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!

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

Monday, April 19th 

I cannot believe what is going on.  It’s another warm, sunny day, a beautiful spring day … but this European Super League idea is just a nightmare.  I am so, so ashamed that United, City and Liverpool should be involved.  And Barcelona, of all clubs.  Everyone from Sir Alex Ferguson to Boris Johnson’s condemned it.  I can’t believe it’ll happen, but I said that about the Glazer takeover, rugby league being moved to the summer, and Bury being kicked out of the league.  There’s talk of banning the clubs involved from domestic leagues.  And banning players from playing from their national teams.  How the hell would that help?  That’s punishing players, fans and national sides, none of whom are to blame for any of this, rather than the clubs’ greedy owners.  No comment from any of the TV companies.  If they refuse to televise the matches, surely that’d put a stop to it?  In the middle of it all, Spurs have sacked Mourinho.

I need to ring the plasterer later- he said he’d come to have a look, but couldn’t speak to me earlier.

Had an e-mail from the holiday company, going on about hotels and itineraries and booking optional trips.  It’s a standard e-mail which comes out three months before you’re due to go, but it’s stressed me out because I have no idea what’s going to happen.  Iceland is likely to be on the “green list”.  However, unlike Greece and Portugal, I don’t think Iceland’s keen to let tourists in.  It’s so hard to know what to think.  Holiday companies are blithely saying that everything’ll go ahead almost as normal this summer … but it won’t.  However, the holiday company always makes a definite decision 8-10 weeks beforehand, so I suppose I’ll just have to wait a few weeks and see what happens.

India has been added to the “red list”, because of the very serious and worrying situation there.

 

Tuesday, April 20th

I know this is supposed to be a pandemic diary, but all anyone’s talking about is football.  Boris held a press conference this evening, in which he spoke about hopes to develop pills to treat the virus, and also concerns about a third wave, but, even at that, people kept asking questions about football.  Even the future king’s involved: Prince William’s spoken out about his concerns regarding the proposals.

How dare the Glazers and the other greedy owners do this? Sky Sports and Amazon Prime (although not BT Sport) have both said that it’s nothing to do with them.  Supporters’ groups have been holding talks with Boris.  This is what it’s come to – appealing to the Government to take action against our own clubs.  Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have both made it pretty clear that managers haven’t been involved, and, as Jordan Henderson’s called a meeting of Premier League captains, we may soon get similar comments regarding players: Marcus Rashford’s already tweeted a picture of a banner showing Matt Busby’s “Football is nothing without fans” comment.

It’s been made clear that no German clubs will be getting involved.  So that’s Bayern Munich out.  Given the backlash, will anyone else get involved?   There’s even been talk that City and Chelsea are thinking of pulling out.  I just hope that the whole idea collapses.  But the bad feeling it’s caused won’t.  Liverpool fans were burning club shirts ahead of their match against Leeds last night.  Grimsby have suggested that replica shirts be donated so that they can be sent to Third World countries.

What a mess.

 

Later – Ed Woodward, our deeply disliked vice chairman (although, to be fair to the man, he’s just an employee) has resigned.  So has the president of Juventus.  City and Chelsea have pulled out.  Please, please, let’s just scrap the whole thing.

Oh, and the plasterer says he can sort the hole, but that it won’t be until mid-May.

And one pint bottles of skimmed milk have reappeared at Tesco.  They vanished at the start of the pandemic.  I know that people need to know this.

 

Wednesday, April 21st

Hooray.  All 6 English clubs pulled out late last night, followed by Inter and Atleti this morning, and then AC Milan.  Juve have said that the plan can’t go ahead, so, er, that leaves Real Madrid and Barca playing El Clasico every single week.  I think we can assume that the plan is now dead.  People are hailing victory for fan power, the forces of right, etc, but I think it’s more to do with the threat of being booted out of the existing competitions.  However, at least it’s over.  Joel Glazer’s written “an open letter” to United fans.  His grammar is appalling.

Rafa made an awful meal of beating Ivashka, in Barcelona, but got there, 3-6 6-2 6-4.

The Queen turns 95 today.  Not much of a birthday for her 😦 .

Getting back to pandemic news, grumpy scientists are still predicting a third wave in the summer.  I’ve now had a letter and a text from the NHS, telling me to book myself in for the vaccination if I haven’t done so already: they’re certainly being thorough.  20% of British adults have now had both jabs.

 

Thursday, April 22nd

Covid is no longer the leading cause of death in England and Wales, and infection levels are down to where they were in early September.  We still recorded 18 deaths today, sadly, but hopefully that number will fall.

However, the situation in India is terrible, and we’re now hearing that Tunisia’s running out of intensive care beds.

And, just when you thought the European Commission couldn’t stoop any lower, it’s suing Astra Zeneca for not producing as many doses as it said it would.  This is a brand new vaccine.  It’s only just been developed – thanks to the sterling work of the scientists involved.  The producers are doing their best.  Astra Zeneca aren’t even making any profit from that.  But the European Commission’s going to sue them.  Because they mess they’ve made of things is everyone’s fault but theirs.  How d disgusting.

In other news, Rafa won the first set against Kei 6-0 but then managed to lose the second 6-2 before coming through 6-2 in the third.  And now plays Cam Norrie.   And the weather is glorious, and, whilst I wasn’t sure that this idea of dining out at tables in office car parks (after offices have closed) or behind bus stops (there isn’t a lot of room for putting tables outdoors in a suburb with busy main roads) would catch on, it really has done!

 

Friday, April 23rd

St George’s Day.  And a gorgeous sunny day.  I think a lot of people had decided that it was POETS Day, because there were loads of people eating outside at The Coffee Sack, Babbo and Osma when I walked past!

Restrictions are to be eased in Austria and Italy.  Here, infection levels continue to fall, although today’s figures showed 40 deaths.  But the situation in India is awful.  A load of flights came in this morning, ahead of the “red list” deadline.  Could someone please tell me why, when travel is supposed to be banned, so many people are travelling?   How many people actually need to travel internationally for “essential” reasons?

Is there anything we can do to help?  We’ve got very close historic ties with India.

Rafa beat Cam Norrie, 6-1 6-4.

 

Saturday, April 24th

I very rarely eat out in the evenings, unless I’m on holiday because I feel self-conscious about going to restaurants on my own: it doesn’t seem to matter during the day, but it feels weird in the evening.  However, it was a lovely, warm, sunny day (the water boards are getting stressed about the lack of rain, but everyone else is just enjoying it whilst it lasts) and I just really felt like doing the outdoor dining thing, which is becoming symbolic of April 2021 … so I thought I’d go early, before it got busy, and it was really lovely.

 

Problems with nice weather – a) hay fever and b) weeds.  I spent ages pulling up weeds earlier, and they still seem to be everywhere!  But not to complain 🙂 .

This morning, I went to Rufford Old Hall, which has finally reopened.  Gorgeous bluebells!!   And, hooray, dogs are not allowed in the gardens there, nor at Capesthorne Hall, where I’m going tomorrow!

