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

Monday, October 18th

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

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

On a happier note, Cameron Norrie won Indian Wells!

 

Tuesday, October 19th

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

 

Wednesday, October 20th

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, October 21st

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

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

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

 

Friday, October 22nd

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

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

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

 

Saturday, October 23rd

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

 

Sunday, October 24th

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

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

It then got very bad.  Very bad indeed.

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

 

Monday, October 11th

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

FFS.

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

 

Tuesday, October 12th

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, October 13th

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

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

 

Thursday, October 14th

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

 

Friday, October 15th

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

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

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

 

Saturday, October 16th

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

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

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

 

Sunday, October 17th

Shugborough today, then home.

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

 

Monday, October 4th 

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

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

 

Tuesday, October 5th

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, October 6th

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

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

 

Thursday, October 7th

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

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

 

Friday, October 8th

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

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

 

Saturday, October 9th 

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, October 10th

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

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

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

 

Freedom? Week 11, September 27th to October 3rd 2021 inclusive

Monday, September 27th

The head of the Petrol Retailers’ Association has said that the panic-buying’s been caused by someone from the Road Haulage Association leaking selected notes from a confidential meeting, making it sound like there were fuel shortages when there weren’t.  Grant Shapps has said the same.   The Mail on Sunday has gone further, and said that the leak came from an ex-BBC man, now at the Road Haulage Association, who’s an arch Remoaner and wanted to cause a crisis and then try to blame it on Brexit.  All this talk of conspiracies sounds like something from the 1670s, but, quite frankly, it’s probably true.  Could we please get past all this polarisation over Brexit?  The referendum was 5 1/2 years ago, for crying out loud!   The decision’s been made.  OK, some people don’t like it, but stop moaning and move on.  Meanwhile, I hope whoever’s responsible is pleased with themselves for all the trouble they’ve caused.

Mum and Dad are having their Covid boosters on Sunday, and probably their flu vaccines at the same time.  That’s all been organised very quickly and efficiently.

 

Tuesday, September 28th

A lot of my elder nephew’s friends have tested positive over the past few weeks, but he hasn’t … which seemed a bit odd.  The only logical explanation, unless he was a medical miracle, was that he’d had it asymptomatically in the holidays, when he wasn’t being tested regularly.  So he’s had an antibody test, and, sure enough, he’s got antibodies.  There’s no way now of knowing when he had it, and, from our point of view, it’s good news, because it means he shouldn’t get it again any time soon.  But it really makes you wonder how many other people have had it without ever knowing, especially in the early days when there wasn’t the capacity to test anyone unless they were really ill.  I still wonder if I might have had it early last year, when I felt rough for several days but, at the time, thought it was just AN winter bug, because no-one was really talking about Covid then.  Who knows?

We’re being told that the fuel shortages are easing.  However, the petrol station at Tesco was shut this morning, and the one opposite all the office has been closed all day.  The media are busily claiming that ambulances could run out of fuel, schools could have to close if teachers can’t get to work (can teachers not use buses?), etc etc, which isn’t helping.  Boris seemed to have gone to ground until he finally emerged this evening, and Grant Shapps does nothing other than bleat that everyone needs to stop panicking.  As for the Opposition, they seem more concerned with whether or not men can have cervixes than issues which actually bother the general public.  I’m not impressed with any of them.

And I really wish that I could go back to WFH full time.  Most of my anxiety symptoms have worsened considerably since being trapped in the office again.

Roger Hunt’s died.  So many iconic footballers have died over the past couple of years.

 

Wednesday, September 29th

FFS!   I tried to make a doctor’s appointment today.  The online system wouldn’t let you book anything.  It took me ages to get through on the phone, and a stroppy receptionist then told me that a) you could only book a phone consultation, not an in person appointment, and b) you could only book on the day, and there were no appointments left today.   WTF?   I wasn’t expecting an appointment today: I was expecting to book one for next week.  No.  You can now only book one on the day.   Er, why?   Because they can’t be sure if doctors’ll be in tomorrow or not “because of Covid”.  I have never heard such rubbish in my life.  The pingdemic is over.  Hardly anyone is off work because of Covid.  You may as well say that you can’t book an appointment in case the doctor gets run over by a bus on their way home tonight.  You can book appointments with dentists and opticians, and indeed with hairdressers, electricians, bank managers or anyone else – this is just a stupid excuse.  Ring in the morning and hope you get luckier then.  Well, I’ve got to go to work tomorrow, so I can’t ring first thing because I’ll be on my way to work.

