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

Monday, July 26th

Gold rush!!  Well done to Adam Peaty (swimming), Tom Pickford (mountain biking) and Tom Daley and Matty Lee (diving).  And two silvers as well!   What a brilliant morning.   Go Team GB!

Tomorrow will be my first day back at the office since March 2020.  I’m not at all happy about it, with all this “pingdemic” stuff going on.  I’m also bothered about the effect that being trapped in an office again is going to have on my mental health.  And, oh, the practical nightmares.  I ordered my holiday photos from Snapfish – was I supposed to order them to come here or to go to the office/

Bleurgh.  And it saps your energy.

Some trains between Manchester, London and Birmingham have been cancelled, because of the bloody pingdemic.   And I was disappointed to see so many people walking round Tesco without masks, when it was made quite clear that Tesco were asking you to wear masks.  But the good news is that new cases are down for a sixth day in a row.

 

Tuesday, July 27th

Today was the dreaded first day back in the office.  Apart from the fact that I forgot to take my afternoon snack (tangerines) so I was starving by the end of the day, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting – although that was mainly because not many people were in, so I was on my own and hardly spoke to anyone else all day, which suited me fine!   Missing my walks isn’t going to do me any good, though.  I haven’t dared face the scales since getting back from the Lakes, but I’m sure everything feels tight.  Public Health England keep mithering about fat we all are!

There do not seem to be any Covid protocols at the office.  There are a few bottles of hand sanitiser around, but that’s about it.

I posted on Facebook that I was nervy about going back, and people were really kind and supportive.  I appreciate that.

Medals galore in Tokyo, including gold for Tom Dean in the 200m freestyle and silver for Manchester’s Georgia Taylor-Brown in the triathlon.   Good good!  So annoying that I can’t seem to watch the tennis anywhere, though.

The holiday company rang in response to my e-mail, sent yesterday, saying how upset I was that they’d cancelled at such short notice, but seemed more concerned about trying to persuade me to book another trip than anything else.  It’s not their fault: it’s their American head office’s fault.  But none of that helps me.

131 deaths today – although Tuesday’s figures do tend to be high.  But cases are down for a 7th day in a row … hopefully we’ll soon see death numbers falling too.

And it is absolutely throwing it down 😦 .

 

Wednesday, July 28th

Hooray!!   My cousin’s pre-wedding party has been rescheduled.  It no longer clashes with the match!

Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening … but they’ve gone now.

Cases are up today, bah.  But still way down on last week.  And fully-vaccinated arrivals from the US and all EU countries will no longer need to quarantine. although tests will still be needed.  There’d been some rumours about Canada, but Canada hasn’t been mentioned.

More medals at the Olympics!  Including gold for the 200m freestyle relay men’s swimming team – including James Guy, originally from Bury.  (But still no tennis coverage.)

 

Thursday, July 29th

More medals.

Still no tennis coverage (ETA – hooray!!!  I have now discovered that you can watch it on Eurosport Player!!!)

And cases are up again … although nowhere near where they were a week ago.   But, locally, rates are still dropping – long may it last!   However, there’ve been a “small number of positive tests” in United’s “first team training squad”, causing the cancellation of the friendly against Preston, which is a bit worrying.

Israel’s to start giving booster shots of the vaccine, the first country to do so.

And, hooray, the self-isolation nightmare will definitely end on August 16th!

 

Friday, July 30th

More medals, including gold for Bethany Shriever in the BMX!

The North West now has the lowest R rate in the country, which is excellent news, and cases nationwide are down a bit today.

Things are bad elsewhere, though – parts of Asia are struggling.  And poor Sydney’s staying in lockdown for another month, even though there are so few cases there.

 

Saturday, July 31st

I went raspberry picking at Kenyon Hall this morning.

Then, after doing some house stuff, I went into town – The Vienna Coffee House has finally reopened after being refurbished, so I wanted to go there.  Town was really busy – mainly people eating outdoors.  It seems like people are going into town more to eat than to shop these days – which, to be fair, was exactly what I was doing!  And outdoor dining is here to stay … well, until it gets colder and wetter, presumably!

More medals for Team GB, including golds in the two new mixed events – the swimming relay and the triathlon!  And Pablo Carreno Busta beat Nole to win bronze for Spain in the men’s tennis, which is lovely.  Belinda Bencic won gold in the ladies’ tennis.  The men’s final tomorrow seems to be on at a really stupid time – typical – but at least it’s not overnight.

Being trapped in the office three days a week has definitely made my anxiety worse, but not as much as being trapped there five days a week would.

Case numbers are going down again, thankfully.   Deaths aren’t, yet, but aren’t rising either.

 

Sunday, August 1st

How on earth did it get to be August?!

It is SO nice not having to pre-book things for the National Trust and English Heritage any more – although I’m rather annoyed that the house at Dunham Massey is only open at weekends.  Desperately hoping that CADW abolish their booking system when restrictions in Wales are removed at the end of this week.  I went to Dunham Massey today, but I watched the tennis final – Sascha Zverev thrashed Karen Khachanov – first, and obviously I had no idea how long it was going to last, so I couldn’t have pre-booked.

Case numbers in the borough of Bury are now, like those in Bolton, below the average for England, and the average across Greater Manchester as a whole isn’t that much above the national average, and falling.  However, there are concerns – not particularly here, just everywhere – that a lot of younger people haven’t been vaccinated, and there’s some bizarre talk of trying to bribe them with free pizza and kebabs.  I am not making this up.  This is coming from pizza and kebab firms looking for publicity, not from the authorities!   Around 72.5% of adults in the UK are now fully vaccinated, though.

And more medals for Team GB, including golds for Manchester’s own Charlotte Worthington in the BMX event, and for Max Whitlock in the pommel horse gymnastics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Road to Freedom? Week 15, July 5th to 11th 2021 inclusive

Monday, July 5th

Boris has said that we’ve got to open up some time, and that now, with schools about to break up for the summer and before the winter increase in other illnesses, is probably the best time to do it.  Fair point.  From July 19th, social distancing goes, WFH goes (boo, hiss), nightclubs etc can reopen and all limits on how many people can meet up or how many people can attend sports events, music events or anything else go.   S0, hooray, football is back on, and my cousin’s wedding should be able to go ahead as planned.

But the three things which most concern the majority of people stay.  No change, yet, regarding overseas travel – they may remove the need for fully vaccinated people to quarantine after returning from amber list countries, but nothing’s definite yet, and the bloody tests stay.  This godforsaken test, trace and isolate system – currently causing the Duchess of Cambridge to self-isolate – stays.  And the school bubble system stays, although surely, surely, they’ll have to do away with that before the new academic year.

Compulsory mask-wearing goes, to be replaced by “guidance”.  There are quite a lot of concerns about this.  Shop staff are worried, and a lot of people, especially those in vulnerable groups, are anxious about using public transport if people aren’t wearing masks.  It’s all very well saying that you should try to avoid travelling at busy times, but, if you need to get to work or to a place of education, you haven’t got much choice.

Hmm.

Scotland and North East England have overtaken North West England at the top of the infection rate charts.  Not that I wish high infection rates on anyone, and I wish to goodness that the rates would come down everywhere, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was thinking “At least it’s not us for a change”.  Some random hotspots too – Oxford, Tamworth and N E Lincolnshire.

And the NHS, on its 73rd anniversary, has been awarded the George Cross by the Queen.

In other news, it has rained a lot today.  And Emma Raducanu had to retire from her match with breathing problems, which was a huge shame – not got tour level fitness levels yet, but that’s something that she can work on.

 

Tuesday, July 6th

More rain.

But, finally, some common sense.   From 16th August, self-isolation for fully-vaccinated adults will end, except for people who have actually tested positive themselves.   And, for the new academic year, this ridiculous “bubble” system at schools, which has seen 640,000 kids sent home in the last week, will end: under 18s will not have to self-isolate unless they themselves have tested positive.

There’s been a mixed reaction to yesterday’s announcements.  I’m trying not to get involved in arguments, because I think there’s a lot of “I’m all right, Jack”-ism going on.  It’s all very well to say that restrictions should continue indefinitely if you are in a secure public sector job, working from home on full pay, or retired, but what about a self-employed person whose business cannot operate properly until social distancing ends?   And it’s all very well to say that masks shouldn’t be worn on public transport if you’re young and in perfect health, but less so for someone who’s clinically vulnerable.

The changes only apply to England.  I hope Sturgeon isn’t going to get stroppy over travel again.  Speaking of travel, Merkel has agreed to change the rules on arrival into Germany from the UK and Portugal: fully vaccinated people will no longer need to quarantine.

Sajid Javid’s said that we could be seeing 100,000 cases a day by some point in August.  Marks for honesty, but I didn’t really want to hear that!

Whilst we’re being told that vaccine passports won’t be needed domestically, things are certainly moving in a direction in which people are split between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.  I’m very sorry for the small number of people who can’t be vaccinated for genuine medical reasons, and hope that some arrangements can be made for them.

And Medvedev lost.  Is everyone trying to get out of Nole’s way?!

 

Wednesday, July 7th

It’s stopped raining.  I’m hoping that this is a good omen.  Trying to find a good time to have a bath before the match, but there’s too much going on!  Denis has won.  Nole has won.  Matteo is a set up on Felix.  Roger is a set down.

Italy beat Spain on penalties last night – such a shame for what was a really good match to end that way.  Please, please not penalties tonight.  Come on England!!

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of moaning going on.  Most of it’s political points-scoring – the same people who are moaning that restrictions shouldn’t be eased at all are moaning that the self-isolation system should be changed now rather than in August.  If we do see 100,000 cases a day (and we’re now recording over 30,000 a day, the highest number since January), that could mean an awful lot of people self-isolating.   Travel changes look set to be announced tomorrow, but I’m quite looking forward to this trip to Scotland now – if it happens.  Sturgeon has lifted the ban on people from Blackburn now, incidentally!

Come on England!!

Later – WE WON!!  WE’RE IN THE FINAL!!!    We went behind, but equalised.  It went to extra time, and I was thinking, please, please, not penalties.  Then we got a penalty … but Kasper Schmeichel (such a chip off the old block!) saved it, but Harry Kane scored from the rebound.  I have never known time pass as slowly as it did from then until the final whistle, but the whistle went, and we’re in the final!!   OMG!!

Matteo beat Felix.  And Hurkacz beat Roger in straight sets, bagelling him in the final set, which was a bit awful to watch.

 

Thursday, July 8th

I might actually get to bed at a reasonable time tonight, with no football and no late night finishes at Wimbledon!

It’s been confirmed that, from July 19th, fully vaccinated people (although only those vaccinated by the NHS, so this won’t apply to anyone living abroad and wanting to visit the UK, even British citizens) and under 18s won’t need to quarantine on returning from an amber list country.  I felt like I needed to rush off and book myself a trip abroad … but a) the PCR tests will still be needed, b) there may be chaos at airports and c) as I’ve already found out, an awful lot of flights aren’t operating, unless you want to go to a seaside resort.  So, for now, I’m sticking to my trip to Scotland, if it goes.

Japan’s said that no spectators will be allowed at the Olympics.

And the Queen’s been in Manchester today!   She’s been to the Coronation Street set 🙂 , and to meet representatives of community groups at the cathedral.  Wonderful to see her looking so well.

And the ladies’ final’ll be Ash Barty v Karolina Pliskova.

 

Friday, July 9th

The final’ll be Djokovic v Berrettini.  Come on Matteo!   Denis ran Nole so close, but he just couldn’t get over the line in either of the first two sets, and he wasn’t coming back from two sets to love down.

Sad to see the Olympic flame arriving in Tokyo with nowhere there to see it.  I remember going to see the torch relay going past Heaton Park in 2012.  Loads of people were there, and everyone was cheering, and it was such a lovely atmosphere.  That was repeated all over the country, and it’s so sad that it’s not happening this time.

