Upside Down

  Thanks to the accursed virus, fans had to be thrown out of today’s night session at the Australian Open in the middle of the 4th set of Djokovic v Fritz, before the clock struck midnight.  It was like a very strange version of Cinderella.  Also, the River Thames has frozen over for the first time in 60 years, the Austrian Tyrol is now the worst coronavirus hotspot in Central Europe, United’s match at Real Sociedad of San Sebastian has been moved to Turin, and we’ve been promised a new Downton Abbey film as long as everyone gets vaccinated.  I’d love to think that all anti-vaxxers are keen Downton Abbey fans and that this will make them see the error of their ways, but sadly I fear not: however, hey, it’s worth a try.   These are very strange times.  I’m just waiting for someone to tell me that they’ve seen a weird light in the sky and that their neighbour’s cow’s given birth to a three-headed calf.

Meanwhile, my life has become so predictable that I’m starting to feel like one of the Ena Sharples gang in the early days of Coronation Street, always sitting in the snug of the Rovers and never drinking anything other than milk stout.  Except that the pubs are closed.  Further to last week’s scone trauma, when the cafe had run out of scones by 11am, I decided that I would go and get a scone today, to be eaten tomorrow, to get round the problem of the Australian Open committee having inconsiderately given Rafa and Cam the second night match with absolutely no thought as to when I was going to go and get my scone without the worry of the cafe having run out of them again.

So I went in, and, because the guy knows that, since the start of Lockdown III, I always go in on a Saturday morning, he asked if I’d be coming in tomorrow, and said that, if so, he could always put a scone on one side for me.  So I explained that I wouldn’t be coming in tomorrow because I didn’t know what time the tennis would finish.  I’m not sure what’s more weird, the fact that the scone trauma had such an impact on the guy that he offered to put a scone aside (bless) or the fact that I saw fit to explain in a café that I couldn’t leave the house during Rafa’s match.

On top of that, because everyone seems to go for their walk in the park at the same time every day, and I was a bit later than usual due to the tennis, I passed someone I barely know and they said “Ooh, you’re late today”.

My life has never been very exciting, but I have my moments.  The house is full of pictures of me at Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal, the Kremlin, the Pyramids, Tiananmen Square, the Venice Carnival, etc.  Now, people notice if I’m walking to the local park a few minutes later than usual.   I’ve even started going to the same checkout every time I go to Tesco, because it’s usually staffed by a very smiley lady who always chats away and cheers me up!

In case anyone’s reading this, just to clarify the points above 🙂 :

  1.  For five wonderful days, fans have been allowed into the Australian Open.  It’s been wonderful hearing the noise of a real crowd again.  But, sadly, there have been some cases of the virus in Melbourne, and so the state of Victoria has been put into lockdown for a week.  Everyone was supposed to be home at midnight, so the crowd had to be thrown out in the middle of the match.  It was very strange.  This wretched bloody virus.  But thank you to the authorities for allowing the tournament to continue.
  2.  Due to travel restrictions, English football clubs cannot travel to Spain, Germany or Portugal for the next round of Champions League/Europa League matches, and Portuguese clubs cannot travel to England.  So United’s match in Spain (the Spanish Basque country) has been moved to Italy, Arsenal’s match in Portugal has been moved to Italy, Arsenal’s home match against a Portuguese club has been moved to Greece, Liverpool and city’s matches in Germany have been moved to Hungary, and Chelsea’s match in Spain has been moved to Romania.  Everyone with that?  Good.
  3.  Hugh Bonneville has said that there’ll be a second Downton Abbey film once everyone who’s been offered a vaccination has had a vaccination.
  4.  Tyrol (excluding East Tyrol, which is geographically separate), which has played an important role in my life as the setting for the early Chalet School books, has sadly been hit by an outbreak of the South African variant of the virus.  No-one’s allowed out of the province unless they’ve had a negative virus test within the last 48 hours, and no-one’s allowed to cross from Tyrol into Germany at all.

The world is upside down.  That’s also a bad pun to do with the Australian Open.

If anyone’s actually read all that, thank you.  Writing is helping me to cling on to what bit of sanity I’ve got left 🙂 .  Stay safe x .

 

 

 

 

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

Monday, February 1st

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, February 2nd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, February 3rd

Good news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, February 4th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, February 5th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, February 6th

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

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

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

Oh dear!!

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

 

Sunday, February 7th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Free tea, anxious toes, Handforth headlines, BYOB and repaying Sybil

We now live in a world in which TV travel programmes feature the delights of … Weatherfield.  Seriously.  I’m not holding my breath for sojourns to exotic climes this year, but I’m hoping that, by the summer, I’ll at least be able to go a bit further than Media City.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Media City, I hasten to add.  Joanna Lumley, who was presenting the programme, was very lucky to be able to sit in the Rovers Return with Ken Barlow, because future scripts are being rewritten, so it looks as if the Rovers’ll be back to doing takeaways only.  Rather like The Coffee Sack near chez moi.  I have only recently discovered that the said Coffee Sack does the most lovely scones.  However, this morning, when I went in, disaster struck.  There were no scones.  The man said that, not expecting many customers in this awful weather, he’d only made half a dozen, and someone had come in and bought the lot.  How dare they?!

I must have looked so devastated, even behind the mask, that he said I could have a cup of tea for free.  I did offer to pay for it – it’s not as if he’s contractually obliged to provide me with a weekly scone, after all – but no, he insisted.  Free tea, to make up for the disappointment!   How nice is that?  It’s little things like that which make this very difficult time bearable.  As for the person who bought six scones, I shall assume that they were either a) very hungry or b) part of a large household, rather than that they were planning anything nefarious.  Welcome to Lockdown-land, in which buying six scones could be construed as being suspicious.  Anyway.  Three cheers for free cups of tea!

(Apologies for anyone who’s got this in WP reader and can see it three times, but the good news is that I’ve now worked out that the Facebook app wants big pictures and small titles.  It used to prefer small pictures.  So I now need to post with a big picture and small title, share it on Facebook, then change the picture to a larger one and, if necessary, add in the rest of the title.  It never used to be so difficult!!)

As for anxious toes, one of the many weird things about living with anxiety is that random bits of you start to hurt even though there isn’t very much physically wrong with them.  On Thursday night, whilst moving the furniture in the front room around so that I could hoover, I stubbed my toe on the settee.  Ouch.  Then I woke up at two o’clock in the morning, in so much pain with this toe that I had to take two ibuprofen.  I knew jolly well that it was anxiety pains and not actual pains, because stubbed toes do not still hurt eight hours later, but this is what happens.  It can be knees, backs, stomachs, whatever.  I don’t even know exactly what it was all about, and this is something else that happens.  Was it anxiety about how fat I am?  Scones aside, I am really trying hard to lose weight, but it’s not working 😦 .  Was it because my car was going in for its MOT that day?  Was it to do with phone updates (these stress me out like mad)?  Was it to do with the Australian Open?  Quite possibly: I am extremely stressed about Rafa’s bad back.  But I don’t actually know.  So, if anyone’s reading this, and knows how to read the minds of anxious toes, do please let me know.