And I can’t have a phone consultation at work: there’s nowhere private to go and I don’t really want to be discussing medical problems with other people wandering in and out of the room.  If they could guarantee that they’d ring at a definite time, I could go out for a bit, but they don’t – they say something like “after 11”, and then it could be any time.  Are people supposed to walk out of a shop full of people, or a classroom of young kids, or a meeting with a client, to answer the phone?  And that’s if there even is anywhere private to go.

I’m absolutely fuming.  It’s bad enough that organisations like energy companies are using Covid as an excuse for bad service, but for doctors to be treating people like this is a disgrace.  NHS England has actually told GPs that they need to offer face to face appointments, and the issue’s been raised in the House of Commons and the Health Secretary’s backed up what NHS England have said, but it appears that GPs aren’t listening.  If they’d at least guarantee a day, I could make a phone appointment for a day when I’m WFH, but they won’t.

I was so upset that I tried to submit a comment on the “contact us” section of the surgery website … only to get a message that the digital service was unavailable and that the only way to express concerns was to ring the number I’d just spent an hour getting through to and complain to the stroppy receptionist!

 

Later – wa-hey!!  Injury time goal!  Ronaldo, of course.  United 2-1 Villarreal!

 

Thursday, September 30th

I was so upset yesterday that I wrote a letter to the surgery “expressing my concerns”, left a stroppy note on their anonymous feedback section once it started working again, and even wrote a letter to my MP.  I’m actually rather glad that I did this because, coincidentally, figures were released today showing that people in many parts of the country are having significant problems getting to see a GP, and that this is having a knock-on effect on A&E because people are going to their local A&E in desperation.  The BBC’s interviewed some people on the subject, and, basically, patients want to go back to a normal appointments system but doctors don’t/won’t.

However, I tried the surgery again today, and got put through to a different receptionist, who was absolutely lovely and said that I could come in to see the practice nurse, in person, on Monday morning.   Well, why couldn’t the stroppy madam who answered the phone yesterday have said that?!

The local petrol stations seem to be functioning again.

And the furlough scheme ends today.

And it is raining.  A lot.

 

Friday, October 1st

My ticket for the musical I’m going to in three weeks’ time came.  Along with a note saying that you need a Covid pass to get into the Palace Theatre.  All theatres are making their own rules.  You do need a pass for the Palace Theatre and the Opera House, but you don’t for the Lowry.

Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi’s baby is called Sienna Elizabeth.  Not bad.

Covid rates are very high amongst secondary school kids, although less so amongst other age groups.

It is cold.  But it is October.

And Australia’s partially reopening its borders, at last.

 

Saturday, October 2nd

FFS.  Drew 1-1 at home to Everton.  Our league season is really going wrong with a vengeance.  With all due respect to Everton.

Petrol stations here have all got fuel again.  But those in South East England haven’t.

And the Australian state of Victoria’s making it mandatory for professional athletes to be vaccinated.  I haven’t heard any anti-vaxxer comments from any of the England cricket players likely to be in the Ashes squad, but it’s no secret that certain top tennis players aren’t keen on being vaccinated, and they’re now going to have to make a choice between getting jabbed and missing the Australian Open.  Interesting development.   Meanwhile, a pill which helps reduce the effects of Covid is sounding promising.

 

Sunday, October 3rd

Hooray, at last, we can see the new James Bond film, No Time To Die!  I went this morning, and it really was quite busy for a Sunday morning.   Let’s hope that this can revive the cinema industry.  Then I went to The Vienna Coffee House, and it was lovely to see it to busy after all its struggles last year.  Whilst I was so near the Midland, where Boris & co are staying for the Tory party conference, I went over for a nose, but there was nothing to see except a load of police and a few people waving placards about various things.

It’s the Manchester Marathon next week. and 80,000 people took part in the London Marathon today.  Rather odd having them in October, but better late than never!

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

Monday, September 6th

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, September 7th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, September 8th

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Thursday, September 9th

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

Having my hair cut tonight.

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

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

 

Friday, September 10th

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

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

 

Saturday, September 11th

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

And Brazilian players will now not be suspended.