Then I came home (a slightly circuitous route, due to there being traffic chaos on the M60) and watched Rafa beat Pablo Carreno Busta, 6-3 6-2.  Very nervous about tomorrow’s final against Stef Tsitsipas – I can already hear all the “changing of the guard” comments if it goes the wrong way – but we’ll see.

Joe Biden’s described the Armenian Genocide as genocide.  Bravo!  At last.  I think Bill Clinton said he would, whilst campaigning in areas with big Armenian-American communities, and then never did.

Covid news from abroad.  Positive news from Israel, which recorded zero Covid deaths yesterday.  That hopefully shows how well the vaccines work.  We recorded over 30 deaths again today: I thought the numbers’d be coming down further by now, but then the figures are for deaths within 28 days of a positive test.   But the situation in India is heartbreaking.  Makeshift crematoria are being set up, pretty much in the street,  Boris has said that we’re seeing what can be done to help.

 

Sunday, April 25th

What a glorious day!  Well, apart from the fact that we only managed to draw at Leeds, 0-0, but you can’t have everything.  Rafa beat Stef 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 7-5 in an amazing 3 hour 38 minute Barcelona final.  I was exhausted by the end, and am now running stupidly late with everything, but yay!!  Rafa winning clay court titles in April again.  Now that feels like a bit of normality!

And I was sad that I wasn’t able to do the bluebell walk at Capesthorne Hall last year, but I went today and the woods were looking absolutely glorious!   And there were tables and chairs on the lawn, which was much nicer than being indoors.

City won the Carabao Cup, beating Spurs 1-0 in the final.  I cannot pretend to be delighted about this, but it’s good news that 8,000 fans were allowed inside the stadium.  Well, good news compared to having no fans in at all.

And so we enjoy the sunshine and hope that more restrictions will be lifted in three weeks’ time … but remain mindful of what’s happening in India and elsewhere.

 

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

Monday, April 12th

Non-essential retail, hairdressers and beauty parlours, gyms and swimming pools, outdoor attractions such as zoos, self-contained holiday accommodation and outdoor hospitality all reopened today!  Well, some hospitality places are still shut because they haven’t got room for much or any outdoor seating, and some businesses sadly haven’t made it this far; but it’s a big day.  Let’s hope that, this time, we really are on the way out of this nightmare.

I had a blood donation appointment in town this morning, and, woo-hoo, I sat at a table outside a café to have a cup of tea beforehand!  Long queues outside shoe shops, weirdly.  Maybe everyone’s worn their shoes out with all the walking during lockdown!  Later, out for a walk locally, I saw loads of people sat outside pubs and cafes, and queues outside walk-in hairdressers/barbers.  And this is even though the temperature was below freezing this morning, and not much warmer later!  But it’s been lovely and sunny … unlike in Monte Carlo, where rain interrupted the tennis 😦 .

A few bluebells in Heaton Park, but not many yet.

Prince Harry’s arrived back in the UK.  Let’s hope he doesn’t cause any trouble.

And the man sent by the insurance company to check the ceiling for asbestos has been.  I’ve now got to wait for the results.  What a nightmare.  When I first found the leak, I thought I’d just need to have the bath re-sealed, but now all this.

 

Tuesday, April 13th

Hooray!!!

  1.  Vaccination bookings for people in the 45-49 age group in England are now being taken.  It wouldn’t let me book the Prestwich centre, for some annoying reason – I think that’s just doing second jabs at the moment – but it let me book Cheetham Hill, which is only a couple of miles away, for Thursday evening, and it also let me make an appointment for my second dose.  I’m a bit nervous because I know some people felt rotten for a couple of days afterwards, but let’s just get it done.   This came after the announcement last night that all over 50s had been offered a first dose, slightly ahead of the target date of April 15th.
  2. I have had my hair cut and properly dyed, for the first time in 4 months!!
  3. The average infection rate across Greater Manchester is below 50 per 100,000 for the first time since the beginning of September.
  4. Over 94% of over 50s in our borough have now had their first jab.  Practically everywhere in the country’s over 90%, apart from a few London boroughs.

A few bits of not so good news – there are now concerns that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may also be linked to rare blood clots, the situation in Brazil is horrendous, and several cases of the South African variant have been found in South London.   We’re certainly not out of the woods yet.  But, hopefully, we’re getting there.

 

Wednesday, April 14th

Rafa beat Delbonis 6-1 6-2 in Monte Carlo.  I feel like the clay court season’s really here now!  And my magnolia has produced its first flower of the year.

Denmark’s said it won’t be using the AstraZeneca vaccine, and South Africa, the US and other countries are pausing use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  We’re never going to get the whole world vaccinated at this rate.

My holiday company’s now cancelled all trips up to and including mid-June.  So mine in mid-July is officially still on, but I can’t see it happening.

 

Thursday, April 15th

Vaccination Day!  

Yes, I’ve had my first jab!   Separate post for that (above).

In other news, Rafa beat Grisha 6-1 6-1, Dan Evans beat Nole (!!), and I’m pleased that the Queen’s decided to invite Countess Mountbatten (maybe it would have been too much for Lady Pamela?) and representatives of Prince Philip’s sisters’ families to the funeral.

Now hoping I don’t have a bad reaction.  I wish people wouldn’t feel the need to tell me that they felt ill afterwards!

 

Friday, April 16th

I seem to be OK after the vaccination, touch wood.  But Rafa lost to Rublev 😦 .  2-6 6-4 2-6.  The first set and a half was the worst I’ve ever seen him play in Monte Carlo.  Then he came back to level it, but fell apart in the final set.  I suppose you can’t expect miracles when he hasn’t played a match since the Australian Open.  And it made me very late for tea at Mum and Dad’s!   Spring is so complicated, with the clay court season …

Asbestos Man didn’t find anything.  Phew.  So now I need to try to get a plasterer in.  Also, the guy was supposed to come and cut the grass yesterday, but he never turned up.

The EU says it probably won’t order any more supplies of the Astra Zeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, even though the European health watchdog’s said that the risk from the virus is far higher than the risk from the vaccines.  Well, that’s their lookout – all the more for everyone else.  Infection levels here are back to where they were in September.  Some worrying talk about a nasty new mutant, originating in India, though.

 

Saturday, April 17th

That all went as well as it could’ve done, I think.  So hard for anyone to hold a funeral at the moment: funerals are difficult enough at the best of times, without having to cope with limited numbers, face masks, social distancing and the congregation not being able to join in the singing.  The music was beautiful, and the parade beforehand was perfect, but it was very sad to see the Queen sitting all on her own.  I was a bit tearful when I saw Prince Philip’s cap sitting on the seat of his carriage, but I got very tearful when I saw the Queen.

Whilst most of the country was mourning, a woman was arrested for running topless through the grounds of Windsor Castle.  I don’t suppose the Queen was amused, but Philip would have roared with laughter.

Before the funeral, I went to Tatton Park.  I’m not impressed that they’ve put the parking fee up (it was high enough already), but anyway.  It was the most beautiful sunny day, both here and at Windsor, and I was very glad to be able to see the lambs, piglets and bluebells there, after missing them last year because we were in lockdown.

