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

Monday, October 18th

Sad to hear of the death of Colin Powell from complications of Covid.

And there was a very sad article in today’s paper about a young man who died after being refused a face-to-face doctor’s appointment.  He had four phone consultations, but, as you can’t look down someone’s ear over the phone, they failed to diagnose mastoiditis which, as it was left untreated, led to a brain abscess.   It’s absolutely appalling.

On a happier note, Cameron Norrie won Indian Wells!

 

Tuesday, October 19th

  1.  Some doctors’ groups are telling GPs to refuse to co-operate with Government plans to get back to face-to-face appointments.  Oh great.  First we had teachers’ unions being determined to feud with the Government and putting playing politics above children’s interests, and now we’ve got GPs’ groups being determined to feud with the Government and putting playing politics above patients’ interests … except that this could literally cost people’s lives.
  2. There is apparently a new variant of the Delta variant.
  3. Infection rates in Trafford have dropped considerably.  The highest rates in the country are now in Ipswich, Wellingborough and Taunton.
  4. The premier of the Australian state of Victoria says that unvaccinated tennis players are unlikely to be allowed to play at the Aussie Open.
  5. Unvaccinated over 60s in Moscow have been told to stay at home until the end of February!

 

Wednesday, October 20th

The doom mongers are demanding that “Plan B” be activated immediately.  The uber doom mongers are demanding that we go back into lockdown.  Given that most cases are in schools, this seems rather extreme.  However, there’s no doubt that cases are rising, and hospitalisations and deaths are edging up too.  It’s not just here: a lot of countries are in the same boat.  Morocco’s suspended direct flights to the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, which seems a bit overboard.  And Russia’s closing workplaces for a week.  Cases were bound to rise as people spent more time indoors due to the time of year, but it also seems that immunity’s wearing off as time passes since people were vaccinated.  The booster programme’s under way, but a lot of those eligible haven’t yet come forward.

I don’t think there’s any need to panic, but, TBH, I don’t think it’d hurt to tell people to go back to wearing masks indoors.  Fewer and fewer people are wearing them in shops, and, even though we’ve been asked to wear them on public transport locally, not everyone’s doing so.  More positively, Sajid Javid’s been talking about anti-viral drugs.

America’s to start vaccinating primary school children.  I understand that people are nervous about vaccinating little ones, but I think we’re going to have to do the same.   And is everyone going to have to have a booster?

On a happier note, we beat Atalanta 3-2.  Although it would have been better had we not contrived to go 2-0 down first.

 

Thursday, October 21st

I’m going to the theatre tonight, for the first time since February 2020, to see Bedknobs and Broomsticks at the Palace.

Meanwhile, everyone and their dog has been appearing on TV, giving their opinion on Covid restrictions, which is stressing and confusing people.  Why does Tony Blair have to be shouting his mouth off about it all?  How long has he been a doctor or a scientist?!   This is the trouble – people are using the situation to try to score political points.  But there’ve been over 50,000 new cases today, which isn’t good.

Latvia’s become the first European country to go back into lockdown, but their vaccination rate’s only 54%.  And all the local public bonfires have been cancelled 😦 .

 

Friday, October 22nd

I got asked to show my vaccine passport at the theatre last night!   First time.  The theatre was fine, but I wasn’t very impressed by the behaviour of people on the bus into town.  There were clear signs on the bus asking people to wear masks, Andy Burnham’s repeatedly asked us to wear masks on local public transport, and Sajid Javid reminded us on Wednesday night that we should be wearing masks in “crowded indoor spaces”, but only 1 in 9 people (yes, I was sad enough to count) actually had a mask on.  Come on, folks, make a bit of effort.   We reported over 52,000 new cases last night.   There’s no need to panic – contrary to what the political points-scorers in the media would have us believe – but it’s not exactly a brilliant situation either.

Meanwhile, I hope the Queen’s OK.  She’s spent a night in hospital for “preliminary medical checks”.  Hopefully it’s just her knees, but it’s still worrying.

And SAGE have said that everyone should be WFH.  Listen to ’em, Boris!   Tell people to close offices and let us WFH full time.  Come on …

 

Saturday, October 23rd

I am really sick of all the scaremongering in the media.  First, they were claiming that there’d be no turkeys for Christmas and supermarkets would run out of everything else as well.  Then, they caused a totally unnecessary fuel panic.  Now, they’re scaremongering about going back into lockdown.  Oh, and Sky News are claiming that the Russians are after us.  What year is it, again, 2021 or 1961?!   Exactly what is any of this supposed to achieve?!

 

Sunday, October 24th

Ugh.  This has been one of the most humiliating days of my life.  We lost 5-0 to Liverpool.  Words fail me.   5-0.  At home.  To Liverpool.

The day did actually start quite well, when I went to Kenyon Hall to pick a pumpkin, then to the garden centre to look at the Christmas displays.

It then got very bad.  Very bad indeed.

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

 

Monday, October 11th

Today, I tried ringing my PMI firm to ask what the procedure was if the scan showed that I needed to be referred to a consultant.  This was even worse than trying to get through to the NHS.  Fortunately, I was WFH today, so I just put the phone down next to the laptop and at least didn’t have to worry about being interrupted, but it took 55 minutes for someone to answer.  The person who answered was very apologetic, and I got the distinct impression that they were constantly listening to complaints about how long it took to get through, and obviously it wasn’t their fault, and, as usual, you can’t get to speak to the people in charge, but I was nearly in tears by then.  I’d tried the online service but it just kept saying “no agents are available”.  And, after all that, all I got was that I should ring back when I’d got the scan results … which was fair enough, but, by the time I’d waited 55 minutes for someone to answer, then gone through all the rigmarole security questions, then explained the situation, it took an hour and a quarter just to be told to ring back.

FFS.

There’s been a large and rather violent demo in Rome against vaccine passports.  Italy’s rules are pretty draconian.  And Sydney’s lockdown’s ended, after 107 days.

 

Tuesday, October 12th

The official report into the UK’s response to Covid has said that things were handled very badly at first, but that the vaccine rollout was a great success.  A few salient points:

  1. We should have locked down earlier, although the Government did follow scientific advice on aiming for herd immunity.  I still think that herd immunity’s a thing, because the highest rates now are in areas which previously had low rates, and vice-versa, but the virus went for the most vulnerable people and that resulted in a tragic loss of many lives.
  2. Releasing people from hospitals into care homes was a tragic mistake, as was the lack of testing for care home staff.  At the time, the idea was to free up hospital beds, and I get that, but the death toll in care homes was terrible.
  3. There were failings over PPE.
  4. Some interesting comments about borders.  I’ve got no idea how they’ve worked this out, but the report says that 33% of cases during the first wave came from Spain and 29% from France.  At the time, the focus was all on the Far East, and then on Iran and Italy.
  5. The whole local lockdown was a shambles.  That’s putting it mildly.
  6. There should have been more testing early on.
  7. The pandemic response was based on plans for a flu pandemic, which weren’t appropriate in this case.
  8. There’s a lot of talk about “group-think”

People are busily using this to try to score political points, which isn’t helpful.  And what’s done is done.  All we can do is try to learn from it, although hopefully nothing like this will happen again any time soon.

Oh, and George Freeman, the “Science Minister”, has said that the UK’s had a high Covid death toll because we’re all too fat.

