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

Monday, April 26th

I am absolutely dreading the day Boris says that people don’t have to work from home any more.  Decent employers will probably let people choose to work from home 2 or 3 days a week, but others will want people back where they think they can “control” them better.  The slightest thing turns into a nightmare when you are trapped in an office.  Boiler needs repairing?  “Between 12pm and 6pm.”  Parcel needs delivering?  “Between 7am and 9pm, and can’t be left without a signature.  We’ll give you a one hour time slot on the day” – like it’s that easy to go home for an hour.  Need to go to the bank?  Only open 10am to 3pm, and there will be a horrendous queue during your dinner hour, because it’s everyone else’s dinner hour as well.  And the traffic is so bad and parking so difficult that you’ll have to walk there and back, which will take up most of your dinner hour anyway.  Etc etc etc!

Today, I needed to go somewhere which is only open 9am to 5pm, and which, due to traffic and queues, I couldn’t have got to and from in my dinner hour.  So I just nipped out, at a time when there wasn’t much traffic, and when there was unlikely to be a queue.  It didn’t take very long.  But I just could not have got there if I’d been trapped in the office.

People aged 44 are now able to book vaccines.  Are we doing one year at a time now?!  I’d assumed they’d say people from 40 to 44.

 

Tuesday, April 27th

People aged 42 and 43 are now able to book vaccines.  Presumably they just staggered it to avoid the website crashing if too many people tried to book at once.  Considering that we thought it might be May before anyone outside the top 9 groups was called, it’s really going pretty well, touch wood.

However, the situation in India – lovely India, where I went in 2018 and, before all this started, hoped to go again in, perhaps, 2022 or 2023 – is heartbreaking.  Car parks are being used as crematoria.  Trees in public parks are being cut down for kindling.  Hospitals have got no oxygen.  And no free beds.  We’ve sent what supplies we can, as have other countries, but it’s a drop in the ocean.  Almost 3,000 deaths per day are being reported, and, sadly, that’s probably only a fraction of the true figure.

In other news:
1.  The weather’s turned.  Cold, cloudy and showery.
2.  Wimbledon’s doing away with Middle Sunday from next year, and just playing 14 days like the other Grand Slams do, although I assume we’ll have the second week split by gender, rather than the silly Aussie Open system of having the men’s semis on two different days.  I really can’t decide how I feel about this!

 

Wednesday, April 28th

Apparently, the idea is to use the NHS app as a vaccine passport.  I don’t really fancy downloading the NHS app, but it sounds like we may have no choice.  There’s also talk about booster jabs in the autumn.

Holiday company has now cancelled all tours up to the end of June.  Mine is due to go on 18th July.  They’ll probably cancel up to 15th or 16th July next time, leaving me hanging on!   I’m not expecting it to go, but obviously I do need the official word.  I’m sorry for myself: I booked Iceland in September 2019 and was really looking forward to it.  But I’m even sorrier for the holiday company.

I’ve sent a donation to the British Asian Trust, which is doing what it can to help India.  Unfortunately, given how many people there are in India, aid sent by both governments and charities can only stretch so far.

 

Thursday, April 29th

Ugh, the weather has turned!   But it should dry up again by the weekend.

We are playing Roma this evening.

The average infection rate across Greater Manchester remains around 35.  Across England as a whole, it remains around 25 – lowest in the South East, highest in Yorkshire, but nothing terrible anywhere.   But it isn’t really going down, just staying around the same.   This virus isn’t going away.   But we’re being told that the May 17th easing of restrictions should be going ahead 🙂 .

The US is also doing well, and things seem to be improving across much of Europe too, but Turkey, which did so well last year, is now going into full lockdown.  And the news from India continues to be very bad.  A further problem is that the Serum Institutes in India were meant to be producing vaccines for the Covax programme, to be sent to poorer countries, but, given the situation, none of those vaccines will be leaving India.  Worrying times.

Later – wa-hey!!   After going 2-1 down, we came back to beat Roma 6-2!!!   Big leads have been overturned in second legs before, so I’m not counting any chickens yet, but … well, I never dared home for a 4 goal lead.  We could yet have two all-English finals … but, as I said, let’s not count any chickens yet.

 

Friday, April 30th

Sunshine and showers today, and the same forecast for tomorrow.  Monday is looking iffy, though … and I can’t reshuffle my plans because you have to book everything in advance these days!