 

There are still a few “minimise travel” signs up, but everyone’s out and about now.  Thankfully, the weather’s being kind to us, and we’re out in the fresh air.   And, touch wood, we’re doing OK … but deaths have passed three million globally.   Things in India are very worrying indeed.  Boris probably wishes he hadn’t arranged to visit there now, but he can’t very well pull out without causing offence.    Brazil’s in a bad way, and Canada’s struggling now.

Dan Evans lost his Monte Carlo SF to Stef Tsitsipas 😦 .  And City won’t be winning the Quadruple: Chelsea beat them in the Cup semis today.  I really couldn’t have taken the gloating over a Quadruple.

A strange day, all in all.  Rest in peace, Prince Philip.  You were a one-off.  You will be missed.

 

Sunday, April 18th

Like there’s not enough to worry about, there’s now talk of a European Super League.  Yes, there’ve been similar rumours on and off for over 30 years, but this sounds quite serious – and United, City, Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea have signed up for it, along with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus.  Fans, former players and journalists are united in condemning it, and I’m deeply ashamed that United are involved.  Greed, greed, greed.  And at a time like this.  I just hope it comes to nothing.

On a happier note, we beat Burnley, 3-1.  And some fans are inside Wembley for the second Cup SF, one of a number of pilot events taking place.

And it’s been the most gorgeous warm, sunny day – hard to believe we woke up to snow a week ago.  There are people sat out at pubs, cafes and restaurants all over the place.  I went to Beeston Castle this morning, and the views were just glorious.  Then I stopped at the Great Budworth ice cream farm on the way home.  It was wonderful to get out on to the A49 and just drive.  Round here, you cannot go more than a couple of hundred yards without having to stop at yet another set of bloody traffic lights, and it really does get me down.  OK, sometimes you get stuck behind tractors, caravans or horseboxes on rural roads, but, thankfully, I didn’t today.  The traffic and the traffic lights here really do make me feel trapped: it was so lovely just to drive.

Then I watched the Monte Carlo final.  For so many years, you could pretty much guarantee that Rafa’d win Monte Carlo.  Not any longer 😦 .  But it was lovely to see Stef win his first Masters title.  And then United v Burnley.

Infection rates in our borough are now below the national average – 25.7, with the rate across England 27.8 – which is incredible when you think that we had one of the ten highest rates in the country not so long ago, at over 200.   The week-on-week rates in some local boroughs are up slightly, which isn’t great, but the highest rate is only 60.3, and even a few cases make a big difference with numbers now thankfully so low.  62.4% of adults across the UK have now had their first jab.   Compare that to 529 in Paris – I just don’t see how we can let foreign travel resume at the moment, and risk upsetting the apple cart.

And so endeth another week!

Vaccination Day

I’ve had my first jab!  The Oxford Astra Zeneca.  It was announced on Tuesday that people in my age group were being “called up”, as most media outlets put it, for their vaccinations.  “Called up” sounded rather like being called for active service in wartime, and there was certainly a sense of doing your duty for society, as well as protecting yourself.   It’s a big relief that we don’t seem to be having too many issues with vaccine hesitancy here: people rushed to message friends and relatives in the relevant age group and to post on social media, in case anyone hadn’t heard, and so many people tried to book appointments as soon as possible that the NHS England website briefly crashed.   94% of over 50s in our local authority area, which has been very badly hit by this horrible pandemic have now received their first jab, the national rate’s around 95%, and, hopefully, we’re on target to offer everyone over 18 their first jab by the end of July, and hopefully take-up in all age groups will be as high as it’s been in the priority groups.

I feel like I should be thanking the scientists, the Vaccine Task Force, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and the National Health Service for leading us out of the wilderness, or leading us out of the darkness and into the light or something, like a verse from the Bible.  Or quoting some appropriate song – maybe “A Red Letter Day” by the Pet Shop Boys or “Greatest Day” by Take That?  I half-felt as if I should be wearing my best frock for the occasion!  I settled for ordinary clothes 🙂 , but a favourite pair of earrings and a Manchester United “Maskchester” mask!   And the sun shone.  And thank you to Rafa and Dan for their excellent performances in Monte Carlo this afternoon, keeping me sane (well, as near to sane as I ever get) as I waited for the clock to tick round towards the time of my appointment.  I was anticipating having to wait in a long queue, but I didn’t: it was all over and done with very quickly.

There’ve been a lot of reports of people getting quite emotional, especially clinically vulnerable people whose lives have been very restricted since this nightmare started.  It’s been such a relief every time a family member or friend has received their first jab, and in some cases now their second jab, and today it was my turn.  I know that Boris and the medics keep reminding us that the vaccines aren’t 100% effective, and I’m sure we’re all well aware of the risk of variants, but there’s no denying how much infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths have fallen since the vaccination rollout started, and don’t tell me that that’s due mainly to lockdown because we were locked down in November and it didn’t have this sort of effect.

Back in January, we were seeing some local authorities recording infection rates of over 1,500 per 100,000, and at one point we recorded over 1,600 Covid-related deaths in a day.   Now, nowhere’s got a rate of over 100 per 100,000, and the average number of Covid-related deaths per day, whilst every death is still very, very sad, is below 50.  Brazil’s recording over 3,000 deaths per day, India over 1,000, Poland recorded over 800 deaths in a day earlier this week, Italy’s seeing around 500 per day, France will probably pass the 100,000 death toll today and Germany’s close to running short of intensive care beds, so we certainly can’t take anything for granted, and can only hope that the third wave eases in other countries soon and that we manage to escape it.

It’s going to take a long time before the entire population of the world can be offered a vaccination, and it doesn’t look as if the pandemic’s going to end any other way – well, not without taking the sort of toll which the Spanish flu took.   We’ll get there, hopefully.  We’re very lucky to be in a country which has been able to provide one of the fastest vaccination rollouts in the world, and thanks again to everyone involved in that.  Hopefully, this is our way out of this, an end to this fear that’s been hanging over us all since last March, and a route back to some sort of normality.   If anyone’s read this, thank you, and stay safe xxx.

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!

 

Lockdown Anniversary

  It’s a year today since we first went into lockdown.  Hopefully, we’re now on the way out of it, but, with case numbers rising in a lot of other countries, and the virus being capable of playing nasty tricks such as mutating just in time to muck up Christmas, this nightmare’s a long way from being over.  But at least now we’ve got toilet paper, televised football, and takeaways in the park; and everyone involved with the vaccination programme is doing an incredible job and deserves all our heartfelt thanks.

We knew about the Spanish flu.  But it’d happened over 100 years ago, and medical knowledge and treatments then were nothing like they are now.  And, over the last few years, quite a few strange viruses – SARS, MERS, bird flu, the Zika virus – had appeared in different parts of the world, made headlines for a few weeks, and then never been mentioned again.   When one called “coronavirus”, later referred to more specifically as “Covid-19” appeared in a Chinese city called Wuhan, it just seemed like another one of those.  Until it didn’t.  It’s claimed over 2.7 million lives – we’ll never have an accurate figure, especially as every country seems to record figures differently, but that’s the official figure – and it’s turned all our lives upside down.  The chances are that it’s always going to be a big dividing line in our lives, just like the Second World War was for people who lived through it.