Pretty much everyone’s a bit stressed out at the moment.  That’s why it’s so nice to be on the receiving end of an act of kindness such as the free cup of tea.  It was particularly nice because there has been quite a bit of nastiness around in recent days.  The worst of it was from the small minority of people who tried to use the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore to attack the government and score political points, and even, in the case of one vile vicar, to accuse the whole country of being racist.  What is wrong with some people?  Whatever your political views may be, don’t start dragging the death of a lovely, kind-hearted old man who lifted everyone’s spirits into them.  I just hope that the Moore family weren’t too upset by it.

Please be nice to people.  It’s upsetting to be criticised because you’ve bought something from Amazon, even though most other shops are closed and it’s none of anyone else’s business where you buy from anyway, or for trying to cheer yourself up with a nice cake which happened to be served a polystyrene box, and even more upsetting when, after congratulating someone on their work being featured in a national newspaper, someone attacks both of you because the newspaper concerned doesn’t meet with their approval.  Then there are the people slagging off anyone hoping to go on holiday this summer as being irresponsible.  These comments come from people who live in rural areas and don’t work, needless to say, not from people who are chained to office computers for five days a week and are getting rather tired of only being able to walk round housing estates and the same local parks in their little free time.   We need a break, OK.

But there are a lot of lovely people out there.  And free tea is much appreciated!

Rest in peace, Captain Sir Tom.  You were a wonderful man.  And I was also sad to hear of the death of Christopher Plummer.  I would so have married Captain von Trapp, although I’m not sure about taking on seven children.  And, yes, I do know that he got frustrated about for ever being associated with The Sound of Music, but what a wonderful film with which to be associated!  I just typed “to be associated with”, looked at it in horror, and correct it!

To go back to the MOT, hooray, my car passed without needing anything more than a new windscreen wiper blade.  Strange times at the garage, though.  No chairs for customers.  Everything to be taken out of the car.  And I was sent several e-mails asking me to drive to the garage with all the windows open, to let the air circulate, but I’m afraid that I ignored those.  The garage is only three miles away, but there are a lot of traffic lights between here and there, and sitting in a stationary car with all the windows open is really not a good idea, especially when you’re a lone female.  Sorry, garage.  But I did stick to all your other rules.

Other things happening this week have included a video of a meeting of Handforth Parish Council going viral.  You know, Handforth, where the big John Lewis is?  Remember that, from the olden days, when we used to do things like going to shops.  I met my cousin for a drink in the cafe there once.  Remember those days?  Not only could you go into shops, but you could sit down in cafes, and you could even meet your friends and relations!   I feel like I should have the Hovis advert music playing.

Local elections are to go ahead, but it’ll be BYOB.  No, not bring your own bottle.  Bring your own biro.

And there’s also been talk of extending the term over which the government support loans for businesses hit by restrictions are to be repaid.  There are two different types of loans available to affected small businesses, depending on which one best suits their circumstances – the bounceback loans, and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans.  Due to HMRC’s obsession with acronyms, the latter are known as CBILs, pronounced “Sybils”.  We are in a severe economic crisis, thanks to this horrible virus, and it’s feared that up to 15% of small businesses may not survive.  There’s certainly nothing funny about it.  But, every time I hear someone going on about “Sybils”, I half-expect Prunella Scales to turn up and start shouting at John Cleese to repay his loan.  A small hotel would definitely need a loan.  But let’s hope that we’ll be back in small hotels, or any other accommodation of your choice, this summer.

In the meantime, here’s to tea and scones.  Oh, and I got a scone from M&S in the end.  But the ones from The Coffee Sack are nicer!  I shall be back there next week, at whatever time best fits in with the night session at the Australian Open, hoping for better luck 🙂 .

 

 

(This is here twice because I was trying to get the picture to display on Facebook!)

 

Free tea, anxious toes, Handforth headlines, BYOB and repaying Sybil

We now live in a world in which TV travel programmes feature the delights of … Weatherfield.  Seriously.  I’m not holding my breath for sojourns to exotic climes this year, but I’m hoping that, by the summer, I’ll at least be able to go a bit further than Media City.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Media City, I hasten to add.  Joanna Lumley, who was presenting the programme, was very lucky to be able to sit in the Rovers Return with Ken Barlow, because future scripts are being rewritten, so it looks as if the Rovers’ll be back to doing takeaways only.  Rather like The Coffee Sack near chez moi.  I have only recently discovered that the said Coffee Sack does the most lovely scones.  However, this morning, when I went in, disaster struck.  There were no scones.  The man said that, not expecting many customers in this awful weather, he’d only made half a dozen, and someone had come in and bought the lot.  How dare they?!

I must have looked so devastated, even behind the mask, that he said I could have a cup of tea for free.  I did offer to pay for it – it’s not as if he’s contractually obliged to provide me with a weekly scone, after all – but no, he insisted.  Free tea, to make up for the disappointment!   How nice is that?  It’s little things like that which make this very difficult time bearable.  As for the person who bought six scones, I shall assume that they were either a) very hungry or b) part of a large household, rather than that they were planning anything nefarious.  Welcome to Lockdown-land, in which buying six scones could be construed as being suspicious.  Anyway.  Three cheers for free cups of tea!

As for anxious toes, one of the many weird things about living with anxiety is that random bits of you start to hurt even though there isn’t very much physically wrong with them.  On Thursday night, whilst moving the furniture in the front room around so that I could hoover, I stubbed my toe on the settee.  Ouch.  Then I woke up at two o’clock in the morning, in so much pain with this toe that I had to take two ibuprofen.  I knew jolly well that it was anxiety pains and not actual pains, because stubbed toes do not still hurt eight hours later, but this is what happens.  It can be knees, backs, stomachs, whatever.  I don’t even know exactly what it was all about, and this is something else that happens.  Was it anxiety about how fat I am?  Scones aside, I am really trying hard to lose weight, but it’s not working 😦 .  Was it because my car was going in for its MOT that day?  Was it to do with phone updates (these stress me out like mad)?  Was it to do with the Australian Open?  Quite possibly: I am extremely stressed about Rafa’s bad back.  But I don’t actually know.  So, if anyone’s reading this, and knows how to read the minds of anxious toes, do please let me know.

Pretty much everyone’s a bit stressed out at the moment.  That’s why it’s so nice to be on the receiving end of an act of kindness such as the free cup of tea.  It was particularly nice because there has been quite a bit of nastiness around in recent days.  The worst of it was from the small minority of people who tried to use the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore to attack the government and score political points, and even, in the case of one vile vicar, to accuse the whole country of being racist.  What is wrong with some people?  Whatever your political views may be, don’t start dragging the death of a lovely, kind-hearted old man who lifted everyone’s spirits into them.  I just hope that the Moore family weren’t too upset by it.

Please be nice to people.  It’s upsetting to be criticised because you’ve bought something from Amazon, even though most other shops are closed and it’s none of anyone else’s business where you buy from anyway, or for trying to cheer yourself up with a nice cake which happened to be served a polystyrene box, and even more upsetting when, after congratulating someone on their work being featured in a national newspaper, someone attacks both of you because the newspaper concerned doesn’t meet with their approval.  Then there are the people slagging off anyone hoping to go on holiday this summer as being irresponsible.  These comments come from people who live in rural areas and don’t work, needless to say, not from people who are chained to office computers for five days a week and are getting rather tired of only being able to walk round housing estates and the same local parks in their little free time.   We need a break, OK.

But there are a lot of lovely people out there.  And free tea is much appreciated!

