoon, the queues were very long – someone should write a new version of that George Formby song about Blackpool Prom, and change the bit about queues for drinks and trams to queues for toilets! – because the usual options of using the toilets in cafes, pubs, restaurants and amusement arcades weren’t there, but at least they were open.  Some local councils haven’t shown the sense or decency to reopen toilets.  Get them all open, please.  A tannoy reminded people – not that people should need reminding, but still – to put all rubbish in bins, and, to be fair, people were doing that.

Food places were open.  Toilets were open.  Blackpool was open.  The sea was there.  The beach was there.  It had a bit of a nostalgic 1950s feel: with amusement arcades closed and no option to sit in cafes, everyone was eating ice cream and fish and chips on the beach, and kids were playing football or cricket or making sandcastles with buckets and spades.  And, as I’ve said, most people were trying very hard not to get too close to others.

And it was fun.  It was lovely.  I enjoyed myself. These are very difficult times.  We deserve to enjoy ourselves.  And we need to get the economy going: we’re already facing a severe recession and large numbers of job losses.   But we need to be careful.  And most people were being careful.  As I’ve said, it’s a balancing act.  Everyone will have their own views, and what’s right for one person may not be right for another, but I never once felt unsafe.  I just felt happy and relaxed – and I really needed to feel like that.  And Blackpool can do that, even in these weird times.

If you feel safe going out, it’s OK to do so.  If you don’t, you don’t.  Everyone’s circumstances are different.  But this worked for me.