Here we go again? Week 2, December 13th to 20th 2021 inclusive

Monday, December 13th

I am thoroughly fed up.  My new computer was supposed to be being delivered today, but now they’re saying “7 to 10 working days”, so it doesn’t look as if I’ll have it before Christmas, and the IT guy won’t be able to come in the first week of January because I need to self-isolate before my next-but-one hospital test.

Also, everyone at work is upset about how badly we are being treated.

And it sounds as if the United Covid outbreak’s in the first team, because the club have spoken to the Premier League about postponing the Brentford match.  Also, the Champions League draw was a fiasco and had to be redone, but we’ve ended up with Atletico Madrid.    And Emma Raducanu’s now got the lurgy.  It would just say it all if the Sports Personality of the Year had to accept her award whilst self-isolating.

Long queues are forming as most people try to get their boosters, but we’re being told that Omicron is spreading even more quickly than the original virus did back in March 2020, before anyone was vaccinated.  One person in the UK’s already died with it.  It’s more or less certain that more restrictions will be announced for Scotland tomorrow, and you have to think that the same may happen in England before long.

I’m sorry for all of us.   This virus is evil.

 

Tuesday, December 14th

11 days to Christmas.  My life’s up in the air anyway, until I get confirmation about the operation, but now it seems like life in general’s back up in the air because of the bloody Omicron variant.  The red list’s being scrapped again.  Which is good for some people, but very frustrating for people like my friend’s mum – she was visiting relatives in South Africa when all this started, had to come back because of work and spent thousands of pounds which she couldn’t afford on a quarantine hotel, only to find now that, if she’d waited another couple of weeks, she could have avoided it.

People in Scotland are being asked to limit the number of households with whom they socialise, and to keep their Christmas celebrations as small as possible.

The United v Brentford match is definitely off.  Just hope things are OK for the Brighton match on Saturday.  And a number of theatres have cancelled shows due to Covid outbreaks.

Everyone is so fed up.

The “Plan B” measures are being voted on in Parliament tonight.  They’ll pass, because Labour’ve agreed to back them, but up to 70 Government MPs could vote against them.  It’s just a nightmare – we don’t know how bad Omicron could be, so we don’t know whether these measures are necessary are not.

 

Wednesday, December 15th

United are back in training.  Fingers crossed for Saturday,.

I had my MRI scan on the wretched fibroid this morning – which was horrible, because the scanner makes awful noises and I’m not good with awful noises.  I wish miserable Chris Whitty would stop saying that hospitals might all close down in January.

Meanwhile, Omicron is spreading apace – particularly in London, but apparently now in the North West as well – even amongst people who are double vaccinated and boosted.  I just can’t believe that we’re right back in the sh*t again.   And, again, we have politicians squabbling instead of trying to work together!  78,610 cases today – the highest daily number on record.  That’s nearly double the level we’d been averaging for months.  This is not good, folks.  This is not good.

 

Thursday, December 16th

If it weren’t for the tennis, I really think I’d cry.

  1.  United v Brighton is off.  My nephews haven’t been able to go to Old Trafford since before the pandemic, and were coming early for Christmas so that they could go to this match.  They are so upset and disappointed, and so am I.  Not to mention the fact that there’s now a fixture pile-up.  The FA said yesterday that no more matches were to be postponed, but I have no idea why they said that, as Burnley v Watford was called off soon afterwards, followed by Leicester v Spurs.
  2. The Queen’s cancelled her pre-Christmas family lunch – this horrible virus is spoiling people’s Christmas plans for a second year in a row.
  3. France has banned travel to and from the UK, except for “compelling reasons”.
  4. My younger nephew’s school’s sent out information about what to do if schools have to go back on to online learning after Christmas.  Boris won’t close schools again unless he absolutely has to, but some schools have got so many teachers and kids off that they’re struggling.
  5. 88,746 cases today.  Bloody hellfire.
  6. 745,183 boosters were given yesterday, which is something.

I just can’t believe we’re here again.

 

Friday, December 17th

The good news is that Rafa came through his comeback match with no obvious problems.  The bad news is that Andy beat him, 6-3 7-5, but, OK, I suppose he was bound to be rusty.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the Lowry last night was brilliant.  However, again there were issues with people not wearing masks.  Being a Thursday night, it wasn’t that busy, but it will be at weekends, and for the matinees once schools break up.  The review of the pantomime in the MEN mentioned how few people were wearing masks.  It really is frustrating.

Following the postponement of United’s match (and, incidentally, four more Premier League matches have now been postponed), the boys decided that they would like to go to Sale Sharks.  I don’t really get rugby union, but, OK, whatever.  However, it was a European match against a French team, and has now been postponed as that git Macron won’t give sports teams exemptions from the new travel rules.

Wales is closing nightclubs after Boxing Day.

Hospitality businesses and theatres are reporting huge drops in bookings, and are asking for the furlough scheme to be reopened.

A number of people, especially those with school age children, have said that their mental health really can’t take another lockdown.

As I said yesterday, I just can’t believe that we’re here again.

 

Saturday, December 18th

The computer guy has got my new computer.  Fingers crossed that he can get it sorted ASAP, because there are a lot of reports about a 2 week lockdown after Christmas.  The Netherlands has just imposed a lockdown.  And a “major incident” has been declared in London.

Yet more matches bit the dust today, but Salford City v Stevenage survived, so we went to that, then out to the Anatolian Grill later.

Rafa lost to Denis 😦 .  But only in a final set tiebreak.  You can’t expect too much too soon, I suppose.

 

Sunday, December 19th 

Went to Hollingworth Lake this morning.  Nice sunny day.

 

And I’ve got my new computer.

Restrictions have now been imposed in Denmark.  And Germany’s saying that anyone entering from the UK’ll have to go into quarantine for 2 weeks.  And there’ve been anti-restriction protests in Belgium.

