The road to freedom? Week 1 , March 29th to April 4th 2021 inclusive

Lockdown

Monday, March 29th

Well, this is day on on The Roadmap To Freedom, but I feel a bit out of things.  Mum and Dad have been to London to be reunited with my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, and other people have been meeting family and friends or playing outdoor sport, and I’ve just been chained to the office laptop or going for a walk in the park!   Roll on Good Friday!   The powers that be have said it’s OK to travel around the country to see family and friends, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t have a day out, as long as I stay outdoors.

The Novavax vaccine will hopefully be available by June.

Well, let’s just hope there are no more lockdowns.  Enough is enough.

 

Tuesday, March 30th

Another warm, sunny day. Loads of people in the park. And the lowest weekly death toll since October.

The situation in Europe is worrying, though.

Oh, roll on Good Friday, when I’ll be able to get a taste of this freedom, all being well!! It can’t come soon enough!!

 

Wednesday, March 31st

Second jabs outnumbered first jabs for the first time today.  I feel a bit like a third class citizen now – full vaccinated people, first jab people, and the rest of us!!

Another warm, sunny day, with loads of people in the park.  Please, please stay dry for the Easter weekend.

It looks as if France could be heading back into lockdown, and things in the Netherlands aren’t too clever either.   Thankfully, we’re doing OK – touch wood.  Well, over 50 deaths a day, which is hardly “OK”, but compared to over 1,000 a day, at the peak of the second wave, things have improved very significantly.

 

April Fools’ Day/Maundy Thursday, April 1st

Typical, just as we get towards the Bank Holiday weekend, it goes cold again!  But it’s dry, touch wood.

Shielding ends today.

France is indeed back in lockdown.  But we’re remaining steady, at around 4,500 to 5,000 new infections and 40 to 50 deaths per day.  And we should be allowed back into Wales soon, hooray!  And we beat Poland 2-1 last night, so fingers crossed for World Cup qualification.

Hooray, at last I feel like I can join the roadmap to freedom, four days after everyone who wasn’t trapped with work crap!!

But … we’re now being told that, when cafes etc reopen on April 12th, everyone’s got to sign in, and have their details kept for 21 days.  What, even for sitting outside?   That’s just put me right off!!    Oh well, let’s not worry about that just now …

 

Good Friday, April 2nd

Hooray!   I have finally made it back to Windermere!   It’s been so long.   I drove up to Bowness this morning, and had a bit of time there.  And the weather was glorious!

Then I got the steamer across to Waterhead/Ambleside.  I thought the steamers’d be busy, but they weren’t.  They only restarted yesterday, in the end, and they said that yesterday was just dead.  I think a lot of people are confused about these “minimise travel” rules, and, also, people possibly didn’t realise that anything at Windermere would be open.  But it got busier later.  Fingers crossed for a good spring and summer.  As bad as things here have been, it’s been far, far worse for tourist areas.  The cafes here have been busy doing takeaways, but most of those at Windermere only reopened today.  In fact, I got the Waterhead Coffee Shop’s first blueberry scone since they had to close due to lockdown!

The daffodils at Borrans Park were out!  And then I came back on the Swift, the new steamer which was only launched last year – my first trip on her.

Then I had more time in Bowness … oh, my lovely, beloved Bowness, how I have missed you!

And then I went to Sizergh Castle on the way home.  I love daffodil season at Sizergh!

And there were lambs!  Well, there were also loads of lambs in the fields off the M6 and the A591, but I couldn’t very well take photos whilst I was driving!  Sizergh lambs:

Oh, how I needed that.   It’s frustrating not being able to go abroad, but not being able to travel within the country’s been far, far worse.  Let’s hope we don’t ever go back there.

In other news, I’m sorry to hear that Sachin Tendulkar’s in hospital with Covid, and there’s a row going on here over vaccine passports.  If they try to introduce vaccine passports for football grounds, theatres etc now, when most under 50s are unable to get vaccinated, it will be incredibly unfair and cause a lot of trouble.  Once everyone’s been offered a vaccination … I don’t know.  The idea of having to show papers, and denying certain people access … it does smack a bit of Nazi Germany, and that’s what people are uncomfortable about.  We’ll see.

Anyway.  Gold star for the weather, and, oh, how I have missed Windermere!! 

 

Saturday, April 3rd

This morning was cloudy, and then we had glorious sunshine by late afternoon.  The other way round would have been better, but never mind!  I went for a walk round town this morning.  It’s April, and it was the first time I’d been into town this year – how crazy is that?!  Very quiet.  I don’t know what else I expected, given that non-essential shops, theatres, cinemas, museums etc are all closed, but it was weird.

However, all being well, non-essential shops will be reopening a week on Monday, as will hairdressers and outdoor seating at cafes/pubs/restaurants.  Boris is due to give a press conference on Monday night, confirming whether or not it’ll go ahead, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t.  We “only” recorded 10 Covid deaths yesterday, although obviously it was a Bank Holiday.  We may also get some news on the vexed question of vaccine passports.  Boris is the last person you’d expect to back something like that, but apparently he does.  And there’s also talk of a “traffic light” system for foreign travel – meaning the same palaver as last year, with things being moved on and off lists at the last minute.  But it seems very unlikely that the April 12th easing won’t go ahead.  Roll on haircuts!   

 

Easter Sunday, April 4th

It looks as if both the “traffic light” system for foreign travel and the vaccine passport system will be going ahead, with the passport system to be trialled at the Carabao Cup final and various other events.  Ugh.  But, by the time the new football season starts, everyone should have had at least their first jab.

Meanwhile … just as life seemed to be looking up at last, I came downstairs this morning to find water coming through the kitchen ceiling for the THIRD time in a year.  I slipped on it, and whacked my knee and arm on the wooden floor.  Then I took the cover off the light fitting, to try to see what was going on, and, in my agitated state, dropped it, whereupon it smashed to smithereens.  So I have now got no cover for the light, water coming through the ceiling, a ceiling that needs repainting again, and a bruised knee.  I think it’s the bath this time, not the shower.  I was going to ring the emergency plumber – of course, it just had to happen on Easter Day, when hardly anyone’s working – but they charge a fortune, and last time the guy made a mess of the job and I had to get him to come back.  So I’m hoping to get the ordinary plumbers next week. and am hoping fervently that the dripping gets no worse.

After all this, I had complete hysterics and rang my poor mum and dad in floods of tears.

Bleurgh.

Once I’d mopped the floor, mopped up the tears and put a bucket down, I turned to chocolate. Some people have said their supermarkets are short of Easter eggs this year, but I’m pleased to say that ours isn’t.  Here is my Easter egg, with its accompanying Malt-Easter bunnies:

I then went to Biddulph Grange, as planned.  I was very sad not to see the woodland walk in daffodil season last year, but here it is in all its glory, this year:

Also, they had Easter special hot cross scones:

I then stopped at Alderley Edge on the way home:

So that was all very nice.  But I now need to get:

  1. A plumber.
  2. The decorator (again).
  3. The electrician (for the light fitting).
    And it was all fine this time yesterday.  Why does life throw you curveballs like this?  And I keep panicking about what’ll happen when I have to go back to being Trapped in the office and something like this happens.

And, on top of all this, there are fears that the French Open might be postponed.  If that idiot Macron spent a bit more time trying to deal with the virus situation in France and a bit less time making Anglophobic remarks, things might not be in this mess.  But they are. 

But we beat Brighton, 2-1.  Sadly, nothing is going to stop City from winning the league, but fingers crossed for a top four finish this year.