Everyone over 40 is now being invited to book an appointment for their first jab.  I’m hearing some reports of issues booking, though.  You can get appointments, but you may have to wait a couple of weeks, or travel a bit rather than going to a centre close to your home.  But we knew there were going to be issues in April, and things have gone much better than we thought they might.

A trial mask-free nightclub event’s being held in Liverpool.  Not that I want to go to a nightclub, but some people do!   I’d rather like to go to the pictures, but I don’t think there’s going to be anything decent on when cinemas reopen next month.

Still very bad news from both India and Brazil.

In the middle of everything else, the junction where you turn out of our estate on to the main road is closed.  Apparently something’s collapsed.  It was absolutely fine until BT started digging it up the other week – funny, that.  OK, these things happen, but there wasn’t a soul working on it when I went past at half 3 this afternoon, not when I went past at half 2 yesterday afternoon.  Typical.

 

Saturday, May 1st

Today, I have actually been out of England for the first time since … whenever I last went to Bodnant Garden, which must have been last summer.  We are less than an hour’s drive from the Welsh border, the car radio picks up Greatest Hits Manchester loudly and clearly well into North Wales, and I am sick of all this silly closing of borders to score political points.  But, hopefully, that’s over now!  I’ve had a really nice day.  I was ecstatic to find that, although the daffodils at the front of Chirk Castle were long dead, those in the gardens and woodlands were still going!

After a lovely morning at Chirk, I went into Llangollen, where I had bara brith at the Welsh Cottage Tea Rooms to celebrate being allowed back into Wales, looked at people white water rafting on the Dee, and then went on a horse drawn boat ride on the Llangollen Canal.

 

And care home residents are to be allowed to visit friends and relatives, which is lovely.

 

Sunday, May 2nd

Oh.  Well, that wasn’t the afternoon I’d planned.  Like pretty much everyone else round here, I’d intended to watch United v Liverpool. The biggest match in English club football.  El Clasico Ingles.  Both clubs needing a win in the quest for a top four finish.  And with the rather unpleasant added spice of knowing that, if we lost, City would be champions.

But it didn’t happen.

We knew there were anti-Glazer protests planned, but they were supposed to be peaceful.   However, as these things so often do, it all got a bit out of hand.  Thankfully, there was little real trouble, but a small minority of people did clash with police and stewards, and two police officers were injured.  Some people protested outside the Lowry Hotel, where the team were, and prevented the team coach from leaving; and, more seriously, some people broke into the stadium and got on to the pitch.  Gary Neville, commentating for Sky, was doing his whole Red Nev thing about the right to protest and needing to do something that would get the Glazers’ attention and make headlines, but a lot of the people on the pitch just seemed to be smirking and taking selfies.

I have had enough of the Glazers.  Everyone has.  We never wanted them in the first place.  They’ve got no connection with United, with Manchester, with football.  They were only ever interested in money.  They don’t care about the fans.  And the Super League thing was the final straw.  And, yes, something big was needed.  There are “LUHG” (Love United Hate Glazer) stickers all over the place, but they don’t care.  They’re 3,000 miles away.  But breaking into the stadium’s not on.  And we don’t want to see matches cancelled.  This is all rather a mess.   We’ve seen some awful things go on in the past.  I remember City fans going to the care home where Peter Swales’s elderly mother lived.  We don’t want trouble.  But we do want the Glazers out.  And they won’t go.   It’s our club.  But they own it.

There being no football, I watched the Estorial tennis final.  Cam Norrie went a set and a break up … but Ramos Vinolas came back to win.

And the weather forecast for tomorrow is vile.  Bloody typical!   I’m going to Brodsworth come what may, but it won’t be much fun if it’s wet and windy.  And poor Windermere Lake Cruises, who’ve lost so much money already because of the pandemic,  have had to cancel all tomorrow’s bookings.  Bloody weather!

But, to end on a high note, I went to Dunham Massey this morning (picture below), and met up with my cousin, whom I hadn’t seen for ages because she’s been shielding.   So lovely to be reunited at last!

Moving on Week 2 – July 13th to 19th 2020 inclusive

Monday, July 13th

Been much more productive today.  Must be the power of Windermere!  Rather wet and miserable out: the park was quiet.