Maybe there’ll be permanent changes directly linked to it, like needing an annual vaccination, which in time will just be part of normal life.  In all likelihood, there’ll be permanent changes as an indirect result of it.  At the moment, we just don’t know – which is extremely frustrating, especially for anxious, over-planning people like me.   There is no certainty.  Scientists keep coming out with long-term doom and gloom predictions.  I’m sure there are some cheerful scientists out there, but none of them ever seem to make it on to TV!   Other people are more optimistic.  But we just don’t know.

Hopefully the vaccination programme is the way out of this.  I fully understand that, with such a big operation, there were bound to be hitches along the way – and Boris was quite right to praise the vaccine-producing organisations, rather than, as certain other people have done, criticise the very people offering hope.  But, oh, it’s so annoying that it’s happened just as I was practically at the front of the queue!   Some areas were already on to Group 10, and our area looked set to get there any day, and then the goalposts were moved.  Can’t be helped, and, as I’ve said, everyone involved with the vaccination programme’s doing an incredible job, but it’s rather frustrating for all those of us still waiting our turn!  More uncertainty.  Every time we think we’re getting near the finish line with this, something else happens.

And it all came from nowhere.  Yes, we’ve seen the pictures of people having fun in the sun over the August Bank Holiday weekend of 1914, little knowing that four years of war lay ahead, but people who followed international politics closely knew that trouble was brewing and, when you look back even as far as the 1890s, you can see that war was almost certainly coming.  But you can’t see a pandemic coming.  You can see that, say, having unclean water supplies in Victorian cities was asking for trouble, but this?   Maybe it was something to do with wet markets, but, until early last year, had you ever even heard of a wet market?  I hadn’t, and I’ve been to China.

All those lives gone – every one of them someone’s beloved relative, friend, neighbour, colleague.   And probably many more lives lost as a result of delays to medical treatment due to the pressure on health services, or mental deterioration in vulnerable people, especially those in care homes, cut off from their loved ones.  Many more people – we don’t know how many – left with long-term physical health issues.  And we can’t yet know the extent of the mental health problems caused by the unavoidable restrictions that we’ve been under for so long, and, in particular, the effect on front line workers who’ve had so much to deal with.

Other things have been lost too.  People forced to mourn without a “proper” funeral, or the usual mourning rituals of their religion/culture.  And time that you can’t get back.  People who’ve died without being able to spend their precious last days with loved ones.  Time that grandparents and aunts and uncles would have spent with babies and toddlers during their precious early months.   The experience of university.   Time that children should have spent in school.  OK, you hear stories about kids who came to the UK as refugees, not speaking a word of English, and got straight As in their A-levels a few years later, and think that one year of disrupted education might not be a big deal, but it will be to some children.   Everyone’s different, and it’s going to be very difficult to sort out the problems that this has caused.

And it’s hit some communities much harder than others.  Here in Greater Manchester, we were put under additional restrictions at the end of July, five months before some areas were.  Infection rates and death rates in some areas have been much higher than others, for a variety of reasons.  Urban areas of North West England, Yorkshire, North East England and South Wales have been particularly badly affected.  And the economic effects are going to be much worse in some areas, especially tourist areas, than others, too, and recovery isn’t going to happen overnight.

We don’t know what recovery’s going to be like.  We aren’t even at the recovery stage yet.  And no-one knows how it’s going to be.  Non-essential shops will hopefully be reopening on April 12th, but are we all going to rush to the high streets and the shopping centres?  Well, if it’s like last July, when you had to queue outside because only limited numbers were allowed in, you couldn’t use the toilets, and you couldn’t try clothes on, then, quite frankly, no.  I did so much walking during Lockdown I that I was desperate for new trainers by the time shops reopened.  I went to Sports Direct at Manchester Fort, and found myself having to spend half an hour stood out in the rain before I could even go in.  It obviously wasn’t the fault of the shop’s owners or staff, but it wasn’t exactly great.   And have we all got used to ordering things online?   So many big High Street names have gone since all this started.  What does the future hold?

And what about the future for city/town centres in general?  Will we carry on WFH?  I would love to carry on WFH.  It’s saved my sanity (such sanity as I actually possess!) during all this.  Being able to go for a walk during the day (not that I’m losing any weight from doing so, bleurgh), instead of being trapped in a depressing office.  Not having to listen to other people’s incessant coughing, sneezing, snivelling and shouting.  Bliss!   Some people think that WFH is the way ahead.  I’m not so sure.  Some jobs, obviously, just can’t be done from home.  With others – well, will bullying, controlling employers be happy to go on like this indefinitely?   Decent employers will, but how many of them are there around?  There’ve been reports of many employers refusing to give people an hour out of the working day to go and have their vaccinations.

We shall see.

Zoom meetings are surely here to stay, though.  Big savings in terms of time and travel costs.  There’ll be some people, especially in particular sectors, who want to get back to face-to-face shmoozing, wining and dining, but there’ll be a lot who won’t.

That’s mainly in sectors which haven’t taken a big hit.  But some sectors are on their knees.  Tourist businesses and shops, as already mentioned.  The overseas travel industry.  Personal care businesses, and health and fitness businesses.  A lot of businesses just won’t make it, or have gone already.   The leisure industry in general – how much permanent change is there going to be?  Professional sport will bounce back: you can’t recreate the atmosphere of actually being at a live sports event.  And, as nice as take-aways are, I think there’ll be a rush back to restaurants, cafes and pubs when they reopen.  But, when cinemas and theatres reopen, how will they stand up against Netflix and other watch-at-home services?    Have people’s habits changed permanently?

And then there’s foreign travel.  Oh, travel, how I miss thee.  I had it all planned out for 2020.  Iceland booked for July, Japan booked for October, and a Mitteleuropean Christmas market to be booked for December as soon as I got the 20/21 football fixtures.  Iceland’s rebooked for this July and Japan’s rebooked for this October, but I’ve pretty much accepted that neither of them are happening.  Even if we’re legally allowed to travel, are things going to be open, and do I want these experiences of a lifetime spoilt by stressing about masks and social distancing?  But how long is this going to go on?  And how long can airlines and travel companies keep going?

Oh, I want to go on a coach tour abroad.  I want to go somewhere here: we’ve been banned from even leaving the local area for over five months.  I haven’t seen my sister, brother-in-law and nephews since August, and I haven’t seen many other relatives and friends since well before that.  I haven’t been to Old Trafford for over a year.  I haven’t been to the theatre or the cinema for over a year.  National Trust properties are open, but you have to decide a week in advance that you’re going, and book, so it’s not quite the same.  I want to be in a crowd.  I hate being in crowds, unless it’s at a sports or music event: I get stressed and feel trapped if there are too many people about.  But I want to be in one anyway.  Without dogs.  I am so, so sick of dogs.  I walk and walk, because there’s nothing else to do, but, everywhere you walk, there are dogs.   So, no, dogs, but I want to be in a crowd.  Just briefly.  And I want a haircut!   I don’t read dystopian novels, but I can’t imagine that there are any which mention not being able to have your hair cut.  I get the reason that salons are closed, but I’m sick of it!