 

Lockdown III Week 12, March 22nd to 28th 2021 inclusive

Monday, March 22nd

We recorded our lowest daily virus death toll since September today – 17.  OK, figures are always lower on Mondays, but, considering that we were recording over 1,000 a day at one point, that’s major progress.  However, the accursed EU is again threatening to block vaccine exports.  It’s like when some horrible kid in the school playground grabs the football or the skipping rope and says that no-one’s allowed to play with it because they’re upset … except that people’s lives are at stake here.

I have no idea what we are and aren’t supposed to do next week.  Some newspapers are saying that you’re still not supposed to leave your local area, but the official advice just says not to make too many journeys, and to avoid using public transport at rush hour unless necessary – like anyone would use public transport at rush hour unless they absolutely had to.  Places like Capesthorne Hall are reopening, and presumably they don’t expect that visitors will only come from round the corner.  I don’t see that I’ll be causing anyone a problem if I go to, say, Biddulph Grange.  But it’s as clear as mud.

And, after a grumpy woman from Public Health England said yesterday that mask-wearing and social distancing might be in force for years, a grumpy health minister’s said today that all European countries (presumably excluding the Republic of Ireland) might have to be “red-listed”.  I don’t want to be lied to and given false hope, but do these people have to be so miserable?!   Is it necessary to speculate like this?  Bah!

 

Tuesday, March 23rd –  A YEAR OF LOCKDOWN

A year ago today, we went into lockdown.  We thought it’d be for 12 weeks.  We were told that 40,000 deaths would be a “good outcome” – it seemed like an impossibly high, dystopian number.

Today’s supposed to be a “National Day of Reflection”.  There was a minute’s silence at midday, and we’re supposed to go out on our doorsteps with candles at 8pm.

Boris is insisting that everyone’ll have been offered a first dose by the end of July, but no news on exactly when for over 40s.

Infection rates in our borough are going up quite rapidly, again 😦 .  It goes in waves – we’ve had a few good weeks, but Rochdale had a few bad weeks, and Tameside before Rochdale … it comes and goes.  But hospitalisations and deaths are down here and everywhere else, and deaths from all causes are actually below the 5 year average for the time of year.

A £5,000 fine for going abroad without good reason’s to be introduced, and there’s talk of that continuing until July rather than May.

Germany’s imposing tight restrictions again, with even food shops only allowed to open for 1 day in 5 over the Easter weekend.

Windermere Lake Cruises are reopening next week!  Hooray!  We’re supposed to “stay local as much as possible” even after the stay at home order’s lifted, but enough’s enough – I stay very local 5 days a week, and it’s not like I’ll be going to mass gatherings.  I think their prices were pretty much as before, but I’ve noticed that some places hoping to reopen later in the year have hiked their prices right up.  I understand that they need to try to make up for their losses, but it’s going to put people off going.

And it sounds as if a permanent memorial to people who’ve died of Covid will be built, at some point.

 

Wednesday, March 24th

The EU’s threatening a vaccine blockade, India’s got a “double mutant” virus, and concerns are rising over the high number of cases in France.  There’ve been calls for France to be “red-listed”, but, given that most cross-Channel haulage comes via France, that’s going to be a bit of a problem, to say the least.  We can hardly move the Channel Tunnel so the other end of it’s in Belgium or the Netherlands!   Oh, what a nightmare all this is.

Spain and Greece and various other countries are now letting flights from the UK in again, so at least there’s no problem with the next round of Champions League and Europa League matches, but we aren’t allowed out!

Windermere Lake Cruises have had to postpone their reopening by two days, because of the weather forecast.  FFS!  And Germany’s Easter lockdown’s been cancelled, one day after it was announced.

Zara Phillips has had a baby boy.   So there’s some good news!

 

Thursday, March 25th

I had a really bad morning with work today, and then I went to the park, had a cup of tea and a hot cross bun by a host of golden daffodils, and felt so much better.  I really would be happy to carry on WFH indefinitely.

However … some sort of deal’s been agreed with the EU over vaccines, but India’s now said that it won’t be exporting any vaccines until the end of April, because it needs/wants them for itself.  We’ve pretty much been told that, from 29th March, it’s second doses only, so I don’t know where that leaves me, and, with all this talk of vaccine passports, it’s pretty frustrating.

Also, both Poland and Belgium have tightened their restrictions, as the “third wave” gathers pace.

The emergency powers Coronavirus Act’s been extended for another six months.  I hate the fact that these powers exist – not even the likes of William the Conqueror or Oliver Cromwell tried to stop people from leaving their local areas, visiting their friends and relatives or having their hair cut – but there really is no alternative.  If the horrible virus mutates again,  we just can’t wait whilst Parliament messes about arguing about things.  But who, 15 months ago, would have thought that we’d come to this?

 

Friday, March 26th

I don’t think anyone’s taking too much notice of the “stay local as much as possible” guidance.  We’ve been banned from leaving the area for over 5 months, and the official ban ends on Monday.  Enough.  The National Trust site has been mad today, because the bookings site couldn’t cope with the number of people trying to get on.  I had a feeling this would happen, so I stayed up till midnight and got my tickets for Easter weekend as soon as they became available.  Oh, for a return to the days of just turning up!

That idiot Macron is still trying to blame us for the fact that the EU’s messed up its vaccination rollout.  Whilst he’s trying to divert the blame, the infection rate in Paris is sky-rocketing – it’s over 600.  Germany has now declared France a high-risk country.

Shops here are to be allowed to stay open until 10pm 6 days a week, when non-essential retail reopens.  I’m not sure who wants to go shopping at 10pm, but whatever.

 

Saturday, March 27th

Hopefully, this will be the last weekend of lockdown.  I need to get out into the countryside.

Mum and Dad had their second jabs today, so they’re all done … although there’s now talk of over 70s having a booster jab in the autumn.  Another fortysomething friend had hers today, but she must also have been lucky and got an appointment before this thing of over 50s only from March 29th came in.

I was meant to be in Grasmere this weekend.  Instead, I went to Hollingworth Lake – which was actually very nice, with lots of daffodils out.

Several local cafes and restaurants have applied for permission to set up outdoor chairs and tables.  Let’s just hope we get some decent weather!   Boris has said that, as things are, we should be able to stick to the “roadmap”.  Locally, infection rates are dropping again, a bit, although I doubt they’ll drop much until younger people have been vaccinated, and may well rise as things open up.  But deaths and hospitalisations are dropping.  The big worry, other than the slowdown in vaccine supply, is the situation in France.  Spain’s joined Germany in tightening restrictions on people entering from France, and it’s a worry with all the cross-Channel haulage traffic.

On a different note, United Women played at Old Trafford for the first time today.  And won, beating West Ham 2-0.

 

Sunday, March 28th

Let’s hope that this is the last ever day of lockdown.  And a bloody rotten one it’s been too – heavy rain and strong winds for part of the day.  It did, to be fair, ease up for a while, so I was able to go for a walk in the park – where the vintage trams were having a run out.

And we won our World Cup qualifier against Albania, following up our win against San Marino.

And it’s hoped that a shipment of the Moderna vaccine will arrive by mid-April.

So, OK, it hasn’t all been bad.  But everyone is so fed up.  We in Greater Manchester have pretty much been in some form of lockdown since the middle of October.  Whilst I was angry about the whole tier thing, I understand that the nationwide Lockdown III was unavoidable, but … this while thing, not even being allowed to see your own family and friends, is something that not even the most extreme of dystopian novelists would have written about 15 months ago.

New rule to try to help keep the “third wave” out – lorry drivers, cabin crew, prison escorts and seasonal workers entering England from outside the UK will need to take a Covid-19 test within 48 hours of arrival, and those remaining in the UK for longer than two days will be required to take a further test every three days.

Well, on we go – setting off on the “roadmap to freedom”.  Fingers crossed …

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

Monday, March 15th

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

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

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

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

And Portugal’s off the “red list”.

 

Tuesday, March 16th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, March 17th

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

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

I am not very happy about this 😦 .