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

Now for the U.S. Open final …

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Sunday, September 12th

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

Vaccine passports and WFH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freedom? Week 7, August 30th to September 5th 2021 inclusive

Bank Holiday Monday, August 30th

This is the last Bank Holiday until Christmas.  That is frightening!   And, although sadly without Rafa, it’s the first day of the US Open.  Full house allowed, but spectators (apart from young children) have to show a vaccination certificate.  However, players don’t.  Rafa, Roger, Andy, Simona and various others have spoken out in support of vaccination, but many others, led by Nole and Stef, aren’t keen.  I don’t know why they aren’t keen, but they aren’t.

I went to Chester today, for the first time in years.  Cooler and cloudier today, but dry.  Like here, the city centre was busy, but most people seemed to be eating rather than shopping!   There are so few department stores left.  But it was certainly busy.  And I went on a boat trip!

One trend which I do not like, and which the pandemic seems to have exacerbated, is people taking their dogs everywhere, even into city centres.  It’s bad enough listening to barking, snarling and yapping in parks and gardens, without having to put up with it in cafes and shopping streets as well 😦 .

Right, I am off to watch the tennis!

 

Tuesday, August 31st

I feel full of woe today.  Mainly because, having been off diet for 3 days, I have someone put on 5lbs.  5lbs.  In 3 days.  I mean, it’s not like I ate 10 boxes of chocolates or anything.  I just ate a bit more than normal.  It could take months to lose 5lbs.  And I was already upset because I look so horrendously fat on the photos from the wedding.  This has been the story of my life.  This is why I struggle with both depression and eating disorders.  The one time I tried to get professional help, a well-meaning doctor gave me anti-depressants.  Which caused weight gain.  So I ended up feeling worse than I’d done to start with.  Also, the weather forecast for September is vile – and SW Wales, where I’m going, is usually right in the firing line for Atlantic storms.  And there’s talk of restrictions being reimposed in Scotland.

And I’m overtired because I was up late at the wedding on Sunday, then up stupidly late last night because the Andy v Stef match went to 5 sets.  And then Stef lost.  And then I had to get up early this morning to go to Tesco before work.  And work is crap because I’ve been landed with sorting out a mess made by someone who takes no responsibility for their actions.

Some days are just crap.  Today is one of them!

In other news:

  1. Fully vaccinated visitors from the UK no longer need to quarantine on arrival on Italy.  But we still have to have the stupid tests.  And there are still far fewer flights than usual.
  2. A number of people in America have been hospitalised after taking horse de-worming tablets to cure/prevent against Covid.  I am not making this up.
  3.  Someone’s set up a small memorial to local Covid victims, outside Tesco.  Very poignant.

Wednesday, September 1st

2 of the 5lbs have come off.  I feel a bit better now.  And it was 20 years ago today that I moved into my house.  20 years!  That is frightening.

However:

  1. One of my colleagues, who refused to be vaccinated, has tested positive.  This was on Friday, but I was WFH on Friday and Tuesday, and no-one bothered to tell me.  The firm initially refused to pay to have the office deep cleaned, but, after an outcry, changed their minds.  However, by the time they’d done this, and because of the Bank Holiday weekend, it’s not being done until tomorrow night, so it’s basically pointless.
  2. My elder nephew’s friend, whom he was with yesterday, has had a PCR test as he came back from Spain on Monday … and it’s positive.  And another friend, whom both my nephews have seen, has been tested prior to returning to school and he’s positive as well.

Covid passports are being introduced in Scotland, for big events.  The infection rate in Scotland’s currently double the rate in England.

Eeh, I am sick of all this!

 

Thursday, September 2nd

Most schools are now back.  Let’s see what happens.

Meanwhile, in the middle of everything else, Hurricane/Storm Ida has caused mayhem at the US Open.  And mayhem generally – very distressing scenes, with 14 people killed across New York and New Jersey.

And there is a huge row going on over Toiletgate.  Much as I like Stef Tsitsipas, no-one needs to spend that long in the toilet unless they’ve got a medical problem!

Sarah Storey is now Britain’s most decorated Paralympic athlete.

And we beat Hungary 4-0 in our first World Cup qualifier … but there was some unpleasantness, with the Hungarian “fans” shouting racist abuse and throwing things at our players.  UEFA need to do something about this.