Most of all, I want a day out in the Lake District.  Hopefully, that’s not far off.  But any sort of normality, whatever normality is any more, is a fair way off.  Thankfully, we don’t seem to be getting the “third wave” affecting parts of the Continent, and hopefully we won’t.  But this is nowhere near over.  And, a year ago, whilst we’d had to accept that this was bad, and that life was going to change, we thought it was going to peak over Easter weekend and that the worst would be over by the summer.  Yes, I know that the second wave of the Spanish flu was worse than the first.  I knew that a year ago, too.  But that was over 100 years ago, and medical knowledge and treatments then were nothing like they are now …

There are nice things.  WFH is wonderful, as I’ve said: I wish that could last indefinitely.  I love being able to go out for a walk every day.  I love that I see a lot of the same people, and that we stop to say hello to each other.  The park’s like the social centre of the universe at the moment!   I like the takeaway cafes .. OK, I don’t like the queues, but I rather like going up to the hatch, and then going off to sit on a park bench.  And how could we have got through this without social media?  OK, there are the people who post spiteful, political points-scoring stuff, but I’ve learnt to try to ignore that, and to focus on the positive stuff people post, and the kindness that so many people have shown.

But I want my “real” life back.  And we don’t know when it’s coming back, and how much of it’s coming back.  But at least we’ve still got our lives.  2.7 million people haven’t.  That’s a bewildering number.   And, whatever could or should have been done differently, this is the fault of a virus, a very nasty, clever, shapeshifting virus, and nature’s stronger than we are.   It’s not exactly Ragnarok, but … well, Whig history, onwards and upwards, human and industrial progress, moving forwards … and then something like this happens, and everything changes.

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

Monday, March 15th

A terrible thing has happened 😦 .  Thorntons are closing all their shops.  Their chocolate will still be available online and from some supermarkets, but all their shops are going.  I can’t believe it.  There’ll be no High Street shops left at this rate.

Sunday’s Census Day, but you can fill yours in early if nothing’s going to change.  I decided to fill mine in today, then read it over later in the week, then send it in.  I appreciate that the decision to go ahead with it was taken before Lockdown III, but it’s going to be rather a mess.  You’ve got to fill in it as things are now, so loads of people will be putting that they’re not working, even though they have actually got jobs, and loads of people will be putting that they’re working from home and therefore not using any form of transport to get to work – so how are the authorities meant to make decisions about the transport network?

Nice sunny day today.  More and more daffodils coming out.  And we’re stuck in this limbo.  And hairdressers in Wales have reopened … but we’ve got to wait another four weeks.

Some countries have suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, this time because some people’ve got blood clots after having it, but there’s no evidence that the blood clots are linked to the vaccine or that the incidence of blood clots is any higher than it would be anyway.  You can now e-mail the doctors’ surgery, so I’ve e-mailed to ask if there’s any news on vaccinations for Group 10.  No harm in asking.

And Portugal’s off the “red list”.

 

Tuesday, March 16th

Bleurgh.  First, Indian Wells was cancelled.  Now, Rafa’s pulled out of Miami.  He says that it’s so he can focus on getting ready for the clay court season, and that sort of makes sense, but I’m bothered about just how bad this back injury is.

Also, infection rates are up in 7 out of the 10 local boroughs.  Not ours, but it’s probably only a matter of time.  It’s because secondary school kids are now being tested regularly.  There doesn’t seem to be any panic, because kids are rarely badly affected, but a) it shows how many asymptomatic cases there are around, b) a small number of kids *are* badly affected, c) it could be passed on to a vulnerable classmate of family member, d) it means that some kids have been sent home from school again, already, and e) with no plans to vaccinate under 18s, and no vaccines even licensed for under 18s, the issue of infections in children is a problem.

On a happier note, Prince Philip has been released from hospital.  And the first tulip’s out in my garden.

Boris’s hair is horrendous.  Mine is pretty bad, but his is ten times worse.

And the surgery e-mailed me back to say that they’re still on over-50s.

 

Wednesday, March 17th

I don’t believe this.  Just as my turn for the vaccine was getting close, the NHS is warning of a “major contraction” in supplies and saying that it might have to suspend appointments for first doses.  This may or may not be connected with Ursula von der Leyen again threatening an export ban, in her continued attempts to blame everyone but herself and her team for the complete balls-up they’ve made of the rollout in EU countries.

We’re also being told that people in their 40s will have to wait whilst the NHS chases up people in Groups 1 to 9 who haven’t yet come forward.

I am not very happy about this 😦 .

It’s been a nice sunny day – blue sky, and more and more daffodils in the park.

But this latest news about the vaccines really isn’t very good.

 

Thursday, March 18th

Oh, how annoying is this?  I do appreciate that it’s not aimed at me personally, and I also appreciate that we were always going to hit a supply hitch at some point and have done very well to get this far without one, but I was so close.  The word was that some people aged 47-49 in our area had been contacted, and that people aged 45-46, i.e. including me, could probably hope to hear next week.  And now it’s probably going to be another month.  Another month of not being protected.  And, whilst I do get that it’s not about holidays, if I’d had my first vaccination in late March or early April, I’d have had my second in time for the summer holiday season.  So near, and yet so far.

It seems that one shipment of 1.7 million doses is being held back for extra testing, and that a shipment of 5 million doses from India’s been delayed by 4 weeks because of production problems.  I thought it was great that Boris praised the “herculean” efforts of the production facility in India, rather than slagging off the people whose hard work’s offering us a way out of this nightmare, like that nasty piece of work Ursula von der Leyen’s doing, but it is, nevertheless, annoying.  The original target was to complete groups 1 to 9 by 15th April, and we’re 4 weeks before that and I’m group 10, but … ooh, it’s so, so frustrating.   So nearly there … and now I’m not.

On a happier note, we won 1-0 at AC Milan, 2-1 on aggregate, and are into the Europa League QFs.  And it’s been another nice sunny day.  More daffodils out in the park.  Please, please be nice in April!

 

Friday, March 19th

After a third fortysomething friend posted on Facebook that she’d had the vaccine, I rang our surgery to ask what was going on.  The answer was that a small number of people in their late 40s had been contacted, because the walk-in centre had had some doses which were nearing their use-by dates, but that, following the announcements on Wednesday, no-one outside the top 9 groups would be being called for the time being.  Existing appointments are being honoured, so my friend must just have been lucky in that her area was slightly ahead of ours and she’d been contacted before Wednesday.  Which is great for her, and I’m very pleased for her, but it’s very frustrating for me!

The number of cases is edging up now.  However, we still only recorded 4,802 cases across the UK today, compared to (yesterday’s numbers) nearly 35,000 in France, nearly 30,000 in Germany and nearly 25,000 in Italy.  There’s increasing talk of a “third wave”.  Will this nightmare ever end?!

I just heard a squeaky noise, panicked that the boiler had thrown a strop, and then realised that it was some birds tweeting in a tree!

For all this talk about third waves and vaccine shortages, there’s been no suggestion that the “roadmap” will be altered for the time being.  Everyone really is fed up, so let’s hope that things can go ahead as planned.

And we’ve been drawn against Granada in the next round of the Europa League.