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

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

 

Thursday, March 18th

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

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

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

 

Friday, March 19th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, March 20th

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, March 21st

Census Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bleurgh indeed …

 

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

Monday, March 8th

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

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

Some rain earlier, but sunny now.

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, March 9th

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, March 10th

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

Just watching Dan Evans v Roger Federer.

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

 

Thursday, March 11th

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, March 12th

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

Very windy again today.

Italy’s going back into lockdown.

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

 

Saturday, March 13th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, March 14th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 1st

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, March 2nd

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

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

And kids are getting ready to go back to school.

 

Wednesday, March 3rd

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

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

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

 

Thursday, March 4th

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

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

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

 

Friday, March 5th

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s cold!

 

Saturday, March 6th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, March 7th

Rejoice, rejoice – City 0 – 2 United!!

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

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

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

Schools go back tomorrow.

It’s a start.  I hope.

Lockdown III Week 8, February 22nd to 28th inclusive

Monday, February 22nd

Boris’s roadmap out of lockdown has been announced … subject to levels of hospitalisations (rather than infections, which makes sense now that most infections should be amongst lower risk groups) not rising, the vaccination programme continuing to go well, and no nasty new variants appearing.  The Evil Tier System has been scrapped, hooray!!!  Unless any nasty new variants appear in particular areas.  Please, please, do not let this happen.  We can’t take much more.

March 8th – schools to reopen to all pupils, 2 people to be able to meet outdoors to chat/have a drink/have a picnic rather than exercise (which, TBH, people are doing anyway).

March 29th – STAY AT HOME ORDER LIFTED!!  Still a recommendation to “minimise” travel, but enough’s enough – those of us in much of the North and Midlands have been confined to our local areas since October.  Six people/two households to be able to meet outdoors.  Outdoor sports activities to resume.  Still seems to be the idea to WFH is possible – good.

April 12th – hairdressers to reopen.  Bloody hell, another 7 weeks of no hairdressers.  Non-essential shops, gyms, zoos, theme parks and outdoor hospitality to reopen.  Presumably this includes Lake District boats?  Watch the weather be vile all through April!  Weddings to be allowed, with a maximum of 15 guests.  Campsites and self-catering accommodation to reopen.

May 17th – hotels to reopen.  I was hoping for May Day weekend 😦 .  Indoor hospitality to reopen.  Foreign travel may possibly resume.  Up to 10,000 people to be allowed into sports stadia.  Cinemas and theatres to reopen.  Two households to be able to meet indoors.

June 21st – everything else to reopen.  Restrictions on social contact lifted – although mask-wearing and social distancing may well remain for a while yet.

We’ve been here before, and … well, not got there.  But fingers crossed.  I really can’t take much more.

 

Tuesday, February 23rd

Just as if things aren’t stressful enough, I had the police round earlier, to tell me that one of the neighbours had had a break-in.  All the doors and windows were locked, but the burglars managed to break one of the locks.  Thankfully, no-one was hurt, but they found the car keys and stole the car.

That’s really frightening.

The official US virus death toll passed 500,000 yesterday.  500,000.

Here, most people are feeling more hopeful after yesterday’s announcement.  However, I think the scientists want us locked down permanently, and, at the other end of the spectrum, the owners and staff of businesses which won’t be able to reopen until May or June at the earliest are very disappointed.

 

Wednesday, February 24th

Whilst people are generally feeling more hopeful, the local situation is worrying.  Lockdowns just don’t seem to work here.  Also, there’s now a spike in cases in some areas, pretty close by.  Last July, when the first local restrictions (other than those in Leicester) were announced, which eventually led to the Evil Tier System, it was the day before Eid, and everyone knew jolly well that it was because rates were exceptionally high in areas with large Islamic communities.  This time, it’s in areas with large ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.  It’s very awkward, because no-one wants to seem to be having a go at any one group of people, but the infection rates are what they are – three times the average for the area.

The Leeds and Reading Festivals are apparently going ahead.  Someone’s optimistic!

A lot of talk’s going on about helping kids to catch up at school.  Teaching unions, needless to say, are moaning!

 

Thursday, February 25th

Happy birthday to me 🙂 .  After a wet day on Tuesday and a windy day on Wednesday, we got blue sky and sunshine today!  It was hard not to think what a lovely day it would have been to spend at Windermere, but had we not been in lockdown, I’d have spent the day trapped in a depressing office, having spent time and money getting cakes and other stuff for everyone else in the office (sorry for sounding grumpy about that!) and being barked at if I opened Facebook to answer birthday wishes sent by kind friends and relatives.  As it was, I was able to do myself a nice afternoon tea in the garden.   I ordered a Slattery’s “treat box”, which I collected yesterday.  But, unbeknownst to me, Mum and Dad and my sister and brother-in-law had arranged to have food delivered to me!   So I ended up with the most enormous amount of stuff!   I’ve eaten some of it: I’ll have to sort the rest out later.  And I was able to have a nice long walk in the park during a somewhat extended dinner hour.  Lots of crocuses out, and some daffodils out now too.  And I could answer the Facebook messages, WhatsApp messages and texts as and when they arrived – very kind of people.

I’m not really a birthday person.  Once you’re past 21, birthdays are a bit miserable – another year older, still fat, still not successful etc!   But, hey, it’s an excuse to eat cake!!  And it’s been a really nice day …

… except that Rafa’s pulled out of Rotterdam, with the back problem.  Please tell me that this isn’t going to be another long-running injury saga.

It’s been confirmed that exam grades will be awarded purely on the basis of teacher assessment.  A lot of moaning is going on about this – why does everything involving schools involve so much moaning?!  I’m very, very sorry for the kids concerned.  Exam conditions worked for me and I’d have been devastated if my exams had been cancelled, and there will always be a feeling that 2020 and 2021’s results might not quite compare to other years’, but there’s just no alternative, in these rotten circumstances.  On a more positive note, the country’s been moved from level 5 alert to level 4 alert.

2nd leg of the Europa League match tonight – we only managed a 0-0 draw, but we’re through on aggregate.

 

Friday, February 26th

Hooray – the next phase of the vaccination will be by age, so I’m in Group 10, 40-49 year olds, and will be next in line once the current phase has been completing.  Teaching unions, needless to say, are moaning, but the NHS hasn’t got records of people’s jobs, so it’d be an admin nightmare to do it by occupation.

The Queen’s spoken out about people needing to consider others rather than just themselves, when deciding whether or not to be vaccinated.

One in five health areas are now seeing an increase in infection rates.  I have to admit that, when I first read this, on the MEN website, my immediate reaction was “At least it’s not just us”.  But it’s very worrying – and, in both the maps shown by the MEN and the maps in tonight’s Downing Street press conference, it’s clear that, infections in many areas having sky-rocketed in December and then fallen again, it’s now as you were – rates are far higher in densely-populated, urban parts of the North and Midlands than elsewhere.  All sorts of reasons have been suggested for this, from the sensible (a lower proportion of people being able to work from home) to the plain silly (people in the North spending more time indoors because of the weather).  But no-one seems to be sure, no-one seems to be trying very hard to get to the bottom of it, and Jonathan Van-Tam seemed to be suggesting that it was due to people breaking the rules.  I object to that.

Another nice sunny day.

We play AC Milan in the next round of the Europa League.  Erk!

 

Saturday, February 27th

What a gorgeous day.  Very warm for February, and clear blue sky.  Very frustrating that I couldn’t spend it at Windermere, but I’d booked Styal, where (despite part of the gardens being closed off due to flood damage, and there being no scones!) it really was lovely – lots of snowdrops, and some early daffodils.  I’m a bit (actually, rather a lot) obsessive about daffodils 🙂 .   Oh, please let things go ahead as planned, and please let the weather behave over Easter weekend, and please let me be able to go to the Lakes.