Rest in peace, Captain Sir Tom.  You were a wonderful man.  And I was also sad to hear of the death of Christopher Plummer.  I would so have married Captain von Trapp, although I’m not sure about taking on seven children.  And, yes, I do know that he got frustrated about for ever being associated with The Sound of Music, but what a wonderful film with which to be associated!  I just typed “to be associated with”, looked at it in horror, and correct it!

To go back to the MOT, hooray, my car passed without needing anything more than a new windscreen wiper blade.  Strange times at the garage, though.  No chairs for customers.  Everything to be taken out of the car.  And I was sent several e-mails asking me to drive to the garage with all the windows open, to let the air circulate, but I’m afraid that I ignored those.  The garage is only three miles away, but there are a lot of traffic lights between here and there, and sitting in a stationary car with all the windows open is really not a good idea, especially when you’re a lone female.  Sorry, garage.  But I did stick to all your other rules.

Other things happening this week have included a video of a meeting of Handforth Parish Council going viral.  You know, Handforth, where the big John Lewis is?  Remember that, from the olden days, when we used to do things like going to shops.  I met my cousin for a drink in the cafe there once.  Remember those days?  Not only could you go into shops, but you could sit down in cafes, and you could even meet your friends and relations!   I feel like I should have the Hovis advert music playing.

Local elections are to go ahead, but it’ll be BYOB.  No, not bring your own bottle.  Bring your own biro.

And there’s also been talk of extending the term over which the government support loans for businesses hit by restrictions are to be repaid.  There are two different types of loans available to affected small businesses, depending on which one best suits their circumstances – the bounceback loans, and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans.  Due to HMRC’s obsession with acronyms, the latter are known as CBILs, pronounced “Sybils”.  We are in a severe economic crisis, thanks to this horrible virus, and it’s feared that up to 15% of small businesses may not survive.  There’s certainly nothing funny about it.  But, every time I hear someone going on about “Sybils”, I half-expect Prunella Scales to turn up and start shouting at John Cleese to repay his loan.  A small hotel would definitely need a loan.  But let’s hope that we’ll be back in small hotels, or any other accommodation of your choice, this summer.

In the meantime, here’s to tea and scones.  Oh, and I got a scone from M&S in the end.  But the ones from The Coffee Sack are nicer!  I shall be back there next week, at whatever time best fits in with the night session at the Australian Open, hoping for better luck 🙂 .

 

 

(This is here more than once because I was trying to get the picture to display on Facebook.  The picture display went funny after a recent app update.  But I sorted out.  But now it transpires that the work-round only works on posts with small titles.  So I’ll now have to share long-titled posts on Facebook with abbreviated titles, then put the long titles back.  Oh well!)

 

Free tea, anxious toes, Handforth headlines, BYOB and repaying Sybil

We now live in a world in which TV travel programmes feature the delights of … Weatherfield.  Seriously.  I’m not holding my breath for sojourns to exotic climes this year, but I’m hoping that, by the summer, I’ll at least be able to go a bit further than Media City.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Media City, I hasten to add.  Joanna Lumley, who was presenting the programme, was very lucky to be able to sit in the Rovers Return with Ken Barlow, because future scripts are being rewritten, so it looks as if the Rovers’ll be back to doing takeaways only.  Rather like The Coffee Sack near chez moi.  I have only recently discovered that the said Coffee Sack does the most lovely scones.  However, this morning, when I went in, disaster struck.  There were no scones.  The man said that, not expecting many customers in this awful weather, he’d only made half a dozen, and someone had come in and bought the lot.  How dare they?!

I must have looked so devastated, even behind the mask, that he said I could have a cup of tea for free.  I did offer to pay for it – it’s not as if he’s contractually obliged to provide me with a weekly scone, after all – but no, he insisted.  Free tea, to make up for the disappointment!   How nice is that?  It’s little things like that which make this very difficult time bearable.  As for the person who bought six scones, I shall assume that they were either a) very hungry or b) part of a large household, rather than that they were planning anything nefarious.  Welcome to Lockdown-land, in which buying six scones could be construed as being suspicious.  Anyway.  Three cheers for free cups of tea!

As for anxious toes, one of the many weird things about living with anxiety is that random bits of you start to hurt even though there isn’t very much physically wrong with them.  On Thursday night, whilst moving the furniture in the front room around so that I could hoover, I stubbed my toe on the settee.  Ouch.  Then I woke up at two o’clock in the morning, in so much pain with this toe that I had to take two ibuprofen.  I knew jolly well that it was anxiety pains and not actual pains, because stubbed toes do not still hurt eight hours later, but this is what happens.  It can be knees, backs, stomachs, whatever.  I don’t even know exactly what it was all about, and this is something else that happens.  Was it anxiety about how fat I am?  Scones aside, I am really trying hard to lose weight, but it’s not working 😦 .  Was it because my car was going in for its MOT that day?  Was it to do with phone updates (these stress me out like mad)?  Was it to do with the Australian Open?  Quite possibly: I am extremely stressed about Rafa’s bad back.  But I don’t actually know.  So, if anyone’s reading this, and knows how to read the minds of anxious toes, do please let me know.

Pretty much everyone’s a bit stressed out at the moment.  That’s why it’s so nice to be on the receiving end of an act of kindness such as the free cup of tea.  It was particularly nice because there has been quite a bit of nastiness around in recent days.  The worst of it was from the small minority of people who tried to use the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore to attack the government and score political points, and even, in the case of one vile vicar, to accuse the whole country of being racist.  What is wrong with some people?  Whatever your political views may be, don’t start dragging the death of a lovely, kind-hearted old man who lifted everyone’s spirits into them.  I just hope that the Moore family weren’t too upset by it.

Please be nice to people.  It’s upsetting to be criticised because you’ve bought something from Amazon, even though most other shops are closed and it’s none of anyone else’s business where you buy from anyway, or for trying to cheer yourself up with a nice cake which happened to be served a polystyrene box, and even more upsetting when, after congratulating someone on their work being featured in a national newspaper, someone attacks both of you because the newspaper concerned doesn’t meet with their approval.  Then there are the people slagging off anyone hoping to go on holiday this summer as being irresponsible.  These comments come from people who live in rural areas and don’t work, needless to say, not from people who are chained to office computers for five days a week and are getting rather tired of only being able to walk round housing estates and the same local parks in their little free time.   We need a break, OK.

But there are a lot of lovely people out there.  And free tea is much appreciated!

Rest in peace, Captain Sir Tom.  You were a wonderful man.  And I was also sad to hear of the death of Christopher Plummer.  I would so have married Captain von Trapp, although I’m not sure about taking on seven children.  And, yes, I do know that he got frustrated about for ever being associated with The Sound of Music, but what a wonderful film with which to be associated!  I just typed “to be associated with”, looked at it in horror, and correct it!

To go back to the MOT, hooray, my car passed without needing anything more than a new windscreen wiper blade.  Strange times at the garage, though.  No chairs for customers.  Everything to be taken out of the car.  And I was sent several e-mails asking me to drive to the garage with all the windows open, to let the air circulate, but I’m afraid that I ignored those.  The garage is only three miles away, but there are a lot of traffic lights between here and there, and sitting in a stationary car with all the windows open is really not a good idea, especially when you’re a lone female.  Sorry, garage.  But I did stick to all your other rules.