A trade union representing airport staff’s moaning that there’ll be long queues if more people are travelling and everyone’s vaccination certificates and test results have to be checked.  Before the new rules were announced, they were moaning that a load of jobs would be lost unless more people could travel.  If the authorities said that results and certificates didn’t have to be checked, they’d be moaning that the country was being put at risk.

Malta’s banned all visitors unless fully vaccinated.  Tunisia says that its healthcare system’s on the verge of collapse.  Indonesia’s having problems.  Is there no end to this?   Cases are on the up and up across the UK, 99% of them now the Delta variant.

Two days till The Final of the Euros!

 

Saturday, July 10th

Tomorrow night’s the night!   Is it coming home, or will it end in tears?   Please, please, don’t let it end on penalties!  Whatever happens, it’s been a wonderful tournament and a real morale booster.  Thank you so much to Gareth Southgate and the lads; and I’m sure that Italians feel the same about “Bobby Manc” and their lads.

Ash Barty is the Wimbledon ladies’ singles champion!   It looked as if she was going to run away with it, but Karolina Pliskova came back, and it ended up being a really good three set match.

I really miss Rafa.

It wasn’t supposed to rain until 11am, so I went to Hollingworth Lake at half 9.  And it rained.  It’s dry now.

And, in Covid news, it looks like we might need vaccination passports to go to entertainment venues, come the autumn.  I really don’t like this idea of having to show papers: it smacks of totalitarian regimes.  But I think we’ll have to accept that these are exceptional times, and that it’s like people having to carry ID cards during the Second World War.

 

Sunday, July 11th, before the final

This is weird.  This could be a day which we remember for the rest of our lives, and which people talk about for decades to come.  Or it could all end in tears.  2 hours to kick off.

Please, please, not penalties.

Matteo won the first set of the Wimbledon final, but Nole came back to take it in four.  The BBC cameras bizarrely switched away from him during his speech to show a randon shot of the 1988/90 champion, which made me feel better!   Grand Slam?  Golden Slam?  Oh, I do miss Rafa!

I went to Dunham Massey this morning.  The giant lilies, which only flower for 10 days a year, which is usually during Wimbledon, were out.  And the house was flying the flag.

OK, just because I’m not fat enough – I weighed the same yesterday as I did on the first Saturday in January 😦 – I now need to go and make more strawberry and cream meringues.   Well, they were lucky for the semis.

Come on England!!

 

Sunday, July 11th, after the final

Oh no.  And so it all ends in tears, again.  The ultimate nightmare was losing on penalties.  And, TBH, the ultimate, ultimate nightmare was for a United player to miss.   “It was nearly complete, it was nearly so sweet.”  In just the second minute, Luke Shaw put us ahead.  We led for over an hour.  But Bonetti equalised – deservedly so, it has to be said.   It went to extra time.  It went to penalties.  We led 2-1 after the first four penalties: Pickford saved their 2nd.  But then Marcus Rashford missed.  And Jadon Sancho’s was saved.  Match point Italy.  But Pickford saved their 5th.  Would it go to sudden death?  No.  Bukayo Saka – poor young kid, why was he sent into the lions’ den rather than someone more experienced? – had his penalty saved.  And it was all over.  Congratulations to “Bobby Manc” and his players, congratulations to our Italian friends who’ve been fighting this horrible virus for longer than anyone else in Europe and need a pick-me-up as much as we do, but … oh, it hurts.  To lose on bloody penalties, again.   We’re so proud of our players and of Gareth Southgate, but I feel absolutely crushed.   55 years of hurt.   This really hurts.

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!

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 4, January 25th to 31st 2021 inclusive

 

Monday, January 25th

Boris says that all adults in the UK will have been offered a first dose of the vaccine “by the autumn”.  What does that mean?  The beginning of September?  Or later?

Pressure’s growing for answers on when schools might reopen, but the Government just can’t answer that.  Data out today shows that teachers haven’t been affected any more than the population in general, but I doubt that that’ll stop the teaching unions from moaning.  Male factory workers are, sadly, most likely to have died from the virus.

Israel’s banning all international flights for a fortnight.  There’s talk of doing that here, or of using quarantine hotels like Australia’s doing.  I don’t understand why so many people are travelling.  There’ve been pictures of long queues at Heathrow.  The people in them weren’t in uniform, so they clearly weren’t airline crew staffing cargo flights.  And don’t tell me that they were all travelling for “essential work” purposes.  Some of them were kids!   Some people are being fined for driving 20 miles from Preston to Bolton and yet others are jetting off on holiday.  It’s not on.  How do they get away with it.

All Debenhams shops are to close permanently, although the “brand” has been taken over and will continue online.

On a happier note, more mass vaccination centres have opened, including one at the Blackpool Winter Gardens and one on Lancaster Cathedral.

More snow overnight.   Luckily, most of it’s melted now.  It looked very pretty under the blue sky, but I need to get to Tesco and M&S tomorrow!

And we really are terribly well-behaved in this country 🙂 .  There’ve been riots in the Netherlands, after the Dutch government announced new restrictions!

 

Tuesday, January 26th

The UK death toll from the pandemic passed 100,000 today.  We’ll never know the real death toll.  There’ll be people in the “official” figures who died of other things but had tested positive for the virus within 28 days.  There’ll be people who died of the virus but hadn’t had a test within 28 days, or (in the early days) at all.  There’ll be deaths caused indirectly by the virus – treatment for other conditions delayed, or, especially amongst elderly people in care homes, not allowed visitors, mental deterioration leading to physical deterioration.  But, comparing the expected/average death figures since the pandemic started with the actual death figures, 100,000’s probably about right.  A hundred thousand people.  All leaving behind devastated relatives and friends.

To put it into additional perspective, around 40,000 people were killed in the Blitz.

I actually cried when Sky News said 100,000.  We knew it’d be today, but the number just hit me.  A hundred thousand people.

I’m never sure how reliable the various figures are (I don’t believe any of the statistics that’ve come out of Russia, China or Iran), and I know that every country’s recording virus deaths differently, but some figures for deaths per million people, on what seems to be a reliable website, are – Belgium 1812, Slovenia 1618, UK 1474, Czech Republic 1448, Italy 1424, Bosnia-Herzegovina 1391, USA 1277, Peru 1218, Spain 1194, France 1082, Sweden 1070, Brazil 1031, the Netherlands 777, Germany 639, Rep of Ireland 602, India 112, Australia 25, New Zealand 5.

The political points-scorers are busily blaming Boris.  And, yes, mistakes have been made.  We should have closed our borders last February.  We should have locked down earlier.  But we weren’t that far after a lot of other countries.  Maybe we reopened too early.  But then so did a lot of other countries.  The second wave hit Spain long before it hit us.  And Sweden never really locked down at all.  Lockdown issues have certainly played a part.  But there has to be other stuff going on too.  The obvious answer is that it’s to do with population density, and concentration of population in urban centres.  Other demographic issues may also be involved – age, ethnicity.  Could occupations be a factor?  And travel? –  a lot of people pass through London, in particular, and a lot of people use crowded public transport to get to work.  Other health issues? – to do with demographics, climate, diet? I don’t know.  But someone needs to find out.

We need to know why the UK has been so badly hit.  And we, in the North, and especially in the North West, need to know why our region has been so badly hit.

Further to the Snapfish saga, they have, at the third attempt, managed to print the order correctly.  However, they sent it in two different envelopes (they often do this, I know not why) and only one has arrived.  They do occasionally get separated in the post and arrive on different days, so I’m just hoping that the rest turn up tomorrow.

The car was iced up so badly when I went out (to go to Tesco and M&S) this morning that I couldn’t even open the doors until I’d cleared the ice.  Later, it warmed up a bit, but poured down.  No-one is feeling great at the moment.  Cold rain does not help.

And, on a happier note, my brother-in-law’s mum and dad (in the 70-74 age group) both had their first doses of the vaccine today.

 

Wednesday, January 27th

Oh FFS.  City won last night, to take top spot ahead of us.  Tonight, we were playing Sheffield United who, with all due respect to them, had only won one match all season … until tonight, when they beat us 2-1.  Bloody hellfire 😦 .

No update on any sort of plan even to begin easing restrictions until the end of February.  And schools won’t reopen until March 8th at the earliest.  And then it’ll be, hey, a few rural areas, off you go, and to hell with other areas.  What is to be done to help kids in the worst-affected areas?   There’s been some talk of cancelling the summer holidays, but there’s no way teachers’ll agree to that.  And WHEN will we be able to travel even within the UK?

A few examples of infection rates (which I know aren’t the only factors involved, but we don’t get breakdowns by area of the other stats:

Knowsley 882, Sandwell 808, Slough 753, Brent 677, Birmingham 597

Hyndburn 568, Carlisle 544, Norwich 465, Southampton 404

Manchester central 356, Bristol 331, Bury 316, Leeds 294, Sheffield 240, Newcastle 238

… and then right down to NE Lincs on 100, and Torridge (Devon) 51

 

There are all sorts of rows going on over vaccine supplies.  Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca are both struggling to meet existing orders.  I’m sure they’re doing their best, but Germany’s threatening to stop Pfizer exports and Italy’s threatening to sue.  The EU is trying to control all member states by imposing some sort of joint vaccine supply programme, although Hungary (good for Hungary!) has gone its own way and ordered supplies from Russia.  The EU also seems to think that its orders should be prioritised over everyone else’s.  Their deal with Astra Zeneca wasn’t made until three months after the UK’s, but, a bit like Verruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they are stamping their feet and screaming “I want it now” (well, not quite, but not far off).  Talk about selfish and petulant.  And vaccine supplies to North West England, and other parts of the North, are to be reduced by a third, and supplies diverted to London, which is running behind.

Quarantine hotels are to be brought in, but only for people entering from certain countries.  Oh FFS.  It takes weeks and weeks before mutant strains are identified.  For all we know, mutant strains could currently be on the loose in France or Germany or Outer Mongolia or anywhere.  And why are so many people travelling anyway?

On the positive side, the rest of my Snapfish order has arrived.  And one of the park cafes has said that they’re introducing a 20% discount for regulars, which I class as!  And it’s been dry, and a lot warmer than usual.

Theoretically, things should feel better once we get more daylight and warmer weather.  And yet then it’ll hurt even more, because then I’ll be missing things.  I should be going to Rode Hall for the snowdrop walks next week.  Then to see the snowdrops at Chirk Castle, my pre-birthday treat.  And maybe to Rufford Old Hall and Arley Hall.  Then to Bettys in Ilkley, to see the Easter eggs and cakes.  Then into daffodil season – first Chirk, then Biddulph Grange, and then, most importantly of all, the Lakes.  Then the lambs, at Tatton Park and Bolton Abbey.  Then into bluebell season, Capesthorne Hall and Erddig and the Windermere west shore.  Will I get to do any of that?  The virtue signallers make you feel guilty for saying things like that, but more and more people are saying that they’re struggling.

 

Thursday, January 28th

Infection rates in our borough dropped below 300 yesterday.  5 of the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs are now below 300.  But we’re being told that the peak of hospital admissions is likely to come this weekend, and last for a while.

According to reports in the papers, non-essential shops (including hair salons?) aren’t likely to reopen until April.  And is that early April or late April?  And cafes and restaurants not until May.  Travel hasn’t been mentioned.  Nor have cinemas, theatres etc.  And heaven only knows when we’ll be able to go back to football matches, concerts etc.

The picture’s grim across most of Europe too.  France could be heading back into lockdown.  Madrid and Barcelona are running short of vaccine supplies.  Germany has said it’ll have vaccine supply issues until Easter.  Hospitals in Lisbon are running short of beds.  Over in the US, there are reports that a new variant may have emerged in California.   And Canada’s got concerns over vaccine supplies.  We don’t hear much from the rest of the world, but I gather that things are particularly bad in Mexico, and that parts of Peru are going back into lockdown.   And Lebanon’s in full lockdown: you’re not even allowed to go food shopping, but have to rely on deliveries.

