Lockdown Week 11 – June 1st to 7th 2020, inclusive

Monday, June 1st

Mum is 75 today, and Dad is 75 tomorrow.  We arranged for afternoon tea to be delivered to them 🙂 .

I feel a bit peeved that, whilst I’m doing as asked and staying away from the Lakes, other people apparently aren’t, and that these include people who’ve dropped litter all over the place and parked badly.  I’d never do that.  I’m trying to find out if the hotel I booked in April is reopening in July or not, but they haven’t answered my e-mail.  I’d kind of like to wait until the boats are running again, but it’ll be busier by August … although it sounds as if it’s quite busy now!  I do wish that places would answer e-mails.

Primary schools were supposed to reopen today, but the ones here haven’t.  Loads of kids in the park!

I messaged my hairdresser to ask if they’d be reopening in July, and she said yes.  I’ve now messaged back to ask when they’ll be taking bookings.  No answer yet.  I don’t want to hassle her, but, if I don’t, other people will, and I don’t want to miss out!

Coronation Street‘s started filming again – hooray!

And such lovely pictures on TV of grandparents meeting their new grandchild for the first time, with the easing of lockdown rules.

 

Tuesday, June 2nd

Back in April, when we had no idea when hotels would reopen but things were getting booked up rapidly as people accepted that their holidays abroad weren’t going to happen, I provisionally booked the Lakes for a week in July and a week in August.  The hotel is hoping to reopen by then … but the July date’s probably too soon – especially as I might not even have been able to get my hair cut by then, and I do not want to go away looking and feeling such a mess – but the thought of another 2 1/2 months without a break is pretty miserable.  And, whichever week I go, it’ll probably rain.  And July’d be quieter.  I wish my hairdresser’d got back to me.  If I could get an appointment booked, I’d feel so much better.

Went into the office this morning, after I’d been to Tesco and M&S.  I think one boss has dimly grasped the fact that people are upset, although it still doesn’t seem to have occurred to him to send round an e-mail asking if everyone’s OK.

Still so hot and sunny!

 

Wednesday, June 3rd

The weather turned today – unfortunately, just on the day that Mum and Dad spent in London, being reunited with my sister and bro-in-law and the kids (whilst I was chained to the depressing office network).  I thought it was very noble of them to stay outside even when it rained!  I got drizzled on in the park, but it’s dry now, so I should be OK to eat my frozen yoghurt in the flower park.

It’s so hard to plan anything.  People want to plan holidays: you can’t just up and go.

Still over 300 deaths a day here, whilst Italy etc are down below 100.  This is just awful.

 

Thursday, June 4th

I’m very pleased to say that the frozen yoghurt shop’s doing so well with takeaways and deliveries that it’s now back to its normal opening hours, and all the staff are back from furlough!   In these difficult times, it’s so good to hear a success story.

Wearing face masks will be compulsory on public transport from June 15th.  And who’s going to enforce that?

The park was quite quiet today, but that could just have been because the weather wasn’t great.  The council have mown the grass.  OK, it needed doing, but it’s quite sad that all the wildflowers have gone 😦 .

And I am so desperate for a break.  Some friends working from home in jobs where they get treated decently and get a reasonable amount of annual leave have taken a week off just to recharge their batteries, but we get so little annual leave that I can’t do that.  I think July may be too early for the Lakes, even if hotels are open by then, but am hoping for August … but it seems a long way off.  With not getting my weekend in Grasmere in April, I haven’t been away since early December, and haven’t had a day off since New Year.  Normally, in June, I’m so wrapped up in tennis that I can cope with not having had a break for ages.  And I’d normally have had my weekend in Grasmere in April.

Oh well.  Roll on the restart of the football season!

 

Friday, June 5th

The official UK death toll passed 40,000 today.  In terms of deaths per head of population, we’re only slightly ahead of France, Spain and Italy, and that’s to be expected given our greater population density, but it’s very worrying that the daily figures are still so high, and also that the R number has apparently gone back above 1 here and in some other areas.

Atlas Bar says that, when it reopens, people are going to have to register on an app if they want to use the toilet.  Is this someone’s idea of a joke?!