We’re getting towards a million boosters a day … but infection rates are sky-rocketing.  Locally, they’re at the highest rates ever recorded, although that doesn’t mean much because not that many tests were being carried out in March, April and May 2020.   Hospitalisations are now ticking up in London, and there are concerns over what’s going to happen if large numbers of hospital staff are off self-isolating.

It does now look very likely that further restrictions will be imposed.  We could even be looking at at a two week lockdown after Boxing Day, although, TBH, I’m not sure a) what good that’d do and b) if people’d stick to it anyway.

When will this ever end?

On a happier note, Emma Raducanu is Sports Personality of the Year.

 

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

Monday, July 5th

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

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

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

Hmm.

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, July 6th

More rain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, July 7th

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

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

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

Come on England!!

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

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

 

Thursday, July 8th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, July 9th

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

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

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

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

Two days till The Final of the Euros!

 

Saturday, July 10th

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

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

I really miss Rafa.

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

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

 

Sunday, July 11th, before the final

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

Please, please, not penalties.

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

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

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

Come on England!!

 

Sunday, July 11th, after the final

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

The road to freedom? Week 12, June 14th to 20th 2021 inclusive

Monday, June 14th

Boris has confirmed what’d pretty much been said already, i.e. that “Freedom Day” is being postponed from June 21st to July 19th.

The limit on the number of guests for weddings will, however, be lifted as long as “social distancing is observed”.  What on earth is that supposed to mean?!

I don’t think there was any choice about this, but I’m extremely sorry for people whose jobs/businesses are affected.

At least nothing was said about local lockdowns.  However, “the Liverpool City Region”, Cheshire. Warrington and Birmingham have been added to the naughty list.  Where is this “extra support” we’re all meant to be getting, anyway?  I wasn’t exactly expecting to see a regiment of soldiers marching down the street, but I was expecting something.

On a different note, it’s so nice to be watching grass court tennis again, at last … although Rafa’s being a bit vague about Wimbledon.

 

Tuesday, June 15th

Hooray!   Completely unexpectedly – I’d been waiting almost a week for an answer – I received an e-mail to say that people can work from home 2 days a week for at least the next 6 months, and hopefully indefinitely.  I still haven’t had an answer as to whether we remain WFH full time until July 19th, but I’m (optimistically) assuming so.

I didn’t expect that at all.  If this can go on long term, it really will make things a lot better.

 

Wednesday, June 16th

My October holiday to Japan’s been cancelled.  The holiday company’s pulled its entire Far Eastern programme for the rest of the year, because a lot of those booked on it are from Australia and New Zealand and therefore unlikely to be allowed out until 2022.  I wasn’t really expecting it to go, and I suppose at least now the uncertainty’s been removed, but I’m very sad at losing a second year of travel, am not sure what to do instead, and didn’t really expect to have to process this just now.

France has started vaccinating children, but we’re being told that that’s unlikely to happen here.  I take the point that the risk to kids is very low, but kids are being sent home from school because another kid in their class has tested positive, and other family members have to isolate if their kid/sibling tests positive, so it’s all a bit of a mess.

The 2021/22 football fixtures came out today.

Meanwhile, cases keep on rising.  Deaths, thankfully, don’t.

 

Thursday, June 17th

My brain really cannot deal with much more this week.  The latest is that Rafa isn’t playing either Wimbledon or the Olympics.  He’d kind of hinted at Wimbledon, but I’m surprised about the Olympics – although I do understand that it’s a lot of surfaces, travelling and time zones.  But I’m sad 😦 .

There’s renewed talk about vaccine passports to make foreign travel easier.  I’m still hoping to go abroad in the autumn – I don’t think it’s the year for long haul bucket list trips like Japan, but I would very much like to get to Italy.  Meanwhile, from having had far lower rates than Italy, Spain, France etc, we’ve now got higher rates, thanks to the people who travelled between Bolton/Blackburn and the Indian sub-continent at a time when millions of people didn’t even leave their local areas for over five months, then spread the variant around.  Some people were even boasting to the local press about how, after Pakistan was put on the red list, they were dodging quarantine by flying home via Turkey.  Israel and parts of the US have been able to scrap almost all restrictions now that so many people have been vaccinated, whereas we, with everyone over 18 now able to book vaccines and vaccination rates higher than anywhere in Europe (except Gibraltar, I think), recorded over 11,000 cases today.

And Stroppy Sturgeon has banned travel between Scotland and Manchester/Salford.  No consultation, no notice, no warning.

 

Friday, June 18th

England v Scotland tonight!   So nice to have everyone focused on something other than the pandemic.

Torrential rain down south, meaning that there was no tennis 😦 , but it was dry here, and I managed to book to go evening strawberry picking at the very lovely Kenyon Hall Farm.

Almost all Covid cases in the UK are now the bloody Delta variant.  Case numbers aren’t rising by nearly as much, but they’re still rising.  Stroppy Sturgeon has told Scots not to go to Manchester, although how she plans to enforce that is anyone’s guess.  And Italy has imposed a 5 day quarantine on visitors from the UK.  Bleurgh.

The water board have asked me to read my own meter and submit the reading online, “because of Covid”.  I have no problem doing this: I’ve been doing it for years with the gas and electricity.  But I am sick of organisations using “because of Covid” as an excuse to cut services.  “The bank/post office/library will only be opening limited hours, because of Covid.”  “It will take longer than usual to answer your call, because of Covid.”  “It may take longer than usual for your parcel to arrive, because of Covid.”  Gah!!

Come on England …

Later – FFS!  England 0-0 Scotland.  That is not the result we wanted!

 

Saturday, June 19th

Gold star for the weather for staying nice today … and please, please be nice for my Lakes week in July too.