Also, will someone please tell Nicola Sturgeon to STFU?  Seriously, is this the time to be mithering about an independence referendum?  She is so annoying.

Meanwhile, there are concerns about low take-up of the vaccine amongst some ethnic minority groups.  But, on a happier note, it looks as if the Novavax vaccine, being manufactured in Teesside, is pretty effective.

I am not finding it easy being chained to the office computer during the day, with virtually no contact from work (I’m not sure what I expect them to do, to be fair, but they could try to offer a bit of support) and doing housework, without having anything nice to look forward to at weekends … or for months ahead.

 

Friday, January 29th

I can’t believe what’s going on over the vaccines.  The European Commission has long been a deeply unpleasant organisation, but this just takes the biscuit.  If it weren’t for the companies who’ve developed the vaccines, we’d all be facing a future of either permanent lockdown or else millions more deaths, and many more people left with long term health problems, until herd immunity was reached.  Instead of thanking and praising these heroes, the European Commission has done nothing but issue them with threats and demands.  And insist that it should get first dibs on any vaccine produced, and to hell with the rest of the world, and never mind the fact that the UK order with Astra Zeneca was placed three months before its order was.   We’re all frustrated about the delays and production problems, but they’re pharmaceutical companies, not miracle workers.  There were bound to hiccups with operations on this scale.  And, now, export controls are being put on any supplies being exported from the EU – which is going to endanger anyone in non-EU countries who’s had the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and is waiting for the second, not to mention going against every trade deal going, as it would block the fulfilment of longstanding contracts.  Talk about I’m all right, Jack.

Meanwhile, Janssen, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson (I got confused by this and thought that two separate companies had both produced vaccines, but no!) have got a vaccine which is 66% effective, so not as good as the others, but only needs one dose.

In other news, Eurosport kindly televised the exhibition matches from Adelaide, so I got to see Rafa beat Dominic 🙂 .  And in front of a crowd!  So, so wonderful to see crowds back at matches.  When will it happen here?

And I had actually lost a few pounds from Saturday to Wednesday,  But half of them have suddenly gone back on on Wednesday and Thursday,  I just do not understand this.  One day could have been a blip, but two?  I haven’t done anything different.  I am very demoralised 😦 .

 

Saturday, January 30th

I am so, so disgusted with the European Commission.   They have totally screwed things up for 27 countries in terms of the vaccine roll-out, and are trying to divert attention from their incompetence by acting like arrogant, petulant bullies … which just makes them look even more incompetent.  Last night, an almighty row broke out when they decided to try to use Northern Ireland as a political football, saying that, in violation of the Brexit deal, they would impose border controls between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, to stop the UK from getting any vaccine supplies (yes, those vaccine supplies which will save people’s lives, and which the UK has quite legitimately ordered) from within the EU.   Without even bothering to consult the Republic of Ireland.  Or any other member states.  Everyone hit the roof – in London, in Belfast, in Dublin and elsewhere – and they had to back down.  I’m tempted to say “Hah”, but this really, really isn’t funny.  It’s left a very bad taste in everyone’s mouths.  And they’re still saying that they’ll block vaccine exports, although Michael Gove’s said that the UK’s vaccination programme won’t be affected.

It’s hard not to see this as the European Commission throwing its toys out of the pram because it can’t bear the fact that the UK vaccination programme’s going so much better than its own (Le Figaro‘s headline yesterday was “Vaccination: Brexit 1, Brussels 0”), but it won’t just affect the UK: it’ll affect Canada, Australia, Japan and many other countries too.

The WHO has condemned the European Commission’s vile attitude and behaviour.

Politicians and newspapers in various EU countries are extremely peed off with the European Commission.

Meanwhile, many highly vulnerable people in 27 countries, who could have been vaccinated by now had their governments made their own arrangements, are still waiting.

OK, enough about the vaccine row.   Two more points dropped today, in a 0-0 draw at Arsenal, whilst City won again.  Bah.  And I’m going to have to start using the spray on hair dye again: my grey roots are really showing.  Bah again.

On a happier note, I had such a nice time at Dunham Massey!  I’m disappointed about missing the snowdrops and early daffodils at Rode Hall and Chirk, but the Dunham Winter Garden, which I don’t normally go to at this time of year – I’m usually busy with the Australian Open during the second half of January, and then I prioritise Rode and Chirk in February – has got some beautiful, beautiful carpets of snowdrops, and quite a few early daffodils too.  I was so pleased that I went round the gardens, then round the deer park, and then back to the gardens for a second look!   Gorgeous 🙂 .

 

Sunday, January 31st

I found some snowdrops in the park today!  It was a bit of the park which I don’t normally go to, but I was trying to find a quiet area without any dogs … having been jumped up at my a horrible dog with filthy muddy paws.  Most of the mud brushed off, but the owner didn’t even apologise – just said “It’s a dog, what d’you expect?”.  I am so, so sick of dogs.  They are everywhere.  And the noise they make carries such a long way, especially with yappy little dogs with high-pitched barks.

Dogs apart, it was very nice in the park.

 

Scone courtesy of The Coffee Sack 🙂 .

Infection rates in Greater Manchester are still falling, but not as quickly as the national average, and the rate for the city centre is now above the average.  I really cannot face a return to the Evil Tier System and being told that other people can travel around the country, reopen their businesses and send their kids back to school, but we can’t, after everything we’ve been through already.  The situation nationwide seems to be stabilising, but we’re being told that it’ll be at least a fortnight before the impact of the vaccination programme starts to have any effect.  609,010 doses were given yesterday!  That’s the highest number yet.   Almost 9 million people have now received their first dose.

A WHO team’s in Wuhan, trying to get to the bottom of how this nightmare started, but I don’t think China will ever let us know.

Worrying news from Portugal, where patients are having to be sent abroad as there are hardly any intensive care beds left.  And also some worrying news here – Captain Sir Tom Moore’s in hospital with pneumonia and coronavirus.  Oh, what horrendous irony that one of the biggest heroes of this nightmare should contract the virus.  He’s not in intensive care, and hopefully he’ll be OK, but I was very upset to hear that he was ill.

And, despite a drop in temperature, it’s definitely feeling a bit springlike, but snow’s forecast for Tuesday.  Please, please do not cause any problems on Friday, when I need to take my car in for its MOT!

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

Monday, January 4th

We’re actually in Tier 4 for another few hours, but I’m not doing a separate post for one day.  At midnight, after 5 days in Tier 4, we’ll be moving into Lockdown III.   So will Scotland.  On the positive side, the rollout of the Oxford vaccine started today.  And elite sport can continue, so at least we’ll still have football to watch.  And takeaways stay open – although, with schools closed, the queues in the park cafe will be about an hour long.

Otherwise:

  • Everyone to work from home unless they genuinely can’t.  I’ll be interested to see if my employers actually take any notice of this (although I personally am WFH anyway).
  • Schools, colleges and universities to close until at least mid-February (except for vulnerable kids, kids of keyworkers, and university students needing to do practicals).  The TUC have helpfully said that employers should “do the right thing” and furlough parents whose kids are off school.  They have, needless to say, not explained how small firms are supposed to manage if, say, two people out of a workforce of five are unable to work.  Nurseries stay open.  Exams will almost certainly be cancelled again.
  • You are allowed out to exercise once a day.  WTF?  They’ve said unlimited outdoor exercise in Scotland.  Hmm, we’ll see about this one.
  • You can travel “a short distance” within your “local area” to exercise.  This is not defined.  What is “a short distance”?  What is “your local area”?
  • Places of worship stay open.  Excuse me?  This is not the Middle Ages.  How come places of worship can stay open?  Are people less likely to infect each other in places of worship than in schools, shops, salons or gyms?
  • Garages doing MOTs and services can stay open.
  • Shielding is back.
  • People working at other people’s houses can still work.

This will probably all be until mid-February.  A bit more notice would have been nice – I quite appreciate that this is a very difficult and fast-moving situation, but Boris announced all this at 8pm, after saying yesterday that primary schools would be staying open!

This is totally shit.  But infection rates are going up and up – and, yes, most people don’t get ill, but the number of daily deaths remains over 400, and hospitals are running out of room.

We keep hearing about “the race between the virus and the vaccine”.  Is there no way we can speed the vaccination programme up?  Commandeer labs and factories to produce more of it?  Presumably it’s not that easy, or it’d be being done.

Ugh.  9 1/2 months, and we’re nearly back to square 1 – except with football, takeaways and public toilets.

I hate this bloody virus.

 

Tuesday, January 5th

Everybody’s at sixes and sevens today.  Businesses and the live music industry are saying that they need a definite date for reopening, but it’s just not possible for anyone to know when that’s likely to be.   And what’s going to happen with school exams?  Mocks are usually done in January, so schools won’t even have mock results to go off.

Boris has been on TV again, talking about vaccines – which he pronounces (vac-SEENS).  Israel has vaccinated 10% of its population already.  In actual numbers, that’s around 1.3 million, which is around the same as us, with far fewer personnel and facilities.  Why can’t we do things that quickly?  OK, we’re doing a lot better than most countries – France, as of 30th December, had vaccinated a grand total of 138 people – but why can’t all countries move as quickly as Israel has very admirably done?  It’s partly due to vaccine shortages, but not entirely.

Rishi Sunak, who’s probably tearing his hair out, has announced more grants for businesses, but more’s going to be needed … but where’s the money going to come from?

Like a lot of people round here, I was very annoyed when we were put back into Tier 3 at the beginning of December, but at that point we didn’t know about the new variant and, as things have turned out, it did us a favour.  Infection rates in the “City of Liverpool region”, which was still in Tier 2 until a few days ago, are now way higher than they are in Greater Manchester … although rates here are rising very quickly now.  Over 60,000 new cases were recorded nationwide today, and 830 deaths.  OK, Tuesday’s figures do tend to be bad because of the lag over the weekend, plus yesterday was a Bank Holiday in Scotland, but it’s still pretty grim.

That miserable git Chris Whitty’s just said that restrictions might be reintroduced next winter.

Dunham lights are cancelled 😦 .  I only missed out by a few days with my original booking, and now I’ve missed out by a few days again.  OK, it;s hardly the world’s biggest crisis, but bleurgh.  But the estate is staying open.

The cafes in Heaton Park are open as before, although you now have to order at the hatch, rather than inside, at the lakeside cafe.  The queue thankfully wasn’t that long, but I noticed that the playground was packed out.

I took the decorations down whilst watching Boris’s press conference.  A few people’ve said that they’re going to leave them up until Candlemas, like the Queen does, this year, because they make things look cheerful, but I’m not sure than I need to be looking at Christmas decorations any later than Twelfth Night.

 

Wednesday, January 6th

“Clap for Carers” is coming back, renamed “Clap for Heroes”.  Let’s hope that it brings some feeling of unity, and isn’t, as sadly I fear it may be, hijacked by political point-scorers.

Over 1,000 deaths today.  1,041.  And 62,322 infections.

Boris has said that lockdown will be eased “gradually” … in late February and March,  But then it’s back to the godforsaken tier system.  I was hoping we’d seen the back of that, with its evil travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, things in Los Angeles County are now, sadly, so bad that paramedics have been told that anyone who seems unlikely to recover shouldn’t even be taken to hospital.  In the middle of this, a load of Donald Trump fanatics are holding a huge demo in Washington.  Have people got no sense?!

Carabao Cup semi against City tonight.  Hoping for a brilliant match and a win.  I said “hoping”!  Meanwhile, Chorley’s excitement about playing Wayne Rooney’s Derby in the Cup has rather gone down the toilet: Rooney and all his senior players are self-isolating due to a virus outbreak.