 

Wednesday, October 13th

The Covid app went down today.  It’s working again now, but apparently there was chaos at airports.  I don’t understand why people don’t print stuff out in case something like this happens!

Trafford’s infection rates are still sky high and getting higher.  Very odd how one borough is so much worse than the others.

 

Thursday, October 14th

Sajid Javid’s announced extra funding for GPs, but said that they’ve got to see more people face to face.  Good.   I wish he’d also tell them to bring back online booking and online triage so you don’t have to spend an hour trying to get through on the phone – although, to be fair, I think most surgeries are doing that anyway.  I just wish ours was.

 

Friday, October 15th

Due to holidays being cancelled because of you-know-what, I had a spare holiday day and, not having been to either Shugborough or Trentham Gardens this year,  I decided to find somewhere to stay in Staffordshire, and booking.com found me The Upper House, which used to belong to one of the Wedgwoods and is just off the Wedgwood Estate, and very close to Trentham Gardens.  I went to the Monkey Forest first, then the gardens, then the Wedgwood tea room (sorry, had to be done), and then came to the hotel.  How cute are these monkeys?!

Plus it’s kind of distracted me from this horrendously stressful situation of waiting for more medical tests and imagining all sorts.  It really is very, very, difficult.

Some awful, awful news, though – MP Sir David Amess has been stabbed to death during a constituency surgery.  What has the world come to?   Two MPs have been murdered in 5 1/2 years.  It would have been unthinkable a decade ago.  So much hatred.  What is wrong with the world?  That poor, poor man, and his poor family and friends.

 

Saturday, October 16th

FFS.  We lost 3-2 at Leicester.  This cannot go on.  On a happier note, Cam Norrie’s reached the Indian Wells final.

It now seems that the man who murdered Sir David Amess was an Islamic fundamentalist … only days after an Islamic fundamentalist murdered five people in Norway.  Awful.

Today, I went to Boscobel House and White Ladies Priory, where Charles II hid after the Battle of Worcester.  And this is the Royal Oak in which he hid!  OK, it isn’t, because the original was wrecked by 17th century souvenir hunters, but it *is* grown from one of the original oak’s acorns.  And then I had afternoon tea at the hotel.

 

Sunday, October 17th

Shugborough today, then home.

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

 

Monday, October 4th 

Ugh.  Today has been really horrible.  I got so stressed out about the appointment with the nurse that I cried because my watch needed a new battery (yes, I know that that sentence is a non sequitur).  Then I was told to make an appointment for some tests, which involved ringing what seemed to be a central phone number for half of northern England and waiting for ages whilst an annoying voice told me that I was in a queue, then being asked for a reference which I didn’t have to hand because no-one’d told me that I needed it, then, when I found the reference, being asked what the tests were for.  Er, shouldn’t they have known that?

And now Facebook and Whatsapp, my two support mechanisms, have both gone down.  I thought at first that this was a problem with my phone and completely freaked out, but it turned out that it was a general worldwide problem.   Which has not yet been resolved.

 

Tuesday, October 5th

Hooray, Facebook and Whatsapp are working again … although notifications of new group posts on Facebook aren’t coming up.

In the middle of everything else, we’ve got these arrogant spoilt brats from “Insulate Britain”, none of whom appear to work for a living, blocking main roads and motorways.  Last week, they blocked the road’s near my elder nephew’s school, meaning that some of the school buses were stuck for over 4 hours.  Yesterday, they actually stopped an ambulance which was taking an elderly lady to hospital.  Angry people got out of their vehicles and dragged them away, to let the ambulance through, but where on earth were the police?   Later, the ringleader told a reporter that he wouldn’t have cared if the patient had died.  Priti Patel’s said that something’s going to be done about it, but when?

Back with Covid news, a report’s suggested that Covid was “spreading aggressively” in Wuhan in the summer of 2019, and that the Chinese authorities must have known about it because spending on PCR tests drastically increased long before they reported the issue to the WHO.  Nothing would surprise me, but it’s too late to do anything about it now.

 

Wednesday, October 6th

They said that my blood tests were OK but to have them redone in 4 weeks’ time.  But the receptionist didn’t know why, and you can’t get to speak to a doctor or nurse, and I was already stressed because it took so long to get through on the phone, so I’m even more stressed now.

Boris’s conference speech barely mentioned Covid.  Nor did Keir Starmer’s.  But Wales is introducing Covid passports for certain things, and this nightmare with tests for going abroad is still ongoing.

 

Thursday, October 7th

Not much Covid talk at the moment, but I really do think that there’s a herd immunity thing going on.  The city centre (where rates hit the national headlines a year ago), Rochdale (which sparked the original local restrictions last July) and Bolton (where all the Delta variant stuff kicked off) now have the lowest rates in the area … whereas Trafford, which was demanding to be put in a separate tier last autumn, has now got rates 2.5 times those of the city centre.  Looking further afield, Herefordshire, which was practically the last part of England to be in Tier 1, now has amongst the highest rates in the country.  Rates generally seem quite high to those in other countries, which isn’t great, but they’re not getting any worse.  More importantly, death and hospitalisation numbers aren’t getting any worse.

There is some talk going on about footballers not being vaccinated.  It’s not entirely clear why, but vaccination rates amongst footballers do seem to be quite low.

 

Friday, October 8th

I hate waiting for medical tests.  But it’s a position which an awful of people are in at the moment, due to the backlog caused by Covid.  There are also concerns about how many people could get flu this winter.  We’ll see.

The red list is being reduced to 7 countries, all in Central/South America or the Caribbean.

 

Saturday, October 9th 

I am really sick of the media trying to whip up panic over everything.  Didn’t they cause enough trouble with the petrol panic?   To watch Sky News for half an hour, you’d think that the end of the world was nigh!

Today has been a rather boring day, largely spent clearing out cupboards.  When I say “clearing out”, I mostly mean taking stuff out, reflecting on the fact that I’ve had it for 15 years and never used it, then putting it back in because it might come in useful one day.

And what on earth is going on at schools in the borough of Trafford?  Infection rates there have sky-rocketed, and are way higher than they are anywhere else in the area.

On a happier note, we beat Andorra 5-0.

 

Sunday, October 10th

Apart from the nightmare infection rate in Trafford, no-one’s talking much about Covid.

Today was a lovely sunny day, so I decided to go to Windermere: it’ll be the last chance I get for a while now.   It was totally irresponsible of me, because I am now behind with a million and one other things, but it was lovely!

Left to right – Bowness, Ambleside, then Sizergh Castle on the way home.

 

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

Monday, September 20th

Hooray!   The Americans are finally lifting their travel ban, for fully-vaccinated visitors from the UK and various other countries.  But still want a load of tests doing.  A new vaccine’s being tested … in Bolton.  And Princess Beatrice has had a baby girl.

Today, I went to Tenby, and over to Caldey Island on the ferry – very exciting due to the Chalet School connections, and I struck lucky and got a really lovely sunny day.

Lots of English tourists there, and lots of signs reminding people that Welsh rules are different.  It really would be a lot easier if we all had the same rules!

 

Tuesday, September 21st

Infection rates are down in all 10 Greater Manchester boroughs.  There are quite major variations even within the local area, but the panic merchants who were claiming that we’d be seeing 50 zillion cases a day within 5 minutes of lifting restrictions have gone quiet now.  However, the virus certainly isn’t going away, and … well, it’s going to be an ongoing problem.

