Eating From a Box

I’m eating from a box.  I’m eating from a cardboard box.  I’m eating from a box.  (Anyone who doesn’t like ’80s music won’t get that, sorry.)   I’m eating from cardboard boxes – or paper bags – because, here in an area of the country which has been under additional restrictions since the end of July, restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes and tea rooms are not allowed to open, unless it’s to serve takeaways or food for delivery.

We’re doing our best.  We really are.  It’s quite fun, in a Spirit of the Blitz kind of way, to buy a cardboard cup of mulled wine from a local cafe which has set up a cauldron at the side of one of the busiest main roads in the country, and to drink it whilst standing on the pavement, chatting to whoever else happens to be there, over the noise of the traffic.  Or to see people cooking paella outside the Spanish cafe near the library, or holding a barbecue at the side of National Trust cafe in December when the temperature outside’s barely above freezing.   Well, as long as it’s not raining, anyway.

But it’s really not much fun for the people running these places, especially those running small independent businesses.  These businesses get not a penny more in financial support than those in Tier 1 and Tier 2, which are able to throw their doors open and welcome customers inside, or at least to have customers sitting at tables outside.   Some of them have spent a considerable amount of money in adapting their premises so that they can serve take-aways – that’s a lot of money out at a time when they’re getting very little money in.  They don’t want to close, because then their loyal customers will have no choice but to go elsewhere.   I’ve had distressed owners and staff, in cafes which would normally be packed out at this time of year, apologising for only being able to offer me a very small selection to choose from, saying that they’re no longer able to serve fresh cream cakes as the cream doesn’t keep and they aren’t selling enough in a day for it to be viable.  And that they’ve had to run down their stock of frozen goods because they can no longer afford the electricity to keep all their freezers running.

Places whose business is linked to particular events – pubs and cafes near football grounds, or people who run stalls at music events – aren’t even getting any business from takeaways and deliveries.

And yet, as I’ve said, these businesses get not a penny more in financial support than those in Tier 1 and Tier 2. This is what Andy Burnham keeps saying.  This is what Gary Neville was saying on the Sophy Ridge on Sunday yesterday, when he tore strips off both main political parties: maybe we should have footballers running the country.   We’ve already had an SOS beamed on to the side of Blackpool Tower.  Should we try beaming one on to every landmark of every area of the North and Midlands which is suffering like this?

Places are closing down already.  Some independent businesses in the hospitality sector can’t keep going much longer.   We’ve got an action group trying to promote local economic recovery.  UnitedCity.  This is Manchester, OK: we like using football terminology!   But it’s not easy, when there’s so little support available.

I’m going to keep eating from cardboard boxes.  And paper bags.  And just hope that it isn’t for much longer.  Because we can’t go on like this for much longer.  However much fun it may be to drink mulled wine by the roadside.

How can it be right than small hospitality businesses in Tier 3, which are banned from welcoming in customers, only get the same grants as those in Tier 1 and Tier 2?  Well, quite frankly, it isn’t.

 

Lockdown II Week 5, November 30th to December 6th 2020 inclusive

Monday, November 30th

Latest diktat from the dictators of Downing Street – people in Tier 3 areas are not allowed to go and watch kids’ nativity plays, but people in Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas are.  It’s like a bloody Dickens novel.  People in London – eat, drink and be merry.  People in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield, etc – Christmas in the workhouse for you.

It says in this morning’s paper that footfall in Blackpool fell by 44% between the end of August and the end of October.  And the idea of bringing in business by ending the Illuminations season’s been ruined by the Tier 3 restrictions.

It’s being reported that up to 100 Tory MPs are unhappy with the tier system, although it’s not clear how many of them will vote against it.  But Labour are wimping out and refusing to vote against it.

I wish someone would slap Matt Hancock.  He’s so bloody patronising!

News from Wales – indoor entertainment venues have got to close, and pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants are banned from selling alcohol and have to close (except for takeaways) at 6pm.

It’s rained nearly all day.  So the park was quiet, which at least meant that there wasn’t a queue in the cafe!  I’ve had two face-to-face interactions with human beings all day – asking for a cup of tea in the park cafe, and asking for stamps for my overseas Christmas cards in the post office.  I’d rather have this than being in the office, but it’s a bit miserable as well.

A new tumble dryer will hopefully be arriving on Thursday.

 

Tuesday, December 1st

Labour have wimped out and abstained, so the Let’s Level Down The North And Give London Special Treatment tier system looks set to go ahead.

A Lincolnshire MP asked why Market Rasen is in Tier 3 when East Ham, in London, has 6 times the number of cases and is in Tier 2.  Boris sidestepped the question.

The Arcadia Group’s gone bust, which takes out Evans, Top Shop, Top Man, Wallis, Burtons, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins.  Debenhams, which is closely linked to it, has now collapsed too.  I can’t believe it.  The big Debenhams in Manchester has been there since 1957, and known as Debenhams since 1973.  So it’s been a big landmark all my life.  BHS on Market Street’s another shop I’ve gone to all my life.  And Top Shop was the in place for teenage girls to shop when I was a teenage girl – not so much for fat kids like me, but certainly for cool kids.  They were struggling before this, but lockdown and social distancing have finished them off.  Unless something can be done, 25,000 people are going to lose their jobs, plus the knock-on effect on suppliers and landlords, the loss of council tax, and the general impact on footfall of big shops not being there.

 

Newcastle v Villa’s off due to a virus outbreak at Newcastle – the first Premier League match to fall foul of it since the restart.

And even the Queen’s Christmas plans have been mucked up: she and Prince Philip are staying at Windsor, not going to Sandringham.

On a happier note, today has been sunny.  And I’ve eaten the first chocolate out of the Advent calendar.

 

Wednesday, December 2nd

The UK’s become the first country in the world to authorise use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

This is obviously great news.

However, it’s going to take a long time before it can be administered to everyone.  In the meantime, we’re stuck with this system that seems designed to do down the North and Midlands.  I’ve e-mailed my MP to thank him for voting against them, but, unfortunately, it didn’t change anything.  Stratford-on-Avon’s actually taking legal action against the government.  I’m trying to think of some Shakespearean joke to make about that, but obviously it’s not funny.

My brother-in-law is self-isolating for a third time, after coming into contact with someone who tested positive.  Bleurgh.

And we lost to PSG.  I should have been having a nice hot chocolate at the Christmas markets, then going to see United take on Mbappe, Neymar and co … and, instead, I had to watch it on TV.  And we lost.  And need at least a draw at Leipzig to be sure of qualifying.

 

Thursday, December 3rd

You can now travel from England to Wales.  Unless your area’s in Tier 3.

Lots of pictures of football fans being welcomed back to matches.  But not if your area’s in Tier 3.

Lots of pictures of people enjoying evenings out at pubs and restaurants.  But not if your area’s in Tier 3.

Even some pictures of theatre performances.  But not if your area’s in Tier 3.

So sick of being treated like a criminal, a leper, and generally a second-class citizen.