Captain Sir Tom Moore’s funeral took place today.

And we’re nearing the 20 million mark for first jabs.

And Rafa has now pulled out of Acapulco as well.  Bleurgh..

 

Sunday, February 28th

“Vaccinometer”- another new word introduced by the pandemic.  Over 20 million people in the UK have now had their first jabs!

Another lovely sunny day today.  Very frustrated about not being able to go to the Lakes (especially as I gather that loads of people went outside their local areas to go to the seaside, and probably to the Lakes too, and the police did nothing about it), but at least I was able to go to the park.  Glorious weather.

Loads of people were in groups which were obviously more than one household/bubble.  A lot were kids with grandparents as well as parents, and others were mostly teenagers and people in their 20s.  Everyone’s just had enough.

Then I cleared all the weeds and dead leaves out of the garden, ready to put some new plants in once it stops being frosty overnight.

Drew 0-0 at Chelsea.  City are stupidly far ahead.

There are daffodil shoots everywhere.  Waiting for them to flower is like a metaphor for waiting to be able to go out and about and see our relatives and friends again.

Lockdown III Week 7, February 15th to 21st 2021 inclusive

Monday, February 15th

Hooray, Rafa beat Fabio, and in straight sets 🙂 .  A very tough looking QF against Stef Tsitsipas now awaits.

Depending on what you read, eating places will be reopening in March/May/not until August, hotels will be reopening in time for Easter weekend/in time for Whit Bank Holiday weekend/not until August, and all schoolkids/some schoolkids will be going back to school on March 8th.  Very little is being said about these bloody travel restrictions.

The quarantine hotel system began today.  People using it have to fly into either London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London City, Farnborough or Birmingham.  Yes, you did see “London” three times in the list of five.  No, you did not see any mention of Manchester, the biggest international travel hub in the country after Heathrow, nor, indeed, of anywhere else in the entire North of England.  And how many international flights go into Farnborough?!   FFS.

The issue of people from certain ethnic minorities not taking up the offer of the vaccine is getting really problematic.  Leicester Hospital Trust’s said that only 36.9% of black staff members, and only 43.2% of staff members with Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage, have taken up the offer of the vaccine.  The numbers of white staff members and staff members with Indian heritage who’ve been vaccinated are way, way higher.  And this is amongst healthcare workers, who are presumably very well educated about the virus and the vaccine.  I don’t think anyone foresaw this problem, but it could throw quite a spanner in the works.  Big efforts are being made to convince people from ethnic minority groups to be vaccinated, but they don’t seem to be working.

And the weather has perked up.  And this is the first week in months that it’ll be light enough for me to sit in the flower park with my weekly frozen yoghurt.  I normally go on Tuesdays, but tomorrow’s Pancake Day and I’m fat enough without having frozen yoghurt (even if it is fat free) and pancakes on the same day.

 

Tuesday, February 16th

My sister had her first jab today, which is good news! She’s only 43, but classes as clinically vulnerable because she’s borderline diabetic.  Goodness only knows when I’ll get done.  Obviously I don’t expect to be given priority over clinically vulnerable people or frontline workers, but the waiting’s very frustrating.

The latest polls show that 89% of people intend to be vaccinated, but there is this concern over the low take-up amongst some ethnic minority groups.  It’s been announced that a character in Emmerdale is going to be vaccinated, and I would assume other soap operas will do the same: it’s only a soap storyline, but a cast member who is from an ethnic minority group’s criticised the scriptwriters for “pushing” the vaccine and said that no-one should be forced to have something that’s “experimental”.  I don’t think anyone foresaw this issue arising, and it’s worrying.

Also, there’s another mutant version of the virus on the loose.  And the mutant of the Kent mutant has now appeared in Moston and Harpurhey, which is very close to home.

The Pancake Day football match in Atherstone, Warwickshire, which dates back 821 years, 15 years before the signing of the Magna Carta, has had to be cancelled, for the first time ever.  It carried on through plague, failed harvests, the Civil War, Cromwell’s repression and both World Wars, but was cancelled by bloody Covid-19.  That really upset me, for some reason.

However, it’s been a lovely, sunny, springlike day, and there was quite a holiday atmosphere in the park, with kids off school for half term.  The youngest age groups in Scotland are to go back to school next week.

Awful day at the tennis, though!  Sascha had so many chances … he should have won every set, but Nole won 3 of 4 … and now plays Karatsev, who beat Grisha, who was injured.  I’d love to think that Karatsev could beat Nole, but it so isn’t happening.   Meanwhile, Rafa’s got to play Stef, and, if he beats him, probably Medvedev.

Finally, another 1.7 million people are to be told to shield.  I quite appreciate that, when the pandemic started, no-one knew that certain conditions/factors made people more vulnerable, but it seems a bit late now.  Anyone in this group will be prioritised for vaccination … although a lot of them are in the groups vaccinated already, so they’re going from the hope of getting their lives back to some sort of normal to being told not to go out.

I have these moments of joy, because spring’s coming, and it’s so precious … my favourite season, daffodils and lambs and trips to the Lakes, to Chirk, to Bolton Abbey, to Biddulph Grange, etc.  Then it hits me, all over again, that, because of the bloody travel restrictions, it won’t be happening.  For a second year in a row.

 

Wednesday, February 17th

Why does the Australian Open always break my heart?  Well, practically always.  I wasn’t expecting miracles, after Rafa had so little match practice beforehand, but he was 2 sets to love up on Stef, came so close to winning it in 3 … and lost it in 5.  I am very sad 😦 .

Nice weather again.  The park’s been very busy all week, because of school half term.  This is the problem – in densely-populated urban areas, there are very few places to go during lockdown, so everyone ends up in the same place.  Some crocuses are coming through, but no daffodils yet.

There are all sorts of rumours about which restrictions will and won’t be lifted when.  I’m trying to ignore them.  We just don’t know, and getting upset over speculation doesn’t help.

On and on and on … when will this nightmare ever end?

 

Thursday, February 18th

United won 4-0 away to Real Sociedad … in Turin. 4-0!   Good start to the Europa League 🙂 .

The National League North and South seasons’ve been declared null and void 😦 .

Serena just can’t get this 24th Grand Slam title … she lost to Naomi, who now plays Jennifer Brady in the final.  Karatsev put up a decent fight, but was never going to beat Nole.  Fans back in today.

Northern Ireland’s lockdown’s been extended until April 1st.  But schools are to reopen for some academic years on March 8th.  There hasn’t even been an announcement about schools reopening in England yet, but whingeing teaching unions are already objecting to everything.  All this talk about reopening, but when will these evil travel restrictions be lifted?  People in Northern Ireland are to be allowed to meet up outdoors in groups of 10 from March 8th, but that’s not a lot of use unless all your relatives and friends live nearby.    There are now clear signs of infections falling in the older age groups, and over 30% of the population’s now had their first jab, so progress is being made, but we cannot carry on with these restrictions indefinitely.

 

Friday, February 19th

Bleurgh, I am totally fed up.  WHY are infection rates not dropping here as quickly as they are everywhere else?  After the Kent variant took off, we had rates well below average, but now they’re dropping rapidly in most places, especially the south, but not here.  WHY?  We have been under extra restrictions since bloody July.  There are various theories:

  1. Population density.  This makes some sense.  Obviously it should apply to London too, but it seems likely that a lot of people in London contracted the virus in early 2020, before either lockdown or mass testing, and therefore had antibodies, and also that London was further along on the “curve” when things reopened in July.
  2. More people at work … not necessarily essential workers, but people who can’t work from home.  There are a lot more blue collar workers in the North and Midlands than in the South.  Also, a lot of offices are open when they shouldn’t be.
  3.  Multi-generational housing/overcrowding … this may well be an issue, but the areas currently worst affected aren’t those where the occurrence of this is highest.  Having said which, it’s noticeable that the area least affected is Trafford, which includes the wealthiest parts of the conurbation.
  4.  Linked to point 1 ), a “reservoir of infection” … sounds vague, but kind of makes sense.
  5.  Issues related to particular ethnic/religious groups, who have been particularly badly hit.