GCSEs and A-levels in Northern Ireland have been cancelled.  Teachers are to assess grades in England, and presumably in Northern Ireland too.   Meanwhile, amid concerns about kids having problems accessing stuff online, the BBC are to show a lot of curriculum-based programmes.  Like old times!

 

Later – oh FFS.  FOUR semi-final defeats in 12 months.  And losing to City is always horrible.  United 0 – 2 City.  Bah.

Absolutely appalling scenes from Washington DC.  I cannot believe that this happening in the United States of America.  It’s like a bad Sergei Eisenstein film, but with a pandemic thrown in.  The pro-Trump mob have actually stormed Congress.  Legislators had to be evacuated through secret tunnels.  Boris and other international leaders have condemned what’s going on, but all Trump could manage was to tell people to “go home” – and then keep insisting that he had really won the election.  I’m very saddened by what we’re seeing.

 

Thursday, January 7th …. Christmas Day in Russia etc

As I’d feared, Clap for Heroes not only fell a bit flat – perhaps inevitable, given that there’s snow and ice on the ground and it’s pitch black long before 8 o’clock – but was hijacked by spiteful political points-scorers.  Well, some medical staff said that they’d rather people focused on trying to reduce their chances of contracting the virus, which was obviously fair enough, but there was no reason not to do that and clap as well … but the spiteful brigade said that everything under the sun was the government’s fault, that Clapping for Heroes would be encouraging spending cuts (no, me neither), and directed abuse and even threats at the kind woman who came up with the idea.  Says it all, doesn’t it?  Someone tries to show appreciation for other people’s work and to bring communities together, and they end up being threatened by political points-scorers.  How awful.  You’d think that events in America would have shown people the dangers of divisive talk and behaviour, but apparently not.

Despite the very worrying rises in virus cases, hospitalisations and deaths, in the UK and in many other cases, the pandemic has been briefly pushed out of the headlines by the absolutely appalling scenes in Washington yesterday.  Four people died.   Offices were ransacked.  People grabbed everything from letters to personal photographs.  The pictures from inside the Capitol building look as if an invading army’s run through the place.  It’s very, very disturbing.

You might think that this would show people in other countries just how dangerous nastiness and divisive rhetoric can be.  Sadly not.  The sniping, the whingeing, the criticism, the political points-scoring and, in some cases, the sheer hatred on social media, and in some parts of the media – notably the Guardian – just goes on and on.  Could we please, please, stop this, and pull together?

Villa have now got the virus!  So their Cup match against Liverpool tomorrow is in doubt.  This is all getting a bit chaotic.

More snow.  Not a lot, but it’s stuck.

Booked my car in for its MOT and service … and received an e-mail saying that I should drive to the garage with the heating off and the windows open, for “ventilation”.  Not if it’s snowing, I won’t be …

National Express have cancelled all their services.

Schools in Wales are to stay shut until February half-term.

And I had a dental appointment this morning.  Even though there’s a large waiting room, and a foyer, they made people wait outside in the ice and the freezing fog “due to covid safety protocols”!

 

Friday, January 8th

Monday – lost a pound.
Tuesday – stayed the same.
Wednesday – put a pound on.
Thursday – put a pound on.
4 days of sticking to my diet programme and walking several miles every day, and I’ve put a pound ON.  I feel like shit.

OK, I am totally selfish and self-obsessed, and should be focusing on the very sad news that 1,325 deaths with coronavirus were reported today.  But I just wanted a moan.

Derbyshire police have fined two women £200 each for driving five miles to go for a walk round a reservoir.  Seriously.  And told them that they shouldn’t have taken a “picnic” – takeaway hot drinks – with them.  I have never heard anything so stupid.  This sort of thing just does not help.  It annoys people, and makes the police look like a joke.

You now cannot enter the UK unless you’ve had a negative virus test within 48 hours.  Which is very sensible and, if we and every other country had had that rule in February/March, maybe this nightmare would never have happened.  But, as it’s not always easy to get a test, it puts the kibosh on foreign travel … not that we’re allowed to go anywhere at the moment anyway, or even allowed in to a lot of places.

Lots of arguments going on about schools.  People moaned that schools were open.  Schools are now closed.   But they’re open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.  Teachers are moaning that there are too many kids in school.  Parents are moaning that they’ve been told that their child cannot go into school as there are too many kids there already, but that they think their kid should be entitled to a place.  I’m not really having a go at anyone: it’s an impossible situation.  But I wish people would try to think of solutions, rather than just moaning.   And some people push their luck.  If one parent is a key worker but the other parent isn’t, it’s unfair to take up places which could go to the children of single parents who are key workers or a couple who are both key workers.

And the list of key workers doesn’t include, for example, plumbers or boiler engineers, but they’re essential as far as I’m concerned.

It’s very difficult.  And a lot of offices round here are open – unless they all need about half a dozen people to nip in to collect the post, and they all just happened to be there just as I walked past.  Again, it’s very difficult.  Some people find it very hard to work at home, due to lack of space, and noise from kids/pets.

But the figures for deaths, hospitalisations and infections are horrendous.  We are not, at present, as badly off as some other parts of the country, but it’s bad everywhere.

Events further and further ahead are being cancelled.  There’s talk of the local elections due to be held (a year late) in May being postponed.  Royal garden parties due to be held in the summer have been cancelled, and there’s talk of cancelling the summer music festivals.

Some good news – the Moderna vaccine’s been approved for use here, and two drugs with unpronounceable names have been found to help treat people who are seriously ill.

 

Saturday, January 9th

Hooray, we beat Watford 1-0 to move into the 4th round of the Cup.  Chorley at home, please!

No rain or snow today, thankfully.  Went for a long walk in the park – with a takeaway scone and jam and cream from The Coffee Sack.  I’ve given up on the park cafes.  They don’t do scones anyway, but, even apart from that, they’re just too slow.  Even when they’re quiet, the waits for drinks are ridiculous.  The park was quite busy, but it was only in the main area by the lake and the playground that there were a lot of people (and, even worse, a lot of horrible barking dogs).  Other areas were quieter, which was nice.  Pretty bleak at this time of year, though.

Later, I walked to Iceland (you can’t get Slimming World stuff at Tesco).  Plenty of people around.  No-one was breaking any rules: most people were waiting for takeaways.

The Queen and Prince Philip have received their first vaccination doses, which is good news – and will hopefully reassure anyone feeling nervous.  The vast majority of people can’t wait to be vaccinated but, with a few idiots spreading silly rumours, there are bound to be a few nerves.

The police, who should be breaking up large gatherings, are annoying people by behaving like idiots.  The story of the two women were surrounded, read their rights and fined for driving a few miles to walk round a reservoir has gone viral.  Police in Shropshire have issued a warning that leaving your house to, er, throw snowballs outside your house is “not a valid reason for leaving home”.  And 6 people were fined for holding a memorial to the Birmingham pub bombing victims.  The police have asked for “greater clarity” about the rules.  Try using a bit of common sense, eh.

I’m never sure how much the statistics from all this mean.  For example, the excess number of deaths in Russia since the pandemic began is way, way more than the official number of deaths from the virus.  Here, some of the people in the official death toll will have died for reasons that had nothing to do with Covid, but within 28 days of a positive test, whereas others will have died for reasons related to Covid but won’t be “counted” as they hadn’t had a positive test within 28 days.  But the “official” death toll is now over 80,000.  Of the 10 areas in England with the highest death rates, 4 are in the North West, which is very, very upsetting.  2 are in Yorkshire, 1 is E Staffs, and 1 (the highest) is Folkestone and Hythe.

Some current infection rates per 100,000 (again, these figures may mean anything or nothing).  Of 315 areas in England, 314 saw a rise this week.  I think this is for the week to yesterday:

Greater Manchester – Wigan 478, Bury 426, central Manchester 422, Bolton 344
Rest of NW – Halton 1,173, Carlisle 1,134, Burnley 967, central Liverpool 859, Cheshire W/Chester 621, Barrow 578, S Lakes 336, Blackpool 320

Yorks and NE – Hartlepool 838, York 626, Harrogate 464, Hull 341, Sheffield 290, Bradford 283, Newcastle 281
Midlands – Walsall 828, Birmingham 739, Derby 633, Nottingham 451, Shropshire 417, N Lincs 235

London and SE – Barking & Dagenham 1,687, Havering 1,399, Slough 1,173, Barnet 1,035, Windsor and Maidenhead 727
E Anglia – Norwich 530, Peterborough 520
South/South West – Southampton 709, Swindon 642, Bristol 467, Cornwall and Scilly Isles 367. West Devon 147

 

So, although we’ve come a depressingly long way from the days when anything over 20 was considered worrying, we’re looking at very different figures in different areas.

 

Sunday, January 10th

Could we move on from the incident with the Derbyshire police, please?  Derbyshire police have said that they’ve reviewed their procedures.  We all screw up sometimes.   Let it go now.  But no – the media can’t do that.  They’ve really latched on to this story.   Priti Patel and Matt Hancock have both been asked for their views on it.  Whilst they probably both think that the police showed a complete lack of common sense, they can’t be seen to criticise the police for clamping down over lockdown, so they’ve both said that they support the police.  So now there is a huge fuss going on about what you can and can’t do, and why most of the people who’ve staged anti-lockdown protests in London and Bournemouth were just told to go home when two women innocently going for a walk a few miles from home were each fined £200.

Meanwhile, whilst people in England are moaning that there are too many kids in school under the exemption for children of key workers, the Welsh authorities have used a different definition of “key workers” … so now people are moaning that this is ridiculous because they can’t work unless their kids are in school.

And some whingeing Remoaner journalist on Sky News last night insisted that people are going out “because of Dominic Cummings”.  Oh FFS.  What, everyone who goes for a stroll in the park, walks to their local cafe for a takeaway cake or goes into the office because their kids keep screaming during Zoom meetings is doing so because Dominic Cummings drove to Barnard Castle eight months ago?  I’ve never heard such rubbish.

This is ridiculous.  Could everyone please stop acting like five-year-olds, and use a bit of common sense?  And focus on speeding up the vaccination programme.  Frustrated GPs, pharmacists and even dentists are saying that they could vaccinate hundreds of people per week but can’t get the doses or, in some cases, the authorisation.  It’s not clear whether the problem is supply, distribution, red tape or all three.  We’re now being told that every adult will have been offered the vaccination “by the autumn”.  Depending on whether you take “by” to mean “before” (which it probably should) or “during” (which it probably does), this could mean late November.  Surely there must be a way of doing it more quickly?

Due to all the carry-on over the women in Derbyshire, I got a bit stressed about going to Dunham Massey this morning, even though I don’t see that I’m breaking any rules by driving within Greater Manchester, in my own car, to exercise alone in a place where numbers will be restricted.  When this week’s tickets were released, I was expecting to go to the lights show tonight, so I hadn’t booked tickets for during the day.  By the time things changed, the only ticket I could get was for 9 o’clock.  So I thought I’d be the only person on the M60 at half 8, and had half-convinced myself I’d be pulled over to ask where I was going.  No.  There were plenty of cars around, even at half 8 on a Sunday morning.   But I haven’t seen anyone doing anything they shouldn’t … other than a few groups of 3 or 4 people clearly not from the same household.

Not only were there no scones, there were no cakes and no hot food.  I’ve noticed that other cafes seem to’ve got a lot of food left over – Costa Coffee had reduced stuff to half-price to try to shift it.  It’s all a muddled circle – they’re not offering nice cakes, because cakes don’t keep and they can’t be sure how many they’ll sell , but people aren’t as keen to buy things like pre-packed biscuits.

The daffodils are coming.  No sign of them in Heaton Park yet, but Dunham have already got a few out, and there are loads of shoots.  Some snowdrops are out too.