Amongst other things, I watched a webinar about the updates to the furlough scheme.  What the hell are the idiots at HMRC playing at?  Capturing your orphan periods and establishing your high water mark.  WTF?  And the formulae are worse than the jargon.  It’s not even as if people can rely on software to help them out, because all this is so new that there is no software for it.   This is ridiculous.  The scheme’s supposed to protect jobs, not confuse and stress people.   And as for the crap being spouted by some people who are only interested in political points-scoring (this was on social media, not the webinar) – example, no-one should have to go back to work because it might lead to exploitation, businesses should be able to cope with being shut down, and it’s the government’s fault if they can’t.  I don’t know what planet some people are on!!

United v Southampton tonight.

 

Tuesday, July 14th

Oh dear: there’s now talk of imposing restrictions in Blackburn, only about 20 miles away.  Thankfully, the authorities have finally accepted that they need to acknowledge that the issues are mainly within particular communities, which everyone has been saying for months, and have spoken out about it, and got the Lancashire Council of Mosques involved to try to improve the situation.  I understand that no-one wants to risk looking like they’re stoking racial tensions, but controlling the virus has to be the main concern here.

Wearing masks in shops is to be compulsory from July 24th.  I wore one to Tesco this morning, and I don’t know why I bothered!  Hardly anyone else was wearing one.  And shop staff are going to be exempt.  I quite understand that no-one can wear a mask for hours on end, but what’s the point in customers wearing them if there are loads of staff on the shop floor who aren’t?   And there’s a lot of moaning going on, and fears that people will pretend to be asthmatic to get out of wearing them.  Heigh-ho!

And the tables at the farm centre café in the park have all been removed, because the stupid council said that the café hadn’t asked for permission.  Oh FFS.  We’re trying to rebuild the hospitality sector – the economy shrank by 19% in the last 3 months – and all the stupid council can do is put obstacles in people’s way!   I understand that they can’t have cafes on high streets putting tables out on the pavement, but these weren’t in anyone’s way.  Gah!

Also went to the office, and going to the frozen yoghurt shop now.  And we’ll draw a veil over last night’s disastrous injury time equaliser!

 

Wednesday, July 15th

Rain on St Swithin’s Day.  That just about sums up 2020!!  I keep forgetting that it’s the middle of July, because it feels more like November.

The update Sage put on for the new hospitality sector VAT rate has upset the office computers!

I need to stop buying drinks in the park.  It’s a waste of money – once a week is fine, but not every day.

Armenia and Azerbaijan seem to have decided that now is a good time to renew the conflict from the 1980s.  No, it really isn’t.

And I’ve ordered two new masks, one with a United crest on it and one with a Manchester bee on it!

 

Thursday, July 16th

Erk.  There was a power cut.  The power was back on in about 3/4 hour, but I’d decided to go for my walk in the park to try to calm my nerves down, checked the website, saw it was on again, and panicked all the way home about whether or not everything would be working OK.  Fortunately, it all seems to be all right.

Having issues with both binge-eating and anxiety at the moment.  I need a break … I wish I was going to the Lakes sooner, but I had to make a decision to book the hotel, and, at the time, I just didn’t know where we’d be up to.

There is now a row going on over Russia allegedly stealing other countries’ coronavirus research info. FFS, can’t all countries co-operate on this?  It’s a pandemic, not a James Bond film!

A memorial service for coronavirus victims  took place at Manchester Cathedral today.

 

Friday, July 17th

Boris wants people to go back to working at offices, despite the fact that the Chief Medical Officer’s said otherwise.  I assume he’s thinking that it’ll help places like Pret A Manger, which rely on office staff, but … well, there’s no way I’m going back to the office before I’ve been to the Lake District.  I do not EVER want to go back to that office … I just want to put it off as long as possible!

Rain is forecast for tomorrow, when I’m going to Chirk, and sun for Sunday, when I’m not.  Typical!   This is the problem with having to book in advance.  And, of course, it has to rain just as England are in a good position at the Old Trafford Test match!

I went to the dentist this morning.  What a palaver!  You have to put your bag in a plastic box, and then a nurse carries the box for you, in case you contaminate it!   All of which was rather pointless, as I had to get my bag out of the box so that a) I could get my purse to pay and b) I could get my diary to make my next appointment!

Today was the last day at primary school for my elder nephew and my little cousin.  Strange circumstances in which to be changing schools.