 

Saturday, March 20th

Over 700,000 vaccinations were given in just one day yesterday, which is amazing stuff, but so, so, frustrating for my age group, left waiting outside with the door shut in our faces!   On a more positive note, over 50% of the adult population’s now had their first dose.   Cases are creeping up again, but hospitalisations and deaths are falling, which is more important.  However, the news from the Continent is grim, with the term “third wave” being used more and more.  With fears that rising numbers of cases there could lead to new variants arising, hopes of foreign travel (bearing in mind that most foreign travel from the UK is to the Continent) being allowed to resume any time soon are fading.  Poland and many parts of France have gone back into lockdown.  Oh, will this nightmare ever end?!

I went to Clifton Country Park this morning.  Took my own scone, from The Coffee Sack, with me!   It was nice to have a change of scene, but the place was absolutely plagued with people with dogs, and the paths there are very narrow.  I went for a walk in Heaton Park later.  Much as I like going for walks, I am getting very fed up!  And my hair is an epic disaster.

Japan’s said that no overseas fans will be allowed in for the Olympics.  My trip to Japan, booked around 18 months ago and postponed from last October to this October, looks very unlikely to happen.  Ditto my trip to Iceland, rescheduled from last July to this July.  I’m used to going abroad at least twice a year, usually more – I know that sounds “privileged”, but I wear the same grotty old clothes for decades, and use gadgets until they stop working – and suddenly not being able to do so is very odd.  I haven’t even been allowed to leave the local area for 5 months.

On a different note, I saw our local Big Issue seller today, sitting on the pavement in the precinct.  I got him something to eat, and he’d got some hot drinks, so hopefully people are keeping an eye out for him.  He’s a well-known face in the local community: he’s been selling the Big Issue outside M&S for years.  But Big Issue sellers aren’t allowed to work during lockdown.  How stupid is that?  Newsagents are allowed to open, and, OK, magazines aren’t “essential” in the same way that newspapers are, but surely the Big Issue should be a special case.   During Lockdown I, a big effort was made to find homeless people somewhere to stay, but it doesn’t seem to be happening this time.

 

Sunday, March 21st

Census Day.

A record 844,285 vaccinations were given yesterday.  That is amazing.  However, it makes it all the more frustrating that – whilst I quite appreciate that it’s no-one’s fault – most under 50s now face a long wait.  All this talk about vaccination passports is frustrating as well: it makes you feel like a second class citizen.  And it’s pretty silly, given that much of it involves activities that are mainly the preserve of younger people.  Vaccination passports for summer music festivals?  WTF?  The vast majority of people who go to music festivals are under 30, and will therefore be last in the vaccination queue, so how’s that supposed to work?!

Everything feels frustrating.  When you’re trapped doing boring work for 5 days a week, and get very little time off, weekends are precious.  A dry Sunday in daffodil season is like manna from heaven.  The Lakes?  Chirk Castle?  Biddulph Grange?  Bolton Abbey?  No … another walk round the park, and another walk into Prestwich village for another cake that I don’t need.  Everyone has had enough.  People are sitting at tables outside cafes, which they’re not meant to.  Kids are playing football in big groups, which they’re not meant to.  Plenty of people have had their hair cut by mobile hairdressers, which they’re certainly not meant to.  The odd sanctimonious person tuts at all this, and says that they’re prepared to endure restrictions for as long as it takes, for the Greater Good.  I’m sure people only say that because they think it makes them sound virtuous.  It actually just makes them sound annoying.

Yes, I’m sure we’re all aware that we’re in a pandemic, and that the restrictions are not just there to annoy us, but people are getting down.  And do scientists think they’re helping by saying that we’ll probably have to wear masks and observe social distancing for years to come, that there’ll probably be a big flu epidemic in the winter because immunity’s dropped due to lack of contact, that overseas travel will be off the menu for months yet, that even vaccinations won’t stop the pandemic, and all the rest of it?  They’re the modern equivalent of those people in the 17th century who went around proclaiming that the end of the world was nigh!   People can’t deal with hearing all that at the moment.

It’s not been a bad day.  Lots of daffodils in the park 🙂 .  Just frustrating.

OK, off to watch the Cup QF.  At least we’ve got football, which is more than we had this time last year!   I know I’m moaning a lot today, but I’m fed up.

… and we lost the Cup QF at Leicester, 2-1.  Bleurgh!

Bleurgh indeed …

 

A hitch in the proceedings

 You know when you’ve been waiting in a long queue, and, just as you’re practically at the front, someone closes the doors, draws a rope across, or says “Sorry, we’ve sold out”?  Well, that is me with the Covid vaccine.  The original target was to give over-50s, plus any younger people who worked in healthcare (and) or were extremely clinicially vulnerable, their first jab by April 15th.  But we were steaming ahead, and my group, the over-40s were next in line.  Two of my friends, both in their 40s but living in different parts of the country, had their first jabs last week.  Yesterday morning, the word in my area was that some people aged 47, 48 and 49 had been called, and that people aged 45 or 46, i.e. including yours truly, could hope to hear within the next few days.  I was so close to having that protection, to feeling that relief.

But then, yesterday afternoon, news outlets started reporting that the NHS had sent out a letter saying that there was about to be a big reduction in the number of doses of the vaccine available, and that vaccination centres should stop taking appointments.  Next thing, Matt Hancock and the website for the local vaccination centre were saying that no-one under 50, other than those in other priority groups, was eligible to be vaccinated until further notice.

It’s transpired that a shipment of 5 million doses from the Serum Centre in India’s been delayed for four weeks due to production problems, and that a batch of 1.7 million doses, which we’ve already got, is being held back because of some sort of additional testing.  The doses available are needed for second jabs and for people in the top 9 groups who haven’t been vaccinated yet.   So, having been a few days away from getting my first jab, I’m now probably a month away.  And it’s a significant month, as well: had I had my first jab in late March and early April, I’d have had my second in late June, giving me a lot more options for the summer holiday season.

Yes, obviously I do get that this is not about me.  It affects everyone in my age group, including people who’ve got health problems, or who work in jobs which mean they’ve got a lot of unavoidable contact with other people.  And, yes, I do get that the point of the vaccination programme is to save lives and avoid serious illness, not to enable people to go on foreign holidays.  And, yes, obviously it’s better that it’s happened now than before we’d vaccinated the more vulnerable groups.  And, yes, originally I didn’t expect to be called before late April anyway.  But it’s still, so, so frustrating, to have been so near and now be so far!

There was bound to be a hitch at some point, and we’ve done very well to get this far without one.  We’ve gone from having no approved vaccines available to trying to produce enough for everyone on the planet within a very short space of time: there were always going to be hiccups.  And it was lovely to hear Boris praising the “herculean efforts” of the Serum Institute, rather than, as that deeply unpleasant woman Ursula von der Leyen keeps going, criticising the very people whose amazing efforts have offered us hope of a way out of this nightmare.

We’re still on target to give everyone in the top 9 groups their first jab by the middle of April, and to give all adults their first jab by the middle of July.  The “roadmap” isn’t affected.  Compared to, say, France, which recorded over 35,000 cases today, when we, with a higher population, recorded 6,303, we’re doing OK, touch wood.  But, ooh, the frustration of being so, so close, and now knowing that it’s going to be at least another month!  Sorry for moaning, but … gah!!