 

I’ve got a load of photos to sort out, a load of books to read, a load of films in my Sky Planner and a load more films in my Amazon Prime watchlist.  Have I got through any of them?  Er, not really …

I think Chris Whitty would like to put us all under house arrest until the end of March.  I do understand that this is a huge crisis.  Everyone does.  But I also understand that there’s going to be a huge mental health crisis if restrictions are tightened much more.

This is just a nightmare.  Sometimes, if I’ve got engrossed in a book or a film, I actually forget about it.  Then it hits me, and, for a few moments, I can’t actually believe that it’s real.

But it is.

Tier 4, Week 1 – December 31st 2020 to January 3rd 2021, inclusive

New Year’s Eve, Thursday, December 31st

Starting on a new post on New Year’s Eve is very weird, but here we are, day 1 in Tier 4.  Why are electronics/IT/communications shops classed as “non-essential”?  Surely they’re absolutely essential, especially at the moment!

It snowed this morning.  However, most of the snow had melted by 10 o’clock.  I went for a walk in the park, and there were some rather disappointed-looking kids with sledges.  We get so little time off work that I usually try so hard to do something exciting on every day off, but there just isn’t anything exciting to do at the moment!  Oh well, at least, for once, I won’t be feeling like a saddo for spending New Year’s Eve sat in on my own, watching Jools Holland, whilst everyone else is out partying … because everyone else will be stuck in with Jools Holland as well!

Tommy Docherty’s died.  He was 92 and’d been ill for a while, but it’s a sad end to the year.

Andy Burnham says that 25% of virus cases in Greater Manchester are now due to the mutant strain.  That’s not good.

But, on a happier note, Dunham lights is going ahead … which surprises me, but is good news!

Well, goodbye 2020, and here’s to 2021.  Let’s just hope it’s a better year than this one’s been!

 

New Year’s Day, Friday, January 1st

Happy New Year!   A bit of snow fell overnight, but not much.  However, the south side of town is still pretty snowy from the snow that fell earlier in the week, and Dunham Massey was like a winter wonderland this morning – it really was pretty.

Later, I went for another walk, just locally.  Everyone is so bored.  You go for a walk.  You waste money on a takeaway drink and a fattening cake.  You come home.   At least United and Villa are on TV tonight.

I would give a great deal to go for a walk somewhere devoid of horrible barking dogs.  Does it not occur to people that letting their odious mutts disturb everyone for miles around – the volume at which some dogs bark really is astounding – isn’t very fair?  I don’t know what I’m more sick of, barking dogs, or people who, after 4 1/2 years, still refuse to accept the result of the Brexit referendum.  But at least you can scroll down or change channels to get away from the “Ooh, I’ve changed my Facebook profile photo to one of the EU flag” brigade.  There is no escape from the dogs!!  OK, moan over.

It’s been decided to focus on giving as many people as possible one dose of vaccine, rather than vulnerable groups two doses.

Opinion is split as to whether or not schools should be closed.   Some people are questioning why London, again, is being treated differently to other areas, but the situation in London and parts of the Home Counties really is far worse than it is here.  A frightening number of people in my sister’s community have got the virus, and that’s not even one of the worst-affected areas of London.  And I get the sense that people there are panicking: two friends have said that they’re thinking of cancelling mammogram appointments because they’re nervous of going near hospitals.  It’s not like that here.  People are concerned, but not panicking.

There’s also serious concern about businesses.  The whole thing’s such a nightmare.  “Experts” are saying that we need to vaccinate two million people a week, but the vaccine just can’t be produced that quickly.   If only it could!

Later – hooray!!  We beat Villa 2-1, and are now level on points with Liverpool at the top of the table!!

And Last Christmas is number 1!   After 36 years.  I gave up following the charts about 25 years ago, but that’s made me smile.

All primary schools in London will now stay closed, not just those in certain boroughs.  Make your mind up.  Why not say that in the first place?

 

Saturday, January 2nd

It was minus 3 C this morning, but bright and sunny.  I decided to walk round some different parts of Heaton Park for a change, and that was really nice.  However, it snowed heavily for about an hour in the afternoon, and the wretched stuff is all over the road and not likely to melt tonight.  It’s OK once you get to the main road, but, especially if you’re a nervous driver and have inconsiderate neighbours who park on the road, that’s easier said than done!

City’ve had no more positive virus tests, and their match against Chelsea tomorrow is going ahead, but Fulham had to call off their match at Burnley, and several lower league matches are also off.

Ryanair are running a “Jab and Go” advertising campaign.  “Covid vaccines are coming.”  Lots of pictures of grinning people on the beach or diving into swimming pools.  “So you can just Jab and Go!”  I cannot wait to go on holiday, but those adverts are in such poor taste that you just have to laugh!

I’ve put in a claim for tax relief for working from home.  It’s £1.20 per week, which just about covers the cost of milk and teabags, and doesn’t touch the cost of heating, lighting, phone calls, water etc, but, hey, owt’s better than nowt.  I’d love to know how many employers have offered to reimburse people and how many are just pocketing the amount they’ve saved.

I do wish people would work together and stop trying to score political points.   Teaching unions were a nightmare earlier in the year, and are at it again.  The National Association of Head Teachers is taking legal action against the Department of Education, and the main teachers’ union is threatening to advise its members to refuse to go to work.  As for that idiot Sadiq Khan, all he cares about is having a go at the Government.  There’s certainly a growing feeling that schools need to close – admittedly very easy for me to say when I’m neither a teenager at a crucial stage in their education nor a working parent with young children – but this hostile attitude isn’t helping anyone.

Excellent episode of Casualty tonight – a “coronavirus special”, set during the first lockdown.  Some of it, admittedly, was the BBC trying to score political points, but most of it was very powerful, and I actually ended up in tears when a longstanding character died of the virus at the end.  Yes, I know that it’s only a TV programme, and that the actor is alive and well although probably rather fed up about losing his job, but he represents real people.

 

Moan coming up:

As bad as the first lockdown was, after 10 weeks of it I was able to go to Blackpool and eat fish and chips and ice cream on the beach.  It’s now around the same length of time since we were put under travel restrictions in October, and things are only getting worse.  And are expected to get worse yet.  A few sanctimonious people are saying that they’re prepared to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, but most people, whilst genuinely concerned about the very serious situation, are fed up and whingeing and moaning.  It’s the feeling of being trapped.  It’s the horrendous boredom.  Weirdly, it’s the guilt – I’ve got a very Victorian mentality that says that I should be doing something all the time, but there’s nothing to do.   Yeah, I know, I could try to learn Japanese, but I haven’t got the heart for it when I’ve got no idea whether my rearranged holiday will go ahead or not.  I’d volunteer to do something to help in the community, but I can’t because I’ll be chained to the office laptop again from Monday.

And we want to see our relatives and friends.  People with long-term partners with whom they don’t live aren’t supposed to see them unless it’s for a walk in the park.  Parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, siblings, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews, cousins and close friends aren’t supposed to see each other at all if they don’t live in the same area.

Those sanctimonious people may be very virtuous, but they’re also rather annoying!   This is crap.  In 20 years’ time, maybe we’ll all say what jolly good fun it was, like people did about spending the night in air raid shelters but, right now, sanctimonious people are annoying!

 

Sunday, January 3rd

The political points-scoring going on over the schools issue is sickening.  This is a time of severe national and international crisis – how is all this spite and venom and divisiveness helping anyone, least of all children?  How exactly are social media posts saying things like “Tory incompetence is killing teachers” supposed to help?   Good job these vile groups weren’t around during the war, isn’t it?  Do any of them actually care about what’s best for children, parents, teachers and local communities?  No, they do not.  Unfortunately, these groups dominate teaching unions, which isn’t very good for anyone.  Interesting article in today’s MEN about a woman from Bolton who lost her job due to school closures.  I fear that a lot more people will be in the same position if schools close indefinitely but workplaces don’t.  But I don’t see how we’re to get infection rates down if schools stay open.

The infection rate across Greater Manchester as a whole is now 278, up 36% on last week.  The rate, and the rate of increase, varies quite a bit between boroughs, but the general picture is very worrying.  Cases are increasing more rapidly than the national average for the first time since October – although still well below the national average rate of 509.  Some parts of the SE are well over 1,000.   And parts of Merseyside are higher than any part of Greater Manchester, but remain in Tier 3.  And Burnley is 562.  Is there some sort of overspill from Burnley and Rossendale into Bury?  Probably not, actually, because then it’d be affecting Rochdale too, and Rochdale isn’t as bad.  Carlisle’s over 500, as well.

The acting mayor of Liverpool (the mayor being off due to corruption investigations) has called for a lockdown.  So, now, has Keir Starmer.  Could people please define “lockdown”?  Because if they mean saying that you can’t go out for a walk but you can go and spend all day in a non-essential office or factory with a load of other people, then it’ll do more harm than good.  If they mean closing workplaces but ensuring that anyone who cannot work from home gets furloughed rather than laid off, it may well be an idea.

I broke bounds by about a mile today, and went to Styal.  There isn’t even a sign to say that you’ve crossed from Manchester into Wilmslow: if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t.  I am not saying that this was a good thing to do, but everyone is breaking bits of rules – lots of groups which were clearly two households or more – and I’d pre-booked it before we all got moved into Tier 4, and I was in the open air, away from other people, and the boundaries don’t make much sense anyway.  It was really lovely there.  Strangely, though, the tea rooms both there and at Dunham were very quiet, even though there were plenty of people around.  Nice for me, because they can be horrendously slow and I don’t like waiting in long queues, but very strange.  Takeaway places in Heaton Park and Hollingworth Lake are always busy.  Is this some kind of north-south divide thing?!  There were scones there, hooray!

 

 

Back to being chained to the office computer tomorrow … which I wouldn’t mind if they’d so much as bothered to send round an e-mail wishing people all the best for Christmas and the New Year.  Bah.  The next Bank Holiday is Good Friday, which is April 2nd.  Where will things be at by then?

Tier 3 Plus, Week 3, December 21st to 27th 2020 inclusive

Monday, December 21st

Ring Out Ye Solstice Bells … well, let’s hope that the light returns soon, because things are pretty grim at the moment.  I just cannot take in what is happening.  Over 40 countries have now imposed travel bans on us – some for 48 hours, some for a month, some indefinitely.  So much for thinking that I might get a long weekend in Italy over Easter!   But the big problem we’ve got is that this also applies to freight.  The Port of Dover is currently closed.  Yes, closed.  In peacetime.  There are lorries backed up all over Kent.  Sainsbury’s unhelpfully tweeted that they were going to run out of lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli if this went on much longer.  Whilst I’m sure we can all manage without lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli for a few days, this has sparked a bit of panic-buying.  I haven’t bought any more than I would have done anyway, but I did decide to go to Tesco and M&S today rather than tomorrow, and it was certainly far busier than it normally is at 8 o’clock in the morning.  OK, it’s Christmas week, but even so.

I can’t believe I’ve been sad enough to type all this out, but I thought that a sample of regional infection rates per 100,000, from last week to this week, would be interesting.  Incidentally, anyone visiting Greater Manchester or the West Midlands Conurbation from Tier 4 (which they shouldn’t be doing anyway) or Wales has been told to self-isolate for 10 days.  So, let’s have a look:

Thurrock, Essex – up from 387 to 1,056.
Havering, London – up from 514 to 1,022.
Rochford, Essex – up from 267 to 864.
Hastings, Sussex – up from 371 to 799.
Canterbury, Kent- up from 475 to 615.
Barnet, London – up from 197 to 417.
Lincoln – down from 491 to 417.
Stoke, Staffs – up from 298 to 339.
Hyndburn (the Accrington area), Lancs – up from 170 to 283.  Burnley, worryingly, is up to 412.
Rotherham, South Yorks- up from 207 to 249 – but Sheffield is only 157.
Birmingham – up from 202 to 247.
Eden, Cumbria – up from 77 to 229.  That’s not good.  And South Lakeland’s up to 175.
Hull, E Yorks – up from 190 to 217.
Bury – down from 213 to 190.
Manchester centre – down from 178 to 171.
Blackpool – up from 154 to 158.
Leeds – up from 137 to 142.
Liverpool – up from 92 to 125.
Stockport- up from 112 to 113.
Bath/N E Somerset – up from 96 to 103.
Dorset – up from 45 to 67.