A rather childish row’s broken out over the vaccine, after the Education Secretary joked about Britain authorising it first because we’re the best country, and the stupid idiots at the EU took it seriously and got the huff!

Kids doing GCSEs and A-levels next year are to be told what’s on the papers.  I’m not sure that that’s a very good idea – the rest of the syllabus is then going to be relegated to the background.  It’s a nightmare situation, because some kids have been in school continuously since the beginning of September, whereas others have missed weeks and weeks because of having to self-isolate.  That’s no-one’s fault, but I’m not sure that this is the best way of dealing with it.

The tumble dryer has not arrived.  It is supposed to be coming tomorrow.  But I will not be in tomorrow.  So I’ve had to ask Mum and Dad to wait at my house for 2 hours, which I feel a bit awful about, and I’ll just have to hope I can work out how to use it.  FFS, just the one day I’m not in!!

 

Friday, December 4th

This is the weekend I was going to have a Christmas market break.  2017, Cologne.  2018, Munich.  2019, Vienna.  2020 … er, no Christmas markets, and you can’t go anywhere without going into quarantine when you get back, and there are restrictions in most of Europe anyway.  But I have been for a Festive Spa Day at the Last Drop, and very nice it was too!   I’m so sorry for them – there are usually weddings, barmitzvahs, conferences and all sorts going on there, and now the hotel and restaurant aren’t allowed to open at all.  But the leisure club can – the pool, jacuzzi and aromatherapy rooms are open, and you can have spa treatments.  And you get a festive afternoon tea.

The festive afternoon tea – turkey, cranberry and stuffing sandwiches, a jam and cream scone, and two mince pies – had to be served as a takeaway.   It’d been dry when I’d gone in for my treatments (facial, back massage, scalp massage).  When I came out, and collected the afternoon tea, it was snowing!  There are picnic tables in the hotel grounds, so I decided that it’d be lovely and festive to sit there, with snow falling around me, and eat it.  It wasn’t – it was bloody freezing, and I ended up giving up and bringing it home (and very nice it was too).  But it made a great photo for Facebook!

Loads of snow on the moors, and cars coming down from the moors had loads of snow on their bonnets.

The Brexit negotiations are not getting far.  Every time I put Sky News on, they inform us that yet more food has been delivered.  WTF?  Tell them that they’re not getting another morsel to eat until they reach a deal!  That idiot Barnier’d soon stop being so awkward then.  He wears an EU flag mask.  How sad is that?

The R rate is below 1, and infection levels are falling everywhere except in the NE.  Infection rates in Greater Manchester are falling faster than anywhere else (I think).  Only Rochdale and Oldham are still struggling a bit, and rates are coming down even there.  Everywhere else is below or only just above 200, and 4 boroughs are well below 200.  But we’re still stuck in Tier 3.  It has been noted numerous times that the rates in parts of London were 340 when they were put into Tier 2.

Rapid testing for care home visitors has been stopped in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and South Yorkshire, because of fears that the results aren’t accurate enough.

The new tumble dryer is here 🙂 .

 

Saturday, December 5th

It was really snowy at Lyme Park/Pemberley today!  The roads were clear, but there was loads of snow on the grass – kids were throwing snowballs – and, on a lovely, clear, day, glorious views of the snow-covered Peaks.  Absolutely glorious.

 

I honestly wasn’t sure whether it was in the borough of Stockport (Greater Manchester), the borough of High Peak (Derbyshire) or the borough of East Cheshire.  However, the postal address, as given on the booking e-mail, said “Lyme Park, Disley, Stockport”.  However, it turned out that it was a few hundred yards into East Cheshire.  So I suppose I inadvertently broke “guidance” by being there – me and the other 85% of people there who’d have come from either Greater Manchester or High Peak/Buxton.  Being in East Cheshire meant that, hooray, the house could open, so you could see all the lovely Christmas decorations in there, and you could sit at the tables outside the cafe (or indoors, if you were wimping out of the cold – a nice dry cold today, not damp cold like yesterday).

This is the country we now live in.  A few hundred yards make the difference as to whether a hotel can open or has to close, and a restaurant can open or can only offer takeaways.  Those which can’t operate normally, or at all, get no more support than those which can.  In the West Country, there are three tiers.  If you live in Cornwall, you can go into a pub and drink a pint of beer.  If you live in neighbouring Devon, you can go into a pub in Cornwall, and sit at the next table to someone drinking a pint of beer, but you yourself cannot just drink a pint of beer.  However, if you also order a Scotch egg, you can then drink the beer.  Crossing from Devon into Somerset, if you live in North Somerset, or neighbouring South Gloucestershire, you are not supposed to go to either Devon or Cornwall at all.  Nor may you cross the Severn Bridge from South Gloucestershire into South Wales.  If, however, you live in Devon or Cornwall, you may drive through North Somerset and South Gloucestershire into South Wales, but you can’t drink alcohol in a pub, and you can’t even eat a Scotch egg in a pub if it’s after 6pm.  If you live in South Wales, you may drive to Cornwall, go into a pub, and drink as much as you like, without any Scotch eggs, even if you come from Blaenau Gwent, where the infection rate is around 500 per 100,000.  The infection rate in South Gloucestershire is around 150 per 100,000.  It’s like a cross between a George Orwell novel and a bad sitcom.  But it’s really not funny for those of us in areas which have been under additional restrictions since July.

The takeaway businesses set up by places round here which never used to do takeaways are doing really well, though.  I felt so sorry for a Catalan/Balearic restaurant which’d barely opened when lockdown started, but they had someone cooking paella outside today, with people gathering to watch (there’s far less “social distancing” in takeaway queues than in sit-in restaurants, but try telling the clowns in the Cabinet that), and the guy told me that they sold out in 14 minutes the first day they tried it.  Good for them!

And fans are back at Premier League matches.  But not in Tier 3.  United were playing at West Ham – so fans were allowed in, as London, bien sur, is not in Tier 3.  We won 3-1.  Yay!

 

Sunday, December 6th

Went into town today.  Due to the building work at the Town Hall, Father Christmas is sat outside Central Library.  And there are other decorations up too.  That’s my takeaway tea and bagel, not litter!!

There were plenty of people around  – although not on these photos, which I took before the shops opened and which are away from the shopping area anyway – but absolutely nothing like you’d expect 19 days before Christmas, and it was very sad to see all the empty spaces where the Christmas markets should have been.  Some of the usual decorations and trees were missing, too.

There were long queues outside Primark.

A lot of food places were open for takeaways.  I’m trying to use independent places as much as possible.  The chains have got money coming in from areas that aren’t under these horrendous restrictions.   Local independent places haven’t.  They’re all doing their best, but I had people apologising to me for the limited options on offer, saying that they couldn’t sell things like fresh cream cakes because they don’t keep and they just aren’t selling enough in a day to make it worth it, and that they’ve even had to run down their stock of non-perishable stuff because they’ve had to empty some of their freezers as they can’t afford the cost of the electricity to run them.  Yet places like these only get the same small business grants, which are very little anyway, as places in Tier 1 and Tier 2, which are able to open up and offer sit-down meals as normal.   This is the sort of thing that Andy Burnham keeps talking about.  Levelling down the North.