I went to Pembroke Castle, birthplace of Henry VII, this morning, and then to the Bosherston Lily Ponds.

Lovely day again.  And I went in the pool and jacuzzi at the leisure club adjacent to the hotel.  Going again on Friday.  You have to book slots, but it wasn’t that busy.

 

Wednesday, September 22nd

Bah.  Lost to West Ham in the Carabao Cup.  1-0.  Took a chance and put the reserves out.

Booster jabs for over 80s are now being given.   Scottish tourism officials are hitting the roof because  Sturgeon’s refusing to drop the PCR tests.   And the German government’s going to withhold sick pay from people who aren’t vaccinated and have to self-isolate.  So they just won’t self-isolate, will they?   Stupid idea!    Not that I’ve got a better one, but still.

I went into Carmarthen today, then to Dinewfr Park, and Carreg Cennin.  There was some rain, but, thankfully, nothing major!

 

Thursday, September 23rd

A Covid row’s broken out over Strictly Come Dancing, of all things.  It seems that three of the professional dancers haven’t been vaccinated, and that their dance partners weren’t told about it and aren’t very pleased.   This really is a difficult issue.  It’s not compulsory to be vaccinated, and I don’t think anyone really wants to go down the Italian route of saying that people in pretty much any job need a Covid pass, but is it fair for someone working in close proximity to others to be putting them at additional risk?

It rained quite heavily this morning, but turned out nice later on.  I went to the Roman gold mines at Dolaucothi, then to the Welsh National Botanic Gardens.

 

Friday, September 24th

I went to Cardigan Castle this morning, then to St David’s, and then called in at Laugharne on the way back.   Nice sunny day.

Fortunately, I was able to fill my car up for the journey home.  Thanks to the media whipping up a panic over fuel shortages, after a very small number of petrol stations had to close temporarily whilst awaiting deliveries – due to the shortage of HGV drivers, not a shortage of fuel – , everyone’s panic-buying.  It’s the toilet roll saga all over again – people start panic-buying, the media show pictures of long queues (the irresponsible BBC, ITN and Sky are actually encouraging people to send in pictures of queues), everyone else then panics, places run out, the panic spirals …. .  There was a bit of a queue at the station near St Clears when I got back, but nothing major, but it’s really not good in more densely-populated areas, especially for those people whose vehicles run on diesel rather than petrol.  I believe that some garages at home are out of fuel, although others are open, and my sister’s said that it’s an absolute nightmare in London, with most filling stations closed.

 

Saturday, September 25th

I’ve filled up again … I had a long drive from St Clears to Chepstow (lovely castle, closely associated with William Marshal, and right on the border, with a sign on one side of the bridge over the Wye welcoming you to Gloucestershire, England, and a sign on the other welcoming you to Monmouthshire, Wales!), then to Tintern Abbey, and then on to Hay-on-Wye, where I’m staying overnight after a very nice afternoon spent looking round bookshops.  Hay’s on the border, too – most of the town’s in Powys, Wales, but the first bookshop I went to was in Herefordshire, England!    Wet early on, but dried up later, and tomorrow’s looking nice and sunny.

Anyway, there was a petrol station not far from Hay, with no queue.  I don’t think it had any diesel, but it certainly had petrol.  It’s quite bad in some urban areas, though.  And no-one’s doing anything about it.  Telling people not to panic buy doesn’t work.

And we lost 1-0 at home to Villa, to a late goal, after we’d missed a penalty.  The wheels seem to be coming off this week :-(.

 

Sunday, September 26th

I’m home!   Via Attingham Park, near Shrewsbury.  I’ve now got that awful post-holiday feeling of having a mountain of ironing to do and having to go and be trapped in a depressing office tomorrow, but it was a lovely holiday.

Infection rates are up again in most of the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs.   Ups, downs … but nothing’s changed significantly for weeks.  And there’ve been protests in both Australia and the Netherlands in relation to vaccination rules.   And the USA thrashed Europe in the Ryder Cup 😦 .

And the petrol crisis is getting worse.  Could someone please do something?

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

Monday, September 13th

The UK’s Chief Medical Officers have recommended that all kids aged between 12 and 15 be offered one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.  Bring it on!   Several of my elder nephew (12, nearly 13)’s friends have tested positive, and they only went back to school last week.  Kids cannot keep having to miss school.  And, in the cases of those kids too young to be left home alone all day, parents cannot keep having to miss work.  And there’s all the general worry in case a kid tests positive just before a holiday, a family celebration or anything else important.

The deal between the UK and the Valneva vaccine company has apparently been scrapped, but no-one seems very bothered about it.

In other news, CADW, the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage, release tickets every Monday.  So the tickets for next week should have been released today.  But they weren’t,  Because they’re “implementing a new system”, I was told, and it’d gone wrong.  Try again tomorrow.  OK.  Later, I looked on their Facebook page, and it said – presumably news to their own staff – that the reason you couldn’t book online tickets was that they were upgrading systems at their sites and would be closing certain sites on certain dates.  I don’t believe this.  If it said which sites were closed when, I could perhaps try to rejig my plans, but it doesn’t.  It just says that the list will follow.  Well, when?  It’s now only 4 working days until next week.  How on earth could they have left it till now to say something?   I’m really, really annoyed.   You can’t just do this with no notice.

And OMG, what happened last night?   Well done Daniil Medvedev.  Did the pressure get to Nole, like it keeps gettiing to Serena?  Whatever, congratulations to Daniil.

 

Tuesday, September 14th

Lots of announcements today:

`1.  Booster jabs for everyone in the top 9 groups – i.e. frontline health and care workers, clinically vulnerable people and anyone else over 50 – and also for anyone else who lives with a clinically vulnerable person.   One Pfizer dose or half a Moderna dose.  Some talk of flu jabs being given at the same time, to reduce pressure on NHS resources, but I can’t see that happening.

2.  Lots of graphs showing how unvaccinated people are far more likely to end up in hospital, or worse, than vaccinated people.  Sadly, I doubt that anti-vaxxers will have been watching the press conference.

3. There’s been some talk about a “bonfire of Covid regulations” and also changes to travel regulations, but nothing’s been said about any of that yet.  What we were told was that, if things get worse, we’ll move to “Plan B”, which will initially involve a return to compulsory mask-wearing, the introduction of vaccine passports, and the reintroduction of the home working directive.

4.  Some moaning about the lack of clarity about exactly what would be considered bad enough to trigger a move to Plan B … but how long’s a piece of string?

5.  We’re being told that the number of people in the workforce is now back to pre-pandemic levels.  There are now over 1 million job vacancies, and we need to try to sort things so that unemployed people are matched to vacancies.

6. The Premier League’s said that people will need vaccine passports for matches, even though the vaccine passport plan’s been scrapped.  This is silly now.   Too many sets of rules.  And what about Cup matches involving PL clubs?!