Other things happening this week have included a video of a meeting of Handforth Parish Council going viral.  You know, Handforth, where the big John Lewis is?  Remember that, from the olden days, when we used to do things like going to shops.  I met my cousin for a drink in the cafe there once.  Remember those days?  Not only could you go into shops, but you could sit down in cafes, and you could even meet your friends and relations!   I feel like I should have the Hovis advert music playing.

Local elections are to go ahead, but it’ll be BYOB.  No, not bring your own bottle.  Bring your own biro.

And there’s also been talk of extending the term over which the government support loans for businesses hit by restrictions are to be repaid.  There are two different types of loans available to affected small businesses, depending on which one best suits their circumstances – the bounceback loans, and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans.  Due to HMRC’s obsession with acronyms, the latter are known as CBILs, pronounced “Sybils”.  We are in a severe economic crisis, thanks to this horrible virus, and it’s feared that up to 15% of small businesses may not survive.  There’s certainly nothing funny about it.  But, every time I hear someone going on about “Sybils”, I half-expect Prunella Scales to turn up and start shouting at John Cleese to repay his loan.  A small hotel would definitely need a loan.  But let’s hope that we’ll be back in small hotels, or any other accommodation of your choice, this summer.

In the meantime, here’s to tea and scones.  Oh, and I got a scone from M&S in the end.  But the ones from The Coffee Sack are nicer!  I shall be back there next week, at whatever time best fits in with the night session at the Australian Open, hoping for better luck 🙂 .

 

 

(This is here more than once because I was trying to get the picture to display on Facebook.  The picture display went funny after a recent app update.  But I sorted out.  But now it transpires that the work-round only works on posts with small titles.  So I’ll now have to share long-titled posts on Facebook with abbreviated titles, then put the long titles back.  Oh well!)

 

Lockdown III Week 3, January 18th to 24th 2021 inclusive

Monday, January 18th

Ten new mass vaccination centres opened today, including another two in the North West.  Some areas, and I’m pleased to say that ours is one of them, are moving on to people in the 70-74 age group and younger people who are classed as clinically vulnerable.  However, some areas aren’t going as quickly as others, which seems to be a supply issue.   But over 4 million people have had their first doses now, and (not that it’s a competition) we’ve got the fourth highest per capita rate in the world.

I had a letter from the building society today, saying that they want to put my mortgage protection insurance up because they expect loads of people to be made redundant this year.  Very cheerful!   I’m not sure how much of it is a genuine result of forecasts and how much is just an excuse to try to get more money out of people.

Someone got fined for driving from Preston to Bolton to collect a takeaway.  FFS.  OK, I’m sure there are plenty of takeaways in Preston, but it’s hardly a long journey, and they were in their own car.  Shouldn’t the police be concentrating on breaking up mass gatherings, or closing shops which are open illegally?  And the press are tutting over pictures of lots of people walking in parks etc.  This happened during the first lockdown.  If you live in a built-up, densely-populated area, and are not supposed to leave it, how are you supposed to exercise without there being other people around?

And could someone please tell Novak Djokovic to shut up?  It is obviously far from ideal that 72 players, and their coaches etc, are all shut in their hotel rooms, not even allowed to open the doors.  Especially when they need to keep fit ahead of a strenuous two week tournament in the heat.  Also, the food looks very poor, and we’ve all seen the pictures of the mouse in Yulia Putintseva’s room.  But it is not helpful for Nole to demand that they be moved to private homes with their own tennis courts!   He’s just annoying everyone and sounding like a spoilt brat.  The situation is a nightmare, though.

 

Tuesday, January 19th

1,610 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test have been recorded today, the highest figure since the pandemic began.  The figures have been much lower over the past couple of days and they probably do average out, but it’s still very, very distressing and worrying.

Infection rates are falling in 9 out of 10 Greater Manchester boroughs now.  But not as quickly as the national average is falling, although I suppose rates are bound to be falling more quickly in areas which went into Tier 4 first. Things are improving, though.  Infections and hospitalisations across the country are falling, but things are still grim.  The lockdown in Scotland’s been extended, and there’s no sign of restrictions being lifted anywhere else either.

Figures show that there are five times as many kids in school in England as there were during the first lockdown.  Whew!   I think we’re all aware that far more kids are in school, but five times as many?!  It’s been suggested that schools will reopen on a regional basis.  I quite see that there’s no point keeping kids out of school in Devon because infection rates are still high in Carlisle, for example, but it’s going to mean kids in the hardest-hit areas being at an even bigger disadvantage.

Today, I have been to:

  1. Tesco, where some of the staffed checkouts have been replaced by self-scanner checkouts.  Not self-service, which are bad enough, but self-scanner.  No doubt, in 10 years’ time staffed checkouts will seem as outdated as going into a corner shop and asking a grocer for six apples and two pounds of flour, but I prefer the staffed ones!
  2. Marks & Spencer’s, where, amongst other things, I collected the free pineapple which I had been awarded for using my Sparks card.  Life is so boring ATM that a free pineapple seems quite exciting.
  3.  The frozen yoghurt shop.
  4. The office, to leave some files and collect others.  There were loads of cars in the car park.  Some of the people at other firms in the building don’t seem even to be bothering to try working from home.
  5.  The park, in torrential rain.  Thanks to Storm Christophe, the weather is utterly vile.   I’m sure I should get double calorie burn-off for walking in that sort of weather.

And it’s Donald Trump’s last day in office.  Thank heavens for that.

 

Wednesday, January 20th

Every time you think things can’t get any worse, they do.  1,820 deaths recorded today.  Infections are falling, but the numbers of deaths are just horrendous.  On top of that, research from Israel suggests that one dose of vaccine may not be as effective as originally thought in preventing infection, so we may have to give everyone two doses before things start improving significantly.  Will this nightmare never end?

On top of that, the weather is horrendous, and there are fears that there may be flooding in parts of South Manchester and Cheshire, and maybe even in town.  I got drenched in the park, despite my brolly.  Then, during United v Fulham (luckily, we were away, and City played earlier), it started snowing.  A lot.

It’s very hard not to turn to food for comfort.

Players in quarantine at the mice-infested hotel in Melbourne have been advised to “minimise interaction” with the mice, i.e. not to feed them.  This is getting farcical.  I know it’s a very difficult situation and Tennis Australia have gone to a lot of effort, etc, but surely it’s not unreasonable to expect hotel rooms which aren’t full of mice!

On a happier note, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been sworn in.  I thought Biden spoke quite well, about the need to come together and work together.  I wish them both luck.  They’re going to need it!

And we’re back on top of the league, after a 2-1 win at Fulham.  Leicester went top last night, then City after their win in tonight’s early KO, and now us again.  It’s certainly exciting … just so sad that there’s no prospect of fans being allowed in this season.

 

Thursday, January 21st

It’s stopped raining, and, after two hours of heavy snow last night, there’s been no more snow.  Thankfully, the flood defences in the Didsbury/Northenden area held, but homes and businesses have been flooded in Lymm, Northwich and other parts of the North West.  Just as if things aren’t bad enough.  Boris has been to visit.  Not that there was much he could do, but at least he showed willing.

Northern Ireland’s lockdown’s been extended until March.

Concerns are rising over a low level of take-up of the vaccines in certain ethnic minority communities.  It seems to be a particular problem in the West Midlands.  Unfortunately, irresponsible people are spreading anti-vaxxer messages and frightening people.

There’ve also been reports that another new variant’s been found, this time in Liverpool.  Hopefully it’s something and nothing.  That really would be a nightmare.