I went to Bodnant Garden today – so pleased to be able to see the famous Laburnum Arch (photo on the left), which I missed last year because we weren’t allowed into Wales at the right time.   They’ve scrapped that ridiculous one way system which no-one could follow last year, so you just walked round as you pleased, which was much better!

Then I went into Llanrwst, and then stopped at Colwyn Bay on the way home.

It was nice to see some coaches around: domestic coach tours have resumed.  But it’s so frustrating that, after everything we’ve been through, and the success of the vaccination programme, we’re now stuck with the Indian variant.   So many of the cases are in schools that it’s hard to see how the vaccination programme can stop it from spreading: there are no plans to vaccinate schoolchildren.

Heigh-ho …

 

Sunday, June 20th

Andy Burnham has had a right go at Stroppy Sturgeon over the travel restrictions, and demanded compensation for anyone affected.

I’ve managed to set up the NHS app on my phone – which, believe me, was a lot easier said than done.  It’s such a nightmare that I know some people who’ve ended up giving up.  So, hooray, app set up, downloaded my vaccination certification … only to find that the certificates expire after 30 days.  WTF?   They have “barcodes”, which “refresh” every 30 days, “to protect your data”.  Excuse me?  Do passports expire after 30 days?  Do driving licences expire after 30 days?  Do you become unvaccinated after 30 days?  What if they expire whilst you’re somewhere with no internet connection?  I really am annoyed about this.  There’s already concern about the whole idea of “proving your status”, which does sound a bit like something out of Nazi Germany, and then they make it extremely difficult to set up the app in the first place and then have this 30 day business.  So stupid.

Went to Hollingworth Lake this morning.  Rained overnight, dry during the day.

I really do not like Nicola Sturgeon.

The road to freedom? Week 10, May 31st to June 6th 2021 inclusive

Bank Holiday, Monday, May 31st

So hot today!   Went to Hollingworth Lake early on.

 

And then, late afternoon, met up with my sister and brother-in-law and nephews, who are visiting for part of half term week 🙂 .  In between that, I watched a lot of tennis and stuck a lot of photos in albums.

Infection rates are rising in 2/3 of areas.  Unfortunately, the ones with the highest rates are nearly all in the North West.  Why is it always us?!  Vaccinations are being ramped up, but doom merchant scientists are saying that we’re on the brink of a third wave.  Why the hell were so many people allowed to travel to and from the Indian sub-continent during lockdown?   A dangerous new variant was always going to emerge somewhere, and travel was supposed to be banned unless it was essential.  I cannot believe that tens of thousands of people all *had* to travel.  OK, it’s done now, but it’s so frustrating and worrying.

Morecambe have been promoted to League 1 🙂 .

And Naomi Osaka’s withdrawn from the French Open because of this row about not wanting to speak to the media.  I’m afraid she’s handled this rather badly.  I take her point about it being difficult to cope with press conferences after a defeat, and I really do sympathise with her issues with anxiety and depression, but the media can’t just be cut out.  Where does she think the sport would be if matches weren’t televised and there was no coverage in the papers or on social media or on the radio?   If she’d raised the issue with the WTA and the ITF, maybe something could have been worked out, but one person can’t just decide not to abide by the rules and protocols.   It’s a very unfortunate situation – no-one wins from this.

 

Tuesday, June 1st

No Covid deaths reported today!   Yes, all right, all right, I know it’s been a Bank Holiday weekend, but even so.

But infection rates are sky-rocketing – dropping in Bolton now, but still over 350, and now over 100 in Salford, Bury and central Manchester.  Up by over 200% in a week in Salford, and by nearly 300% in a week in Stockport.  Why is it always us?  Well, plenty’s been said about people travelling to and from the Indian sub-continent, and other things, but saying it won’t help.

Scotland’s been split, again – some areas move to level 1, some stay in level 2, Glasgow finally moves to level 2.  I really hope Boris doesn’t split us again.  It’s horrible, and it causes a lot of resentment.  Meanwhile, Peru’s “revised” its Covid death toll, so it’s now far higher than it was, and now the highest per capita in the world.

On a happier note:

  1. Rafa beat Popyrin, 6-2 6-3 7-6 (7-3).
  2. And, as he obligingly won in straight sets, I was able to enjoy Mum and Dad’s birthday meal out – it’s Mum’s birthday today and Dad’s tomorrow, and my sister and brother-in-law and nephews are here, and my brother-in-law’s mum and dad joined us.  As the weather was nice – hottest day of the year so far! – we were able to sit outside (well, sort of outside, but the restaurant say that being in a marquee counts) so we could all sit on the same table even though there were more than 6 of us, and it was lovely.

Wednesday, June 2nd

Considering that I’m in limbo over the holiday situation and could shortly be forced back into my depressing old life of being trapped in a horrible office five days a week, I think I’m doing very well not to be completely hysterical.  Maybe it’s too hot to be hysterical …

75% of adults in the UK have now had their first jab.  And anyone over 18 in our area can now get their first jab, as we’re apparently classed as a high-risk area … which is good news in terms of getting people vaccinated, but also a bit scary.

The BBC are scrapping Holby City 😦 .

And there’s some talk going on about helping kids to make up for lost schooling, but, whatever anyone says, people moan.  Yes, kids need to catch up.  No, kids cannot possibly spend any extra time in school.

 

Thursday, June 3rd

Way too much has happened today.