In other news:

  1.  CADW’s website still doesn’t say which places will be closed next week.  I rang up, and was told that the people in the office didn’t know either.  This is just ridiculous.  However, I then tried Facebook Messenger, which seems to go through to a different department, and was assured that only Conwy would be closed.  So I should hopefully be OK – but loads of people on holiday in Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Rhos-on-Sea etc will be affected.
  2. To add to my million and one other stresses – and nothing stresses me out like techno-stress – I’ve had an e-mail from BT, informing me that they will be disconnecting everyone’s landlines and that, to get your phone access back, you will have to connect your phone to your broadband hub.  I can see the hole, so hopefully it will be OK, but it might not be.  And thankfully my equipment’s up to date, due to the Great Lightning Disaster last year, but other people will have to get theirs replaced.  Medical pendants, panic alarms, security systems connected to phones, etc, will all be affected, and you’ll have to sort them out yourself.  And, once the digital thing’s set up, if there’s a power cut or a broadband outage then you won’t even be able to dial 999 on your landline.  Just like that.  When analogue TV was disconnected, we were warned months in advance, given helpline numbers, and given an exact date.  This was just an e-mail out of the blue, and all it says is “soon”.  Hopefully *not* whilst I’m away … but surely not as soon as next week, because they must realise that people may need time to get new stuff etc.  I am not happy at all.
  3. With all due respect to Young Boys, they were meant to be the weakest team in the group … but we (not helped by Wan-Bissaka getting himself off) managed to lose 2-1 in Bern, conceding a second goal in injury time, so the Champions League is already looking like a struggle.  That’ll teach me to say that we’d got a decent draw 😦 .

 

Wednesday, September 15th

I have had it up to here with CADW.  Having assured me that only Conwy would be closed, and then, when I asked if they could confirm that Chepstow and Caerphilly definitely wouldn’t be closed, assured me that Chepstow and Caerphilly definitely wouldn’t be closed, they have now said that Caerphilly will be closed.   FFS, I only asked yesterday!   It should be open again by Thursday, but they can’t guarantee it because their computer upgrades might go wrong.  So, rather than stress all week, I’ve decided to go to Caerphilly on Sunday, before the closures start.  But I had booked Dolaucothi for Sunday, so will now need to contact the National Trust and apologise profusely for cancelling at short notice, and explain that I’ve rebooked it for Thursday.   And I’ve now got a long drive on Sunday, after a long drive on Saturday and with a late start because hotel breakfast is late on Sunday.  I am not impressed.  Nor are several other people who’ve posted comments on CADW’s Facebook page.  4 1/2 days is not exactly a great deal of notice.

There’s been a Cabinet reshuffle.

And there’s a lot of talk going on about WFH.  Bring it on!!

 

Thursday, September 16th

Wa-hey!!!  The council have said that the Christmas markets can go ahead.  Details to follow.  Yay!!

The first booster jabs were given today.  That was quick!   Frontline health and care workers first.  Also, care home workers will be required to be fully vaccinated from 8 weeks from today, so today’s the last day for them to get their first jab.   This rule’s already in force in France and some other countries, and some anti-vaxxer staff have been suspended from their jobs.

Cases are actually falling a bit, with deaths and hospitalisations pretty much stable.

And Italy’s making it compulsory for all workers (well, all legal workers) to carry Covid passes.   I have to say that I think that’s a bit OTT.

 

Friday, September 17th

Hooray!!!   For fully-vaccinated people, pre-departure tests on returning from abroad will be abolished at some point in October.   Tests will still be needed on day 2 after returning, although it’ll be a lateral flow test, not a PCR test, but you’re home by then.  It’s all too late for me to arrange anything for this year, but fingers crossed for next year.  Of course, foreign countries have their own requirements, but we can’t do much about those.  And the “traffic light” system’s being scrapped – it’ll be red list and everywhere else.  Rules for non-vaccinated people are stricter, but you make your choice.

Covid passes are being brought in in Wales.  For big events, but I think the exact rules are different from those in Scotland.  So we’ve now got 3 sets of rules.  I do understand about the devolved administrations, but I also understand that, for many people living in Wales, their nearest big city or town is in England, and that all these different rules are very confusing.

Some financial news from Old Trafford – in the 12 months to 30 June, United made £254.8m from broadcasters, 81.7% up on the previous year’s £140.2m, whereas matchday revenues fell from £89.8m to £7.1m.

Well, fingers crossed, off to Wales tomorrow.

 

Saturday, September 18th

Day 1 of my “staycation” in Wales!   I drove to Powis Castle, then to Llandovery, then to Aberglasney Gardens, and then to my base at St Clears, near Carmarthen.

Powis Castle:

As much as I get the whole thing with the devolved administrations, it really is confusing having different sets of rules in different parts of the UK.   But anyway.  And your room doesn’t get made up during your stay, “because of Covid”.  I hate to be cynical, but *is* that because of Covid or is it to reduce the hotel’s workload?!   But anyway.  It’s a really nice place.  And, apart from one trip to a garage in Aberystwyth when I was a kid (long story to do with my dad’s car!), and a visit to the Millennium Stadium for the League Cup final whilst Wembley was being redeveloped, I’ve never been to South Wales before!

Some issues with gas supplies now.  It’s partly just bad luck – there’s been a fire at a pipeline, and also Russia’s being awkward.  But it’s also because of maintenance on North Sea platforms, which was delayed due to lockdown.  Obviously it’s easy to be wise after the event, but maintenance on gas platforms and tests for HGV drivers should really have been classed as essential, and carried on.

 

Sunday, September 19th

United 2-1 West Ham!    But very sad to hear of the deaths of Jimmy Greaves and of John “Boycie” Challis.

I went to Caerphilly Castle today.  Lovely looking castle!   It’s a ruin, but it’s the second biggest castle in the UK: only Windsor’s bigger.

Then to Laugharne, where Dylan Thomas lived.  This is another ruined castle, not his house!   Then to Pendine beach.

“Staycations” are still very much a thing – there are lots of people about.  I’ve heard accents from various parts of England, and also Scotland, as well as Wales.   And a gold star for the weather!

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

Monday, September 6th

What a to-do last night!  Brazil has put the UK on its quarantine list – possibly as a tit-for-tat thing because they’re on ours.  UK-based Brazilian players did not travel for the World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina.  UK-based Argentinian players did, and the Brazilian authorities apparently told the Argentinian FA that they couldn’t play as they hadn’t gone into quarantine for 2 weeks (although they were due to fly out of Brazil straight after the match).  Argentina fielded 3 (out of 4) of them anyway, and, about 11 minutes after KO, Brazilian police and health officials invaded the pitch and the match was abandoned!

And Emma Raducanu’s into the QFs of the US Open!   Absolutely amazing.  Dan Evans lost to Daniil Medvedev, but that’s hardly a disgrace.

Those schools which didn’t go back last week have pretty much all gone back today.

And I’ve had an e-mail from Old Trafford to say that there will be spot checks on vaccine passports on Saturday.  As there’s not yet a legal requirement to show them, you will not be refused admission to the stadium without one, but I suppose they want to check that the system works.  Just hope it doesn’t cause long delays like it’s done at the US Open.

 

Tuesday, September 7th

The Christmas puddings, mince pies, chocolate Father Christmases etc are out on the shelves in Tesco.  This didn’t surprise me, because it happens every year, but … how ridiculous!   In the first week of September!

Anti-vaxxers have thrown gravel at Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and protested at public transport sites in parts of Europe.