Gary Neville was on the Sophy Ridge interview on Sky News this morning.  He was having quite a rant.  Good for him.

The usual brass bands and carol singers weren’t around either, but four students with brass instruments were playing carols outside Marks & Spencer’s.  They made me smile 🙂 .   Thank you, carol-playing students!

 

 

 

 

 

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

Monday, November 23rd

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

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

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

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

Bleurgh.

 

Tuesday, November 24th

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

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

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

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

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

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

And United beat Istanbul Basaksehir

 

Wednesday, November 25th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, November 26th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, November 27th – Lancashire Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, November 28th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, November 29th

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lockdown II Week 3 – November 16th to 22nd 2020 inclusive

Monday, November 16th

Since the start of the pandemic, the oven has broken, the toilet has broken, the toilet has broken again and damaged the kitchen ceiling, a lightning strike has knackered the router and the phones, and now the oven has broken again.  I mean, is it me?!  A new one will hopefully be coming on Thursday or Friday.  More money.

Went into town for an optician’s appointment today.  Very strange seeing everywhere so quiet, when the Christmas markets should be open.  I love the Christmas markets.  And that miserable git Matt Hancock’s said that it’s too soon to say whether or not the lockdown will end on December 2nd.  Retailers are getting really fed up: Waterstones (books) and Clinton (cards) have both complained about their shops having to close, when books and cards can be readily bought in supermarkets, garden centres and newsagents.

On a happier note, another firm, Moderna, have also got a vaccine which is over 90% effective.  And hopes are rising that testing will be made available to people with loved ones in care homes, allowing for visits.

Meanwhile, Boris is self-isolating, just at a crucial stage of the Brexit negotiations and in the middle of Lockdown II, after an MP with whom he attended a meeting tested positive.  Several other MPs are also affected.

And there’s been a worrying surge in cases in Hull and Grimsby.

 

Tuesday, November 17th

Superb match between Rafa and Dominic …  which, sadly, Rafa lost 😦 .

A load of virus cases in England have been “relocated”, because the addresses on the system were wrong.  Is this a joke?  Needless to say, they have mainly been relocated to urban parts of the north.  The area with the largest number of cases relocated away from it is the area which includes Rishi Sunak’s constituency.

Easyjet’s suffered the first loss in its history.

And Glasgow and various other parts of Scotland are being put into Tier 4 … which is basically the sort of lockdown that the whole of England’s presently in.  This is awful.  I know this is a horrible situation, but people and businesses can’t take much more.

I went to Tesco this morning, coming home at about 10 to 9.  The amount of traffic, considering that we’re meant to be in lockdown, was insane.  OK, the stupid council’s decision to reduce the main road to one lane each way makes it a lot worse, but even so.  Could have been parents returning from taking kids to school, but I’m not convinced.  Loads of people are working at offices, when they could be working from home.

And the police have been told to stop issuing the highest level of fines for breaking regulations.  TBH, I agree that the fixed penalty system’s stupid – £10,000 is a year’s net income to some people but loose change to others.  But why wasn’t this taken into consideration in the first place?

 

Wednesday, November 18th

I went to the office to drop some stuff off this morning.  Just after I arrived, the fire alarm went off.  I was tempted just to go home and leave the stuff I’d dropped off lying about on the desk where I’d dumped it, but decided that that wouldn’t be very fair, so I waited outside until it was sorted and I could go back in and put everything away properly.  Hordes of people came streaming out of the other offices in the block – and these are people whose jobs could certainly be done from home.  There were even people from a social group which uses one of the offices for meet-ups, and I’m pretty sure that social groups aren’t allowed to meet up during lockdown –  unless it’s some sort of emotional support group, which this isn’t.  FFS!

There’s talk of making restrictions in Tiers 2 and 3 even tighter when lockdown ends.  I have just had enough of this.  We’ve been under restrictions since July.  Rates in the North West are falling.  What are they going to try to do to us now?

In Scotland, police are to have powers to stop people travelling outside their own council areas in Tier 3 and Tier 4 areas.  Like they’re living in an open prison.  I understand that this is a really, really shit situation, but people have just had enough.

There’s been a big anti-lockdown protest in Berlin.

There is some talk of a Christmas truce here.   As long as you only hold small family gatherings, and only travel by car – which is a pretty stupid suggestion, given that a lot of people don’t have cars.  But maybe it means that my sister and brother-in-law and nephews will be able to come here for Christmas after all.

But there are concerns that the Australian Open may not be able to go ahead.  Players have said that they’re willing to self-isolate for a fortnight – which, given that that’d include Christmas and New Year if they were to be out of quarantine before the start of the warm-up events, is no small commitment.   But now the government of Victoria’s suggesting it won’t let players arrive until January.

And Boris has appeared at PM’s Questions by video link, as he is currently confined to barracks.

 

Thursday, November 19th

The new oven has arrived, hooray!

Rafa has reached the semi-finals, hooray!

Government funding’s been announced for some sports clubs, due to the effects of the virus.

Mink in Sweden have now got the virus as well.  What is it with mink?!

More bad news in the retail industry today – more firms going into administration.  And we’re only hearing about big firms – how many small shops have gone?

Infection rates in the North West continue to fall, which is obviously very good news, but infection rates elsewhere in England continue to rise.  It’s weird: it’s like we’re having a different pandemic to the rest of the country.   The infection rate across the 10 boroughs is down to 399.10, down 22% week-on-week.   The average across England is 265.5 and rising.  Over 500 deaths across the UK again today.  Italy suffered nearly 800 yesterday.  And New York’s closed schools again.

Hull is much the worst affected place in the country now, with Scarborough, Teesside, Bristol, Swale (in Kent), Stoke, and parts of Leics, Lincs and West Yorks also struggling.

Please, please, please let us out of bloody lockdown on December 2nd.  Northern Ireland’s going back into lockdown after next week.  So they’re coming out for one week.  Well, I hope everyone manages to get a hair appointment.  How bloody demoralising – practically straight back into it.

And Brexit talks have been suspended after one of the EU negotiators tested positive for the virus.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Michel Barnier had made the whole thing up to throw a spanner in the works, but I suppose we have to assume it’s genuine.

 

Friday, November 20th

It has rained nearly all day.  Despite this, there were still long queues at both the cafes in the park.

Not convinced about all this focus on Christmas.  Much as I want to see my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, we’re being told that 5 days of lockdown will be “needed” for every day for which restrictions are eased.  If we have 5 days over Christmas (the 27th and 28th are Bank Holidays, as Christmas Day and Boxing Day fall at the weekend), plus New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, that means a 35 day lockdown.  People’s mental health is suffering as it is, and a lot of businesses won’t make it through another 35 days of being closed.  We’re not in some sort of Hollywood film where everything revolves around Christmas.  I just don’t think it can be justified.  Which is extremely sad.

2 million people in Scotland are now back in lockdown, and businesses in Northern Ireland are furious that they’ll have to close again after only being able to reopen for a week.