On a happier note, I’ve got football fixtures on my calendar again!  4 matches in 12 days, which is an awful lot, especially with the players not at peak fitness, but it is what it is.  Bring It On!!

And the weather’s gone mad.  I got caught in two showers today, one on my way back from Sainsbury’s Local and one on my way back from the park.  Heavy rain’s forecast for early morning, but will hopefully have eased off before I go to Dunham Massey.

The police have shut down 35 knock-off clothing and electrical shops in Strangeways, for being open during lockdown.  They’ve been open all along!  Nearly 11 weeks.  Why wait until now?!

 

Saturday, June 6th

It was so lovely to be back at Dunham Massey!   It was a shame that we weren’t allowed into the gardens – the roses will all be out – but it was lovely to be walking round the deer park again.  I’ve missed the place.  Not as much as I’m missing the Lakes, but still.  There were some heavy showers, which were annoying, but it was a lovely morning.  Good to be back!

Annoyingly, it then threw it down, so my plans to see a) my cousin and b) Mum and Dad had to be shelved.  It cleared up later, but it was a bit late for visiting by then, although I did go to the park.  After I’d had my scone!

Tatton Park’s reopened as well!  I’ve booked that for next Sunday.  I was sort of leaving Sunday free in case the fruit farm’d opened by then, but a bird in the hand … .  It’s so much better now that places are open, even though it’s a bit of a pain having to decide and book in advance.  Life seems a lot less empty now.

This should have been French Open finals weekend.  Rafa told Roland Garros TV that he’s trying to focus on what he’s got, not what he’s missing.  I hope he really means that and isn’t just saying it, because it’s a lovely attitude to have.

Phone update this morning, which totally stressed me out, but thankfully only a small one!

Not very happy about these big protests about George Floyd’s murder.   What happened was appalling and we should all be speaking out about it, but it’s not the time for big gatherings.  The ones here were peaceful, but there was trouble in London.  None of the people who were shrieking that Dominic Cummings should have been crucified for driving from London to Durham, in his own car, not coming into contact with anyone outside his own family, have said one word about people breaking the rules to gather in their hundreds and thousands when gatherings of more than 6 are banned.  People are such hypocrites!

Sunday, June 7th

Stupid weather!   It’s nice and sunny now, at 7pm, but it was pouring down when I got to Lyme Park this morning, and only cleared up just as I was about to leave!  Oh well, I took my brolly, and still had a nice long walk.  I don’t see why they won’t let people into the gardens, and I’m not impressed that they haven’t opened the tearooms for takeaways, but it’s still good to be back!  It’s such a huge estate.  I don’t normally walk round that much of it, because I usually spend most of my time in the gardens.

Went to the park later.  Unbelievably, the stupid council have removed the bins from by the entrance/exit!  Like there’s not enough trouble with litter.  FFS.

In between the two walks, Mum and Dad came round, and we all sat in my garden for a while, which was lovely.  We are all desperate for haircuts, but thankfully OK otherwise!

And so ends yet another week of weirdness … .  I’d hoped to spend today watching Rafa winning La Tredecima.  The USTA are still hoping to play the US Open, but I can’t see how it can be done, with so many players from so many different countries.  I’d love to see some live tennis, but I just don’t think it can happen yet.

Seeking peace in nature: Back to Life with the National Trust and English Heritage

In these troubled times, it can be difficult to find peace.  One of the best ways of doing so is walking through woodlands or gardens, and so I’m delighted that Dunham Massey, Lyme Park, Quarry Bank Mill (Styal) and Tatton Park have reopened, and that Brodsworth Hall and Beeston Castle will be reopening this weekend.   “Something kindly, beautiful, peaceful and stable … evoked whenever the name of England was spoken.”  (Reay Tannahill, Passing Glory).  You have to book, they won’t let you into the gardens at Dunham and Lyme for some irritating reason, and there’s a disappointing lack of takeaway tea and scones;  but it’s a start.

Nature doesn’t care about coronavirus.  The flowers are still coming, the fruit and vegetables are still coming, the deer are still wandering around in the deer park at Dunham, and birds have been nesting in the woods at Lyme whilst there’ve been no humans around.  You can walk and walk, enjoy the timelessness of the woods and the beauty of the flowers, and forget about everything that’s happening for a little while.  Lockdown spring’s come and gone, and now we’re into the summer with no Wimbledon; but it’s still summer, and the natural world continues to turn, turn, turn.  It’s good to leave everything else behind for a few hours, and lose yourself in that.