Sadly, I think that this new version of the virus is probably already spreading across the country and probably across Europe too, but we can certainly see a big regional divide at the moment.  I’m concerned about East Lancs, though, especially Burnley.

Just look how much the rates have gone up by a week in parts of the South East.  Hospitals are coping at the moment, but … well, it’s a very worrying situation. What’s going to happen with schools, with businesses, with everything?  Earlier this year, one of the newspapers was talking about snakes and ladders – well, we have gone right down a very big snake.  These bloody restrictions could be in place for months – and we could all be in Tier 4 before long.  I just can’t quite take it all in.

Why did the bloody virus have to mutate in Kent (and it does seem to’ve happened in Kent)?

“Britain stands alone.”

I really am struggling to take this in.

 

Tuesday, December 22nd

Oh no!  A kid in my younger nephew’s class has tested positive for the virus.  Let’s hope that none of the other kids have got it – he’s not one of my younger nephew’s particular friends, so they haven’t had much contact.  But the whole class has now got to self-isolate.   The Christmas visit to Manchester’s already off, and now the poor kid isn’t even supposed to leave the house.  Talk about “The Worst Noel”, “I’m dreaming of a shite Christmas” and all the other bad puns going round.

Rates in our borough are actually falling, now that these outbreaks in care homes thankfully seem to be under control, but rates across Greater Manchester as a whole were up by 5% in the week to yesterday.  That’s not much compared to an increase of 62% across England as a whole, and far more than that in parts of the SE, but it’s obviously not good.  And, with rates having almost trebled in a week in the Northern Lake District, there are fears that the mutant strain’s on the loose there.

And don’t tell me that the mutant strain’s only in the UK.  Infection rates in the Netherlands have risen by 42% in a week.   If that isn’t due to the mutant strain, then … well, I’m a Dutchman.   Meanwhile, over 50 countries have now imposed travel bans on us.  But America hasn’t.

The situation in Dover is appalling.  Surely some sort of solution can be found?  These poor lorry drivers have spent two nights sleeping in their vehicles.  Toilet facilities and washing facilities are limited.  No-one even seems to be doing much to make sure that they’ve got enough to eat and drink.  And these drivers are from all over Europe, wanting to get home for Christmas.  It’s like a very bad Hollywood film.   Not to mention the fact that good food’s going to go off, at a time when a lot of people are relying on food banks anyway.

The whole of mainland Scotland’s going into Tier 4 level restrictions from Boxing Day, and restaurants and hairdressing salons in the Republic of Ireland are to close from Christmas Eve.

And Tesco have introduced limits on toilet roll purchases.  FFS!  Toilet roll does not come from France.  A lot of French toilets don’t even provide paper (don’t get me started on that subject).  30% of the UK’s toilet rolls come from Trafford Park!

Bloody hellfire.  I just don’t know what to say.

 

Wednesday, December 23rd

Bloody hell.  Little more than a fortnight ago, we thought that the worst was over.  Infection rates in Greater Manchester were plummeting, and we were pretty sure that we’d be in Tier 2 by Christmas.  Now, it looks as if the whole country could be heading into lockdown.  Infection rates across the 10 boroughs were up by 8% in the week to yesterday.  That’s not alarming, but they were still falling three days ago, so it’s a big change.  Just north of here, rates are up by 89% in Hyndburn (89%!), 46% in Burnley and 42% in Pendle.  These places are only 20 to 30 miles away.  Short of blocking up the M66, you have to fear the worst.

The whole of Cheshire’s going into Tier 3 on Boxing Day, as is Warrington.  But not Merseyside, where Hancock’s family live.  Bristol’s going back into Tier 3 after a week!  In fact, the whole of Gloucestershire and Somerset, other than Bath/NE Somerset,’ll be in Tier 3, as will Northants, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, and the New Forest.  The rest of Hants goes into Tier 4, along with the rest of Sussex, Essex and Cambs, plus Norfolk and Suffolk.   Cumbria remains in Tier 2, and Lincs remains in Tier 3.

Herefordshire goes back into Tier 2, after a week.  Cornwall also goes into Tier 2.

Swiss ski resorts are hunting down British tourists.  Or are supposed to be.

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, there’s another strain on the loose, and this one’s even worse.  This one comes from South Africa, but two cases have been found in the UK from people who’ve recently returned from South Africa.

France, Belgium and the Netherlands have agreed to let travel to and from the UK resume, but anyone entering those countries from the UK has to provide a negative Covid test first.  There are around 3,800 lorry drivers stuck in Dover, maybe more, – sleeping in their lorries, without adequate food, drink, washing facilities or toilets, and desperate to get home for Christmas.  Local charities and community groups are doing what they can, but the situation’s horrendous.

You know how it was all going to be over by July?  Then by Christmas?  Then by Easter?  Hancock’s just said that we hope to have things back to normal by 2022!  OK, obviously it’s not his fault that the virus has mutated, but …. bleurgh.  Nine months after we went into lockdown, it genuinely looks as if the worst may yet lie ahead.

I just can’t quite process what’s happened in the last few days.

 

Later – hooray, something good!  We beat Everton 2-0 in the Carabao Cup QF.  Unfortunately, we’ve been drawn against City in the semis, but at least we’re in the semis!

 

Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24th

Cold, but bright and sunny.  And, hooray, we have a Brexit deal!   We haven’t got all the details yet.  I don’t suppose it’s perfect, but deals never are, and I don’t suppose that Boris would have agreed to anything too bad.   At last!

Someone’s letting fireworks off.  It’s a bit annoying.  It’s not Bonfire Night!

I have now finished work until the New Year.  I wasn’t exactly expecting work to send me a Fortnum and Mason hamper or a pair of diamond earrings, but a card would have been nice.  Or even an e-mail, thanking everyone for all their efforts during a very difficult year, and for keeping the firm going, using their own phones, broadband and electricity.  Nada.  Absolutely nothing.

But, after work, I went to get a takeaway cardboard cup of mulled wine from Cuckoo, and quite a few people were stood (in small groups, not crowds!) in the street outside Cuckoo and The Grape & Grain, in the freezing cold, drinking mulled wine or hot chocolate out of cardboard cups.  It didn’t make up for the fact that my sister, brother-in-law and nephews are 200 miles away, and that I won’t be seeing my uncle and cousins on Christmas Day ever, but it was rather nice in a weird 2020 Tier 3 kind of way.

Enya:

Nice sunny day today, after heavy rain overnight.  I decided to walk round some different parts of town – first the “Northern Quarter”, then Castlefield/Deansgate Locks.   It was really nice, and blessedly devoid of a) dogs and b) kids on scooters.
There were plenty of places open for takeaway food and drink in the main shopping areas – but, worryingly, a lot of the independents were shut.  There were queues outside some shops, notably Primark and JD Sports, but other places weren’t busy, bearing in mind that the post-Christmas sales are on.  However, it appears to have got a bit chaotic at the Trafford Centre yesterday.  People are accusing both shoppers and the Centre managers of being irresponsible, but I don’t think it was really anyone’s fault: it’s just very difficult to organise things in a “Covid-secure” way when you’ve got a large number of different shops inside a big enclosed shopping centre.  I don’t know what the answer is.
Takeaway places in residential areas and parks are very busy.  I’m spending a stupid amount of money on cups of tea and cakes, when I could have a drink at home and I most certainly don’t need to stuff my already fat face with cakes/scones/mince pies, but it’s just something to do.I don’t know what to think.  I’m hearing worrying reports from people in London about the number of cases in their communities.  Can we act now, to try to reduce the chances of that happening here?  Given that it seems to be spreading quickly amongst kids of all ages, the best bet would be to close schools, but there are so many arguments against doing that.

On a more positive note, I’m also hearing about people I know who’ve had the vaccination.  But it could take a year to vaccinate everyone (and that’s if everyone wants to be vaccinated).  What do we do in the meantime?
Heigh-ho.  I’m usually really OCD-ish in late December, as if a bit of dust on the table or a bit of dirt on a carpet will somehow jinx the new year.  In any other year, the awful mess on the kitchen ceiling from the leak (which will cost even more money to sort, sigh) would be totally stressing me out.  But, this year, we know that it’ll be a rotten start to the new year!  The questions are how bad will it get, and how long will it be before things, hopefully, improve.

Lockdown II Week 4, November 23rd to 29th 2020 inclusive

Monday, November 23rd

Feeling very disheartened.  Assuming we’re put back into Tier 3, it’s going to be even worse than it was before:

  1. Hotels and restaurants will be banned from reopening.  As we’re not being allowed to carry holidays forward, I’d booked a spa day.  Leisure centres and beauty treatments will be able to go ahead, but it’s at a hotel and included afternoon tea, so I don’t see how it can go ahead.
  2. Indoor entertainment centres will be banned from reopening.  I’d booked the pantomime – it’s limited numbers, with social distancing, but even that won’t be happening now.
  3. Some fans will be allowed back into stadia, but not in Tier 3 areas.  Another kick in the teeth.

We’ve been under additional restrictions since the end of July.  No other part of the country has been penalised as much as we have.  Sorry to whinge, but I’m feeling pretty fed up.  And nothing’s been said about areas moving into lower tiers.  And, as fed up as I’m feeling, it’s far worse for the people who work in sports/hospitality/entertainment.

On a happier note, the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine’s 70% effective, or 90% effective if a lower dose is given first (I’m a bit confused about why the figures say 70% rather than 90%).  But that’s not much help just now this minute.

Bleurgh.

 

Tuesday, November 24th

Christmas is on!  From the 23rd to the 27th … which makes no sense, as the 28th is a Bank Holiday because Boxing Day falls on a Saturday, but whatever.  Three households (with a support bubble classing as one household) can meet up.  So we can’t have my uncle and my cousins round like we usually would, but my sister and brother-in-law and the kids can come, and my brother-in-law’s mum and dad can join us.

Er … and I thought it wouldn’t happen, and had all the presents sent to them!!

In other news, that stupid git Grant Shapps (the Transport Secretary) had a right dig at Andy Burnham on Sky News, saying that infection rates in Merseyside had come down more than those in areas which delayed going into Tier 3 (i.e. Greater Manchester),  What crap.  The areas of Greater Manchester where rates are still high are Oldham and Rochdale where, as in Blackburn and Bradford, it’s due to the prevalence of multi-generational terraced housing.  There aren’t any comparable areas in Merseyside.  Kay Burley, who loves stirring up trouble because she thinks it makes her look tough, then more or less accused Andy Burnham of being responsible for people’s deaths, which was just awful.  And we’ve had Boris saying that areas will have no right of appeal/negotiation over which tier they’re put into.  Is it really necessary for the Cabinet to behave like a bunch of playground bullies?

And then Matt Hancock (the Health Secretary) said that British people need to stop going into work when they’re ill, and that it’s “peculiar” and we do it because we feel we ought to soldier on.  OK, like a lot of people of my generation, and certainly my parents’ generation, I was brought up to think that you went to school or work unless you were so ill that you couldn’t get out of bed, and that to do otherwise was skiving, but it’s not just that.  Unless people work in the public sector, with unlimited paid sick leave, they go into work when they’re ill because they don’t get paid otherwise.  OK, there’s Statutory Sick Pay, but it’s sod all, and there’s a three day waiting period for it, and self-employed people don’t even get that.  I’ve known people go into work when they’ve actually been given a sick note by a doctor, and sign an employers’ liability insurance disclaimer, because they just can’t afford not to.  And number of sick days taken is often used as a criterion in selecting people for redundancy.  If Hancock seriously thinks that the reason people go into work when they’re ill, spreading germs around, is because they’re “soldiering on”, he’s even stupider than I thought he was!