Captain Tom Moore was knighted by the Queen at Windsor today.  Such lovely, lovely photos of them – he aged 100, she aged 94, both such inspirations to all of us.  And, also at Windsor, Princess Beatrice married Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.  I hope it was a lovely day for them, after all the hassle they’ve had with this wedding, and it’s so lovely that the Queen and Prince Philip were able to be there.

 

Saturday, July 18th

Today, I actually left England for the first time since February!   Considering that Chirk Castle in North Wales, one of my favourite National Trust sites, is so near that my car radio still picks up the Manchester stations there, it’s been rather strange not being able to go there earlier!   In some ways this was full circle … I  love the daffodils at Chirk, and I was all set to go there on Sunday, March 22nd, having rung up on Friday 20th to ask that they were open, and checked the website in the afternoon of Saturday 21st to confirm that they were open, only for them to change it (good job I checked) at about 8pm, to say that they were closing for the duration.  Four months later, I finally got there.  Much too late for the daffodils, sadly, but it was good to be back!

It rained nearly all the way there.  That’s the trouble with this pre-booking thing!  However, it dried up at around half 9, and stayed dry till 12, so that wasn’t too bad.

Later, I went to Sports Direct, because I needed some new trainers.  They were hardly letting anyone in at once, so a lot of annoyed people were waiting outside in the rain.  I know they don’t want shops to be crowded, but it’s a big shop and then could have got at least five times as many people in there without anyone getting within 6 feet of anyone else.   I nearly walked off, I really did need some new trainers.  I got them eventually, but it’s no wonder people aren’t going shopping, when you’re made to stand out in the rain for the best part of half an hour before going in.  To be fair, it’s only a few places which’ve got long queues, but still.

And it’s emerged that the death statistics for England have been messed up.  FFS!  They’re including the deaths of anyone who’s ever tested positive for the virus!  So someone could have had it in March, fully recovered by early April, and died of a heart attack in July, and their death is being put down as “died with coronavirus”.  I don’t believe this.  It certainly explains why the figures are so high, and not coming down like those in France, Spain, Italy etc are, but the level of incompetence beggars belief.

Local councils are to be given the power to introduce local restrictions.  There’s now an issue in Rochdale, which is only about 10 miles away and is a neighbouring borough.   97 of 114 new cases in Blackburn are in the South Asian community, and it’s the same situation in Rochdale, Pendle and Bradford.  At least the issue’s now being acknowledged by the authorities.  I know it’s very awkward to single out one community, but resources need to be directed to where the problem is, to help those most at risk.

Due to be sunny tomorrow.  Hooray!  And grass roots football can start again.

 

Sunday, July 19th

We lost the Cup semi-final 😦 .   Chelsea beat us 3-0.  It was just a disaster from start to finish.  I’m so disappointed.  We may still finish in the top 4, but to have won the Cup would have meant so, so much.  I don’t know what happened today: it was just awful.

And I should be in Iceland now.

But I’m not.

I am jealous of people who are jetting off on holiday.  No coach tours at the moment.  I could go on my own, but, whilst I’ve been on several city breaks on my own, it’s just not really the time for it – the castles, cathedrals etc which I’d normally spend my time seeing aren’t open as normal.

I’ve had a nice day, though.  Well, until the Cup disaster.  It’s been warm and sunny, and I went to Beeston Castle, and then to the ice cream farm in Great Budworth, and then to the park.  The A49 was busy – mainly due to horse boxes, caravans and cyclists holding everyone else up – but it was quiet on the other roads.  I like driving round country roads when it’s quiet!   Then, later, I went to the park.

Back on the virus front, it is unbelievable how selfish some people are. Over 250 people attended a funeral at a mosque in Blackburn, which has one of the highest rates of infection in the country. The legal limit for religious ceremonies is currently 30 – even the Queen’s granddaughter has to stick to that, so why can’t everyone else?  And over 3,000 people attended an illegal music festival near Bath. The noise was so loud that people over 20 miles away complained, but the police said that they couldn’t do anything about it.  WTF?  I hate to sound ranty and authoritarian, but these are not normal times.  Use bloody tear gas if necessary.   The vast majority of people are more or less sticking to the rules, but it only takes a few to set off a cluster of cases in one area, and then everyone suffers.  It’s very frustrating.