Fines for attending house parties are to be increased.  It sounds good, but all people have to do is say that they can’t pay.

Glastonbury’s been cancelled, for a second successive year.  It’s not a surprise, but it’s a psychological blow, because it’s such a big event on the calendar, and it’s also yet another huge blow to the live music industry, and the events industry in general.   And one scientist’s said that pubs, restaurants, cafes etc shouldn’t be allowed to reopen until May.  The hospitality industry’s on its knees.  The travel industry’s on its knees.  A lot of sports clubs are on their knees.  Obviously, things cannot reopen under the present circumstances, but … bloody hellfire, how much longer can businesses survive?

 

Friday, January 22nd

A load of people formed an orderly queue outside a centre in Timperley after it was reported that it was going to be turned into a vaccination hub.  They hadn’t got appointments, and there weren’t even any doses of the vaccine there!  But it shows how desperate people are to get vaccinated.  There’ve been some reports of low uptake in certain areas, but I haven’t heard of any such issues in the North West.

The R number is now below 1, which is great news, but there were another 1,401 deaths today, and Boris has said that it’s feared that the mutant virus is more deadly than the original.  People from other parts of the country are being moved to hospitals in Greater Manchester.  There’ve been some calls to stop international travel completely, but I don’t know how practical that is when cargo still needs to be moved around.

There are reports that the Olympics could be cancelled.  I don’t think that the mayhem over the Australian Open’s helping.  Andy Murray won’t be playing in Melbourne because it just can’t be sorted in time.  There are a lot of arguments going on on social media over the whole quarantine situation.  It’s a nightmare.

Snapfish have reprinted my photos, but they’ve done the same thing again -jumbled them all up.  You can no longer ring up, and my “livechat” with someone who barely spoke a word of English was a waste of time.  Someone is supposed to be contacting me by e-mail.  I’m still waiting.

And I am so tired of all the hatred.  Why do people hate others so much, just because they vote for a different political party?  And why do they feel the need to post that all over social media?

At least the weather’s cleared up …

 

Saturday, January 23rd

It snowed quite heavily this morning.  When I got to the park – having stopped en route to pick up a scone 🙂 – there were lots of kids sledging and building snowmen.  The snow’d gone by early afternoon, so it didn’t cause any problems, and it was a bit of fun.  There are “Covid marshals” in the park at weekends, but a) they seemed more interested in messing with their phones than in watching people and b) no-one was doing anything wrong anyway.  It was too cold to hang around in big groups like people were doing in the spring.

The animal centre’s been closed since March.  Paying zoos opened up for a while, but the park centre didn’t.  The animals look rather bored and lonely 😦 .

Everyone is fed up.  I know we should be counting our blessings, but this is crap.  And there’s no end in sight.  Two months into the spring lockdown, you could go to Blackpool.  We’ve now been under travel restrictions for three months, and there’s no sign of things changing.  There was originally some talk of restrictions being eased by mid-February, but then it was early March, then the end of March, then Easter, and now there’s even been talk of it going on until the summer.  I feel so trapped by work, and we get so little time off, that it’s really important to me to do something special at weekends and to plan holidays, and I can’t do any of that.   People who live on their own are feeling lonely.  People who live with others are getting sick of being with them round the clock.  People are worried about money.  Kids are getting behind in their education.  And, of course, people are worried about the virus risk.  It was bad enough in the spring, but, back then, we hadn’t been under restrictions for nearly a year already, and it was still light at the end of the working day, and the weather was nice.  This is crap.

Scientists are disputing the reports that the mutant version of the virus is more deadly.  It would explain a lot if it is.  Things are bad in a lot of places, but the death rates here are just horrendous.  Political points-scorers are saying that it’s all because Boris didn’t put us into lockdown soon enough in March, but that’s rubbish.  Whatever mistakes were made in March, infection rates and death rates were way, way down by July.  Something new is going on now.

The good news is that more and more people are getting their first shots of the vaccine.  But scientists are now saying that leaving a 12 week gap between the first and second shots is no good.

Sometimes, I still can’t believe that all this is really happening.

And I am having nightmares with Snapfish.  The “livechat” is a joke: the staff barely speak a word of English, ask the set questions on their script, and can’t cope if you go off the script.  They’ve had the nerve to offer me 100 free photos as a “goodwill gesture” after ruining my order of 638 photos!  And I can’t get any further reply from them.

 

Sunday, January 24th

United 3-2 Liverpool!  Great Cup tie, and into the 5th round we go.  But when will fans ever get back to matches?

6.3 million people have now had their first dose of the vaccination.  That’s a higher percentage of the adult population than anywhere other than Israel and the UAE.  But Matt Hancock’s said that we’re a “long, long way” from easing restrictions.

The virus situation in Greater Manchester doesn’t actually seem any worse than it was in October and early November.  I may well be talking rubbish, because we don’t get detailed regional data on hospitalisations and fatalities, but that’s how it seems to me.  But it seems unlikely that restrictions will be lifted until mid-March at the earliest … and, even then, it’ll be back to the Evil Tier System.  I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t see schools reopening fully until mid-April, after the Easter holidays.

I wish different groups of people would stop demanding to be given priority for vaccination.  There is only so much vaccine available.  Clinically vulnerable people need to be vaccinated first.  Why do teaching unions seem to think that teachers should take priority over those most likely to die>

I’ve been to Clifton Country Park today.  Quieter than usual, but there was far more rule-breaking going on than there was at Heaton Park.  No huge groups, but loads of groups which clearly consisted of two or three couples plus kids.  I know there’s a risk, but I do think that way too much attention is being paid to people out for walks – the police have been lurking round some beauty spots and fining people who’ve come more than a few miles – rather than on Covid safety in workplaces.  There are some offices round here where you see around 15 cars parked outside every day.  What’s more risky, 15 people in an office together or 4 people out for a walk together?

I’ve also read two newspapers and part of a book, watched the match, watched a historical documentary, watched part of a film, written a post on my book/TV/film review blog, written some fanfic and done some house stuff.  But it still feels like a waste of a day.

WordPress thumbnails have suddenly stopped displaying on the Facebook app.  You just get a grey box with a bit of writing in it.  The pics come up as normal on the browser and mobile browser version, so it’s clearly an app issue.  Links to, say, the BBC website or the MEN website are fine.  But the issue seems to be affecting Blogspot as well as WordPress.  I appreciate that this is not the end of the world: it is hardly as if more than half a dozen people at the most ever click on to my posts through Facebook anyway, and those who do can always click on the grey box.  But it’s annoying me like mad.  ETA – ah, problem solved!  The picture needs to be enlarged.  Which is very odd, because it never used to display unless the picture was small!

However, I finally got some sense out of Snapfish.  I’ve uploaded the photos again, so we can start from scratch, and they’re going to print them for the third time, free of charge,  Fingers crosses1

The release of the new James Bond film’s been delayed again.

But sea shanties have become a thing, after a postman made a video of himself singing one, and it went viral!  Maybe we can all bond over sea shanties 🙂 .

 

 

Manchester monsoons, Melbourne mice, park perambulations and lockdown locks

  2020 was The Year Without Wimbledon. This is The January Without The Australian Open.  And, on top of the plague, we’ve now got floods.  Sounds a bit Biblical, doesn’t it?  I think it’s fair to say that this year has not got off to the best of starts.  The Northwich/Warrington/Lymm area seems to have borne the brunt of the floods, although other areas have been affected too, and it’s very sad to see the pictures of the chaos caused.  Twelve cars were submerged just a few miles down the road from here, and people in parts of Didsbury and Northenden were evacuated.