The Serbian Orthodox Patriarch’s died with coronavirus, after attending a funeral for the Serbian Orthodox church’s chief cleric in Montenegro … lots of people, no social distancing, people even kissing the body.  It’s very sad, but there does seem to be an issue with people thinking that religious services should be exempt from the rules.  It’s happening here too.  I don’t understand why religious people seem to think they should be exempt.

Matt Hancock’s wittering on about how “we must keep our resolve”.  It might come across quite well if it was Churchill saying it.  Still, at least he manages to brush his hair before leading a press conference.

 

Saturday, November 21st

Oh no!!  Rafa lost to Daniil in the semis … after serving for the match in the 2nd set.  Just can’t win the World Tour Finals 😦 .   And it looks as if the Australian Open might be put back to March.  Tennis Australia’s idea was for the players and anyone accompanying them to arrive in mid-December, go into quarantine for 2 weeks, and then be ready for the warm-up events and for the Open to start on January 18th as scheduled, but it looks as if the government of Victoria’s going to put the kibosh on it.  That is a blow 😦 .  January’s a miserable time of year even in normal times, and the Aussie Open’s the one good thing about it.   And then that’ll muck up the calendar for the rest of the year

On a happier note, United beat West Brom, 1-0.

It’s five weeks to Christmas!   Doesn’t feel like it, with no Christmas markets … although some people are trying to cheer themselves up by putting their trees and decorations up.  Please tell me that the people over the road are going to switch their garish flashing lights off during the day – I love Christmas, but those lights flashing 24/7 will do my head in!

And it’s 5 days until Thanksgiving … and cases seem to be soaring in most parts of the US 😦 .

Managed to walk round Hollingworth Lake and have a mince pie 🙂 from The Olive and Pickle before the rain started.

I meant to go out for another walk later, but I had to make a start on clearing out the kitchen cupboards, and then Dominic and Nole’s match lasted nearly three hours and it was dark by the time it’d finished.

 

Sunday, November 22nd

We’re going to be told tomorrow what we are and aren’t allowed to do over Christmas.  It’d be vaguely comical if it wasn’t such a nightmare – it sounds as if we’re all being summoned into the school hall to be given a lecture about how reports will be handed out after the carol service and the Chanukah play, and you must give yours to your parents Or Else.

Then, on Thursday, we’re going to be told which tier we’re going in after lockdown.  This again sounds like being at school.  Some areas are being moved into higher tiers.  It doesn’t sound like we’ll be going into a lower tier.  The average infection rate across Greater Manchester’s below 360, which is well below where it was, but the national average is around 260.  Hull, by contrast, is up at around 700, with Swale in Kent around 650 and several other places over 500.  Worse news is the talk of tighter restrictions in each tier.  FFS, are things not bad enough?  But the 10pm curfew’s being lifted, which isn’t an awful lot of help when pubs and restaurants are closed anyway.

Finished clearing out the kitchen drawers and cupboards, but ran out of time, energy and enthusiasm so still haven’t done the fridge and the freezer.  I’ll try to get them done tomorrow.  Then that’s inside done.  My car urgently needs valeting, but all the decent places are closed due to lockdown.

Medvedev won the World Tour Finals.

Went to Tatton Park this morning – and there was a rainbow right over Tatton Hall!   You have to book to go round the gardens, which I’d done, but not for the estate, which was pretty busy.  It’s a big enough place to be able to walk around without going near anyone else, but the queue for takeaway food and drinks was horrendous!  It wasn’t too bad when I went, at about 11, but by half 12 it really was long!  Nice sunny morning, after all the rain yesterday.  Once we’re back in the evil tier system, I shouldn’t officially be going outside Greater Manchester into East Cheshire, but … well, we’ll see.

 

The Great Christmas Debate

  Over the next few days, the powers that be are going to be telling us what we are and aren’t allowed to do over the festive season.  I can’t believe that I’ve actually just written that: it sounds as if Oliver Cromwell’s troops are liable to call round, take us by our left legs and throw us down the stairs.  That’s 2020 for you.  However, it sounds as if the authorities, not just here but everywhere else, *don’t* want to be like Cromwell and go down in history as the people who cancelled Christmas, so we’re going to get a few days “off”.   But is that the right decision?

We, in Greater Manchester, have been banned from going into other people’s homes, or meeting people inside public places such as restaurants, since July 31st.  It was announced late at night, with no warning, to come into effect within little more than two hours.  We were barely out of national lockdown at that point.  Due to work and educational commitments, many people hadn’t yet chance to be reunited with loved ones whom they hadn’t seen since before this nightmare began – and some still haven’t.  In mid-October, we were told that we could at least see people in private gardens, but, less than a fortnight later, not only had we again been banned from doing that but we’d been told that we weren’t even supposed to leave our local area.  In an age in which pretty much everyone’s got immediate relatives and close friends living in other parts of the country, imagine how that felt.  I hear people down south moaning about having been put into Tier 2 – maybe try to remember that we’ve had tighter restrictions than Tier 2 for almost four months now.  So we, more than anyone, are desperate to get together with our loved ones over Christmas.

Usually, by this time of year, I’ve got “Fairytale of New York” (with or without words banned by the BBC) and “Merry Christmas Everybody” going through my head.  This year, it’s Freddie Mercury singing “Oh, my friends, it’s been a long hard year.  But now it’s Christmas … for one day”.  One day.  Well, a few days.  It’s not even just about the fact that it’s Christmas.  Yes, it’s “the most wonderful time of the year”.  Yes, most of us have got a sentimental attachment to it, regardless of what religion, if any, we practise.  But, after the year we’ve had, I’d jump for joy at the thought of being able spend time with family and friends to celebrate the fact that it’s actually not raining this morning, or that United beat West Brom last night.  Anything.

And yet … switching from Queen to the Pet Shop Boys, “Is it worth it?”.  (OK, the song’s “Was it worth it?”, but near enough!).  There’s a lot of talk of facing five days of tighter restrictions for every one day of a Christmas truce.  We’re probably talking five days over Christmas, plus, to respect Scottish culture, two days over New Year.  So that could mean over a month of near-lockdown.  A lot of businesses and not-for-profit cultural institutions won’t survive that.  Small shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars, hair and beauty salons, gyms and leisure centres, hotels, public transport, museums and other tourist attractions are struggling as it is.   The airline industry, sports clubs whose fans are banned from entering the stadia, cinemas, theatres, live music venues, wedding planners, caterers … they’re on their knees.  Another month or more of tighter restrictions could cost thousands of jobs.

And there are the mental health implications.  January and February are never the most cheerful months of the year as it is.  We’re already going to be facing them under severe restrictions.  Could this mean that those restrictions are even more severe?  And there is, of course, the issue of spreading the virus.  Infection rates here are, mercifully, falling, down by 25% in our borough since last week, after sky-rocketing throughout September, October and early November.  Do we really want to risk seeing them go right back up again?  See hospital admissions, and, tragically, probably death figures, go up again?  For the sake of a few days?

And yet those few days would mean so much, in what’s been a pretty rotten year.