 

Friday, September 3rd

The JCVI are saying that kids aged between 12 and 15 should only be vaccinated if they’re clinically vulnerable.  So now the politicians and medics have either got to go against JCVI advice or else let the virus spread through schools  – as it’s doing in Scotland – and possibly spread into the wider community, not to mention cause issues if we eventually get back to any sort of travel normality and other countries want proof of vaccination from over 12s.  To be fair to the JCVI, their brief is to look at things from a purely medical viewpoint, but would it not have been better to have had them working alongside people looking at things from other viewpoints?   Tomorrow’s papers are full of headlines about how the politicians are going to override what they’ve said, which isn’t a very fair angle to take because surely the wider benefits of vaccinating kids are pretty obvious.

Infection rates across England and Wales are fairly stable – and the average across Greater Manchester is below the average for England.  Rates in Northern Ireland, whilst higher, are now falling.  But rates in Scotland are way up.  Is this because of schools, or is something else going on?

 

Saturday, September 4th

Like I’m not stressed enough about going to South Wales in my own, the infection rate in Carmarthenshire is 425, whereas it’s hovering in the 280s/290s here!

A decision on vaccinating healthy 12 to 15-year-olds will probably be made next week.

Carlos Alcaraz beat Stef Tsitsipas.  Not sure whether or not Stef was put off by the crowd getting on his back over Toiletgate, but what a great performance from young Alcaraz.  I feel so old!

And I met a friend at The Vienna Coffee House this morning.  Such a normal thing to do – meet a friend at a cafe in town.  But, for much of the last 18 months, it hasn’t been possible!   Some weird-looking statues have appeared outside Central Library: this is the “Gratitude” exhibition, to thank the NHS.   Photo below (just of one statue, because there were quite a few people there so I couldn’t get a photo of the whole lot without people in it, and I don’t know how to edit them out!).

 

Sunday, September 5th

Some thoughts on herd immunity.

Infection rates across “Greater Manchester” as a whole, whilst not low, are around the average for England – some boroughs a bit higher, some a bit lower.  You would expect rates in such a densely-populated area to be well above the average.  That’s certainly how it was last autumn and in the spring.  Not any more.  The highest rates nationwide are now mainly in the East and the South West, which had low rates throughout last year and the early part of this year.  That’s partly due to rates being high in some tourist areas, but it was happening even before then.  London, another very densely-populated area, was the first part of the country hit by Covid, and a lot of people there probably had it unknowingly before the first lockdown.  Apart from when the Alpha variant first hit, it’s generally, since the early days, had rates well below average.

Coming back to “Greater Manchester”, Bolton was the area first hit and worst hit, not just locally but nationally, by the Delta variant.  It had much the highest rate in the country for weeks.  But, for months now, it’s had the lowest infection rate of the 10 boroughs.  If we look at smaller areas, one of the worst-hit areas last year and early this year was Broughton Park, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish area of Manchester/Salford.  People there typically have very large families, and, without wishing to cast aspersions, everyone knows that in-person religious services and big wedding parties were going on there when they were banned.  Now, it’s got the lowest infection rate in the whole of any area within the 10 boroughs – and that’s despite having relatively low vaccination rates.

The health authorities insist that none of this is due to herd immunity, and that any reduction in infection rates is due to the vaccination programme.  The vaccination programme is hugely important and no-one is denying that.  But it’s hard to ignore what these figures are telling us, and they’re all pointing in the same direction.

Anyway!   Vaccine passports are coming in from next month … not a surprise.  England 4-0 Andorra.  Paralympics GB have finished second in the medals table in Tokyo.  Emma Raducanu has reached the last 16 at the US Open … and, rather than playing Ash Barty as expected, is playing Shelby Rogers.  And we’ve had really nice weather today.  I did think about going to Windermere, but I’ve had a lot of late nights with the US Open and wasn’t sure that a big day out was a very sensible idea, so I went to Speke Hall instead.

 

And such sad news about the death of Sarah Harding, aged just 39.  Bloody, bloody cancer.

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

Monday, August 23rd

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, August 24th

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

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

The Paralympics have started.

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

On a happier note, the weather is nice.

 

Wednesday, August 25th

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

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

Booster jabs start next month.