It’s never the best time of year anyway, and what normally gets me through it is the Australian Open … but that’s been delayed by three weeks, and the build-up has turned into utter chaos.  There are now reports that the Olympics could be cancelled, and it can’t be a coincidence that these are emerging just after all the chaos over the Aussie Open kicked off.  Tennis Australia put a huge amount of effort into making the arrangements, but I don’t think anyone anticipated that people who’d tested negative 72 hours before flying would then test positive after arriving.  Everyone who was on a flight with those affected, and three different flights were involved, is now confined to their hotel rooms, rather than, as originally planned, being able to go out to practise for five hours a day.  And some of the rooms have got mice in them.  And there are all sorts of rows going on over social media, with everyone and their dog shoving their oar in.   What a nightmare.

Also, I just panicked when I saw that Coronation Street had had to pause filming for a fortnight as scripts need to be adjusted due to the latest lockdown, but, phew, it’s not going to affect the number of episodes shown.

Meanwhile, we’re pretty much confined to barracks, but we are allowed out to exercise, and I’m very grateful for having Heaton Park within walking distance – and for the fact that I’ve discovered that a café which I pass on my way there does excellent scones.  I know – no wonder I’m so fat 😦 .  The park’s like the social hub of the community – it’s a bit like the days when the upper classes would go riding out in Hyde Park to see and be seen!  Walk round the park for long enough, and you’ll see all sorts of people you know.

The daffodil shoots in the park are coming through now, though … although they aren’t growing as fast as my hair (which is also greying … meaning that I’m going to have to start using that awful spray-on hair dye as well).  I’m looking forward to seeing the spring flowers.  We’ve still got flowers.  And United are top of the league!  And we’ve still got each other.  It’s sad that some people seem to use social media primarily to post hatred – why hate people so much, just because they vote for a different political party to you – but most people use it to connect with relatives and friends, and hopefully that’ll get us through it.   And, all being well, we will get the Australian Open in February!  It always ends in tears.  Well, nearly always.  It first broke my heart in 1990, and, with a few exceptions, notably in 2009, it’s done the same most years ever since.  But at least it’ll be something to focus on.  And then the snowdrops and the daffodils will come …

 

Lockdown III Week 2, January 11th to 17th 2021 inclusive

Monday, January 11th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, January 12th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, January 13th

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

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

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

 

Thursday, January 14th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, January 15th

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, January 16th

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, January 17th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The coming of the vaccines

Lockdown 2 088

My mum and dad, both aged 75, have just been called to go for the first dose of their vaccinations at the local walk-in centre tomorrow.  Such a relief!  My uncle, who’s the same age but with a different GP surgery, had his first dose earlier in the week, and some friends who are either frontline healthcare workers or in the over 80s or 75-79 age groups, have also either been vaccinated or have got appointments to be vaccinated soon.

There’s a long, long road ahead.  So many lives have been lost.  Other people have been left with long-term health conditions.  The UK economy’s shrunk by 8.5% since February: a lot of businesses are, sadly, not coming back from this.

But I do feel a bit more hopeful today.  I’ve got some daffodils on the table – they’re from Marks & Spencer’s, and I think they’re probably from the Channel Islands, because they usually are at this time of year.  They make the front room smell of spring.  Will I be able to see my sister and brother-in-law and nephews over Easter? Will I be able to go to all, or any, of the lovely places I like to visit in daffodil/lambing season and bluebell season?  Hey, will I even be able to have my hair cut and dyed before it looks a complete and utter mess?!  Will we be able to go to any football matches this season?  Will the clay court season go ahead?  Er, that sounds really me-me-me, doesn’t it?  Sorry, it wasn’t really meant to!  But there does seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel today.

I’ve spent so much of my life reading about people who invented flying shuttles, spinning jennies, water frames, mules and cotton gins.  Today, I just want to read all about the people who’ve created the Covid vaccines.  They are the biggest heroes of our lifetime.

Lockdown III Week 1, January 4th to 10th 2021 inclusive

Monday, January 4th

We’re actually in Tier 4 for another few hours, but I’m not doing a separate post for one day.  At midnight, after 5 days in Tier 4, we’ll be moving into Lockdown III.   So will Scotland.  On the positive side, the rollout of the Oxford vaccine started today.  And elite sport can continue, so at least we’ll still have football to watch.  And takeaways stay open – although, with schools closed, the queues in the park cafe will be about an hour long.

Otherwise:

  • Everyone to work from home unless they genuinely can’t.  I’ll be interested to see if my employers actually take any notice of this (although I personally am WFH anyway).
  • Schools, colleges and universities to close until at least mid-February (except for vulnerable kids, kids of keyworkers, and university students needing to do practicals).  The TUC have helpfully said that employers should “do the right thing” and furlough parents whose kids are off school.  They have, needless to say, not explained how small firms are supposed to manage if, say, two people out of a workforce of five are unable to work.  Nurseries stay open.  Exams will almost certainly be cancelled again.
  • You are allowed out to exercise once a day.  WTF?  They’ve said unlimited outdoor exercise in Scotland.  Hmm, we’ll see about this one.
  • You can travel “a short distance” within your “local area” to exercise.  This is not defined.  What is “a short distance”?  What is “your local area”?
  • Places of worship stay open.  Excuse me?  This is not the Middle Ages.  How come places of worship can stay open?  Are people less likely to infect each other in places of worship than in schools, shops, salons or gyms?
  • Garages doing MOTs and services can stay open.
  • Shielding is back.
  • People working at other people’s houses can still work.

This will probably all be until mid-February.  A bit more notice would have been nice – I quite appreciate that this is a very difficult and fast-moving situation, but Boris announced all this at 8pm, after saying yesterday that primary schools would be staying open!

This is totally shit.  But infection rates are going up and up – and, yes, most people don’t get ill, but the number of daily deaths remains over 400, and hospitals are running out of room.

We keep hearing about “the race between the virus and the vaccine”.  Is there no way we can speed the vaccination programme up?  Commandeer labs and factories to produce more of it?  Presumably it’s not that easy, or it’d be being done.

Ugh.  9 1/2 months, and we’re nearly back to square 1 – except with football, takeaways and public toilets.

I hate this bloody virus.

 

Tuesday, January 5th

Everybody’s at sixes and sevens today.  Businesses and the live music industry are saying that they need a definite date for reopening, but it’s just not possible for anyone to know when that’s likely to be.   And what’s going to happen with school exams?  Mocks are usually done in January, so schools won’t even have mock results to go off.

Boris has been on TV again, talking about vaccines – which he pronounces (vac-SEENS).  Israel has vaccinated 10% of its population already.  In actual numbers, that’s around 1.3 million, which is around the same as us, with far fewer personnel and facilities.  Why can’t we do things that quickly?  OK, we’re doing a lot better than most countries – France, as of 30th December, had vaccinated a grand total of 138 people – but why can’t all countries move as quickly as Israel has very admirably done?  It’s partly due to vaccine shortages, but not entirely.

Rishi Sunak, who’s probably tearing his hair out, has announced more grants for businesses, but more’s going to be needed … but where’s the money going to come from?