Boris has announced plans for a new 1.25% tax to cover health and social care costs.  I think we all accept that there is a huge problem with social care, and also issues with the NHS, and that the money for increased funding has to come from somewhere.  However, that’s a huge chunk out of people’s income, and you can guarantee that horrible bosses will not be giving private sector workers a pay rise to cover it.  I suspect that “the pandemic” will be used as an excuse to freeze private sector pay – i.e. cut it in real terms – for years to come, whilst public sector workers get rises but moan that they want more.   And, of course, self-employed people can’t just put up their own income.  But I do accept that the money has to come from somewhere.

The i newspaper has seen fit to report that there are plans for some sort of lockdown in late October or early November.  The Government’s denied it – although not ruled it out if hospitals are becoming overwhelmed.  Do newspapers have to do this?  Now, anyone who’s due to get married, go on holiday etc around then is going to be stressing, and hotels and entertainment venues are going to be stressing about losing half term bookings.

And it’s suddenly gone really hot.  Like, 80 degrees hot.  And I’m stuck in an office.  Bah!!

 

Wednesday, September 8th

Oh no!!   The boiler packed up last night.  I suppose at least it didn’t pick the middle of winter.  You used to be able to speak to a human being at British Gas even if you rang at midnight: now, even if you ring at a normal sort of time, you only get an automated voice prompt.  However, I was able to book an engineer for this morning.  To be fair, he turned up at 9 o’clock, for a “between 8 and 1” appointment.  But he seemed rather clueless, kept looking for answers on his tablet (hopefully a technical website and not Google), kept muttering to himself, rang his mate, and then said that it was “pointing towards the circuit board”.  But they don’t carry circuit boards.  So he will have to come back tomorrow.  Again “between 8 and 1”.  Let’s just hope that this sorts it.  And that it stays sorted – on numerous occasions, British Gas have claimed to have sorted a problem and then it’s gone again days or even hours later.

And this is what happens.  I appreciate that they cannot give an exact time.  I appreciate that they do not carry expensive parts with them.  But imagine if this had happened pre-Covid, when I wasn’t set up to WFH?  Mum and Dad are in London for a few days, visiting my sister, so I couldn’t have asked them to wait in.  What on earth would I have done?   Rung in sick and felt guilty about lying?   And then had 2 days knocked off my paid sick leave allowance, so that I wouldn’t have got paid if I genuinely *had* been ill later in the year?   I am so, so glad that WFH is now a “thing”, but so sorry for those people for whom it isn’t.

But, OMG, Emma Raducanu is into the semis of the US Open!   She’s beaten Belinda Bencic, whom I thought had such a chance here, in straight sets.  I’m lost for words.  A million times well done, Emma!

 

In Covid-related news, hopes are rising that the infernal travel system may soon be overhauled.   And Fred and various other players are going to be suspended because the Brazilian FA have complained that clubs wouldn’t release them.  Releasing them would have meant them having to go to quarantine hotels when they got back.  Talk about a no-win situation!

And official figures have shown that people in northern England were 17% more likely to die with Covid than those in the rest of the country, and that northerners had a 26% higher mortality rate in care homes than elsewhere in England, due to existing levels of deprivation.  I’m very angry and very upset about this.

 

Thursday, September 9th

Hooray.  The boiler is working again.  Touch wood!   Let’s hope that it stays that way!

Having my hair cut tonight.

All the Parklife crap is up in the park … including signs saying “Please have your Covid NHS pass ready”.  I’ve never actually seen signs like that in person before.

And my elder nephew only went back to school on Monday (the younger one is still at primary school so not affected by testing) but two of his friends have already tested positive for Covid.  The first kid will now miss a close friend’s bar mitzvah, at which he was due to be giving a speech.  The second kid tested positive after he started coughing *at* school … so could already have spread it all round the class and all round the bus.  Will this nightmare ever end?!

 

Friday, September 10th

OMG, the US Open final will be Emma Raducanu v Leylah Fernandez.  I can’t believe what I’ve just written.  Very, very, well done, ladies – and come on Emma!  What an unbelievable achievement.

I am less impressed with the Indian cricket team.  A few members of the backroom team have tested positive.  Not one of the players has.  But they’ve used this as an excuse to call off the 5th and deciding Test match at Old Trafford.  At 9am, just 2 hours before the first day’s play was due to start.  A lot of fans were already on their way to the ground.  OK, they’ll get the cost of their tickets back, but they won’t get their travel and accommodation costs back, nor the day off work.  And the insurance will cover some of Lancashire’s costs, but not all, and it won’t cover the losses suffered by local businesses.  There’s a very strong feeling that the Indian players are prioritising the megabucks IPL over the Test series, and to hell with the fans and the Manchester businesses affected.   It’s not on.

 

Saturday, September 11th

Ronaldo is back!!   We beat Newcastle 4-1, we’re top of the league (for now), and he scored the first two goals!   Brilliant, brilliant afternoon!

And Brazilian players will now not be suspended.

And no-one asked me for my vaccine passport.  But presumably some people got spot checked.

Now for the U.S. Open final …

… although, on the 20th anniversary of “9/11”, the mood in New York must be fairly sombre.

In Covid news, Boris will be announcing the “Winter Plan” on Tuesday.  This is likely to include:

  1.  An announcement on exactly who’ll be getting booster jabs this autumn.  Israel’s giving them to everyone.  That’s unlikely to happen here.  But we don’t know whether it’ll be everyone in the initial nine priority groups, or just the immunocompromised, frontline workers and the elderly.
  2. Presumably, a decision about vaccinating 12 to 15-year olds.
  3. Contingency plans to reintroduce some restrictions if the NHS starts to struggle under the combined weight of increasing Covid cases and the usual winter pressures.  Hopefully, this won’t be needed, but I’d rather hear Boris spell out the plans than have the press speculating and panicking everyone.  I really do feel sorry for people planning weddings or other big events: instead of getting excited about the big day, they’re going to be stressing in case they have to change their plans at the last minute.

 

Later – OMG, Emma Raducanu is the US Open champion!!!  6-4 6-3.  Disappointing for Leylah Fernandez, after beating three top 10 players, but I’m sure her time will come.  But Emma – WOW!   Over many years of watching tennis, I’ve seen plenty of teenagers win Grand Slam titles.  Rafa in 2005, for one!   The Steffi/Monica/Arantxa generation, and then the Venus/Serena/Martina Hingis generation.  And others.  But this!   For someone to win a Grand Slam title in only her second main tour event.  As a qualifier.  Unbelievable.  What an incredible achievement.

 

 

Sunday, September 12th

Oh, for heaven’s sake!  After everything I said yesterday, it now appears that we will not be getting used to vaccine passports, because the idea of using them even for big events has been scrapped.    This sort of thing really annoys people.  There are arguments for and against them, but don’t say that they’re being brought in and then change your mind!  It was only last week that Nadhim Zahawi was saying that the end of September was the right time to start using them.  Now Sajid Javid’s saying that the idea’s been scrapped.  Make your minds up!

I went to Tatton Park today, for the harvest festival – I always like to go if I’m here, and was sad when it was cancelled last year.  It rained in the afternoon, but it was all right earlier.