I don’t know what the answer is.  There are no easy answers.  And, let’s face it, a lot of people will be getting together over the festive season anyway, because they’ve just had enough.

So what’s going to happen?  Well, apparently we will be finding out over the next few days.   One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be a Christmas like no other.  But, eighty years ago, the Luftwaffe killed nearly 700 people in the Manchester area in horrific bombing raids on December 22nd, 23rd and 24th, and over 350 people in the Liverpool area on December 20th, 21st and 22nd.  If the wartime generations coped with that, we can cope with whatever this year brings.  Somehow.

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

Monday, November 9th

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

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

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

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

Still stressed about the kitchen ceiling.

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

 

Tuesday, November 10th

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

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

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

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

 

Armistice Day, Wednesday, November 11th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, November 12th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, November 13th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, November 14th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, November 15th

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

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

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

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

But they do end.  Don’t they?

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

 

Lockdown II Week 1, November 2nd to 8th 2020 inclusive

Monday, November 2nd

Oh great.  Got up to find that water was still coming through to the kitchen ceiling.  The stain is horrendous, and I’ve got no idea where to find a decent decorator/artexer or whether or not they’re allowed to work indoors during lockdown.  I couldn’t even do anything about it, as I had to get off to my “emergency” hair appointment.  The hairdressers are all working flat out for the next three days, but are very worried about the situation – although, thankfully, it’s been announced that self-employed people who can’t work due to lockdown will get 80% of their income funded by the state, as for employed people.

I got the plumber to come back later.  He said that there was a problem with the valve (which he put in), to do with condensation.  I hope this isn’t going to turn into a whole saga.  I have got to work at a client’s office tomorrow, and am hugely stressed about being out of the house all day with this going on.

There’s now a to-do over the possibility of people crossing from England to Wales to go to pubs, shops, hairdressers etc.  And Nicola Sturgeon has said that Scotland might go into lockdown now that the furlough scheme’s being extended.  This is just silly.  Why can’t we all stick to the same rules?

Cup matches involving non-league teams can go ahead, hooray.  And we’re allowed to make “short journeys” for exercise.  Whatever a “short journey” may be.

Ryanair are refusing to give refunds for cancelled flights, even though international travel has been banned unless it’s for business.  How are they allowed to get away with that?

And it’s emerged that Prince William had the virus in April, around the same time that Prince Charles did, but nothing was said to avoid worrying people.  Melodramatic types are claiming that people would have panicked in case the virus carried off both Charles and William, something happened to the Queen, and Prince George had to become king at the age of 6, which is utterly ridiculous as neither Charles nor William were seriously ill.  However, with Boris being so ill, I can see that it might have caused a panic if a second senior royal were known to have got the virus as well.

Opinion is divided over whether or not schools, colleges and universities should close.

And the North West Ambulance Service has said that it’s struggling to cope and may ask people to make their own way to hospital.  It seems that it’s due more to staff being off due to self-isolating than to an exceptionally high number of 999 calls, but it’s certainly quite worrying.

 

Tuesday, November 3rd

Hoping that no more water is coming through, but it’s hard to tell whilst it’s still damp.  Some of the artexing has come off.  Having a huge mess on the ceiling at the start of a new year will really upset my OCD.  Bleurgh.

The latest cunning plan is for mass testing of everyone in Liverpool.  Liverpool has apparently volunteered for this.   Some parts of East Asia have had great success with mass testing, so fingers crossed, but we’ll see.

I had to go out to a client’s office today.  First time since all this started.  I had to wear a mask … which obviously I don’t object to, but it was strange.  Then I went to the Cancer Research shop, to get my Christmas cards before it has to close.  Tough times for charities.  Tough times for everyone.  A lot of shops are opening late today and tomorrow.  This didn’t happen last time, because we got no warning.

“Short journeys” for exercise are allowed.  I’m defining “short” as meaning I can go to Hollingworth Lake.  I’ve had e-mails to say that my trips to Blackpool Illuminations and Dunham lights are off – fair enough, at least they’re contacting people.  I’d gladly rebook, but we don’t know what’s going to happen, and they were pretty fully booked for weekends anyway.

The Illuminations have been switched off.  The last time this happened was in 1939, so that they didn’t shine through the blackout.   But the Tower will remain lit.   Was it really only 3 and a bit weeks ago that I was there?

In the middle of everything else, there was a terrorist attack in Vienna last night.  Four people were killed.  I had four days in Vienna last December, little thinking that I wouldn’t be going abroad for the whole of 2020.  Such a beautiful city.  And now the UK’s on maximum terror alert too.

And the US is voting.  Joe Biden is hardly a dream president – there seems to be a chronic shortage of decent national leaders everywhere these days, with the possible exception of New Zealand – but he has to be better than someone who thinks people should drink bleach.

 

Wednesday, November 4th

The US election is too close to call, and we may not know the result today.  It’s like a Jeffrey Archer book.  It does look as if Biden’s going to squeak it, but nothing’s certain yet.

We do know the result of United v Istanbul Basaksehir.  We lost.  2-1.  FFS.  How can we beat PSG and Leipzig, then lose to Istanbul Basaksehir?  This season is already turning into a nightmare.  And Rafa made a meal of beating Feli, but got there in the end.

A lot of shops are staying open late tonight.  I’m going to be doing my Christmas shopping on Amazon.  I would dearly love to give struggling local shops the business, but we are where we are, and I never leave it till December.  Also, with Amazon Prime, I can have things delivered directly to family and friends at no extra charge.  My sister’s still hoping that we’ll be able to get together at Christmas, but, sadly, I can’t see it.  Infection rates here do seem to be levelling off, but are so high.  Nationally, 472 deaths “with coronavirus” today.  Grim figures.

Blackburn’s to be the trial area for a 30 minute test.

What classes as a “short journey for exercise”?  Dunham Massey is staying open.  It will be quieter than the park.  Dogs are not allowed in the gardens – Heaton Park, much as I love it, is plagued with dog walkers, most of whom don’t even keep their mutts on leads.  And the tea room will presumably be doing takeaway cream scones.   What’s “short”?  3 miles?  13 miles?  30 miles?   I think I’m going to class it as “short” and book it.

The weather’s turned nice, just as we go into lockdown.  Just like in March.  Stunning autumnal colours in the park.

Clinically vulnerable people have been advised not to go to work.  I hope employers respect this.  They can be furloughed.   It’s all very well saying in the guidelines that people will be entitled to SSP, but SSP is just ridiculously low – I’ve been saying this for years.

In the words of Tears for Fears, it’s a very very mad world …

 

Thursday, November 5th

Welcome to Lockdown II.  I’m trying to think of something very witty to say about Lockdown II and Bonfire Night, but not succeeding.  No organised firework displays this year, but I can hear loads of fireworks going off.

The tables outside the park cafes have been removed, but you can still sit on the benches a few yards from where the tables were.

If Boris says “a package of measures” once more, I’m going to scream.  It sounds like a bad 17th century play.  There was a press conference this evening, but I gave it a miss.  It clashed with Rafa’s match.  The furlough scheme is being extended until March, which is good news but also rather pessimistic.  And anyone made redundant since September 23rd can be re-employed and furloughed.  How many employers are going to do that?!