If the f***ing tier system’s brought back, we’re knackered.  And it doesn’t work, anyway.  Nothing seems to work.  The Mayor of Preston’s suggested that the worst-hit areas should be prioritised for vaccination.  It’s a very sensible suggestion.

Nothing seems to bring my weight down, either.

There’s some talk of everyone in their 40s being vaccinated as soon as people in their 50s have been done.  The JCVI want to keep going down by age brackets.  But selfish teaching unions may pressurise the authorities into taking a different route.

The lockdown in Wales has been extended for another 3 weeks.

I hope Prince Philip’s OK.  He’s to remain in hospital until next week.

The second Aussie Open SF was, sadly, a bit of a damp squib … so frustrating that Stef, having beaten Rafa, lost rather tamely to Daniil.

Weather cold and windy.

I really am fed up.   We’ve had 11 months of this.  I want to see my sister and bro-in-law and the kids.  I want to go to the Lake District.  I want to go on holiday.  I want to go to Old Trafford.   I’d quite like just to go into town.  Some days, I can Keep Calm and Carry On.  Some days, I just want to kick and scream!

 

Saturday, February 20th

Thoroughly fed up.  The borough of Bury now has the 20th highest rate in the country.  Bolton’s got the 10th highest rate in the country, but at least rates there are coming down.  Tameside’s seen the biggest week-on-week increase in the country.  WHY is our area being hit so hard by this?  Nearly all the areas down south which had rates way above ours in late December have now got rates well below ours.  Why won’t ours come down?

Also, every time I lose a few pounds, they go straight back on.  What am I meant to do, starve?  I look like a Great Fat Hair Monster.

And I’d intended to go to Hollingworth Lake after the Aussie Open ladies’ singles final – which saw Naomi Osaka beat Jennifer Brady – but, due to miserable weather, just went to the park, again.

Bleurgh.

Bleurgh indeed.

Why is our area being so badly affected?

Also very concerned about Prince Philip.  Prince Charles went to visit him today, and visitors aren’t generally being allowed.

 

Sunday, February 21st

Boris says that all adults in the UK should have been offered a vaccination by the end of July.  Let’s hope so!  Vaccinations are the only way out of this – we thought last summer that maybe we could live with it, but then it came roaring back with a vengeance.

Israel’s reopened hotels, gyms, zoos, museums, etc … but only to people who’ve been vaccinated.  To be fair, I think most adults there have now been offered a vaccination, but it’s incredibly hard on those who want to be vaccinated but haven’t been called yet.

The Aussie Open final was a damp squib.  Bah.  Daniil put up a fight in the first set, but Nole took it 7-5, and then broke back after Daniil had led in the 2nd set, and it was one way traffic after that.  Better news with United beating Newcastle, 3-1, but City are running away with it.

Today has been a better day.  The weather was better, and I went to Hollingworth Lake and it really helped just to get a little way away from home.  I love the park and the local takeaway cafes, but I really am feeling trapped.  And I had a terrible day yesterday.  Everyone’s having bad days, and all you can say to people is to try to move on and hope that the next day will be better, but that doesn’t work for me because of The Scales.  The main reason I was so upset was because, after my weight had stayed the same for a few days, I’d somehow put on 3lbs between Friday and my official weigh day on Saturday.  That on top of everything else triggered the worst compulsive eating binge I’d had in ages, and, because The Scales love to kick you when you’re down, of course I’d put on another lb today.  So I can’t move on.  It’s hard enough to lose 1lb, never mind 4.  I’m struggling with OCD issues as well … it’s hard to control anything when you’re trapped like this, and all the things you normally do to cope are banned.   And it’s hard to feel positive when rates are rising here even though they’re falling practically everywhere else.  You feel bad for moaning, but a lot of people are struggling.

Boris is making his big announcement tomorrow.  I feel sorry for him: whatever he says, people will moan.  But we can’t go on like this.

No daffodils at Hollingworth Lake yet, but there were crocuses.

We know that the risk of transmission outdoors is low.  Lift these horrible travel restrictions.  Please.

Lockdown III Week 6, February 8th to 14th 2021 inclusive

Monday, February 8th

Hooray, the Australian Open has started.  My sleep patterns are being disrupted and I am totally stressed out about Rafa’s injury problems.  This is normal.  Hooray – something is normal!  Cracking match between Denis Shapovalov and Jannik Sinner.  Just such a shame that they had to meet in the first round.

It’s wonderful to see crowds in … but, although it’d been agreed that 30% of tickets could be sold, the place didn’t look anything like 30% full.  That suggests that people are nervous.

Due to the Australian Open, I went to Tesco this evening (in a snow shower!), rather than going tomorrow morning.  The store has been “revamped”.  Everything has been moved round, in a completely illogical way.  Neither customers nor staff know where anything is.  Some marketing consultants in London have no doubt been paid a fortune for deciding that cordial/squash should be put at the opposite end of the shop to all the other soft drinks, and that the shelves where it used to be should now contain toilet roll instead.  Why?  Why??

The studies regarding the “South African variant” are only small-scale, but it does look as if the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, and probably the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccines too, are less effective against it than against other strains.  They’ll still protect against serious illness, which is the main thing, but not against mild illness.  And, even if the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine’s OK against this, the horrible virus seems to be so clever that it’ll probably mutate in a way that’ll outsmart that too.  Viruses do mutate, and vaccines can be tweaked, but doom merchants are saying that the “South African variant” will take over the UK and probably the world, and that we’ll be in lockdown until the summer/2022/the end of time.  The Government’s telling everyone to stay calm, but it’s certainly worrying news.  Every time we seem to be getting towards the finishing line in this pandemic, something else happens.

City and Liverpool have both got to play their away legs against German teams in Budapest, as the German authorities won’t let any British teams in.  My holiday company have cancelled everything up to and including the end of April now.  Matt Hancock had been talking about a “Great British Summer”, but now both he and Jonathan Van-Tam are saying that it’s too soon to talk even about staycations.

Later – oh, FFS.  Not only are 7 of the 10 local boroughs now above the national average infection rate, but now there’s a Moss Side Mutant.  It’s a mutant of the Kent mutant.  Only 4 cases, but “surge testing” is starting in Moss Side and neighbouring areas.  First Liverpool and Bristol, now Manchester 😦 .  I assume that mutations are happening in other countries too, and it’s just that we’re doing extra genomic sequencing (or whatever the correct term is) here, and being honest about it?   But, just a few days ago, optimism was rising, because the vaccination rollout was going so well, and now … snakes and ladders, and we seem to have gone down another snake.

 

Tuesday, February 9th

I should be getting ready to board a crowded tram and head off to Old Trafford, to watch United v West Ham in the Cup along with 78,000 other people.  Instead, I’ll be watching it on the telly.  Oh well.

After all the stress over Rafa’s bad back, he beat Djere in straight sets 🙂 .  It’s a very tough draw, with both Tsitsipas and Medvedev looking very strong today, but one match at a time.

More snow fell overnight, but it’s gone now.

And, in virus news, people returning from “red list” countries will now have to pay £1,750 to stay in a quarantine hotel, and face fines of up to £10,000 and even a jail sentence if they break the rules.  Having said which, a woman’s told the papers how, on returning to London after visiting her mother in South Africa, she was able to walk out of Heathrow airport without being asked for either her passenger locator form or her proof of a negative virus test.  Not very good, is it?