 

And come on Daniil … yes, I know that it’s really mean of me to be hoping Nole doesn’t win the calendar year Grand Slam …

I always say that the end of the US Open marks the end of summer.  Without wishing to sound like a doom merchant, I think we have to accept that things may well get worse over the autumn and winter months.  At best, they’ll stay stable.  We can’t really hope for any improvement until … well, you have to say late March/early April, so almost 7 months away.   It’s not the most cheerful of thoughts!    But fingers crossed …

 

 

 

Vaccine passports and WFH

This afternoon, as well as being the Second Coming of Cristiano Ronaldo, was the first occasion on which I had to have a Covid passport.  I’ve had both the paper and digital versions since a fortnight or so after receiving my second jab in June, but today was the first time that I actually *had* to have one.  I received an e-mail last week informing me that, prior to their being made compulsory at large sporting events in October, United were taking part in a trial scheme for today’s match against Newcastle, and spot checks would be carried out on over 18s.  I wasn’t spot checked, and I didn’t actually see anyone else being spot checked either, but presumably some people were.  And I’m too old to go to music festivals, but, with Parklife taking place this weekend, signs saying “Please have your Covid NHS passes ready” have appeared all over Heaton Park.   As cases increase now that schools are back, and the NHS comes under seasonal pressure as we head into the winter months, the likelihood is that we’re going to need Covid passports for more and more things, so we may as well get used to them.

I’m saying “Covid passport” rather than “vaccine passport” because, in this case, proof of a negative test within the last 48 hours was acceptable, for those without vaccine passports.   However, I understand that, in Scotland, it’s going to be vaccine passports only when the scheme comes into force on October 1st, although with exemptions for those unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, and that proof of a negative test won’t do.  I would think it’ll be the same in England: we’ll presumably get the lowdown when Boris says his piece on Tuesday.   Having heard about the long queues at the US Open tennis, where vaccine passports are required for all over 12s, I’m quite glad that United have taken part in the trial, so that, hopefully, any major problems can be ironed out before it all becomes law.  BTW, speaking of the US Open, I shall be sticking with Amazon Prime but I assume everyone’s aware that tonight’s Raducanu-Fernandez match will now also be shown on Channel 4.

When I first started going to football matches, in the early 1980s, you just showed your ticket and went into the ground.  Now, you can only take a very small bag in, all sorts of items are prohibited, and you have to be searched before you go through the turnstiles.  It’s not very nice.  Nor is someone rooting through your handbag before you go into the theatre.  Nor are all the security checks at airports – I’m always stressed at airports anyway (not that I’ve been to one since December 2019) and security makes it a million times worse, especially in certain countries where you feel as if you’ve been hauled up before the Inquisition.  But, given the horrific events of 20 years ago, and of May 22nd 2017 at our own Manchester Arena, and of so many other tragic occasions, then it’s the way it has to be.

Same sort of idea with vaccine passports.  Incidentally, someone posted on a United Facebook page that they were fully vaccinated but didn’t see why they should have to prove it to some jobsworth.  Could we not do this, please?  If you don’t like the idea of vaccine passports, write to your MP.  Don’t have a go at the person on the door or the turnstile.  They’re just doing their job.   I’m not overly keen on the idea myself, in theory.  “Carrying papers” has vague connotations of Nazi Germany or slave passes.  But this is one very nasty virus.  It’s not going away, and it keeps mutating.   We’ll never know the real death toll, but the official figures suggest that it’s around 157,000 in the UK alone and over 4.6 million people worldwide.  Many more have been left with long-term health problems.  And we know from figures released early this week that Northern England’s suffered more than any other part of England.  Then there’s the mental health and economic devastation caused.   If having an extra app on your phone or carrying a bit of paper can do anything to help prevent things from getting any worse, and can potentially protect you and other people from serious illness or worse, then, as with security checks, it’s the way it has to be.

I can see that this could end up placing a huge burden on businesses.  Premier League football clubs can afford extra staff and technology, if they’re needed.  It’s unlikely that vast numbers of lifelong fans will stop attending matches because of Covid passport requirements.  If, as some other countries have done, we end up requiring Covid passports to go into cafes, pubs, restaurants, cinemas etc, it’s going to be different matter, and that’s something that will have to be addressed.  It seems to be the main reason that Labour and the Liberal Democrats opposed the vaccine passport legislation in Scotland.  We’re going to have to see how it goes.  But cases are going up again, we are heading towards winter, and something’s got to give somewhere.  If it’s vaccine passports or lockdown, then bring on vaccine passports.

What about people who’ve chosen not to be vaccinated?   Well, 80.1% of over 16s in the UK have had both jabs, and 89% have had at least one jab, and will presumably be having their second within the next few weeks  – and many of those who’ve had one jab but not two will be those aged 16 and 17, to whom the passport schemes don’t apply.  The vast majority of people are not in this position.   For the remaining 11%, yes, you are entitled to choose not to be vaccinated.  But no, you are not entitled to increase the risk to other people.  The person next to you could have a severely compromised immune system, for all you know.  Even if they haven’t, they could be one of the unlucky people badly affected by the virus, even if they’ve been double jabbed themselves.

I have actually had to carry a vaccine passport before – a yellow fever vaccine passport certificate, when I went to Bolivia.  No-one even asked to see it!   But I had it.  And, thanks to Malory Towers, I was – at the age of about 7 – briefly convinced that everyone had to show a “health certificate” at the start of every term at secondary school … but, er, you don’t!   But today was the first time that I had to carry a Covid passport.  I suspect that it will be the first of many.  And I very much hope that, next year, I’ll be showing it at the airport, because I really want to get back to travelling abroad.

On a different note, I arrived home on Tuesday to find that the boiler had broken down.  I tried turning it off and on again.  No joy.  It’s under a maintenance contract, so I contacted British Gas.  You used to be able to speak to a human being even if you rang at midnight: now, you can only get a voice prompt.  I’d just have gone on the website if I’d known that.  But, anyway, the good news was that they could send someone on Wednesday morning.  “Between 8 and 1.”

Now, I’ve had this sort of thing more times than I care to remember, over the years.  Things break.   Or things need delivering.  And you get told “between 8 and 1” or “between 12 and 6”.  Or even “between 8 and 6”.  Yes, they’ll ring you 1/4 hour beforehand, or they’ll text you in the morning with a one hour delivery slot, but none of that’s an awful lot of use if you’re trapped at work.   “Can’t someone wait in the house for you?”   Well, strangely enough, I haven’t got a butler or a housekeeper.  I have on numerous occasions had to ask my kind mum or dad to wait in, but then it’s a bind for them, 5 or 6 hours stuck in someone else’s house.  And, this time, it wasn’t an option anyway, because they were visiting my sister in London.

I’ve really struggled with this in the past.  I once burst into tears down the phone to British Gas, because they refused to send someone out on a Sunday and said that it would have to be Monday, and I kept saying that I had to go to work on Monday, and they kept saying that there was nothing they could do.  It wasn’t their fault.  But it wasn’t mine either.  It really is one of the main reasons I suffer so badly with anxiety.  I’ve felt trapped every time I’ve been in the office.  I’ve even quoted the Patrick Swayze “I’m balancing on shit, Baby,” line from Dirty Dancing, because that’s how it’s felt.

But, on Wednesday morning, I rang the office and explained the situation, and said that I would work from home until the boiler man came.  Because I can do that now.  Because we’re set up for it.  OK, it could have been a day on which I was due to be in a meeting, or at a client’s office, or urgently needed some files which were on my desk; but, thankfully, it wasn’t.  And, if it had been, then it would only have meant a delay of a day.  And guess what?   The boiler needed a new part.  The guy didn’t have one with him.  So he had to come back on Thursday.  Same thing again.