A lot of offices seem to be staying open, even though people there could work from home.  I’m not judging anyone, because working from home doesn’t work for everyone or every role, and enough businesses have gone under already, but, between that and schools staying open, I’m not sure how effective this is going to be.

Southport has been occupied by the Army.  OK,  Southport Pontins has been occupied by the Army.  In preparation for the mass testing of Liverpool.

And the University of Manchester bizarrely put fences round halls of residence in Fallowfield, with security guards at the only gaps in them, to keep students virtually imprisoned during lockdown.  I cannot believe that this has happened.  After a public outcry, an apology’s been issued and the fences are being removed.  But WTF?  I just cannot believe that anyone thought that that was appropriate or acceptable.

Still watching the kitchen ceiling.  It’s still a bit damp, so it’s hard to know what’s going on.  This is stressful.

And we still don’t know who’s won the US presidential election.   Donald Trump is making one unfounded allegation after another.  It’s embarrassing.  Both parties are fundraising to pay legal bills for when everyone sues over everything – as millions of Americans struggle to put food on the table.  I love America.  It deserves so much better than this.

 

Friday, November 6th

Some friends in Liverpool have taken part in the mass testing.  They said that loads of people turned up, which was good … but, because loads of people turned up, it all a bit chaotic, and people were getting stressed because they had to get back to work/had to collect kids from school/were just sick of waiting.  Oh well, it’s only the first day.

The park was much busier than usual today.  It probably was yesterday too, but I went early yesterday.  The queues at the cafes were so long that I didn’t bother having a drink: I hope it’s not going to be like this for the next month!   Most people were alone or in pairs, or with children, but it has to be said that there were some people in groups.

More of the artexing has come off the kitchen ceiling.

Italy has imposed a horrible three tier system.  Milan, Turin and Naples are amongst the places in tier with the highest level of restrictions.

There’ve been violent anti-lockdown protests in Slovenia.

The whole of Wales is coming out of lockdown on Monday, and there are to be no more local lockdowns there.  However, rates remain very high in the valleys in the south – the old coal mining/iron and steel areas.  I don’t know that part of Wales, but I’m assuming it’s got the same issues that we’ve got, with population density.    Rates here are still going up a bit.  And some non-emergency ops are being cancelled in Birmingham.

And we still don’t know who’s won the US election.  I’m sure it’d be easier to wait until all the votes in a state have been counted before declaring, rather than giving these running updates which just seem to get people riled up.  It looks as if Biden’s going to take Georgia and Pennsylvania, which will decide matters, but then Trump’ll call for a recount, and it could go on for days!

On a happier note, Rafa won.  And Wigan have finished top of the Super League.

 

Saturday, November 7th

Joe Biden has won the election, but Donald Trump is refusing to accept it.  It’s just embarrassing.  And I feel rather sorry for Kamala Harris: it’s a pretty big deal that the US has got a female vice-president at last, but all the attention is on Trump’s toddler tantrums.

Rafa lost to Sascha 😦 .  But United beat Everton, 3-1.

The kitchen ceiling is drying out, but the plaster/artexing is coming off and triggering my anxiety.

Lovely sunny day.  Just like last time – hello lockdown, hello sunshine.  I should, at this moment, be going round Blackpool Illuminations on a heritage tram.  But I’m not.  I have, however, been to Hollingworth Lake.  It wasn’t as busy as usual, but there were plenty of people around, and The Olive and Pickle was open for takeaways (although, tragically, it hadn’t got any scones).

Half the car park in the local precinct here’s been turned into a Covid-19 testing centre.  The borough “hotspot” is currently an area very close to chez moi, which is worrying, but it seems to be a different area every week.  Why are these “hotspots” occurring?  It’s not like the 1950s, when everyone was in and out of their neighbours’ houses all the time.

Local hospitals are now cancelling some elective procedures.

And people (unless they’re returning home) have been banned from entering the UK from Denmark, because of this mink business.

Oldham’s the worst hit part of the area at the moment, but it’s bad everywhere – our borough’s one of the ten worst in the country, although the rate here’s nothing like as bad as it is in Oldham.  Struggling to find details on what’s going on elsewhere, except that France is now seeing 60,000 cases a day, more than double the rates here and with a lower population.

And I have still not done some house jobs I was meant to do last Sunday …

 

Remembrance Sunday, November 8th

It’s not the 11th until Wednesday, so I’ll keep my poppy and my poppy brooch on my coat until then, but today is the Sunday … and there should have been a big parade in Whitehall, and events at war memorials all round the country.   As it was, people were asked to stay away, but the Queen, other senior royals, senior politicians and other dignitaries did attend a service at Whitehall.  The Queen was seen wearing a face mask in public for the first time, at the tomb of the Unknown Warrior.  It was suggested that people could display pictures of poppies in their windows, and stand on their doorsteps at 11am.  I did both, but, unfortunately, neither idea really caught on, and not that many people did.

There was a big anti-lockdown protest in town today.   People are entitled to protest, but Remembrance Sunday wasn’t the day for it, there was no social distancing, and, from what the Evening News says, some of the people there were drunk.  Similar scenes in Liverpool.

Infection rates are falling in 6 out of the 10 local boroughs, and only rising slightly in 2.  Unfortunately, they’re rising quite a bit here and in Oldham.  Hopefully it’s just a blip – this was happening in Stockport last week and Wigan the week before, and those trends have been reversed now – but it’s obviously not great.  I just can’t see how rates are going to come down whilst schools and so many workplaces remain open.   And, with it now being dark by the end of the working day, I suspect that a lot more people will be visiting each other rather than meeting up outdoors.

I am really stressed about the kitchen ceiling.  The initial problem was caused by a leak, and the rest by condensation.  The bits that only got wet later are pretty much dry now, but the part in the middle isn’t.  It stands to reason that it must have got much wetter so will take longer to dry, but, because it’s not dry, I’m panicking in case there’s still a problem … but, if there was, surely it’d be spreading?   It’s hard to cope with things like this when you’ve got an anxiety disorder.

The Christmas markets should be open now.  Gluhwein and hot chocolate, and that daft reindeer head singing carols and making everyone laugh.  In the summer, I was still pretty optimistic about getting a Christmas market trip abroad.  I went to Vienna last year, Munich the year before, and Cologne the year before that.  Such lovely times.

Made myself do the house stuff this morning, then, after the Remembrance Sunday service and before the tennis and football, I went to Clifton Country Park.  People on the paths were sticking to the rules about not meeting up in groups, but the playground was busy.

Some good news – meal vouchers for underprivileged children are to be provided during the Christmas holidays.  Apparently Boris rang Marcus Rashford to tell him!