Like a lot of people round here, I was very annoyed when we were put back into Tier 3 at the beginning of December, but at that point we didn’t know about the new variant and, as things have turned out, it did us a favour.  Infection rates in the “City of Liverpool region”, which was still in Tier 2 until a few days ago, are now way higher than they are in Greater Manchester … although rates here are rising very quickly now.  Over 60,000 new cases were recorded nationwide today, and 830 deaths.  OK, Tuesday’s figures do tend to be bad because of the lag over the weekend, plus yesterday was a Bank Holiday in Scotland, but it’s still pretty grim.

That miserable git Chris Whitty’s just said that restrictions might be reintroduced next winter.

Dunham lights are cancelled 😦 .  I only missed out by a few days with my original booking, and now I’ve missed out by a few days again.  OK, it;s hardly the world’s biggest crisis, but bleurgh.  But the estate is staying open.

The cafes in Heaton Park are open as before, although you now have to order at the hatch, rather than inside, at the lakeside cafe.  The queue thankfully wasn’t that long, but I noticed that the playground was packed out.

I took the decorations down whilst watching Boris’s press conference.  A few people’ve said that they’re going to leave them up until Candlemas, like the Queen does, this year, because they make things look cheerful, but I’m not sure than I need to be looking at Christmas decorations any later than Twelfth Night.

 

Wednesday, January 6th

“Clap for Carers” is coming back, renamed “Clap for Heroes”.  Let’s hope that it brings some feeling of unity, and isn’t, as sadly I fear it may be, hijacked by political point-scorers.

Over 1,000 deaths today.  1,041.  And 62,322 infections.

Boris has said that lockdown will be eased “gradually” … in late February and March,  But then it’s back to the godforsaken tier system.  I was hoping we’d seen the back of that, with its evil travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, things in Los Angeles County are now, sadly, so bad that paramedics have been told that anyone who seems unlikely to recover shouldn’t even be taken to hospital.  In the middle of this, a load of Donald Trump fanatics are holding a huge demo in Washington.  Have people got no sense?!

Carabao Cup semi against City tonight.  Hoping for a brilliant match and a win.  I said “hoping”!  Meanwhile, Chorley’s excitement about playing Wayne Rooney’s Derby in the Cup has rather gone down the toilet: Rooney and all his senior players are self-isolating due to a virus outbreak.

GCSEs and A-levels in Northern Ireland have been cancelled.  Teachers are to assess grades in England, and presumably in Northern Ireland too.   Meanwhile, amid concerns about kids having problems accessing stuff online, the BBC are to show a lot of curriculum-based programmes.  Like old times!

 

Later – oh FFS.  FOUR semi-final defeats in 12 months.  And losing to City is always horrible.  United 0 – 2 City.  Bah.

Absolutely appalling scenes from Washington DC.  I cannot believe that this happening in the United States of America.  It’s like a bad Sergei Eisenstein film, but with a pandemic thrown in.  The pro-Trump mob have actually stormed Congress.  Legislators had to be evacuated through secret tunnels.  Boris and other international leaders have condemned what’s going on, but all Trump could manage was to tell people to “go home” – and then keep insisting that he had really won the election.  I’m very saddened by what we’re seeing.

 

Thursday, January 7th …. Christmas Day in Russia etc

As I’d feared, Clap for Heroes not only fell a bit flat – perhaps inevitable, given that there’s snow and ice on the ground and it’s pitch black long before 8 o’clock – but was hijacked by spiteful political points-scorers.  Well, some medical staff said that they’d rather people focused on trying to reduce their chances of contracting the virus, which was obviously fair enough, but there was no reason not to do that and clap as well … but the spiteful brigade said that everything under the sun was the government’s fault, that Clapping for Heroes would be encouraging spending cuts (no, me neither), and directed abuse and even threats at the kind woman who came up with the idea.  Says it all, doesn’t it?  Someone tries to show appreciation for other people’s work and to bring communities together, and they end up being threatened by political points-scorers.  How awful.  You’d think that events in America would have shown people the dangers of divisive talk and behaviour, but apparently not.

Despite the very worrying rises in virus cases, hospitalisations and deaths, in the UK and in many other cases, the pandemic has been briefly pushed out of the headlines by the absolutely appalling scenes in Washington yesterday.  Four people died.   Offices were ransacked.  People grabbed everything from letters to personal photographs.  The pictures from inside the Capitol building look as if an invading army’s run through the place.  It’s very, very disturbing.

You might think that this would show people in other countries just how dangerous nastiness and divisive rhetoric can be.  Sadly not.  The sniping, the whingeing, the criticism, the political points-scoring and, in some cases, the sheer hatred on social media, and in some parts of the media – notably the Guardian – just goes on and on.  Could we please, please, stop this, and pull together?

Villa have now got the virus!  So their Cup match against Liverpool tomorrow is in doubt.  This is all getting a bit chaotic.

More snow.  Not a lot, but it’s stuck.

Booked my car in for its MOT and service … and received an e-mail saying that I should drive to the garage with the heating off and the windows open, for “ventilation”.  Not if it’s snowing, I won’t be …

National Express have cancelled all their services.

Schools in Wales are to stay shut until February half-term.

And I had a dental appointment this morning.  Even though there’s a large waiting room, and a foyer, they made people wait outside in the ice and the freezing fog “due to covid safety protocols”!

 

Friday, January 8th

Monday – lost a pound.
Tuesday – stayed the same.
Wednesday – put a pound on.
Thursday – put a pound on.
4 days of sticking to my diet programme and walking several miles every day, and I’ve put a pound ON.  I feel like shit.

OK, I am totally selfish and self-obsessed, and should be focusing on the very sad news that 1,325 deaths with coronavirus were reported today.  But I just wanted a moan.

Derbyshire police have fined two women £200 each for driving five miles to go for a walk round a reservoir.  Seriously.  And told them that they shouldn’t have taken a “picnic” – takeaway hot drinks – with them.  I have never heard anything so stupid.  This sort of thing just does not help.  It annoys people, and makes the police look like a joke.

You now cannot enter the UK unless you’ve had a negative virus test within 48 hours.  Which is very sensible and, if we and every other country had had that rule in February/March, maybe this nightmare would never have happened.  But, as it’s not always easy to get a test, it puts the kibosh on foreign travel … not that we’re allowed to go anywhere at the moment anyway, or even allowed in to a lot of places.

Lots of arguments going on about schools.  People moaned that schools were open.  Schools are now closed.   But they’re open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.  Teachers are moaning that there are too many kids in school.  Parents are moaning that they’ve been told that their child cannot go into school as there are too many kids there already, but that they think their kid should be entitled to a place.  I’m not really having a go at anyone: it’s an impossible situation.  But I wish people would try to think of solutions, rather than just moaning.   And some people push their luck.  If one parent is a key worker but the other parent isn’t, it’s unfair to take up places which could go to the children of single parents who are key workers or a couple who are both key workers.

And the list of key workers doesn’t include, for example, plumbers or boiler engineers, but they’re essential as far as I’m concerned.

It’s very difficult.  And a lot of offices round here are open – unless they all need about half a dozen people to nip in to collect the post, and they all just happened to be there just as I walked past.  Again, it’s very difficult.  Some people find it very hard to work at home, due to lack of space, and noise from kids/pets.

But the figures for deaths, hospitalisations and infections are horrendous.  We are not, at present, as badly off as some other parts of the country, but it’s bad everywhere.