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

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

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

 

Thursday, August 26th

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, August 27th

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, August 28th

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

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

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

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

I know – it’s no wonder I’m so fat!

 

Sunday, August 29th

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

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

 

 

Freedom? Week 5, August 16th to 22nd 2021 inclusive

Monday, August 16th

Dad’s coughing less and, thankfully, is OK otherwise.  And, thankfully, no-one else has got any symptoms.   The rules change today – any earlier and I, Mum, my uncle, my brother-in-law’s dad and several friends would all have had to self-isolate for ten days.  I’ve been in the office today, but I was in a room on my own – my colleague is on long-term sick leave – and haven’t been near anyone else.

“My” entrance to Heaton Park is going to be closed for FIVE WEEKS because of bloody Parklife!  I mean, WTF?   It’s a two day festival.  How can that possibly justify closing a main area of a busy public park for FIVE WEEKS?  I can get in a different way, but it’s a bit far for a dinner hour walk, plus it’d mean walking a long way along the side of a busy main road rather than actually in the park.  Bleurgh.

Roger’s having another knee op and will be out at least until next year.  No news yet on Rafa and the US Open.

In the middle of everything else, the Taliban have retaken control of Afghanistan and over 1,200 people have been killed in an earthquake in Haiti.

So much for being fully vaccinated giving you “protection”.  Dad is only one of several people I know/know of who’ve tested positive despite having had both jabs.  Hopefully the vaccines will at least stop you from becoming seriously ill, unless you’re extremely unlucky, but I think we were all rather over-optimistic about how effective the vaccines’d be.

 

Tuesday, August 17th

Oh, this is just the gift that keeps giving!   Mum started coughing last night.  She did a lateral flow test and it was negative, but apparently the line was very faint, and she thinks she must have it too.  So now they are both self-isolating.

I’m going to WFH for the rest of the week.

On the downsides, so much for the vaccines stopping you from getting infected,  On the upside, apart from the coughs, thankfully they are both OK.   18 months ago, if someone had coughed for a few days, you wouldn’t have thought anything of it.  In most cases, the vaccines are stopping serious illness.

So do we carry on with the testing and the isolation and the daily statistics announcements indefinitely, or do we get to a point where we treat Covid like flu?

Dad’s PCR test came back positive.  They asked him to fill in some test and trace stuff online, but he couldn’t work out how to do it!  Then he got a phone call from someone who sounded like he was in a call centre abroad, and didn’t speak English very well.  Excellent.

And my colleague who has been on sick leave for month has passed away.  It wasn’t a big surprise, but it’s still very sad.

Finally, they are apparently closing the Sheepfoot Lane entrance to the park, as well as the Grand Lodge entrance.  It is as clear as mud.  I rang the office to check, but no-one there was sure either.  Nor were they sure how it could possibly be necessary to close off parts of a public park for 5 weeks because of a 3 day festival.  They’re putting up a few temporary sets, not building a palace!

 

Wednesday, August 18th

It gets worse.  My brother-in-law’s dad started coughing and sniffling last night, and now he’s tested positive too.

Again, thankfully it’s nothing worse than a cough and a bit of the sniffles.  But the Delta variant is clearly incredibly easy to catch, even for people who’ve been fully vaccinated, and that’s really frightening.  All the uncertainty which the vaccines were supposed to eliminate is still there.  If you want to travel abroad, you’re taking a huge chance – however careful you try to be, you could still test positive before travel and lose the holiday, or test positive before return and be stranded abroad.  Or you could suddenly be faced with ten days’ isolation just as you’re supposed to be getting married or doing something else really important.   Or, if you can’t WFH, find yourself having to take ten days off work – and a lot of employers will not pay any more than the legal minimum statutory sick pay, and self-employed people get even less than that.  I’m really feeling quite downbeat about things.

And Dominic Thiem will be out for the rest of the year with a wrist injury 😦 .  Who exactly will be playing at Flushing Meadows?!

 

Thursday, August 19th

Thankfully, no-one else has shown any symptoms.  I am going round to Plague Towers tomorrow, to drop some groceries off outside the door, like people leaving butter on the Prestwich butterstile during the time of the bubonic plague.  Mum and bro-in-law’s dad have both had positive PCR tests.

The average infection rate across Greater Manchester is just below 300 per 100,000, which in turn is just below the national average for England.  The East Midlands, East Yorkshire, parts of the West Country and seaside towns (including Blackpool)  have got the highest rates.