Welcome to Lockdown II – the lights go out, the facilities stay open

  Lockdown II started on November 5th.  At least the date’s easy to remember, remember.  Blackpool Illuminations have been switched off mid-season for the first time since 1939.  The Army have occupied Pontins in Southport.  Parts of Fallowfield have been turned into a prison camp.  Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is probably wishing he’d been furloughed.  Andy Burnham has given a speech about Hilda Ogden’s muriel.  Memes are going round about the House of Commons Nativity Play being cancelled because no-one can find three wise men.  Denmark has been taken off the travel corridor list because the virus is mutating in mink.  And the US presidential election is about to be decided by Clayton County.  “Take a good look, my dear.  It’s a historic moment.”

It really isn’t funny, even though it sometimes sounds it.

Infection rates are still going up.  The North West continues to be the worst-affected part of the country.  Some hospitals are starting to struggle.  More and more jobs and businesses are going, despite the furlough scheme and the other support being made available.  And there’s no end in sight.  It was bad enough in the spring, when the days were longer, summer was coming, and people weren’t mentally exhausted from months and months of restrictions.  “Super Saturday” was on July 4th.  Greater Manchester was put under additional restrictions on July 31st.  Didn’t get much of a respite from it all, did we?  And the doom merchants are claiming that the lockdown will be extended until March.  Like Narnia under the White Witch – always winter, never Christmas.

It won’t go on until March.  The economy wouldn’t take it.  But the bloody Tier 3 restrictions might well go on till March – the Welsh authorities are abandoning local lockdowns, but the English authorities seem dead set on pursuing them.  Like last time, the weather’s turned nice just as we aren’t supposed to be going anywhere.  I’d booked to go round Blackpool Illuminations on a heritage tram tomorrow.  It would have been lovely, in this weather.  And Blackpool’s desperate for tourism business.  But Greater Manchester and 1974-admin-borders Lancashire class as separate areas for Tier 3 travel restrictions purposes, so that was messed up a few weeks ago.  And now, with Lockdown II, the Illuminations have been switched off.  For the first time since 1939, when they had to be switched off so that they wouldn’t shine through the blackout.

The Tower remains lit, so that it can be a symbol of hope.

United’s terrible start to the season is not the fault of the virus, to be fair.   And it was really rather sweet of Andy Burnham to take a few minutes out to congratulate Coronation Street on its forthcoming 60th anniversary.   But what on earth were the idiots in charge of the University of Manchester thinking of when they decided to put metal fences round halls of residence in Fallowfield, as a “Covid security measure”?  I’m sure we’re all well aware that there’ve been issues with the virus spreading at universities, but you can’t just put fences around people’s accommodation, like a prison camp.  Most of the people living in halls are 18 or 19-year-old kids who’d never lived away from home until the middle of September.  Use a bit of sense, please.  Following an outcry by students and the general public, the fences are being removed a day after they were put up.

That particular cunning plan was so ridiculous that even Baldrick wouldn’t have come up with it.  However, two other cunning plans are supposed to offer more hope.  And, like everything else seems to do at the moment, they centre on the North West.  One is a “lateral flow” virus test which gives results in half an hour, and is being trialled in Blackburn.  The other is mass testing in Liverpool.   Mass testing was supposed to be being trialled in Salford earlier in the year, but it didn’t seem to get very far.  Maybe this’ll work better.  It’s being carried out by soldiers.  Who are being accommodated at Pontins in Southport.

It’s no better anywhere else.  And at least we aren’t about to massacre 17 million mink, which Denmark is having to do.

This won’t go on for ever.  Pandemics never do.  But it would be nice to be able to see some light at the end of the tunnel.  In the meantime, at least there are still lights on Blackpool Tower.  And, hey, at least public toilets are staying open during Lockdown II, so we haven’t got to cope with all that again.  And, if anyone’s actually read all that, thank you for reading, and please look after your physical and mental health x.

Lockdown II.  Here we go again …

Second Wave Week 9 – October 26th to November 1st 2020 inclusive

 

Monday, October 26th

Feeling rather glum today.  Now that the clocks have gone back, it’s going dark by the time I’ve finished work.  It’s also getting colder, and I can guarantee that the office will not pay a penny towards our heating bills.  And it’s rained for much of the day.  Warrington is moving into Tier 3 earlier than originally announced, and Nottingham and some areas close to it are also moving into Tier 3.  There are threats of even tighter restrictions.  It’s no better in France, Spain, Belgium etc, which are weeks ahead of us – in fact, it’s getting worse.  Everyone is so fed up.

Meanwhile, the row over what does and doesn’t count as “essential” during the Welsh lockdown is getting increasingly silly.  One man went shopping in nothing but his pants, as a protest over clothes being classed as non-essential.  And one woman was told that she wasn’t allowed to buy sanitary products!

I’m trying to be cheerful, but it really is difficult.  Things just seem to be getting worse and worse.

Tuesday, October 27th

367 deaths today, the highest daily figure since June.  OK, Tuesday’s always the worst day because of the catch-up from the weekend, but even so.  And infection rates keep rising.  The Manchester Evening News published a list of hotspots by ward, rather than by borough, and there was just no pattern or logic to it.  It all just seems to be random.

Protests in Milan and Turin last night turned violent, as Ultras infiltrated what were meant to be peaceful protests over restrictions.

Andy Burnham’s launched a “one GM fund” to try to help local businesses.  Gary Neville appears to be very involved with it.   And over 50 Northern Tory MPs have asked the government for answers on how we move forward.  They haven’t got any.

Wednesday, October 28th

Germany is going into “lockdown lite”.  Sounds as if France could be going into lockdown heavy.

The whole of Nottinghamshire is now going into Tier 3 on Friday.  Why didn’t they just say that to start with?  Why say it would be some areas but not others, and then change their minds five minutes later?  Shops there won’t be allowed to sell alcohol after 9pm.  Er, why is this a rule in Nottinghamshire but nowhere else?!   And all parts of Staffordshire still in Tier 1 will be going into Tier 2.  Meanwhile, social clubs in some Tier 3 areas have been told that it’s OK for them to sell alcohol without substantial meals, because the ban’s only for pubs.  Does anyone understand any of this?!

Bristol has created its own personal tier!  “Tier 1 Plus”.  Hey, let’s all create our own tiers.

An increasing number of matches are being called off due to virus outbreaks.  Football clubs are being allowed to postpone matches, but rugby league clubs are being made to forfeit them, which seems rather mean.

Marcus Rashford’s meal vouchers petition has now got over 1 million signatures.

Everyone is fed up.

But, on a happier note, we beat Leipzig 5-0 tonight!!  And Marcus Rashford scored a hat trick.   The club are calling for fans, albeit a reduced number of fans, to be allowed back into stadia, but I can’t see it happening ATM … but at least we’ve made a great start to the Champions League.

Thursday, October 29th

It has rained ALL day.  OK, that’s not the virus’s fault, but it hasn’t exactly made anyone feel any better.

West Yorkshire’s being pushed into Tier 3 from Monday, and it looks as if the West Midlands may follow.  Infection rates sadly remain highest here in the North West, but are now rising fastest in the Midlands and parts of the South.

Various areas are moving into Tier 2 – Telford and the Wrekin, the city of Oxford, East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, parts of Derbyshire, and Luton

The social club alcohol loophole’s been closed.