  1.  I suddenly got at an e-mail from my horrible boss (we have two bosses, but this was only from one of them) demanding everyone back in the office full time on June 22nd.  Just like that.  No discussion, nothing.  I’d actually been in the office 2 hours earlier, collecting some files, and nothing had been said.  Unfortunately, unless Boris says anything, there’s nothing I can do about it.  I will ask if I can continue working from home one or two days a week, but I suspect that all I’ll get in response will be a load of abuse.  It was always going to happen eventually, but … ugh.  My mental and physical health have been so much better for being away from that place.  The thought of being trapped in there 5 days a week, and returning to the nightmare of every little thing (boiler service, new wing mirror, etc) becoming an epic trauma is horrific.
  2. About 20 minutes after this happened, I got a text from the doctors’ surgery, saying that I was now eligible for my second dose.  My first was 8 weeks ago today.  We’d been told that people over 50 were going to be asked after 8 weeks rather than 12, but nothing’d been said about people under 50: I can only assume that our area’s “surge vaccinating” and that that includes second doses.  For some bizarre reason, the appointment I got (it only offered me certain centres, and some were only doing Pfizer vaccinations) was on Sunday morning, and not at either Prestwich, Crumpsall or Cheetham Hill but at Ramsbottom … but, whatever, let’s get it done.
  3. I checked the entry requirements for Iceland.  I should have done this weeks ago, but the holiday company just kept insisting that everything was going ahead.  I’m getting really annoyed with them – they posted something on Facebook today about resuming travel from May 17th, but their website says they’ve cancelled everything up to July 15th!   Anyway, you have to be fully vaccinated, which, all being well, I now will be … but you have to take a PCR test on arrival, and quarantine for 24 hours until you get the result.  If it was 2 weeks pool and beach, maybe, but one day out of an expensive seven day sightseeing holiday just can’t be done.  And what if you got a false positive test?   What on earth would you do?   So I just don’t see how the trip can go.  I sent yet another e-mail, and was told that someone would be contacting people soon.  TBH, I think the staff are fed up with the lack of leadership from the head office.  Anyway, even if they say the trip’s going, I can’t do that.  The stupid thing is that, up to a few weeks ago, I’d accepted that I wouldn’t be going, but then I got my hopes up and started reading some of the books I bought last year, and … bleurgh.
  4. Meanwhile, Portugal has been taken off the green list.  And, despite talk that Malta, the Greek islands and the Balearics would be added to it, nothing’s been added to it.  This is because of the Nepalese mutation of the Indian variant.  Except that we’re now supposed to call it “the Delta variant”.  And I’m not sure why a Nepalese mutation is in Portugal.  But whatever.  I’m so sorry for people who’ve already booked, and so sorry for everyone who works in the travel and tourism industry.   And I’m sorry for a load of City fans ordered to self-isolate after some people on flights back from Porto tested positive.   Oh, what a to-do.

My brain is addled.  I hope Rafa’s match isn’t stressful!

 

Friday, June 4th

Rafa beat Gasquet 6-0 7-5 6-2 in the night match yesterday, and now plays Cam Norrie.

Another nice day here, but it rained in London and spoilt the cricket 😦 .

I composed a very polite e-mail asking if I could WFH one day a week …and then it turned out that vaguely reasonable boss is on holiday until Wednesday, and there’s no point asking totally unreasonable boss when he’s on his own.  FFS.

The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for use in kids aged 12-15.

And infection rates keep rising.  They’re falling in Bolton, and the Government’s harping on about how great it is that the extra support provided by the Army etc has helped to bring rates down.  But Bury, Salford, Manchester and other boroughs have asked for the same help, and the Government won’t bloody give it.  FFS.  I am SO annoyed about this.  And why’s Andy Burnham gone quiet?  More chance of getting assistance if he kicks up a stink than if it’s only local council leaders asking.

STILL no news from the holiday company.

 

Saturday, June 5th

Rafa beat Cam Norrie, 6-3 6-3 6-3.  Sinner up next … and that will be very tough.

Meanwhile, jab jab jab!   It’s like some midsummer frenzy – jab jab jab, in the heat, in the long June days, in the sunshine, jab jab jab.  Get those jabs in arms.  Considering we were supposed to have a vaccine shortage two months ago, I don’t know how we’re managing it, but we are.  It is amazing.  Pop-up vaccination centres, many open to anyone over 18, are, well, popping up, and people are turning out in droves.  Waiting in a long queue to have a needle stuck in your arm isn’t anyone’s idea of how to spend a hot sunny Saturday, but people are doing it.  Well done, everyone!

Went to Skipton this morning.  Gorgeous in the sunshine!

 

Sunday, June 6th

I have joined the ranks of the fully vaccinated!   I couldn’t believe how many people were there, at a small centre at half 8 on a Sunday morning.  All done!

Celebratory scone at The Coffee Sack afterwards.  Shame they can’t invent a vaccination to stop people putting on weight!

Unfortunately, infection rates all over the area are sky-rocketing.  The Indian variant is 40% more transmissible than the Kent variant, which in turn was far more transmissible than the original virus.  I am so, so annoyed that so many people were allowed to travel backwards and forwards between here and the Indian subcontinent at a time when no-one was meant to be going abroad, and also that the vaccination take-up in some parts of Bolton was so low until recently, allowing the variant to spread.  But it’s done now.  However, it does seem that being fully vaccinated protects against it.  It’s now looking likely that the June 21st lifting of restrictions will be delayed until July 5th.

Roger’s pulled out of the French Open.  If he were injured, I’d be very sorry, but it seems to be because he wants to save himself for Wimbledon.  I understand why, but I don’t think it’s particularly respectful.  Meanwhile, Stef v Daniil as one of the QFs.

And Harry and Meghan’s baby girl, Lilibet “Lili” Diana’s been born.  It’s great to hear that the baby and Meghan are both well, but how completely inappropriate to use the Queen’s private nickname as a name, especially after the vile way they’ve treated her.  Lili’s quite pretty, but they should have made it either Lili/Lily or Elizabeth.  But still, it’s nice to hear that the baby’s arrived safely.

And it’s hot!