Travelling is so, so important to me, and I’ve been fortunate enough to go to so many wonderful places.  I’ve got photos all over the house of me at the Taj Mahal, Macchu Pichu, Gettysburg, Red Square, Tiananmen Square, Table Mountain, the Pyramids, the Mount of Olives, the Venice Carnival (sadly cancelled this year, again), a glacier on the Jungfrau, etc etc.  When I got back from the Viennese Christmas markets in December 2019, I started to get excited about my planned trips to Iceland for July 2020 and Japan for October 2020, buying guidebooks and history books and historical novels, and learning some basic Icelandic words and phrases.  This is my life … and now it isn’t.  For the last four months, I haven’t even been able to go on a day trip to Blackpool.  I hate not being able to go to the Lakes.  I haven’t seen my sister and brother-in-law and nephews since August.  I haven’t been to a football match since last March.  I haven’t been to the theatre or the cinema since last February.  I haven’t even sat in a café since October.  Yet I’m chained to the office computers for the best part of five days a week, and I’ve still got all the housework to do.  I know I’m moaning, but I think we’re all entitled to moan.

Our Europa League match at Real Sociedad has been moved to Turin, and Arsenal’s at Benfica has been moved to Rome.  Italy will exempt professional sports players from quarantine.  As flights from Portugal to the UK are currently suspended, Arsenal’s “home” leg will be played in Athens.  This is getting a bit barmy.

To finish on a happy note, Princess Eugenie’s given birth to a baby boy 🙂 .  Mother and son both doing well 🙂 .

Later – hooray, we’re into the Cup QFs, after beating West Ham 1-0.  Dire match, and it went to extra time, but never mind!

 

Wednesday, February 10th

More snow today, but, thankfully, it hasn’t stuck.  Chelsea’s match at Atletico Madrid has been moved to Bucharest.  Moving football matches is one thing, but Jurgen Klopp’s been told that he can’t go to Germany to attend his mum’s funeral.  I understand that the virus doesn’t care what your reasons for travelling are, but it seems so cruel.

Having been told that by Matt Hancock and Boris that we could look forward to a “Great British Summer”, we’ve now been told by Grant Shapps and Jonathan Van-Tam that no-one should be booking anything.  One MP’s accused Shapps of killing people’s hope.  That’s exactly how it feels.  Morale is pretty low.   And there’s more and more talk about “vaccine passports” – Israel is going to let people who’ve been vaccinated back into hotels and gyms, and some countries are saying that they’ll admit tourists who’ve been vaccinated – which is very demoralising if you’re not in one of the priority groups.

Prince Charles and Camilla have had their first vaccinations.  The WHO’s backed the use of the Oxford AstraZeneca jab.  Serbia’s bought vaccines from Russia and China, and is now steaming ahead of the EU countries.

And I am fat.

 

Thursday, February 11th

Hooray, comfortable win for Rafa over Michael Mmoh.  He now plays Cam Norrie.  It does stress me out when he plays British players: I feel like I’m about to be carted off to the Tower of London for treason for wanting the Brit to lose, LOL.

Very cold today, but very sunny too.  The lake in the park looked amazing, frozen over and with yesterday’s snow still on it, and you could see Saddleworth Moor (photo on the right) and Kinder Scout (left), both covered in snow.

But, lovely as it was, it was so frustrating, because we can’t go anywhere.  Windermere must have looked glorious today.  This is dragging on and on, and tempers are fraying.  We were told that we’d get some news on the “roadmap” out of lockdown on February 22nd.  Now we’re being told “the week of February 22nd” – which could mean February 28th!  I feel very sorry for Boris.  If he doesn’t do as the scientists say, and death rates go up again, everyone will be yelling and screaming that he’s got blood on his hands and it’s all his fault for not doing as the scientists say.  But the scientists want us locked down indefinitely.  Their view seems to be that lockdown should continue until infection rates come right down.

And it’s not happening.  Rates here are plateauing.  They’re actually going up in Bolton, due to a spike in Horwich.  We’ve been told that the vaccination programme, as well as it’s going, is having no effect on infection rates as yet.  Yes, I know that it’s supposed to take three weeks before the first vaccine dose offers any protection, but a lot of infections are amongst younger people, the ones most likely to be out and about, and it’s going to be late summer before younger people get their first jab.

The scientists also say that viruses don’t go by the calendar, so giving dates for reopening is inappropriate.  And, fair point, viruses don’t go by the calendar.  But how long are we going to keep businesses shut, the state paying people’s wages, tourist resorts’ economies going down the pan, and kids out of school?  Not to mention the mental health impact.  There’s going to come a time where people start asking what the hell the point of all this is, if we’re not being given any idea of how and when we move forward.

I really do feel sorry for Boris.  It’s just an impossible situation.

 

Friday, February 12th

Chinese New Year.  Hmm.

Oh no!!   13 cases of the wretched virus have been identified in Melbourne, all linked to a quarantine hotel.  So the state of Victoria is back in lockdown.  The tennis can continue, but behind closed doors.  What a rotten shame, after 5 lovely days (crowds were allowed in today) of having fans back in.  Well, nearly 5 days – people were booted out in the middle of the Djokovic v Thiem match, because it was getting towards midnight.  Like some bizarre version of Cinderella.

The R number nationwide is now below 1, but cases are rising in Bolton, and are now starting to rise in the borough of Bury … still down week-on-week, but up on earlier this week.  Officials in Bolton say that it’s mainly amongst people of working age, which makes sense. – and the same thing’s happening in Liverpool.  Some jobs cannot be done from home, and that applies far more in the North West than in, say, London.  And some workplaces are open when they jolly well shouldn’t be.  Sometimes, however hard you try, you can’t reduce the risk entirely.  And some places just aren’t bothering about Covid safety: the authorities can hardly inspect every small workplace, and people are frightened to speak up because there’s so little job security at the moment.  And places that are open when people could be working from home are hardly likely to prioritise safety anyway.  It’s a huge problem.  Vaccination is not going to stop this until younger people have been vaccinated.  If the bloody tier system is brought back, what happens to us then?

Lots of groups are demanding priority for vaccination.  Teachers.  Firefighters.  Shop staff.  Public transport drivers.  They’ve all got a very valid case, but it’s just not possible to prioritise everyone.  London police (it would be the London police) are now threatening legal action, like teaching unions did.  FFS, we need to be working together here, not threatening legal action.

And the economy shrank by nearly 10% last year.

Still cold and sunny.

 

Saturday, February 13th

Rafa beat Cam Norrie (I do hate it when he plays British players – I end up feeling like I’m about to be carted off to the Tower of London for high treason) 🙂 … but now plays Fabio, against whom he does tend to struggle.

I was very glad to have the tennis to watch because, otherwise, I’d have got very upset over the fact that a sunny Saturday in mid-February would have been the perfect day on which to see the snowdrops at Chirk Castle.  Boris is supposed to be coming up with this “road map” on February  22nd, but heaven knows when travel restrictions will be lifted.  If he reintroduces the bloody tier system, I’m going to stage a revolution …. if Andy Burnham doesn’t beat me to it.   I don’t feel too bad, but I know that my anxiety levels are high because I’m getting a lot of anxiety pains and I’m crying over things which wouldn’t normally get to me.  Several friends have said that they’re finding things very hard.  And there’s nothing that anyone can do.  There are all these “lockdown tips” about meditation or yoga or whatever.  I do not need to meditate.  I need to see my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, and my uncle and cousins, and I need to go to the Lake District.

I was hoping that, today, I might actually get some time to read, catch up on the TV backlog, and sort out photos … but I ended up spending ages on the phone to Sky, who’d messed up my bill for the second time in three months, and ages throwing warm water over the boiler condenser pipe. which, despite having insulation stuff on it to stop it freezing, had, er, frozen.  It was quite satisfying when a huge lump of ice shot out of it.  But it was a terrible waste of time.  And water.