This pandemic has been horrific .  But it’s had a few good effects, and one of them has been that WFH has become widely accepted.  I do fully appreciate that not everyone is lucky enough to be able to WFH, and I sympathise deeply with those who can’t, or those whose bosses are so vile that they won’t let them – anyone else see the reports in the press this week about a tribunal involving a woman who was sacked because she had to leave the office to collect her child, who had a medical condition and had been taken ill at school?   But, at the moment, I’m still WFH two days a week and very much hope that that will become a permanent thing, and no-one particularly objected when I had to add Wednesday morning to that at the last moment.

If anyone’s read this, thank you, and stay safe xxx.

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

Monday, August 23rd

Thankfully, Mum is feeling better.  And my bro-in-law’s mum is OK, and will be very unlucky if she gets it now.   And it’s now 9 1/2 days since I saw Mum and Dad, so hopefully I’ll be OK.

However, the two friends with whom Mum and Dad spent the evening on Saturday 14th have both got it.  This happened last week, but for some reason no-one told me until today!   Again, thankfully, only mild symptoms, and they weren’t about to go on holiday or do anything else which was totally mucked up by it, but it’s pretty frightening that they all got it despite being fully vaccinated.

No-one else who was on the golf trip’s got it, so Dad’s now wondering if he got it before he went.  But where?  Who knows?

I’m feeling a lot more anxious about it all than I’ve done for a while.

 

Tuesday, August 24th

Oh great.  The Cornish authorities are asking tourists to stay away unless they’ve already booked.  There’s been a big increase in cases in Newquay, in particular, but it seems to be linked to the “Boardwalk” festival for 16-21 year olds, so it seems a bit unfair to blame general tourism.   The Cumbrian authorities are suggesting that people take tests pre-staycation, due to an increase in cases in the Eden (Penrith/Ullswater) area, and so are the authorities in some of the Lincs seaside towns.  And, just as I was convinced that I definitely *would* get my week in Scotland in November (after my original trip in September was cancelled), Sturgeon is threatening to reimpose restrictions.

I went to the dentist’s today.  They still make you wait outside in the street and put your coat and bag in a box!

The Paralympics have started.

And neither Joe Biden nor the Taliban will agree to extending the evacuation deadline past the 31st.  What a mess.

On a happier note, the weather is nice.

 

Wednesday, August 25th

Mum is feeling a lot better in terms of the virus, but has done her back in and hasn’t been able to have physio due to being in isolation.  She’s going on Friday.  Dad and bro-in-law’s dad are both fine.

Reports from here, from the US and from Israel all show that the protection from the vaccines starts wearing off after a few months.  So the most vulnerable people now could be those in the high risk groups, who were vaccinated first.  A friend’s mum and dad have also both tested positive, despite being fully vaccinated, and the MEN is reporting that there’s been a noticeable increase in cases amongst the over 60s.

Booster jabs start next month.

Schools in Scotland are already back, and a number of schools have already seen outbreaks.

And both Serena and Venus have joined the list of withdrawals from the US Open.  So many players injured :-(.

But, hooray, Sarah Storey has won her 15th Paralympic gold medal!

 

Thursday, August 26th

I had a rather odd conversation today, with someone who said she was only getting vaccinated (now, months after her age group became eligible) so that she’d be able to go abroad, and that she was confident that her body would be able to fight off Covid so wouldn’t have bothered getting vaccinated otherwise.  I wasn’t going to get into an argument, but it’s quite worrying that some people still feel like that, despite all the publicity about young, healthy people who’ve died from it.

The NHS is reportedly being put on standby to vaccinate 12 to 15 year olds.

Switzerland, for some reason, is seeing a big upsurge in cases.  However, it’s just been put on the green list, along with Canada and 5 other countries.  I would give a great deal to be in the Canadian Rockies or the Swiss Alps, but, with this awful fear of having a positive PCR test and being stuck in a quarantine hotel abroad, I’m just too nervy at the moment.  When will these bloody PCR tests stop?   Other countries don’t have them.  Well, a lot don’t.

The US Open draw is horrible.  The Champions League’s draw’s not bad at all … until we muck it up!

 

Friday, August 27th

Whew!  After all the speculation linking Ronaldo with City, he’s coming back to us instead!

“My” entrance to the park is now closed for 4 weeks, because of the stupid Parklife festival, which lasts for 2 days.  So I’ve got to take quite a long diversion.  I am not very pleased.

Went into town for blood donation this morning.  They seem to have scrapped the local sessions, but I don’t know whether that’s Covid-related or not because there were problems with the venue even before Covid, and they kept cancelling appointments at short notice.  This is actually easier, because the venue in town’s open most days, so you can choose a date that suits you.

Most of the news is about Afghanistan, but, in Covid news, cases in Scotland are right up, which is presumably linked to schools there going back and suggests that cases in England and Wales are also set to rise.  Cases in Northern Ireland are already quite high: I don’t know what’s going on there.  But hospitalisations and deaths aren’t really going up, which is the main thing.  But they’re not going down either.

 

Saturday, August 28th

There’s a lot of doom and gloom talk going on about cases sky rocketing once schools go back.

Meanwhile, I went to Styal today, in the sunshine, and it was lovely 🙂 .

Then, despite having had a scone at Styal, I had a pastel de nata from Cuckoo to celebrate the Second Coming of Ronaldo.

Then we all went out for tea because my sister and bro-in-law and nephews are here for my cousin’s wedding.

I know – it’s no wonder I’m so fat!

 

Sunday, August 29th

Today was my cousin’s wedding day.  This is all a bit weird because I used to push him around in a pram, feed him with a bottle and (when he was a bit older) let him sit up and watch TV with me, put him to bed just before his parents got home and tell them he’d been there all night.  Now he is nearly a foot taller than me, and a married man.   But anyway!    There have been a million and one different sets of rules about weddings since all this started, and it’s only since July 19th that you’ve been allowed unlimited numbers of guests for both the ceremony and the reception, and dancing, and it’s the first actual “party”, and certainly the first event with dancing, that I’ve been to since pre-Covid.   Thankfully, it all seemed to go very well, and hopefully the happy couple had a wonderful day and will live happily ever after 🙂 .   Apart from the bottles of hand sanitiser everywhere, there wasn’t really anything that looked that different to “normal”.  Whatever normal is any more!

And United managed a late goal, to win 1-0 at Wolves!

 

 

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

Monday, August 9th

Heard some upsetting news today about a former colleague who was involved in an accident in the torrential rain on Friday and had to wait hours for an ambulance to arrive – although, thankfully, she’s going to be OK.  The NHS is under a lot of pressure, with all the usual stuff, plus Covid, plus trying to catch up on everything that’s been postponed due to Covid.

There’s another variant around, the lambda, which seems to have originated in South America, but we’re not hearing much about it.

The Republic of Ireland’s going to start vaccinating 12-15 year olds this week.  Why aren’t we doing this?

 

Tuesday, August 10th

Over 75% of adults in the UK are now fully vaccinated.