The road to freedom? Week 6, May 3rd to 9th 2021 inclusive

Bank Holiday Monday, May 3rd

OK, it had to rain some time, but did it have to come down in sheets and buckets on a Bank Holiday, as if places like Blackpool and the Lakes haven’t lost enough money already?!  The only good thing was that it came in from the west, so, as I’d booked somewhere in Yorkshire (Brodsworth Hall) for today, I got a nice hour and a half walk round the gardens before it got really wet.  And I hadn’t got much planned for this afternoon anyway.  And Brodsworth was lovely.

It looks as if some holidays abroad will be possible soon.  And that most of Europe will admit people who’ve had both jabs.  But I can’t see my tour of Iceland happening.  Iceland is very reluctant to let people in, coach tours are complicated because they rely on everywhere on the itinerary being open, and the tour company need to make a final decision at least 8 weeks in advance.  And, as much as I want to go, this is an expensive trip, and I don’t really want to spend a load of money on something that’s going to be compromised by restrictions.  I can go to the Lakes for a week, and go to some different places.  But I feel like I’ve already lost a year of travel, of different places, different cultures, different experiences, and don’t want to lose another year.  But, when I go abroad on my own, it’s usually city breaks where I spend most of the time visiting historic sites, palaces, cathedrals, etc, and I’m not sure how possible that’s going to be.  Beach and pool holidays may well be on, but they’re not my thing.  I get bored, I worry that someone will nick my stuff whilst I’m in the pool, I feel like everyone’s thinking how fat I am and how weird I am for being on my own, and I can’t be doing with hordes of noisy people.  Also, this is a messy year for holidays due to evil work not letting us have time off when we want.  And I really need a break in the summer.

Also, today’s a reminder that it would be nice to go somewhere with guaranteed good weather.  Hmm.

The Oktoberfest’s already been cancelled.  Not that I want to go and drink Bavarian beer, but it doesn’t suggest much optimism for how things are going to go.

Restrictions on numbers of mourners at funerals are to be lifted on May 17th.  Social distancing may or may not end on June 21st.

And I could swing for the minority of idiots who caused trouble at yesterday’s protests.  Two police officers were hurt – one suffering quite a nasty facial wound.

Not a word have the Glazers uttered.  I didn’t expect them to ride out on horses to meet the protesters, like Richard II at the Peasants’ Revolt (not least because they’re 3,000 miles away, which is part of the bloody problem), but say something, for crying out loud.

 

Tuesday, May 4th

Weather horrible again, although not as bad as yesterday.  The wind’s blown the blossom off the trees in the park, where I took my WP profile photo last year.  It looks rather pretty.

The plasterer can come on Saturday morning … which is rather a pain, as it messes up my free day, but it’s that or wait indefinitely!

Not a lot else to report.

 

Wednesday, May 5th

The weather has gone completely berserk.  Last night, we had hail and sleet.  We’ve now got blue sky and sunshine.

Rafa beat Alcaraz, 6-1 6-2, in Madrid.  One of the Amazon Prime commentators called the young lad “Alcatraz”.  Unfortunately, that might stick!

It’s being reported that traffic is back to pre-pandemic levels.  If you ask me, it’s worse!   There are more supermarket delivery lorries because people have got used to doing online shopping, and I think people are either nervous about using public transport or else have got used to commuting/doing the school run by car rather than by bus/train/tram, because there certainly seem to be a lot more cars on the road at busy times.  Bleurgh!

Canada’s become the first country to OK vaccines for 12 to 15 year olds.

And it’s being reported that large numbers of people flying back to the UK from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, all of which are on the red list, are dodging quarantine by stopping off in Turkey.

 

Thursday, May 6th

Europa League Final, here we come … even if we did make a meal of it by losing 3-2 at Roma!  Sadly, Arsenal weren’t able to make it 4 out of 4 for English teams (it’s City v Chelsea in the Champions League Final): instead, we’ll play Villareal.

Covid Election Day.  A lot of people ordered postal votes, but I rather like going to the polling station, thinking about the suffragettes, the Chartists and Peterloo as I walk down there.  I can’t get excited about local elections – whichever party wins, the council will still make the traffic situation worse rather than better – and the mayoral election result’s a given, but still. BYOB – bring your own biro.

Meanwhile, stupid French fishermen are trying to start a war with Jersey, and the weather is still crazy.

Rafa beat Popyrin, 6-3 6-3 – and has been named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year 🙂 .  Naomi Osaka’s been named World Sportswoman of the Year.

My payment deadline for the Iceland tour which I’m 99% sure won’t be happening is now under two weeks ago.  I’ve e-mailed the holiday company to ask what’s going on, and am waiting for a reply.  I know this is a nightmare situation for them, but they need to let people know.  And the Government need to let people know about this “green list”, which it seems likely will initially just be Israel, Gibraltar, Portugal, Malta and some of the Spanish and Greek islands.  They also need to confirm that the May 17th reopening is going ahead.  Hotels, cinemas, restaurants etc haven’t had the official go-ahead yet.  It’s getting ridiculous.

And there are problems in Bolton again .  Hyndburn’s got the highest infection rate in the country, which isn’t very good, but apparently that’s due to an outbreak at a school in Accrington so can be contained.  But Bolton’s got the next highest, and that’s due to clusters of the Indian and South African variants.  FFS.  Why have people been allowed to travel to high-risk countries?   It does seem to be very localised, with rates in neighbouring boroughs close to the national average, but I still haven’t got over the whole area being penalised for high rates in Rochdale last July.

 

Friday, May 7th

Iceland is on the green list.  I still can’t see the trip running, but I cannot get a straight answer from the holiday company, who just say to assume it’s running until advised otherwise.  Even with the green list, there’ll be queues at airports, and Iceland wants you to be vaccinated, and … oh, this is all very frustrating.  If it’s cancelled, it’s cancelled, but I need to know, and they won’t tell me!   You can’t get to speak to the bigwigs, and the people who answer the phone don’t know any more than I do.  I could just cancel it myself, but … I’m not sure that I’m ready to make that decision.  But the payment deadline is fast approaching.   Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel are also on.  And Australia and New Zealand, which won’t let us in!   Turkey is now red-listed, making the idea of playing the Champions League final in Istanbul even sillier.  For heaven’s sake, play it at Villa Park.  Villa have said they’re happy to stage it.