Both Matt Hancock and Boris have said that we’re going to have to learn to live with Covid, but the scientists are saying that we need to eliminate it entirely.  I think they want us locked up for ever more.   The economy, people’s mental health and children’s education can’t take much more.  There’s going to be a load more moaning when tax allowances are frozen in the Budget, but the money for the furlough scheme and the small business grants has got to come from somewhere.   I actually saw one ridiculous article saying that we should just print more money!  What, like the Weimar Republic did?  What rubbish.

Tennis and football tomorrow.  The Six Nations is going on too, and the cricket.  So glad that we’ve got sport to focus on!

 

Sunday, February 14th

As hoped, 15 million people in the UK have now received their first jab.  Pretty much everyone in the top four groups has been offered a jab.   Good news!

63 Tory MPs have said that all restrictions should be lifted by May.  That’s going too far – we can’t have hordes of unvaccinated people packed into nightclubs, or 500 guests at weddings – but we really cannot go on like this.  Public opinion hasn’t turned against the lockdown yet, but we do need this “road map” out of it.   I know it’s an impossible situation, but education, employment and mental health are all becoming serious concerns.

One of our local councillors rang me today.  They are apparently concerned about how people are coping in these difficult times, and want to make sure that people are OK and ask if they need any help.  It’s eleven months since we first went into lockdown, and now, just as elections are coming up, councillors are concerned about people … funny, that!   We had quite a nice chat, though.

My weight is a disaster.  2lbs off.  Hooray!  2lbs straight back on.  WHY??!!

The Premier League is also turning into a disaster: we only managed a 1-1 draw at West Brom.  Not a great day in Melbourne either: much as I like to see Grisha (Dimitrov) doing well, I would rather he hadn’t thrashed Dominic (Thiem), because Dominic was the one with the best chance of beating Nole.  Sascha Zverev, over to you.  Rafa and Fabio have got a day match tomorrow, so I’ve set the alarm for stupid o’clock!

The WHO team in Wuhan don’t seem to be getting very far with getting information.  Will we ever find out how this nightmare started?

On a happier note, Prince Harry and Meghan are expecting another baby.

Six weeks of Lockdown III.

 

Lockdown III Week 5, February 1st to 7th 2021 inclusive

Monday, February 1st

Boris has hinted that the Evil Tier System could be dropped.  But hasn’t made a definite commitment.   He was in Batley this morning, and a reporter had a go at him for picking on the North … well, not in so many words, but he (the reporter) did point out that the North had been under restrictions for far longer than the South.

However, there are more problems with these wretched mutant variants.  There is now another mutant variant, this time in California. And, worryingly, two cases of the South African variant have been picked up in people with no known connection to South Africa, in Woking. It’s not far from Heathrow, so is it possible that a member of airport staff’s caught the virus and inadvertently passed it on in the community?  Or that someone’s got it elsewhere?  And we’ve now been told that there are 105 cases in all, in various areas – including Southport, which is rather too close to comfort.

This is why we need tougher travel restrictions, for now.  There could be more mutants anywhere, which haven’t been identified yet.

On a more positive note, every care home resident in England has now been offered a vaccination, which is an important milestone. And the rollout to the overseas territories has begun – some doses of the Oxford vaccine have embarked on a 17 hour journey to the Falkland Islands!  Also, Israel’s reported very promising results from its vaccination programme. Nothing’s going to be 100% effective, but only a very small number of people have become ill after being fully vaccinated. Wonderful news.

The Isle of Man’s completely out of lockdown – no social distancing, no closures.

February got off to a stressful start when Samsung released a phone update.  I am terrified of phone updates.  I wish there was a way of stopping them.  They’re usually fairly minor, but this one changed a few things, and a) it took me a while to find something afterwards and b) it stopped one of my apps from working.  I updated the individual app and, touch wood, it’s OK now, but the whole thing panicked me, knowing that I couldn’t go to a shop and ask for help if I needed it.  Anyway, let’s try to move on from that …

But it is so nice having some tennis to watch.  And I’m back with the spray on hair dye, which is a pain but is better than having grey roots.

And this is Children’s Mental Health Week.  It’s a tough time to be a kid.  One “expert” suggested that everyone should repeat an academic year, but a) some kids are doing OK and b) it’s not practical anyway, because then there’d be no room for the little ones due to start school in September.   Another suggestion’s been cancelling the school summer holidays, on the assumption that schools are open again by then, but a) teachers would never agree to it and b) parents will then be unable to go on holiday … if anyone can go anywhere by then.

 

Tuesday, February 2nd

Very sad news this afternoon, with the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore, aged 100.  He died “with coronavirus” (with tragic irony, he may well have contracted it in hospital), but it’s emerged that he’d had pneumonia for several weeks.  To live to 100, and still to be completely mentally alert and relatively physically fit, is a wonderful thing, and to inspire an entire country, and indeed much of the world, in a time of crisis is just incredible.  There are so few of that wonderful generation left.  Sad, sad news.  I cried over that.  Such a loss.  But a wonderful, long life.

And we’ve been told that the so-called “Kent mutation” has mutated again – this time in the same sort of nasty way as the Brazilian and South African variants.  Whether it did this off its own bat or whether it “got together” with one of the others (as a scientist on Sky News put it, which makes it sound as if they all got together for a few bevvies and to have a good laugh at us), who knows?  I do get that viruses mutate, but we keep being told that there’s a race between the virus and the vaccine, and it feels as if the virus isn’t playing fair.  Unfortunately, it isn’t really possible to disqualify it.

We’re being told that there are “mutations of concern” in Liverpool and Bristol now.   There was some talk about a mutation in Liverpool a few weeks ago.  And it’s only 35 miles away.   It could be a coincidence, but … Kent, Liverpool, Bristol – is there something going on with ports?  Maybe like “freshers’ flu” at universities, where germs from lots of different areas mingle and get swapped around?   People in those areas are being told to avoid going out, which is scary.

I’m concerned about the fact that infection rates in Greater Manchester are not falling as quickly as they are elsewhere … places which saw a surge in December are seeing much bigger drops than places where rates were already relatively high.  Is the virus now “endemic” in some areas, as was suggested in August or September?  Will this nightmare EVER end?

A few examples, rates @ 28/01/21 compared to (rates @ 21/01/21) – Knowsley 611 (898), Sandwell 547 (841), Blackburn 464 (570), Liverpool 388 (608), Carlisle 359 (607), Barnet 330 (545), central Manchester 299 (369), Bristol 269 (349), Bury 264 (333), Kirklees 234 (262), Cheshire East 197 (275), Newcastle 182 (253), South Lakes 167 (252), E Devon 109 (127), NE Lincs 92 (104).

Meanwhile, I was actually quite enthusiastic about getting up this morning, despite snow and heavy rain, because Rafa was meant to be playing in the ATP World Team Cup at 8 o’clock our time.  But he didn’t, because of a “stiff lower back”.  With less than a week to go before the Australian Open, this is pretty worrying.  Let’s just hope it’s nothing serious.

But tonight, hooray, we beat Southampton 9-0!   9-0.  So frustrating that we couldn’t be there to see it at the ground rather than on telly, but still … 9-0.  Sorry, Southampton, nothing personal, but, wa-hey!!

 

Wednesday, February 3rd

Good news:

– 10 million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a vaccine.
–  Research shows that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine protects against transmission, and that the 12 week gap
between doses is OK.
–  Numbers of Covid patients in hospital are falling.

But the numbers of deaths are still horrendous, and many people remain in hospital.  And there’s now the additional worry that your area could be the next one affected by an Unexplained Mutant Incident.  And 5 out of the 10 local boroughs have now got rates above the national average – falling, but not as quickly as the national average is falling.