The traffic coming back from Tesco this morning was utterly horrendous, far worse than usual rush hour traffic.  I assume that people going to work (the “work from home” thing isn’t really happening in a lot of cases) are driving rather than getting the tram or bus: the trams in particular are packed to the rafters at rush hour, in normal times.

Anyway.  Christmas is on!   Just not sure what else will be – the tier announcements are on Thursday.  The Cabinet seems to hate Greater Manchester so much that I dread to think what they’ll do 😦 .

And United beat Istanbul Basaksehir

 

Wednesday, November 25th

The average infection rate for Greater Manchester is now below 300, which was originally the main category for Tier 3, but a) the government seems determined to be shitty with us (and Andy Burnham’s fired another salvo in the war of words today), b) rates are quite a bit higher than that in Oldham and Rochdale and c) hospital admissions haven’t dropped by as much as infections had.  So I’m not hopeful.  I just hope it doesn’t go on beyond January.

Trafford’s got the lowest rate of infection of the 10 boroughs, although it’s unlikely that that’ll make a difference.  However, I do wonder if it was in the minds of the people who sent out the survey I received today from Old Trafford, asking various questions about a possible return to attending matches.  One of the questions asked was which borough you live in.

I had a mince pie in the park today.  It’s a month till Christmas.  An 8-year-old kid wrote to Boris to ask about Father Christmas coming down chimneys.  Boris said it was OK 🙂 .

Kids today watch too much American TV, though!  “Santa” and “cookies”?!  Glad to see that Boris put “Father Christmas”!!  Brilliant handwriting for an 8-year-old, though.  I wish mine was that neat!

696 deaths “with the virus” recorded today.  Pretty horrendous.  Worse figures (per head of population) are being recorded in a lot of other countries, so it’s not just here, but … bloody helll.

And the government spending review’s shown horrendous economic figures.  I feel rather sorry for Rishi Sunak.  He’d only been Chancellor for five minutes when this nightmare started.  And, like the rest of us, every time he makes any plans, more restrictions mess them up.

In non-virus news, Diego Maradona’s died.  Due to the events of 1986, he was hardly a hero of mine, but what a player.  I remember being told, when I went to Buenos Aires, that, when he died, he’d have the biggest funeral Argentina had seen since the death of Eva Peron.  Presumably that won’t be able to happen now, but it’ll hit both Argentina and Naples hard.

 

Thursday, November 26th

Tier 3 it is.  Despite the fact that infection rates here are falling at a rate of knots, and that the average for the area is now below 300.  If it was the old Tier 3, it wouldn’t be so bad, but this is shit.  From a personal viewpoint, the pantomime will be off (I’ve already had an e-mail from ATG), my spa day will probably be off, and, because horrible work won’t let us carry days forward, it’s not like I can rebook it, and it means 2 more holiday days wasted, and my annual Twixmas overnight break may well also be off.  Tiers are to be reviewed after a fortnight.  Andy Burnham’s said he hopes we’ll be moved into Tier 2 then – but, as Downing Street seems to consider him Public Enemy No 1, I doubt that’ll help.  And what a nightmare for the hospitality industry.  And also for football and rugby league clubs – there are already rows going on about the fact that now some clubs will be able to admit fans but others won’t.

And what a utter, utter nightmare for Blackpool Illuminations.  The whole of 1974-borders Lancashire also stays in Tier 3, even Lancaster where rates are low.  Also in Tier 3 – the whole of the North East/Teesside, West, South and East Yorkshire, most of the East Midlands (Derbys, Notts, Leics, Lincs), much of the West Midlands (Birmingham, Wolverhampton and the rest of Warks and Staffs), Slough, Kent, Medway, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucs.  Merseyside and Warrington move into Tier 2.  It’s vaguely amusing that Liverpool is now the Blue Eyed City of a Tory government: you really couldn’t make that up.  Cheshire stays in Tier 2.

Everywhere else is in Tier 2, other than Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles.

14 London boroughs have got infection rates higher than the average for Greater Manchester.  Havering has got an infection rate which is double Trafford’s.  But they get to be in Tier 2, whilst Greater Manchester gets put in Tier 3.  Quelle surprise.  Let’s hammer the North and Midlands, but heaven forfend that London and the Home Counties should be affected!

In other news, I have made my first purchase from Amazon Prime Wardrobe – new walking boots.  Mine are starting to fall apart.  This proves how much walking I’m doing.  So why am I putting weight on, not losing it 😦 ?  I feel a bit awful for buying them from Amazon: I would have gone to Sports Direct when it reopens next week but, last time I went, they were only letting a few people in at a time, and I had to queue for over 1/2 hour, and that wasn’t in peak shopping season.  I can’t go at a quiet time because of work, and I just haven’t got the time to spend in long queues.

Mongolia and East Timor have been added to the travel corridor list.  Well, that really helps.  I’m sure zillions of people are planning to take festive breaks in Mongolia and East Timor.  In fact, even if you were, you can’t, because they’re not letting people in!   So why put them on the list?

 

Friday, November 27th – Lancashire Day

On the plus side, the R rate is now below 1, and my spa day is on although I will be getting the afternoon tea in a cardboard box, rather than in an elegant hotel restaurant.

However, people are fuming over the tiers.  There are so many places in Tier 3 where rates are the same as or lower than those of places in Tier 2.  And there are places in Tier 2 where the rate is as low as 67 per 100,000, and which feel that they should be in Tier 1.  And now they’re saying that, for all the talk of a review in mid-December, there’ll be no changes until January.  In Greater Manchester and Nottingham, in particular, there’s a strong feeling that we did everything we were asked to, rates have come right down, and yet we’re still under even tighter restrictions than before.  People are angry and resentful – especially as there’s a strong feeling that London’s been given preferential treatment.  When areas of London with rates of 340 are in Tier 2, and areas of Greater Manchester with rates of 170 are in Tier 3, it’s hard to feel otherwise.   There’s also anger that businesses in Tier 3 are not being given additional support.

If Boris says “Alas” just once more, I shall scream.

A local journalist – who went to the same school as me – told Sky News that she gets the impression that Matt Hancock’s actually enjoying having the spotlight on him.  That might be a bit unfair, but he is certainly very irritating.

And now it looks as if the Arcadia Group could go bust.

Back with the Mutant Mink, apparently the millions of mutant mink which were massacred were buried near a source of drinking water and a lake used for swimming.  It has now been pointed out to the Danish government that this wasn’t really the best of ideas.

 

Saturday, November 28th

I’m seriously starting to think I’ve displeased some vengeful god of household appliances.  Now the tumble dryer has packed up.  Admittedly it’s 19 years old and hasn’t worked brilliantly for months, but it did work until today.  Did it have to choose just now?  When I’ve just had to pay hundreds of pounds for the emergency plumber and then a new oven, and will have to pay hundreds of pounds more to have the kitchen ceiling repainted?  I am really, really pissed off.

I had a load of wet towels and bedding.  It has rained nearly all day.  The wet towels and bedding are now in Mum’s tumble dryer.

Despite the rain, I went to Dunham Massey.  Their Christmas tree is up.  So is the one in the precinct here.  I’m putting mine up tomorrow.  I also got my first Christmas card today.

We’re being told that restrictions could be in place until Easter.  OK if you’re in Tier 2, but do they seriously expect people not to leave their local areas in Tier 3 until Easter?  And how many restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, hotels, cinemas, theatres and sports clubs can survive until then?   The sense of discrimination makes it worse.  Rural areas of Warwickshire and Northumberland, which have hardly had any cases of the virus, have been put into Tier 3, whilst parts of London where infection rates are 340 per 100,000 are in Tier 2.  There are reports that the scientific advisory committee said that London should go into Tier 3, but that Boris said that London wasn’t to be put under tighter restrictions.  It may or may not be true, but such is the mood that people are inclined to believe it.

I feel awful for saying this, because obviously education is important, and, having been the sort of kid who got hysterical if I got less than an A for any piece of academic work and would have been beyond devastated if my exam studies had been put at risk, but I’m getting a bit fed up with this argument that everything else should be sacrificed so that schools can stay open.  Other than, bien sur, in London, and now in Merseyside, most of the most deprived parts of the country have been put into Tier 3.  Businesses are going to fold and jobs are going to go, not to mention the impact on people’s mental health.   We’re being pushed down and down.  Does anyone in the Westminster bubble care?

 

Sunday, November 29th

My Christmas tree is up!   And a bar/cafe within a short walking distance is doing takeaway mulled wine.  Hooray!

Went to Hollingworth Lake this morning.  Again.  I’d normally be doing Christmas stuff – the markets should be open by now, and all the Christmas events at the National Trust houses should be on, and the Festival of Trees at the Lowry.  Great to see The Olive and Pickle so busy with takeaways, though.

Boris is trying to stave off a rebellion by angry Tory MPs by saying that the tier system’ll end at the beginning of February.  What, like we were told that lockdown’d end at the beginning of December, and then we were told that most of the North and Midlands would effectively be staying in lockdown, at a crucial time of year for businesses, whilst parts of London with far higher infection rates wouldn’t?

The infection rate in London, in Tier 2,  has risen by 13% over the past fortnight.  It has fallen by 39% across the North West, most of which is in Tier 3. The press are now reporting that Michael Gove said that London should be in Tier 3, but that Boris refused on the grounds that it could cost 550,000 jobs in London.  But to hell with all the jobs that it’ll cost in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield, Bradford, Hull, Newcastle, Sunderland, Leicester, Derby, Blackpool, Preston and everywhere else affected – and businesses in Tier 3 areas are getting no more support than businesses in Tier 1.   Practically all of the most deprived areas in the country are in Tier 3.   I’ve got nothing against London, but I have got an awful lot against the North and Midlands being treated like this, whilst London gets preferential treatment.

There’s a rumour that Andy Burnham’s been told that Greater Manchester will be being moved into Tier 2 on December 17th, although he’s denied it.  Fingers crossed …

And United came from behind to win 3-2 at Southampton

Lockdown II Week 2 – November 9th to 15th 2020 inclusive

Monday, November 9th

Big news today – Pfizer and BioNTech have got a virus which preliminary analysis shows is 90% effective in preventing infection.  It’s early days, but it’s certainly sounding hopeful.

Unfortunately, in a press conference tonight, in which Boris and Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam went on about bugle toots, arrows in quivers and penalty shoot-outs, Boris went on about the evil “Tier” approach, so it looks like we’re going to be stuck with these vile travel restrictions for some time yet.  So sick of it.  Wales isn’t doing this any more.  Why are England and Scotland?

A relation of mine has contracted the virus whilst in hospital.  This seems to be happening with a lot of people.  I understand that the virus is incredibly infectious, but surely, after all these months, hospitals should have better procedures in place.

And it looks as if we may lose a place in the Nations League finals due to the Danish mutant mink virus!   England are due to play Iceland.  A few days earlier, Iceland are due to play Denmark, in Denmark.  No-one is allowed to enter the UK that soon after being in Denmark.  UEFA say that the match in Denmark can go ahead.  Mink 1 – 0 England.   There are also issues over Danish players based in England, and also Swedish players based in England, as Denmark are also due to play Sweden.  And Liverpool are due to play Midtjylland away in December, but then any non-UK players wouldn’t be able to come back, and any British players would have to quarantine for 14 days!

Still stressed about the kitchen ceiling.