Events further and further ahead are being cancelled.  There’s talk of the local elections due to be held (a year late) in May being postponed.  Royal garden parties due to be held in the summer have been cancelled, and there’s talk of cancelling the summer music festivals.

Some good news – the Moderna vaccine’s been approved for use here, and two drugs with unpronounceable names have been found to help treat people who are seriously ill.

 

Saturday, January 9th

Hooray, we beat Watford 1-0 to move into the 4th round of the Cup.  Chorley at home, please!

No rain or snow today, thankfully.  Went for a long walk in the park – with a takeaway scone and jam and cream from The Coffee Sack.  I’ve given up on the park cafes.  They don’t do scones anyway, but, even apart from that, they’re just too slow.  Even when they’re quiet, the waits for drinks are ridiculous.  The park was quite busy, but it was only in the main area by the lake and the playground that there were a lot of people (and, even worse, a lot of horrible barking dogs).  Other areas were quieter, which was nice.  Pretty bleak at this time of year, though.

Later, I walked to Iceland (you can’t get Slimming World stuff at Tesco).  Plenty of people around.  No-one was breaking any rules: most people were waiting for takeaways.

The Queen and Prince Philip have received their first vaccination doses, which is good news – and will hopefully reassure anyone feeling nervous.  The vast majority of people can’t wait to be vaccinated but, with a few idiots spreading silly rumours, there are bound to be a few nerves.

The police, who should be breaking up large gatherings, are annoying people by behaving like idiots.  The story of the two women were surrounded, read their rights and fined for driving a few miles to walk round a reservoir has gone viral.  Police in Shropshire have issued a warning that leaving your house to, er, throw snowballs outside your house is “not a valid reason for leaving home”.  And 6 people were fined for holding a memorial to the Birmingham pub bombing victims.  The police have asked for “greater clarity” about the rules.  Try using a bit of common sense, eh.

I’m never sure how much the statistics from all this mean.  For example, the excess number of deaths in Russia since the pandemic began is way, way more than the official number of deaths from the virus.  Here, some of the people in the official death toll will have died for reasons that had nothing to do with Covid, but within 28 days of a positive test, whereas others will have died for reasons related to Covid but won’t be “counted” as they hadn’t had a positive test within 28 days.  But the “official” death toll is now over 80,000.  Of the 10 areas in England with the highest death rates, 4 are in the North West, which is very, very upsetting.  2 are in Yorkshire, 1 is E Staffs, and 1 (the highest) is Folkestone and Hythe.

Some current infection rates per 100,000 (again, these figures may mean anything or nothing).  Of 315 areas in England, 314 saw a rise this week.  I think this is for the week to yesterday:

Greater Manchester – Wigan 478, Bury 426, central Manchester 422, Bolton 344
Rest of NW – Halton 1,173, Carlisle 1,134, Burnley 967, central Liverpool 859, Cheshire W/Chester 621, Barrow 578, S Lakes 336, Blackpool 320

Yorks and NE – Hartlepool 838, York 626, Harrogate 464, Hull 341, Sheffield 290, Bradford 283, Newcastle 281
Midlands – Walsall 828, Birmingham 739, Derby 633, Nottingham 451, Shropshire 417, N Lincs 235

London and SE – Barking & Dagenham 1,687, Havering 1,399, Slough 1,173, Barnet 1,035, Windsor and Maidenhead 727
E Anglia – Norwich 530, Peterborough 520
South/South West – Southampton 709, Swindon 642, Bristol 467, Cornwall and Scilly Isles 367. West Devon 147

 

So, although we’ve come a depressingly long way from the days when anything over 20 was considered worrying, we’re looking at very different figures in different areas.

 

Sunday, January 10th

Could we move on from the incident with the Derbyshire police, please?  Derbyshire police have said that they’ve reviewed their procedures.  We all screw up sometimes.   Let it go now.  But no – the media can’t do that.  They’ve really latched on to this story.   Priti Patel and Matt Hancock have both been asked for their views on it.  Whilst they probably both think that the police showed a complete lack of common sense, they can’t be seen to criticise the police for clamping down over lockdown, so they’ve both said that they support the police.  So now there is a huge fuss going on about what you can and can’t do, and why most of the people who’ve staged anti-lockdown protests in London and Bournemouth were just told to go home when two women innocently going for a walk a few miles from home were each fined £200.

Meanwhile, whilst people in England are moaning that there are too many kids in school under the exemption for children of key workers, the Welsh authorities have used a different definition of “key workers” … so now people are moaning that this is ridiculous because they can’t work unless their kids are in school.

And some whingeing Remoaner journalist on Sky News last night insisted that people are going out “because of Dominic Cummings”.  Oh FFS.  What, everyone who goes for a stroll in the park, walks to their local cafe for a takeaway cake or goes into the office because their kids keep screaming during Zoom meetings is doing so because Dominic Cummings drove to Barnard Castle eight months ago?  I’ve never heard such rubbish.

This is ridiculous.  Could everyone please stop acting like five-year-olds, and use a bit of common sense?  And focus on speeding up the vaccination programme.  Frustrated GPs, pharmacists and even dentists are saying that they could vaccinate hundreds of people per week but can’t get the doses or, in some cases, the authorisation.  It’s not clear whether the problem is supply, distribution, red tape or all three.  We’re now being told that every adult will have been offered the vaccination “by the autumn”.  Depending on whether you take “by” to mean “before” (which it probably should) or “during” (which it probably does), this could mean late November.  Surely there must be a way of doing it more quickly?

Due to all the carry-on over the women in Derbyshire, I got a bit stressed about going to Dunham Massey this morning, even though I don’t see that I’m breaking any rules by driving within Greater Manchester, in my own car, to exercise alone in a place where numbers will be restricted.  When this week’s tickets were released, I was expecting to go to the lights show tonight, so I hadn’t booked tickets for during the day.  By the time things changed, the only ticket I could get was for 9 o’clock.  So I thought I’d be the only person on the M60 at half 8, and had half-convinced myself I’d be pulled over to ask where I was going.  No.  There were plenty of cars around, even at half 8 on a Sunday morning.   But I haven’t seen anyone doing anything they shouldn’t … other than a few groups of 3 or 4 people clearly not from the same household.

Not only were there no scones, there were no cakes and no hot food.  I’ve noticed that other cafes seem to’ve got a lot of food left over – Costa Coffee had reduced stuff to half-price to try to shift it.  It’s all a muddled circle – they’re not offering nice cakes, because cakes don’t keep and they can’t be sure how many they’ll sell , but people aren’t as keen to buy things like pre-packed biscuits.

The daffodils are coming.  No sign of them in Heaton Park yet, but Dunham have already got a few out, and there are loads of shoots.  Some snowdrops are out too.

 

I’ve got a load of photos to sort out, a load of books to read, a load of films in my Sky Planner and a load more films in my Amazon Prime watchlist.  Have I got through any of them?  Er, not really …

I think Chris Whitty would like to put us all under house arrest until the end of March.  I do understand that this is a huge crisis.  Everyone does.  But I also understand that there’s going to be a huge mental health crisis if restrictions are tightened much more.

This is just a nightmare.  Sometimes, if I’ve got engrossed in a book or a film, I actually forget about it.  Then it hits me, and, for a few moments, I can’t actually believe that it’s real.

But it is.