I went to Dunham Massey on Saturday and Lyme Park on Sunday.  It was certainly different to all the previous visits I’ve made to either of them.  There were cones all along the roads outside, to stop people from parking there and walking in.  We really are in a difficult position at the moment.  People are bored and fed up and feeling trapped, and shops, cinemas, theatres etc still closed, and sport are only just getting going again.  We need somewhere to go.  But there are issues with overcrowding.  I’ve seen some very nasty sneery comments about this, and I suspect that most of them are coming from people who do not live in densely-populated urban areas where public parks are getting very crowded and many people do not have gardens.  It’s not easy.

And stupid local councils are not making things any easier by refusing to unlock public toilets, sealing up bins and closing car parks.  Having said which, there’s no excuse for people parking all over the place, dropping litter, and trying to break into places which are closed.  I’m missing the Lake District like mad but am staying away as I know the authorities there don’t want too many visitors, and it annoys the hell out of me when I see pictures of litter being dropped all over the place.  Could we all make more effort, please?  That also goes for the people ignoring the “one way only” signs at Hollingworth Lake.  People were even ignoring the signs asking visitors to go into the Lyme Park toilets one way and out the other.  Come on, folks.  I’m sure we can all follow an arrow.

Anyway, to get back to the cones, sites which have reopened are presently admitting people for pre-booked visits only.  It’s a bit of a hassle.  If you’re working, you’re restricted as to when you can go, so you have to be very efficient about booking.  Then you have to stress about making your timeslot – not so bad at the moment, but might be more difficult once traffic gets heavier again – and can’t change it if the Great British Weather does not smile on you.  It’s hardly ideal for the National Trust or English Heritage either: they’re expecting big losses this year, the actual houses won’t be opening for some time yet, and a lot of people have cancelled their memberships, so they urgently need more visitors, not fewer.  But nothing’s perfect at the moment, and we’ve got to go with it – and focus on the positives.  And these really are very big positives.  We’ve still got these places.  They’re still there.

I didn’t half need to get out at the weekend.  I know that many people have been furloughed from work, and that many others are still working but getting tremendous support from their employers.  I’m working from home but we’ve had no support whatsoever, just complaining, and, with my holiday having had to be cancelled, I really was feeling quite down and very trapped … and the National Trust picked me back up.

The familiarity helped, for one thing.  Does that sound strange?  I’ve been seeing an awful lot more of my own house and garden recently than I do usually, and of my local park, so looking for more “old familiar places” might seem odd, but they’re familiar in a different way: they’re places which I associate with comfort and relaxation, with getting out and about.  And with scones, but hopefully the tearooms will reopen before too long!

And they’re so big!  Lyme Park in particular.  I walked round parts of the woodland there which I’ve never been to before: I usually spend most of my time there in the gardens.  Climb over a stile and you’re out on the hills, the Peaks – all that Manchester Rambler feeling.  You can just wander and wander.  It’s all open.  You feel so free.  And it’s quite hard to feel free when you can’t go on holiday, you can’t go out to a café for a drink and a scone, and, unless you sit outside, you can’t even go round to a relative or friend’s house for tea.  But, in the deer park at Dunham, out amongst the trees, or in the hills and woodlands of the Lyme estate, you can.

And, next week, all being well, I’m looking forward to visiting Styal and Tatton, where, hooray, the gardens are open, and I’ll literally be able to stop and smell the roses!   This year, I haven’t been able to see the daffodils at Chirk Castle or Biddulph Grange, I haven’t been able to see the bluebells at Windermere or Erddig or Capesthorne Hall, and I haven’t been able to see the laburnum arch at Bodnant Garden.   OK, I’ve seen daffodils and bluebells at the local park, but I always go to visit particular places at particular times: anxious people don’t like having their routines interrupted, and I’m particularly fond of those places.  But we’re moving on now, and I’m going to have a few hours of getting away from the uncertainty (I do not cope well with being unable to plan ahead), from the doom and gloom on the news, from the nastiness – all that Spirit of the Blitz/communities pulling together stuff we were hearing about in April didn’t last very long, did it 😦 – and from feeling trapped, and being able to stop and smell the roses, just as I’ve already had a few hours of walking through fields (at Nostell Priory, the first National Trust property in the North of England to reopen) and woodlands.  And that is something for which I am extremely grateful.