On a happier note, a) the park wasn’t busy today and b) Dunham lights has been extended into January and they’ve rebooked people who were booked for the lockdown period.

 

Tuesday, November 10th

GCSEs and A-levels in Wales have been cancelled for next year.  I wonder if England and Northern Ireland will follow suit.  I would have been completely hysterical if my exams had been cancelled, and am so sorry for the kids concerned, but, as the Welsh authorities have said, and Andy Burnham’s said, going ahead with exams is very unfair on kids who’ve had to miss time in school due to self-isolating.

Mass testing is to be carried out in more areas, although Greater Manchester hasn’t been mentioned.  And it looks as if the idea is to the roll out the vaccine ASAP.

I went to Tesco first thing, and then walked to the park just after 1 o’clock.  There was loads of traffic around.  OK, first thing, it was probably mostly people going to work or returning from collecting kids from school, but what were all those “essential journeys” at 1 o’clock?  I feel less guilty about going to Dunham Massey now.  Also, whilst there’ve been reports about supermarkets cordoning off “non-essential” stuff, ours hadn’t.  Cordoning stuff off is stupid.  It doesn’t protect small shops, because people just buy stuff from Amazon.

Matt Hancock has been drivelling on about how great it’ll be to get out of lockdown and back into the tiered system.  Yes, because that’s so great for everyone in Tier 3.  Talk about “I’m all right, Jack”!!

 

Armistice Day, Wednesday, November 11th

A grim milestone today – over 50,000 people in the UK have now died “with coronavirus”.  That’s the official figure, anyway.  We’ll never know the real one.  How many people died in the early days without being tested?  How many of the 50,000 people had serious health conditions and would sadly not have survived this year anyway?  But it’s pretty grim.   595 deaths today – and 53 of those were in Greater Manchester.  Why, oh why, are we being hit so badly?  One of those Stating the Bleeding Obvious official reports has come out today, saying that Northern England’s been particularly badly hit.  Yes.  We know that.  Rates are falling here, though – although, annoyingly, not by very much in our borough.

Northern Ireland’s supposed to be coming out of lockdown after tomorrow, but no-one knows if it is or not because the politicians still haven’t decided.  FFS.

Students are to be allowed home for Christmas – but will be given timeslots in which to leave.

And I am on holiday.  My nasty employers only give us the legal minimum number of days’ holiday, and make us take some of that on days not of our choosing, so holiday days are sacred and I tie myself in knots planning them.  So, so many times I’ve had to miss things I wanted to do as a result.  But, this year, I’ve got a week (3 days in Nov, 2 in Dec which I was saving for a Christmas market trip abroad – hah!!) with nothing to do, which is crazy.  I was supposed to be having 2 weeks in Japan in October.  That got cancelled.  But November trips were still on, so I was going to go to France.  That got cancelled.  Then I thought I’d go to Wales.  Until the local lockdowns in Wales came in.  Forget Wales.  Shropshire, then.  I’d made a list of places to visit there.  Then the Tier 3 crap came in.  So I thought I could go for a spa day, and go to some of the local attractions like the East Lancs Railway.  No.  Can’t even do that.  And they won’t let us carry our holidays forward.

Er, so I went to Dunham Massey.  Which is a non-essential journey.  Across town.  And I felt a bit guilty – but there were loads of people there, all in cars.  And I didn’t go near anyone else, and I was outside.  And it was nice.  Although, FFS, they are now letting dogs in the garden.  Bloody hellfire!  There are horrible dogs everywhere.  One couple were letting their odious dog bark so loudly that you could hear it across the entire Dunham Massey estate.  People were giving this couple funny looks, and some people even remarked about it, but they clearly didn’t give a shit that they were disturbing everyone else.  I’ve actually e-mailed to complain about dogs being allowed in the gardens.  I don’t normally do things like that, but enough’s enough.  NT gardens are amongst the few outdoor places which aren’t plagued with dogs.

Er, apart from the dog thing, it was very nice.

I was there at 11 o’clock – quite appropriate, as the house was a military hospital during the First World War – and most people did stop and observe the two minutes’ silence, which was nice.

Then I went to see the Christmas display at the garden centre.  Which was breaking Tier 3 bounds, as it’s a few hundred yards outside Greater Manchester.  Judging from the accents of other people, most of them were breaking Tier 3 bounds.  I’d stupidly thought it’d be quiet on a weekday, but I had to queue to get in, which was annoying.  Shops are going to go under if this carries on: people haven’t got time to keep waiting in queues, and what if it’d been pouring down?  The fact that there was a long queue  says a lot: no-one “has” to go to a garden centre.  But it’s better that people go there, where visitor numbers are restricted and you can’t sit around, than go to each other’s houses.

I seem to be writing an essay every day.  And this is nearly 8 months in!

 

Thursday, November 12th

Business Secretary Alok Sharma, “leading” a Downing Street press briefing this evening, was asked by a lady from Sheffield if everywhere’d be going back into its pre-lockdown tier on December 2nd, or whether the tiering’d be reassessed.  He completely sidestepped the question and just said, twice, that national restrictions’d be ending on December 2nd.  So annoying.  And rude.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s government thought that the lockdown there ended tonight, but it actually ends tomorrow night, because they got confused by their own definition of “midnight on Friday”.  Seriously.  And then, just as places were getting ready to reopen, they said that they were extending it for another week.

The number of new infections, which has remained at 20,000-23,000-ish for days, has somehow jumped from 22,950 yesterday to 33,470 today.  How the hell has that happened?  How can there be an increase of nearly 50% one day, when it’d been stable for the last week or so?

Holiday day 2 today, and back to Hollingworth Lake.  The Olive and Pickle had scones today, hooray!  Nice sunny day, too.

I then went to Healey Dell, a nature reserve not far from there.  It was absolutely beautiful, with waterfalls and all the autumnal colours, but there were very few people around and I felt a bit nervous, so I didn’t walk far.

Also, there were loads of signs up saying that the tea room was open from Thursdays to Sundays, but, when I got there, ready for another cuppa, there was a sign saying that it was only open on Saturday and Sunday this week!    After that, I decided to book Styal for tomorrow.  I’m not sure whether or not I’m meant to cross into Cheshire East, but I’m getting a bit past caring: I’m only going for a walk.  If the tier thing does apply this month, I crossed from one Tier 3 area to another today, because I genuinely hadn’t realised that Healey Dell, despite having a Rochdale address and being listed on Visit Rochdale, Trip Advisor and even Rochdale Council’s own website as being in Rochdale, is a few hundred years into the borough of Rossendale.  Well, part of it is, anyway.  Whereas Middleton, which is in Manchester, comes under the borough of Rochdale.  And we, also in Manchester, come under the borough of Bury.  And Failsworth, also in Manchester, comes under the borough of Oldham.  And we’re all Lancastrians anyway!!  Er, anyway, I’m going to Styal tomorrow.

The powers that be have agreed that the Icelandic football squad are to be granted exemption from the Danish travel ban, so the Nations League match can go ahead.  There’d been some talk of playing it in Albania!   But it can now be played at Wembley.

 

Friday, November 13th

I was going to get ten billion things done during these three days off.  How many of them have I got done?  Hmm.  I’ve done two shoeboxes for the Manchester Christmas Shoebox Appeal, though.  They’ve got to be in early this year, so that they can be quarantined for a fortnight.

Some people have put their Christmas trees up already, and supermarket websites are struggling to cope with advance bookings for Christmas week deliveries.

Lovely weather today, after heavy rain from about 5am to 7am.  The autumnal colours at Styal were absolutely beautiful.  I had a really nice time there.

I’m doing so much walking at the moment, but my weight is still a complete disaster 😦 .

Today’s figures, whilst still grim, are much better than yesterday’s – 27,301 cases, and 376 deaths.  The highest rate of positive tests by age groups is amongst secondary school kids.  Hmm.

And rates in the north west are definitely falling, touch wood, and the R rate could be below 1 here.

 

Saturday, November 14th

Hooray, week-on-week infection rates in Greater Manchester are down by 18%!   Although our borough annoyingly now has the 3rd highest rate of the 10.  But rates are down in every borough.  Unfortunately, rates nationwide are still rising, and another 462 deaths were recorded today.  And it’s worse across much of Europe.  Italy had over 40,000 new cases yesterday, and France had over 80,000 one day, both with lower populations than us.  Austria, with a population less than 1/7 of ours, had over 9,500 cases yesterday, and is going back into lockdown.  And the rates in America are awful.

Rishi Sunak lit oil lamps on the steps of 11 Downing Street today, to mark the start of Diwali.  It’s lovely that we’re now at a point where it’s totally cool for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be a practising Hindu, but sad that here’s yet another festival which people will be unable to spend with family and friends.  Plenty of fireworks have been going off nearby, though!

There was an anti-lockdown protest in Bristol today, but only a few hundred people went.  Most people do accept that something needed doing, but we’re all so fed up, and there’s a lot of resentment over the fact that bookshops, toy shops, clothes shops etc have had to close when you can buy books, toys and clothes readily in supermarkets and garden centres.

The media are making a huge big deal over the fact that Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain have been given the heave-ho.  We’re getting a load of melodramatic stuff about “power struggles” and “right hand men” and “factions”.  They’re making it sound as if Henry VIII’s about to execute Thomas Cromwell or there’s been a rerun of the Bedchamber Crisis. Advisors do come and go.  I just hope that Dominic from Durham and Lee from Ormskirk are not replaced by Home Counties public schoolboys.

I found a 3 mile walk through Worsley, only 10 minutes away, on Google, so I did that today.  It was dry at that point: it rained later.   After the Healey Dell thing, I decided to save this for a weekend, when there’d be more people about.  Part of it was along the historic Bridgewater Canal and through woodland, which was very pretty, but then it brought you back through a housing estate!  Oh well, it was somewhere different to walk.  I must sound as if I go out all the time, but I really don’t – I just don’t write about all the time I spend doing housework, which is more than usual at the moment as I’m doing my annual year end house clearout (which largely consists of taking things out of drawers/cupboards, cleaning the drawers/cupboards, then putting things back in, even though I never use half of them).

 

Sunday, November 15th

Haven’t been far today, just to the park, but I’ve made progress with the Year End House Clearout, and sorted out some photos whilst watching the tennis.  Rafa’s first match of the World Tour Finals is later this evening.  Fingers crossed!

One of the inventors of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s said that hopefully things will be back to normal by next winter.  Next winter?!  OK, OK, I’m sure we all know it won’t be a magic bullet, and there are already plans for next summer’s big sporting events to take place behind closed doors, but … just hearing it said out loud was scary.  Another YEAR of this.  “Non-essential” shops have already been shut for 15 weeks this year and, even when they were open, weren’t doing anything like as much business as normal.  The travel and tourism industries are in a mess, as is the live music industry, as are theatres.  Another year of weddings etc being cancelled?  Of not being able to go to football matches?  And I cannot take much more of these evil travel restrictions imposed on Greater Manchester and other areas.  And, most of all, FFS, we need to see our families and friends.  Yes, I know that my grandparents’ generation lived through six years of war.  But … bleurgh.

If we could just get back to where we were in July, I’d take that for now.

The Evening News has printed charts showing the rates of infection in each of the 10 boroughs since the start of August.  In every one, it started rising at the end of August, and sky-rocketing at the start of September.  Easy for people to blame “Eat out to help out” but, as rates have sky-rocketed right across Europe, it can’t be that.  So was it schools going back?  But it seems to have started before schools went back.  Or just people moving around over the summer?  It’s done now, but we could do with knowing.  Or was it just the way pandemics go?  There are always second waves.

But they do end.  Don’t they?

And, after all the fuss over the Danish mink, the Iceland match is now irrelevant, because we lost to Belgium and now cannot qualify for the Nations League finals.  Bleurgh.

 

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