The G-Mex Nightingale Hospital’s now taking (non-virus) patients.

The new Scottish tiers have been announced.  Nowhere’s going into Tier 4 yet, but the Tier 3 rules are worse than they are here.

Bobby Ball’s died after testing positive for the virus.  Very sad news.  Such a lovely man.

In the middle of all this, the EHRC’s found the Labour Party guilty of anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination, and’s also found that there was political interference in complaints on the issue.  It’s absolutely the right verdict.  The likes of Harold Wilson and John Smith must be turning in their graves, and it really shames everyone that a mainstream British political party should have come to this.  The current leadership accepted the verdict and agreed to work to try to change things, but that vile anti-Semite Corbyn reacted by insisting that there wasn’t a big problem and that it was all a plot by his political opponents and the media.  Keir Starmer, quite rightly, has suspended him from the Labour Party.   So that’s giving the media something to talk about other than the virus and Donald Trump.

Friday, October 30th

Nobby Stiles died today.  Nothing to do with the virus, and he’d been ill for a while, but it’s very sad news.

I am miserable because I put on a load of weight on holiday and now weigh even more than I did before lockdown.

The number of cases in the North East seems to have stabilised.  Sadly, it’s still rising here, and elsewhere.  We’re being given no sort of info on where people are getting it.  OK, a lot of people may genuinely have no idea, but surely it must be possible to trace some sort of links/patterns within particular areas?

Traffic jams of over 430 miles have formed as people leave Paris … er, to spend lockdown elsewhere.  Where?!!  Has everyone in Paris got a holiday pad on the Riviera or something?!  And Belgium is going into lockdown.  No haircuts until mid-December.

People in Notts are being banned from going out for tea and scones/cake .  “Substantial meals” only.  FFS.

There is a growing feeling here that a national lockdown is inevitable.  Not because anyone thinks it’s a good idea, just because no-one’s got any other ideas.  It’ll be interesting to see if the Welsh and Northern Irish “firebreaks” have done any good.  Wales is giving up on local lockdowns, but the powers that be here insist that the tier system is the way to go.  Not that we see much of them.  Boris is practically invisible, and Priti Patel even more so.  Even Rishi Sunak seems to have disappeared.  Dominic Raab, Matt Hancock, Robert Jenrick and George Eustice all pop up from time to time, but where is Boris?  I’m not keen on Nicola Sturgeon, but at least she’s visible.

A Swiss study claims that a new strain of the virus appeared in Spain over the summer and then spread across Europe.  And a South African study claims that infections are dropping there because they’re approaching herd immunity.  Who knows?

 

Saturday, October 31st

We’re going into lockdown.  On Thursday.  For a MONTH.  Damn, that means I miss the Dunham lights, unless I can rebook.  My hairdresser rang to ask if I could go on Monday, which is way too early but it’s needs must.  Yes, I know that my hair and the Dunham lights are not the main issues here, but my brain’s a bit addled.

Schools, colleges, universities and nurseries will remain open.  So will workplaces if people can’t work from home.  So it’s kind of “lockdown lite”, like in Germany.  Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants have to close apart from deliveries and take-aways.  So will “non-essential retail outlets”, and entertainment places.  We haven’t got all the details yet, but gyms and hairdressers will have to close.  So will golf clubs (poor Dad!), although it’s not clear about other amateur sporting activities?  What National Trust places?  And can we go out by car for a walk?  That sounds really stupid, but I mean are we allowed to drive a few miles to somewhere other than our local park?  And presumably garden centres can stay open?

The furlough scheme will now continue for another month, which is something.  However, could someone please tell me why a 67% of wages “support” scheme is apparently considered adequate for the North West and Yorkshire, but, when the South goes into lockdown as well, it’s decided that it should be 80%?

This has all been decided because the latest lot of statistics suggest that the virus is spreading more quickly than expected, and the NHS is in danger of running out of capacity.  It’s not a surprise, but it’s all happened so quickly.  It was all over the papers, the TV, the radio and the internet this morning, and it seems that the plans were leaked.  I’ve often wondered if all these “leaks” aren’t deliberate, to give people time to get used to the latest restrictions before they’re announced officially, but this certainly wasn’t – they wouldn’t have planned to announce it on a Saturday.  And they clearly weren’t ready: we were initially told that the press conference would be at 4, then at 5, then at half 6, and it ended up being at 1/4 to 7.  This is ridiculous – surely the secret services should be able to find out where these leaks are coming from?

Bleurgh.  Is there no end to this bloody nightmare?  And, when this month of lockdown’s over, it’s back to the bloody tier system.  I’ve had an e-mail to say that my booking for Blackpool Illuminations has been cancelled, but I’d like to rebook if we’ll be able to go in December, but, if we’re still in bloody Tier 3, it’ll be against “guidance”.  Carlisle’s going into Tier 2, not that that’s very relevant for now.  But West Yorkshire is now not going into Tier 3.  Just to confuse everyone a bit more.

Went to Dunham Massey – the only NT place actually within “Greater Manchester” – this morning.

In March, people got really into walking, cycling, jogging, and online PE lessons with Joe Wicks.  This time, everyone’s, like, bleurgh, pass the vodka/gin/wine and the chocolates/biscuits.

So here we are.  Lockdown II.

In other news, a) Sean Connery has died and b) England have won the Six Nations (nearly 8 months late).

 

Sunday, November 1st

How many domestic problems have I had during this pandemic?  The toilet flush broke.   The toilet seat broke.  The oven broke.  Then there was the nightmare lightning strike.  Last night, I noticed a wet patch on the kitchen ceiling.   I barely slept all night.  Got the plumber out this morning, and he reckoned it was the toilet again.  How can a toilet cause so much trouble?!  He replaced a valve.  But the wet patch has kept getting bigger – I understand that the water already there had to come through, but it’s panicking me, even though I’m hoping it’s pretty much stopped now.  And the kitchen ceiling looks a mess.

I did not need this, on top of Lockdown II.  Several friends have said that their mental health is suffering now.

After that, I went into town, to get a new watch battery, do some of the “Windows of Creativity” trail (including this one, showing Emmeline Pankhurst, whom I sure would never have been fazed by a leaking toilet), and go to The Vienna Coffee House before it has to close again.  It was hard not to feel sad.  We should be getting ready for the Christmas markets to open.  And, of course, we should have the Remembrance Sunday parades a week today.  Instead … well, who knows how many businesses may never reopen?

Then it rained nearly all afternoon.  And  United lost to Arsenal.  What a terrible start to the league season.

And Bobby Charlton’s been diagnosed with dementia, which I’m very sad about.

Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram have both made it clear how narked everyone in the North is over the furlough scheme issue.  They’ve also called for schools to close.  There’s quite a debate going on about schools.  I can see both sides of it: it’s hard to know what to think.  And Michael Gove’s said that the lockdown may go on for more than a month.  He had to say that, when asked, because he couldn’t commit to its only being a month when no-one knows how things’ll go.

On a happier note, the rate of increase locally has slowed significantly.

So endeth a rather crap week.  Next week, Lockdown II.