Sajid Javid’s confirmed that a booster vaccination programme will be starting some time in September.

It looks as if my brother-in-law will be able to continue WFH full time until October.  Lucky him!   It’s very difficult in London – most people commute by Tube, the Tube trains are usually horrendously crowded, and it’s not even as if you can open the windows like you can on a bus or a tram.

And some friends had decided to take a chance, and booked a last minute holiday abroad.  Had the pre departure PCR tests.  And one of their kids tested positive.   Thankfully, the kid is fine, just a bit sniffly, but the holiday is obviously now off.   So sorry for them.  And this is exactly the sort of thing I meant yesterday.

 

Friday, August 20th

Just like this week wasn’t crap enough already, Rafa’s announced that he will not only miss the US Open but will miss the rest of the season as well.  He never plays well indoors anyway, so it makes sense, but … please tell me that this isn’t the end   He’s been written off before and come back, but he was younger then.  Both Rafa and Roger out for the rest of the season.  Dominic too, but he’ll be back … will they?   I hope so, but I feel very sad and very worried.

Went round to Mum and Dad’s to leave the shopping on the plague stone (i.e. outside the front door).  They are OK, just bored.  Dad is so bored that he’s walking laps of the garden (weather has been better today).

My bro-in-law’s dad has taken part in some weird test to find out whether or not Covid can be detected through sound.  He had to say “I’d love an afternoon tea, please”, then breathe heavily three times, then cough three times.  I am not making this up, honestly!

The lockdown in Sydney’s been extended yet again, until at least the end of September.  Like that’s going to make Covid magically go away.  And the whole of New Zealand is also in lockdown.  And some people I vaguely know have had the holiday nightmare I’m dreading – went abroad, had the PCR tests before coming home, one of them tested positive despite being fully vaccinated.  They’re in a relative’s holiday home, so at least they’re not having to pay for a quarantine hotel, but they’re now stuck there, missing at least 10 days’ work, and panicking in case one of the others gets it and they’re stuck there even longer.  This situation is just a nightmare.

 

Saturday, August 21st

Dad and bro-in-law’s dad are OK, but Mum is feeling very tired.  Just hoping that this passes in a few days’ time.

It has poured down nearly all day today.  So miserable, especially in August and when so many people are on staycation.  I went – in my cagoule and wellies – to do the new sunflower walk at the fruit farm.  The sunflowers looked lovely, even if I didn’t!

Then I went to the garden centre, but I haven’t done much else … although I’ve got some boring admin jobs done.  Watching the tennis from Cincy now, but feeling rather morose about it.

Thousands of people have protested in Sydney and Melbourne about the ongoing lockdowns, and clashed with police.  There was also a peaceful protest in Brisbane.

The news headlines here are mostly about the awful mess in Afghanistan … and the way in which people are more interesting in trying to score political points at home than in actually trying to do anything useful.

 

Sunday, August 22nd

Well, our great start to the season didn’t last very long, did it?   Drew 1-1 at Southampton this afternoon.

The weather was better today, at least.  I went to Bakewell, where I went to the Tiroler Stuberl, where scones come with lots of Continental whipped cream instead of clotted cream … wouldn’t do as an ongoing thing, but it does for a change!  Then to Matlock Bath.

I love the Derbyshire Dales, but it’s such a nightmare journey!  It takes me longer to get to Bakewell, which is 45 miles away, than it does to get to Windermere, which is 80 miles away.

Not much to say about Covid.  Locally, cases are slightly below the national average, some boroughs a bit lower, some higher, figures fluctuating a bit day by day and week by week but no major changes.  Nationally, I’d hoped deaths would be falling by now, but they aren’t – but they’re not rising either.   If this is as good as it gets, how can we go on like this?  How can anyone plan holidays, weddings or anything else when they could be forced into ten days’ isolation at any second?  How long do we keep being given daily stats for deaths?  We don’t get them for any other disease.   I just don’t know where we go from here.

 

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

Monday, August 9th

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, August 10th

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, August 11th

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

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

 

Thursday, August 12th

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

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

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

 

Friday, August 13th

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

 

Saturday, August 14th

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

I’ve written about it here 

This is a BIG day.

 

Sunday, August 15th

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

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

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