Rafa lost to Sascha in the Madrid QFs.  Bah.

The Glazers have issued a statement.  About United, I mean, not about Rafa or holidays!  It doesn’t say very much.

“The Conservatives have taken Hartlepool” – now there’s something I never thought I’d say!  The by-election was held under unfortunate circumstances, the previous MP having to resign due to allegations of inappropriate behaviour, but it’s been positive in that it’s focused attention on the old industrial heartlands of the North.  For far too long, politicians have only been interested in what the metropolitan elite want, and that has to change.  Last autumn, with all the Tier 3 business going on, it looked as if nothing had changed at all, but we seem to have moved on from that quite quickly.  And it won’t be forgotten that it was Andy Burnham, other northern mayors, and northern MPs from all parties standing up for us – it wasn’t Keir Starmer.  I feel a bit sorry for Starmer, trying to clear up Corbyn’s mess, and during a pandemic, but his idea of campaigning in Manchester was to pose by some rolls of wallpaper in the Trafford Centre.  No-one cares about Boris’s wallpaper.  We want jabs, jobs and travel.   And it has all got very personality-based, and Boris is certainly not lacking in charisma.

It now seems that the Astra Zeneca vaccine will not be offered to most under 40s.  I hope this doesn’t hold the vaccination programme up.  Hopefully not, now we’ve got supplies of the Moderna vaccine as well as the Pfizer.

 

Saturday, May 8th

In the least surprising of all the election results, Andy Burnham was re-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester, with 67% of the vote.  The mayoral elections have been very interesting – both there and elsewhere, they’ve been far more about the person than the party, and Andy’s said that he wants to take a “place first not party first” approach.  I have to admit that I wasn’t initially convinced about this regional mayor idea, but it does seem to be working out well.  As I keep saying, we’ve had enough of politics being all about London.  Mixed picture with the council elections, but the overall picture is gains for the Conservatives, losses for Labour.  Not impressed with the low turnout.  Labour have retained control of the Welsh Senedd.  The SNP have won the largest number of seats in the Scottish Parliament, and are whingeing about wanting another referendum.

It has rained for most of the day.  So frustrating, when you’ve been trapped with work all week.  However, I couldn’t have gone out first thing anyway, because the plasterer was coming to sort out the hole in the kitchen ceiling (from the Easter pipe disaster).  It is now a brown splodge rather than a hole.  Next job is to try to get the decorator to come and paint it white.  And I did get out to Hollingworth Lake for a bit, when the rain eased up.

Really fed up with the holiday company.  As much I want to go on this trip to Iceland, I don’t want to spend all that money if it’s going to be spoilt by restrictions.  I’m also stressed because my second jab will be pretty close to when I’m due to go, and I gather that the NHS app is a nightmare.  Then there are the issues of long queues at airports and PCR tests.  At the moment, my thinking is that a summer staycation may be better, and then a trip abroad in the autumn, if one can be sorted.  But I can’t do anything until the holiday company give me a straight answer – and, this close to the payment deadline, I’m entitled to expect one.

Bolton have been promoted to League 1 … as Rochdale go the other way, ironically.

 

Sunday, May 9th

We came from behind to win 3-1 at Villa.  So we just need one more point to secure a top 4 finish.  And City still aren’t champions.

The weather brightened up today, and I went to Erddig, which was lovely.  So nice to be able to walk somewhere with no crowds and (in the gardens) no dogs!  And to drive without traffic jams and traffic lights.

My weight is a disaster.  Every time I lose a couple of pounds, they go back on.  What am I supposed to do?  Starve?

Still no news from the holiday company.

And, finally, it looks like we will get confirmation tomorrow that the May 17th reopenings can go ahead.  And it sounds as if we’ll be given permission to hug our relatives and friends, as long as we’ve made “informed personal decisions” to do so.  If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry!  Did you ever think you’d be living in a world in which you couldn’t hug your loved ones without politicians giving you the go-ahead to do so, and making “informed personal decisions”?!  Not even George Orwell came up with that one.  I’m not criticising the restrictions, just thinking how far we’ve come from the world we lived in all our lives until 14 months ago.  Covid World!

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 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 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 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 2, January 11th to 17th 2021 inclusive

Monday, January 11th

It has rained on and off all day.  This at least meant that there was no queue at the park café.  However, Boris has been muttering about shutting park cafes down.  FFS.  Another option mentioned has been stopping people from exercising with someone from another household.  But some people, especially women, are nervous about walking on their own.  This may be the first time ever that I’ve agreed with Sadiq Khan, but he’s said that places of worship should be closed, and he’s right.  Hancock was asked about driving to exercise, but either misunderstood or sidestepped the question.  So he didn’t say that I couldn’t go to Dunham Massey or Hollingworth Lake.  TBH, I think he sidestepped it because there’s been (quelle surprise) some political points-scoring going on over Boris being see riding a bike 7 miles from home.  FFS, have people got nothing better to worry about?  He was on a bike, on his own, not having a party!  Meanwhile, Derbyshire police have apologised to the 2 women involved in the infamous reservoir walk incident, and rescinded the fines.

Hancock did say that support bubbles definitely won’t be banned.

On a happier note, 2.3 million people have now received at least one dose of the vaccine.  7 mass vaccination centres opened across the country today.   And the rate at which infections are increasing is slowing.

Rugby union cup matches have been suspended, because of virus issues.

United v Liverpool in the 4th round of the Cup.  Oh FFS!!

Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have said that people won’t be allowed in without masks, unless they’re medically exempt.  I’ve heard that before.  It’s very awkward: supermarket staff are afraid of being accused of discriminating against people with hidden health conditions etc.  To be fair, I rarely see anyone in Tesco or M&S without a mask, these days.

I’m so desperate to be able to plan something that I’ve spent a stupid amount of time thinking about which cakes to get as treats for my birthday.  It is 6 1/2 weeks until my birthday.  And I’m supposed to be on a diet.

 

Tuesday, January 12th

Another press conference tonight, this one with Priti Patel, a senior police officer and a senior doctor.  The police guy talked a lot of sense about the problems caused by people who are holding parties or going on coach trips, rather than mithering people walking round parks.  Someone from Sky News suggested that there should be more focus on the risk within workplaces, which is, as he said, likely to be far higher than that posed by people walking in parks. Another reporter just had to bring up the Derbyshire incident yet again.  Oh, FFS.  Enough.   I think the police guy was pretty narked that people were still harping on about it.   The media are being really childish, and it’s not helping.

But then nor are the police.  On top of the Derbyshire incident, police in Wales fined a woman and her husband for driving 7 miles to visit her 94-year-old mother!   How is visiting someone in their mid-90s not classed as a compassionate visit, which is allowed?  I appreciate that these are isolated incidents, but they’re making the police look stupid.  People are now teasing each other in the park about making sure you don’t get arrested for having a bottle of water and a packet of crisps with you.

The Republic of Ireland’s now got the highest infection rate in the world, and Portugal’s having a bad time of it as well.  And two gorillas at San Diego zoo have got the virus.  And Angela Merkel’s been going on about “the British variant”.  Whilst people have – quite rightly – got annoyed with Donald Trump for talking about “the Chinese virus”, it’s apparently OK for European leaders to talk about “the British variant”.  Quelle surprise.  Oh, and there’s now another variant – which apparently emerged in Brazil.

Nearly 697,000 deaths were registered in the UK in 2020, compared with an average of nearly 606,000 each year between 2015 and 2019.  That’s a difference of 91,000.  So that’s higher than the official death toll, but, unlike in Russia, not way, way higher.  It’s very hard to judge any of these statistics.  But they’re clearly not good.

I noticed that there was a guard by the entrance to Tesco this morning, but I didn’t see anyone going in without a mask anyway.  But I go early in the morning, when it’s quiet.  Tesco, Asda and Waitrose have now joined Morrisons and Sainsbury’s in banning people without masks, other than those who are medically exempt.  But wearing masks in shops has been compulsory since July.

Later, I had to go into the office for an hour, to put some files away, collect some other files, collect some post, and print some large documents which I can’t print at home.  There were a lot of cars in the car park: people in some of the other offices in the block are clearly making no effort at all to work from home.   And so many kids are in school.  Hmm.

On a happier note, we are top of the league after a 1-0 win at Burnley!!

 

Wednesday, January 13th

It has rained nearly all day, and more snow is forecast.  This isn’t making anyone feel any better.  Also, I am so, so sick of political points-scoring.  Can’t we all try to come together at this horrendous time?  1,564 virus deaths reported today, the highest daily figure yet, and all Keir Starmer can do is bleat that what Boris said before we knew about the new variant was wrong, and that “more restrictions” are needed but without suggesting what.  There’ve also been some very distressing pictures of wholly inadequate food parcels provided to underprivileged families whilst schools were closed.  Whilst government politicians bleated that they were inadequate, and Labour politicians bleated that this showed how evil the Tories were (even though the parcels came from an independent supplier), who was the only person who actually did something useful, i.e. contacted the suppliers and told them to up their game, and then contacted the Prime Minister?  Marcus Rashford.  Marcus is a wonderful young man, but why was it left to a footballer to take action about this?

I’m hearing a lot of confused reports about vaccination.  Some local surgeries have got supplies of the vaccine, but others haven’t, and there are reports about people over 80 trying to book appointments but being told to go to centres miles away.

On a more positive note, the rate of increase of infections does seem to be falling.  It’s still worrying high in our area, but the rates of increase is certainly down.  The situation in Merseyside and Widnes is very concerning, though.

 

Thursday, January 14th

What is going on with the vaccine?  My uncle, who is 75, has had his first dose.  Obviously this is brilliant news, but my mum and dad, who are also 75, and in the same health authority but with a different GP surgery, haven’t been contacted.  Nor has a family friend, who’s 80.   Why are some surgeries moving on to the 75-79 age group when others haven’t contacted people in the 80 and over group?

It’s rained again for most of the day, apart from when it sleeted, but at least we haven’t had heavy snow like they have in Yorkshire.  Some vaccination centres have had to close because of the weather.  The Pennines seem to be protecting us: a friend who’s only about 20 miles away, but on the Yorkshire side, sent me a photo of heavy snow at her house.

Andy Murray’s got the virus!   He’s not unwell, and hopefully he’ll be OK for the Australian Open, but still.

And arrivals from the whole of South America, plus Panama, plus Portugal and the Cape Verde islands, have been banned, because of the new variant found in Brazil.  Apart from British and Irish nationals, anyone else with UK residency, and hauliers.  Why are so many people travelling, anyway?  OK, obviously hauliers have to travel, and someone’s got to man cargo flights, but there still seem to be an awful lot of people moving around.

And my diet is a disaster.  It’s not working, and I’m getting demoralised and comfort-eating.  Today has not been a good day.  People say that the virus has changed everything, but it hasn’t.  It hasn’t changed the fact that I’m chained to an office computer, it hasn’t changed the need to do housework, and it hasn’t changed the fact that I put on weight for no reason and can’t lose it.  But it’s changed the fact that I can try to cope with that by doing nice things at weekends and going on holiday.