 

 

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

Monday, March 8th

Kids went back to school today.  And you’re now allowed to meet one other person outdoors, without going for a walk.  Let’s just hope that there are no more issues with schools.  Secondary school kids now have to be tested 9I mean for the virus, not school stuff!) twice a week.

Worrying news from Poland, where infection rates are up by around 30% in a week, and there’s talk of a “third wave”.

Some rain earlier, but sunny now.

And I’d intended to watch the Harry and Meghan interview, just out of curiosity, but we’ve heard most of what they said and I’m not sure that I want to dignify their lies by spending time watching it.  For example, they’ve claimed that Archie was denied a title.  WTF??  He was supposed to be the Earl of Dumbarton, but they said that they wanted him to be plain “Master”.  There are numerous similar examples.  It’s all deeply unpleasant, and I’m very sorry that the Queen’s having to deal with their vindictiveness at her age.

It’s also Commonwealth Day.  And International Women’s Day.

And another day of marking time.  I’m usually deep into holiday planning at this time of year.

 

Tuesday, March 9th

That miserable pair Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance have said that there’ll probably be a third wave of the virus in the UK at some point.  I think they want us locked down until kingdom come.

Horrible weather’s forecast for the rest of the week.  Bleurgh 😦 .  Just hope it’s decent over Easter weekend.

Rates locally and nationally continue to fall, as, more importantly, do deaths and hospitalisations, but the picture in parts of Europe, including Italy, is very worrying, with cases rising again.

Japan’s said that no overseas fans will be allowed at the Olympics.  I think I can forget my October coach tour of Japan, which I was originally supposed to go on last year.  I booked it in the autumn of 2019, and I was so excited and so much looking forward to it, and the same with my summer trip to Iceland.  I’ve got a load of books on both countries in the spare room wardrobe.

 

Wednesday, March 10th

Wet and windy today.  At least it meant that there was no queue for drinks at the park café!  I hope it doesn’t do this over Easter weekend, though, just when people will be reuniting with relatives and friends.

Just watching Dan Evans v Roger Federer.

Cases are rising rapidly in Hungary and the Czech Republic, as well as Poland.

 

Thursday, March 11th

Strong winds and heavy rain overnight.  Brightened up later, although it stayed windy, but it’s raining again later.  I got drenched in the park yesterday (despite my brolly) and windswept today.  Several people have remarked on the fact that I go out walking even when the weather’s awful and hardly anyone else does.  So why am I still so fat?!!  It’s not fair 😦 .

United v AC Milan is one of those glamour ties you dream about, even if it is in the Europa League and not the Champions League.  I’m grateful that I can watch it on telly, but it’s not the same as being there.  Later … finished 1-1, conceded an away goal in injury time, bah!!

And the eternally miserable Mark Drakeford – does that man ever smile? – wants to keep a “stay local” order in force in Wales, even when the “stay at home” order’s lifted.  And I don’t think he wants to let people from England into Wales ever again.  Will I ever see Chirk Castle, Bodnant Garden, Llangollen and Erddig again?!  Will the tourist businesses in places like Llandudno, which depend on visitors from North West England, ever make any money again?!

On a happier note, some daffodils are out in Heaton Park.

 

Friday, March 12th

Hmm.  Mark Drakeford may be miserable, but he’s said that hairdressers in Wales can reopen on Monday, four weeks before they’re reopening in England.  I’m sorely tempted to nip over to Wrexham – the state of my hair must surely class an emergency!!  He’s also said that self-catering holiday accommodation in Wales can reopen at the end of March … but not to people from other parts of the UK.  I’m not very comfortable about this.  Not that I want to go to a holiday cottage in Wales in March, but just the whole thing.

Very windy again today.

Italy’s going back into lockdown.

I feel like I’m just waiting.  Waiting to be allowed out.  Waiting until it’s my turn to be vaccinated.  Just waiting.  But rates in our borough are right down to 77 now (touch wood).  Above the national average, which is around 52, but the lowest they’ve been since … it must be September, if not August.

 

Saturday, March 13th

Hooray!!  There are usually plenty of daffodils out at Dunham Massey by mid-March, so I’d booked to go today, but was rather upset when the forecast was for rain and wind.  However, although there’ve been a few bad spells, it was fine whilst I was there, and there were indeed lots of lovely daffodils.  I was so excited!  I’m a bit obsessive about daffodils 🙂 .  *And* they had scones.

We’re supposed to be “staying local as much as possible” after the “stay home” rule’s lifted on March 29th, but I really have had enough – and people who are trapped in offices need to make the most of Easter weekend.  Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.  Please, weather, just behave …

Salford’ve won the 2020 EFL Trophy.  The 2021 final’s tomorrow!

Most of the daffodils in Prestwich Flower Park are out too.  They weren’t on Monday, so that’s quick!

Two friends who are both in my age group have had their vaccinations today.  It varies across the country, depending on demographics, and plenty of friends in their early 50s, i.e. the group before mine, are still waiting,  but I’m getting a bit impatient now.

Cases in the Netherlands are now on the up, as well as Italy and East/Central Europe.  This isn’t good.  But, this morning, my heart with pleasure fills (“filled” doesn’t rhyme) and danced with the daffodils.

 

Sunday, March 14th

Went to the park this morning.  Some of the daffodils in the woods are out.

Unfortunately, it then absolutely poured down from about 1 o’clock to half 4.  Yes, there are books, newspapers, magazines, TV programmes and films, but I feel so trapped by work stuff during the week (although not nearly as much as I do when I’m trapped in an office) and am really not good at sitting in the house at weekends.  Just hope it doesn’t do this over Easter weekend.  On a happier note, United 1-0 West Ham!

There’ve been big anti-lockdown protests in the Netherlands.

Everyone is really, really fed up.  This has gone on and on and on.  The good news is that around 45% of the population’ve now had their first vaccinations, and I’m just desperately hoping that this is our way out of it.  People are really struggling.  And it’s Mother’s Day/Mothering Sunday today, when a lot of families like to hold get-togethers.

Murray Walker died.  I hadn’t realised he was 97.  Seems like only yesterday that he was still doing Formula 1 commentary.

In the middle of it all, a huge row’s broken out after the Met Police rather badly mishandled a vigil-cum-protest on Clapham Common, following the abduction and murder of a woman there last week.  The suspect’s a serving police officer.  People were told not to attend the vigil/protest, because of the lockdown restrictions, but many did anyway, and it somehow all went wrong and there’ve been some very unpleasant pictures of policemen removing women quite aggressively.   They didn’t try to stop Black Lives Matter protests, or try to stop those idiots from Extinction Rebellion from blocking the streets, and it’s also been pointed out that no-one tried to stop crowds of Rangers fans from celebrating their SPL title victory last week.

Ten weeks of lockdown.  And weeks of Tier 3/Tier 4/Lockdown II before that.  And it’s almost a year since we went into the first lockdown.   I see things sometimes, pictures of huge crowds at football matches, or at concerts, or cheering at parades, or even crowds of people on public transport, and wonder when we’ll ever get back to any sort of normality.   Sometimes, even now, it still feels unreal that this is happening.