And the Australian Open traumas continue.  First, Rafa said that he wasn’t going to play tomorrow because his back was still sore.  This really, really is worrying.  Then it was announced that a staff member at one of the hotels had tested positive, everyone at the hotel was going to have to self-isolate until they’d tested negative, and all tomorrow’s matches in all six warm-up events were cancelled!

Also, some insensitive person decided to include a huge photo article in the latest magazine on forthcoming highlights.  Including snowdrops at Chirk Castle and daffodils at Sizergh Castle.  Both of which I want so much to see, but won’t be doing.  It was like Jim Bowen saying “And here’s what you could have won”.  Bah.

I’ve bought more spray on hair dye.  I’d forgotten what a mess it makes of the shower curtain (when it washes out)!

I got my Christmas presents from my sister today 🙂 .  She decided to post rather them rather than keep waiting for these infernal travel restrictions to be lifted.

And it’s been confirmed that the Eurovision Song Contest will go ahead.  I’m not sure whether this is good news or bad news 😉 .

 

Thursday, February 4th

One in five adults in the UK has now had a dose of the vaccine, and research suggests that it might be OK to mix and match, i.e. it won’t matter whether or not your first and second doses are of the same vaccine.  And the Bank of England apparently thinks that the economy will bounce back strongly in the spring.  Not if we’re locked down till May, which seems to be what the scientists want, it won’t.  A lot of questions are being asked about restrictions being eased.

One question is whether or not people who’ve had both doses of the vaccine will be able to meet up.  This issue seems to be being raised in Germany as well.  If you’ve been fully vaccinated, and so has your sister/brother/cousin/close friend whom you haven’t seen since October, it’s going to be very frustrating to be told that you still can’t see them.  But, if we start creating a two-tier society, with those of us not in the priority groups becoming some sort of underclass, there’s going to be a lot of upset and resentment.  Difficult situation.

The Pet Shop Boys concert which I was due to go to in May 2020, and which was rescheduled for May 2021, has now been rescheduled again, this time for May 2022.  Third time lucky?  Just please tell me that we’ll be able to go on staycations in July.  I actually cried when I saw shots of Windermere on Joanna Lumley’s new travel programme.  So Lakes-sick 😦 .

The Australian Open draw’s been postponed, because 160 players are awaiting the results of tests.  Only one person at the hotel seems to have the virus, and it’ll be very bad luck if anyone else has caught it, so fingers crossed that it’ll be OK.  But I’m extremely concerned about the injury.  Spain’s tie against Greece has been rescheduled for tomorrow, but Rafa says that he’s still not ready to play a full match.  If he’s not ready to play on Friday, and this would only be best of 3, and the Aussie Open starts on Monday … it’s not sounding good 😦 .

A London Church of England clergyman’s tweeted that: “The cult of Captain Tom is a cult of White British Nationalism”.  This why society’s so divided, because of comments like that – and at a time when Captain Tom’s family and friends are mourning his loss.  The Diocese of London has, quite correctly, said that his “comments regarding Captain Sir Tom Moore were unacceptable, insensitive, and ill-judged”.

And the German government is refusing to let Liverpool into Germany for their Champions League match against Leipzig.  This could all get pretty messy.  Benfica won’t be allowed into the UK for the Europa League match against Arsenal … unless an exemption for elite sports players is agreed, as has been done in Italy for the forthcoming tennis event there.

 

Friday, February 5th

My car went for its MOT today.  MOTs were suspended during Lockdown I, but are now operating as normal.  The garage sent me an e-mail asking me to drive there with all the windows down, but I’m afraid I didn’t – although it’s only 3 miles away, there are umpteen sets of traffic lights en route, and I wouldn’t have felt safe sitting in a stationary ca with all the windows down.   And I had to take everything out other than the wheel nuts and the service book.  Fortunately, all that was needed was a new windscreen wiper blade.  I’ve been nervous about MOTs ever since I took a previous car in, blithely thinking everything was OK, and it needed hundreds of pounds worth of repairs.

Nice weather today, but more snow forecast for next week.  FFS!

I am really stressy at the moment.  A lot of it’s to do with my weight.  I’m going for a long walk every day, and walking up and down steps as well, but I cannot shift the weight.  I don’t generally put weight on at home in a normal week, maybe a couple of pounds on some weeks and off in others, but weight piles on on holiday and over Christmas and just won’t come off.  I have spent my entire life battling my weight.  So demoralising.

Local elections are going ahead in May.  BYOB – bring your own biro!  Our council are fairly hopeless regardless of who’s elected, but the fact that the elections are going ahead does suggest that restrictions will have been eased by early May.  They’d better have been!   Scientists keep saying that the authorities shouldn’t give dates, and I take the point that the virus doesn’t work by the calendar, but that’s easy to say when you’re not the one with no idea when your business can reopen or when your kids can go back to school  And everyone’s mental health is starting to suffer.   Miserable people are saying that no-one should go on holiday this summer because it’s irresponsible, but the people saying that are invariably people who don’t work, just as the people who are saying that dates shouldn’t be given are people whose income isn’t being affected by the lockdown.   The good news is that the R rate is below 1, and cases are falling in most areas.

And I’m sad because Christopher Plummer’s died 😦 .  I do know that he wasn’t just Captain Von Trapp, but I love him so much in that role.

 

Saturday, February 6th

It’s rained so much that Salford City v Bolton was called off due to a waterlogged pitch.  United v Everton was not called off … but we conceded an equaliser in the last bloody second of injury time, dropping two points.   So, so disappointing.

When it stopped raining, I went out, only for there to be serious trauma when The Coffee Sack hadn’t got any scones.  I must have looked very upset, because the man gave me a free cup of tea!  I did get a scone from M&S later, but I was hungry, so I ended up getting crumpets in the park.  No wonder I’m so fat!

And then, even though the forecast’d given more heavy rain for later, I stupidly stayed out longer than I should have done, and got rather wet despite my brolly.

Oh dear!!

On a happier note, Dan Evans is into the final of the Murray River event.  Good to see him playing so well.  Shame he’s in the same section of the draw as Rafa and his bad back, though.

 

Sunday, February 7th

Heavy snow’s hit parts of S E England, as well as the Netherlands and N W Germany.  We only got a few flakes here, thankfully, but I could see loads of snow on the hills when I went to Hollingworth Lake this morning.

It was lovely, despite the cold wind, but I’m sad because I should have been doing the snowdrop walks at Rode Hall today … the first rite of spring.  I’m also a bit sad at the thought of having to use Amazon Prime as the Easter Bunny for a second successive year, rather than being able to give my nephews their Easter eggs in person.

It looks as if everyone may need a “top-up” jab in the autumn.  It’s not clear whether this is a general top-up thing or whether it’s to do with concerns that the original vaccine formula may not be entirely effective against this dangerous new variant from South Africa.  Concerns are also growing about low take-up of the vaccine in some ethnic groups.  For example, amongst over 80s in Bradford, 97% of white people took the vaccine, but only 77% of people of Pakistani heritage.   But the rollout is proceeding apace, and we’re on target for everyone in the highest risk groups to’ve had their first jab by February 15th.

I am so sick of all this.  Please, please let us get back to some sort of normality by June.

Some good news – Dan Evans won the Murray River Open.  But I am very stressed about Rafa’s back injury …

 

Lockdown III Week 4, January 25th to 31st 2021 inclusive

 

Monday, January 25th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, January 26th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, January 27th

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

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

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

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

Hyndburn 568, Carlisle 544, Norwich 465, Southampton 404

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, January 28th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, January 29th

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, January 30th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, January 31st

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

Dogs apart, it was very nice in the park.

 

Scone courtesy of The Coffee Sack 🙂 .

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

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

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

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