 

Friday, January 15th

Hooray!   Mum and Dad have been called for their vaccination first doses.  And they can go very soon – tomorrow, in fact, to the local walk-in centre.  Such a relief – I was quite emotional when Mum sent the message.  Goodness knows when I’ll get done, but progress is certainly being made on vaccinating the more vulnerable groups.

And the decorator’s been, to paint the kitchen ceiling where there was the leak.  Having to see that huge brown splodge every time I went into the kitchen was doing my head in.  So glad that it’s done.

And I’m glad that it’s Friday.  Being chained to the office computer, with no prospect of being able to go out and do nice stuff at the weekend or plan a holiday, gets you down.  All travel corridors are to end from 4am on Monday … not that anyone’s going far at the moment.  Mind you, I say that, but it’s amazing how much international travel does seem to be going on.  OK, obviously someone has to transport cargo, but there seem to be a lot of other people on the move too.

The economy shrank by 2.6% in November- much less than expected, probably because of people doing Christmas shopping online, but still grim.  The overall decrease since February is 8.5%.  On a happier note, insurers who’ve tried to get out of paying out on business interruption policies have been told by the courts that lockdown definitely classes as business interruption, and the rate of infection is now falling in parts of London.  Sadly, it’s still increasing in Greater Manchester, but the rate of increase has slowed down very significantly.   The situation in other parts of the North West’s very worrying, though.

 

Saturday, January 16th

Hooray, Mum and Dad have had their first doses of the vaccine.  I walked past the vaccination centre, the local walk-in centre, on my way to M&S: there was a queue outside, and there were signs up asking locals not to use the car park nearby as so many people are expecting.  Things are certainly moving in our area: most people aged 75 and over have either had their first dose or have got an appointment to have it soon, and some people in the 70-75 age group are now being called.

The rate of infection in our borough was only up by 6% week-on-week in yesterday’s figures, and falling in some neighbouring boroughs.  And it’s falling nationwide.  But there were another 1,295 deaths today, and over 37,500 people are in hospital with the virus.  It seems unlikely that those figures will fall significantly until the beginning of February at the earliest.  Things in the Republic of Ireland are very bad.  And Portugal’s in a bad way too – is this anything to do with the mutant strains from Brazil?  Brazil itself is also in a bad way.

The strain which the authorities in France and Germany delight in referring to as “the British mutant” is officially called “Variant of Concern 202012/01”.  Doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, does it?  Or B117, which at least is a bit easier to say.

It rained first thing, but then dried up, so I got a takeaway cream tea from The Coffee Sack and took it to the park, and then had a long walk round.  There are lots of daffodil shoots around now.  So that was OK.

But the Australian Open is turning into a nightmare before it’s even started.  A total of three people on two flights to Australia, one from Los Angeles and one from Abu Dhabi, tested positive.  I thought you only had to self-isolate if someone sat very close to you on a flight tested positive, and apparently the players and their entourages did too, but they’re saying that everyone’s got to self-isolate.  So 47 players, plus their coaches, physios and anyone else travelling with them, are shut in their hotel rooms for 14 days.  They can’t practise, so will be going into a strenuous two week event in the heat with very little preparation.  And Yulia Putintseva found a mouse in her room.  On top of this, Australians wanting to return home for abroad but unable to get permission to do so are upset that tennis players have been given priority.  Oh dear.  This is not good!

 

Sunday, January 17th

We drew 0-0 at Liverpool.  Not a bad result!  So we stay top of the league … but City play tonight, and’ve got a game in hand.

Snapfish have totally mucked up my order.  I appreciate that this is not the world’s biggest crisis, but I’ll now have to wait a week and a half for the reprint, and hope that this one’s OK.  I have no idea what’s happened: they’re usually fine, but all these photos are jumbled up in completely random order, and I couldn’t get very much sense out of the “live chat” person.

Went to Hollingworth Lake this morning, then did some reading and wrote some book reviews.

The Daily Telegraph over-excitedly proclaimed that all adults would have been vaccinated by the end of June, but, as Dominic Raab said, the beginning of September’s more like that, and even that’s only for the first dose.  It’ll be early March before any restrictions are lifted, and, given how obsessed they are with reopening schools, that’ll probably be first, sending infection rates up again.  Hairdressers should so be given priority over schools 😉 .  And, even then, it’ll be back into the evil tier system, with the evil travel restrictions.

There’s now been a positive test from a third flight to Melbourne.  72 players, and all the other people on the flights, are now banned from leaving their hotel rooms.

All this business with the tennis players … travel is very, very important to me, and the thought of a second successive year without my lovely coach trips abroad is very upsetting, but I just can’t see them happening.  Even if travel corridors, i.e. no self-isolation needed at either end, are reopened, tests will probably be required.  However careful you are, until you’re vaccinated, none of us can guarantee that we haven’t got the virus, and how could you take that chance, spending a lot of money and booking some of your (in my case) very meagre annual leave allowance without being sure that you’d be able to go?  Or, even worse, doing all that, getting there, and then, like the tennis players, being told you had to stay in a hotel room for 14 days because someone else on your flight, who’d tested negative beforehand, had tested positive later?  How would that even work, if you were only there for a week?  What on earth would you do?

There’s been some talk about takeaways being unsafe, but I think people are just going for easy targets.  There have been pictures on the news of people packed into London Tube trains like sardines: services have been reduced, but a lot of people still need to travel to work on public transport.  A Sky News poll showed that 48% of people were still going into work.  OK, obviously that includes key workers, but concerns have been raised about unsafe workplaces.   Between 6th and 14th January, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) received 2,945 complaints about virus-related safety issues.  That’s a lot more likely to be causing problems than people stopping briefly to buy a cup of tea and a piece of cake.

And so endeth the first full week of Lockdown III.  Feels like it’s been months already …