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

Monday, March 1st

Another nice sunny day.  Local rates are coming down again, thankfully.

I am way too fat, and my hair is a horrendous mess.

Six cases of “the Brazilian variant” have been found in the UK.  One or possibly more of these relates to someone who flew into London on a connecting flight from Zurich, having flown to Zurich from Brazil.  The issue of connecting flights is a big problem.  And we don’t actually know who one of the other people infected is, because they didn’t fill in their form properly!  FFS.

On a more positive note, data shows that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are very effective in preventing hospitalisation and death.

Several friends have said that they’ve already booked hair appointments.  I’ve texted my hairdresser, but she hasn’t got back to me.  I’m sure that there’s a very good reason for this, but it’s stressing me out!

Prince Philip’s been transferred to St Bart’s, which is rather worrying.

 

Tuesday, March 2nd

Yet another sunny day, but very cold overnight: I had to de-ice the car before going to Tesco this morning.  Still too cold to put new plants in!

Thanks to that idiot Macron and his Anglophobic ranting against the AstraZeneca vaccine, large amounts of the said vaccine are lying unused in both France and Germany.  Macron’s now eaten his words but, understandably, people are now nervous.  Meanwhile, Slovakia’s following Hungary in getting stocks of the Sputnik vaccine from Russia, and it looks as if Austria and the Czech Republic may follow suit.  Austria and Denmark are also in talks with Israel over vaccines.  Normally, I’d be a little amused to see the European Disunion is such disarray, but not when people’s health and even lives are at stake.  What the hell was Macron playing at?

And kids are getting ready to go back to school.

 

Wednesday, March 3rd

Seriously stressed about the lack of contact from my hairdresser 😦 .

I had a phone call from Old Trafford today, just to say that they’d be in touch about info for next season once more was known about how many people would be allowed back into stadia etc.  I’m not sure why that merited a phone call, TBH, but maybe they’re just trying to be caring.  The last match I went to was on March 8th 2020, almost exactly a year ago.  A year without going to a football match.

Today was Budget Day.  The furlough scheme and the other support schemes will continue until the end of September, but corporation tax for large companies will go up from April 2023, and personal tax allowances will be frozen.  This whole thing’s an economic nightmare.  It’s no-one’s fault, just something we’ve got to deal with, but we’re going to be dealing with the aftermath of this for years.  And no-one really knows how much has changed permanently – we’re just going to have to see how it goes.  Will people go back to going to physical shops rather than ordering online, and seeing films at the pictures rather than on Netflix?  Will people go back to holding meetings in person rather than over Zoom?   Only time will tell.

 

Thursday, March 4th

Hooray – rates in our borough are down 41% week-on-week, touch wood, and rates across the whole area are falling more quickly than they were, so fears of a return to the Evil Tier System are (I hope) receding.  And rejoice, rejoice, I’ve got a hair appointment for April 13th!!

However, rates are rising in several Continental countries, notably Poland.  And Italy has blocked the export to Australia of vaccine doses which have been legitimately ordered by Australia, under this unbelievably selfish European Union “I’m all right, Jack” policy.

My holiday company’s cancelled all tours up to the end of May.  I’m so sorry for them – they’ve lost over a year’s business.  I’m still officially booked for Iceland in July and Japan in October, re-booked from last year, but, sadly, I can’t see that either trip’s going to happen. However, Matt Hancock’s talking about “A Great British Summer” again, so fingers crossed that staycations will be on even if foreign holidays aren’t.

 

Friday, March 5th

Prince Philip’s back at the other hospital, after a heart procedure.

A lot of moaning’s going on over the lack of public sector pay rises.  I’m afraid I haven’t got much sympathy.  Private sector employers will be using the pandemic as an excuse to freeze pay for years.  Public sector workers get unlimited paid sick pay, good pension schemes and loads of holidays: private sector workers get none of those things.  And they have considerable job security, whereas a lot of private sector workers have lost their jobs or fear losing their jobs.

Cyprus has said that it’ll welcome British tourists who’re fully vaccinated.  Here we go … most people who go to Cyprus are in the younger age groups and are therefore unlikely to have been fully vaccinated by the summer, and there’s going to be a lot of resentment about it.

The mystery person with the Brazilian variant’s been traced.

People going abroad from England now have to fill in a form saying that they’re going abroad for legitimate reasons.

And it’s cold!

 

Saturday, March 6th

I hope this nice weather doesn’t end when lockdown ends.  It’s so, so frustrating having dry, sunny(ish) weekend days and not being able to get out into the countryside or the seaside.  Yes, I know that there’s a pandemic, but, when I hear about the police patrolling beauty spots, it makes me feel like we’re back in the days of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass, denying urban working people access to the countryside.  I feel that all the more when I hear over and over again about how much worse urban areas have been affected than rural areas.  Burnley’s virus death rate in January was double the national average.  OK, OK, I don’t suppose that that would have changed if people from Burnley had been allowed to go to Blackpool or the Lakes or the Trough of Bowland, but lockdown definitely weighs a lot harder on some areas than on others.

Having said all that, I did get to Hollingworth Lake earlier.

I went off the main path to where the farms are, in the hope of seeing some lambs, but it’s too early!   And I’ve been to the garden centre, and put the new plants in the garden.  And I’ve been to Tesco, where (how sad is this?) I got quite excited over the new self-service machines, which do not go berserk if you take things out of “the bagging area”!  Once you’ve scanned something, you can put it in a bag in your trolley or basket.  Wa-hey!!

Local infection rates are now falling more quickly than the national average.  No idea why, but long may it last!

Someone flew a helicopter from Barton Aerodrome to Chipping and back (about an 80 mile round trip) to collect a roast beef barm with caramelised onion gravy.  Seriously.

Other than the pandemic and the derby match, the main talking point is Harry and Meghan.  The Royal Family, the country and the entire Commonwealth are well rid of those two, but the nastiness is upsetting, and I’m sad to think of how distressing it must be for the Queen and Prince Philip.

 

Sunday, March 7th

Rejoice, rejoice – City 0 – 2 United!!

On the day of last year’s Etihad league derby, I was in Vienna, and celebrated victory (yes, we beat City twice in the league last season) with a late evening gluhwein at the Rathausplatz Christmas market, in the middle of crowds of people from all over the world having fun.  This evening, I celebrated with a cup of tea in the front room.  But, hey, the main thing is that we’re celebrating!

This time last year, we kept getting storms at the weekends.  It was so frustrating, especially as the Lake District was particularly badly affected by them.  This year, we’re getting all these lovely dry, sunny days, but we’re banned from going anywhere.  Gah!   However, hooray, we have got Heaton Park, and you can sometimes find a quiet area away from people with horrible barking dogs.  I was in the park for ages.

Loads of kids playing football or cricket in big groups.  Loads of people walking or even sitting in groups which weren’t big but were clearly more than one household.    Everyone’s just had enough.  I’m not excusing rule-breaking, but the virus doesn’t spread much outdoors, and it’s all just gone on for so long.

Schools go back tomorrow.

It’s a start.  I hope.