 

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran

Wordsworth

 

 

On through March 2020 – the world seems to be falling apart

Monday, March 9th

Oh no!!  Indian Wells has been called off, because of a case (one case!) of coronavirus in southern California.  No news on Miami yet, but a lot of the European players are already heading home.  I don’t know what’s going to happen with the tennis season now.  I can’t see Rome going ahead: the whole of Italy’s going into lockdown.   Nor Monte Carlo with it being so close to Italy, and, with the situation in France worsening, the French Open must be in doubt too.   It’s everywhere.  Israel’s now said that people will have to go into quarantine for a fortnight on arriving there, and the Republic of Ireland’s cancelled its St Patrick’s Day parades … although the one here’s going ahead.

 

Tuesday, March 10th

This morning, I wrote a blog post called “Love Letter to Italy”.  I am so sad to see what’s happening in a country that means so much to me.

Our Europa League match against LASK in Linz is going to be played behind closed doors.  LASK are going mad, but the Austrian government’s insisted.  Matches in France, Spain and Germany will also have to be played behind closed doors.  I’ve read that the virus doesn’t actually live long outdoors, but who knows?   I don’t know how the European matches are going to be played at all, because some countries are banning flights now.   Valencia’s match against Atalanta was played, but maybe Atalanta were already there.  Lazio fans are panicking that the season might be cancelled and they’ll miss out on the title they’ve waited so long for.  Could the same thing happen here, with Liverpool?

Nadine Dorries has tested positive for it now.  I hope it’s not spread all round Parliament!

Donald Trump says it’ll go away.  I wish it would …

 

Wednesday, March 11th

Everything’s just so weird.  It’s mid-March.  It should be all lambs and daffodils and Indian Wells and the business end of the football season, but it’s like we’re in some kind of parallel universe.  A lot of countries are closing schools.  The Fed Cup finals are off.  Cricket tours are off.  Arsenal are in quarantine because they played Olympiakos, and someone there’s got it, so Arsenal’s match against City’s off.  A lot of people who’ve tested positive in Italy have hardly got any symptoms.   Angela Merkel says 70% of people in Germany could get it.  I just don’t know what to think.

The WHO’s declared it a pandemic.  I’m not sure that the actual use of the word “pandemic” makes any difference – it’s just a word – but anyway.

 

Thursday, March 12th

Everything’s just falling apart.  Over 1,000 people have now died in Italy – where everything’s now been closed other than food shops and pharmacies.  The US has banned all flights from Schengen countries.  The tennis season’s off till May!   Miami and all the April events are off.  Challengers in play at the moment have stopped mid-tournament.  No Monte Carlo, no Rome, no Barcelona 😦 .  Euro 2020’s in doubt.  The French and Spanish Cup finals are off.  It’s getting really bad in Spain.  Very worried.   And the NBA season’s been suspended.

We won 5-0 at LASK.  So, so weird seeing a match played with no fans in the stadium.  Liverpool’s match against Atletico Madrid went ahead as normal last night, but City’s match against Real Madrid’s off because Real’s players and staff are in quarantine after one of their basketball team tested positive.

My sister was due to go to Dublin with two friends this weekend, but they’ve cancelled it – not that things are bad in Dublin, but they’re nervous about flights being cancelled.  Schools and cultural facilities are being closed in the Republic.  And my book club meeting on Saturday’s been called off, because some of our members are over 70 and they’re nervous.  Mum and Dad and their friends are cancelling their card games, for the same reason.

In the middle of it all, I’ve received an e-mail from my holiday company about my July holiday to Iceland, all upbeat and cheerful.  Will I be able to go?  At the moment, I’m not even sure I’ll get my weekend in Grasmere in April.

Will someone please wake me up from this nightmare?