A-level results came out today – with 44.8% of entries awarded A or A* grades!  That’s compared to 35.8%  last year, which in itself was bonkers compared to around 25% in 2019 … and around 18% in 2000.  Obviously none of this is the fault of the kids, who’ve had to work under horrendously difficult conditions, but it’s all a bit crazy.  And it means that nearly all university offers have been met, so universities are trying to persuade people to defer entry for a year, which a) is silly (what are they supposed to do instead, under the present circumstances?) and b) is stressing out kids due to do A-levels next year.  What a muddle.  But, when grades were downgraded last year, it caused an outcry.  It’s all such a shame – I would have been devastated if my A-level exams had been cancelled, and equally devastated to think that there was any sort of question mark over my grades.   But well done do all the kids.

According to Sky Sports, someone (who?) is going to do “random checks” at Premier League matches, to see if people have got either vaccination certificates or proof of negative test results.  Hang on.  Absolutely nothing has been said about either of these things being mandatory for people attending matches.  There’s also been some crap about keeping your distance from people who aren’t in your household/bubble.  How exactly are you meant to “keep your distance” from people in neighbouring seats?  And how do they think people are going to stand apart in the long queues for drinks and the toilets at half time?   I understand that there are concerns after a number of people tested positive after attending Euro 2020 matches at Wembley, but talk sense.

Today was a WFH day, so I went to Tesco a bit later, meaning that I didn’t get to the checkout before 8am and therefore didn’t have to do battle with the self service checkouts.

 

Wednesday, August 11th

Bleurgh.  Rafa’s pulled out of both Toronto and Cincy with the ongoing foot injury.  It’s not looking good for the US Open 😦 .

Not much going on Covid-wise, apart from some arguing over the stupid PCR test requirements for travel.  France and Germany are both stopping free testing, to try to push people into being vaccinated.

 

Thursday, August 12th

Now Canberra’s in lockdown.  Is anywhere in Australia not in lockdown?!   People wanting to visit family and friends in Australia and New Zealand, and people in Australia and New Zealand wanting to visit family and friends here, are getting quite despondent – I know people who’ve got baby/toddler grandchildren whom they’ve never met, or elderly relatives who are in poor health and whom they’re frightened they’ll never get to see again.

GCSE results came out today – two weeks earlier than usual.  Same story with grade inflation.  Last year, the grades were downgraded, people yelled and shrieked, and the grades were un-downgraded.  This year, they haven’t been downgraded, and people are yelling and shrieking about grade inflation.  Results in the North and Midlands seem to be some way below those in the South, which is worrying.

Infection rates are creeping up again, both locally and nationally.  And it has to be said that there’s an issue with seaside places – Blackpool’s now got the highest rate in the North West (although the highest rates overall are all in the east of the country), and Brighton, Bournemouth and Torbay have also got amongst the highest rates in the country.

 

Friday, August 13th

Friday 13th.  Infection rates are creeping up, deaths are not falling, and around 30% of young people haven’t been vaccinated.  None of this is very good.  TBH, though, Covid isn’t really being discussed that much.  There’s been a horrific shooting incident in Plymouth, and all hell’s breaking loose in Afghanistan.  And, on a different note, the Premier League season starts tonight.

 

Saturday, August 14th

Today was the day!!  The return to Old Trafford.

I’ve written about it here 

This is a BIG day.

 

Sunday, August 15th

Oh great 😦 .  My dad has tested positive for Covid.  He went on some golf trip, and has been coughing his head off ever since.  He insisted that he was fine, but Mum made him do a lateral flow test and it was positive.  Mum’s tested negative.  Thankfully, Dad is OK, apart from the awful cough, but he’s now going to have to self isolate for 10 days.  And he was in close contact with my uncle, who is a bit of a hypochondriac, on Saturday.  The main this is that he feels OK, but this is still a bit of a nightmare.  And I suppose you could say that I should self-isolate because I’ve seen him too, but the self-isolation rules will have changed by the time he’s had the PCR test and I haven’t got any symptoms … I’ll just try not to get too close to anyone for the next 10 days.  I had a blood donation appointment but have postponed it.

Flaming golf weekend!  He was with 11 other people – I hope they haven’t all got it.

Before all this happened, I’d had quite a nice day – I went to Haworth and East Riddlesden Hall, a trip which I didn’t do last year because East Riddlesden Hall stayed closed until this spring.

 

New little hopes: return to Old Trafford

It’d been 17 months and 6 days.  I know it doesn’t quite fit, but imagine that sung to the tune of “Nothing Compares 2 U”.   March 8th 2020.  United 2-0 City.  We came out with huge smiles across our faces; but, at the same time, we knew that the season was probably going to be suspended before long.    It happened within days.  What we didn’t imagine was that it was going to be 17 months, and 6 days, before we went to Old Trafford again.  It’s been a long and difficult time, especially here in the Manchester area where we’ve been so badly hit by the pandemic.   But, today, not just crowds but capacity crowds were allowed back in, for the start of the Premier League season.  And what a start – stuffing Leeds 5-1!

I am *not* in the general habit of quoting Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but there’s a paragraph in there which seems quite apt for today.  “The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”   Obviously I’m not comparing the last 17 months to the horrors of the Great War, but the idea’s relevant.

We’ve got to go on.  With this wretched virus, it’s not going to surrender, and it’s hardly as if you can invite it to a peace conference to negotiate terms.  Maybe it’ll fade away after another few months, like the Spanish flu did.  Not looking likely.  Maybe we’ll keep getting waves of it for years.  Or even for decades, as with the Black Death.  Maybe, and this seems to be the current thinking, it’ll become endemic, and it’ll just always be around, like flu, and our wonderful scientists’ll keep tweaking the vaccines to make us better able to fight it.  It certainly doesn’t look as if we’re going to be blowing a final whistle and holding Victory over Covid street parties.  Didn’t the Czech Republic actually hold “Victory over Covid” parties last year?   Sadly, they were a bit previous.

But we’ve *got* vaccines now.  It sounds as if, from the beginning of October, vaccine passports will be needed for sports events, certainly at the top levels.  There are arguments for and against that, but it does look like it’ll be happening – and, if it helps us to keep a lid on this virus, then so be it.  I suppose we’ll get used to showing our Covid certificates, like we’ve got used to having security checks.  No-one likes the security checks, and they cause queues; but, after what happened at the Arena, everyone accepts that that’s the way it is.

There was nothing really different at the match today.  Well, it was a miracle that everyone actually got there, with all the roadworks and all the tram line closures, but that was nothing to do with Covid!   There’d been talk of wearing masks, but very people did.  There were some hand sanitiser stations.  You had to pay by card, not cash, if you wanted to buy a programme or something to eat or drink.  That was about it.  I’m not sure what else could have been done.  The Premier League had been waffling on about not getting too close to other people, but how do you avoid getting close to people in neighbouring seats?   Just have to hope that, in an outdoor setting, things won’t be too bad.

And did it feel good to be back?  Oh yes!  Quite emotional, really.  I’ve been to the ground since last March, to the souvenir shop, but obviously that wasn’t the same thing!   Even just walking down Warwick Road, seeing everyone heading for the ground, was emotional.  And then the teams came out, the whistle went, and we were off.   A live match again, at last.  I know some people felt that sport shouldn’t have restarted until crowds were allowed back in, but I don’t know where I’d have been without televised football, tennis, cricket, athletics etc since they all restarted.  They really have been a godsend, especially during the lockdown periods: they’ve made a big difference and really have been very important to me.  But getting back to live matches, getting back to Old Trafford – that was something special.

This is a big day.  And beating Leeds 5-1?  Well, that made it even more special!