 

Friday, March 13th

Friday 13th all bloody right.  The football season (the League, anyway, not non-league football)’s been suspended until the end of March!  No tennis.  No football – Mikel Arteta’s tested positive for the virus, although thankfully he seems to be OK.  Very sorry for Liverpool, only two points away from the title – and that’s a Manchester United fan speaking!   The Cheltenham Festival’s gone ahead, but the London Marathon’s off, rugby union’s off (but not rugby league, yet), more cricket tours are off, the US Masters is off, local and mayoral elections have been postponed, and some universities have closed.   The Queen, Prince Charles and Camilla have postponed their engagements.  A lot of countries are closing borders.  It would normally give me great pleasure to see the “European Union” shown to be nothing of the sort – every country is, quite rightly, doing what’s best for itself – but not under these circumstances.

And the panic-buying!  It’s a virus, not submarine warfare.  We’re not going to be holed up in our homes with no food.  But some of the shelves in Tesco were pretty bare tonight.  I’m trying not to panic – and, besides, I don’t know where people are storing all this stuff, unless they have giant freezers! – but I must confess to buying a fair bit extra.  When you see empty shelves, it’s hard not to start panic-buying: you don’t want to be the person left with nothing.   And there was not a toilet roll to be had.  Luckily, I don’t need any more at the moment, but some people will!  For heaven’s sake.  We got through two world wars without people panicking about toilet roll … er, although most people probably used newspaper then.  This is not a nice topic to be thinking about, but suddenly everyone‘s obsessed with toilet roll.

 

Saturday, March 14th

I had a bit of a meltdown this morning.  It was because I’d put on weight for no reason, but it was just everything.  I feel like the world’s falling apart.  I’m so glad Mum and Dad got back safely from their break in Spain earlier this week, because Spain’s now banned incoming flights.   It was all so sudden.  There were flights in mid-air: they had to turn back.  And there are holidaymakers out there who’ll have to be rescued.  Spain’s now in complete lockdown.  You can’t even go out to exercise.  Belgium’s closed cafes and restaurants.  The Manchester Marathon’s off.  I just can’t keep up with it all.

People are trying to cheer each other up – there are jokey things on Facebook about typing in the @ symbol and the third name to come up’ll be your quarantine partner.  We’re hearing a lot about “quarantining”, and “self-isolating”.

Went to Dunham Massey this morning.  Lovely, lovely daffodils.  Lovely, lovely spring – nature’s carrying on.  The daffodils have even come early.  I saw my cousin there, and she gave me a hug, without thinking.  You’re not really supposed to hug people now!  It’s elbow bumps or the namaste!   Dunham was pretty busy.  I think it’s more confined spaces that people are nervous about.  I’ve had e-mails from Vue cinemas, Costa Coffee and several hotels, assuring me that they’re safe to visit.  They must be losing a lot of business.

I then tried to get some toilet roll, seeing as Tesco had none yesterday.  None at M&S.  None at Quality Save.  But, hooray, I got some at Budget Savers!   Some shops are rationing how much you can buy now, but you’re lucky to find any at all.  Is this seriously happening?

 

Sunday, March 15th

I went to Windermere today, and stopped at Sizergh Castle on the way back – the daffodils are out there, already.  So early this year.  The weather wasn’t brilliant, but I couldn’t keep waiting.  Who knows what’s going to happen?   And just being there made me feel better.  It always does.  It was fairly busy.  Not heaving, but then it would never be heaving on a damp-ish day in March.  Oh, I am so glad I’ve been.  This has been such a strange week, and I’m afraid there’s much worse to come.  The Republic of Ireland’s now closed all pubs and bars.  All over Europe, schools, shops and indeed borders are being closed.  I just cannot believe this is happening.  As a history-obsessed kid, I often thought there might be another world war, but, instead, the world’s falling apart because of a virus.

I look forward so much to this time of year.  My daffodil days out to Chirk Castle and Biddulph Grange.  My weekend in Grasmere, and seeing the daffodils at Coniston, Windermere and Sizergh whilst I’m there.  Rafa winning clay court tournaments 🙂 .  The climax of the football season.  Thoughts turning to my summer holiday.  And now … I just feel like we’re in a nightmare.  But it’s horribly real.